Watchmen

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Freddie

Freddie deBoer used to blog at lhote.blogspot.com, and may again someday. Now he blogs here.

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  1. Avatar sidereal
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    says:

    All I can see is symbols shouting “This! Is! A! Symbol!” and metaphors screaming “This! Is! A! Metaphor!”

    And “This! Is! Sparta!”. Oh wait, we were talking about Alan Moore, not Frank Miller.Report

  2. Avatar individualfrog
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    says:

    in b4 massive Watchmen-fan delugeReport

  3. Avatar individualfrog
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    says:

    or “You just don’t get it”Report

  4. Avatar paul h.
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    says:

    Well, if you read Moore’s other stuff, it’s not just all about the ultraviolence … also, Snyder added various extra R-rated violent-esque things, so this is perhaps also his fault.Report

  5. Avatar Judd
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    says:

    Jesus, Freddie. First The Dark Knight, now Watchmen. I think you just pretend to dislike anything remotely popular because you think that makes you cool.Report

  6. Avatar Max
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    says:

    I’m reading Watchmen for the first time right now. (The movie hype reminded me that it was something I’d always meant to take a look at.) You’re right about the self-conscious artiness of it (although I find it cute, in a way — it’s the kind of thing I would have really dug in high school.)

    That said I do think it has its moments. I haven’t finished the series yet but there are lots of funny little reinterpretations of the superhero conceit. A recent favorite: two of the superheroes sleep together, and then have an exhilarating return to the masked life that they left behind. Afterwards, one says to the other something like ‘now I know what we’ve got to do: break [blank] out of prison!’ The shot is panned out to the exterior of their heroic ship, and for a moment no one speaks. The, lady hero: ‘…What?’

    It’s a nice send-up of the absurdity in the superhero story of a sudden consciousness of the mission-at-hand, and it’s done subtly and humorously. I don’t suppose that will convince you to see you way out of the boring ‘get off my lawn’-ness of this post, but just thought I would put it out there.Report

  7. Avatar Bob
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    says:

    If the word subjective references anything it references art.Report

  8. Avatar Joseph FM
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    says:

    This post gets at my problems with Watchmen as well, though I never finished the comic, so what I can say about that is limited. It’s really heavy-handed and obvious in its critiques, and the story seems blatantly engineered to create precisely the moral conflict that might get some people on the “villain’s” side. For all the relative “normalness” of the characters, almost all of them feel, as you say, more like metaphors and mouthpieces than people (except maybe Night Owl, who’s just a pathetic loser rather than a spouter of penny philosophy.)

    But, honestly, I don’t know if it can really be understood properly out of its 1980s context. I think we – and even comics! – have moved way beyond this kind of thinking.Report

  9. Avatar Consumatopia
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    says:

    But sometimes, people ask: why do bad movies get made? Why does bad art get made? This is why bad art gets made: it gets made because too many smart and discriminating people fall for such obvious, ugly lies as Watchmen. A movie like Batman and Robin doesn’t threaten anyone, it doesn’t lead to more bad movies. A movie that open and unapologetic about its awfulness doesn’t get aped and written into the canon. It’s movies like Watchmen, and books like Watchmen, that stick the knife in long after they come out. Because they prove that cynical con men like Alan Moore can make the same ugly feints towards profundity and art that have been made again and again, and be rewarded for it.

    So, there’s a falsifiable retrodiction you can make from this theory. If this were true, you would expect comics to be shallower after 86/87 than they were before. I don’t know too many fans of graphic novels, even the literary ones, who would assert that.

    I’d agree with you on some points about the Watchmen–the rape in particular is sickeningly pseudo-deep. Where you go wrong is when it comes time to assign blame. It’s not the fact that we think Watchmen is great that allows crappy comics to be produced, it’s the fact that crappy comics were all the public was aware of that allowed us to think Watchmen was great. Comics had an impoverished vocabulary of subtlety, or an audience incapable of perceiving it. It was a problematic work, but partly because of 1986’s Watchmen a 2009 equivalent of Watchmen wouldn’t receive quite as many accolades.

