“Ride, Captain, Ride…”

Hey, attention, all you people who saw Watchmen and liked it! Can I please have your attention for a minute? Thanks.

I haven’t seen it yet. But you are already ruining it for me. And you know why?

Because you are lowering my expectations of it.

“Eh, I enjoyed it, it was fun as a movie and that’s all I care about…what they changed didn’t really make a difference, some of the stuff they kept ended up being just so-so, but overall it’s hard to complain…”

Jesus Christ, are you KIDDING me? So, if I’m reading you correctly, this movie was a lot better than expected because it made the source material seem like, eh, not such a big deal after all, in fact now that I think about it it’s nothing to get that excited about, IS THAT THE MESSAGE I’M RECEIVING FROM YOU?!?

Holy shit…but I mean that’s awful, isn’t it? I mean, I read this comic pretty much when it came out, and it is still doing my head in, you know? I am still freaking out over reading “Watchmaker”, I feel like I’ve been gobbling mushrooms for twenty-three years, as far as I know I’m still reading it…

So are you really telling me that when I go see this thing, it’s just going to be like getting into a tepid bubble bath where the bubbles have mostly melted down into rings of foam on the surface of the water? Is that what you call a favourable review?

Or even, an unfavourable one?

Truly, the mind reels.

Somewhere around here recently, somebody posted a list of some magazine-or-other’s list of comics to make into movies post-Watchmen…I think it was the AV Club actually…and imagine my shock (especially considering it’s the AV Club) when I saw “Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron” on it, eh?

(Warning: if you can’t imagine my shock, you will not understand why I am wasting my time writing this…)

So I don’t know, is there any point to seeing this Watchmen movie? A couple of days ago I was all het up for it, sort of. But as of this writing the best review of it I’ve seen is one that reads like a Grade Five book report, and says it was okay although the slo-mo was kind of annoying. But for Christ’s sake you could say that about any movie these days…!

And so it is almost like taking a bubble bath in ennui. I feel like I’m watching these reviews on a late night movie show, on a crap TV, in a cheap motel room, at 4 a.m. ’cause I’m too bored to go to sleep. “Ride, Captain, Ride…!” I mean really. Could someone at least reassure me that it’s better — or that it’s worse — than your average episode of Magnum, P.I.? Earth: Final Conflict? Holmes And Yo-Yo? Law & Order: Criminal Intent? Just throw me a bone here, people. Will I like it more than Scrubs?

Is it good-or-bad? Seriously, I can’t tell. Does it — I don’t know — taste like chicken? Was it all worth it, in the end?

If somebody would explain that to me, I’d appreciate it. ‘Cause I’ll tell you, I am not feeling you guys. I thought we were all supposed to go right to town on this. That was the impression that I got. I thought this shit was going to be fucking fascinating.

So what am I missing?

Are you just all burned-out from Final Crisis? Or was it really entirely unexceptional, inspiring no particular strong feelings of any kind.

Because I’ll tellya: I’ve got Dr. Ho commercials right here at home, for that.

Just my initial reaction, off the cuff.

Advertisements

55 responses to ““Ride, Captain, Ride…”

  1. All I can tell you is that I’m avoiding reviews and write-ups like the plague.

    I’ve been up to my eyeballs in work and home matters, so I have (luckily) been able to avoid most of the press for this thus far.

    I don’t WANT to know how JOHN Q. BLOGGER feels about this movie, because, sadly, MOST comic readers seem to have missed the freakin’ point about the COMIC itself.
    WHY would I want to read their reviews?

    Sure, there are SOME bloggers from whom I would wholeheartedly love to read break-downs and dissertations of the movie (yourself included), but otherwise, I’m staying clear.

    I’m not sure WHEN I’ll be able to see this flick, and I don’t want anyone to cock-up my experience of it.

    Now, on a similar, yet different note of “spoilers”, what would you suggest to be the best order of events for someone who has NOT read the work (in my case; my wife).

    Should, by some miracle, I get her to dive into that thing and read it (which I sadly doubt – especially knowing how freaking dense a read it can be) should someone SEE the pic first and then read the original work, or vise-versa?

    I guess, in order to get a better answer, I’d have to wait until you SAW the film… then you’d have better frame of reference with which to form your answer.

    Maybe.
    Or not.

    Perhaps, it’s like most books to movies – although everyone has differing opinions about that.

  2. I think the problem is that anyone who might have anything interesting to say about the film will, almost by definition, be avoiding it. The people who actually look forward to seeing Zak Snyder making a superhero film are not going to be the kind of people who have even the most rudimentary critical faculties, while people like you or I, who have lived with this work for decades and have some appreciation for the amount of craft that Moore & Gibbons put into it, will hardly be queueing up to see it.

    I think Witzke said he was planning on watching it, though, so he might have something interesting to say about it. It’ll probably be worth watching out for what the Mindless Ones have to say, too – they’ve not got the love for the work, but do have the critical understanding.

  3. Ordinarily, I shun “real” film reviews of superhero movies, because…well, because I find them a waste of time for anyone who knows anything about the material, and usually they can be counted on to miss the point by a mile…even the good ones. However, oddly, in this case I’ve found some of the “real” reviewers are doing a HELL of a lot better of a job of talking about Watchmen, comic and movie, than the comics bloggers are. Which is really, really, REALLY disappointing. How happy was I, to find out Roger Ebert was tripped out by Dr. Manhattan’s Martian soliloquy? It is the least I ask from a reader of Watchmen, that they be tripped-out by that. It is the least I ask from a reviewer, that they make serious mention of it. You know?

    It’s starting to get embarrassing! The guy from the Kansas City Star sounds more invested in the material than we do!

    …Anyway, I don’t know what I think, now, but Ebert says you’d be nuts not to see it in the theatre, so I guess that’s what I’ll do. I couldn’t’ve been farther from planning to see this right as it’s come out, but I suppose now I must change my mind…

    Heh, I read a Twitter from Sean about missing Watchmen to watch a TV show about string theory and eat Chinese food, and how it was probably more like reading the comic…he’ll have something to say about it, for sure…

    And P-Tor, I really don’t know, but the way I’ve always pressed Watchmen on people is to suggest they get kind of baked and read “Watchmaker”. If they can’t do this, I reasoned, it’s unfair to ask them to try anything more intensive. I think my brother started reading but gave up before making it to Issue #4…most people, indeed, are not good at waiting for punchlines.

    I might see it today, so I’ll tell you what I think after that!

