Friday, December 26, 2008

Nova says: Don't be a Phalanx DICK



So I just read the first twelve issues of the new Nova ongoing by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. I ordered that nifty new hardcover that just came out - Nova: Annihilation. And boy is it good.

But rather than just tell you why I think it's good, which you don't care about, I thought I'd tell you about how it got me thinking about comic book mythology. Which you REALLY don't care about. So here goes.

Comic books are myths, folks. Perhaps the purest form of the myth we have left. Don't be afraid of that, by the way. It's an honored and important tradition.

As long as there have been people there have been people telling stories. Mythology may be the oldest human institution running, and for good reason. Myths serve a variety of functions, but to me they all boil down to two main functions:

1) Myths take complex and abstract ideas and bring them down to a level that makes them intellectually palatable.

2) Myths take uncomfortable and personally objectionable ideas and makes them psychologically palatable.

Look, life is tough - it takes a spoonful of mythology to make the medicine go down. We need a bridge to connect us to the great big world about us. So we have our gods teach us things about the universe and ourselves in ways we can absorb. With lots of punching and sex.

So round about issue # 7, Richard Rider gets wholly infected with the transmode virus, and becomes one of the Phalanx. These folks are a more advanced evolutionary version of Warlock from the New Mutants. (Warlock actually makes some unlikely but very poignant appearances in issues # 11-12)

At any rate, it's a lot like being taken over by the Borg. You become a member of the Phalanx and are bound to their communal goals. Now Nova is made a "Select", and so he has a certain amount of free will.

He still feels like Richard Rider, and maintains most of his personality. But he is completely unable to defy the collective goals of the Phalanx, and in that way, he is still a puppet.

I swear to you I'm getting to a point. I wanted to share that with you to help you understand a piece of dialogue that DnA throw at you as Nova explains his new revelations about being a member of the Phalanx:











I like that bit for two reasons. Firstly, it reminds us that nobody considers themselves "the bad guy". All of the people you hate? They are the heroes of their own story. They feel exactly as you do - a beacon of hope and a keeper of righteousness in a world gone mad.

It's important to remember that.

The second reason I love that excerpt is because of how bloody subversive it is. Because in those phrases, we see the enemy, and the enemy is US.

Now, I don't want to make this an attack leveled strictly at the United States - it's an attack on the concept of "empire" itself. Abnett and Lanning being British, they have a little empire and colonization in their culture as well. But if the shoe fits...

The United States of America runs around stomping balls in the name of Freedom. Whenever we decide that we need some resource or some swath of land, we start spreading "gifts" of civilization and freedom to the Heathens.

Thank God all those plantation owners chained up those pesky Africans, they would have never known what to do with themselves otherwise. Same goes for those backwoods savages who were here before we were. March them the hell away from that gold and hand them a Bible for Christ's sake, they're worshipping dirt like a pack of idiots!

And before you go thinking how much cooler you are then those idiots who killed Indians and enslaved Africans, understand this: we're still mucking up other people's lives for their stuff.

Only difference is, we need oil more than gold now. And we're more in the Freedom business than the God business these days. However you slice it, we are the goddamn Phalanx. And that's in this comic book.

Now, not one reader in one hundred will know they just learned that. But they did. The Phalanx are the good guys, giving "gifts" to their victims? No way. As Richard Rider says to himself through the transmode propoganda: why aren't you screaming?

Nova # 7 is a little mythological pill slipping past the cultural programming and reminding us of dark things we need to know. Things we don't want to hear about ourselves. We might be the good guys in our own story, but to Iraq we're just the Phalanx.

Why aren't we screaming?

Again, I want to emphasize that this is not an Anti-American jag. I thought of Iraq because I'm an American. We're acting like a bunch of Phalanx dicks. We just are.

But the metaphor fits more perfectly with a Communist regime. North Korea, I'm looking at you. It works just as well religiously as it does politically. Muslim extremism? I'm looking at you, now.

Whoever you are, if you're awake at all you'll be looking at yourself and your world and wondering about what you're foisting on other people for their "own good". The Phalanx think they're helping, too. They're the biggest cocks in the galaxy. Don't be a D-Bag Phalanx. It's so deliciously subversive.

And that is why I love comics. Keeping the Promethean flame alive, my friend. With really big boobs and explosions in space.

- Ryan






Chronic Review: The Spirit




So I went to see The Spirit today, and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. No, it was significantly worse.

The problem with the film is that it never hits a true note. You know when you're supposed to laugh at the Octopus clones and his egg references, and when you're supposed to be impressed with Gabriel Macht's improbable dialogue about "his city".

You know when you're supposed to be in awe of Denny Colt's sex appeal and charm, and you know when you're supposed to think how clever Frank Miller is as a director when he flashes those stark whites on the bottom of The Spirit's shoes at you. You just don't.

When you watch The Spirit, you don't ever feel the way you know Frank Miller demands you feel about it. There is never a five minute block during the movie when you can invest an ounce of yourself in it. Over the top doesn't begin to cover it.

If it sounds as though my review is entirely negative, I want to confess that I was conflicted about the movie for at least one third of it. As I watched and listened, I recognized that I was essentially watching a kissing cousin of Sin City.

It has the same absurd "hard boiled" dialogue, the same absurd growling narrative. It's imbued with the same juvenile power/sex fantasies. It's a Frank Miller movie. It hits you with a feverish lack of sophistication. Both movies prune their rose bushes with a chain saw.

So why do I find those attributes so charming in Sin City, and so jarring in The Spirit? I must confess again and tell you that I don't know why. I don't know why one works and one doesn't, I just know that my Spirit experience was one of bemused disdain.

I was also reminded a bit of All-Star Batman while watching the movie. While you're watching the film, you catch yourself wondering if the creators secretly hate the work. Is this a love letter gone wrong or a sick joke? How seriously am I meant to take this? You find yourself asking these questions as you read ASBM, as well.

I guess I'm not completely qualified to assess the movie, because I've never read much of Eisner's original material. Maybe Eisner's Spirit was also an exercise in pushing the envelope of the ridiculous. But it doesn't feel that way. It feels like Eisner is somewhere in the ether shaking his spectral head in dismay.

I thought Scarlet Johannsen avoided total embarrassment with her Silken Floss, which was mostly on key and occasionally fun. Dan Lauria (the dad from the Wonder Years) was serviceable as well. But really, the best part of this film for me was the trailer for Push that ran a few minutes prior.

The Spirit may be the worst movie I've ever seen. I say that as a man who has viewed Eye of the Beholder in its entirety.


If you like yourself, do avoid The Spirit.

- Ryan

Monday, December 22, 2008

Now That You've Read Crossed # 2....




How much fun is that wrap cover for issue # 1?


