Category Archives: comic blogs

Watchmehhhh (see what I did there?)

Went to see Watchmen last night and it underwhelmed in the ways I expected it to. Prior to the viewing, my friend Jenn and I discussed that potentially, this film is inseparable from its viewers’ preconceptions. Those prejudiced against its various adaptive liberties would remain so, and conversely those stoked to finally see it on the screen would probably be invigorated by the whole shebang. This seems to hold water with reviews (held up to preceding levels of enthusiasm expressed) on a few of the blogs I follow . (And with those individual prejudices guiding judgment of the film, there’s a terrible joke about viewings of the film being a viewer’s own Rorschach test.)

Jenn has been ecstatic about the movie’s opening, so much so that in making plans to see it,  I talked her down from waiting in line for the midnight opening showing. She loved it. My girlfriend who only read the first dozen pages or so of the comic and with little to no preconceptions, liked it mostly okay. Her biggest problem was a general sense of missing something about the plot and characters. Rather than getting a sense for Moore’s wrestling with uncertainty and conflict, she walked away with Snyder’s tableau of vaguery. And overall I’m pretty ambivalent about what I saw on screen, with some strong dislikes about its style balanced with some parts and performances that I genuinely enjoyed. So my judgment and assessment falls into a few different categories:

  • Watchmen The Movie™ as adaptation = Mixture of success and failure
  • Watchmen The Movie™ as action movie = Okay
  • Watchmen The Movie™ as merchandizing cash cow = What the fuck is wrong with people?

In a lot of ways this movie is like Paula Abdul’s “Opposittes Attract,” in terms of directorial choices being made, for every two-steps forward– there’s two-steps back. The visual design of the film is phenomenal. I can’t imagine a better looking adaptation of Dave Gibbons’ art, but the flaw isn’t with how it looks so much as how it moves. The slow-motion scenes were excessive and dull, that they took me right out of the scene (although I think the exception is the Comedian’s jump into the rioting crowd), that places the film unironically back into the mold of so many terrible superhero action movies.

Jackie Earle Haley (Moocher!) gives a pitch-perfect performance as Rorschach, but occasionally has to share the screen with the vacuum of personality that is Malin Ackerman’s Silk Spectre. The rest of the cast is mostly fine to unremarkable, but as a whole lacking in cohesion and consistency. It often feels like everyone is in their own separate movie with conflicting tones and feelings1.

Like just about everyone else, I like the opening credits w/ Dylan’s “Times They Are A Changin.'” The opening was indeed great, but sadly for many of my friends, it was their favorite part of the entire film. But after that, all other uses of popular song in the film were uniformly awful. The songs should’ve elevated the scenes or provided an ironic subtext, but in nearly every use, song choices deflated meaning, mood, and tension. Worse still was the original soundtrack, which telegraphed far too much and much too cheesily. There’s something to be said for restraint, and whatever that something is, Snyder certainly never heard it.

Overall, I think he got it wrong. The movie on its own terms is okay, and functions as an average to better action movie. But I was never a fan of the Watchmen for its action-movie qualities. I liked the original’s subversive themes and character deconstructions alongside layers of mystery, conspiracy, and meta-commentary. So, it’s hard to get enthused about it being an o-kay action flick, shitty thriller, and totally unsatisfying exploration of legacy/history/identity.

I know that as I’m complaining about the lack of understanding it shows to its characters, that I’m potentially falling into the archetype of wounded-nerd, hater, super cynic, etc. I like to thinks2 I gave it a fair shot, but as a counterpoint to my largely negative opinions, funny-man Patton Oswalt’s posted an impassioned defense of Watchmen The Movie™, offering that in most nerds’ eyes– no one could’ve gotten it right. And maybe he’s right, but then again he mentions in that blog post how great the show Burn Notice is and that show’s leads are possibly the only people I can imagine being less capable than Malin Ackerman of using their acting talent to escape from a paper bag. (This show also makes me incredibly sad for Bruce Campbell, and the inversion of his tendancy to appear in crappy but awesome projects, into acting in an awesomely crappy project.)

More than anything about Watchmen The Movie™ itself, the thing that’s skeeving me out the most is the attendant merchandising. Specifically the commodifying of the Comedian (aspiring rapist and nationalist stooge) and Rorschach (paranoid sociopath and racist/misogynist/homophobic triple threat) into action figures, potential Legoplaysets, and adorning the walls of both the cluelessly misguided and the outright assholes. Of course, there’s the societal benefit that anyone wearing the shirt pictured at left is easily identifiable as an unpitiable shitbird to be avoided at all costs. Yes there are other villains like the Joker that get turned into toys and Hot Topic shirts– but part of what makes the Comedian and Rorschach marketable now, is the superficial sanitization of their characters3. Like the subtle editing of Rorschach’s opening monologue4, the streamlined film versions aren’t wholly inaccurate but in smoothing over their edges and making them more palatable for public consumption– the movie misses so much of the point of Moore’s original work, that it’s hard to find much solace in Snyder’s fidelity to the dangling blue wang of the original.

