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Comic Theme Time Month – Most Egregious Interference by the Watcher

All December long, I will be doing daily installments of Comic Theme Time. Comic Theme Time is a twist on the idea of a “Top Five” list. Instead of me stating a topic and then listing my top five choices in that topic, I’m giving you the topic and letting you go wild with examples that you think fit the theme.

Today’s topic is “What do you think was the most egregious example of Uatu the Watcher “I can’t interfere!”) interfering with events?”

Read on to see what I’m looking for specifically, along with some examples to get you started…

Uatu’s race is based on the idea of just monitoring universes, but not interfering. Here, Uatu describes their function in his first appearance in Fantastic Four #13…

However, a page earlier, in his very first appearance on the page of a comic book, what does the Watcher do?

He interferes!!!

And it’s been that way ever since. “I cannot interfere! However, I could let you do this (and “this” is always some form of interference).”

So name what you think have been Uatu’s most egregious instances of interference over the years!

36 Comments

What is the email address for suggestions again?

It’s kind of funny, when the rules demanded that we email our suggestions rather than put them into the comments, we kept getting people who disregarded and put them in the comments anyway.

Now we are allowed to answer in the comments and we have people asking for the email address!

In that case, I nominate Marvel Team-Up #127 by J.M. DeMatteis.

It is an impressively street-level tale of Peter’s attempts at finding a girl who needs help and being helped time and again by the Watcher, who is trying his best to convince himself that is is not interfering too much.

Oddly, apparently Peter doesn’t remember having met the Watcher before, but he did, way back in MTU #7. It is not like one forgets having met the Watcher… for that matter, isn’t the Watcher widely known from his tete-a-tete with Galactus way back then?

Beyond! has a clever example: a group of relatively low-powered heroes launch an apparently suicidal attack on the Stranger. The Watcher appears to observe it, which convinces the Stranger into believing that he’s somehow going to be beaten after all (or why would it be worth the Watcher’s time?). Which is exactly as Uatu intended….

When you say “The Watcher”, you mean Uatu, right? Because Aron has probably done more than Uatu ever did.

There are also those Captain Marvel issues by – Alan Grant, perhaps? Shortly after the first Thanos saga. Uatu actually conspires with the Lunatic Legion, engages in a fistfight against Mar-Vell and ends up judged for that.

I find it funny that by his own definition of a Watcher’s role, Uatu is clearly unfit for his job. He’s a TERRIBLE Watcher, who regularly breaks the biggest rule of his job. It’s like a cop who regularly helped bank robbers get away with their loot. The fact that Uatu remains a Watcher suggests that the Watchers aren’t as serious about non-interference as they claim to be.

Yes, I know Uatu was once tried for his repeated breaches of the Watchers’ code, but after all was said and done Uatu is still in his post – so we know for a fact that despite their claims of impartiality, breaking the Watchers’ code isn’t THAT serious an offense.

Of course, it could be argued that the moment a Watcher announces his existence (not to mention his power level) he’s already influencing events.

Do What If…? issues count? If so, I’d have to go with What If…? Vol. 2 #50, “What If the Avengers Fought Galactus?” They lose, so the Watcher joins the fight. With fists.

What If…? has to count to a degree, since most issues were hosted by “our” Uatu.

I think the Lunatic Legion arc was Englehart. He said elsewhere he’d gotten fed up with the Watcher’s “I never interfere … except just this once.” shtick, which is why he does absolutely nothing when Dormammu almost swallows our universe in the Avengers/Defenders crossover.

[EDITED TO ADD: Fraser accidentally posted in the wrong section, so I copied and pasted his comment to this section. – BC]

Forgot to enter my info the first try; sorry.

It’s canon that the Watchers can defend themselves and their properties (from a story where one of them – Uatu? – stops an attack on his homeworld in a rather *Spirited* way). So, in this first appearance he’s just getting those noisy kids off his lawn.

Getting back to the original inquiry, I believe the most egregious interference is when he arranges for the FF to acquire the Ultimate Nullifier. A weapon so awesome even Galactus is afraid of it.

