A rare cover appearance for The Watcher. Artists: Ed Hannigan and Al Milgrom.

THE WATCHER

Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1963
Creators: Stan Lee (writer) and Jack Kirby (artist)
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Of all the many famous, popular, dynamic characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the legendary writer and artist who put Marvel Comics on the …

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… map, perhaps the least famous and popular, and certainly the least dynamic, was The Watcher. That's because his entire schtick was that despite his immense age and power, he didn't do anything, but merely watched.

Not that he always stuck to his principles — in fact, in his very first appearance (Fantastic Four #13, dated April, 1963), he tipped the heroes off about the villain's plan, thus effectively taking sides in a conflict that didn't concern him. He did this sort of thing several times in his early appearances, which made him something of a rogue among his people. But he later repented his sins and went back to watching … just watching.

Less than a year later, The Watcher (who turned out to have a name, Uatu) got his own series, of sorts. Starting in Tales of Suspense #49 (January, 1964), he narrated stories about the many things he'd watched throughout the Cosmos. Except for his appearance at the beginning and end, these stories strongly resembled the non-series fantasy tales that had occupied the comic's back pages all along. Iron Man was the title's featured character at the time, and The Watcher a mere filler. He was crowded out in #59 (November, 1964) when a Captain America series was added. The only time he was even mentioned on a Tales of Suspense cover was #53, when the story he told concerned his own origin.

Uatu belonged to an alien species that went back farther than most galaxies. Eons ago, they helped another race of aliens on the road to technology, with disastrous results. Thereafter, they swore never again to interfere with any living thing, but only watch. They've been watching ever since. Just watching and watching and watching.

In 1977, The Watcher reprised his role as narrator in What If?, a series that explored turning points in Marvel Universe continuity, extrapolating what might have happened if things had gone a little differently. Supposedly, these were events he'd watched in alternate worlds. He stayed with that title until it folded in 1984, then returned when it was revived in 1989.

The Watcher is still kicking around (at least to the extent that he kicks), and occasionally turns up as a guest star (if "star" isn't too strong a word) with various Marvel characters. He doesn't do much, but watches a lot.

— DDM

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Text ©2003 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.