Archive for Watchmen

Wonder of Wonders

SensationComics4

Sensation Comics #4

Another three stories here — first, we get the continuation of Gilbert Hernandez’s story from last issue. I didn’t enjoy the first part much, but this one is basically Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Mary Marvel knocking each other around for a half-dozen pages, and it’s basically so over-the-top, it’s completely hilarious. Our second story features Diana grown to a several hundred feet tall to fight a giant monster. And in the third, Wonder Woman, Etta Candy, and Deadman team up to battle Ra’s Al-Ghul.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Again, Hernandez’s story has so many ridiculous punches, and it all ends up so funny. Yeah, Wondy’s arms are maybe a bit too massive, but I found myself a lot more accepting of that when the story was so funny. The other stories are pretty good, too, and they all star pre-Reboot versions of all the characters, which I always approve of.

Revival25

Revival #25

The bulk of this issue focuses on the facility the feds are using to secretly imprison revivers. The weird reviver cult stages a public protest to publicize its existence, and that leads Sheriff Cypress and his deputies to learn about it, too. Dana learns that Ibrahaim knew about the facility, too, which puts a serious crimp in their developing relationship. Plus the burned assassin reviver attends his daughter’s funeral, and the cult members start nailing themselves to crosses.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Not the greatest issue in the world, but not too shabby either. It’ll be interesting to see what happens now that the government’s plans for the revivers has become more public knowledge.

Multiversity-PaxAmericana

The Multiversity: Pax Americana #1

Welcome to Earth-4, where the heroes from the old Charlton Comics live, like the Question, Blue Beetle, the Peacemaker, Captain Atom, and Nightshade. But what’s got everyone so upset here is that President Harley has just been assassinated — by the Peacemaker. No one seems to know why, and he isn’t talking. Captain Atom is impossibly aloof and more than a little mad because he can see outside of time and space, and the rest of the heroes are useless in the crisis, spending most of their time in pointless squabbles. Why was the president killed? How much of the murder was President Harley’s own idea?

Verdict: Man, I don’t know. It’s a deeply opaque and moderately irritating story — but really, the whole point here is watching Grant Morrison create his own version of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, right down to the intricate panel/page designs, using the very characters that DC wouldn’t let Moore use for his epic. Is it great storytelling? Is it quasi-ironic postmodernism? Is it just one comics genius sniping at another? I wish I could tell you. But I will say that Frank Quitely’s art is, as always, dang fun to look at.

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Friday Night Fights: Who Watches the Broken Nose?

Yah, sure, we all love us some FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS… but it’s also the official opening day of “Watchmen,” possibly the biggest comic book movie ever, so I should probably get that properly commemorated.

So… from 1987’s Watchmen #11 by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons: Nite Owl gets a big metal frisbee flung into his snoot:

fnf-niteowl

Hey, Friday night’s also a good night for watching movies, so get to it, kids.

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To Watch or Not to Watch

rorschach

Just to show how out-of-the-loop I am, I had no idea theaters would be showing “Watchmen” tonight in a midnight showing. Makes sense now that I think of it, of course…

The question now is: Do I really want to go to the “Watchmen” midnight showing?

On one hand, this is a pretty terrifically big movie, just about every comic fan is gonna be there, and it might be fun to see it in a room full of enthusiastic comics geeks.

On the other hand, I rarely enjoy midnight showings, and I’m getting a bit nervous about whether this movie is going to be any good. Plus, there’s likely to be a LOT of talking back to the screen — lots of “OMG, they took out the fourth panel from page 14 of Issue #7! ALAN MOORE WAS RIGHT!” And if that happens, I’m gonna hafta kill somebody.

The biggest strike against it? There’s likely to be costumes. Quite possibly, there may be a chubby bearded geek whose Dr. Manhattan costume will consist of blue bodypaint and nothing else.

Brrr-rrr…

So whatcha think? Are you going to be at the midnight showing for “Watchmen” or are you going to put it off a bit?

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Holiday Gift Bag: Watchmen

This isn’t so much a recommendation for something you can get the comics fan in your life — most comics fans out there either already own this or they’ve at least read it somewhere in the past. Instead, this is a recommendation for new comics readers and for movie fans. Because 2009 is definitely going to be the Year of Watchmen.

Watchmen was originally published as a limited series in 1986-87 by DC Comics and later collected as a graphic novel in 1987. It was written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons. It told a story of an alternate universe of costumed but unpowered vigilantes, how a single godlike metahuman changes the world, and how one person decides to bring the whole world together in peace. Is that telling things a bit too vaguely? Maybe so, but it’s also fun for new readers to discover the intricacies of the plot for themselves.

