No love for Charlton in the shadow of the Watchmen.


 The First Watchmen
The story of the Watchmen was based on the characters from Charlton comics.  Originally Alan Moore wanted to write a story called "Who killed  Peacemaker" but DC Comics wanted to use the characters in a different way.  This led Alan Moore to write the story anyway using characters he based on the Charlton heroes.   Doctor Manhattan was based on Captain Atom, Silk Spectre was Nightshade, Rorshach was the Question, Nite Owl was the Blue Beetle, Comedian was Peacemaker and, Ozymandias was based on Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt .
 
One thing that bothers me about this is the popularity for the Watchmen characters over the original Charlton characters.  There can be no argument about the impact Watchmen had on how comics would be written.  That said there is almost a reverence towards the Watchmen characters and a "who gives a damn" attitude toward the characters they are based on.  
 
Now be honest to yourself and this blog if you post here.  Have you ever even read some of the Charlton stories these characters were in?  So many times we comic users dismiss the stories and characters we don't know much about.  
 
 Here they are now
The Blue Beetle for example goes beyond Charlton and was one of the first superheroes to be written about in comics.  He is only a few months newer than Batman and Superman.  He was very popular for a long time as well.  He was featured as one of the Big Three for Fox Comics.  He had a comic strip in the news paper and he had his own radio show before television.  If the Blue Beetle had been created by DC Comics back in the 1930's he would be one of their iconic characters.  Instead the company he was created for went out of business and he was sold.  Over and over he was sold until he was bought up by DC Comics.  At this point he had been dramatically changed twice and he was tossed into a world filled with a thousand characters in DC Comics.  He was no longer the big fish in the small pond.
 
Another annoyance of mine is the number of comic lovers that don't even know that the Watchmen were based on Charlton heroes.  Most don't even know what Charlton was.  Blue Beetle is just one of many Charlton characters who seems to get little love or respect.  That would be fine if there wasn't so much love for the characters they were based on.  To be honest I can only think of four reasons for this.  
 
  1. The first is ignorance.  Someone just don't know they were based on other heroes.
  2. The second is love of the dark.  Some people just love darker comics and have no interest in other stories no matter how well they are written.
  3. The third is laziness.  It is easier to read the Watchmen then find some good stories based on the original Charlton characters they were based on
  4. The fourth is apathy.  What can be said about apathy?
 
Let me just say they the Charlton characters are better than the Watchmen characters they were based on.  Yet I will probably never see a movie based on any of them.  Let me know where you are on this issue.
43 Comments
43 Comments
Posted by IrishX
@Liberty:
Almost all characters are based on something previously done.
 
"Let me just say they the Charlton characters are better than the Watchmen characters they were based on." 
 
Clearly that's just opinion. Personally I like The Question but I think Rorschach is different and better.....
Posted by Bearded Justice

I wouldve loved to see it done with the Charlton characters.  I often wonder how popular they would be, had that happened. 
Maybe DC wouldve never killed off Ted...
Edited by Liberty
@Bearded Justice:   I can't believe they killed Ted anyway.  At least he died a hero's death.
 
@IrishX: Your right at some level of course.  Isn't it true that once all stories are boiled down there are only 16 different plots. It is like saying everything is the same under the sun.
Posted by B'Town

I am probably one of the only people on the Vine who has not read the Watchmen.   
 
I planned to but don't get around to it. What little I know of the Watchmen I have learned here on the Vine, from the fans.  This is another fine example of why the Vine is so great.  We learn so much from each other.   
 
Now my question to you is, for someone who has never read either, which should I read first?   
 
Because I will read them eventually. 

Posted by ComicCrazy

I never read the Charlton comics but I have read the comics of those characters. I mean I have read blue beetle and stuff but I just don't know where I could get these comics I mean it is hard enough to just get ANY sort of comic from where I live let alone really old ones. I do like the characters though, especially Blue Beetle and the Question.
Posted by Silkcuts
@Liberty: I am not hating on the Carlton characters.  I have no attachment to them.  It doesn't matter who is the Blue Beetle to me, Ted was cool sure, but I didn't cry when he died.  I like the old Question... the new one was great under Rucka, but Denny made the old Question shine.  Any and all of the comics absorbed into the DCU were miss handled.  To this day Captain Marvel "Shazam" doesn't fit.  Wildstorm even tried "The Bleed" and still there is no fluidity between the two.  Gaiman's Endless are coming back to the DCU... but we'll see how water downed they will be.... and will the fans still like it.
 
I just did a review on Plastic Man by Kyle Baker, and even Plas hasn't really found a place in the DCU outside of being a joke. 
 