    Moreover, while some of what you say makes sense, Anthony Lane was full of crap. If you want to criticize Watchmen you have to at least mention it’s anti-comic motivations/pretentions. “Rorshach is a jerk therefore Moore is a jerk” is about all Lane has to say. Even if there is some truth to his final punchline about Moore and “unhyped suffering”, it would be nice to hear that argument made by someone who actually seemed to have seriously read the book (or actually, if you’re going to go after Moore as a person, you might want to look at his whole canon.)

    Finally, I’m not convinced that every story has to be told with delicacy and restraint. No, Moore doesn’t have the chops to pull off Silk Specter I falling in love with the Comedian, and he shouldn’t have tried. But I don’t think the delicate, restrained author you’re imagining would have the chops to show the narratives of super-heroism and nuclear deterrence as one and the same–the madness of expecting monsters to save us. It has to be remembered in the 80s that fiction was not the only place where narratives of “ultra-violence, cruelty and despair” held court.

    At some point, you have to appreciate a work for what it gets right even when it gets some stuff wrong. It’s too easy to pile on Watchmen now–you’ve got the movie that follows the plot closely but changes the tone radically, you’ve got a radically changed historical context, and you’ve got, thanks in small part to works like Watchmen, higher standards from which to attack Watchmen.Report

  10. Yes, I think this critique is a bit blunt. Any writer or artist to who takes a revered, meaningful mythos and plays with it may be accused of being crafty, but it doesn’t necessarily make them pretentious. This is what Euripides did (and NO, that is not a comparison), and it made him interesting. Ditto Brecht. It may be that times like ours beg the kind of over-the-top treatment: it can’t all be Henry James.

    There’s an interesting variety of superhero treatments, dating way back to Philip Wylie’s 1930 novel Gladiator (which could make a GREAT movie, btw), for the curious to try, at my name link.
    But you’ve got me curious, and I’ll subscribe to your feed.Report

  11. Avatar BP
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    says:

    F, it is hard to write criticism. Don’t undertake the task lightly.

    Which von Triers have you seen? The truncated USA trilogy is shit indeed; but ..Report

  12. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    Freddie,

    This is almost exactly how I felt watching “A History of Violence” which was much lauded for its artistic vision and depth etc. etc. I felt it was gratuitous, that it misunderstood both sexuality and suffering, and that it was overall just a really pretentious, self-congratulating art film with lots and lots of crowd-pleasing blood and gore. I haven’t seen Watchmen yet, so I can offer up no good comparison, but it sounds as though it suffers similar failings.

    Two superhero movies I really actually liked a great deal in the past decade or so were “The Incredibles” and “Unbreakable.” I am fully aware of how completely pretentious M Knight Shamalyan’s films can be, but I liked Unbreakable because it didn’t devolve into violence for its own sake – there was one fairly violent, frightening bit, but still very little for a movie about super heroes and super villains. And beyond that I felt as though it just did a good job being subtle, and not trying to be too much of anything. It had its downsides, but overall I enjoyed it.

    The Incredibles was simply a really fun, funny movie, and I guess in the end I’m just a sap for films that make me laugh. I think Americans especially suffer from this need for lots of blood and and action, and then more “discerning” audiences want their blood and action to be peppered with “depth” and “complexity”, but for me I suppose if I want depth I’ll read a novel. If I want to watch a film I tend to do so for entertainment value, and I find humor much more intoxicating than gore. I just don’t believe this constant unthinking propensity toward violence is very healthy, and you make a good point that when it is then “canonized” into the halls of High Film, it becomes almost a sort of status quo. I agree, it would be tricky to make a film like The Graduate today, and that’s a shame.Report

  13. Avatar Sam
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    says:

    I also stopped reading because children know how to read. feh! *twirls moustache*

    It seems like you’re using the flaws of the film to bash not only the source material but the medium in which they were presented. That is a very tired argument that held weight back in the 30s and 40s when comics were largely marketed to children, but no longer.

    The allusions may seem simplistic and obvious and “wouldn’t work as a novel”. But that’s the point. Watchmen was done as a comic, not a novel. A novel also couldn’t communicate in the way a drawing can, a giant, blue, naked demi-god.