The second issue of Crossed certainly did not dissapoint. This is the ballsiest comic in...ever. If there is a vulgarian on your Christmas list, do them a favor and fire these issues under the tree.

And after all we've seen, Ennis himself says the most disgusting, gut-flinching scene is coming in issue # 3. Dear God, what's in store for us next month???

- Ryan

Friday, December 19, 2008

Remember these?




Ye Olde Shinders Bag

Ah, yes. A little something nostalgic for the yuletide season. For those of you who were comic collectors in Minnesota from 40AD-2007, Shinders was a big part of your life.

Just the sight of these makes me happy, remembering all of those Wednesday treasures that were hidden inside. Back when you could buy a copy of Amazing Spider-Man, hand the guy (or goth chick) a dollar and RECEIVE CHANGE. Can you even imagine such a time?

Here's to you, Shinders. You were fully decked out in 4 color goodness, laced with baseball cards, trimmed in porn. You were Mecca without all the discipline and death. You were ours and we loved you with the strength of a child's heart.

And then came the inevitable sale and the not-so-inevitable cocaine use. Thanks, buddy. Thanks for flushing away an institution of Wonders with your white powdered moustache and paranoid delusions of grandeur. It's all gone, now.

Except for this bag, which I bring to you digitally in fond remembrance. Recall the past, cling to the warmth and let it grow a seed to bring forth a new Shinders for a new age. Or something.

- Ryan

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Annotated Chronic: Moon Unit Zeek

In episode # 72, Quincy alluded to a comic I created back in high school titled "Moon Unit Zeek". A few words on that:

I created quite a few comics when I was a kid. The first was "G.I. Bo", which was just G.I. Joe with rabbits instead of people. At the time it always bugged me that there was no guy named "Joe" on the team. Who is this cat who was so special they named a goddamn special forces team after him? And why don't we ever see this guy?

These issues kept me awake most nights so I decided to create my own team where the team namesake had a leader that fit. So the lead rabbit was named Bo. And he was a bad ass rabbit if ever there were one; tough, confident, a smart ass. Basically me with toughness and confidence.

These guys also fought Cobra. They were actual snakes. That thing lasted about 6 issues, and I even cajoled my brother and my friend Scott Primeau to write letters so I could have a letters page. Awesome.

I also did a book with ninja dogs called "K-9", and that never made it past issue one. In high school came my most prolific work, which included "Tornado Man" and "Moon Unit Zeek". Tornado Man was a scientist who could- you guessed it- turn himself into a swirling funnel of destructive air. Things would threaten his hot lab assistant and Tornado Man would then proceed to Fuck Shit Up for his enemies. Pretty straightforward, pretty boring.

Ahhh, but then there was Moon Unit Zeek. My tour de force. Zeek was a high school punk with a mohawk and triangle shades that he wore night and day. He was a gigantic asshole, and apparently not very bright because he rolled around in some fairly aggressive toxic waste that of course granted him super powers.

Zeek could emit radiation blasts, and if I remember correctly he could also shoot electricity. The radiation also gave him mind control powers. Zeek had many adventures in which he would take revenge on those who had bullied him in the past with exquisite violence. He would also use his mental abilities to have sex with cheerleaders and such. I suppose in a sense you could say they were artificially willing...but no. Let's face it. He conducted wide scale rape.

So what does this tell you about me? One, I've never had an original idea in my life. G.I. Bo was a copy of GI Joe, and K-9 was a complete rip-off of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Tornado Man is so generic I don't even know where to start, and Moon Unit Zeek was basically a "what if Sid Vicious were actually Frank Zappa's son" riff. OK, kind of inventive to combine the two I guess, but you couldn't change the name a little just to throw the dogs off the scent, dumb ass?

And the more things change, the more they stay the same. I still have no original material whatsoever. But if you listen to the show, you know that already.

Secondly, we're already establishing the sexual inadequacies at an early age, which is precious. Moon Unit Zeek was everything I couldn't be; powerful and sexually active. So I had him do it. With an attitude. Ah, the follies of youth....

-Ryan

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Batman RIP: The Devil is in the Details - Part IV



Final Thoughts

So. After all is said and done, how shall we assess Batman: RIP? Catastrophic failure? A future legend? I can't speak for anybody but myself, and I'm going to call it a resounding success.

Here's a fun fact: I've now read Batman # 681 no less than 6 times, and I've enjoyed it every run-through. What's the last comic you read that had you so intrigued you went back to it a half dozen times in a week?

No matter how you interpret the identity of The Black Glove or the conclusion of the arc, I think it's beyond debate that Morrison got us all thinking and talking about Bruce Wayne on a higher level than we have in a long time.

Even those folks who were upset over the ending - isn't most of that anger directly attributed to the buzz most of us felt about what was happening? It seemed like something BIG was just around the corner, the promise was so grand only the greatest of payoffs could have satisfied.

For me the series did pay off. I've already discussed some of the most controversial elements of RIP, but really, that's not even the lion's share of the real juice. Look at all of the kick-ass things that happened that we AREN'T talking about because we're all so hung up on Bruce Wayne's "death" and Black Glove's identity:

Nightwing ponders the cowl:



How cool is that? We've been waiting a long time for this. I think Dick is ready for the challenge, and we're ready to accept him in the role. Maybe not forever, but for now. Look, Nighwing is already in the "big leagues", but who could possibly fill those shoes? He might be the only one, and I'd like to see what happens to him when the pressure is on to carry on the legend.

Talia Defends Her Man



Talia is a difficult character to like, and her son is a GIANT ASS. Yet it was still satisfying to me to see her inject a bunch of her ninjas with serum and send a small army of man-bats after Jezebel Jet. Get that dirty whore, man-bats!



This one had it all. Batman facing off with greatest of foes half-crazed and pushed to the brink. Nighwing and Robin riding in as the cavalry just in the nick of time. We all know that Batman is the most formidable human being in the medium. (Sorry, Steve Rogers. He is) It's nice to be reminded of WHY we know that, to see him overcome the impossible with razor smarts and granite will.

It was fun, and it was fun that survived 6 read-throughs. Last year the Sinestro Corps War stole the show - this year I think that Batman: RIP is what we'll remember about 2008 when it's all said and done.

Tangent: Dark Knight DVD

On a sort of related note, the Dark Knight DVD came out today in 9 different formats! My roomate will not be pleased about this, but I'm going to recommend that Batman: RIP fans try and pick up the limited edition 2-disc set exclusive to Circuit City:



It features a Joker cover, and also contains a black Bat-Journal! Now that Bruce Wayne is sitting on the sidelines for a bit, you can pick up where he left off and start recording the cleansing of Gotham in your own Black Casebook. Very nice. Good luck finding one....

- Ryan

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Batman RIP: The Devil Is In The Details - Part III



What Is UP With The "Zurr-En-Arrh" Nonsense?