I love Alan Moore and what happened with Watchmen was that the stars aligned. In words of John Constantine "he was righting the highway of Synchronicity mate".  Sure Watchmen started off as being "inspired" by Carlton comics, but it went into a different direction. Watchmen wouldn't be as great of a book if it wasn't for being is own universe.  I don't hate the Carlton universe, but that universe wouldn't of produced a book of the quality of Watchmen.  I'll use Vertigo for example, Vertigo split because comics were changing... Swamp Thing gets no love in todays market, but like Judge Dredd, he and the characters in his book were allowed to age.  
 
Don't blame Watchmen, blame Dan Didiot.  He killed off both the Old school Blue Beetle and Questions, he made the Blue Beetle a flipping Beetleborg. Carlton Comics gets no love because the guys who call the shots made the universe the universe of "B-Listers".  Even back when Levitz called the shots Ted's best friend was Booster Gold... the King of B-Listers.  I love Buster, but he is just as known to non comic readers as Deathstroke is, and Deathstroke is a brilliant character.
 
You can say the Charlton characters are better :D
I am glad you are a Charlton fan, I like your reviews because you expose people to older comics.
Ultimately is not who is better, because the Watchmen characters are different.  They were "inspired" but grew to something more.  Heck I like Iron Man more then Blue Beetle... and I am a DC guy.  Iron Man/Tony Stark is much like Blue Beetle/Ted Kord: Rich, superhero, has cool gadgets, etc.  Tony is a younger character, do you hate on him?
 
The Watchmen universes is different.  The characters "inspired" by them happen to be nothing like their Charlton versions.  I forget if we talked about if you read Vertigo or not... I love Swamp Thing personally, but the DCU version was okay... the later Vertigo Version (Alan Moore's Version) is a better version which was "inspired" by Len Wein's Verizon (I only linked Len, because younger readers may not know who he is).   Alan Moore changed the character, kept the name... far worst a travesty in theory then what he did with Charlton comics... but his version is a different version from the original. Was is wrong for him to do so? No... the character at the time was looking at being canceled... and Alan was being (pardon the cheesy pun) .... wait for it.... "Brave and Bold".
 
If anything you should be happy Alan didn't kill off the Charlton Characters, because of the Watchmen Universe, you had like an extra 20 years until Marwell Lord would put a bullet in Ted's head. I am not a huge Charlton comics fan since I never read any under that banner... But I was happy to see Denny write the Question.
 
I would ease off the hate... Do you hate Hal Jordan? He overshadows Alan Scott.  I see Guy Gardner in your wallpaper. He fits the Hal argument with over shadowing Golden Age weakness to wood Green Lantern Alan Scott.  They even have the name Green Lantern.  
 
I guess all I am saying is that, Charlton was miss handled.  Being absorbed they are not true "DCU" characters like how Captain Marvel hasn't really found him home.  Older Versions do get replaced and no one cares at average... like Swamp Thing, Green Lanterns and Flash.  Charlton was not replaced, they kept being the "adopted babies" of the DCU, while Watchmen would be the most celebrated comic ever written.  One because it was an early creator owned work. Two it was a great story. Three it had layers that made it a "novel" not just a graphic novel. Four it had characters that were expendable... if they died they were not coming back next week in a new suit.
 
I would chill on the Watchmen hate and join me in the Dan Didiot hate!  Dude is killing VERTIGO!
 
@IrishX said:
" @Liberty: Almost all characters are based on something previously done. "Let me just say they the Charlton characters are better than the Watchmen characters they were based on."  Clearly that's just opinion. Personally I like The Question but I think Rorschach is different and better..... "

Rorschach and original The Question are two different characters. Similar in appearance, but different.  Catwoman and Black Cat are more a like then Rorschach and The Question.
Posted by Liberty
@Silkcuts:   First let me say this post could be it's own blog.  It would be cool to have a point, counterpoint blog where we could showcase these writing pieces.  I am bummed that I am coming off as such a hater however.  I'll be honest I never wrote a blog for the first two years I have been on this site. I only started writing because of the Quests.  I'm sure that is why they did it.  
 
All that said I figured if I was going to write blogs thet were going to be thoughtful and  hopefully bring support to characters that I love.  I don't hate the Watchmen because they were based on Charlton characters.  I am annoyed at the huge Watchman fan that mocks the characters they are based.  They will usually do this without having anymore knowledge of the characters than their chance camo appearances in other books.  I wrote this blog more to inspire readers to read something other than Superman and Spider-man comics.  What would you think of a reader who loved Rocket Red but thought Iron Man was a tool.   
 
