39 mins. This show is dedicated to comics creators who offer us projects that surprise us, projects that show a different side to their creativity. From manga to all-ages to, um, Frank Miller we discuss a few unexpected career turns. Also, Superman pyjamas and Grant Morrison’s exercise video.
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Whether you loved it (like me), or you left the cinema scratching your head, one thing’s certain – Watchmen intrigued people. I’ve leant my copy of the TPB to at least 3 people at work. It’s not bad as a ‘gateway book’ for people unfamiliar with sequential art. Sure, it’s complex, but it serves as a bold statement that comics aren’t simple. DC realise that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ work will open a lot of eyes around the world, and are wisely taking advantage of that. Out now are a few more ‘gateway book’s that can ease new readers into the scary world of comics. Even if you’ve read these Trades, you might wanna grab some for friends that find comics hard to grasp. Go here to see the complete list of 20 titles available under the After Watchmen…What’s Next? banner. There’s something for every taste, from classics like Sandman and The Dark Knight Returns to newer works such as Y: The Last Man and Identity Crisis. Below are some of my faves.
Available now is the double feature DVD tying in to Watchmen, and is a must for fans of the film or ground breaking comic series.
As Watchmen readers know, the pirate adventure Tales of the Black Freighter, was a comic within the comic. As an eager kid read it at a newsstand, sometimes the panels would spill over into the narrative of the Watchmen tale. Originally, film director Zack Snyder wanted to film Black Freighter in a manner similar to how he approached 300, but due to budgetary and time constraints, chose to make it a stand-alone animated feature instead. And it was a good choice as Black Freighter is a lush, engrossing story. Written by Snyder with Alex Tse, and directed by Daniel Delpurgatorio and Mike Smith, this 25 minute short film mirrors its printed inspiration beautifully. 300’s Gerard Butler is the primary voice, narrating the descending horrors faced by his sole survivor of an attack by the titular ship of ghouls. Washing ashore, he uses the bloated carcasses of his dead crew as a makeshift raft, fighting sharks and his own descent into darkness, to Davidstown. It is here that his wife and daughters live, and it is also the Freighter’s next target. At least that’s what the captain believes.
The mini-comic inside Watchmen gave me just as many memorable moments as Watchmen did, and it’s satisfying to see them on the screen. It’s filled with simple, yet bold colour choices and gross visuals such as seagulls eating brains and plucking eyeballs. Thus the R rating is understandable, compared to the PG of Under The Hood. The animation is superb and fluid and though not a lot happens, it’s still highly entertaining. You don’t have to look too far to see the allusions to Watchmen’s thematic explorations. Though at first a dark pirate tale may seem an odd companion to a superhero deconstruction, it does sit proudly on the same shelf, just like the other film included on the DVD.
The live action Under The Hood is an imagined documentary about the life of Hollis Mason, who was the original costumed adventurer Nite Owl in the 1940’s world of the Watchmen. Played by Stephen McHattie, as he did in the film, it also includes interviews with Carla Gugino as Sally Jupiter/Silk Spectre, her agent and former husband, as well as bad guys (also seen in the film) Moloch, and the imprisoned midget Big Figure. Set in 1985 TV host Larry Culpeper (played by Ted Friend) introduces us to his 1975 report on Mason in an episode of the Culpeper Minute. He and Mason talk about Mason’s career as a baddie-basher, first as a cop, and then as Nite Owl, in the Gunga Diner. Dialogue from Alan Moore’s Under The Hood excerpt is used, and it brings a geeky smile to my face as Mason explains how he constructed his costume, his motivations for being a superhero (“because it was fun, and the right thing to do.”), how he was inspired by the mysterious debut of the first costumed do-gooder, Hooded Justice, and the assembling of the Minutemen (whose members are seen in authentic looking news footage).
Tying into DC Comics’ rich history, Mason mentions also being wowed by Superman’s first appearance in 1938 in Action Comics #1, and the Golden Age Green Lantern and Blue Beetle are also shown on comic covers.
The archival footage of WWII is used well, but we are only jarred out of the realism when obviously Photoshopped pics of the young Mason are revealed. The whole Hood doco really is well done though. The interviews look like they’ve been lifted directly from 1975, with their slightly grainy and faded look, without being distracting, and the 1985 ads for products such as Veidt’s Nostalgia fragrance, and Seiko’s cutting-edge LCD watches, just add that extra realism.
The actors are vital to these kinds of endeavours. All the cast sell the premise well. Sometimes these kinds of fake docos can be very unconvincing, but writer Hans Rodionoff, director Eric Matthies and the actors pull it off ably.
The extra features are a nice touch too. Usually on straight to DVD experiences like this, the bonuses are usually just an afterthought from the marketing department. However, with Under The Hood, Black Freighter plus the extras the running time for the whole shebang comes in at a rather impressive 2 hours.