  4. Hmm, probably will not see it today…what was I thinking? It’s about to be Saturday night, for heaven’s sake. Maybe if it starts hailing again I’ll make a stab at it…

    (Holly reminds me that I should point out “Watchmaker” is the title of Issue #4, to reassure you all that I am not just having some kind of early mental collapse…also, did everybody get the “Ride, Captain, Ride” reference? It’s from an Eightball strip, about somebody making a movie from “Like A Velvet Glove”, and it turning to shit…I guess if I’d been more on the ball I could’ve spun that up into a comparison with Sally Jupiter’s showbiz forays in Watchmen, but y’know…then I would’ve been going into assumptions about the movie sucking, which I don’t know if it does yet because I CAN’T TELL THAT FROM WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING…)

  5. Heh, I’d forgotten the Sally Jupiter stuff – I must admit, though, it does seem a *very* relevant section of the book now. I’ve just done a post on what Watchmen film *I* would want to see, but thinking about it I’d probably also rather watch Silk Swingers Of Suburbia than the film that’s actually been made…

    (BTW I haven’t forgotten the MP3s, but they’ll have to wait til I’ve got a net connection that stays up more than a nanosecond at a time…)

  6. I liked Watchmen: The Movie. I’ll admit it. I don’t have any street cred to lose, I think. If the comic is a 4 out of 4, the movie gets 3, 3 1/2 stars. There were some missteps, but nothing that cancels out the goood stuff. The sex scene onboard Archie was awful. Laurie and Adrian aren’t up to snuff. I didn’t like how the violence was amped up.

    Nearly everything else was freakin’ great! Snyder & Co. went to town reproducing the world of Watchmen. Rorschach and the Comedian were just about perfect. Dr. Manhattan and Dan were very good. My wife, who knew nothing about Watchmen, liked it.

    I think the problem for the average filmgoer/ reviewer may be the amount of stuff crammed into the film. Dr. Manhattan’s flowery/dispassionate speeches don’t have the same impact when you can’t read them at your own pace. I think the scenes on Mars might drag the film down a bit. You can’t go back and reread the words, or re-examine Gibbons’ pictures in new contexts after each reveal. I think the barrage of information can be wearying- and that’s with a third of the book cut out! I’d be surprised if a (reasonable, not overly nit-picky) fan of the comic didn’t like the film.

  7. Yeah, it’s interesting Mike…what you say about the speeches, the inability to go back and re-read…I had nearly the same thoughts about Valerie’s story in V For Vendetta, I thought it was a terribly knotty problem for adaptation purposes: obviously it simply CANNOT be done without, and yet it’s somehow a bigger and more set-off piece of the comic, than it can be in the movie. Something not just about the space-and-time control on a drawn page vs. the inexorable tick-tick-tick of a movie’s clock, but also about chapteredness — the gap between one issue of a book and the next can be as “big” as you want it to be, even if both issues are collected in the same volume. Similarly with much of the Dr. Manhattan stuff, all that eerie juxtaposition of printed words with drawn and coloured images must represent a puzzle for the movie-watcher as well as the movie-maker. It’s one of the things I’m most curious about.

  8. There’s a comparison I’d make, but I won’t make it until you’ve seen the film, and it’s had a chance to marinate in Plok for a week.

    Eagerly awaiting your Dark Knight thoughts.

  9. Well, it’s better than the Howard the Duck movie, so we cleared the first hurtle.

    Lots of bits made me smile fondly (particularly Jon’s origin and the Watchmaker Martian sequence, although of course in a 2009 movie there’s no cigarettes for Laurie to try lighting in Jon’s air bubble)others made me cringe, most of all the exaggerated brutal violence. (When did all of these characters get super-strength? I thought only the Doc had powers).
    All the compound fractures and severed limbs and meat cleavers to the head really weren’t necessary. It was a bit disconcerting, sitting in a packed theatre with a horde of twenty-somethings who guffawed at every brutality and giggled at Sally Jupiter’s rape, but maybe I’m just out of touch with today’s pop culture.

    I’m glad I saw it, I guess. I’ll probably buy the dvd with extra scenes yadda yadda, and enjoy it to some extent. And maybe when I watch this a second or third time I’ll stop seeing the flaws and noting the missed bits, and will let myself be more open to whatever is good in the film. Because there IS good stuff in here, it IS worth seeing.

    But it definitely ain’t the book. One of the best examples of this difference came when Dan and Laurie (the two least convincing characters in the movie, to me) rescue the people at the tenement fire. All the great little bits in the book, the “that man in the rocketship, is that Jesus?” and Billie Holiday over the speakers and “I’m Smokey the Bear’s secret mistress” and making the coffee, that’s all gone. Instead we get a generic super woman crashing through the roof into the inferno to basically run around through the fire in slow motion then leap back out of the building just ahead of a generic fireball explosion, yadda yadda yawn.

    And this squid-less ending just will never work for me, but I pretty much knew that going in.

  10. I am assuming part of the reason response has been so muted among the comics community is because this movie is extremely high profile, perhaps even more so than Dark Knight (although this will not make nearly as much money). The eyes of the world are upon this little subculture, comics have some intellectual/coolness credit, and as a result, I suspect many bloggers are hesitant to wave their arms and scream “BOOO THIS IS A BAD MOVIE AND NOT AT ALL AS GOOD AS THE COMIC”. I think there’s a certain mindset that we as comics fans should be grateful this movie got made in *any* sort of way that was even reasonably faithful to the original work.

    The movie’s biggest problem is it’s really *straightforward*, as though Zack Snyder had always wanted to make a movie version of Watchmen, but had also always wanted to make a badass superhero movie and thought he could maybe do both at the same time. It’s kind of like if you made a film version of Othello as a straight-up erotic thriller. Maybe it’s a really good erotic thriller, but then why did you bother with the source material at all?

  11. it’s definitely worth seeing!

    it loses what you expect it will lose–the metatextual elements, the psychological complexity of the dual identification characters–the actual human beings at the heart of the book’s story(Dan and Laurie)… but it does justice to the allegorical figures that make (or set the tone for) the world those two live in (Manhattan, Rorschach, Veidt, Comedian, to some extent) and the plot revamp is a massive improvement over the book, from where I sit…

    the squid stuff looks fantastic in the book, giving Gibbons a chance to unleash sci-fi armageddon… but the plan just doesn’t make sense, on its own terms… the only way to look at Moore’s Veidt is to conclude that he is a maniac who goes over the edge, just like every other comic book villain… the movie’s Veidt is a far more calculating figure–aware of the terrible costs of his actions, and staking everything on the hope that breaking all of those eggs really will make an omelet (a hope that–unlike in the book–the viewer is given the tools to share in… which is not to say that the you are forced to AGREE with him)

    I look forward to reading your take on this!

    Dave

  12. Holy crap, I just wrote a whole great pile o’ words in response to your guys’ responses, here.

    Can’t put it up tonight!

    Maybe tomorrow…

  13. Man, it is goddamn irritating reading all these people saying “don’t worry, it all gets fixed in the director’s cut”, though. Oh my God, I want to shake every one of them by the shoulders and scream into their faces. Fucking grazers, it’s all a game to them. “Sure, go see the movie, then if you don’t like it simply buy the DVD…problem solved!” Holy shit, it’s some kind of massive pre-emptive strike against any of it mattering at all, isn’t it? It makes me want to hate the movie, seriously. “Oh, well then you’ll be wanting two DVDs…the one with the director’s cut, and the one with the extended director’s cut!” I do believe I am going to become a real old man about this in a tearing hurry: I’m not going to watch anybody’s four-hour version of a movie I’ve already paid to see unless I motherfucking loved it the first time around. This is ridiculous, who are these people? These geek-on-geek strongarm tactics are just so damned unseemly, I feel like John Savage…I FEEL LIKE JOHN SAVAGE…!!!!