    It was a comic for numerous reasons. It pays homage to the history of superhero comics and plays with the archetypes in ways that just don’t translate to film. I’m not positive, but I think that was the primary goal of Moore with Watchmen. That the mass media latched onto it and declared it a great achievement after largely ignoring other underground and mainstream comics that dealt with “mature” themes for decades (there isn’t just one type of “kid” comic. Just as there isn’t one genre of novels.).

    Orson Welles filmed an adaptation of Kafka’s “The Trial”. I love that film, but it is not the book.Report

  14. Avatar Joe
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    says:

    Freddie, is it really the violence that’s bothering you? Or the is it the absence of “a little love and a little humor and a little bit of not taking yourself seriously”? Watchmen fails because it takes itself too damn seriously; it’s not that it’s violent, it’s that it’s boring. Moore’s deadly earnestness poisons both the novel and the film. But the same applies for other awful, purportedly art-house films that contain little or no violence, like, say, Todd Solonz’s “Happiness.”

    And, again, is it that the bar is set lower for graphic novels in particular? I can think of plenty of awful regular novels written in the past decade that have received unwarranted acclaim.Report

  15. Avatar Jack
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    says:

    “A movie about sleeping with an older woman, feeling disconnected from life and falling in love… well, I won’t say it couldn’t get made, or get lauded. But to really clean up, come awards season? Wouldn’t stand a chance.”

    So… not a big fan of The Reader, then?Report

  16. Avatar Consumatopia
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    says:

    The allusions may seem simplistic and obvious and “wouldn’t work as a novel”. But that’s the point. Watchmen was done as a comic, not a novel. A novel also couldn’t communicate in the way a drawing can, a giant, blue, naked demi-god.

    I hate to be a DoublePost McTwoPants, but I thought this was worth highlighting. It’s not (or at least not just) that we hold comics to a different standard, but that graphic story telling works differently. Specifically, the flow of time works differently. In a comic, you can transition from one focus to another more seamlessly than with the written word. You can show a picture of one object, then a picture of another object logically unrelated but thematically connected. The news guy ranting over the headlines while the kid’s comic reflects what he’s saying–it would be an absolute mess if you tried that in a regular novel, not merely ham-handed but incoherent. Not many comics do this quite so often as Watchmen, but I think that’s in keeping with the Rorschach blot or Burroughs cut up reference by Ozymandius –he’s juxtaposing logically unrelated things in a way that makes us impose a specific meaning on them.Report

  17. Avatar Philip P
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    says:

    “If this sort of ham handedness and lack of subtlety took place in a regular novel, people would laugh.”

    Sadly, I doubt it.Report

  18. Avatar bcg
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    says:

    “No, what makes me really despise that little invocation of rape and humiliation is how endlessly cute Alan Moore imagines himself to be …”

    Who gives a shit how thinks about himself? Why does that even come up in this post? It’s distracting and annoying.Report

  19. Avatar uncle joe mccarthy
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    says:

    E.D. Kain,

    so happy that you liked the incredibles. i suggest you pick up watchmen and see how much bird borrowed from that book to create his universe. the incredibles is basically the g rated version of watchmen.Report

  20. Avatar James
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    says:

    Ok…

    Firstly you abandon what I found one of your most admirable traits: your anti-Sartrean assumption of good faith. You describe Alan Moore as a “cynical conman” and for the most part your critique is underpinned with your presumptions of what he was attempting to achieve.

    This is in direct contradiction to one of your other admirable standards: the disregard of intention. Because that, of course, is non-falsifiable. All you are doing for most of this article is sprouting your prejudices.

    I don’t think that Moore imagines himself to be “Endlessly cute”, “Provocative”, “Brooding” or so on. And why do you? You have provided no evidence and it is something which it is impossible for anyone to disprove. “Moore assumes that putting rape in a comic book makes him an auteur” you claim. But how do you know? Can I really trust that you have established genuine verstehen with someone you both obviously and seemingly entirely baselessly despise? Of course I can not.

    As for the violence, it’s not something that particularly stuck in my mind, if I’m honest. Clearly it was a requisite for Rorschach’s transformation, but for the most part the flashes of brutality are remnants from a by-gone age, as opposed to what the story is truly about.

