Monday, February 9, 2009

Fear and Loathing in Overland Park pt 93

Our first look into the world of Watchmen as the movie gets closer and closer to release. And the first one will be about creator Alan Moore.

Well, co-creator Alan Moore. If you have any interest in this film, it might be worthwhile to take a look at this blog. Then again, it might not. Just depends on how you feel.

Alan Moore is a madman. He’s a genius. A spectator, and to comics fans, something of a god among men.

All writers aspire to be him. All artists aspire to work with him. All fans want to meet him. But he can’t even set foot in the United States.

He’s a madman and a futurist. And according to his personal life tag on Wikipedia, “Moore was born in Northampton, England to brewery worker Ernest Moore and printer Sylvia Doreen. He lived in a very poor area, and was expelled from school in 1970 at the age of 17 for dealing LSD, later describing himself as ‘one of the world’s most inept LSD dealers.’ With his first wife Phyllis, he had two daughters, Amber and Leah. The couple also had a mutual lover Deborah. In time, Phyllis, Deborah and the two children left Moore. On May 12, 2007, he married Melinda Gebbie, with whom he has worked on several comics. He currently lives in Northampton. He is a vegetarian, an anarchist, a practicing magician and occultist, and he worships a Roman snake-deity named Glycon.”

Now whether or not that’s all true, one can venture a guess, having read any of his work, that it probably and most certainly is. And to each one of you out there, you may not know his name, but you’ve probably seen a movie based on one of his works.

From Hell with Johnny Depp and Heather Graham, based on the comic of the same name, about Jack the Ripper.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, starring Sean Connery, based on the comic of the same name, about a group of Victorian-era heroes based on literary figures and novel stars.

V for Vendetta, starring Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving, about a man who takes on a government after being tortured by it.

And soon to be Watchmen, a story of the 1980s and an impending apocalypse all for the sake of heroes, starring Billy Crudup and a bunch of people you may never have heard of.

He’s written some of the best long-form comics, graphic novels, minis, and everything a comic fan could enjoy, but unless I make my merry way over to England, I may never meet him.

He hates films based on his creations and goes out of his way to not see them, be a part of them, or do anything but deride anyone involved in them.

He has even gone so far as to taking his name off the works since they are generally products he does not agree with (see V for Vendetta and Watchmen).

But what does he truly mean to comic fans? To aspiring writers who’ve grown up on his products and now face the daunting task of living up to one’s own personal hero?

What does he mean to me, personally, and what will he mean to you, the reader?

Lets start from the beginning.

The first time I ever read an Alan Moore story, I was too young to have any clue what I was reading. I was too young to understand the big words he was using, the broad strokes of genius he was showing me, and the pure imagination seeping off the page.

I was just a dumb young kid who loved Swamp Thing and wanted to read a comic based on Swamp Thing.

Lo and behold, Alan Moore had written some Swamp Thing comics that I managed to get my hands on as a kid and just sit there, reading them, poring over the pictures of Swamp Thing, and thinking it was the coolest thing ever.

My child’s brain didn’t comprehend what I was reading at the time. I was reading a story that dealt with a very strange person and the woman who loved him in spite of his being a plant creature and something so terrifying and gross that you wouldn’t want an 8 year old reading this if you had any chance to keep it away from him.

My morbid little brain was probably rotted from that day forward, but I had no clue. I didn’t know Swamp Thing was having a sexual relationship with a woman. I had no clue Moore was discussing politics and environmental issues and issues regarding life and the afterlife. I just knew it was a story about Swamp Thing.

My first Superman comic ever was one written by Alan Moore and it’s one you may have heard of and one that you may not have. If you’ve seen it or read it, you know what I’m talking about. For the Man Who Has Everything.

A story about Superman receiving memories of living on Krypton and being stuck in a hallucination because of one of his super-villains. It’s ranked as one of the greatest Superman stories ever told, and if they made a movie featuring this as one of the major plot pieces, you would agree.