  14. There’s NO POINT in seeing the WATCHMEN film. You will go in feeling resistant. You will squirm in your seat for a few minutes. Every overblown scene will get on your nerves. Then eventually, you will settle in your seat, and let it wash over you, and find yourself enjoying it, because, ultimately, it is WATCHMEN.

    And that is Moore and Gibbon’s triumph, not Synder’s.

  15. I must reiterate that I think the film works splendidly when read in dialogue with the book! It does not do what the book does, but then, why SHOULD it? The book still exists–and is getting more exposure than ever before. Meanwhile, the film does offer a fascinating critique of Moore/Gibbons’ political storyline.

    I think my full opinion comes across most clearly in this exchange with the always-cogent David Allison, here.

    Dave

  16. Loved the book when it came out, but never quite sure why so many people thought it should be made into a movie? Why not the same clamor for Superfolks?

    Yeah, yeah … I know. But honestly, I was more interested in the movie version of V For Vendetta.

  17. It’s an interesting topic, why comics fans think their passion-objects should be made into movies, isn’t it Keeper? I’ve theorized it’s got something to do with the jolt of seeing those static-images-that-imply-dynamism converted into genuine motion: to at last really fall into the panels, without experiencing any of their pregnant pauses. A certain kind of very very delayed payoff. But Moore is so very cinematic anyway, and I think — I’ll just paraphrase a bit of the long comment I was going to leave last night — obviously the appeal of making a Watchmen or a V movie is all to do with those brilliant little snapshots he provides in his scripts. I think it’s a thing he shoots for. And they’re quite original, you know: I can see how they’d be irresistibly tantalizing for a filmmaker, especially when Alan’s so lucky to have them realized by such incredibly talented artists.

    Of course he’s using a “cinematic” approach in comics to a very deliberate, clever effect, so in a way to realize the panels on film is to step across the thing they’re doing on the page. Last night I was thinking “how do you do what he does there, only in reverse?” I came up with Ang Lee and Guillermo del Toro — you comic-ize the feel of the movie. Hitchcock could do it too, of course — sometimes I think Hitchcock’s the world’s greatest comics artist because he does it all in a totally different medium, with totally different restraints. MUST SEE THE 3D PRINT OF “DIAL M…”!!!!

    And Dave: by all means keep right on reiterating! I’m just off to read you and Dave A hash it out…and it does sound as though you found something, some chiasmic reading in this movie, that relieves a lot of your problems with TDK, eh? So far I think it’s only you that’s saying it’s worth seeing because it’s got an interesting political payload, which is an interesting point because I don’t take the comic to have much of that, myself…so to be able to read it as critique instead of homage, yes, I can see how that would be an unexpected pleasure…

    Okay, off to read. Back shortly!

  18. Ah, very interesting, do go take a look, everybody…

    Okay, for better or worse here’s a chunk of what I wrote but didn’t post yesterday:

    “…And basically I guess I think any Watchmen movie would have been doomed to miss Moore’s purpose in being so damned cinematic in his comics in the first place…i.e. doomed to miss the chance to replicate the clever effect he achieves in comics by being that way, simply because part of what makes the project attractive is that very cinematic pizzazz, that by playing straight you would also, inevitably, pull against. Probably something that sought to genuinely re-enact the “Watchmen experience” on the screen would have to junk all the best-looking bits, or do something squirrelly to them. But oh well, no way that’s gonna happen, it’s exactly what makes the idea of making the movie attractive at all! V For Vendetta was another Moore comic chock-full of brilliantly cinematic-looking bits and pieces, whose impacts don’t quite translate to the act of viewing rather than reading, though they bloody well looked like they would (oops, I just said that up above, didn’t I). And of course From Hell was just a whopping failure on every level, just a big slab of Hollywood-thriller boilerplate…but how could it have been otherwise? There was not much of even a faint hope for From Hell. In my view V aimed high and missed…From Hell didn’t even really shoot. LXG lobbed grenades at the target and called them arrows and laughed to see them blow up the range — unconscionable vandalism, but at least the concepts of “hit” and “target” were understood on some very base, if incompetent, level. I don’t know, LXG was such crap, but with From Hell it really was as if they didn’t even want to do it at all, LXG was vandalism that claimed to have improved what it vandalized, but From Hell was like theft, and then they take your million-dollar stuff down to the pawnshop and get ten bucks for it and walk away giggling saying “can you believe we got ten bucks for all that useless crap?” I really hated what they did to From Hell, it was so senseless, one of these days I’m going to have to find a way to define just what I see as the difference between what it did, and what LXG did. I don’t know what Watchmen will do. Take the arrows up to the target and just jam ’em in by hand? “There, twelve perfect bullseyes!” Out of love, naturally.

    Hell, I don’t know. I do kind of feel like there’s a voice in my head saying “well, what about this part? It’s not exactly essential, is it?” And I try to be reasonable and say “no…no, I guess it isn’t. Of course it isn’t.” But then another voice is saying “how in the name of little green apples is there anything in Watchmen that is not essential? Didn’t you notice the whole crystalline-structure thing?” And I say “no, no…of course you’re right, it’s ridiculous to try taking any of that stuff out, why would you even want to think that was a good idea?”

    And in the end I come down to:

    You know, lots of favourite books of mine have been made into movies that weren’t so good, eh? It isn’t exactly a weird thing to happen, it’s not catastrophic: I even like some of them, despite them being disappointing. Disappointment really is par for this course, it’s PAR for heaven’s sake! So why would I even be conflicted about Watchmen, the thing’s freaking HUGE, and it’s incredibly meticulously-detailed, and there’s no way that meticulous detail can be not missed…I mean, it’s like I was saying in the post, do I have to actually devalue what I love about the book, in order to enjoy the movie “on its own terms”? This seems to be what everyone else (present company excepted, Dave and Mike!) is recommending, though not in so many words. Meekus and Justin, you guys pin it down pretty well: I think I can just add slightly to what you each say, by reminding myself that for some reason the pressure’s really ON, with this thing. Isn’t it? I mean, the scary thing is that it can be filmed at all — CGI, etc., a slavish reproduction of its look can be, for the first time ever, really made.

    In the old days, this was not the case. Way back when, I’d read about H.R. Giger doing production design for David Lynch’s Dune in Starlog magazine, like…like GIVE ME A BREAK, slavish reproductions were NOT POSSIBLE at that time, you knew going in that the Rock Hudson Martian Chronicles would feature a whole mess of styrofoam rocks painted orange, and that the rocket exhausts would just be smoke and that they’d look stupid, none of this was the point AT ALL, because a certain amount of disappointment was a given. And now it’s different. You don’t need a Giger. And of course something’s been lost, there, because of it…”

    Now, having said all that…

    I balk at the (many) insistent suggestions (not here and not from you all, of course) that I have to enjoy the movie “on its own terms” or I’m doing it an injustice…not that I bristle anytime anybody adapts anything, because I don’t, and if filmmakers need to make changes then they must make changes. I’m no ogre! However I’m not big on being bossed, either, and really it does seem a little disingenuous to say that the movie is trying to be its own thing when it so very, very obviously is not. The whole selling-point is that it is not: it’s trying to faithfully execute Watchmen in movie form. It tells us so. Snyder tells us so. It’s ridiculous to ignore this come-on, isn’t it? When the only reason it is being made now is because the “look” of it can be accomplished now.