Story Within A Story – The Books Of Watchmen is essentially a combination of behind the scenes footage of Watchmen and Tales of the Black Freighter. There are interviews with cast members (Stephen McHattie, Carla Gugino, Jeffrey Dean Morgan), DC creators of the original maxi-series (Jenette Kahn, Len Wein, artist Dave Gibbons and colourist John Higgins) and the director of Under The Hood, Eric Matthies. It’s not exactly a riveting 25 minutes, but is necessary viewing for those unaware of the importance of Alan Moore’s original extras, such as newspaper cutouts and prose pieces as well as the Black Freighter pirate comic that runs within, and alongside the Watchmen story. And if you feel like getting intellectual, influences of Black Freighter, such as German playwright Bertolt Brecht, are mentioned by a few of the interviewees.
Curiously, it also includes a behind the scenes look at the original Nite Owl, Hollis Mason attacking a punk in his home. I assume this will be on the Director’s Cut of the film. Speaking of which, it’ll be interesting to see how director Zack Snyder manages to squeeze the Black Freighter into the film itself when the Director’s Cut DVD is released in July.
The other substantial extra is Chapter One of the Watchmen Motion Comic, which also runs at 25 minutes. I’ve seen so-called animated comics before, and the concept has been around for a long time, but this is far and above the best approach I’ve ever seen. The original Watchmen comic really does come alive, but I’ll say more once I check out the whole 2 discer Motion Comic soon.
The final inclusion amongst the special features is the first look at Green Lantern: First Flight, the next animated DVD release from Warner Bros./DC. It’s being released in July and it looks fantastic, and is a nice present for Hal Jordan, seeing as it’s the 50th anniversary of his creation this year.
Ah, the Watchmen parodies just keep on coming, but this one is right up my alley. My Gen-X, 80s cartoon loving alley. Imagine if the studio who gave the world the cheesy Ninja Turtles toon back in the day got their hands on Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’ seminal work of fiction. Funny, funny stuff, including an amusing theme song, a dancing Nite owl and Dr. Manhattan changing into a car. You can see the rest of creator Harry Partridge’s videos here.
Something sorely lacking from the Watchmen film was this little beauty – a story within the story. More specifically, a comic reader as he read an engrossing pirate tale about a desperate man’s search for survival. However, it’s now available as a DVD, On Demand, Blu-Ray and also from iTunes. Besides the animated Tales of the Black Freighter feature, also included is a live action ‘documentary’ looking at the first Nite Owl, in Under The Hood. Trailer below.
I’ll be honest with you. I only ordered this from Previews because it’s written by Rich Johnston. Rich is the man in the know when it comes to insider goss in the comic book biz, and is always the first to offer up juicy news that gets all those forums hyperactive. I’ve enjoyed his Lying In The Gutters column at CBR for years now and felt it was my civic duty to buy his latest foray into writing comics, rather than about them. He also was extremely kind enough to mention Extra Sequential in his column, as we were one of the few comics sites with daily updates during last year’s Christmas break.
Johnston isn’t a first time creative writer though. The English scribe has written for TV’s Smack The Pony sketch show as well as indie comics such as The X-Files and The Flying Friar.
I must say reading Watchmensch from Brain Scan Studios was a relief. I was blessed enough recently to get a preview copy of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s latest League of Extraordinary Gentlemen adventure from Top Shelf. (See the review in the upcoming Extra Sequential #2!) and was disappointed. Hugely so in fact. As is Moore’s want Century is brimming with the stuff that makes literature students giddy, but makes the rest of us feel somewhat perplexed.
However Watchmensch gave me the happies. It spoke to me. Sure, it’s a niche comic. A very niche comic. Not only is it a Watchmen parody, but it is also filled with a multitude of references to Moore’s unique personality, DC’s mistreatment of its writers and artists, and the troubles with Moore’s film adaptations. Fanboys will eat this up, but everyone else will be left scratching their heads, kinda like the Watchmen film really.
With nods to The Simpsons and reality TV, heartless studio execs and even Ozzy Osbourne, Johnston and artist Simon Rohrmuller have crafted a tidy, black and white laugh giver. It was honestly a refreshing read, and after the sour taste of Century in my mouth, I felt relieved after reading this. It spoke to my inner geek and gave it a warm hug. It’s a good feeling being an insider.
Rohrmuller’s art is very much like Dave Gibbons in places and he uses the constraints of the two colours very well, managing to fill in the panels with enough detail and give great expressions to the characters. It’s no easy feat to summarise the epic that is Watchmen, but this creative duo have done it, even down to exact panel recreations and familiar lines. I won’t say too much about the plot, as the genuine laughs come from the surprises but it’s cleverly done.