Luis, those Captain Marvel issues were by Steve Engelhart; they’re the same ones being mentioned by Fraser. Alan Grant didn’t start writing American comics until the late 1980s, over ten years later.

In fact, Alan Grant has never written for Marvel at all.

Adam – I knew there was one like that that I was thinking should be counted, but I couldn’t remember which issue it was. Doesn’t that end with “now you know why I was so reluctant to show you this world sooner… because in this world, The Watcher died!”?

I’m assuming Uatu yearly reviews with Watcher HR must be ninety solid minutes of documenting the write ups against him by Watcher management and the number of violations made against the Watchers’ company policies.

In Fantastic Four #400, he goes against his own people’s plans to destroy the universe and is stripped of his office entirely and banished.

Later, I think this was quietly written out by claiming that the universe-destroyers were just a rogue sect of Watchers with no real authority.

The most egregious case I remember reading was from Fantastic Four #20, not long after the Watcher was introduced, when he went out of his way to warn the FF about Molecule Man, and then in the end he spirits Molecule Man off to confinement in some other dimension.

The one that pops to mind is Watcher helping Galactus summon Eternity to help Reed Richards be cleared of his crime of saving Galactus’s life (I guess he also intervened by bringing John Byrne along to watch the trial).

My vote for the most clever one is from the Wolfman/Byrne issue where Sphinx fights Galactus. At the end Reed bluffs Galactus with a fake Ultimate Nullifer and because Galactus can’t read his mind he backs off.

We learn G couldn’t read his mind because Watcher was already reading his mind, running interference, and Watcher coyly says he was just doing his job trying to learn what Reed was up to, ending with something like, “Can one help it if one’s mere presence brings about a happier outcome? Can one?”

It still crossed the line, I think, but at least it’s fun when Watcher gives a wink and bullshits his way out of it.

There’s a hilarious sequence in Marvel Two-In-One Annual #1, where the Watcher shows up at the Baxter Building, but refuses to speak (I think this was not long after the Captain Marvel story where he’d been put on trial, so he was being extra-careful). Ben ends up playing the equivalent of “20 questions” with him, with Uatu either frowning or not-quite-frowning at him, depending on how close to the mark he is.

Sean, yes, that’s the one.

I should also note the original EARTH X series, since coincidentally, I’ve been rereading it this week. Yeah, I know it’s been established that Earth X is “an out-there, alternate universe future where everything revealed in that story is suspect.” Still, the Watcher clarified in that story that he didn’t interfere in “human” affairs. His giving the Ultimate Nullifier to Reed was to help chase Galactus off Earth to help the Celestials’ plans, so…no “human” interference there.

Another Watcher cheat: there was an FF Annual (I think the “Atlantis Attacks” issue) that revealed that the Watcher had stolen all the FF’s personal belongings when Dr. Doom blew up the Baxter Building. He gave some excuse that he needed to temporarily study them, albeit right at the moment when the building blew up. Reed believed him up until Sue pointed out that it was the Watcher’s subtle way of being nice.

Personally I prefer The Critic, though I think he has not made an appearance outside She-Hulk books…

It might be a shorter list if we just name the number of times he didn’t interfere.

Has there ever been an in-comic comparison between the Watchers’ vow and Star Trek’s Prime Directive, how Uatu and Kirk violate them every chance they get? I can’t believe Peter David would let that get by him.

To echo Terrible D, have there been any times that the Watcher shows up and just goes…Nah, I won’t interfere.

Because otherwise, it seems like EVERYTHING the superheroes do on earth “could change the universe FOREVER!”, or else the Watcher is just a nervous nelly and can’t just sit back and WATCH things happen! Or else he’s just really, really worried that if Earth people get themselves done blow’d up, he’ll be out of a job.

Man, there totally needs to be a Marvel/DC crossover where the Watchers and the Guardians get into it over the extent of “interference” into other worlds and stuff. “No, YOU’RE more arrogant!”

The Watcher interfered with Red Hulk’s fist in Rulk #4.

