I Have Just Broken This Gentleman’s Little Finger

Oh, hi there, Bloggers!

Say, I bet I know why you’re here. You must be here to ask me not to judge the Watchmen movie a) too harshly when I see it, b) based on the trailer alone, unless I liked the trailer, or c) at all ever under any circumstances.

And you know, what can I really say to that, except…POLICE! POLICE, HELP!!

Seriously now, people. What is this, a shakedown? This has been going on for way too long. Have you seen the Watchmen trailer comment threads out there? People are getting pissed. I’m starting to worry. It’s all getting out of our hands, somehow. Everything from chiding to fake arguing to bullying, and for what?

Honestly, for what?

So people will think comics are great literature? So Alan Moore will be mentioned in the same breath as Nabokov?

What’s the achievement to be had, here?

It will probably seem ehh, okay I guess, I like the blue dude to anyone who hasn’t read the comic. To those who read it but didn’t see the big deal it will probably seem better than the comic — in the same way those who didn’t see the big deal about David Lloyd’s artwork in V For Vendetta thought the Wachowski Brothers’ movie was better because it “wasn’t so muddy” (though really I think they mean “better because not as good”). To those who love the comic as I do it will probably seem a lot like that part at the end where Frodo and Sam were saying goodbye — holy shit, I thought that was never going to end, did you?

So really, come on…enough with the arm-twisting. Don’t ask me to like it if I think it’s shitty. Don’t tell me if I can’t say something pleasant I shouldn’t say anything at all.

This is why we can’t have nice criticism, you know. All this “support the team” bullshit.

I mean, that just begs for a little peeling-back of this veneer, you know?

Hey, what do you suppose is under here?

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10 responses to “I Have Just Broken This Gentleman’s Little Finger

  1. Okay, I’ll start.

    One of the more repellent things it could be is an entitlement-based cry of “Death To Snobs!” — maybe there’s someone out there who always wished Watchmen could’ve just been a straight-up superhero murder mystery. They thought Gibbons’ art was boring, and Moore’s writing was obscure and elitist. They yearn to see Moore and Gibbons be shown up by a more depersonalized and mainstream commercializing principle…to take Moore and Gibbons’ vision out of the work would to them be a) an aesthetic improvement, b) finally, some good old common sense, and c) justice for those who knew it was just a big fraud all along. So the movie will be “their” Watchmen, and consequently they feel protective of it.

    Kind of the Newsarama Siegel Decision version, I guess. Maybe a bit harsh of me? And yet there must be something behind this “support the team” nonsense…

    So what do you think it is?

  2. Good question. Watchmen does seem to engender a peculiar kind of obsession in some. And not quite the regular kind of obsession we’re all familiar with in comics fandom, although it is a version of it.

    Watchmen has become a totem of validation and vindication for the funnybooks, getting lumped in with Maus and Dark Knight Returns ad nauseam. Except, of course, Maus is only a good argument for the form, not superheroes in particular, and as time has gone on Miller’s style is easier to criticise for goofyness than Moore’s.

    So Watchmen has become this fetish object, the magic mantra of “comics’ Citizen Kane” justifying a lifetime of bagging and boarding. And so we see all these odd behaviours, including the one that I always go on about: how on Earth can someone love Watchmen so much they want the action figures and the computer game, when this very desire underlines how they’ve completely missed the point of the work?

    But then again, we all find our entertainment where we can, and I suppose if the only thing you take away from the series is that Rorschach is a frickin’ awesoooome badass then, you know. Whatever floats your boat. It’s not far off the success of Judge Dredd in 2000AD: he was created as a satire on authoritarianism, but his enduring appeal is due to the fans embracing the fascism because they like the costume.

    I suppose what I mean is that the defensiveness may not be an attack on Moore and Gibbons, but a reflection of a burning desire to have validation from non-comic readers. As if superhero comics haven’t had all the validation they’re going to get after Dark Knight.

    And as for “supporting the team” regardless of the apparent quality of the work, I’m reminded of something Stuart Immonen said recently (in a different context, mind): “I’m as happy as anyone to see comics appearing in the mainstream with increasing frequency, but there has to come a point where we stop congratulating ourselves on getting a foot in the door, and concentrate rather on making sure it’s the best foot being put forward.”

  3. Madelay, I corrected “Millar” to “Miller” in your comment, speaking about DKR.

    By the way, you got my email about Daniel…um, Johnson? Sorry, I don’t have Fractal Hall before my eyes right now. Please tell me when it’s fixed, I’ve tried to leave twenty comments on there and they’ve all failed…anyway I liked that Hallowe’en story a lot. Maybe the Christmas one ought to end with something like “and then Cei Wyn hacked off Lancelot’s head and mounted it on the tree with the fucking so-wise salmon…all with the sheer power of his fire-retardant MIND…!”

    But just thank your lucky stars for THIS: that Chris Claremont never read the Mabinogion.

    Because oh Lord. Can you imagine the carnage.

