“Rorschach’s journal – April 6, 2016. Seven years ago I starred in one of the greatest cinematic triumphs of all time. In it the streets were extended gutters, and the gutters were full of critics, and when the drains finally scabbed over, the fans looked up and shouted save us, and Zack Snyder whispered “Yes”.
Seven years ago today, the greatest piece of comic book fiction ever wrought was finally released on film by visual auteur Zack Snyder. His triumphant cinematic reworking of the supposedly unfilmable comic series from the eighties was hailed by the fans as a masterpiece of modern dystopian Superhero cinema, but received tepid reviews from critics (Mmmm, now this seems familiar).
(Warning: Spoilers ahoy)
The Watchmen limited comic series was released by DC Comics in 1986, it was a collaborative effort of three superstar British comic book creators, Writer Alan Moore, Artist Dave Gibbons and Artist/Colourist John Higgins. Moore originally posited to DC that he wanted to use their acquired Charlton Comics characters as the basis for the story, but DC’s managing editor of the time Dick Giordano, persuaded Moore to create new characters instead, as the usage of DC’s now integrated (into the DC universe) Charlton heroes would have rendered them almost unusable in future timelines because of the direction they would have taken as a result of Moore’s suggested storyline.
Alan Moore is widely regarded as the greatest comic book author of all time, apart from Watchmen, Moore also introduced us to V for Vendetta, Batman: The Killing Joke and The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but it is Watchmen that propelled Moore to the rank of numero uno in the highly competitive comic book market.
Alan Moore’s writing usually takes a dark and dystopian route through pre-existing tropes, subverting and twisting characters to fit into his alternate timelines. Watchmen is a satirical look at superheroes, that reflects the era it was written, be it through the politics of the time (80’s Britain was a particularly political hot-bed) or emerging trends and people’s apprehension of the future.
Watchmen is set in an alternate 1985, and follows masked vigilante Rorschach as he and other retired members of the Superteam – Crimebusters, investigate the murder of one of their former colleagues – The Comedian. In Moore’s universe, costumed heroes first appeared in the 1940’s, and were a collection of former Police officers and disgruntled citizens who ‘masked up’ to take down an increasing number of criminals who had taken to wearing costumes to disguise themselves from recognition.
In the early eighties with the world on the brink of a nuclear holocaust, and with an outcry by the general populace against masked vigilantes, costumed heroes were outlawed, and most faded into retirement or (in the case of the Comedian and Dr Manhattan) went to work covertly for the Government. Rorschach though continued to fight crime unsanctioned, wanted by the Police he refused to abandon his principles and castigated his former team-mates for their cowardice in the face of the costumed vigilante ban.
After the murder of The Comedian, Rorschach manages to convince former team-mates, Nite-Owl II and Silk Spectre II to come out of retirement and help investigate what he believes is a conspiracy to kill members of the Crimebusters. Moore’s take on Superheroes is not for the faint of heart, it is a mature and sometimes shocking take on a popular medium, set in a totalitarian, regressive society consumed with fear and anxiety.
Unto this premise comes visual mastermind director Zack Snyder, riding high on his successful conversion of Frank Miller’s “300” graphic novel, he set his sights on DC’s Watchmen, and in 2009 presented us with perfection in comic book to film form. His film mirrored its source material beautifully, condensing the story somewhat, but still supplying every nuance and important depth of plot that the original comic series conveyed. His choice of actors were astonishingly close to their fictional selves, especially the casting of Jackie Earle-Haley as titular protagonist Rorschach. This film has ultimately become the cornerstone of Zack Snyder’s career, only recently equalled (in our humble opinion) by his take on DC’s Trinity in Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, which shares many similarities to Watchmen in both tone and visual style.
Seven years on and Watchmen is now more highly regarded amongst its former critics, still loved by the fans and is one of the first ‘R’ rated (18 rated here in the UK) Superhero movies, long before characters like Deadpool were ever conceived for the big screen. Snyder’s film is visually enthralling, deep and concise in its portrayal of the original classic series, as much a must watch now as it ever was, not only one of the greatest comic book movies of all time… but literally one of the greatest movies of all time!
Who Watches The Watchmen?… You Should!
Alan Moore’s 1988 one-shot masterpiece “The Killing Joke” is to become an animated movie, it was announced at the San Diego Comic-con by animator and producer Bruce Timm during the “Justice League: Gods and Monsters” panel, with the movies release date set for 2016.
The Killing Joke was penned by British writer Alan Moore to provide an origin story and psychological motivation for the creation of the Joker. Defined as the greatest Joker story ever told by many critics, the graphic novel won many awards for its deep conceptual story-line and spectacular artwork by Brian Bolland and John Higgins.
The plot centres on the Joker’s attempt to drive Gotham City’s Police Commissioner James Gordon insane, and is frequently interposed by flashbacks to the titular villain’s past life before his disfigurement and insane criminal exploits. The book explores the Jokers assertion that deep down in everyone there is a lunatic waiting to break forth, and that a tragic past can create both a hero or a villain, with the ‘one bad day’ scenario that turned Bruce Wayne into a protector of the innocent forging meaning from tragedy, but the Joker into a maniacal villain who reflects on the absurdity of being.