If you count What Ifs…, Uatu banished Wolverine to Conan’s time in issue 16, and then yadda yadda yadda the universe blew up.

Yeah, well, maybe Uatu has somehow managed to land himself such a contract on being the Watcher of Earth that he can’t really be fired, but the amount of reports of messing up ensure that he would never be employed again should the job on Earth come to a natural conclusion…

Or maybe we should count every story in the solar system when he doesn’t show up as a visible physical being as a moment of non-interference? And the Oath is actually really lax about the kind of small stuff Uatu does and only things like becoming the omnipresent supreme dictator of the world he is Watching would count as a real violation?

Yes, even by showing up, the Watcher is in effect interfering, and he does that a lot. I remember Keith Giffen lampooned this with his Lobo knock-off Lunatik in Marvel Comics Presents. A Watcher (I don’t recall if it is specifically Uatu) shows up to observe a fight between Lunatik and the Silver Surfer. The Watcher is, well, watching this, but of course he’s pontificating on the conflict, giving the equivalent of a play-by-play commentary. At which point an infuriated Lunatik walks up to the Watcher, violently kicks him (it’s implied to be in the groin) and says something along the lines of “Hey, buddy, watching is done with your eyes, not your mouth!”

Fantastic Four #212-213, during a big throwdown between Galactus and the Sphinx. When Galactus won the battle, Reed forced him to leave the Earth with the old ‘Ultimate Nullifier’ bluff. Uatu had telepathically entered Reed’s mind, making Galactus think he was sincere in his threat, so he took off. Uatu insisted that he was “merely observing”, that he simply entered Reed’s mind to watch the event from his POV. He then said something like, “Can it be helped if one’s mere presence brings about a happier resolution?”

But we humans are super-special! Surely the rules mean only that Watchers shouldn’t interfere with normal, boring species. Exceptional people require exceptions!

“The Watcher interfered with Red Hulk’s fist in Rulk #4.”
All part of a plan, actually, as a recent Hulk issue showed. See, Uatu knew that a powerful entity capable of wiping out an entire species was about to be reborn, so he allowed Rulk to punch him. Then, when Uatu went to watch the entity’s rebirth, he was invisible to it, but he still had Rulk’s “scent” on him. So the thing hunted down and tried to kill Red Hulk, until Red Hulk turned back into Ross, thereby making the alien believe it had accomplished its mission of destroying the Red Hulk.

Very devious, that Uatu.

Also of note is the wedding between Reed and Sue. It was attacked by supervillains, so Uatu brought Reed to his headquarters and said, “I can’t interfere, but take a look around, and if you see something you like, feel free to borrow it.” Apparently, bringing Reed to his headquarters and letting him borrow a device of immense power isn’t “interfering.”

Marvel Zombies 4(?…not sure, it all blurs, but I think it’s the one with the solo stories of the main five infected ): While for the greater good, presumably, he locks the zombie virus in a perpetual loop so that it can only run along the same time line, if I remember it correctly (so he’s repeatedly allowing the same universe to die over and over again).

The other one, if What If? is involved, I’d look at the Time Quake storyline, where he basically stops the time police from destroying the universe, again, if memory serves.

Time Quake was between issues 34-38, I think, vol. 2

There was an episode of the Venture Bros. that featured a spot-on FF/Watcher spoof, with a giant alien sent to observe events of cosmic importance who was sworn not to interfere. He spent the entire episode screaming “IGNORE ME!” every time anyone would look at or try to speak to him.

Ha ha! I was just about to bring up that “Venture” episode, Kalo! That was my favorite episode in the first couple of seasons and, honestly, may still be my favorite of any season.

I love that the Watchers actual purpose (to the writer who decides to use him) is exactly counter to his stated purpose. His supposed/stated purpose is to watch and not interfere, yet he ALWAYS does. It would be like Batman stating his purpose of avenging himself on all criminals, but then Every single issue he instead chooses to stay in at night and watch t.v.

Oh, and it was also interesting to see the early introduction where the watchers fly around in space craft to observe, rather than the giant view screens they use now.

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