    Ozymandius couldn’t possibly be seen as the hero, he’s a blatant egoist who references himself throughout. As for your simply absurd armwaving here:

    Every movie that is critically lauded, it seems, needs to be about a remorseless oilman or a remorseless assasin or a remorseless serial killer or some other unstoppable misanthrope who demonstrates, in piling violence on top of violence, that this is a Serious Film.

    I have but two words:
    “Slumdog Millionaire.”

    If I was going to stoop to your level I would at this stage call you a snob and a pretentiousness smothered pseudo-intellectual incapable of reconciling his raging insecurities with a medium not widely accepted as suitable for his nation’s pitiful intelligentsia, but I’ll stick away from that presumptuous territory and just say that this article is very, very stupid.Report

  21. Avatar Scott H. Payne
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    says:

    James, your first comment was removed as it contravened our commenting policy.Report

  22. Avatar James
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    says:

    Fair enough Scott.Report

  23. Avatar Scott H. Payne
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    says:

    Thanks for your understanding, James. Your comments are valued and I hope you will continue providing them.

    Cheers.Report

  24. Avatar Freddie
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    says:

    If I was going to stoop to your level I would at this stage call you a snob and a pretentiousness smothered pseudo-intellectual incapable of reconciling his raging insecurities with a medium not widely accepted as suitable for his nation’s pitiful intelligentsia, but I’ll stick away from that presumptuous territory and just say that this article is very, very stupid.

    As is always the case, James– always– your criticisms of me say everything about you, and nothing about me.Report

  25. Avatar James
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    says:

    And I’d say that the same was true of your criticisms of Watchmen. I suppose that this is why the personal should be kept out of such discussion.

    It’s annoying that you opted to refer to what I explicitly refrained from arguing (just my intuitions), rather than the stuff which I earnestly stated.

    Scott – If anything I’m grateful. I think Freddie’s the best writer on the internet, which is what makes the idiocy of this article especially galling. All the same, that sort of post was uncalled for, I’m glad it’s gone and it wouldn’t have happened if I kept myself away from the internet while I’m tired.Report

  26. Avatar James
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    says:

    Additionally Freddie, if my comments have left you well informed about me then might you be so kind as to tell me what they’ve told you? If we’re going to remain in the personal realm, that is.Report

  27. Avatar Freddie
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    says:

    That you take movies seriously in exactly the wrong way.Report

  28. Avatar James
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    says:

    lol, I haven’t seen WatchmenReport

  29. Avatar James
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    says:

    It’s more laziness than nervousness or any particular aversion. By almost all accounts (including yours, I suppose) its much better than the standard adaption of Alan Moore, besides perhaps V, which was still very much an inferior work, but not by any means an atrocity.

    The playing of Sound of Silence during The Comedian’s funeral sounds wince-inducing, though.

    I’ll skip the nose-rubbing over how little my criticisms told you about me, as a show of magnaminity. Or more idleness.Report

  30. Avatar Bob
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    says:

    May I ask a leading question, Isn’t there a huge internal inconsistency in this movie? (I have not read the novel so I am not questioning that format.)

    At one point Dr. Manhattan says something like, “I see only my future.” Well, if he sees his future why did he not see that he was being used by Ozymandias? He certainly appears to be surprised when informed of Ozymandias’ treachery. Likewise, he does not foresee that the world will see him as the villain. He then assumes a Christ like function and sacrifice’s himself, exile, for the good of mankind. Again, shouldn’t he have seen this as his destiny? In fact the entire movie falls apart if Dr. Manhattan can indeed see his future.

    Now some might argue that the supposed publication of Rorchach’s diaries might mitigate this flaw, but I don’t see how that would work. That’s just saying, the story might continue. Again, I’m unfamiliar with the novel or if Moore continued with the story.

    I did consider reading the book before seeing the movie, but not now. The entire message seems to be a juvenile discussion of ends justifying means.