What it comes down to is the heroes I love are dogged all the time by writers and fans.  I like the "B-Listers"  I like  the characters that writers love to kill just to show their new villian is powerful.  I can't stand when a character like Booster Gold is portrayed as a moron or pathetic to make a plot work.  Booster Gold has issues and he is a sad-sack, but he is not a moron or as callow as he has been dipicted by some writers.  These are just some small examples. 
 
As for some of your other questions I hate Hal about as much as Guy does.  Although I tried real hard to not be as hateful as you make me sound.  I like Vertigo comics because they offer a more adult format and it is clear that is what your getting.  That said I am not that big of a fan of their stuff and only have a moderate amount of their books.   Dan Didiot kills me with some of his decitions and directions where he takes the DC Universe.  
 
Great post.  Thank you.
Posted by EisforExtinction
@Liberty: I mean Alan Moore wanted to use Charlton character but he made a choice and didn't. The characters are different.
Posted by Liberty
@EisforExtinction:   I researched this several places and Alan Moore was not allowed to use the characters because DC Comics wanted to take them in a different direction.
Posted by EisforExtinction
@Liberty said:
" @EisforExtinction:   I researched this several places and Alan Moore was not allowed to use the characters because DC Comics wanted to take them in a different direction. "
Yeah, but at that point he decided to make different characters he made them really different. Watchmen characters are all really flawed while Charlton characters are all kind of light hearted.
Posted by Liberty
@EisforExtinction:   You have to give more examples than that.  What have you read as far a the Charlton characters are concerned.
Posted by EisforExtinction
@Liberty: Alright, let's compare Blue Beetle and Nite Owl II. Ted Kord gets into fun adventures with is friend from the future. Nite Owl is kind of depressed and is addicted to the rush of beating people up.
 
Vic Sage was an orphan who became a journalist while Rorshach is a lunatic who sees everything in black and white.
Posted by Liberty

@EisforExtinction:     Alright, let's compare Blue Beetle and Nite Owl II. Ted Kord gets into fun adventures with is friend from the future. Nite Owl is kind of depressed and is addicted to the rush of beating people up.
 
Vic Sage was an orphan who became a journalist while Rorshach is a lunatic who sees everything in black and white.

 
@EisforExtinction: Thank you for your post because this proves my point.  You are comparing the more modern Blue Beetle and Question to the 1986 Watchmen.  In 1986 Blue Beetle did not even meet Booster Gold who only had his first appearance a few months before the first issue of the Watchmen.  The Blue Beetle and Question of 1986 could have easily been tweaked to be Nite Owl and Rorchach.
 
The Watchmen was a more adult comic for it's time.  So naturally they were going to show aspects of the characters that had not previously been seen but still fit the character of the time.   DC said no and so they developed differently and now it is hard to imagine them in those roles.  At the time however it would have seemed like natural character development.
Posted by Silkcuts
@Liberty:  Sorry for miss understanding you.
I get your points more clearly now.... we have a common enemy... Dan Didiot.... 
I do hope your blog inspires new readers to try different books out, I've had my own personal quests like that too, with my reviews or even my own blog.  I am more of a reader of writers, so right now I am "pimping" Peter Milligan and Kyle Baker... to great writers... but because they are not a fame hunger writer like *cough*"Mark Millar"*cough*  they get over looked.
 
I respect your views, that is why I read your blog and reviews ;)
To our quest to making comic readers non-zombies! 
Cheers!
 - your friend, Silkcuts
Edited by Liberty
@Silkcuts:  Thank you.  I am going to check out your blogs and the writers you talked about.  I always get my writers miked up with the exception of a few greats and a few really bad ones
Posted by Theodore

Blue Beetle and Question are both dead now... how sad

Posted by longbowhunter

I probably would have enjoyed Watchmen even more if the original Charlton characters had been used. I'm a great fan of Blue Beetle and the Question. Has anyone here read the Question story were Vic Sage is on an airplane reading Watchmen, falls asleep and then dreams he's Rorshach. I enjoyed that.

Edited by Donovan Montgomery

All I can say is I hope they start putting out trades of the old Charlton books.  Bring these younger readers into the fold as to who these characters really are. 
I pick up Charlton whenever I can and do have a few (not as much as I would like, as most I find are the "Horror" lines). 
Blue Beetle (Dan) came out before Superman?  Hmmmm..... 
 
 
PS. Nice points, by you and Silkcuts. 
 