One of Grant Morrison's objectives in his run on Batman was to treat the character as though everything that has come before actually happened to Bruce Wayne.

Morrison was interested in the mental state of a man who had lived through so many adventures and gone through so many seemingly irreconcilable mental states. I mean, seriously - how could the campy Batman of the 60s and the ultra serious and aggressive Batman since Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns really be the same guy?

The answer from Morrison is that Batman has purposefully ran himself through the ringer in order to prepare for absolutely every contingency. It takes a "groovy" Batman to work through the Flower Power generation, so he does that. And it takes an edgier Batman to make it through contemporary America. Batman's not really crazy. He's just covering ALL of his bases.

This journey through Batman's history is where we get Zurr-En-Arrh, a concept first introduced in Batman # 133 back in 1958. The Batman of Zurr-En-Arrh reached out into space and dragged our resident Batman to his strange planet for assistance with some alien invaders.

He wore a costume very similar to the one we see in Batman: RIP and actually had the powers of Superman. After the adventure was over, Z.E.R Batman gave the Earth version his radia as a keepsake, and that device also ends up playing a prominent role in Batman # 681.

I think it's actually refreshing that we have a writer who is looking to preserve history rather than slash, burn, and slap a new #1 on the next cover. I'm guessing it's been a real treat for Old School Bat-files, of which I am not. I read Dark Knight returns like everyone else, and I peek my head into the Bat Cave every now and again for some of the big events: Knighfall, Hush, and Now R.I.P.

My lengthy point here is that I'm not completely qualified to comment on Zurr-En-Arrh and all of it's intricacies, because it wasn't planted there for me. I don't know my history. But I can say a few things about what I saw in Batman # 681 and make some educated guesses. I think it's best to begin at the end, strangely enough. Morrison closes out R.I.P. with what appears to be the origins of Zurr-En-Arrh:



Pretty easy to see why this might be something iconic pressed into young Bruce Wayne's psyche. "Zorro in Arkham" is essentially the last thing he hears with innocent ears, the final bell before his entire world is shattered and he is born anew on his path to The Bat. Zorro in Arkahm. Zurr-En-Arrh.

A few complications arise (at least for me) with this birthing. What bothers me is that both Batman and The Black Glove sort of claim to "own" it. Batman claims to have constructed the Batman of Zurr-En-Arrh as a psychological failsafe. When something breaks him down, he's built this backup personality to rise above it.

And that makes a certain amount of sense. Young Bruce Wayne is thinking about masked crime fighters as he leaves a cinematic showing of "Mask of Zorro". His mother then counters his romantic notions with the harsher reality - they'd put Zorro in a straitjacket. And that's what the Batman of Zurr-En-Arrh is: a masked crime fighter brought to madness. It all fits.

But then we also have the Black Glove who really sends Batman spiralling down the dark path when he has agent Jezebel Jet whisper the implanted phrase "Zurr-En-Arrh" into Wayne's ear. And that suggests that Zurr-En-Arrh was a tool The Black Glove came up with to send Batman over the top, not a failsafe that Batman created to protect himself.

Could they be both?

I have a theory about that, and it involves the Black Glove as Satan schtick. I believe that The Devil has been interested in Bruce Wayne from the beginning, and I believe that he takes "possession" of people in order to manifest his earthly plans.

It would help explain a scene I didn't particularly care for just before the helicopter crashes, when the Prince of Darkness begins screaming like a little girl:



This is how the "Great Adversary" faces his death? Could a simple explosion even do anything permanent to such a being? It seemed odd to me. Naysayers on the Devil theory may take it as evidence that The Black Glove obviously wasn't Satan, and you're welcome to do that.

But if such a being were a possessor of souls and not the people themselves, I think the scene still fits. When it becomes apparent that the battle is going badly, The Devil simply exits stage left and leaves the real Dr. Hurt (or whoever he is) to take the explosion. That sounds like something the Prince of Darkness would do, yes?

But how does that help us with Zurr-En-Arrh? Well, in that final scene of R.I.P. we see what appears to be Joe Chill behind the Wayne's getting ready to do his inevitable evil.



But what if it was actually The Devil using Joe Chill as a pawn? It wouldn't take much of a push, would it?

Now Satan is there to also hear Martha Wayne's proclamation that they would put "Zorro in Arkham" and at a distance where it might be muddled into "Zurr-En-Arrh". The Black Glove did tell Batman that he was "there from the beginning". Maybe this is what he was speaking of.

Conclusive proof? Nah. Does it make for a more entertaining read? I think so. I think it's cool to think that The Devil has taken an interest in Batman as a remarkable specimen of the human race since he was a child. And I think that Grant Morrison has been inviting us to think that way.

The "possessing Devil" theory allows us a semi-rational explanation for the way that Zurr-En-Arrh gets used by both sides of the equation, and it can explain why Dr. Hurt was acting like such a little bitch before he got blown up. It also makes for a more epic and compelling story, in my opinion. The stakes are higher, Batman is testing his mettle against the highest powers and winning. Good stuff.

Up next: I Conclude With More Good Stuff About RIP!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Batman RIP: The Devil is in the Details - Part II

Who Is The Black Glove?

Boy, did this reveal put some bees in some folk's shorts. I'm talking talking about some extra large Japanese death hornets gallivanting in people's boxers and doing catastrophic damage to their junk. So, after reading Batman # 681, who shall we believe The Black Glove really is?

The man himself claims to be Batman's father, Thomas Wayne. Batman believes him to be Mangrove Pierce, star of the cinematic "Black Glove". The Joker seems to imply that our Big Bad is The Devil himself. Confusing, yes?

Let's not go crazy, kids. OK, maybe Morrison didn't hit you over the head with it like a lead pipe. What did you expect? If you want dull and easy, find another author. Seriously. It bears repeating: Grant Morrison is writing on a more subtle level. The devil is in this case quite literally in the details.

Yes, I'm telling you that the Black Glove is actually the goddamn Prince of Darkness. And not that geriatric mumbler who once fronted Black Sabbath - the cool one. Satan. Yeah, baby!

It's appropriate to be very impressed with Timothy Callahan, noted Morrison scholar and avid comic book reader. He called his shot two weeks before the book hit - wow. But let's not just take his word for it. Time to break down Batman # 681 and demonstrate the point with the text.

Clue # 1: The Joker recognizes The Black Glove as The Devil


The grand plan to break The Bat landed all parties involved at Arkham Asylum, which is of course the Joker's current address. Cue hijinx:



Now that phrase is actually quite cryptic and doesn't exactly seal the deal. If you were to ask me exactly what I thought that line signified, I couldn't begin to guess. Morrison studies a lot of stuff - perhaps he bumped into some religion of school of thought that has some demonic significance attached to the number two.

