Media culture changed with the invention of the Internet. The way culture is produced and consumed is now different from the time before the World Wide Web. This made it possible to create a whole new way of bringing a brand to the market for the media industry, and also make it possible for fans to access the storyworld of the particular brand. Now media companies have to keep both audience fragmentation and platform agnosticism in mind, when they produce media products. Where the industry earlier on was separated onto different media platforms, the development of the market today has assembled the different platforms under one franchise to simply control the expansion of the story world. The franchise is therefore also mostly owned by one of the big media conglomerates which are, then, able to control how the story world evolves and what happens to it in general. Henry Jenkins, one of the most prominent researchers in the field of media culture, defines transmedia storytelling as follows:
“Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes its own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.”
This means that a franchise such as Watchmen is build upon a series of platforms that each contribute to the storyworld surrounding the Watchmen universe. According to Jenkins, media companies creates a synergy; they integrate the franchise horizontally on different platforms to spread out the brand, which makes the story grow as well. When a brand is expanded onto several platforms the boundaries of the franchise are close to invisible. Jenkins notes that it is important for the franchise owners to beware of “additive comprehension,” which means that each unique part of the franchise has to be accessible on its own terms. Where classical narratives often end when the movie is finished or the last page of the book is read, transmedia storyworlds continue their growth, often with the help from a devoted fan base. Transmedia storytelling creates what Janet Murray calls “The Encyclopedic Impulse,” where fans become experts on the storyworld they decide to integrate themselves into. Jenkins explains it as a hunter/gatherer-phenomenon where fans seem to hunt after and gather as much information they can possibly get their hands on within their particular storyworld. Therefore, the storyworld also becomes some kind of a reality for the fans inflicted. He also argues that both spreadability and drillability play a huge factor in today’s convergence culture. Fans are able to spread – quite easily – information online and therefore also make it easy for other fans to dig for more information.
Watchmen originally started out as a comic written by Alan Moore but has now expanded into a transmedia storyworld both containing a movie, a video game, motion comics, cosplays and collectibles. What is quite interesting when speaking of Watchmen in particular is that the fanbase is actually dual. Either you as a fan view the comics as the “mothership” of the franchise, or you are a huge fan of the movie and think that Alan Moore should get his act together. Alan Moore did not want his comic to evolve; he wanted to stay on the platform he started out on and therefore also declined writing the script for the movie when Fox asked him. It created a division between the fans who started out reading the comics and therefore thought the movie was terrible and the fans who did or did not watch the movie but still think the movie was great. Therefore you could argue that Watchmen is in fact a franchise with two possible “motherships” depending on which fan group you belong in. To analyze Watchmen further we will therefore look at the different aspects of the universe. We will discuss the whole Alan Moore-issue, we will look at the different platforms more closely than what is done above, and we will look at the apocalyptic genre in terms of the movie.
Gotten you interested? We thought so! Stay tuned for more Watchmen-fun when apocalypchicas watch broadens out the universe of the franchise.