Alan Moore, Anthropology, Comic Books, Comic-Con, ComicCon, costumes, Dave Gibbons, Dr. Manhattan, fan culture, Movies, popular culture, superheroes, The Big Lebowski, Tropic Thunder, video games, Watchmen, worldview
I’m back after an absence fueled by family deaths and job terminations. Nothing could inspire me to get back into writing mode until the release of Watchmen this week. The comic book series that became a much-praised graphic novel has been released as an amazing, exciting, violent, sexy, and all-around fun live action motion picture. I wonder if Alan Moore, the comic’s author, will continue to disavow this version after it creams the box-office competition. At Comic-Con New York this year, illustrator Dave Gibbons gave a nice talk and an 18 minute sneak preview of the movie to thousands of fans who expressed very little continuing concern about Moore’s reasons for taking his name off the project.
Go see Watchmen in IMAX for the overwhelming visual beauty, and if you can manage, grab a couple of teens to take with you. My four 14-year-old companions were close to the youngest in line Saturday morning at 9am (someone foolishly brought a couple of kids aged about 5 and 8; this is not a kids movie) for the R-rated gore-fest. These Quaker school veterans of video games, Tropic Thunder, and The Big Lebowski were seemingly unfazed by the onscreen activities and their most pressing question afterwards was whether Dr. Manhattan’s man-sized blue penis was circumcised or not. Since only two of them had read the graphic novel, the discussion did not entirely center on whether the movie matched the written version and really, there is no point in making that comparison. This is a story that stands on its own and if you want to do a literary critics analysis of cross-media translation you are missing the point. Watchmen—the movie, the novel, the comics, the characters, the worldview—has now entered the mainstream and there is no point defending it as a cult possession anymore.
Watchmen is also available now as a “motion comic” of the complete graphic novel. It looks like some of the old animations from cheap kids cartoons on tv with limited motion of the characters and small movements of objects and backgrounds. I’m not saying that is a bad thing and in fact the effect is very appealing. For examples, a scene of New York’s destruction has bodies hanging out of Madison Square Garden with blood dripping, smoke curling, hydrants spewing water, and papers fluttering to the ground as the only movements as a clock chimes loudly. Very effective. When Veidt tricks Dr. Manhattan into the Intrinsic Field Subtractor and activates it, the animation of his disintegration looks very much like that in the movie. Purists, undoubtedly, will resent this further reinterpretation and manipulation of their beloved classic. But think of having this very dense graphic novel with its busy, crazy frames made larger and active: for those of us with middle-age myopia it is a blessing akin to seeing Nite Owl cram his sagging body back into his supersuit.