A couple of important things there. One is that we get the word "devil" thrown in there, and Joker is very definitely attaching that moniker to Dr. Hurt. He has some intuitive gift that allows him to pierce the deception and come up with Hurt's true nature.

The second item of import is Joker's reaction to that realization. If you were expecting a quivering little ball of deference and humility...guess again.



How much fun is this scene if you buy into the Black Glove as Satan story! He snaps his little cronies neck, says the Joker trumps him, and tells the Dark Lord that he's betting on Batman to kick his sorry ass in about five minutes. It's wonderful, people. Accept it. Enjoy it.

And listen, if that's all there was to it, I wouldn't buy into the Devil routine, either. But there's more.

Clue # 2: Batman # 666

Remember how odd and confusing that issue was plopped in the middle of Batman & Son? We had Damien as Batman fifteen years in the future fighting replacement Batmen who think they're the anti-christ. Doesn't seem quite as odd now, does it?

Damien drops a zinger toward the end of that issue - he claims to have traded his soul to the Devil in exchange for the future of Gotham. Is that literal? In continuity? I don't know, but there's that darned Devil again. And he's hanging around Gotham, and he's interested in Batman.

And again, if that were the only piece of evidence, we'd probably have to throw it in the trash. But wait...there's more.

Clue # 3: The Final Confrontation

There's quite a blow-by-blow verbal battle high above Gotham between the Black Glove and Batman at the end. It begins with the line that most of the internet has grabbed hold of and refused to let go:




I'm your father, Bruce. I'm Thomas Wayne. BAM! And it's quite a bomb, designed to hurt and punish, which is exactly what the Black Glove has been doing to Batman all along. Torturing him in every sense to break him down. But that's not where the battle ends. Because Batman immediately calls the revelation a lie:

"You're not Thomas Wayne."

A declarative with no frills. Batman isn't the type to delude himself. If there was evidence that the Black Glove was his father, he'd face it down with the same icy resolve he faces everything with.

But he didn't do that. He called it a lie. So does the Black Glove defend this untruth? Far from it. He instead says: "and still, the cloak fits. And if not dad, have you dared to consider the only alternative?"

Batman offers back with Mangrove Pierce, star of the film "Black Glove". Hurt dismisses this idea immediately. "No. I skinned Mangrove Pierce alive and wore him the Mayhew's party."

So he's not Thomas Wayne, and he's not Mangrove Pierce. Who in the hell (rimshot, please) is this guy??? He continues: "I am the hole in things, Bruce, the Enemy, the piece that can never fit, there since the beginning."

A few points to make on THAT bit of nonsense. In the biblical book of Job, there is a figure who essentially tortures Job and brings him to the mental and physical brink. He's known in that book as the Adversary, and he's typically thought of as the Devil. Sound familiar? Dr. Hurt has done the same to Batman, and now claims to be the "enemy". Hmmmm.

He also claims to be "there since the beginning". A few ways to interpret that. Satan was God's top lieutenant in the old stories before the Council of Nicea tossed out all those gems from the Bible. So there's that beginning.

You may also remember the story of Adam and Eve got tempted by this jerkwad serpent in the Garden of Eden. And that was the Devil again, this time as the Serpent. And that was a beginning as well. Interesting.

This whole scenario is also reminiscent of Jesus "temptation in the wilderness". Before he begins his travelling priesthood, The Devil tests his mettle. For 40 days Jesus fasts, and Satan puts him through the ringer - he's physically, emotionally, psychically beaten down.

Sound familiar? Again, this is exactly what Dr. Hurt is doing to Batman. That temptation business closes at the top of a peak looking over Jerusalem. Here Batman is challenged to the heights overlooking Gotham. And it doesn't work exactly as the Gospels do. It's really a cross between a "temptation in the wilderness" and a "Faustian bargain". Both archetypes involve guess who? Satan.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you that you must interpret this text as Black Glove = Satan. Hurt could be lying out his bum to try and intimidate Batman. But I'm tired of listening to forum posters trying to say that the idea is preposterous.

What's preposterous is that you read the book and missed all the bread crumbs Morrison left for you. If you aren't digging it, fine. I'm not suggesting you have to think it's a great idea. But at least understand what you're bitching about, you damn heathens.

Would you believe there's more Satany goodness available to analyze?

Clue # 4: Batman thinks the Black Glove is The Devil


How do I know that? Because I read the book, that's how. Remember those final journal entries in Batman's black casebook? Here's how he puts it to bed:

"In my attempts to see clearly in the deepest dark, in my efforts to go to the still eye in the storm of madness, did I open myself to some pure source of evil? Did I finally reach the limits of reason? And find the Devil waiting? And was that fear in his eyes?"

There's that rascally Prince of Darkness again. And he's afraid of Batman, which is BAD ASS. Sorry, it just is. And fun.

And quite frankly, I think the fear is mutual. Batman put away his cape and cowl and completely disappeared for six months. We know he's not dead from Part I - so why did he do that?

My interpretation is that he took the Black Glove's curse very seriously. What curse? The one that Dr. Hurt bestowed on Batman as he took off in that soon to be exploding helicopter:



Batman brushed up against the source of pure evil, and that source declared Batman to be cursed. Wear the cowl and die, kid. So he hasn't. Can you imagine anything other than a major demonic figure getting Batman to back off being The Batman? It doesn't really make sense to me any other way.

- Ryan

Next up: Zurr-En-Arrh!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Batman RIP: The Devil is in the Details - Part I

Batman: R.I.P. concluded when Batman # 681 hit the stands last Wednesday, causing quite a furor among the unwashed masses. The message boards and forums lit up with ubiquitous bitching about the lack of closure, Batman's "death" scene, the true identity of the Black Glove, and the overall clarity of the plot.

As usual, the boisterous voices on the forum don't tend to speak for the true sentiment of the general reading populace. If you just listened to the chat when the story broke, you'd think Morrison just broke the franchise forever.

A recent Newsarama poll tells a different story about reader reaction. They set up a 4 point scale to rank the quality of the ending, and the rating with the most votes to this point has been 3 - not a masterpiece, but pretty darn good.

As promised on The Show, I'm going to break down some of the items that have caused the most hullaballoo and determine if the rancor is justified. Not to ruin the surprise or anything - in most cases it isn't.

Grant Morrison is not your typical comic book writer. He's a bright guy, he's an odd guy, and he writes with precision and texture. If you want to absorb the Morrison Experience, you have to be awake and pay attention. The clues are placed purposefully to make a better, more nuanced reading.

The devil is very much in the details, friends. Let's take a closer look at Batman # 681 and see if we can answer the question that nearly cracked the internet in half:




Did Bruce Wayne Really Go Boom in that Helicopter?


Of course not. Bruce Wayne is very much alive. At least for now. How do we know this?