    Now, to your comment!

    Watchmen as totem, Watchmen as justification: “if this fails then we all fail!” Yes, I can see it: the only reason to keep on collecting Outsiders was that there was once Watchmen — did we lose that toss? Then double down. Won a million?

    Double down harder. Because we have to hit a million jackpots in a row to justify my obsessive purchasing of Marvel Two-In-One.

    Is that what you’re saying?

    Because it’s very plausible.

    But does it make sense, for comics fans under the age of (say) twenty-five? When I was twenty-five I practically covered my head with a cloth bag, when I was going into the LCS. As RAB says (I paraphrase), “you young punks, who don’t know what it was like to have the shit beaten out of you for buying the one where Spider-Man fights the Tarantula…”

    (By the way, Madelay, I pointed the Mindless Ones to your Delineation posts…go take a look at their Spider-Rogues Review!)

    I mean what does someone born in the mid-Eighties (apologies for my reverse-ageism) really have at stake, in the Watchmen totem? How socially-excluded were they? I used to cover the buying of condoms at the store by saying “and I’ll take a Robin, The Boy Wonder. And a Gambit solo.”

    Hmm. But on criticism, it’s on a recent Journalista!, some quote that “a medium isn’t mature unless it has mature criticism” or somesuch. Which I think is very true. And here’s the problem of TCJ not being a critical magazine anymore (which it’s not — it’s an art magazine now), that sure we have the Internet, sure we have great and profound commentators like Jog or Marc Singer…

    Hey, wait, can we get a canon of comics criticism now? Because that’s what we really need.

    Okay, I nominate Gary Groth…Jog…R. Fiore…Dave Fiore…Marc Singer…Abhay…Derik Badman…Tom Bondurant…NeilAlien…no, he belongs in the “Links” canon…Jim Roeg (I will always nominate Jim)…the picture-class dude Sean Witzke turned me on to, hold on while I hunt around for the link…

    Oh crap, I can even name all these guys’ best pieces!

    Post in the making!

    But where was I?

    Oh yes, it’s the same matter as having a critical online canon: we need one. Because who can find all the good stuff, just goofing around?

    Let’s form a King James Bible committee, readers of this blog, to identify the good online critics. And then let’s give the list out for free, to any new blogger who wants to put something on their blogroll but doesn’t know who to put there. And if they decide they don’t like it…if they want to cancel someone from it…we can have a big old dust-up about it.

    They won’t have to take it…

    Hmm…I guess I was thinking about what Ragnell did with her sidebar in the back-before days…

    No, screw it, that’s not the way. The way is to create a seperate blog that is all about the Critical Canon.

    Okay, I’m going to think about this. And make a new post for comments on the idea.

    Meanwhile Madelay…good to hear from you! And, I’ve been drinking. More in a tick.

  4. Cheers for the correction. Mark Millar’s been on my mind recently (nice post the other day, by the way).

    I don’t think I’ve had your email, but I’m deep in the heart of internet Bat Country at the moment. Server problems, database problems, plus common-or-garden internet connection problems have combined into a perfect storm of bloggish disaster. I will send up a flare when I’ve made it through the woods. Thanks for the plugging, by the way. Not finished with the delineations quite yet.

    Re: Cei and Lancelot’s decapitated head: two words for you. Stump-fucking. And the Claremont scenario is just chilling.

    I think there are some who perceive that they have a whole lot riding on Watchmen: The Movie. As for age, I have to confess I have no idea what we’re looking at. There’s an assumption, one that I tend to subscribe to, that there are very few die-hards under 25. Anecdotal evidence, of course, but the bulk of people I know who like their comics, or have ever seen in the shops, conventions or gatherings, are 25-55. There’s the odd young-un, but very rare and inevitably more a fan of New Who than, say, Wolverine (of course, I’m in South Wales. There’s good reason to think that’s region specific).

    The biggest bar to sensible analyses on this subject (and meaningful criticism, in a way, and certainly anything to do with the nuts-and-bolts business of the “industry”) is that we have almost no decent data on the audience. We think we know, sure, and we may be right, but there’s no compelling information. I’d be surprised if the Big Two haven’t commissioned surveys of some kind, but if they have they’re not sharing (plus, it’s not like there’s many of us in the audience, not in relation to almost any other entertainment venture other than publishing modern poetry. We’re talking a very small sample sizes). Are we right in thinking that The Kids Who Are On My Lawn only like Spider-Man cartoons, films, computer games, t-shirts, lunch boxes and underpants? Do we really know who’s selling what to whom? I don’t think the audience does, really, but I bet Quesada and Didio do. And I wouldn’t mind betting whatever data they’re sitting on has dictated the direction both companies have been taking.

    Oops, monster paragraph syndrome. Completely forgotten what my point was. Probably: wait, there are Watchmen fans under 25?