    But you know…if you think about it for a minute…

    That’s bullshit too, isn’t it?

    Rorschach’s mask notwithstanding, what is here that was beyond the capabilities of last decade’s technology, or the decade before? I won’t deny it seems to look very, very good…but why that’s important is a thing no one (to my knowledge) has really examined thus far. There is something to the claim, but it isn’t what’s on the surface…so what is it? Hmm, maybe I’ll witter on about it later…I mean it could’ve been an animated movie, right? Or it could’ve been a Terry Gilliam movie. I was never worried about the look…but viscerally one does sense the “fitness” of the monster-movie post-LotR CGI-where-appropriate method.

    Mind you, I didn’t give a damn about most of the CGI stuff in LotR! Did you? Apart from Gollum (Rorschach’s mask), Peter Jackson’s great accomplishments there all had to do with locations and helicopters and lighting effects, did they not?

    I’ll just add in one more thing before the coffee starts working, which is that, it’s kind of funny…for all Watchmen is a classic, it’s a classic, isn’t it? It’s a quarter-century old. We are sure spending a lot of time on it. I don’t mean to say that’s bad, just…

    You can see the absence of caffeine working, here…

    Take the Spider-Man movie, the Nolan Batman movies, all of them…what’s the objective there? To convince us, the movie-going audience, that yeah, it “could” be real. Spider-Man, wow, talk about needing CGI for it! You really, really do. Now, along comes Watchmen, that was made as a comic deliberately to peel back the twenty-year-old conceit a little, that the superheroes could be “real”. What if they were?

    See, we’ve only managed to get the workable illusion that they could be at all, up there on the screen for a couple of years now. Movie-wise, this is still 1964; that’s where we’re at. And movie-wise, we got to the satire and the absurdity of “realistic” superheroes long before we got to the “original” stuff they were riffing on. You know…mostly. Watchmen would probably have been an astounding, mind-wrenching hit if it had come out in the early-to-mid 1990s! When the “silly” degradation of the later Superman and Batman movies were still fresh in the minds of the moviegoing public. Then you could’ve had Spider-Man after.

    Not that I’m prepared to yield to anyone in my eternal, undying love for Watchmen! But perhaps now is exactly the wrong time to be making it into a movie. Shorn of its unbelievable detail, its uncompromisingly humane message, its truly eye-opening cosmological impact, and its occasional slight cold-bloodedness, what’s left that’s fresh about it? All that stuff would be very, very fresh indeed, even now.

    Well, but maybe that’s enough ranting for one bleary-eyed late morning…

    More later, perhaps!

  19. Disapointed to see repeated here, as all over the internet, the idea that the absurdity of Watchmen’s ending is a problem rather than the point. Its Moore’s final attack on the genre: that even when Adrian tries to rise above superheroism and do something serious it’s just a supervillian plot writ large. (Not to mention all the little extra facets this throws up, like the Gordian Knot reference). Changing the ending to something sensible spectacularly misses the point, but it’s a representative of the movie’s strange failure: It’s not a parody.

    The original was multifaceted and high-minded enough that the word often seemed too small for it (say instead, deconstruction) but that’s more or less what it was. The movie plays it straight, and it ends up being a pretty decent action/superhero movie, with a cynical, dark bent not dissimilar to DKR. Disturbingly decent actually, I find it more than a little disturbing that a nihilistic, disturbing 80s thriller should need goring up to meet the standards of oughties action flicks.

  20. Let me just get back to you in an hour or so, Kieran…certainly there is nothing more natural for Watchmen fans than to argue the merits of the squid, however as it happens I do get the interpretation there, and even have the tiniest thought to add to it…

  21. so much to to react to here that it’s a bit overwhelming, but, just briefly:

    1. Plok–yes, it’s a simple point, but most definitely worth keeping in mind–Moore/Gibbons’ cinematic power play can’t be recaptured at the cinema

    2. Plok again–no question–we didn’t need a Watchmen movie–and we certainly didn’t need one that slavishly imitates the book… luckily, what we did get was different enough to show us just how valuable the coffee serving scene is, AND just how much of a political dodge the Watch-book performs

    3. Kieran — I agree that the squid-bomb serves Moore’s aim very well. From that perspective, it’s not a fault in the book. But I do (and always have) see it as a fault in Moore… The point is this–the use of force is consubstantial with politics… you can’t just shrug and say “that’s madness!” Of course it’s madness–but we have to deal with that, don’t we? I think we do. And Watchmen, as written, really doesn’t. It does a lot of other things. But not that. Which brings us to the movie–which does a very nice job of putting its finger on that aspect of Moore’s philosophy and deliberately thumbing its nose at it… (and all in the guise of a super-uber faithful “fanboy proof” adaptation) How can you not like that? That’s creative misprision at its best!

  22. That’s an extremely persuasive argument, Dave!

    And here it is, much more than an hour later, and I do intend to swing back into it, but first I’ll put this up just to show I am back…

  23. And, okay. Kieran, I do think the squid has a point…at least we must concede it has one, I mean I do believe there was intentionality at work there, but even if there wasn’t we would still have to say Watchmen in part means a certain thing because of the squid, and not another thing that it would mean if the squid had been left out (I like calling it the “omnisquid”, there was a band called that, once upon a time).

    And given that, I’ll try to go you one better: that Adrian is not as smart as he thinks he is (“maybe that sounds a little Norman Vincent Peale”), and he’s not really awfully creative either. A creative spirit would perhaps have impelled him to have a big red button in front of him that he’d push after he explained his master plan, just like a Republic serial villain! I’m a somewhat creative guy: you’re damned right that’s what I’d do.

    …But more importantly, there Adrian is watching all his TVs, isn’t he? And there Sally is, watching hers, and it’s showing “The Architects Of Fear”. Maybe Adrian just flat-out lifted the idea, himself!

    …Oh, but no, no, no…that is probably going a bit too far, don’t you think? Too much puzzle-piece-jamming, and the book doesn’t need it, these synchronicities aren’t causal, they’re not even strictly speaking a feature of the Watchmen universe, they’re all a matter of the angle of viewing we’re given, just as such things are in the real world. What’s on Sally’s TV isn’t a clue, it’s a coincidence…and certainly one that’s all tangled up with a universal pattern, but it’s no different than our own universe’s patternedness…as far as we can tell, anyway.

    But you know…I don’t hate the interpretation, even so. All of these things we’re shown are meant to indicate, and this one can indicate as well: Veidt’s overlooked what reality is, again. He himself has misread, again. Dan’s right, and it’s an insane plan…it just so happens he’s actually carried the damned thing out.

    So, howzat?

    Now, Dave…or, wait just a moment if you would, I think I’ll try something crazy like splitting this response into two (unequal) sections…

  24. Okay.

    Dave.

