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CSBG Archive

Drawing Crazy Patterns – The Watcher Interfering Despite Insisting He Can’t Interfere

In this feature, I spotlight five scenes/moments from within comic book stories that fit under a specific theme (basically, stuff that happens frequently in comics). Here is an archive of all the patterns we’ve spotlighted so far.

Today I will spotlight five examples of the Watcher egregiously violating his non-interference oath…

Enjoy!

PLEASE NOTE: The concept of this feature is that I post five scenes/moments. It is not the five BEST moments or the ONLY five moments, it is just five moments. So if I didn’t feature a moment you liked, it is not because I forgot it or didn’t like it, it just didn’t happen to be one of the five moments I chose to feature.

The Watcher’s very first appearance in Fantastic Four #13 had him interfere with a fight between the Fantastic Four and the Red Ghost and his Super-Apes…

Despite revealing his non-interference oath in that very issue…

However, I think you have to give the Watcher some leeway when it comes to defending his own home. If a fight messes up his home, it is reasonable to expect him to avoid said fight. So here, we’ll look at five examples where the Watcher was far more egregious in his actions.

First up was Fantastic Four #20 (by Stan and Jack), just seven issues later.

In it, the Watcher first summons the Fantastic Four to warn them of the threat of the Molecule Man…

After filling them in, the Watcher then insists that he can’t interfere…

So the FF fight the Molecule Man and they eventually defeat him, separating him from his power wand. Again, the Watcher steps in…

Boy, that sure is some good not interfering there, Watcher!

Next is Fantastic Four Annual #3 (by Stan and Jack). In the story, Reed Richards and Sue Storm’s wedding has been besieged by super-villains. Things look bad, until the Watcher steps in…

By this point, it sure seems like the Watcher just really loves the Fantastic Four, doesn’t it?

Much later, in Fantastic Four #213 by Marv Wolfman and John Byrne, the Watcher again steps in to help the Fantastic Four…

This, of course, is a callback to what was, for a time, the ultimate example of Watcher interference, the Galactus Trilogy (FF #48-50 by Stan and Jack)!

First off, the Watcher tries to hide Earth from Galactus…

Then he tries to talk Galactus out of eating Earth…

Then he helps the Fantastic Four find a powerful device…

The device, the Ultimate Nullifier, wins the day…

You’d think that this would be most he could ever interfere, but you’d be way off! In Captain Marvel #36-39 (by Steve Englehart and Al Milgrom), the Watcher decides he will help the Lunatic Legion kill Captain Marvel!

In Captain Marvel #37, the Watcher actually kicks Captain Marvel’s ass (the good Captain is distracted because Rick Jones has just dropped some acid. Yes, that actually happened)…

Ultimately, though, the Watcher saves Captain Marvel, just in time for Watcher to go on trial by his peers. Englehart uses this to show all of the examples where the Watcher had interfered up until that point. We ultimately learn why the Watcher went nuts…

Obviously, as I showed in the above Wolfman/Byrne pages, the Watcher was soon back to his old tricks!

If you have a suggestion for a pattern you’d like to see featured, e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com. Don’t post your suggestions in the comments section!

40 Comments

Man, the Watcher really beefed up between FF #13 and #48. He must have answered one of those Charles Atlas ads in the back of the book. :)

Great article like always!!

As a bonus / trivia, let me tell you that in Deadpool Team-Up #884 there is a great parody of watcher’s interfering despite his oath.

Surprisingly, in “Fantastic Four” #188, the Watcher came very close to actually not-interfering. He appeared throughout that issue, not saying a word, just standing there as the FF were on the verge of breaking up for the umpteenth billionth time. Supposedly, his presence in the issue was meant as a harbinger of the break-up. But not once did Uatu speak one word. Which drove the thing up the wall.

I bet it was really creepy when the Watcher insisted that he was meant by the time space continuum to watch Reed and Sue consummate their marriage… Several times… With video equipment.

Is the Captain Marvel story when the Watcher was first called Uatu? When did that happen? Was it during those old backups in Tales of Suspense?

No wonder Red Hulk punched him. This baby-headed giant chubby man needs to give up on the whole not interfering gimmick. Did anyone recently acknowledge this and try to retcon it?

The Watcher is almost as bad with its oath as the Enterprise was with the Prime Directive. Almost.

“Of what import are pants….to GALACTUS?”

Uatu should have been fired long ago.