    Regarding the violance, cartoonish (what else could it be?), so, for better or worse, unaffecting.Report

  31. Avatar James
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    says:

    Bob: that isn’t a plothole in the book, but I’m not going to tell you why because you should read it to find out why not. 😛Report

  32. Avatar Bob
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    says:

    James, is there that “plothole” in the film or did I miss some explanation? I saw it last evening and I found it odd, still find it odd. I remain unconvinced of reading the novel at this point, but then, fiction is not my thing.Report

  33. Avatar James
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    says:

    Idk, like I said, I haven’t seen the film. But that plot hole doesn’t exist in the original book, and I’d strongly advocate you reading it.Report

  34. Avatar James
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    says:

    Before I begin I’d like to clear up a pertinent fact vis-a-vis my taking movies seriously. To rebutt that point thoroughly allow me to simply say this: I really enjoyed 300.

    Sure it was an endless wave of crimson froth, sure that sex scene was downright nauseating and sure that rapist may have overestimated the extent to which he was a long-laster, but as a visual experience it was truly joy inducing. My rather more pompous friend came out of it expressing a sort of loathing I found rather startling to behold, given that it was blatantly not to be taken on any level other than its shiny slick CGI surface level.
    *(And yes, the fact that these two completely contrasting works share a cinematic director has done much to put me off seeing Watchmen at the cinema. But quite honestly, I just don’t go to the films a lot.)*
    But even having seen the film of 300 and only skimmed through the comic and having read the comic of Watchmen and only seen the trailer I think that there are important distinctions between the way that the two tales use violence.
    Firstly we should remember that “violence” is a much more recent and slippery concept that is conventionally understood. For more on that read the essay on the matter to be found in this collection: http://www.amazon.com/Revolutionaries-contemporary-essays-E-Hobsbawm/dp/0394487753 The idea of “Ultra-violence” originates, so far as I can tell, from Anthony Burgess’ ‘A Clockwork Orange’, a piece that originates from a largely far gentler and less extreme age in terms of our cultural output. I’ve often wondered how exactly it can translate to the present, when kicking a tramp to death is foreplay next to what the average Tartan Extreme character (take your pick) gets up to.

    But certainly, both 300 and Watchmen feature acts of imaginative and severe brutality. A comparison shows their usage to be immensely distinct, however: in 300 the characters live solely to perform it and they exist within a culture that expects that and that alone of them. In one scene the characters mock the other Greeks for having professions besides war (with the obvious point that a culture can not sustain an economy with that sort of a populace without a massive amount of slaves ignored entirely, of course, as you’d expect). Their fighting is done in defence of their values and their homeland and in director terms that there’s massive amounts of it is basically the reason that the film exists. It isn’t a means to display anything, but an end in itself.

    The contrast between it’s usage in that film and Moore’s comic could not be greater. To Moore the violence is illustrative, rather than self-fulfilling in terms of purpose. Rorschach as a character is birthed through his realisation of the fate suffered by a young child which he was attempting to protect. The carnage isn’t shown, but alluded to. Now I reckon that to understand why this crisis if of such importance you have to know a little about the characher’s greatest inspiration. You can get that here, and I’d really request that you give it your time:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxwWNOSphAk

    To summarise: the Steve Ditko character Mr. A was the ultimate example of the influence of Objectivism upon Ditko. In specific he was influenced by Ayn Rand’s total and absolute rejection of ambiguity. This is something that Rand expressed repeatedely, most notably in a Playboy interview when she asked why you would be accept grey, given that the good was an imperfect and unsatisfactory blend. As Moore puts it: “There is black and there is white, there is dark and there is light and there is nothing, nothing inbetween.” Easy enough to reject, right? But Moore doesn’t simply let us have an irrational operative who’s views (which conflict heavily with Moore’s own) come out of nowhere and can never be appreciated by us sane human beings. Instead he reminds us that our views of such a complex race as humanity are based upon focus.

    There are humans who do terrible things and humans who do wonderful things. Our influence on what humanity is will inevitably be shaped by which of those humans we encounter. And the man who becomes Rorschach makes it his business to encounter solely the worst, and eventually just can’t handle it.