    I’m going to say you convince me that there’s a great deal of value in having a Watchmen movie that allows us to see just how wonderful the coffee scene really is…I won’t go so far as to say I expect it to be similarly fruitful to hear “perspective” replaced with “pleasure”…

    But I guess you could argue it! Kieran and you both make me think, here, well…perhaps the gorny violence of an Oughties movie (love that expression! Finally we have one! Where’s it from? “The Naughty Oughties”, I think I could live with that) in all its coarse and brain-splattered brutality really isn’t just totally tone-deaf here…maybe it, too, could become part of Dave’s dialogic viewing experience (and I’m definitely going to be mulling that approach over, a bit). After all, it’s a post-Watchmen world, i.e. a post-Eighties world, that we’re living in. Not that I’m sure it would be a satisfyingly intelligible reading, you know…it easily might not. And I don’t want to just hand treats to the dog on account of its willingness to be walked! But I do think that perhaps it’s something to consider. Certainly if Dan and Laurie KILL those muggers in the alley, wow! I will be upset. And yet if there’s one thing that must be intelligible, it’s that we weren’t shown them doing that in the book…and as far as my own personal reading goes, it says NO WAY, UH-UH, THEY DIDN’T…

    But it does seem to be the consensus that that’s what happened in the movie, and I find it hard not to say that must not have been a deliberate choice on the part of the director. I will definitely have problems with that, lots of problems, LOTS of problems…but if that’s who Dan and Laurie are in the movie, I really am not sure I want to see them serving coffee later on…

    And this probably just means I will hate it, and not forgive it, but it’s still worth thinking about.

    Similarly, if Adrian’s not a deranged, numb, and/or brilliant child, notwithstanding that he believes he’s right and has his reasons anyway even if he is…but if he isn’t, then we’re in a very different ballpark from that of “madness”, and I’m really not sure it does interest me overmuch (or “will” interest me, I should say), but I guess…I guess I must concede it will not constitute “dodging”.

    Although some part of me still thinks it will…I do not really think I will want to give Adrian the privilege, the luxury, of judging himself…what has he done to earn it? In the book, his last conversation with Jon is a point where a number of uncomfortable things get concentrated, without ever being well-articulated…he is not permitted a judgement, he will have nothing to say to Alexander in the Hall of Legends…it doesn’t even “really” exist. He doesn’t get to be a Prometheus, only an Icarus…if you’ll allow me that. (Gee, I should probably think of something cool and Egyptian to slip in there instead…)

    I guess I’m saying I don’t know! But I’m intrigued by the idea of doing the chiasmic-reading thing…must we say the nose-thumbing is deliberate, though?

    I think I’d be happier if it was accidental.

    But one supposes this is the conversation.

    I was reading Sean Phillips on this, last night…he’s splashing a little Northrop Frye on the subject, I am not sure I can wholeheartedly agree, but it’s interesting, like this. Old friend-of-the-blog Thomas said a while ago that it was a sign of X3’s value that it touched off a million fireworks of conversation all over the web…

    So maybe the Watchmen movie isn’t such a horror after all, if it generates the same kind of thing!

    Mind you, if I concede that, then I think you should have to put yourself through Dark Knight again, Dave.

    OH MY GOD MORE BEER. Back soonish. This is the first bit of fun I’ve had even thinking about the looming eventuality of this movie, everyone, so thank you very much, one and all. Let’s do some more!

    (Uhmm…that may be the beer talking…)

  25. Beer procured.

    And, aha! I knew there was an allusion I’d missed…

    Wouldn’t’ve thought of it if there hadn’t been that Sandra Bullock movie on a few nights ago…

    Or…

    Wait, it doesn’t fit.

    Damn, why was I so sure it fit?

    Aha! Because I had a dream about it last night, that had a bit of Watchmen in it, likely because of the Gordian Knot.

    Hitchcock’s Rope.

    Too bad, sometimes these things do pay off…not every time, though.

  26. The way the Dan vs. Laurie scene plays out in the movie differently from the comic really *has* to be a director’s choice, and that’s what’s so particuarly maddening about this movie.

    In a far less “faithful” movie, Dan and Laurie smiling eagerly at each other when the muggers approach might not bother me so much. I enjoy the Tim Burton Batman movies even though the main character bears only the most superficial of resemblences to the comics character because Burton *wasn’t* trying to be reverent; he was trying to make a Tim Burton movie using a collection of ideas that register in pop culture as “Batman”.

    But when you’re recreating specific panels and using dialogue directly from Watchmen with no rewriting at all, these changes stand out. Because to me at least it seems to suggest the director is saying “This piece of work is so perfect as is that I can just adapt directly from page to screen … except for this, and this, and this”. It suggests quibbles that Zack Snyder felt the need to rectify. I mean, it’s only because this movie seeks to be so faithful that we can actually harp on changing “perspective” to “pleasure,” right?

    And the changes Snyder makes… I mean, it *is* tempting to imagine that removing the squid was engaging a dialogue with the graphic novel as was suggested, but based on interviews it seems much more likely it was done for practical considerations. It’s tempting to say the stylized violence is somehow relevant to contemporary superhero-action movies, but it feels like Snyder really just wanted to do some visually stimulating, choreographed battles.

    I don’t know. Perhaps I am being unfairly judgemental against Snyder as a filmmaker, but all his “choices” didn’t register as attempts to alter meaning; they all seemed to be “How can I make this faster, easier, cooler?”

  27. Sorry to double post! If I may, an example that cuts to the quick of what I mean:

    In the movie, Ozymandias heads the failed Crimebusters (Watchmen, in the movie) initiative instead of Captain Metropolis. Now, plotwise, this changes nothing, but it changes (or should change) the relationship between Ozymandias and the Comedian in a HUGE way. If nothing else, it could suggest that Veidt’s motives could be so base and petty as “I killed the Comedian because he ruined my superhero team!”

    But it doesn’t come off that way. It just seems like Snyder made the switch because it’s one less character they had to use, a little narratively tighter, and like I said, it doesn’t impact the *plot* in anyway.

    Basically, it feels like Snyder only wanted to engage with the text on its most basic terms — plot and character (with a smattering of theme) — without wanting to dig any deeper.

  28. Maybe it’s not really all that different, Justin. Even not having seen it, I feel justified in doubting that Snyder was consciously after a dialogue with the original…consciously, but one could argue that, in the following way:

    The movie is in a dialogue with the book.

    David Golding recently brought up The Maltese Falcon over on his blog where he’s re-reading Watchmen…it’s a copy of a remake of a remake. That’s not really Sam Spade. Still, it’s truly remarkable…but not likely because it was in dialogue with its source-material, I would guess. Or, how about another Bogart one? To Have And Have Not. It’s twisted out of all recognition, and many things about it really are better, at least in my opinion…but hell if it’s Hemingway, the only thing Hemingwayish about it are the performances of the lead actors…in other words what Humphrey Bogart was already like, and what Lauren Bacall interpreted from Slim Keith.

    Well…I could be wrong, I guess.

    But the movie version of Watchmen is LOOK OUT, RADIOACTIVE MAN!-style in dialogue with its source. Even the ugly parts are, I mean they “must be”…I say that since I haven’t seen it.

    I think it’s a real stretch to say Snyder intended much. This is very Watchmen, really, anyway: where you stack up symbols against one another and then write partly to the recombinations they make on their own…or as I call it, the T.S. Eliot method. Why use a daisy, when you can use a lotus flower?