    Comics criticism, I think (and this is a really subjective opinion), is hindered, like all media, by the transition period we’re in, technology wise. Print venues are done for, I’m afraid, and we still don’t quite know what’s going to replace them. The positive: it’s rise of the amateur time. The negative: it’s rise of the amateur time. Or, in other words, bad editors make things worse, good editors make things better than they ever could be on their own.

    I know this: for every Jog, there are countless more writers who don’t deal in criticism, but scorn. Scorn is fun. It can be a great read. It can be downright hilarious. But like gossip, and scandal and flame-wars, it can be both compelling and destructive. Sometimes you can’t take your eyes off of it, but when you do you’re left kind of empty, if not disillusioned. Criticism makes people want to write better comics, scorn makes people want to throw everything out the fucking window and go do something else with their lives.

    I suppose what I’m saying is, that it takes an enormous amount of talent and self-control to be able to come out with good criticism (good anything) without an editor. Plenty of people can, but many more can’t. And yet, in a professional setting there’s no reason why they couldn’t.

    Were we talking about Watchmen? I feel like at some point we were talking about Watchmen.

  5. I don’t have much to add to the conversation about Watchmen or the seemingly endless need for validation that comes with being a member of the “comics community” (blech!), but with regards to the canon of online comics criticism — David Golding on The Invisibles!

    Plus, his recent post on the last issue of Morrison’s Doom Patrol was so good it almost made me give up blogging for good!

    Except, when I went to write a post declaring that I was done something went a bit a bit wrong and I ended up writing three-or-four pretty decent posts in a row. Weird.

    And hey, Plok, there are plenty of canon-worthy entries on this blog of yours. Your recent Mark Millar essay, for one.

  6. You’re kind, David…but as fun a piece of blog-art as that was, I don’t think it’s my best one.

    Hmm, I don’t know what I think is my best one. I think I may have to muck about with my Categories…

    But anyway, Mr. David Golding needs no boosting around here! Though it’s good to have linkbacks. He has a poet’s style. Sometimes he sums things up in a half-sentence that take me three thousand words to get to.

    Madelay, can I just say this? The brilliance of Jog is that he’s too good to do scorn. It would be wasteful of him to be snarky. And, he doesn’t have an editor for his online stuff, but gosh have you seen it lately? He’s building little plays, poems, songs. He’s becoming by far our best voice.

    Having said that, though, I really like Abhay as well — he looks like all he’s providing is braindump and snark, but he’s doing poetry too. One can afford to waste time looking a little deeper into how he organizes his rants. Me, I’m in a state of admiration for what he does. It’s snippy…but it expresses an aesthetic, and it’s motivated by love and respect. Yes, I know, hard to read that from his pieces. Try his comments on other people’s threads, though: a light and precise and accurate touch on that fellow. I merely recommend. But I see Abhay as a LOONEY lover of comics, an infatuee…a nut, on a Bully level.

    Oh…but maybe you were talking about Tucker Stone, not Abhay.

    Yes: Tucker provokes that “trash the hotel room” sentiment.

    Bless ‘im.

    Madelay, come and give me the guys you like on the topmost post, willya?

  7. To be honest, I’m not pointing at anyone specifically. As a corollary to my comments, the Prime Directive trumps everything: excellent writing excuses anything. Stick to rules, break rules, bring either criticism or scorn to bear. If the writing’s good, everything’s up for grabs and on those terms I reserve the right to contradict myself.

    I think want I mean is we always need someone to deflate the balloon now and then. Reality checks keep us honest. It just shouldn’t be constant and all-pervasive. I don’t know, maybe I’m overstating. I’ve been blog-outletless for a month and it’s making me twitchy.

    I will certainly be taking part in the challenge, after a little thought.

  8. My suggestion to you is to rent the extendo-DVD of the first FF movie — my friend Ed told me it was worth the rental for the Kirby documentaty alone, and I’ve got to say he didn’t lie!

    I know it seems totally out of whack with what we’ve been talking about…but you know how I love to go around and around and around a topic.

    This is like that. I feel sure your sharp eyes will pick up on the metaphor.

    …Sorry, been drinking.

  9. I have one line on Watchmen, that I”ve been repeating for at least a year: “This movie has about a zero percent chance of being good. You can tell because it was made by the guy who made 300.”

    The funny part is that when I tell somebody this, it usually doesn’t register at all: it’s as though I’ve just said something in a different language. Or more likely I’ve said something that their world-views Simply Can’t Accomodate.

    My own investment in the comic is pretty huge: in 1987, I got a gift certificate to the local book store. I ended up with Watchmen and a copy of Psychotic Reactions and Carburator Dung, both of which literally changed (some parts of) my life. And I’ve been recommending it to people for years, when they ask about comics. (Then a few years back, I realized “Hey, wait. This doesn’t make any sense if you didn’t grow up on your dad’s Supermans and Green Lanterns…hunh.”)

    So, yeah. Good book, little overrated, really only a world-beater to the extent that you’re embedded in the culture. Movie? A lot like Frances Bean Cobain: through no fault of its own, its origins basically prevent it from ever growing up healthy…

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