    Rorschach is confronted by both his own failure and, far more importantly, the potential depravity of humanity. Unfortunately getting a good viddy at that also triggers the realisation that as a member of that species those are the depths you could plummet to. So he needs to separate himself from this, to ensure that he’s another kind of being. This is the origin of his deeply right-wing politics: he has to divide the world between the pure and the foul in order to cope. To become a being along these lines is impossible for a real human being, so he rapidly creates and inhabits a character who is capable of it. But once this is done he has left the earth neatly segregated between those that are good (the Comedian, who can not be a bad man for raping someone, because he is a patriot) and the bad (who he can treat horrifically, because this is simply tidying up the world). This can allow him to snap fingers, break necks and electrocute with toilets until his work is done. Which, of course, it never will be.

    So humanity are left neatly in a binary, just how any right winger would want it. His politics are best understood as a layer of insulation. Additionally, unlike in 300 they divide him from the rest of not only humanity, but even his own strange sub-culture of masked vigilantes. He is not part of a culture which embraces the levels of damage he regularly inflicts upon those he encounters, and the fact that that’s the case only inflames his sense of duty and indignation. For the rest of the characters violence is something which is performed in self-defence or to pursue a long term objective, for Rorschach it is something which is delivered to the deserving in order to spare them performing far worse acts upon the innocent. He relishes and relies upon it as much as the Spartans, but is an aberration largely seen as freakish and horrifying, accepted and embraced by few and hailed and encouraged only by a fringe newspaper that shares his (highly Randian) virulent anti-socialism and (effectively Ditko quoting) avowel of the importance of work for pay.

    (With the irony being, of course, that this is an unemployed man who scrounges for sugar off of those he supposedly deems soft and useless.)

    Secondly, I’ll outline why I think that your interpretation of Alan Moore as a conman is incorrect. As I’ve stated before, expecting me to falsify a non-falsifiable is unfair, but I’ll do my best. Your depiction of Moore as a charlatan would suggest that he wishes to obtain wealth, prestige and acclaim through acts of artistic sophistry. Presumably his modus is to engage in some insincere nonsense and capitalise from the fawning pseuo-intellectual fans he accrues from such output as much as he can.

    If this is so then it is curious that Alan Moore has not engaged in talking up and exagerrating the importance of a piece that both critics and fans of comics have long harboured a high affection for. The Killing Joke is seen by many Batman fans as one of the peaks of the material written for (or with?) that character. Some even deem it a match for Frank Miller’s seminal re-invention in The Dark Knight Returns, short though it is. Clearly it’s an entirely different piece of work and comparisons are thus unwise, but it’s certainly proven popular and critically its very highly regarded indeed.

    Now a manipulative Alan Moore out to inflate his reputation would almost certainly engage in some rambling self-appraisal about his clever use of “The Foucauldian assonances of the characters and their intricate demonologies, that allow them to…”, etc, etc. The real Alan Moore has been highly self-critical over this work, claiming that both a breakdown in contact with the artist led to a finished work which he was unhappy with visually and, far more importantly, that he is unimpressed by it because it simply tells a story about two characters and has no real meaning beyond them. This is something which he stresses the importance of in his invaluable manual Writing For Comics. To Moore a piece without a message (like 300, I suppose) is vapid and worth precious little.

    So if he truly does mean what he says (and I came around to Freddie’s view that we should take people’s arguments in good faith some time ago) then his dislike of Killing Joke is understandable. If instead he is a scurrilous rogue only interested in dazzling the critics with deceptions, earning fans that he doesn’t deserve and raking in cash that he shouldn’t have, then it is immensely curious that he is disfiguring his back catalogue and taking a knife to what could seal his reputation as a comics writer as pretty much perfect. It would be utterly inexplicable for a man engaged in self-aggrandizement to express such views in public. I would suggest that we apply Occam’s Razor to this issue and see what the outcome is: conspiracy & conceit or earnestness & honesty?Report

  35. Avatar Tony Comstock
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    says:

    This weekend everyone should watch “Sullivan’s Travels”. That Veronica Lake is a babe for the ages is but one of the movie’s more endearing attributes.Report

  36. Avatar Rortybomb
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    says:

    Late, but: Speaking of masochism, why would you have gone to see the movie if you didn’t like (to put it gently) the comic? You knew the movie was going to be worse….Report