Our lead characters include Nite Owl, a gadget-using hero; Silk Spectre, a beautiful martial artist; the Comedian, a doomed government agent; Rorschach, a conspiracy-obsessed — but still badass — lunatic; Ozymandias, the smartest and richest man on the planet; and Dr. Manhattan, a man gifted with near-omnipotent powers but entirely detached from human emotions and concerns.

Like I said, most comics fans are very well aware of how great this story is. It also makes a great jumping-on point for new comics readers, because it demonstrates what many critics consider to be the very peak in comics storytelling — it’s a deeply nuanced and complex story, jam-packed with symbolism and bleak foreboding. It’s also a very adult story — and not just because it includes sex, nudity, swearing, and violence — this is a story told by grown-ups to grown-ups. I’m sure particularly smart kids can handle it easily, but it’s not something you wanna drop in your third-grader’s lap because it’s “just a funny book.” Alan Moore has now generally disowned the book because of his long-standing disagreements with how DC has treated him and his work.

And movie fans will probably be interested because Zach Snyder, director of “300,” plans to release a “Watchmen” movie next year, and it’s quickly become one of the most heavily anticipated films around. When the first trailer made its debut in July, demand for the graphic novel skyrocketed, and DC had to rush hundreds of thousands of new copies to print. In other words, when people see info about this movie, they want to read the comic it was based on. So if you’ve got a movie fan on your shopping list, they might appreciate getting to read the comic before the movie comes out in March.

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Go pick it up.

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Blue’s Anatomy

drmanhattan

Well, most of y’all probably know that they’re making a movie of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ classic graphic novel “Watchmen.” And one of the things people have been wondering is how they’re going to deal with Dr. Manhattan’s… well, his costume, or lack there-of.

Of course, in the comic, Dr. Manhattan has transcended human feelings of modesty and propriety, and he spends the vast majority of the time completely unclothed. But would Hollywood actually release a movie that featured one of the lead characters running around for most of the movie with no britches on?

Previous photos and trailers from the movie have left the question up in the air — Dr. Manhattan has either been seen wearing one of his few costumes, or he’s been filmed above the waist or from the back. One scene from the first trailer appeared blurred, but you couldn’t tell if it was because the studio purposely blurred out his crotch, or because he was just glowing so brightly that it made it too hard to see his, um, area.

Well, there’s a new trailer out, and the new footage looks pretty good. You may be so blown away by the awesome cinematic eye-candy that you may miss one particular scene.

As it turns out, Kevin Melrose noticed something very interesting: the trailer includes a pretty clear (though long-distance) shot of Dr. Manhattan’s computer-generated winkityboo. (That link may not be safe for work, depending on how your boss reacts to demigods with glowing blue winkityboos.)

The next question is: Will comic geeks now refuse to see the movie for fear of seeing some dude’s winkityboo? Or will they just shriek and cover their eyes every time Manhattan shows up on camera?

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Who Watches the Watchmen Photos?

I’m sure by now everyone is aware that Zach Snyder, the guy who directed “300,” is working on an film adaptation of Alan Moore’s “Watchmen.” Well, earlier this week, Snyder released some promotional photos of his actors in costume. For instance, here’s the Comedian:

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And here’s one of Ozymandias:

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I’m not gonna include all the pictures here — go click on the link above to see the rest.

My thoughts: Not bad. But far from perfect. Rorschach and the Comedian look the best. I really wish they’d made Nite Owl look more like Nite Owl and less like a Batman clone. Ozymandias’ outfit is just a bit too rubber-muscles for my taste. I’m not entirely opposed to Silk Spectre’s costume, but I’m also not convinced it’s the right look. Of course, a lot of these costumes will probably change some during the course of filming.

I do wonder when we’re gonna see what Dr. Manhattan is gonna look like. Is it gonna be giant blue nekkid Dr. Manhattan? Or giant blue Dr. Manhattan wearing bike shorts or something?

So whatchoo think of the costumes for this? Excellent? Awful? Somewhere in between? Are you looking forward to the movie?

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Alan Moore knows the score

A friend of mine suggested recently that I should spend more time here recommending writers and artists worth reading. Fair ’nuff — there are a lot of wonderful creators out there, and it’s always a good idea to steer people toward the Good Stuff.