The characters we all know and love from Watchmen are amusingly tweaked here, so The Comedian resembles Krusty the Clown, Rorschach becomes the “Jewish” Spottyman and Dr. Manhattan becomes a man who walked under a falling tin of blue paint and became Mr. Broadway.
Thanks Mr. Johnston. I may not be educated enough to get Moore’s latest League (though I loved the first two) but Watchmensch makes me feel part of the in crowd. Yes, it’s a crowd of misunderstood, net-aholics with opinions as varied as their action figure collections, but it’s my crowd. The kind of crowd that will enjoy this too.
Hollywood has been trying to make Watchmen ever since the lauded 12 issue series from DC Comics was released twenty years ago. With a variety of writers and directors attached, the adaptation kept going nowhere. Director Terry Gilliam (Monty Python, The Brothers Grimm) was attached to the project in the late 80s, but soon gave up, after realising that Watchmen was unfilmable. Alan Moore, the writer behind the much loved series agreed with him, and after witnessing unfaithful Moore adaptations, such as V For Vendetta and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Sean Connery’s last film before retiring), it became glaringy obvious that Moore’s works should remain on the page, not the screen.
However, as it was announced that director Zack Snyder was attached, after his faithful 300 film stuck close to Frank Miller’s comic, fans became cautiously optimistic. Snyder is a brave man though. Watchmen is revered, and rightly so. You’re not a fanboy unless you’ve read it. Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons’ masterpiece is to the medium of sequential art what War and Peace is to literature, or Citizen Kane is to cinema. Yep, that’s how big a deal it is.
Of course, it’s really only those who have been reading comics for any considerable amount of time who know anything about Watchmen. That’s all due to change now though, and that’s a good thing. Those expecting just another standard superhero movie won’t find that here. It’s a good thing Watchmen wasn’t made twenty years ago, as superhero films weren’t the hot commodity they are today (and Watchmen subverts expected superhero clichés) and special effects have advanced greatly. So, what’s it all about then?
On the surface, Watchmen is about a group of retired superheroes set in 1985 who loosely reform when one of their own is brutally murdered, and it looks like every other superhero is a target. Gruff voiced vigilante Rorschach (named for his moving ink blot like mask), played by Jackie Earle Haley, discovers the death of The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan from TV’s Grey Anatomy and Supernatural) in the film’s brutal opener by a mysterious man. As Rorschach narrates throughout most of the film, he warns his former team mates, Silk Spectre II (Malin Ackerman), the unearthly Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson) and Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) about the potential mask killer.
The film does an excellent job of creating a fully immersive environment. I can’t remember the last time I was transported to another world with such relish. Keeping the story set in late 1985 is a wise decision, with the U.S versus Russian threat of nuclear Armageddon being pivotal to the story’s structure. The relatively unknown cast do a superb job with their distinctive characters, but Wilson as the slightly overweight Nite Owl II, pining for days of glory past, and Haley as the menacing anti-hero Rorschach stand out.
I won’t say much more, for those unfamiliar with the rest of the narrative, save to say that if you’re expecting another Spider-Man or Iron Man, don’t. Watchmen is far removed from any superhero film you’ve ever witnessed. It’s almost 3 hours long, and is riveting all the way. There’s some great dark humour and typical Snyder slow-mo action, and it’s all mixed up with some resounding themes about the meaning of humanity, the cost of peace and the skewed psychology of crime fighters.
The original 400 page book, which collects the 12 issue series, has been flying off the shelves lately, and is filled with extras that the film can’t capture, such as excerpts from diaries, memoirs and psychiatrist’s notes, all which serve to remind the reader about Moore’s brilliant dedication to detail. The other notable omissions from the film would be the catastrophic and bloody ending, and the Tales of the Black Freighter comic woven throughout the book, though an animated DVD of this will be released at the end of March. The main contention with the film, from loyal comics readers, has been the slightly different ending, but Snyder is extremely faithful to the comic, with literal dialogue used abundantly. The ending, as it is in the comic, would be jarring to cinema audiences, but the intent remains the same and doesn’t suffer for it’s variation from Moore’s creation.
This is a powerful film, and one that will definitely be shocking to some. The violence is brutal, the heroes aren’t what you expect (Rorschach kills, The Comedian shoots his pregnant lover, beats civilians, and much worse) and there is nudity, and raw sex scenes throughout. So, be warned, this isn’t intended for children. Watchmen is an adult film.
The music is great and helps sell the time period. Usually it works, such as the subtle use of Tears For Fears’ Everybody Wants To Rule The World, and at times mis-fires, such as with 99 Luftballoons, or The Sounds of Silence. It’s when choral or classical pieces are used that the effect really works.
