Fans of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' "Watchmen" uttered a collective sigh of relief when the court battle between Fox and Warner Bros. over the distribution rights to the movie adaptation was finally resolved. Those who can't wait for the March 6 "Watchmen" feature film release can whet their appetites with IDW Publishing's upcoming one-shot, "Whatmen?!", a not so thinly veiled parody written by Scott Lobdell with art by Alejandro Figueroa. CBR News caught up with Lobdell to get all the details on his sincerest form of flattery for Moore & Gibbons' epic opus.
Scott Lobdell is the first to admit his send-up of the comic book classic is none-too-subtle. "My final draft of the script had the characters all using their first names (in their secret identities) and [editor] Scott Dunbier called and said no," Lobdell told CBR News. "I knew exactly what he meant!"
Lobdell is a longtime fan of "MAD Magazine," and he certainly took a few pages from it in crafting his "Watchmen" parody. "They don't need to call Obama 'Nobama' or do a spoof of 'House' and call it 'Condo, MD,' so why should we?"
"As far as the plot goes, there is a pretty straight line between 'Whatmen' and 'Watchmen,'" Lobdell continued. "But its as if you're reading that Great American Classic Graphic Novel in the reflection of a fun house mirror. Who even goes to fun houses any more?"
Lobdell's parody spoofs not only "Watchmen" proper, but also the supplementary material that Moore & Gibbons included at the back of each issue. "We get to see Nutsack's arrest report, an interview with Ozzy, and much, much more!" he said.
Believe it or not, Lobdell decided early on that he didn't want "Whatmen?!" to be too over-the-top. "Instead, we wanted to try to be subtle where we could," the writer said. "Okay, okay, there are a lot of silly, silly bits in 'Whatmen,' but I think what will be even funner for fans is when they spot the more subtle jokes. The homage to the original series goes well beyond the penciled pages."
Scott Lobdell is perhaps best known for his long run on "Uncanny X-Men" in the '90s, and his run was characterized by character-driven stories, which he attributes in part to his fondness for "Watchmen," which he first read in the 1980s. "Really, when you read it, there is very little superhero-ness going on," Lobdell explained. "It feels so much about the people. Writers like Alan and Chris [Claremont] and J.M. [DeMatteis] had opened the door for writers like me, who have less interest in seeing the world blown up as hanging around with the people who prevent the world from blowing up and seeing what makes them tick."
Lobdell first pitched the idea of "Whatmen?!" to IDW Publisher Chris Ryall at the 2008 Comic-Con International in San Diego, excited by the prospect of hundreds of thousands of new fans discovering "Watchmen" for the first time on the big screen. "Then about a month later I read that DC had printed a million copies of the book for stores, and I got thinking, 'Wow, that is a lot of eyeballs!'" Lobdell said.
But the folks at IDW took some convincing. "When I first suggested the idea to IDW there was a gasp," Lobdell revealed. "As if to say 'Watchmen' was sacred, how could anyone dare to sully it with humor!" But within two weeks, Chris Ryall came around and sent Lobdell an e-mail saying, "So, are we doing this, or what?"
Lobdell met artist Alejandro Figueroa on Facebook, and the two became fast friends. When Lobdell's pitch for "Whatmen?!" became a reality, he asked Figueroa, "Can you do a sort of Dave Gibbons riff?" Within a matter of hours, the artist sent Lobdell hilarious sketches of Nutsack and some of the other characters, and Lobdell immediately knew he had his man. English is not Figueroa's first language, but Lobdell found a unique way of working with his collaborator. "I would do little breakdowns of the panels we were going to spoof and I'd send them to him with notes for jokes in the margin. Then I would leave it up to him to add whatever other jokes he wanted."
Amber Shields colored the "Whatmen?!" one-shot, and Lobdell couldn't be happier with the work she did. "She was able to capture every nuance of the original but still make it all her own," Lobdell said. "She's a very talented woman who is going to be working in the industry for a very long time, bringing a new and exciting take on every project. You heard it here first!"
Lobdell told CBR News that Israeli artist Elite Avni's painted covers are nothing short of "awe inspiring," and he couldn't have asked for a better letterer than the incomparable Richard Starkings. "Not only does Comicraft rule, but they ruled in this case by making themselves invisible," Lobdell explained. "You don't stop to say, 'Wait a minute! There was never lettering like that twenty years ago!' Richard made it look and sound like the original but with a really weird sense of humor!"
"Whatmen?!" is not the only project on Lobdell's horizon. "At this moment I have a 'Ghostbusters' mini, an 'Angel' mini and a new comic series I'm producing with Jennifer Love Hewitt, based on an original idea by everyone's favorite Ghost Whisperer!" Lobdell confirmed, adding that he and Amber Shields are also working on a paranormal teen soap opera called "Ripe," which he described as "'Friday Night Lights' meets 'X-Files.'"
"Whatmen?!" is on sale now from IDW Publishing.