1 It almost makes me wish that Haley’s castmates from Breaking Away could’ve joined him, imagine: Dave Stoller (Dennis Christopher) as Adrian Veidt, Mike (Dennis Quaid) as Dr. Manhattan, Cyril (Daniel Stern) as the Owl, and Rod could be the Comedian (b/c they’re both dicks, gettit?). Almost.

2 Originally a typo, but methinks I should try to popularize this ala the British pluralizing of the “maths”

3 In my reading, the two represent extremes of conservatism taken to its most villainous ideological ends. On one hand, the Comedian as the cynical über-nationalist, whose faith in Manifest Destiny and America’s moral certainty justifies any excess. Rorschach conversely is the extreme isolationist whose xenophobia and fear of influence can’t allow any cracks in his own moral certainty.

4 In the film, Rorschach says, “The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the politicians will look up and shout, ‘Save us!’… and I’ll look down and whisper, ‘no.’ All those liberals and intellectuals and smooth-talkers… and all of a sudden no one can think of anything to say.” Whereas in the original he says:

“The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout, ‘Save us!’… and I’ll look down and whisper, ‘no.’ They had a choice, all of them. They could have followed in the footsetps of good men like my father or president truman. Decent men who believed in a day’s work for a day’s pay. Instead they followed the droppings of lechers and communists and didn’t realize that the trail led over the precipice until it was too late. Don’t tell me they didn’t have a choice. Now the whole world stands on the brink, staring down into bloody hell, all those liberals and intellectuals and smooth-talkers… and all of a sudden no one can think of anything to say.”

The editing diminishes Rorschach’s sexual dysfunction and larger sense of paranoia, instead tailoring him into a more recognizable but still somewhat extreme conservative ideologue. It’s a separate question whether any editing of the dialogue would have a similar diminishing effect, but in this case the omission in subject and change of emphasis (from universal to specific) does have an impact on the overall meaning and characterization of Rorschach.

Gay Panic in the Streets of Geekdom

The writers at nerd-news blog Topless Robot are exposing their own insecurities perhaps, with a lazy gay-panic punchline in a post asking for readers’ “Most Shameful RPG Moment.” Soliciting  “hilarious, heartbreaking and embarrassing stories” of tabletop RPG gaming, the writer provides this scenario as an example:

Have you ever had a character who sex with another member of the party, even though both characters were played by guys? And felt horrified about it? Good, you should’ve, because that’s some freaky shit. [Note: emphasis mine]

It seems almost quaint to me, that a nerd’s biggest fear might be being perceived as, “Gay.” This sort of homophobia in geeks is a dissonance that I’ve never understood. I’ve always been of the belief that those marginalized by society (whether by race, orientation, or alignment)  share a common persecutor and should naturally ally against intolerance.

Maybe it’s my viewpoint that’s quaint, but somehow I think that if you took a wide poll of self-identified geeks and nerds, the fear of being perceived as “Gay,” wouldn’t rate in the top 10. My number one geek fear right now is the oppositte– that I might share anything in common with the intolerant sort of geeks who are still grossed out by the idea of two dudes kissing each other. With mainstream pop-culture eating up Superhero and SciFi properties, video games as big business, and the internet emerging as the dominant communication medium; nerds can’t be made fun of for what they like anymore, so much as they can be made fun of for what they are like.

Few people are going to deride you for watching Watchmen (except maybe Alan Moore) or playing Left 4 Dead, because comic books and zombies are officially part of the mainstream zeitgeist. On the other hand, obsessively creating a fantasy world whose moral/ethical values mirror your own specifically intolerant and juvenile power fantasies will always be worthy of mockery.

In a double backflip of irony, Topless Robot’s bit of bland homophobia sits beneath a satirically placed Chick tract illustration, wherein a character freaks out about their D&D character dying before attempting suicide themselves. Looks like someone rolled a -12 for self-awareness.

p.s. No links to Topless Robot were included because, why give them the traffic?

Le Sigh

Sometimes, most times, I think I should be a lot more dedicated to my writing and updating of this here thing. And then sometimes, I wonder why, oh god why do people look at this misbegotten stain I call a blog. A while back I made note of the fact that many of the site views are coming from folks who probably don’t want to be here, arriving by the magickal musings of Google and sometimes Google Image Search. Fortunes have not improved for those cast upon the spiny shores of my sporadically updated internet fiefdom, as the reporting on recent Search Engine Terms that led here will illustrate. Going through the Terms is sort of a rorschach test reflection of this here blog, so here is an abridged list of said Search Engine Terms, in descending order of frequency with my commentary in parentheses.