I know what you're thinking. "Of course he isn't dead. He's a main character, so they'll just bring him back even if he did die." That's not what I'm talking about.

I'm not even talking about the fact that Morrison told us all point blank a few months ago in an IGN interview that the Batman in Final Crisis (which occurs chronologically after R.I.P) is Bruce Wayne. Although that's a pretty good reason, you have to admit.

No. I'm telling you that if you simply read the story with the care that a Morrison book demands, he's telling you clearly that Bruce Wayne is very much alive. The proof is in the narration.

Throughout Batman # 681, Batman gives a "play-by-play" analysis of everything that happens in the issue. That text is shown written on lined paper. This should come as no surprise to anybody reading R.I.P.

It was established earlier in the arc that Batman writes hand-written notes into Black Casebooks, which Alfred then transcribes into the Bat Computer:



That's what you're reading. In case you'd forgotten that little tid-bit, Grant Morrison actually reminds the reader of this fact in the middle of issue 681:



So when you see those lined notes, you're reading Batman's casebook, basically his journal. Did you notice that we have journal entries about the final confrontation with the Black Glove? Did you notice that we have Bruce Wayne's reaction to that battle, all the way to the bitter end when Batman observes fear in his opponent's eyes?



So ask yourself - if Bruce Wayne died in that helicopter crash, how is he writing about it in his diary? The answer is that he can't. Bruce Wayne is very much alive, and Grant Morrison isn't pretending that he isn't.

So for those of you tearing your robes over the cliched "death", I recommend you relax a bit. Sure, that explosion is still in the land of probably-too-familiar-to-be-fresh. Fine. He didn't exactly re-invent the wheel with that one, but neither did he go the hack route, either.

See, I'm not saying that you have to be in love with the ending of Batman R.I.P. I've got some small issues with it myself, things that I wouldn't have done if I were the author. But many of the issues of the Mob would be solved if they simply read the goddamn text with care.

This is Grant Morrison. The devil is in the details.

Next up: Who Is The Black Glove????


-Ryan

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Market Spotlight: Bonus Round




Watchmen: International Edition

Here's a little sleeper I forgot to mention on the last show. Alan Moore's Watchmen has been an industry legend since it was introduced in 1986. It stands alone as the most iconic tale in the history of the medium, period.

As a market entity, Watchmen is a bit of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it maintains unprecedented levels of sustained popularity, which is good for demand. On the other hand, that demand has resulted in mass quantities of available product.

The trick, then, is to find Watchmen material that somehow separates itself. This is why CGC 9.8s do very well. It aint hard to find a copy of Watchmen # 1, but it's very difficult to find a perfect copy.

This is also why you need to be jumping on any of the RPG material that Mayfair produced in 1987. These items include:
  • Watchmen: Taking Out the Trash module
  • Watchemn: Who Watches the Watchmen? module
  • Watchmen Sourcebook
  • Watchmen miniatures

If you can find any of this stuff lying around at cover price, buy at will. These are some of the scarcest Watchmen items available. Alan Moore even contributed to these role-playing supplements!

But I'm getting off track. After the movie trailer lit this year's San Diego ComicCon ablaze, DC recognized a resurgence of interest and brought several "new" items to market.

In the last month or two, we've seen DC re-release the Absolute Watchmen boxed set, come out with a new hardcover version, and also introduced a Watchmen "International Edition."

So what in the world is an international edition? Is it Watchmen in spanish or japanese? Not exactly. Near as I can tell, it's simply the regular trade paperback with a few extra "behind the scenes" items tacked on to the beginning of the book. And they slapped a new cover on it.

Should we be excited about this? Actually, yes. If you've never read the book and are looking to buy, I wouldn't go anywhere else. It retails for $19.99 just like the standard edition, but it has extra previously unreleased material.

I don't have good data on exactly how many of these special editions have been produced, but just anecdotally scanning the market tells me it's at least ten to one as compared to the regular trade.

Remember what I was saying about separation? As the secondary market settles, and as information gets disseminated, people are going to prefer the International edition because it has special ingredients and an easily identifiable cover announcing itself as the "scarce variant" version of the book that everybody wants. But right now you can get them for cover or less.

This is a no-brainer. Get yourself a Watchmen International. You won't be sorry.

-Ryan

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

That Pain Down There? The Price of Your Comic

On our last show we talked about Rich Johnston's research into the price of comic books as compared to the rate of U.S. inflation. He took the going rate for a copy of Amazing Spider-Man for the past 30 years and demonstrates conclusively that our current funnybooks are a LOT more pricey than they used to be.

Has the quality improved? Sure, I'll say dramatically. I'd say the two most significant changes are in the quality of the paper and the coloring. And while paper costs have risen, the cost of technology goes down as it's integrated. I think looking at the chart it's probably reasonable to be charging $2.00 for a comic book. We're looking at paying DOUBLE that.

Click here to look at the chart under the heading "How Bucking Much?"

- Ryan

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Who's Who?

Here are some interesting photos our good friend Nick suggested we put up here for a laugh. I worked some photoshop magic (very little actually) and here we go. First we have Nick and Rob Reiner and then we see Ryan with Orson Wells.



Michael

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ryan eating Twinkies!




This is how healthy we eat just before the show. As you can see Ryan sort of enjoys the twinkies a little more than he actually should.

Michael

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here


So read the sign outside of hell when good ol' Dante approached, and it should also be plastered in bold print on the cover of the must read comic book of 2008: Crossed.

Let's break it down nice and simple: Crossed is the most brutal and horrifying book I've ever had in my mitts. Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows have created a world gone mad, and utterly chilling in it's proximity to the world we already live in.

Ennis isn't re-inventing the wheel here. Walking Dead has already trodden this ground, and I would think the film 28 Days Later is an even closer cousin. Where Crossed sets itself apart is in the unflinching nature of its execution. This is Walking Dead with the governor off. This is 28 Days Later with more pathos. And it hurts to read. It's that good.

Crossed tells the story of a global level apocalypse. Significant portions of the population have mysteriously transformed into "The Crossed"; enraged, homicidal barely-humans who seek nothing other than the maim and torture of everything they once were.

They are called The Crossed because of the tell-tale "criss-cross" scarring that appears on the faces of the infected. While issue # 1 makes no explicit polemic against religion, it isn't hard to see it there. Crossed turns the entire planet into Denmark after Muhammed was depicted in an editorial cartoon. The zealots are out for blood, and they mean to have it.

The dialogue feels spot-on and the characters act as we would expect them to; depressed, angry, paranoid. The group is searching for hope, searching for answers. One character (who looks amusingly similar to John Byrne now that I think about it) hypothesizes that salt is a kind of kryptonite for The Crossed. The discussion the group engages in on that subject feels real, the emotions feel pure. That hypothesis gets tested in the first issue- read it to find out if John Byrne was right.

Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight raised similar issues about the state of mankind and the viability of nihilism. Nolan answered the challenge with hope. The Joker was wrong. Crossed appears to be heading in a different direction. Abandon hope all ye who enter here - but for God's sake don't miss it.

Breasticles, Testicles, Wallet and Watch!

This is the story of Stanley DeMcMacsonianovskivich, an average bloke working a dead end job and looking for a way out. After years and years of typing the same form letter he finally has enough. Stanley comes up with the brilliant idea that you should work at what you love. He thinks about this long and hard and comes to the realization that he loves breasts. All kinds of them. Small ones, large ones, limp ones, firm ones and even old ones. This is supposed to be the big punch line in the book I think. Ha ha so funny.

Stanley decides to open his own business of custom bras. This is another of those moments in the book where I think I am suppose to give out one of those huge belly laughs....well I didn't. His business takes off and women come from all around to have this fat lumpy bloke squeeze, tug and measure their breasts. The sad thing about this comic is that is the main story line and we are all supposed to be laughing by this point, watching him help these poor women out with their sad stories about how their breasts are too big, or too small or whatever. IT'S NOT FUNNY!


Stanley makes tons of money throughout the next few years, hiring more employees and expanding into a new building. This is where the big climax is. When you hear how lame this is, you might want to shoot yourself, but let me assure you it's not as bad hearing about it, as it is READING THE FUCKING THING!

When the 1960's come around women start to burn their bras, HOLY SHIT! How funny is that? NOT AT ALL REALLY! Well women stop buying his bras and he goes out of business. He ends up down at the bar drinking himself blind for a few months and then he decides to kill himself, which was a thought I had after reading this comic, and he succeeds.

Here is the giant super funny ending we have all been waiting for. He kills himself and somehow ends up in heaven but I can look past that I guess. I looked past all the parts that were supposed to make me laugh so what's new? Anyways he arrives in heaven and all these bare breasted angels are sitting around having an argument over not being able to get a good breast massage up in heaven. Stanley smiles and tells the angels that he could help them out and we are lead to believe that he is going to spend the rest of eternity massaging beautiful angel breasts. WHOA SO FUCKING FUNNY! I nearly pissed myself from laughing so hard.

So what kind of funny book is this? Well I can tell you, it's a terribly UNFUNNY funny book. There are actually no laugh out loud moments in the whole thing. I should have guessed from the guy who brought us all Rugrats and The Wild Thornberrys, both of those comedy gold. Robert Goodin is an okay writer, but he's NOT funny at all in this book. The drawings are fucking terrible and the jokes are worse than those brought out in "Marvel Apes". Tek Jansen is fucking Eddie Murphy compared to this book.

This was the biggest waste of $4 I have had this year. I even liked "Cable" #1 better than this piece of feces. Don't waste your money, time or sanity on this book. If you want something really funny go out and get yourself a copy of "Harry Johnson" if you want a few laugh out loud moments in a comedy Comic Book. This was a pile of shit plain and simple.

What's more is that this guy can really draw women and their breasts...and it's funny as hell.

After reading this 32 page story I found there were two other stories in the back of the book. Both of them very unfunny, but still a shit ton funnier than "The Man Who Loved Breasts". I won't bore you with the details and the titles of these stories, because honestly I have tried to purge my mind of this whole book. One of them had a quaint idea it tried to pull off for five or so pages which should have been two tops. A man goes into a Sperm bank (already funnier than TMWLB) and has to jack himself off in the booth but when offered a magazine to use for inspiration, he has a strange fetish for looking at amputee porn. Now I found this actually pretty funny, at least the idea of it, well that's because mentally I am 12, but it's poorly executed. First thing is the GUY behind the counter at the Sperm Bank should have been a women and if I were writing it, she would have been missing a leg or something, that would have made for a much more interesting read in my mind, and a hell of a lot funnier.

The second story is about a kid cartoonist who somehow travels back in time and is brought before the King to try and prove he's really from the future. The kid tells the King about all the advancements in the future and the King is impressed. He offers the kid a chance to stay out of the dungeons by telling him about these advancements. The King asks him about gunpowder, medicine and various other things and the cartoonist/writer can't tell him how any of them work, so he's thrown into the dungeon anyways. This story isn't funny at all either, but at least it has a more original story line than the main story. I guess he's trying to say that cartoonist are fucking stupid idiots that know nothing of the world around them. I can see why he thinks that way, Robert Goodin is fucking clueless as to what is funny that's for sure.

Storyline - 1.5 I give it an extra .5 because I have to admit the title made me pick it up.

Artwork - 1, It's terrible looking. They should have gotten someone who understands the female body to draw all these breasts. A little color would have worked too.

Michael

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Let's Play: "Where's My Dignity?"

Folks, it's time for America's favorite new game show: Wheres My Dignity??? Three legendary comic creators saw their signature creations come to a recent close and marshalled a "comeback" this year.

It's quite clear that all three are embarrassing themselves and soiling their legacy with these new atrocities. The only question that remains is: which former icon has flushed their reputation the worst and left muttering to themselves "where's my dignity"?

Let's take a closer look at our contestants: Terry Moore, Jeff Smith, and Dave Sim.




Contestant # 1: Terry Moore

Claim to Fame: Strangers in Paradise

This comic book "chick flick" broke all the rules and found a die-hard audience without capes, powers, swords, or sorcery. Moore essentially made a soap opera into a comic book franchise that ran from 1993 - 2007. He inexplicably found a way to make readers care about a character named Katchoo. (Bless you) Very impressive

The New Book: Echo, Abstract Studios

Why It Sucks:

Echo tells the story of Julie, a photographer caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. The government is testing an experimental flying suit, and when a test flight goes wrong, Julie ends up bonding to a piece of the shrapnel.

So now a shadowy group is after her symbiotic artifact and trying to kill her in the progress. Not bad, huh? Yeah. That's a pretty good story. Except I liked it better the first time I read it... when it was called Witchblade.

Uninspired genre tripe for 50 cents more per issue. No thanks. And while Witchblade had artists like Michael Turner and Mike Choi going for it, Echo features simplistic and sloppy backgrounds that appear rushed and amateur.



Contestant # 2: Jeff Smith


Claim to Fame: Bone

Bone came from out of nowhere and quickly became the biggest self-published juggernaut since TMNT. Multiple Eisner awards and many years of critical acclaim followed smith as he published this fantasy-comedy 1991-2004.

The New Book: Rasl, Cartoon Books

Why It Sucks:

Smith's cartoony style does not lend itself to this sci-fi adventure chronicling the adventures of a time-travelling art thief.

The concept isn't bad, but you're certainly not getting much bang for your buck. Smith specializes in splash pages and 4-panel jobs that don't move the story along quickly enough. This book desperately needs some exposition and dialogue - it reads in about three minutes.