It’s haunting, it’s depressing, and it shows what would happen if someone screwed with Superman to the point of desperation, breaking his will and shoving him against a wall. And what you get isn’t standard white-bread boy scout Superman. You get a bastard who is pissed.

Being who he is, he takes characters to the breaking point, the point of no return. He shoves them into a place where there should be no coming back, but there always is. It’s a comic book, so you can always find rescue, or a way out. But the stories he tells, you root for them to fail. You root for them to be darker.

It makes them more compelling.

And he probably gets some weird glee out of seeing both the character and reader squirm. And that’s what we do.

From Hell, the comic, is gross. But beyond gross, it is heavily detailed, plotted to insane amounts, and as thick as a phonebook. But it is that way because he spent time researching it. He came up with a plausible look at who Jack the Ripper really was, and we believed it. One of the longest running mysteries was finally discovered and proven.

And then the movie came out and played it for gore.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, just like all the comics he created for ABC Comics (America’s Best Comics), was imaginative, insane, and all kinds of cool. It had vampires, it had Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, it had all these Victorian era heroes and main characters from novels we’ve all had to read, and it was actually a new story about them. A team featuring Captain Nemo and the Invisible Man sounds like it should be stupid, but the comic was glorious.

And then the movie came out and played it for explosions and tried to be a blockbuster.

And Watchmen, his magnum opus, is the comic we will be discussing in detail as we fear and loathe from this point on until the release date of March 6th. If you look at all of his films and comics as separate entities, they will withstand the test of time.

His comics, I mean. The films based on his work, while somewhat entertaining at times, will not.

V for Vendetta, while an enjoyable movie with some really great scenes, is not a great film. Enjoyable yes, but the comic/graphic novel is outstanding.

Take a look at it and tell me if it’s not one of the best things, one of the most involved things you’ll ever read, and tell me that the book isn’t better than the movie.

Depending on who you ask, V for Vendetta is the Holy Grail of comics, and the movie is just a bastardized version of a great story, a story about a world and a government with too much power that is slowly taking everything over, and a man who wants to fight it.

I mean, how much more similar could it be to what we dealt with as a society for 8 years? A world spinning into chaos and despair and certain people wanted to fix things.

So as we inch closer and closer to the release of Watchmen, we are left wondering, what will happen?

It truly is the Holy Grail of Comic Books, one in which almost down the line comics fans and non-comics fans alike can agree that this is an amazing piece of literature, an amazingly well-crafted look at a society teetering on the brink of destruction, and again, a world that is allowing it’s government and it’s heroes way too much power.

It’s considered a deconstruction of superheroes, breaking them down into just human beings with strange powers, and ever since the release of this, all comics have aspired to be Watchmen, whether that is a good thing or a bad thing.

It’s the most universally accepted comic, one you can find on college campuses in lit classes, in bookstores next to Twilight books, in grocery stores and Targets, and little specialty comic shops that smell like old paper.

It’s the book that all comics aspire to be because it has withstood 20+ years of people pouring over it, deconstructing the work, looking deeper and deeper into the meanings behind the words and the meanings behind the page structure and the meanings of every small nuance, and each year passes to give us something more from this book.

It made lists of greatest novels, greatest works of fiction, and it has been awarded numerous prizes for it’s work.

And the movie will be released on March 6th and appears to have the interests of the comic fan and the Watchmen fan at heart. But will it? It’s terrifying, to a certain degree, to think that a film that passed through the hands of two of my favorite directors, Aronofsky and Gilliam, is now in the hands of the guy who directed the remake of Dawn of the Dead, but alas, it’s coming.

And I don’t know whether to be scared or excited.

I will say this, Alan Moore is a genius.

Whether he wants to talk about it or not, whether he wants to be known as the creator of Watchmen or not, he will forever be the genius behind the comic that has driven hundreds and thousands and possibly millions of people to strive for more in what they read and what they create. He will forever be the genius behind the comic that swept up our imagination and made us take a closer look at our heroes.

And he will forever be known as the man who made us ask the question, who watches the Watchmen?


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