    Still…

    Snyder’s supposed to be a fan of this work. How could he do anything without deliberation in it? And yet like you, I’m not convinced Dan and Laurie breaking bones could have been deliberate…so we get errant commentary, is that what I’m suggesting? Inadvertant commentary? And yet how could it have been “inadvertant”? Either it got away from him a little, or it didn’t.

    I am sure, at least I’m convinced, that Snyder just plain balked at figuring out how to make audiences swallow the squid. That must have, anyway, been Step Number One, whatever came later: “oh shit, this won’t work”. Still, he can’t have made his choice in a vacuum — whatever his answer to the problem (and I make a guess that Moore developed the squid out of the same sense of “problem”), it’s better than Sam Hamm’s was, a different approach, and undoubtedly better.

    I don’t know, Dan and Laurie killing the muggers…even putting them in the hospital…I mean…it seems incredible that it could just have gotten away from him. In Bruce Lee movies there’s a kick to the head, and the guy falls down. You don’t need to think about him anymore. There is no information, and moreover you don’t notice there isn’t any. Would that really just plain not fly, in these days of oughties cinema? Jeez, time to unpack that, then…

    Again, the answer is, must be: I dunno.

    Changing “perspective” to “pleasure”, though…honestly, why? If it was LXG, I could understand it: where the list of all that had to be changed could be found at the perfect intersection of “dumb” and “unnecessary”…I used to wonder why, if “dumb” was the aesthetic, Sean Connery never said “Dr. Jekyll, I presume”…but have just suggested to Holly (waiting on her word back) that while the dumbness was there all right, it was an insufficiently needless line, to require including. Or, maybe I’ve got that backwards. Anyway, how is it that some of the best lines are missing, and others changed to be not-so-good, in this movie? Which is not LXG.

    Are we intended to think Rorschach enjoys the episode, and that his enjoyment is important? That would be a deliberate departure, for sure. But what could it, really, possibly show?

    About the absence of Captain Metropolis, I’m actually sort of shocked…unlike the last one, this one makes me just assume “lousy directorial vision”. He’s in the title-sequence, right? Hmm. Baffling choice, unless you’re right and it’s supposed to drive Veidt’s character in a slightly dumber way. Maybe without the full Veidt backstory, it was thought necessary to dumb that point down? And yet there would be so many ways to bring Adrian front and centre there…

    Again, dunno! But I don’t think even Dave is suggesting there’s nothing that was clumsy or stupid in this movie…apparently it’s me who’s stirred himself to offer more sweeping apologies for it. And I’ll be surprised if I like it as much as Dave did…

  29. No need to apologize for double-posting, by the way…I like double-posting.

    Have you tried out Andrew’s “What Would Your Watchmen Be Like?” puzzle-game, Justin? Jog’s set the bar awfully high, of course…

  30. I think it’s telling that so many of your sentences in that post end in question marks, because that’s what I felt like after digesting the movie. I *want* to give a director who says he totally loves Watchmen the benefit of the doubt, but I just can’t come up with a meaningful reason to change “perspective” to “pleasure” other than “the filmmakers thought ‘pleasure’ would be more badass, and that it really wouldn’t matter much.”

    But jeez, it really *does* doesn’t it?

    As for the Bruce Lee thing you mention… maybe it *doesn’t* fly anymore. The Hulk used to smash whole city blocks with no repercussions, but now when he does he leaves refugee camps in his wake. A punch to the jaw used to be accompanied by a stylized burst or cartoon star, and now Spider-Man gives people bloody noses and knocks out bad guys’ teeth. Saying “oh, it’s just a post-9/11 thing” seems too pat. Is it just that people are overthinking escapist literature? Does *everything* have to be Watchmen?

    And to answer your question, I did see that puzzle and gave it a good think at work. I haven’t posted a response yet, mostly because I think Andrew’s initial suggestion is so absolutely brilliant as to be daunting, but perhaps after a good sleep I’ll work up my much less lofty take in the morning.

  31. Oh, hey, I’ll look forward to that! I’ve been trying to come up with something more clever myself, given that my main “angle” on Watchmen is the cosmological…after “Watchmaker” the rest was filling in blanks, to me (uhm, except it was fucking Watchmen-style filling in blanks!), and I’d cheerfully propose a whole movie filled with nothing but the essays and backmatter, punctuating Laurie and Dan getting together, and the centrepiece Jon on Mars…except I’m not a very visual person so I’m damned if I know how you’d do that issue.

    Jog says Peter Greenaway. I say Michel Gondry. You know he’d make time take centre stage…!

    Okay, I’m off to try one.

  32. You know before the movie I had some fun with Andrew’s game, trying to match up the superhero references in the book with equivelent targets in some Hollywood genre, but in the end I realised that any adaption along those lines would be far inferior to endogenous self-critiques like Unforgiven. This close dialogue with the original is much more interesting, and I maintain that it’s appeal stems from the combination of close textual fidelity and aggressively divergent message.

    The V for Vendetta movie was a lot like this too, getting in close with the original and twisting it to its own ends. In both cases they take something subtle and turn it into something loud and dumb and still enjoyable, but the process by which this happens is pretty magical, here more so than in V.

    See I think the original comes back to that Squid again, agreeing that Veidt’s plan is ludicrous and insane, it gives that “35 minutes” line a kind of pathos. Because he really thinks that’s all he needs to do to avoid becoming a B-movie villain is to hold the city hostage *better*; that the problem is the plan that doesn’t work, rather than the whole framework of the genre, representing social problems with brightly coloured monsters that can be bombed away. Like thinking you can make a superhero comic “mature” by throwing in sex and death and politics.

    The superhero industry vindicated Moore’s criticisms by turning their properties dark and “realistic” but they haven’t done it half as well as Snyder has by making Watchmen itself into a Serious Superhero Movie where Bad Things happen and War Is a Bad Thing Kids. I don’t think it really matters whether this is a deliberate commentary on the books love-hate relationship with its subjects, or, ha-ha, a natural consequence of trying to write Watchmen in a post-Watchmen era. I’m not sure it matters though, because this circular set-up, where the comic criticises what it would later be turned into, is a lot more interesting than having a movie version of the comic.

  33. Just read Roger Eberts review and he has the same cosmic focus as you, I’d just like to point out that while I see Watchmen primarily as a parody, I do understand that it does a lot of other things. I just think the movie refashions it’s parodic elements into straight drama.

  34. I’ve said this before, but I think the way to do Watchmen as a movie is to take it apart and start over. Keep the bare bones of the story and characters, advance the timeframe so it lines up with a contemporary setting, and come up with a whole new script that addresses the same themes that the comic book did, that plays with all-new ways of telling stories on film, and that captures the spirit of the comic book. Not easy, of course, but I can’t bring myself to believe that one can do justice to a complex, creative and innovative work by copying it slavishly.

    The personnel I have in mind to accomplish this intimidating task are Quentin Tarantino and Charlie Kaufman.

