Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter Cover by Dave Gibbons

I’m guessing I don’t need to tell readers much about Watchmen here. You likely are already familiar with the 12-issue series – written by Alan Moore, drawn and lettered by Dave Gibbons, coloured by John Higgins and published by DC Comics in 1986 – to be even remotely interested in Tales of the Black Freighter, the allegorical/metaphorical comic within the Watchmen comic.

Flash forward to 2009 and Zack Snyder adapts the series to the big screen, but not much of the pirate stuff makes it into the theatrical cut. On home video there’s the Director’s Cut, but it’s not until the Ultimate Cut that we get to see how the “Marooned” story from the Black Freighter comic weaves itself through the longest version of the film.

The movie production company went to Gibbons to create a cover for the comic prop. A scan of the original lineart is available and we’ll get to the new colour and packaging versions I’m known for here in a moment.

The cover uses trade dress styling that is unique to this comic, so part of what I’ll do here is package the book as it would have been on first publication in the early 1960s (per the alternate history described in the original Watchmen comic book series), and what DC really used on their comics in 1985.

The prop comic includes pretty convincing ads that evoke mid-80s comic book ads very well, and I’ve been able to find some scans of the interior pages. If you own the comic, I’d love a full set of scans. Please give me a shout if you can help.

To prove I’m not as insane as many think I am – or perhaps that there are more of us – more of us – than you’ve ever dreamed about, I’m not the only one interested in Black Freighter. Steven Johnson of Boredom Festival took some time to extract and reconstruct “Marooned” as a story on its own. He did a good job and it’s worth a look.


The Prop

Tales of the Black Freighter Watchmen Movie Prop Comic

The ‘published’ cover.

Tales of the Black Freighter Watchmen Movie Prop Comic

Story page.

Tales of the Black Freighter Watchmen Movie Prop Comic

Ads.

Tales of the Black Freighter Watchmen Movie Prop Comic

Ad.

Tales of the Black Freighter Watchmen Movie Prop Comic

Ad.


Tales of the Black Freighter Cover Art by Dave Gibbons

Original art scan from Heritage Auctions. Dave Gibbons drawing as Walt Feinberg.

Comic book production art by Scott Dutton

Made production ready with the alternate universe DC trade dress removed.

Comic book colouring by Scott Dutton

Homage to the prop’s colouring.

Comic book colouring by Scott Dutton

New colour version. Instead of sunset, the sole light source is the moon in the dead of night.


1960s Versions

Comic book design and packaging by Scott Dutton

Comic book design and packaging by Scott Dutton


1980s Versions

Comic book design and packaging by Scott Dutton

Comic book design and packaging by Scott Dutton


The Joe Orlando Page

Blackbeard Watchmen art by Joe Orlando

As published. The only piece of art from Watchmen not drawn by Gibbons, Orlando contributed this fantastic page. In the alternate universe, the Comics Code Authority never came to be and pirate comics were popular for their darkness and violence. Here the art is used to illustrate an excerpt of an article on comics history.

Blackbeard Watchmen art by Joe Orlando

Original art scan from Heritage Auctions.

Comic book colouring by Scott Dutton

Colour version.


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