If you’re like me, and I know I am, you probably had a question or two about Watchmen along the lines of, “Why was the guy who never seemed to say anything remotely funny called ‘the Comedian’?”
Well, it helps to know he was based off a violent character called the Peacemaker.
The various heroes of Watchmen were all based off the various heroes of Charlton Comics that DC had acquired the rights to. Some of these heroes became more recognizable than others as they interacted within the DC universe, but a few stayed relatively obscure. One of those lesser known ones was Christopher Smith, the Peacemaker.
See, Smith believed in peace. Like, a lot. He was a diplomat, and as such, he worked hard to create peace among nations. And when that wouldn’t work, he’d strap on a jetpack, a large helmet, and a variety of (originally nonlethal) weapons to force peace as Peacemaker. He also founds and runs something called the Pax Institute where most of his adversaries are dictators and warlords.
Peace through violence! What a concept!
Truth be told, the idea of a character, usually an anti-hero, who uses seemingly contradictory methods to fight the forces of evil is hardly unique to Peacemaker. The Punisher murders murderers. Solo runs around saying where Solo lives, terror dies while probably scaring the crap out of people. And Cardiac is a doctor who uses lethal force because sometimes the Hippocratic oath is just a suggestion I guess.
Cripes, Spider-Man deals with these guys a lot.
But wait, you say, Smith uses nonlethal weapons as stated above! True! Also stated above was the qualifier “originally,” so you know he didn’t stay that way. What was his deal?
Well, it turns out his father was a very, very bad man. Or Smith was crazy. Most likely both.
Yeah, Christopher Smith’s dad was a Nazi. And not just any Nazi! No, he wasn’t Hitler. He was the commandant of a concentration camp. That’s pretty damn evil. Oh, and Smith saw visions of his dead dad taunting him all the time. And then there was a point, after Smith started killing people, that he thought the ghosts of those dead people could talk to him through that, frankly, ridiculous helmet.
This Peacemaker would die by sacrificing himself, ghost dad screaming insults at him all the way, to take down some weapons the really nasty villain Eclipso was gathering. Dropping an attack helicopter into a giant explosion tends to shut up all kinds of ghosts.
Other Peacemakers would appear, including a new version of Smith in the New 52 acting as a mentor to Blue Beetle Jaime Reyes.
But really, why was the Comedian not telling jokes? For the same reason that a guy named Peacemaker used lethal force at the drop of a hat. It’s a dichotomy. Those things tickle some people. What more of a reason do they need?