PPS. I loved Booster, he was pretty much how you described him when he came out, but has grown nicely as a character.....and if the Question can die of cancer, why can't some of these other, more deserving, ones die from sicknesses?  (Nick Fury and Wolverine came to mind, but ...yea :^/  )
Posted by Liberty
@Donovan Montgomery:   No Blue Beetle came out a few moths after Superman but relatively the same time.  Sorry for the confusion.
Posted by Liberty
@longbowhunter:   I would love to read that if you can tell me where?
Edited by longbowhunter
@Liberty:
The Question #17 "A Dream Of Rorshach". If you cant get ahold of the issue, pick up The Question "Epitaph For A Hero" trade. 
 
Posted by Liberty
@Theodore:   Do you mean that or are you being sarcastic.
 
@longbowhunter: Thank you.  I have been trying to get all these question and question quarterly books but have not found them all.  Thanks for letting me know.
Posted by Silkcuts
@Liberty:  No worries. :D
Keep up fighting the good fight.
Cheers!
Edited by Donovan Montgomery
@Liberty:
NP, that's what I thought, but it sounded good :) 
I'm still missing a couple of the Quarterlies to :( 
You have the Brave and the Bold with Vic, Ollie, and Butcher? 
Or his 6 issue series?  (I only managed to find the first so far :(  ) 
Would love more of his Charlton apperences to.
Posted by Theodore
@Liberty said:
" @Theodore:   Do you mean that or are you being sarcastic.
 
@longbowhunter: Thank you.  I have been trying to get all these question and question quarterly books but have not found them all.  Thanks for letting me know. "
Totally serious, I loved Blue Beetle!
Posted by ReverseNegative

I love the artwork for the pic on the left.

Posted by Liberty
@ReverseNegative:  No doubt.
Edited by Mr.Q
they seem to be killing and/or replacing most of them now which irritates me to no end. I kinda went into that in my own blog. but I agree about the "B-Listers" they always hold much promise and tend to be more interesting than those in the for front. this goes with comics, t.v. shows, movies and even real life. but people are getting lazy and I agree with you on this. we need a revolution. good luck with your quest. dig hard dig deep  the brightest diamonds are always deeper in the mine. 
Posted by Liberty
@Mr.Q:   Thanks for your comments.  I too am sick of the replacement of many of these classic heroes. There is an awful movement to replace white heroes with minorities.   Blue Beetle and Question are replaced by Hispanic characters and Firestorm was replaced by an African character and so on.  This goes to your laziness comment.  There are a lot of these kinds of characters already in DC but they do nothing with them.  Look at the whole Milestone series.  hey were merged with DC and then for the most part forgotten.  My point is instead of making great minority characters or making characters who already exist great they took the short cut and killed off loved characters for a small amount of name recognition.  Jaime is great as Blue Beetle but not as good as Ted.  His origin is weak.  I could go on but you guys get my point I'm sure.
Posted by Mr.Q
@Liberty: plus doesn't it seem kind of insulting and counter productive to place a minority character into a white man's place? once again they are in the white guys shadow. we NEED more diversity in comics but why can't we just come up with heroes that have their own origins. there are plenty of characters in the back round that are forgotten or ignored that fill the void perfectly. and the least they could do is try and make these "Legacy Characters" origins make sense. did Vic Sage ever even meet Renee before he decided it was her destiny to be the new Question? if not how did he know she existed let alone was an ideal choice to be his successor? Renee's origin was weaker. unless I missed something. there are better ways to diversify but it requires a little thought which seems to be out of fashion today. yes I get your point. and we can't be the only ones.
Posted by Liberty
@Mr.Q:   I couldn't agree with you more.  Rene is a minority in comics three times being Hispanic, female and a lesbian.  It is like DC wanted to put all their eggs in one basket.  It reminds me of the cereal commercials that sticks the minority in a wheel chair to cover more diversity.  Look at Spawn as a character.  If DC or Marvel gave as much attention developing a character like this they would have success.  Look at DC Comics.  When they do try to give attention to creating minority characters they fail.  Look a John Stewart  They make him the Green Lantern and then give it back to a joke like Hal.  They create an awesome character like Black Lightning but give him a racist sounding name and make him sound like a moron. (See Cover).  Then they create Milestone comics.  That is primarily Mavel.  Can you say "Separate but Equal"  It doesn't work. Now you have the replacements and you summed that up nicely.  Now Cyborg is a classic minority character.  Well deserving of his own book.  Why the hell this hasn't happened I'll never know
Edited by Mr.Q
@Liberty:
as Beck once said "... you can't write if can't relate..." or something along those lines. most of the big writers tend to be white men and they can;t relate or understand what being a minority is like so they don't bother to try. get people who understand the characters to write them. Wonder Woman comics have a history of being weird or ignored or poorly handled because a man can't understand where she is coming from. but when they had Gail writing her sales, interest, and quality seemed to go up. we need to diversify the writing staff as well as the content. Marvel seems to at least be attempting to rectify this. Luke Cage, Storm, Black Panther, Ms. Marvel and others seem to be stepping up. so one step foreword two steps back.  
Posted by Liberty
@Mr.Q:   The trick is being able to relate not being what you write.  I don't think you need to be the character you are writing about you just need to relate.  After all Wonder Woman was created by a man.  I too would like to see a diverse writing staff but foremost I want good writers in books that they do well in.
Posted by Mr.Q
@Liberty: yes Wonder Woman was created by a man and many of her early books were filled with sexual undertones and bondage imagery. you don't have to be something to relate to it. Perez did wonderful things with Wonder Woman despite gender differences. the problem I see is either they try to write women like men to avoid this issue (which I read a form about somewhere) or they write up a 'very special' story about the issues that come off as bad after school specials. we do need good writers but even Mark Twain would have problems writing about something he didn't really understand. diversify ourselves and the rest will follow. but I think I'm getting off topic here. if a writer has little or no knowledge about a character why are they writing about them? it causes problems. but you are right about quality being important. answers are rarely as easy as we want them to be. 
Posted by Liberty

