Watchmen

Official images of characters from the Watchmen movie.  Most of these look pretty good, particularly Rorschach whose ink-blot mask translates surprisingly well from the printed page (he’s also seen in this recent shot using what seems to be a flaming aerosol can).

For those not familiar with the comic (and it’s a good long while since I read it myself) it’s set in a parallel 1985 in which Richard Nixon is still President, airships rule the skies, and the Cold War is close to exploding.  The point of divergence for this alternate history is the existence of superheroes (comics are saturated by Pirates instead), who amongst other things turned the tide of the Vietnam War.  The story makes a genuine attempt to extrapolate the influence of such figures, both good and bad, on the real world.  The realism extends to its characters: washed up overweight superheroes, media celebrities or murderous vigilantes.  Typically Alan Moore invests the whole thing with quite astonishingly meticulous detail (it sticks in my mind that one chapter, ‘Fearful Symmetry’, features panel layouts that are perfectly mirrored down the centre page).  It’s the kind of work where you only realise quite how complex and rigorous it is when you read annotations.   According to wikipedia Moore set out to make something akin to a comic-book Moby Dick, and that gives a good impression of its ambition.  I’m very rusty on it now, and flicking back through it the art and in particular the colouring seem dated and off-putting, but I still remember the impact it made on me when I first read it.

Of course a lot of what made it great back in the 1980s, as with Citizen Kane, are things that are now commonplace and therefore invisible to a modern reader.  For example the absence of thought balloons, now standard, the gritty treatment of superheroes, now hackneyed, and the use of storytelling techniques drawn from cinema.  The metafictional commentary in the pirate story excerpts that run through the tale (every bit as interminable as the whaling excerpts in Moby Dick…)  All that will be invisible in a film version.  Is the basic story strong enough when you strip away those elements?  Particularly given that Heroes nicked portions of it wholesale.  We’ll just have to see.  I’m at least encouraged by the images I’ve seen so far.  It may not be the groundbreaking, layered work that the comic was, but it may at least turn out okay.

After all, V for Vendetta (my preferred Alan Moore opus) turned out to be a surprisingly decent film.

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