  37. Avatar Freddie
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    says:

    Good question– a friend asked me to go. I obliged. Shouldn’t have!Report

  38. Avatar James
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    says:

    Oh well, I tried.Report

  39. Avatar J Mann
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    says:

    Freddie, I want to re-emphasize Joseph’s last point. It’s hard to appreciate Watchmen outside of its context. Moore, Howard Chaykin, Neil Gaiman, and some of the other writers of the early 90s were writing as a reaction to the superhero comics of the day, which were basically a combination of pro wrestling storylines and daytime soap storylines.

    I think you are right that graphic sex and violence and pretentious literary tropes are sort of the easy way of saying “Stan Lee and Marv Wolfman don’t live here anymore”,[*] but somebody had to blow the lid off of the existing framework, and it was Watchmen and Dark Knight that did it. It’s sort of like trying to listen to Frank Zappa today — if you don’t view it partially as a historical exercise in understanding where he’s coming from, most people won’t go for it.

    Of course, none of that really addresses why we need to make a movie about it 20 years later, except that the people of my generation were blown away by the new possibilities Moore opened 20 years back, and now we’re running the show.

    [*] Not to take anything away from those guys, but they were most responsible for the “Justice League 90210” state of comics pre-Moore.Report

  40. Avatar Chris E.
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    says:

    “The idea is that violence must be profound, that cruelty must be artistic, that reflexively assuming the worst in man-kind has to be a demonstration of uncompromising honesty.”

    You’ve really pegged it, I think. But to be fair to comics, the trend you’re decrying – known in comics as the “grim ‘n gritty” era – was a product of superhero comics and is now over 20 years old. There are whole other worlds of comics out there, and there now exists a quite substantial body of mature work. While some of it is ‘relentlessly negative’ (for example, Crumb in underground comics and Chris Ware in alternative comics), I’d argue that it is at least genuine, not just done to be shocking or pretentious.

    Also, to be fair to Alan Moore, he has vocally regretted his role in starting the grim-‘n-gritty trend from the very outset. He’s called it absurd that superhero comics should ever have been dominated by a bad mood he had back in the ’80s, and concluded that there was no way to do ‘realistic’ superheroes without glamourizing violence. I think that’s one reason why, if he’d had his way, the Watchmen movie would never have been made.Report

  41. Avatar James
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    says:

    That and the atrocities of the films made of Constantine, Swamp Thing, From Hell, LOXG, and so on leaving him scarred…Report

  42. Avatar Chris E.
    Ignored
    says:

    J Mann:

    “It’s sort of like trying to listen to Frank Zappa today — if you don’t view it partially as a historical exercise in understanding where he’s coming from, most people won’t go for it.”

    I’m a big Frank Zappa fan, and I never would have thought of this analogy, but I think you’ve hit on something. Both are ambitious figures who parodied and deconstructed the commercial mainstream in order to break into it, to get access to large-scale resources. You don’t really see figures like them any more, because the commercial mainstream has become so god-awful bland and because there are more avenues for exposure outside of it. Also, both compensated for being in disreputable, low-brow fields by going wildly overboard on craft.Report

  43. Avatar DavyCuck
    Ignored
    says:

    A completely paranoid, politically correct, prudish assessment. There’s no accounting for taste to be sure. However, this paranoid fantasy that you have about writers fabricating the critical response that they desire is pure crap. No one operates like that. (With the exception of writers who place Atlas Shrugged on the top of their list of favorite books.)Report

  44. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    There may be an interesting note here: http://tinyurl.com/db95kg

    That URL will take you to a Daily Mail article talking about Alan Moore. To be honest, he strikes me as the type of figure that Freddy would dig… principled to a fault, anarchosocialist tendencies, hairy…

    Anyway, reading his short psychological profile of Moore up there told me that, no, he’s got Moore completely wrong and that he’d probably benefit from, at least, seeing the picture.

    Nothing wrong with the folks who offer free psychoanalysis as part of their critiques of the work of others… but it’s always best when the profile of faults found lines up with reality.Report

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