Warner Brothers has announced that one week after the big-screen version of Watchmen comes out, they’ll release a direct-to-DVD edition of Tales of the Black Freighter, the comic-within-the-comic with a horrific pirate story offering pointed commentary on the main superhero narrative. According to NY Times reporter Brooks Barnes, “The DVD will also include a documentary-style film called Under the Hood that will delve into the charactersâ€™ backstories,” which undoubtedly expands upon the textual passages with that collective title which were included in the graphic novel.
The official story focuses on Warner’s attempt to revitalize flagging DVD sales by “offering retailers a meaningful opportunity to be involved with the theatrical event… [with] a product that will generate foot traffic and sales,” but a more cynical observer might suggest that it’s going to take a bonus DVD to make Watchmen fully comprehensible to potential viewers who haven’t already read the book. In fact, Warner already plans to release a 12-episode online “adaptation” called The Watchmen Motion Comic which will be nothing more than “a panel-by-panel slide show of the graphic novel narrated by an actor” for just that reason. Geez, didn’t I use to watch a TV program just like that on Nickelodeon about 30 years ago?
I’m not 100% sure of the strategy here: The “get the fanboys to spend another $15 the week the movie comes out” part I get, but I’m not yet convinced by the “get people coming out of the theater ready to spend another $15 on supplementary materials” tactic. Unless—and here’s a thought I offer to Warner Brothers free of charge—maybe you give moviegoers discount coupons for the DVD… or they could say that the ticket stub is worth a discount, maybe everywhere, maybe just with a particular retailer. If you really wanted to get fancy, you could apply the deal only to the opening weekend… Well, it’s something to think about, anyway.