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Watchmen (Pt. 1)

Yeah, you knew this was coming.

I first became acquainted with Watchmen when I bought the trade paperback in late ’06/early ’07 and read the book over a week’s vacation. I didn’t know what to make of it at first. I could sense that this was a truly great book, but I was going to need help in finding and understanding its greatness. What I needed was a fansite, and I didn’t have many options. The Vivarium somehow escaped my radar at the time, but only hardcore Alan Moore fans need apply there anyway. The only other option at the time was the Watchmen discussion board at IMDB, which has always been a breeding ground for trolls and spammers.

In the late Spring of ’07, it seemed that I got my wish. Various movie news sites were receiving e-mails from someone who claimed to be Rorschach, the paranoid and psychopathic vigilante of Watchmen. These e-mails turned out to be a viral campaign, culminating in the launch of RorschachsJournal.Com. It was a blog for Watchmen news, with info about the movie and a forum for fans to discuss the book and the movie. It wasn’t fancy, but it was just what I needed. Or so I thought.

The folks at CHUD had done some detective work and found that “Rorschach” — webmaster of RJ.Com and its forum — was none other than Michael Regina, the mind behind TheOneRing.Net and KongIsKing.Net, among other well-respected movie news sites. CHUD simultaneously published a scathing article saying that Warner Bros. should sue Regina for copyright infringement and cashing in on the Watchmen movie. Regina wrote a counter-attack and signed it with his own name… but published it on RJ.Com under “Rorschach.” He broke character. And from that point on, I never saw “Rorschach” on the forum again. It’s also worth noting that many RJ.Com members — including myself — were accusing Regina of selling our e-mail addresses to spammers. One of the members had even found a list online with all of our e-mail addresses. We demanded an explanation. It never came.

These were only a few of the many horrid managerial fuckups that led RJ.Com to its swift and ugly implosion. But before the site shut down entirely, there came its greatest event, as well as one of its last: The arrival of a man named DoomsdayClock.

DDC wrote a forum post announcing that he had developed a Watchmen site of his own: WatchmenComicMovie.Com. I followed the link and fell instantly in love. It was everything I was hoping RJ.Com to be. It was colorful, it was well-organized and it had information on Watchmen and its movie that was totally new to me. But it needed a forum. What’s more, it needed someone in charge who would actively work to keep things moving without hiding behind some flimsy masquerade. I sent DDC an e-mail to tell him so and he replied to ask me how the forum should be organized. I thought back to which forum sections were and weren’t used back at RJ.Com and devised a plan accordingly. This was the forum’s layout for almost a solid year before DDC revised it.

The forum finally went online on August 31, 2007. I wrote its first post, established its first threads and settled in as its moderator. Then I left RJ.Com and quite literally burned the bridge behind me. To this day, not a soul has posted there since I denounced RJ.Com with my middle finger held high and invited others to join me at WCM. In fact, Regina offered to sell the RJ.Com domain to DDC almost a month after our site went live. The offer was declined.

To say that the rest is history couldn’t possibly do justice to the past three years. Remember, one of the all-time most revered graphic novels was finally being adapted into a movie after twenty years of development hell. Every comic book geek in the world was foaming at the mouth for this movie, none more so than those who dearly loved Watchmen. One by one, the creme de la creme found their way to the forum to share their anticipation and to talk about the graphic novel. In next to no time, the forum at WCM became the world’s center of online discussion about all things Watchmen. The single largest Watchmen fansite online. Hundreds of comic book geeks from all over the world… and I had suddenly become their de facto leader, second only to DoomsdayClock himself.

I won’t lie: There were quite a few times early on when it seemed like I was in over my head. There were arguments to be settled, complaints to be dealt with and comments that might or might not need censoring. There were times when I overreacted and times when I didn’t react harshly enough. I had to learn how to lead through trial and error and that wasn’t easy or comfortable. I was, after all, constantly dealing with an international audience of comic book and movie nerds, every one of whom had an ego to be stroked or stomped in just the right amount. There’s also the site’s reputation resting on my shoulders, which has been a heavy and omnipresent burden.

It might sound kind of silly to be so worried about the “reputation” of a comic book fansite, but WCM grew into a pretty big deal very quickly. When the first set photos from the movie were leaked, it made headlines on movie news sites across the ‘Net, but we were the ones who broke the news. We hosted fan Q&As with director Zack Snyder and illustrator Dave Gibbons — and on both occasions, I got to choose which fan-submitted questions would be asked. Warner Bros. invited DoomsdayClock to join movie journalists from all over the country on a set visit and interviews. Crates of exclusive and complimentary merchandise were mailed to me and to DDC, courtesy of the PR department at Warner Bros. Then there was the advance screening.

I went to cover an advance screening of Watchmen that was hosted here in Portland. I’d later learn that all the tickets were handed out in advance, but no one knew that beforehand. I did my damnedest to learn everything I could, to tell everyone at the theater about WCM and to report all I could back to the forum. There was precious little I could do since I didn’t actually get in and I was heartbroken about that. But for those few days we knew about the screening, I had friends the world over cheering me on to get in and praising me for doing the best I could. As long as I live, I’ll never forget how that felt.

As of this typing, there are 2,094 registered users on the WCM forum and I am personally indebted to each and every one. Though I’ve yet to meet a single one in person (no, not even DoomsdayClock), many of them have become my good friends, a few have been my mentors and one gave me this very blog. Every single user who’s ever called the forum home (yes, including the trolls and spambots) has helped me to learn and grow. They not only taught me more than I ever thought I wanted to know about Watchmen in particular and pop culture in general, but they taught me how to be a diplomat, a decision-maker and a leader. They came to trust me immensely with maintaining their online haven, none more so than DoomsdayClock himself. For all this, and so much more, I will be greatly thankful forever.

2 Comments

  1. Comment by Abri Isgrig:

    Awww, I have a case of the warm-fuzzies now. Thanks for putting up with me and the other nutty fangirls, Curi.

    L_R

  2. Comment by DannyDreiberg:

    wow. Thats awesome. Truly cool.

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