–B

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Watcher. Some of the first comics I bought were the Avengers and Defenders issues where the two teams were racing to collect the pieces of the “Evil Eye.” The Defenders were actually doing a better job of this than the Avengers. The teams stop fighting, prepare to assemble the Eye, only to have it stolen from them by Dormammu. Dormammu (allied with Loki) uses it to merge his dimension with that of Earth. At any rate, near the end of the story, the Watcher turns up to observe this phenomenon. He actually does not interfere – but when he first appears, Dormammu is suspicious and when the heroes see the Watcher, they are hopeful that he will do something. He never does, other than to serve as the expositor for the stories final developments. One thing about that story: when the Watcher first appears, Dormammu makes it clear that he regards the Watcher as a major power, one that is a true threat (should he choose to be) even to Dormammu. I think that, over the years, the Watcher has been a bit depowered.

I’m going to defend the one in FF 213- technically, he’s just monitoring, not interfering.

P. Boz: Weirdly, as far as I can tell this Captain Marvel story is the first time we find out Uatu’s name. I’m surprised it happened that late–a good 12 years after his first appearance.

” No wonder Red Hulk punched him. This baby-headed giant chubby man needs to give up on the whole not interfering gimmick. Did anyone recently acknowledge this and try to retcon it? ”

As bad as Jeph Loeb’s work has become, that was a very, very gratifying moment. Especially since Uatu has done pretty well not interfering in the big Marvel events, but only because he’s a cheap shorthand to show that THIS IS IMPORANT (see: Civil War, Fear Itself)

Always wondered about his “watching”. Doesn’t the mere fact that he reveals he is “watching” something affect the possible outcome of the event, and therefore interferes anyway? Rule of quantum physics y’all.

I’m just trying to figure out who put what in Kirby’s water that gave us that first appearance in FF #20. Did the CIA use Marvel offices for drug testing in the 1960′s, or did they only experiment on Bob Kanigher?

@Crusader K: There were a few issues of Quasar’s series that acknowledged that by merely making their presence known, the Watchers would influence an outcome. Quasar’s battle with Overmind was greatly influenced by the arrival of several Watchers to the event. They didn’t do anything but knowing they were there changed things.
At this point, the main superheroes of Earth know that something major is going down if Uatu shows up. That’s gotta have some impact on the decisions you’ll make in the battle. Except for when he’s acting as narrator for the What If stories, pretty much every appearance of Uatu is an interference….
They’ve tried to chastise him before but he always seems to show up back in his role with his previous banishment/stripping of duties/etc. ignored.
I suspect at this point, his brethren have given up on Uatu and only let him think he’s the Watcher of this solar system… there’s probably a backup Watcher who has been quietly and dutifully watching without communicating on some other planetoid in the solar system.

During the whole Onslaught thing I believe he tried to convince Apocalypse to help the heroes. Apocalypse declined, as I remember.

A couple of favorites of mine:

- There was a backup in a Fantastic Four Annual (forget the issue, but I think it was the “Atlantis Attacks” tie-in) where Uatu “borrows” the FF’s personal possessions before the Baxter Building was destroyed by Kristoff-Doom. He gave some line about needing to do so for scientific research, and Reed believed him. After returning to Earth, Sue pointed out basically, “You moron–he did that because he’s your friend.”
- The second volume of What If…? has Uatu getting involved in a plot against Immortus. The Time-Variance Authority stated that due to some disruption in the space-time continuum, all cosmic oaths were suspended, so Uatu was free to interfere with whatever he wanted. He did.
- I also liked What If…? #40, “What If the Avengers Fought Galactus?” in a remake of F #48-50. Uatu basically says “Ah, screw my oath” and gets into fisticuffs with Galactus. It was great.

Man, you forgot some of the best ones. What kind of top 5 is this? ;)

My favorite parody is from that one Venture Brothers episode. “Someone left a baby!” “IGNORE ME!!!”

Uatu is such an asshole.

Hitler takes over Europe? No Watcher.
Natural disasters killing thousands of people? No Watcher.
Space shuttle explodes? No Watcher.
Chernobyl? No Watcher.
9/11? No Watcher.

A bunch of people with superpowers beating the crap out of each other? WATCHER front row, all up interfering in this bitch!

Are Captain Marvel #36 and #37 by the same artist? The styles look radically different.

And why is Reed so old in FF #213? Is this story set in the future?

Ritchard: The whole FF are aging rapidly in the story, due to some aging ray the Skrulls hit them with a few issues before. There was a whole lot going in in this arc.