So let’s start with the Best of the Best: Alan Moore.

Moore is a shaggy, shaggy Englishman, a practicing magician, a worshiper of a Roman snake-god called Glycon, and the second-best-known comics creator in the world, after Stan Lee. He’s known for intricate plotlines, razor-sharp characterizations, and scripts so detailed, a single panel description can go on for a page or more.

Moore has always worked to create comics for adults. That means there’s violence, nudity, swearing, and other stuff that parents may not want their kids getting their hands on. Moore sees the comics medium as something that shouldn’t be mired in juvenilia, though he also recognizes that superhero comics can be a great deal of fun for grown-ups as well as kids.

Here’s some of his best stuff, with short descriptions.

Watchmen

We’ve discussed this a bit already. This is widely considered to be the very best comic book ever created. They teach this one in many universities as literature. If you’ve never read this, you should.


V for Vendetta

A masked, swashbuckling anarchist battles a fascist dictatorship in Great Britain. Not a perfect work — there are way too many characters to keep track of — but the story absolutely blisters the brain with excitement, derring-do, and mad, dangerous ideas. An extremely political comic — Moore wrote it in response to Maggie Thatcher’s hard-right British government.


From Hell

This is a story about Jack the Ripper. Moore comes up with his own solutions for the Ripper slayings, ties it all together with head-trippy stuff about sacred geometry and time travel. Moore did a lot of research into “Ripperology” and includes an excellent bibliography and panel-by-panel endnotes. This comic is violent and absolutely blood-drenched, but if you have any interest at all in the Ripper slayings or in the seamier side of Victorian England, it’s highly recommended.


The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

It’s a superteam composed of characters from Victorian-era adventure fiction! The British government assembles a covert team of Mina Murray, Allan Quatermain, Captain Nemo, Henry Jekyll, and the Invisible Man to battle Dr. Fu Manchu. A second series of the comic has the team taking on invaders from Mars. Guest stars include everyone from Auguste Dupin, Mycroft Holmes, Dr. Moreau, the Artful Dodger, Mr. Toad, John Carter, and many, many more.


Tom Strong

A modern-day superhero book that takes most of its inspiration from old pulp adventure novels, particularly Tarzan and Doc Savage. The quality is a bit here-and-there, but in general, it’s grand, frothy fun.


Top 10

One of my favorite Moore comics, it’s a hard-boiled police procedural set in a city where everyone — citizens, cops, crooks — has superpowers and wears a brightly-colored spandex costume. It’s a fun commentary on comics in general, plus it has a lot of really wonderful mysteries for the cops to solve. If you like TV shows like “Law and Order” or “Homicide: Life on the Street,” you’ll like this one.


Promethea

A psychedelic/metaphysical comic about a superhero who is destined to bring about the end of the world. If you’re into new age stuff, magick, Qabalah, or the Tarot, you’ll love this. This comic is also the one where Moore does the most experimentation with visual styles and symbolism. It’s not light reading — it’s a very challenging book that requires fairly deep reading to understand.


Marvelman/Miracleman

A British superhero, similar to Captain Marvel. The original version got its start in the ’50s, and Moore started working on it in the ’80s. In his version, Marvelman ends up taking over the world and ruling as a god. It’s awfully hard to find this series anywhere in the U.S. — the rights to the character and the series are in dispute. (They even had to change the name from “Marvelman” to “Miracleman” when Marvel Comics threatened to sue.)


The Killing Joke

This Batman story presents the definitive origin of the Joker. And it’s the story that started Barbara Gordon on the path from being Batgirl to becoming Oracle, the wheelchair-bound super-hacker. It’s a wonderful comic, one of the best Joker stories ever.


Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?

DC was preparing to reboot the Superman from the beginning back in the mid-’80s, and Moore wrote this story to bring an end to everything in the old Superman mythos. Supes is forced to deal with powerful enemies who destroy his secret identity, turn his old rogues gallery into psychotic murderers, and threaten to destroy him and everyone he loves. It’s a sad and scary story that’s soaked in nostalgia for the lost innocence of DC’s fabled Silver Age.


Saga of the Swamp Thing (especially “The Anatomy Lesson”)

When Moore took over this comic, the Swamp Thing was a low-selling comic on the fast track to cancellation. In the space of just a few issues, he turned it into one of DC’s best-selling and scariest comics. “The Anatomy Lesson” revamps Swamp Thing’s origin and re-introduces the character as a terrifying monster. Highly recommended — go hunt it down.