When you are right you are right.

Posted by Mr.Q
@Liberty: thank you. but I hope some of my ramblings make as much sense as I hoped. I'm not much of a talker.
Posted by Eyz

I've recently read the 2000 miniseries L.A.W., which simply put uses all 6 original Charlton characters on which the Watchmen were based upon.
Great read, recommended to all you Watchmen/Charlton Comics fans!
It deals mostly with Peacemaker & Judomaster, but Nightshade, Blue Beetle, the Question and many more do appear in this too! (Captain Atom, Steel...)

Posted by name_already_chosen

Silkcuts writes so well it is almost embarrassing to try to post something afterwards.

What I wish to point out is that, yes, I have read the Charlton heroes, and while Peacemaker and Peter Cannon did not excite me much in their Charlton incarnations, I was rather fond of Captain Atom, Nightshade, and Blue Beetle. Blue Beetle's interesting past is particularly enjoyable for me. That said, I also enjoyed reading Watchmen from the start (I read it as it was coming out, and I remember the agony of waiting a full month for the next issue!).

I don't mind a world with both Question and Rorschach (and Mister A, R's other inspiration), nor a world with both Blue Beetle and Nite Owl II, just as I don't mind a world with both Superman and Samaritan (or Hyperion of the Squadron Supreme and Alan Moore's Supreme, for that matter), nor a world with both The Lensman by E. E. "Doc" Smith and Hal Jordan Green Lantern (or Starbrand of the New Universe and Darkstar of the Soviet Supersoldiers).

For that matter, I don't mind a world with both Captain America and his predecessor The Shield. And as little love as DC and fans give the Charlton heroes who became the Watchmen (Peter Cannon --> Ozymandias, Blue Beetle --> Nite Owl II, Captain Atom ---> Dr. Manhattan, etc.), DC and fans give even less love to the MLJ / Red Circle heroes who became their predecessors (The Fly --> Mothman, The Hangman --> Hooded Justice, The Shield --> Captain Metropolis, etc.). I guess it's just difficult for any character to compete with one written by Alan Moore.

But yes, some of us still love the old characters!

Posted by Liberty
@name_already_chosen: I agree with everything you said.  I just wish there was a little more done with the characters that started it.  Couldn't agree more with the characters from Red Circle and such.
 
Silkcuts is the man.  =)
Posted by COBRAMORPH

I've typed this before some place here, but I'd much rahter see a "Justice League" movie using the cast from the Watchmen movie, but playing their Charlton counterparts, with maybe just an Aquaman GL & speeder thrown in. I mean, I grew up with the Bruce Timm DCAU, Batman, Beyond, Superman, into JL & JLU. But I much prefered the JLU "era" whch is what exposed me to Question & Captain Atom. I think even that the reason the DCAU was ended was because they wanted to make those characters a bigger deal than the Trinity & Significant Seven.

People dont know about Watchmen being based on Charlton, & to a certain point its not fair to the Watchmen either, because DC is activly preventing Fawcett, Charlton, Quality & any other aquired from being made prominant properties. There is no Justice Watchmen because DC doesnt want Captain Marvel, Phantom Lady, Question etc overshadowing their top tier.

Posted by Liberty

@COBRAMORPH: Well said. Thanks.

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous
@Liberty: Yea this is something that annoys me to, I remember making a battle ages ago with the Watchmen characters VS the original characters that they were based off of and nobody got it.
Posted by Liberty

@Jonny_Anonymous: This is so cool. We are in the minority.