This is a bit of an introduction into my love for the graphic novel. Here I will quickly talk about a great story now being turned into a movie, a tricky feat at best.
To begin, Warner Bros own DC Comics. This is why every Batman and Superman film is a Warner Bros picture. About ten years ago, it seemed those franchises were dead, along with the comic book movie in general. Batman had laughed itself into obscurity, as did Superman a decade before that. Do you remember Superman IV: The Quest For Peace? Shudder.
But lately, comic book movies are basically the shit. Batman Begins showed the executives that a serious storyline and good direction could actually make a guy in a Bat Suit look cool and badass. It worked. The film was eaten up by the fans, but more importantly, respected by the mass audience.
This actually started even a little before Batman Begins. Spiderman and its sequels made a buttload of cash, as did the X-Men movies, and Sin City was considered pretty astounding, but really, we have been getting some crazy amount of superhero movies lately.
And it is because people who did not watch comic book movies, like The Punisher or Hulk, saw these newer ones and actually liked them. They wanted more. And they got it.
In lieu of the latest 200 million dollar budget monstrosity from Warner Bros. (The Dark Knight cost $180 million to make) I thought I would take some time to talk about the source. Alan Moore’s 1987 masterpiece-Watchmen.
I originally read this comic in it’s entirety about ten years ago (and have re-read it countless times by the way). I bought the trade paperback edition on the advice of the local comic store clerk when I told her I was bored with the usual superhero stuff I’d been reading lately. Yes, I said “her” meaning this was the coolest girl I had ever met at the time, but I digress. She told me that I could either abandon superheros all together and read boring comics, or I could read this. She pointed it out on the rack, and something inside me said, “Do it. Read this.”
I admit, I collected comics starting in about third grade, after receiving a Spiderman story for Christmas. The story was cool, action packed, and a total cliffhanger! I had to buy the next one. Another cliffhanger! Again and again. I got deeper and deeper, developing a love for Batman, Spiderman, the X-Men, and all those guys. Some I loved more than others, some I didn’t really care for, but in general all my money went to comics for a solid ten to twelve years. It was only when allowances ended and finances increased, on gas and rent and food, that I stopped collecting in the rabid fashion I did. But I never lost the love.
And for that love I was rewarded with some of the most BULLSHIT COMICS OF THE DAY, including Spiderman’s clone saga-a two year story about how Peter Parker was just some clone and not the real Spiderman, which made no sense and eventually led to nothing changing. And then there was the Onslaught situation, where Professor Xavier destroys Magnetos mind, only to have it transform into some kind of unstoppable monster thing that the whole Marvel Universe DIES trying to defeat. Only to lead to nothing again, all back to normal next week. Infuriating.
Thankfully, I had stuff like this to keep me going. Watchmen is over twenty years old at this point, but is still one of the most inspiring and controversial comics in history. Many call it the best there is, hands down. I could see that. Certainly it is as close to perfection as a story could get, as far as creating a universe and world for its characters to inhabit, a world at once recognizable, but with an alternate reality sort of vibe.
The characters, specifically, the masked adventurers, are both realistic and extraordinary to behold, especially the frightening Rorschach-a mysterious and intimidating figure behind an ever changing ink blot mask, and The Comedian- an amoral vigilante turned Government operative. These characters take paths that are believable and face the consequences of a society not entirely sympathetic or thankful for their actions. Indeed, vigilantes are outlawed in this world, one full of Big Brother Government and an impending Nuclear War hysteria.
Then there’s this guy. . .
Dr. Manhattan is the first superhuman in the world, a real life Superman who is the result of a nuclear accident. He basically does whatever the fuck he wants, no longer feels any connection to humanity in general and spends most of the story living on Mars. He’s awesome.
Dr. Manhattan is one of the most well written characters I have ever come across, cold and distant, he is no longer the man who stepped in the particle whatever machine. He is like a God, thinking of people the way we think of ants, and yet he can remember the past. He can remember warmth and affection and human relationships, he just no longer holds any stock in them. I know, sounds stupid, but its actually deep. Way deeper than I can adequately explain.
The twelve issue saga is wonderfully illustrated by Dave Gibbons, who is probably the only name you’ll see in the films credits. Ever since the movies botched Alan Moore’s previous comics the man has been all, “Fuck you and No, you can’t use my name. Get lost.” Which I kinda like. If you’ve seen League of Extraordinary Gentleman, you understand what I’m talking about. They blew it. But really, even his other works have gotten a rough treatment. From Hell was o.k. but they totally changed the ending and therefore the entire tone of the story. V For Vendetta was decent, but really, Natalie Portman? Puu-lease. So its understandable that Moore could care less if people associate his name with crap. The man doesn’t need that kind of publicity.
Still, I’m hoping that Watchmen does him proud. It looks fan freakin’ tastic, and the director doesn’t quite have his head ALL the way up his own ass (although the Dawn of the Dead remake was as stupid as it was pointless). So here’s me with fingers crossed hoping this. . .
Doesn’t turn into this…
PS: DO NOT FUCK THIS UP for us Fox Studios. You will not be liked. Think Metallica suing Napster. How did that go for Metallica? Don’t be pricks.