The Watchmen Merchandise Cometh

In Alan Moore's landmark Watchmen comics, a former hero turned entrepreneur has a sideline in cheap superhero action figures. It's a small moment in a dense, complicated story, but an obvious knock on the comic industry's tendency to spin off, market, and sell down the river anything that might turn a buck.

Of course, to Moore adapting Watchmen at all counts as the same kind of sellout. He'd never intended his masterwork to be anything but a comic, and after what he considered botched adaptations of V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and From Hell, he decided never to collaborate with Hollywood again.

But Moore doesn't own the rights to Watchmen, which is why we're getting ready for the premiere. And even though he was able to block a line of 15-anniversary action figures in 2000, this time the blockbuster juggernaut is in full roar, and Moore's concerns about having his characters splattered all over cheap tchotchkes don't matter in the least.

Along with the predictable action figures and busts, there's a full-size Rorschach grappling gun and a matched set of the Comedian's handguns, and at $240, they're the kind of high-end fanboy collectible that goes with the comic book movie territory these days.

Nite Owl CoffeeBut the truly weird stuff, the stuff that makes you wonder if the marketing team even read the book, are the bottom-end cheapies -- like this terrible Rorschach beanie mask, or "The End Is Nigh" on one of those Lance Armstrong bracelets. How about a replica Doomsday clock, which counts down the minutes to nuclear destruction? Or a Silk Spectre Halloween costume, or Nite Owl Dark Roast coffee, or the Crimebusters in rubber key chain form? And here's maybe the ultimate slap in the face: the Rorschach lunchbox. (Parents, why would you put your kids' PB&J in a box with a homicidal vigilante on the side? Isn't that kind of asking for trouble?)

In the end, the junk the company tries to push doesn't make a good movie any worse (look back at all the Star Wars crap they flogged in the '70s). And I'm still hopeful that Zack Snyder's adaptation will do justice to the original. But at least on this, Alan Moore has a point. What happens when you leave decisions up to the merchandisers? The Rorschach desk blotter.