Matty Macomber: Who watches the Watcher

Maybe that is what the Watchers should do, just have a guy secretly watching Uatu, as Uatu spins off into his own little world of increasingly erratic interference.

“I must not interfere. So I will stand her ominously until someone notices me. Omni-powerful cosmic being standing over here. I’d only be standing here watching if something really super important was about to happen. Look, I’m looking right at what is really super important. *coughs* Hey, notice me. Oh no! Squirrel Girl has spilled her coffee! If only someone could have foreseen this terrible tragedy! If only I were allowed to act!”

Hey, that could make for a good topic for The Line It Is Drawn!

Moments in history -real or fictitious- where the Watcher should have ‘interfered’.

@Ritchard: Jim Starlin and Alan Weiss were the artists on “Captain Marvel” #36. Al Migrom and Klaus Janson were the ones on #37.

Man, that Annual appearance is a classic “not interfering” bit.

“I can’t tell you what that is or what it does. No, not that thing over there. Over there. Yes. Warmer. Warmer! No, COLDER. Yes, warmer, warmer, it’s bur-NING yooooouuu!”

It’s not interfering, but my favorite Watcher bit is an early Mini Marvel where it riffs on Earth X and the stuff where Machine Man is watching things and describing them for a blind Watcher. Funny stuff, but that’s kind of redundant when talking about Mini Marvels.

I forget which comics magazine it was, but back in the 90′s, one of them had a pointed quip about “The Watcher shows up, says he can’t interfere, and does stuff anyway”

Aw, rules are made to be broken. In fiction anyway.
The Prime Directive.
The Three Laws of Robotics.
The Watcher’s oath.
I’m sure 80% of Asimov’s robot stories revolved around a law being broken or bent to the point of non-existence.
Who doesn’t enjoy it when the Watcher “bends the rules”? He has all that power and the best he can do is hint, suggest, nudge, wink, whatever.
And wasn’t the classic FF #48-#50 *so* good because we KNEW that this kind of interference is JUST what Uatu must never, ever, EVER do? What better way to tell the reader that the chips are DOWN.

Ferb Morgendorffer

November 27, 2012 at 8:07 am

@IAM FeAR Good idea, and add to it him interfering in non-Marvel fictional events. I can just imagine Uatu in Doctor Who’s Time War.

Does anyone know why Uatu switches between the beefy eunuch look and the world’s largest preemie look? Also, god bless whoever brought up Quasar.

A bunch of people with superpowers beating the crap out of each other? WATCHER front row, all up interfering in this bitch!

What you are saying is that Uatu is just a big superhero fanboy who can’t be bothered with real world events.

@NickP
Uatu appearances are about a character intentionally violating the spirit of the rule with a(n often token) adherence to the letter. Asimov stories are about a robot being mistaken for violating the laws. Asimov was fooling with the laws to make a story idea, but within the story, the laws were strictly upheld. When you see Uatu “accidentally” helping, you know it was no accident.

(The big exception for Asimov is the Zeroth Law of Robotics, which was created in story by a robot that had figured out how to put the spirit of the laws above the letter.)

A Horde of Evil Hipsters

November 27, 2012 at 11:22 pm

I honestly can’t tell if this “I am fear” fellow is being serious or not, but “a space shuttle exploding” or one skyscraper being destroyed (9/11) are not important events even on a global scale, much less a cosmic one. Although I suppose their consequences could have been (the USA stopping its space program, but with China stepping up even that might not be so bad in the long run).

Then why was Civil War worth The Watcher’s time? It was just America that was fighting in that.

I think the real reason, if we’re going to be adults about this, is that Marvel’s not going to say that “The Watcher stood in the middle of a real life event and watched things burn”

Maybe he should just change his name to “The Doer”.

So are there are any female Watchers or are the Watchers androgynous?

I remember Uatu had a nephew named Aron…which sort of implied the Watchers have a family structure.

Hysan: “Of what import are pants….to GALACTUS?”

Hahaha

Non-interference? You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Fast forward to 2014, and someone finally got sick enough of the Watcher’s schtick and popped a cap in his giant cap.

Then stole his eyeballs!

I’m waiting for the reveal that he was lying all along, and his whole goal was to influence all events. Using the heroes as his own little chess pieces to make things the way he wants them to be.

And the point of even observing actually changes/interferes, especially when he shows up to watch important events….. It’s been shown that he can use his equipment to watch (even other dimensions and realities) so he doesn’t even need to hover in the background and thus alert everyone that something is about to go down ie interfering.

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