Dull, droll, and did I mention it comes out once every fortyear? I think I'll take a pass.



Contestant # 3: Dave Sim

Claim to Fame: Cerebus

Let's face it: Dave Sim is the man. Certifiable and a raging misogynist? Shoor. But the fact of the matter is that the guy put self-publishing on the map, and put out 300 high-quality issues of Cerebus on time every time. He never sold out, and took a cue from Sinatra and did it his way.

The New Book: Glamourpuss

Why It Sucks:

How doesn't this suck? Dave. Buddy. The desire to draw photo-realistic teenage girls is good cause for seeking professional help. It is NOT a good reason to sucker thousands of loyal followers into spending $4.00 massaging your massive ego and indulging your Lolita complex.

Again, sir: DO seek help. Do NOT continue to publish this nonsense, which is in no way meaningful, entertaining, or healthy. That is all.

The Verdict


So who has the most cause for shame? The easy choice would be Sim, seeing as how he has gone quite starkers. But then, we always knew he was insane, so has he really fallen the farthest? I leave that decision up to you, dear reader.

One thing is for certain, though. The mighty have indeed fallen...

-Ryan

Monday, September 8, 2008

Old Man Logan


This eight issue story arc (starting with Wolverine #66) from Mark Miller is set 50 plus years in the future. The Heros have fallen and the United States we are used to is divided up into more and more unpleasant areas. Logan lives in California with his wife and two children. His farm, which I think is a Pig Farm, is not making enough money to pay the rent to his landlords. He refuses to sell his children's toys to pay for rent and when the Banners come a knockin' he gets knocked around like a red headed step child.

At this point in the story arc, Logan refuses to fight, something I hope we find out in later issues. The Banners, descendants from The Hulk, are an inbreed band of bully's who push Logan around but yet he refuses to fight. Down on his luck, Logan gets a visit from his old friend Hawkeye. He has a job for him, running drugs to New Babylon. We get the idea New Babylon is basically Washington D.C. by looking at the convenient map we get in each issue.

Without giving away any spoilers we can see the similarities with the movie "Unforgiven" from Clint Eastwood. The two old warriors on a long journey to save their farm. Even the roll of Hawkeye is played by Morgan Freeman in the movie. With his ability to shoot long distances except for the fact that Hawkeye is now blind. Oops did I give something away? Well you'll have to read it yourself. I saw all the similarities right away but that didn't detract me from lapping this story line up.

It's time to do "The Dark Knight" except with Wolverine and as far as I am concerned it's a no brainer to pick up. It's hip to do everthing dark now and in the long run I might look back at this and realize it was one of the first of MANY comics to go dark in the upcoming months and or years.

Overall this is one of the best story arcs to come out this year. It's by far the best story arc from Marvel. The only thing in my mind that is coming close to this is Pax Romana, from Hickman. We need more Pax Romana! Another great storyline for the year, which has been running for a few years now is "The Walking Dead". Pick up these if you haven't already but I know if you like Wolverine and Mark Miller you are going to love "Old Man Logan."

Story - 5 (It's something new and interesting with a dark and twisted path we are being lead on. Even though it might resemble "The Unforgiven", I still love the idea.

Artwork - 4.5 (The look of this comic is nearly flawless. The only problem I see with it is the darkness in ALL the pages. Then McGiven might be going for this with such a bleak outlook on the world after the Heroes fell, but it gets a little dark at times.)

Michael

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Damn Dirty Apes


Well, we now know the name of the next goddamn comics travesty…and it is Marvel Apes, hitting stands September 3.


Seriously? This is what the world needs right now?


Let's talk about the origins of this crime against humanity for a bit. Some inbred jackhole yelled the idea out across a sweat-saturated auditorium during a San Diego panel last year and Joe Quesada decided it was graphic gold.


Q. I need you to hear me. You are on a bad run, my friend. You need to take a step back and let the writers do your writing. (See: One More Day, Spider-Man)


But this isn't really about a D-Bag who made a bad joke that went too far. Clearly recognizing that the Zombie run is on its last fumes, (thank Christ for small favors), Marvel is attempting to assassinate the Golden Goose once again with this simian abomination.


I'm probably being too reactionary on this, but I felt like throwing up when I first read the story.


And to be fair, it is possible to salvage this piece of 4-color sewage. Most importantly, they need to acknowledge in the books themselves that this is a bad idea. It might work as satire. In the hands of somebody with more sophistication than Karl Kessel.


This could also work if they pull a Grant Morrissonian makeover and force us to feel something surprising for the Gibbon. If we can crawl inside this guy’s head and recognize something unique or greater than we thought, it can work as a character piece.


Finally, if they were to somehow play it straight and turn this bout of silliness into something that feels like a real threat, that would work. Recent history is really working against that, though. Who could feel anything now that we’ve experienced crisis after crisis after crisis after crisis….we're just too numb right now.



.

Get ready for this to suck giant pelican balls.



Oh, the variant excrement is already hitting us in full stride. My guess is that the Cable # 6 ape variant takes a little climb on September 4. Suckers.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Betting On The New Bat


I know we're headed toward Batman overdose here, but this is too good not to mention and the window may be short on this one.

I'm talking about events coming out of the extra excellent Batman: RIP. If you have any interest in Batman as a character and you're not reading this: GET ON IT.

I've been largely dissapointed with Grant Morrison's Batman run up to this point, but he's bringing it all together on RIP. Nobody knows for sure what R-I-P actually stands for, or what will happen to Bruce and the mantle of the Bat.

I won't ruin any more of the actual plot points. (I did some spoiling on the podcast about a month ago) I can say this - the story is taking Batman completely off the rails and taking the reader with him.

Everything is in question right now - and it's more fun than 99% of what's on the rack. There are precious few books that I genuinely can't wait to arrive so I can go home and devour them. Batman is one of those books right now.

Morrison is positively giddy about the clues he's left about Batman's fate and assures us of two things:
1) The ending of RIP is going to blow you away
2) You're going to slap yourself when you go back and look at all the clues he left you

DC has done a better than average job of keeping a lid on the specifics regarding Bruce Wayne and Batman at the end of RIP. What does seem probable is that Gotham is going to have somebody else wearing the mask.

And that's where Batman: Prodigal comes in. I think we've been waiting for Dick Grayson to step into this role for a good long time. And I think we're finally going to get it.

He's been groomed for the job since he was the Boy Wonder, and he's more than proven himself as Nightwing. If Batman is gone or is in any way unable to continue - Grayson's the man.

This scenario has played out before as an arc called "Prodigal" that ran through all of the Batman books and Robin back in 1994. Here's the checklist:

Batman #512-514
Batman: Shadow of the Bat # 32-34
Detective Comics # 679-681
Robin # 11-13

And the floppies are dirt cheap right now and a decent investment at this point. But if Nightwing does step in as the Batman, I really like the trade paperback. (ISBN 1563893347) Prodigal is not a cheap book right now - it's been a solid seller at $40+ for years.