Terra Obscura

This one was just plotted by Moore, but it’s still great fun. A simultaneous spin-off from “Tom Strong” and a series of superhero comics from the ’40s, this series featured a bunch of characters with a strong Golden Age flavor but modern personalities and characterizations.


Most of these stories are still in-print in various anthologies and trade paperbacks. You can go out and buy them today. In fact, you should, because they’re all wonderful reads. Git after it, kids.

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Politics in Comics: Watchmen

This is the first in an occasional series I’d like to do covering politics in comics. True enough, many comics are perfectly happy to limit themselves to good vs. evil fisticuffs, but every once in a while, a comic comes along that wears its political opinions on its brightly-colored spandex sleeve. They’re often (but not always) some of the best and most interesting comics out there, and they often manage to entertainingly infuriate people who tend to get entertainingly infuriated by political matters.

Let’s get things started with a comic that’s widely considered the best ever made.

The classic 1986-87 miniseries “Watchmen” is the main reason that Alan Moore is currently acclaimed as the best writer in comics. His epic DC series follows a number of costumed vigilantes, including the sadistic, doomed Comedian, the mad, enigmatic Rorschach, the intellectual but naïve Nite-Owl, and the inhumanly powerful and usually completely nekkid Dr. Manhattan, as they investigate a number of strange crimes in a world teetering on the brink of nuclear annihilation.

Moore wrote “Watchmen” with the express purpose of dragging comics out of the often-juvenile ghetto they’d been relegated to. His success won him worldwide fame, plunked the comics genre into a decade-long “Dark Age” when gritty realism reigned, and earned “Watchmen” a reputation as one of the Best Comic Series Ever.

“Watchmen” is a series grounded in politics — Moore wanted his series to be more realistic than the typical long-underwear comic, so he gave his “costumed adventurers” a weakness that most people are vulnerable to: the law. In Moore’s continuity, the Keene Act was passed in 1977 and banned costumed vigilantes. Most of the nation’s heroes retire, with the exception of government agents like the Comedian and Dr. Manhattan, and Rorschach, who just plain refuses to obey.

Nite-Owl and the Comedian try to quell a riot

On top of that, the existence of government agents as brutal as the Comedian and as awesomely powerful as Dr. Manhattan cause major changes in world events. Dr. Manhattan is able to win the Vietnam War almost single-handedly — a victory that allows Richard Nixon to repeal the 22nd Amendment. In “Watchmen,” Nixon has been President for five terms.

Most notably, the comic examines how political biases would determine coverage of costumed vigilantes in the media. “Nova Express,” a glossy liberal news magazine, campaigns against vigilantes and derides them as hyper-violent fascist stormtroopers. The hard-right “New Frontiersman,” on the other hand, is an enthusiastic supporter of costumed vigilantes, depicting them as the world’s elites, society’s only hope of surviving everything from communist subversion to juvenile delinquency.

Who watches the weirdies in the colorful spandex?

So are the heroes liberals or conservatives? Yes and no. Rorschach is definitely conservative and a big fan of the “New Frontiersman,” and the Comedian is an enthusiastic government operative. But they don’t entirely pass muster as political heroes — the Comedian is a thug and not much else, and while Rorschach has a great deal of cool, the dude’s also nutty as a bag full of walnuts. Ozymandias is a very wealthy capitalist, but he’s the owner of the left-leaning “Nova Express” — and his actions at the end of the book won’t endear him to many liberals out there. Nite-Owl and Silk Spectre both come across as somewhat squishy liberals. The only truly apolitical character in the story is Dr. Manhattan, and he’s not only the most powerful person in the world, he’s pretty darn close to being a god. He’s the cold, emotionless universe made flesh, and he cares not one bean for which party is running the country.

It seems to me that, though they may have political opinions, very few of the characters in “Watchmen” have consistent political opinions. In that, they are like most of us — caring passionately about some things, violently opposed to others, but mostly untouched by the crude politics that are supposed to run the world.

In the end (hopefully no spoilers here), the entire story turns on seemingly eternal political questions: Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few? What is the line between terrorist and hero? Can an elite few decide the fates of the masses? Do the ends justify the means?

Everyone seems to think those are easy questions. In “Watchmen” – and in much of real life – they aren’t. Conservatives may find themselves unexpectedly favoring stereotypically liberal points-of-view, and vice versa.

“Watchmen” provides no easy answers to those questions. That’s an exercise left to the individual reader.

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