    I have the notion that the movie could be entirely composed of… well, of stuff that doesn’t seem like a movie. Fake trailers at the start, opening credits that look like a 1980s sitcom, security camera footage, commercials, scenes shot in black-and-white, in sepia-tone, in that weird kind of colour they had in the 1970s, PowerPoint slides, an action scene shot like one of those YouTube I’m-a-Marvel-and-I’m-a-DC action-figure parodies, thirty seconds of a Discovery-Channel special where Dan Dreiberg talks about owls, animated segments done in the styles of the Fleischers and Robert Smigel and Bruce Timm… everything.

  35. Quoth Pillock

    “I feel justified in doubting that Snyder was consciously after a dialogue with the original…consciously, but one could argue that, in the following way:

    The movie is in a dialogue with the book.”

    exactly–FUCK authorial intention… Snyder is clearly a dolt–but that’s neither here nor there, as far as I’m concerned…

  36. That’s a great idea, Matthew…very Charlie Kaufman! Another commenter on Andrew’s “roll your own” exercise (not in front of me right now — was that you, Justin?) had an idea that to my mind is slightly similar: make the Comedian the protagonist. His is, after all, the only truly critical voice in Watchmen…

  37. Yeah, that was me. It might be hand-holding to have the Comedian offer critique to the audience, but then again far too many people seemed to come away from the movie thinking a.) “Rorschach is awesome!” and b.) “Ozymandias just did what needed to be done.”

  38. Comedian as protagonist would have worked–but there’s no way that’s in the spirit of the Moore/Gibbons original… which takes us back to the problems with the book… let’s face it–Moore is interested in Dr. Manhattan–and his vacillation concerning the “value” of life… some of that is interesting–some of it is trite (his epiphany on Mars–about the “intelligent design”-style “miracle” of Laurie’s conception–is no more convincing or enlightening in the book than it is in the movie)

    another part of the problem–Kieran’s reading of the Ozymandias plot as pure critique of the superhero genre is a dangerous one, because if Moore thinks that superhero comics are (or were) warping world politics (rather than the other way around), he’s insane… (again, this is why I like Squadron Supreme so much more than Watchmen–Gruenwald says: “let’s use this superhero nonsense to discuss politics;” Moore often seems to be saying: “let’s use the political malaise of the 1980s to discuss the problems with superheroes”–which is fuckin’ nonsense that no one outside of the bizarre world of Diamond-distribution era comics would ever bother with, and not the stuff that great world literature is made of)

    That’s why I’ve always shied away from going too far with the genre parody stuff… not that I think that Watchmen gets anywhere near the level of achievement that Animal Man/Doom Patrol/The Filth reach anyway… but in order for me to think well of the book at all–I HAVE to think of it as the story of Dan and Laurie trapped in a world that other, more forceful/powerful people are making before our eyes…

    Justin–you are so right about the biggest problem of all with Watchmen–too many people seem to come away from the book and the film thinking only that “Rorschach is awesome”…

    Dave

  39. Ultimately, though, I don’t think Watchmen *is* trying to say much of substance about politics. I mean, it’s not exactly a bold move to take some shots at Richard Nixon 11 years or so after Watergate.

    I’d argue Moore is saying “let’s use this superhero nonsense to discuss systems of morality and ethics” instead. Rorschach, Dr. Manhattan, Veidt and the Comedian all have very different, very extreme “moral codes,” with Laurie and Dan coming off somewhat more moderate. It presents different viewpoints and applies them to superhero archetypes without explicitly endorsing or condemning one or the other. Ultimately, its concern is “How does a person decide what is *right*?”

    Obviously, Watchmen was published by DC Comics, edited I believe by Len Wein, and was even supposed to have letter pages originally, so it was definitely written for a specific, superhero-minded audience. And I love superheroes with every beat of my tiny little heart, so a book that aspired to do nothing more than intelligently satirize certain archetypes would be relevant to me if nobody else. But I do think there is more going on with the book than that.

    Incidentally, I’ve never read Squadron Supreme, but this discussion has piqued my interest. I wonder if my local library has a copy…

  40. Ha, I’ve got something to say about this, actually…must coffee first, but basically I never liked Squadron Supreme, which I think may be an indication of age: my political superheroes are Englehart’s Avengers, and I think the Squadron in those comics offer a much more meaningful political commentary than do the ones in the miniseries…

    But more on that directly!

  41. …Okay, for me it works like this: I didn’t like Squadron Supreme because to me the whole thing about the superheroes “taking over” is beside the point, as far as talking about politics goes…questions of how and when you ought to restrain or employ force are old hat in the superhero story, aren’t they? So to me, it isn’t about grappling with those questions, but rather dealing with having answered them. In Englehart’s Avengers, the Squadron Supreme are just the tiniest bit cozier with their government, than the Avengers are with theirs…and as the Avengers are finding out things about the status quo they implicitly support that they aren’t comfortable with, the SS provides the point of view that “ehh, it’s not such a big deal, it isn’t like it’s Nazi Germany or anything, so the good guys get together to do more efficient good, what’s wrong with that?” And they have a point: because no matter what any of these superheroes do, they will always be supporters of the status quo one way or another, never revolutionaries…because they are not important enough to be revolutionaries, because the world has not broken down, the world is just the world as-it-is, so the question isn’t “dare we exercise our power…but then again how can we dare not to”, it’s merely “what are we going to do when we don’t particularly like the status quo, but nevertheless must represent it or be villains?” The era of Watergate, of course: what’s a person, a citizen, to do when their government is doing some bad things?

    Fortunately this is comics: they answer the question by going to another universe where the heroes feel much less conflicted about their status quo…and then they beat them all up.

    But in the post-Gruenwald, post-Watchmen, post-whatever world of superhero politics the question is all about superheroes being conflicted dictators or vigilantes or terrorists, instead of being conflicted citizens or conflicted people with jobs and lives and attachments. And that makes it seem very big and blunt, rather divorced from the kind of political commentary that is meaningful to me, actually as myself, in the real world. Morrison’s JLA dabbles in this certain kind of fan-service too — the Hyperclan go around greening all the deserts, and Superman grumbles “well, it’s not that simple”. A good point, and I was glad to see him make it! But then he can’t leave it alone, so we get the big melodramatic thing at the end where Wonder Woman asks what good are they if they can’t fix the world’s problems, and Supes says something like “we’re not here to do it for them, only to catch them when they fall.” But that’s some pretty crap politics really, if it was trying for politics — what is “falling”, after all? More importantly, what is “catching”? That platitude anyway (unlike Superman’s earlier grumbling) isn’t about understanding limits and problems and the problems of limits — because it is not about restraint as much as its about a peculiarly flawless reservation: essentially the code of the Chinese Emperors.

    Okay, and Gruenwald’s SS was more complex than that, I’ll grant you. But not much more, at least as far as I can see. Which is why I prefer Avengers on the one hand, and Watchmen on the other — say what you will about Watchmen, but it goes into that code of the Chinese Emperors, and takes a good look around at it from the inside. I don’t think it’s particularly political, at least not compared to some of the Seventies stuff at Marvel…but I think it does make a decent showing against the Eighties stuff.