But taking over as Batman pushes that solid gainer toward the $100 level. And I think it's better than a coin flip chance that it happens. Worst case scenario is that you have one of the most dependable easy sells in the out of print market.

But I think you have to move now before the rumor mill really starts churning.

-Ryan

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Watchmen: The Movie


The big star of this year's SDCC was absolutely the upcoming Watchmen film directed by Zach Snyder. If you saw The Dark Knight (which is most of America by now) you saw the trailer, and it sure does look purdy.

I must admit I was impressed with the teaser myself, particularly the way Dr. Manhattan was rendered. It looks great, the source material has an impeccable pedigree, and I trust Snyder to do the right thing on the whole. It's appropriate to be excited about the possibilities of The Watchmen, coming to a screen near you 3/6/2009.

But before we dump a a premature load, let's assess the bigger picture. In particular, let's remind ourselves of that old axiom from the wizened crazy bastard himself: Alan Moore. Alan has been very up front about his writing methods, and from an early stage he purposefully designed his work to be essentially unfilmable.

This is not a secret, it's been a source of debate for years. Attack of the Show covered ComicCon again this year, God bless them, and the first words out of Kevin Pereira's mouth when Snyder appeared for an interview was:

"I thought this was unfilmable? Sure looks like you got some footage to me!" I'm paraphrashing here. And the line was delivered with a good dollop of smugness. Snyder, to his credit, played along but with a good deal more respect.

I think the prevailing opinion at this point is that "The Unfilmable Watchmen" is a pretentious bit of nonsense propagated by an eccentric creator in love with his own genius. That opinion is incorrect. Let me explain.

First of all, what does it mean for a comic book to be "unfilmable"? I think we can at least agree that every medium has its own strengths and weaknesses. The novel, for instance, does really well with showing us the inner thoughts of characters. We're able to crawl inside people's minds and really see what they're experiencing emotionally and what silently motivates them. An author can describe this in great detail and it reads as satisfying. When it's done well, of course.

That sort of interior access is actually quite annoying on film. If you don't believe me, take a poll on how "Blade Runner" fans feel about the original cut of the film with the Harrison Ford voice-over. They HATE it. Inner thoughts and feelings don't translate on film very well, because it's visual. Filming a character thinking is essentially filming somebody doing nothing. And that's not very exciting.

On the flip side, film does things that text novels don't do quite as well. Oh, some hold to the idea that our imagination can produce more powerful imagery than anything you can put on film. Fine, I guess. In reality, film has a significant advantage of text when it comes to our favorite past times: sex and violence.



Would you rather see Uwe Boll's footage of Angelina Jolie's boobs or read William Shakespeare's description of them? Case closed.

The comic book medium has it's own set of unique strengths and weakenesses as well. It's a kind of novel/film hybrid. You get a good dose of visuals, although more stylized than a camera generally produces. You also get some text and at least the possibility of interior access. (although thought balloons have gone out of vogue)

I think comics greatest strenghths are A) The intellectual work the reader creates between panels to fill in the narrative. And B) The "static" nature of the visuals that can simulate dynamic motion, but simultaneously allows the reader to stop and study at their leisure. A movie basically demands that you follow along linearly at the director's pace. A comic book allows much greater user control and selective concentration.

So now that I've rambled on far too long about different mediums, what's the point? The point is that Alan Moore is a really smart guy, and he's dedicated his career to producing work that can either only be produced in comic form, or is rendered best in comic book form. And Watchmen is a part of the latter end of that equation.

Watchmen the comic book has a plot, and that plot can certainly be filmed. The question I would pose is: "Does Watchmen's greatness derive from its plot?" I think most students of the material would agree with me when I say that the answer to that question is an emphatic "no".

I'm not suggesting that Watchmen contains a shoddy plot. It works just fine. There is some legitimate drama in the "who killed the Comedian" mystery, and Ozymandias' scheme is epic, bizarre, and a lot of fun. But that's honestly not where the real juice is.



I think the most obvious example of why you can't film The Watchmen is issue # 5: "Fearful Symmetry". It's a virtuoso performance that can really only be appreciated in comic book form. To be brief the issue contains a series of visual and thematic mirror images. If you look at it front-to-back, you can watch the parrallels clearly. Greater minds than mine have annotated the issue extensively. There are hundreds of mirrors in play in varying complexity.

The magic is this, though: If you just sit down and read it straight through, it doesn't read clunky. All of those machinations produce a fluid narrative. It really is a remarkable achievement in storytelling.

And now I ask you: is Zach Snyder going to film fearful symmetry? How would you recognize it? When would you know to start looking for mirrors, and how would you know when the pair appeared in cinematic form? Would you know to attach significance to William Blake's "The Tyger" during that section of the film? (Moore pulled "fearful symmetry" from the poem as a thematic aid)

You can film a plot, but you can't film The Watchmen. And really, in 2008, why would you want to film a contemporary answer to 1980's Reaganite and Thatcherian politics? I guess it works as a period piece if you can remember what it was like in the 80s and want to revisit it.

It's a different world now. The themes and concerns of 1986 do not resonate in 2008. So what do you do? Change the themes and concerns like they did to V for Vendetta? I guess. But then, is that V? Will The Watchmen really be The Watchmen? I don't see how.

Don't mistake this analysis as a condemnation of the film. I'm not saying they shouldn't have made it. I'm not even saying that I'm not excited to see it. I find Rorschach to be one of the most compelling characters in comics history, and I can't wait to see Jackie Earle Haley's performance of that character. I think it will be rewarding to see that.

But at the same time, will the audience register that Rorschach is a post-modern take on the Golden age Question from Charlton? That's where the juice is. Will they recognize what a departure this nut job is from that innocent time and feel the pangs of what that "innocent" character would probably resemble in "real life"?

Of course not. We're in the post Watchmen, post Dark Knight (Miller, not Nolan) era. We expect our heroes to be psychopaths now. It's a bit of irony that because Watchmen created a different way of looking at comics, a modern audience can't really absorb the impact of it through this movie. It's become passe. You can film a plot, but you cannot film The Watchmen.

I'm not concerned that Watchmen the movie is going to be a travesty. I think it will be highly entertaining. My concern is that here we are in the Golden Age of comic book cinema, and now comes the most legendary of graphic novels. And I think that audiences are going to get to the end of the movie and say "this is the greatest example of the medium"?

Toward the end of the AOTS interview, Zach Snyder said "If the best I can do is make a 3 hour commercial for the comic, I'm happy with that." I hope that it does at least that, but most everything that made the book such an achievement will not be evident on the screen.

- Ryan