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Note: Spoilers For All Discussed Comics Follow!
TREND: WATCHMEN’S CURSE OF ETERNAL LIFE
Truth be told, without Watchmen’s major motion picture adaptation, I might not be that into comics. Sure, I still would have been recapturing the nostalgic joy of Marvel Comics that I’d never explored in depth, but I almost certainly wouldn’t have borrowed a roommate’s copy of the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons classic when I did. Awash in snooty high-brow literature like the collected works of James Joyce and Vladmir Nabokov’s Lolita, Watchmen measured right up to the heavyweights while providing that comic book high.
I saw the Zach Snyder movie first, and thought, sure, that was fine.
I read the graphic novel and thought: Oh my heavens, I love comics.
A lot has changed since that time, and I’ve read a whole lot of comics. As a result, I’m increasingly of a mindset that TV or film adaptations of beloved comics are not a particularly good idea, or at least not particularly for me. My favorite comics-to-tv adaptations of the past decade are either drastic reinventions of books I was only minorly aware of (iZombie), or mainlined straight into my Marvel fan veins (Daredevil and Jessica Jones season one on Netflix).
In general, I tune out very quickly to stories that regurgitate stories I’ve already enjoyed via comics. I almost never rewatch movies, I listen to dozens of new albums every month, and I’m constantly on the prowl for new comics.
Why would I want to rewatch the same story on a different medium? I already know how it goes.
That’s the general fatigue I carried over to HBO’s latest announcement that Watchmen would once again be dragged out of the closet for a television series run by Damon Lindelof. Seemingly unafraid of overexposure, the beloved graphic novel – it is, in fact, ranked #1 on my list of nearly 400 of the best comics of all time – is being resurfaced by DC Comics at alarming rates. First the publisher rolled out the ill-advised prequels Before Watchmen, they’re now in the middle of the inconsistent sequel known as Doomsday Clock, and the future promises yet another take on the source material. Toss in DC’s apparent middle finger wagging at creator Alan Moore (in addition to Watchmen, they’ve also opened the floodgates for Tom Strong and Promethea in recent months), and we may well be in for a Watchmen Cinematic Universe, consequences be damned.
Against my better judgment, though, I’m starting to get excited about HBO’s Watchmen.
Much of this is due to Damon Lindelof’s letter to the fans this week, in which the LOST and Leftovers talent brilliantly wrote of his own deeply personal connection to the material. There’s little doubt – after reading the letter in the style of Dr. Manhattan’s famous Watchmen sequence – that Lindelof is the right creative mind to try to bring the material to TV. He even flat out admits the creator rights implications make it an unethical move on his part – far from carte blanche to carry on, but at least the requisite self-awareness.
Notably, Lindelof also promises the series will be a “remix” rather than a shot for shot remake ala Snyder. It should hardly need saying but a remix is a good thing, and pretty clearly the only sensible option available to the franchise. Casting news this week suggests character changes and choices that may well reimagine Watchmen in unique and unexpected ways.
And suddenly, I’m intrigued.
There’s a part of me, based on my own experience, that will always think even a terrible Watchmen TV series on HBO will be a win if any number of new readers pick up a copy and experience the possibilities of the medium for the first time.
Since we’ll never let Watchmen die: Long live Watchmen
DC Comics Review
Issue: DC Nation #0
I’ll be tackling each individual storyline from the blessedly cheap (a single American quarter!) primer for DC’s summer 2018 output. Sure, the paper stock felt like a fast food hamburger wrapper, but stories for .25!!!
Story: “Your Big Day”
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Unsurprisingly, Tom King and Clay Mann’s first Joker story (and the first time DC Rebirth readers have seen Joker on the lose following DC Metal) falls right into line in the pantheon of excellent short stories from Tom King. “Your Big Day” instantly joins the ranks of Action Comics #1000 also with Mann, a Sgt. Rock story with Francesco Francavilla in DC Holiday Special, and Swamp Thing: Winter Special with artist Jason Fabok.
King and Mann’s Joker is a live wire sparking with great jokes (“Roger, I’ll be honest with you. I never the learned the whole alphabet. I don’t know why”) and inevitable cruelty. I’ve been following the march to the wedding of Batman and Catwoman from jump, but Joker’s mad involvement has me even more fascinated to see what comes next.
Story: “Office Space”
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
I’ll just come out and say it: I’m extremely worried about the Brian Michael Bendis era of Superman. It’s tough to get very excited about all DC’s “Bendis is Coming!” hoopla with the output so far, through Action Comics #1000 and now this DC Nation #0 short story. I’m officially nervous.
I say this as an unequivocal fan of Bendis at Marvel. I almost certainly would not have gotten into the Marvel Comics of the 2000’s without his work as a writer across New Avengers, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Ultimate Spider-Man. In addition to his individual titles, Bendis also did more from 2004 to 2010 for the shared Marvel Universe than anyone this side of Joe Quesada. There are Marvel fans who can’t stand what he brought to the table, but in many ways, Bendis’ vision is my Marvel Universe.
That viewpoint has certainly cooled since 2010, especially from the Marvel NOW! era on. As a writer, Bendis has still been able to pull greatness out of some books (Infamous Iron Man, the relaunched Jessica Jones), but he’s also been spread far too thin. This has led to entirely forgettable product across suddenly essential titles like Guardians of the Galaxy and Invincible Iron Man. Not to mention what is likely his worst major event, 2016’s Civil War 2.
I’m of the mindset that a “Bendis to DC” move is a net positive for both publishers, and I’ll take a Bendis takeover of Superman over Batman any day of the week. Nonetheless, Bendis is taking over a character coming off excellent creative work by the likes of Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Dan Jurgens, and Patrick Zircher. There have been some wildly misguided “The Man To Save Superman!” headlines of late, which completely miss that Superman hasn’t been in shape this good for decades.
So I’m hoping with all my fandom of everything involved that Bendis on Superman works out. Based on this short story, though, there’s nothing that has me particularly excited. Yet.
I’ll also be completely honest about something; I am entirely ignorant when it comes to the artistic prowess of Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. Everyone – seriously everyone – discusses his work with ecstatic praise, but here in this story it’s… fine? I’m genuinely asking here, and not being facetious: People who know better, what am I missing?
Story: “No Justice: Prelude”
Writer: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Superman: “I’m about to throw a despotic Starfish at a giant floating brain… so, I guess we’re doing swell.”
And just like that, I’m all in on Justice League: No Justice.
Snyder’s back on his DC Metal grind with the four cosmic energies “entropy, mystery, wonder, and wisdom,” as this prelude issue sets the stage for the summer of Justice League. I had my pull list checkbox open in front of me while reading this story, and instantly added Tynion IV’s work on Justice League Dark to my comic shop pulls.
All in all, DC Nation #0 was an exciting, must-read book for any fans of the DC Universe. It’s about as good a jumping on point as you’re liable to get with a comic book continuity that stretches back to the late 1930’s as well!