    Just one more note, here: you know, a thing that is often forgotten is that the question “what if the superheroes were real” is the very thing Marvel used to make its bread and butter on. Eh? Captain America and Iron Man were 100% real enough in my old Avengers comics to manage political commentary, in fact that was the entirety of the conceit….and really it wasn’t terribly different from what we start out with in the late Thirties, Superman and Batman. In fact I find this latter-day “realism” stuff to be much more exaggeratedly romantic hogwash by comparison, and I guess that’s what I mean by the “fan-service” crack up above — the “boo-yah”-ness of this so-called realism seems quite calculatedly obtuse, to me: like Rorschach without the sadness. As absent of consequences as it can be made.

    Rant rant rant. Forgive me, I’m on a big caffeine buzz at the moment. I don’t mean to imply I’ve got the one-and-only valid reading of Squadron Supreme in hand, just because I’m so dang marvellous! But I didn’t like it nearly as much as what had come before it at Englehart’s hands.

  42. I think I’m roughly your peer age-wise, Plok, I was about grade nine or ten when Englehart brought in the Squadron in between the endless Kang storylines. It was my introduction to the Squadron Supreme, after seeing the Squadron Sinister a year or so before in the Defenders. I was simply delighted with Englehart’s story, especially when the Avengers went to the Squadron world and we saw both the whole Squadron team and the societal differences there. “That’s what happens when worlds collide.”
    I should dig those issues out and read them again, it’s been a long while.

    I think part of what made them feel more impressive than the 80s Squadron mini-series was the glorious quality of George Perez’s art. Those six or seven issues that he did with Englehart are among my favorite Avengers runs ever.

    That being said, I did enjoy the Gruenwald SS, and still reread it from time to time. I most enjoyed the reformed bad guys, especially the Shape. And while the ethical/social/moral issues were all a bit obvious and heavy-handed, it was absorbing and at least a bit thought-provoking.

    But THAT being said, any suggestion of SS as being comparable to or somehow in any way superior to Watchmen sounds so instantly absurd to me.

    So hey have you actually seen Warchmen yet??

  43. Cockney version of Watchmen?

    I’m gonna see it probably next week at a matinee. After Dave’s impassioned recommendation, I can’t very well miss it. And I’m still curious about the Dr. Manhattan treatment.

    So happy to hear you mention GS Defenders #4, Meekus! greatest Don Heck/Vince Colletta artwork ever, and maybe the most I’ve ever liked the Squadron Sinister — ahh, Gerber.

    But the other one of the Two Steves really made my perfect Avengers, there. The young Mr. Perez’s artwork was of course…I mean, you have the issues, you know what I mean, one of these days I’m going to write a blog-post on what all those guys were smoking, if you read the Gerber “Guardians Of The Galaxy” you see Al Milgrom doing a LOT of the same stuff Perez was trying out in his Avengers run. There was indeed a visual tone, then. But, wow…I mean I’ve always loved George Tuska, but when Perez came on board that was a whole different heady thing happening, really a lot like what happened when Byrne replaced Cockrum on the X-Men, you thought “wow, I got THAT…and now I get THIS?!?” What have I done to deserve such kind treatment…

    And I’m not saying I hated Gruenwald’s Squadron Supreme, because I read it, and it kept me hooked. Some very nice art, too. I’m just saying it mostly kept me hooked! In that it wasn’t the intellectual dimension that I enjoyed, it was mostly the plotting dimension…actually to be honest it was the way the plotting and intellectual dimensions made an interestion, but that’s no different from Watchmen really…except that Watchmen was a lot more provocative intellectually (wow, understatement) than was SS. Still, I see Dave’s point, and yours. Though I really don’t believe I’ll ever feel moved to re-read Squadron Supreme. I’ll re-read “When Worlds Collide!” probably a hundred more times before I die, Watchmen probably a thousand. From Squadron Supreme I got everything I needed to get, the first go-round.

    Not that I’m saying that isn’t part-and-parcel with its charm!

    Heck, I always hated Da Groo’s comics. Each and every one of them, and I read them all. He stretched himself on this one though, and it was not a futile effort, I don’t want to make it sound like I think that.

    Hey, Meekus, let’s do a team blogging project! Re-reading Englehart’s Avengers. Whaddaya think?

  44. it’s so interesting how widely people’s reactions to these texts can vary! I certainly enjoy Englehart’s 70s stuff–and there’s no question that Gruenwald is in constant dialogue with it–but, to me, everything the latter did on Captain America, Squadron Supreme, Quasar, DP 7, etc is fascinating and always worth another look, precisely because he’s got more history to work with–and he makes it work brilliantly (i.e. the John Walker storyline is not just a rehash of the Nomad story–it repeats the traumatic conflict between national symbol and nation, while illuminating the entire map of American political culture… which Englehart simply was not equipped to do)

    I think of Gruenwald as the post-punk Roy Thomas.

    I know I’m always going to be in the minority when I say that Squadron Supreme is a better book than Watchmen (hopefully, that won’t always be the case with some of the Morrison stuff)–but I do think that Squadron stands alone as a superheroic meditation on the problem of “foundation”–i.e. what Derrida or Schmitt would call “The Political” (as opposed to what we think of us everyday politics–which are already deeply circumscribed by previous decisions). Englehart tends to get trapped at that level (Nixon is a crook; Roxxon is unethical; etc); but Gruenwald goes much further. Watchmen (the book) doesn’t attempt to do any of that–and when read as Dan & Laurie’s book, it’s awesome–but the movie saves itself by gesturing toward “The Political,” because it was going nowhere fast as a psychological investigation of helplessness (which is what the book is, for me)

    Anyway, I welcome ANY discussion of Squadron Supreme, regardless of the opinions being expressed–so bring on the new readers!

    Dave

  45. GS Defenders 4? Uh, actually, that was good too, but I was thinking of Defenders 13 and 14, a year or two before. Which wasn’t by either of the two Steves, Englehart had juat left the book and Gerber would start a while later. Len Wein was writing, and Our Pal Sal Buscema was drawing. Remember, it introduced Nebulon, and the storyline ended with Nighthawk reforming and joining the non-team Defenders. Soon he would forever be known best as Bird-Nose.
    Anyway, so THAT was my intro to the SS. ACtually now that I stop to remember, I first saw Doctor Spectrum even a few months before, in a solo fight with Iron Man. At that point I didn’t even understand that he was a takeoff on Green Lantern, just another guy with a powerful weapon for the golden avenger to knock around.

    And huh? wha? “A team blogging project?” Um, well, sure. How, when, where, what specifically, etc.
    You have suggested a couple of times that we could meet up at ABC Comics or wherever, since we’re both in Vancouver, so maybe this is the thing that’d make it happen. Cool. I’ll, what, stay on the line and talk to you off the air, like they do on radio…

    …hello? …oh, dammit…

  46. Hmm, well I was really just being facetious…but I don’t really have much of a gift for it, so hey, why not?

    Will have to mull this…Englehart did so many things well…

  47. Oh, heh, facetious, right, ME TOO, you bet, heh heh…
    (sound of a brilliant ten page blog outline crumpling)
    So, I’ll uh catch ya around (backs slowly out of web site, nodding weakly, sheepish smile frozen in place)

  48. Pingback: “…Upon Your Mystery Ship” « A Trout In The Milk·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s