Snyder should be congratulated for taking on this mammoth endeavour, and for doing the original proud. His hard work, and the studio backing, has paid off. Those unfamiliar with comics in general may be taken aback, but that’s a good thing. There’s a whole world of intelligent, intellectual comics out there, of which Watchmen sits atop the pile. The movie is its cinematic equal, and I never expected to say that.
ow this is a good idea DC! A hearty pat on the back from me to you. Watchmen opens next month in cinemas everywhere, but it’s really only fanboys that know, and revere, the classic 12 issue series from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Many cinema goers won’t necessarily have any idea of the film’s roots as a classic revolutionary epic. Official press release below regrading a wise incentive that will hopefully change that.
DC COMICS ANNOUNCES “AFTER WATCHMEN, WHAT’S NEXT?” PROGRAM
The excitement surrounding the upcoming WATCHMEN feature film has brought new readers to the graphic novel format. Now that they’ve read WATCHMEN, where do they go next? Help point them in the right direction with DC Comics’ “AFTER WATCHMEN, WHAT’S NEXT?” program.
DC Comics has developed a marketing campaign that spotlights several award-winning, best-selling titles from our various imprints. Each book reflects an aspect of WATCHMEN’s broad appeal — including other works by Alan Moore, science fiction tales, post-modern super hero action and sophisticated titles for mature readers — and is a great entry point for both new fans just discovering graphic novels and established readers looking to try something new.
The program is supported by an extensive marketing campaign including five promotionally-priced reprint Specials which are rush solicited below.
The marketing campaign includes:
Five “AFTER WATCHMEN, WHAT’S NEXT?” Specials featuring a cover price of just $1.00:
• SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING #21 SPECIAL EDITION
• TRANSMETROPOLITAN #1 SPECIAL EDITION
• PLANETARY #1 SPECIAL EDITION
• PREACHER #1 SPECIAL
• IDENTITY CRISIS #1 SPECIAL
Please see below for more information on these Specials.
• 32-page booklet to be given away at conventions, comics shops and book stores
• House ads in the DC Universe, Vertigo and WildStorm titles
• Editorial page promotions in Vertigo: On the Ledge, DC Nation and WildStorm Stormfront columns
• Trade ads
• E-mail Blasts
• National Consumer Online Banner Advertising Campaign
• Retailer Tools on DC Comics retailer page on diamondcomics.com
• Checklist, Header Card, Shelf Talker and Bag Slick
• Bag Stuffer for DC Retailer page for Direct Market retailers
• AFTER WATCHMEN, WHAT’S NEXT? MySpace Group
• AFTER WATCHMEN, WHAT’S NEXT? Facebook Group
• Ad pages in Convention Program Guides
• 32-page Booklet distribution at DC booth
• Bookmark distribution at DC booth
• Website at www.readwatchmen.com
• Showcase titles on the homepages of DC, WildStorm and Vertigo throughout February, March and April to capture new WATCHMEN readers
• Articles on DC, Vertigo and WildStorm homepages
• Co-op Movie Slide
• Co-op Ad Slick
DC COMICS RUSH SOLICITS FIVE “AFTER WATCHMEN, WHAT’S NEXT?” SPECIALS
Tying into the new “After Watchmen, What’s Next?” program, DC rush solicits five key titles priced at just $1.00 each!
These titles will arrive in stores weekly beginning March 11, and prominently feature the “After Watchmen, What’s Next?” branding and trade dress. Each is offered to all Diamond retailers at a special “C” discount code of 60% off.
Retailers may order these issues by contacting their Diamond Customer Service Representative or DC Sales Representative, or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The “AFTER WATCHMEN, WHAT’S NEXT?” Specials are:
SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING #21 SPECIAL EDITION (JAN098009)
Written by Alan Moore
Art by Stephen Bissette & John Totleben
Cover by Tom Yeates
On sale March 11; 32 pg, FC, $1.00 US • MATURE READERS
Final Order Cutoff date: February 19
TRANSMETROPOLITAN #1 SPECIAL EDITION (JAN098010)
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Darick Robertson & Jerome K. Moore
Cover by Geof Darrow
On sale March 18; 32 pg, FC, $1.00 US • MATURE READERS
Final Order Cutoff date: February 26
PLANETARY #1 SPECIAL EDITION (JAN098011)
Written by Warren Ellis
Art and cover by John Cassaday
On sale March 25; 32 pg, FC, $1.00 US
Final Order Cutoff date: March 5
PREACHER #1 SPECIAL EDITION (JAN098012)
Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Steve Dillon
Cover by Glenn Fabry
On sale April 1; 48 pg, FC, $1.00 US • MATURE READERS
Final Order Cutoff date: March 12
IDENTITY CRISIS #1 SPECIAL EDITION (JAN098013)
Written by Brad Meltzer
Art by Rags Morales & Michael Bair
Cover by Michael Turner
On sale April 8; 48 pg, FC, $1.00 US
Final Order Cutoff date: March 19