  • spider girl (I’ve since deleted the image file and half-assed post that discussed my general dislike of this type of teen character, the “Daughter from an Alternate Universe,” largely because these characters are bereft of originality and any inspiration, in addition to the discomfort caused by the awkward sexualization inherent in these characters who are often marketed to young females, as if giving Spider-man boobs is some great gift to feminists and female comic fans.)
  • spidergirl (And yet…)
  • spider-girl (…she must be popular, somehow. What do I know about girls or popularity or anything else, anyway?)
  • hack/slash (Case in point.)
  • hack slash (*sigh*)
  • batman shark (Conversely, these are words that I would encourage the strongest association with in every aspect of my life.)
  • shark repellent (Yes, PMA is making it happen!)
  • batman shark repellent (Three-fer.)
  • cesar romero (Again, a boon to my blog.)
  • russian painter (I have no idea.)
  • joker brian azzarello sex (Still think this book sucks.)
  • bruce the rubber shark (Again, awesome such associations shall remain.)
  • spider girl pics (Really? Still?)
  • rob liefeld (Well, you can’t win them all.)
  • peanuts comics with references to god (Surprisingly specific search there.)
  • teen ass (Ye gods, I hope this blog was a wood-killer.)
  • batman and sharks (More to celebrate.)
  • rubber dungeon (Again, no idea.)
  • too short mini skirts (While I’m generally “pro-boner,” again in this case I hope my writings here have banished all erections which may have mistakenly arrived here.)
  • “all star goddamn batman” (Oh, Franky.)
  • cin cite sexxxxxy (Oh, cranky Franky, Frank, Frank, Frrrank, Frank-a-doodle, Frankenheimer.)
  • spectacular boobs (Spectacular!)
  • powerful woman (Well, that’s a change of pace.)
  • batman and shark (How we love the status quo.)
  • batman, shark (In all its permutations, these words are beautiful.)
  • P.S. Ironically, including all these terms in this post will promote further association with these terms and damn me to an ever spiralling level of meta-commentary blogging about blogging purgatory.

    Preview: Incognito

    Local comic book writer Ed Brubaker just posted a five-page preview of his new title Incognito on his Myspace page. Prolific and probably the best genre-writer working in the industry right now, Brubaker’s latest intersection of hard crime and heavy capes follows the story of Zack Overkill, an ex-supervillain in the Witness Protection Program. Working with his talented Criminal co-conspiritor Sean Phillips, Incognito looks just as seedy, sordid, and entertaining as anything they’ve done so far.

    Here are the preview pages for your viewing pleasure.

    incognito pg1

    More after the jump…

    Continue reading

    Blog, Interrupted

    this is my desktop.

    Art from Batman 668 by JH Williams III

    I’m in the middle of a move, sooo I won’t be bloggering much this week. I’ve also got some SECRET PROJECTS in the works that should make this site a lot more exciting to look at in the near future. So, to tide ye over in the mean time, check out cool stuff like JH Williams (the 3rd) or Paul Pope’s respective Flickr pages.

    And if your eyes don’t get filled up from all the awesome on display on those respective pages, the Scotsman at Bad Librarianship has a whole sidebar full of comic-creator Flickr pages (and blogs). Word.

    RE: Nunchucks? More Like Fun-Chucks!

    So, Chris Sims the Invincible Superblogger posted an epic tale of Brave & Bold Lego Adventurin’ that was subsequently illustrated by ISB reader Kate Holden leading to more illustrations and inspiration for an ISB contest. The rules? Simply illustrate Batman wielding nunchuks made up of something that is not traditionally used for the making of nunchuks. So, here’s my entry and possibly the first in a series…

    Disclaimer: Any Laffs™ associated with this post may require prior knowledge of Goddamn Batman, his sidekicks, and a more abstract and generally affable response to Nunchuku-related humours.

    All Star Goddamn Batman Recall

    All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder has been Frank Miller’s self-parodying gift to bloggers, who have yet to determine whether its epic crappiness as a comic is deliberate or (probably) not. While the jury is still out on that question, in a dashing stroke of magnanimity Miller (and DC’s editorial department) have given the interwebs yet another gift. Truly their cups runneth over.

    Funnybook Babylon has the scoop on an ASBARBW #10’s recall, which was caused by a botched attempt to censor Miller’s salty dialogue. The cuss words were to be printed with black bars to obscure the profanity (which maybe shouldn’t have been printed at all if they didn’t want folks to read it?) but as can be seen in the example below (also from the folks at Funnybook Babylon), you can still make out the swears. Check out their original article for more examples of the offending language, and repeated references (within 2 consecutive panels?!) to Batgirl as a “sweet piece,” and “jailbait.” Ladies and gentlemen, let’s have a round of applause for Frank Miller, keeping dialogue fresh and classy as a waft of FeBreeeeeze in your pee-hole.