Who’s Watching Watchmen? (TQP #0061)
“Now Iron Man and even more so The Dark Knight move the genre into deeper waters. They realize, as some comic-book readers instinctively do, that these stories touch on deep fears, traumas, fantasies and hopes.” (Italics/bold mine.)
Roger Ebert is apparently under the impression that comics readers are too stupid to realize that there are stories being told with all them pretty pictures.
This isn’t the first left-handed compliment Ebert’s offered to comics fans. But he’s like 70, he’s just endured a pretty major heath scare, and also he’s pretty much an expert in his chosen field. So fine, I’ll cut him some slack.
Then I go and read this, in Entertainment Weekly’s preview of the Watchmen movie:
“Until recently, the director belonged to a school of thought that believed this dense, dark jewel — the fanboy’s Catcher in the Rye, the rite-of-passage text for any serious geek — couldn’t and maybe shouldn’t be made into a movie.”
Which implies that the Catcher in the Rye for fanboys isn’t, well, Catcher in the Rye. Once again, the subtext to this sentence is “This is the most brilliant thing you’ve ever read – if you don’t read actual books.”
It hit me that articles about comic-related stuff seem to have finally grown out of the “Bang! Zap! Comics Aren’t Just for Kids Anymore!” headlines which had been fairly typical. This is appreciated.
Now, articles like to toss in a subtle message for the non-comic book reader that most comic book readers are not terribly smart adults. This is less appreciated.
The two above examples are fine displays of my first pet peeve – the subtly snide reference that dismisses an entire medium. “Comics – sorry, ‘graphic novels’ – are appreciated among the fanboys,” or some snickering equivalent. Which leads me to pet peeve number 2: they use the term “fanboy” without really grasping its actual definition.
“Fanboys” are the socially awkward obsessives most comic book readers dismiss. But they’re not the majority of readers. They’re the ones the rest of us worry about.
Saying “fanboys” are the ones who object to Watchmen getting made automatically tells non-comics readers that their reservations are just the nitpickings of weirdoes.
I’m reading Watchmen again for the first time since I was a teenager (when, by the way, I liked Catcher in the Rye a hell of a lot more). And I’m here to tell you, the reason you shouldn’t make Watchmen isn’t because of “fanboy” gripes like “They’ll mess up the costumes!” or “They won’t stick in the ‘Black Freighter’ material!”
It’s because Watchmen is specifically structured to take advantage of the comic page format. The 9-panel grids, the slow, seamless flashbacks and side commentary, all of these are pretty essential to telling the story properly. And they were specifically developed to be used in a comic book.
Even more problematic is the plot itself, It’s a deconstruction of superhero tropes, traditions, and minutiae. The vast majority of a movie audience doesn’t have the necessary genre background to really understand the major thematic points put forth.
These are the reasons a Watchmen adaptation is a truly tough sell. I’m sure the costumes will look fine.
See, Roger? I came up with that all by myself, too.