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Yo dawg I herd you like Snyder cuts so we put a Snyder cut in your Snyder cut so you can sex while you death

“She is, essentially, Joker’s new girlfriend. And she is Harley Quinn’s polar opposite. She is Joker’s #2… A silent, terrifying serial killer, sexy as hell. All of his henchmen are terrified of her and they should be. Imagine Joker being Joker and torturing a hostage, and then he gets tired and sighs, handing the scalpel to Punchline, who slits their throat.” —James Tynion IV

Existing in grids and swerves.

You know that London swings.
New York’s a grid.
Chicago swings.

Just about every writer who’s tried their hand at a comicbook script has when describing a scene or a panel to be drawn said something like ZOOM IN or TRACKING SHOT or SMASH CUT. The artist, when they get the script, will roll their eyes heavenward in a silent prayer of not again, before taking up their pen to attempt, once more, to suggest the dynamic motion of cinema with the one-fixed-image-after-another of comics.

(Fun fact: that writer and that artist can easily be the same person.)

It’s jargon creep, is what it is. —“Jargon,” we are told, “is the inevitable outcome of the specialised communicational needs of professionals, who require terms for things and situations which they, as a matter of necessity, have to deal with every day of their lives, but which do not enter into the world of the man on the Clapham omnibus except as occasional ‘technical’ matters,” and that’s all well and good insofar as it goes, but when one’s specialised communicational needs are themselves relatively abstruse, expressed in terms of art only haphazardly taught or even studied, with critical apparati that have only just begun to assemble themselves, well: it’s only natural, to reach for something closer to hand, superficially similar (bright colors! pretty pictures! explosions!) but colossally more popular, more easily reached from the Clapham omnibus, and thus more familiar, more well-known—superficially, at least: an approximation of the tools it’s built to satisfy its own specialised communicational needs, osmotically assimilated from backstage tell-alls and glandhanding chroniclers eager to demonstrate an almost professional grasp of the technicalities, and voila: a tracking shot that zooms in to a smash cut. In comics.

—Which isn’t to say there’s never a point in trying to evoke in pen and ink the cinematic swoop of the one, the celluloid abruption of the other, or that interesting effects couldn’t be gleaned from the attempt, but you need to think about how to do that in comics, and what that will do to your comic, and whether the effect is right for the moment, the scene, the story, and reaching just for the closest jargon to hand isn’t doing that thinking. At best, it’s offloading that thinking to our weary, prayerful artist (see above). —Nor is this some sort of Hulked-out Sapir Whorffery, where because you’ve turned to the jargon of cinema, you can’t think in comics at all; but. But: the trick of unthinkingly reaching for metaphorized jargon is that you just don’t bother to think it. You think you already have.

It is possibly the predominant narrative mode in Western movies, television, comic books, what-have-you. And now I learn (via Warren Ellis (via Gene Ha (who cribs it from Dennis O’Neil who deems it “the best imitation of life possible in a work of fiction”)))—it has a name: The Levitz Paradigm.

Speaking of which. —The Levitz Paradigm (also known as the Levitz Grid, which it isn’t) is not a narrative mode, much less the predominant one of anything West of anywhere, and while it’s a useful tool for (a not inconsiderate number of) television shows and (quite a lot, really, though less than before, of Yankee-style) comicbooks, it’s got nothing at all to do with movies as they are currently practiced and produced, to say nothing of novels, and as for your what-have-you, well. And Denny O’Neill’s remark must be approached in a context of specialised communicational needs that straiten severely the very meanings of “best” and “imitation” and “life” and “possible” and “work of fiction” to make the sense it does: “Basically, the procedure is this,” he tells us:

The writer has two, three, or even four plots going at once. The main plot—call it Plot A—occupies most of the pages and the characters’ energies. The secondary plot—Plot B—functions as a subplot. Plot C and Plot D, if any, are given minimum space and attention—a few panels. As Plot A concludes, Plot B is “promoted”; it becomes Plot A, and Plot C becomes Plot B, and so forth. Thus, there is a constant upward plot progression; each plot develops in interest and complexity as the year’s issues appear.

That’s it: the Levitz Paradigm.

The Levitz Grid (which isn’t a grid) is likewise simple enough: jot your issue numbers or chapter titles or whatever designation you might have in mind for your buckets-of-story along one side of a piece of paper; scribble whatever it is you’re using to keep track of your possible plots (whether I, II, III, or A, B, C, or the One Where Her World Explodes, the One Where He Turns on His Left Side) down the perpendicular, and where each of them meets, make a note: in this episode, this plot will make up the A story (not the A plot—we just crept into sitcom jargon), and this one the B, this one the C, and this one’s taking a smoke break:

Not, I repeat, a grid.

But ceci n’est pas un paradigme! The Grid (not a grid!) is just something you use to grasp, manipulate, note and recall the thing itself: the swirlingly fluid interplay of rising and falling actions of ever-churning never-ending storystuff braided in regular packets that nevertheless in their hurly and their burly, their ebb and flow as each crescendoes and recedes in turn to be replaced by the next already swelling, seeming thus to provide an eternally returning imitation of life at least as convincing as their illusion of change: misshapen chaos lent a decently utilitarian but deliberately none-too-well–seeming form. “It’s a fairly simple and useful charting tool for doing serial comics,” says Levitz himself, and there, that’s why it’s got nothing to do with novels, or movies, or short stories, or plays, or much of anything at all that even glances at an Aristotelian unity: this is a tool for comicbookers, soap operators, serialists: θεαμάτων διευθυντές, in the original Greek. —Novels have no need to juggle advancing and retreating plots with an abacus like this; movies-as-such shouldn’t have to twiddle plot-sliders on a giant storystuff equalizer: they’re of a shape, done in one, start to finish: there’s braiding, sure, advancing, retreating, but not on a long-term, continuing basis that requires a grid (that’s not a grid!) to track the paradigm used to keep hold of the writhing swerves of it all.

—Which is not to say you couldn’t, if you so wished, apply serialist tools to a unitary project (yes, you in the back there, a picaresque, of course, now sit down)—but much as when you set out to draw a tracking shot, you need to think a moment, at least, about how, and why, and when. —I’ve never played with the Levitz Paradigm myself, for all that I am a serialist; I can appreciate what it does, and smile to see it at work behind the shapes of comicbooks and television shows, but I don’t keep track of storylines braided in that fashion, which anyway isn’t so much a braid as a splice, or maybe a graft? (Jargon creep…) —However it is I approach the structure of my own storystuff is bound up in a synæsthetic proprioception that I can barely describe and mostly leave alone to do what it does out of fear that I’ll break something by poking at it. The way I feel it in my hands doesn’t translate to abecederial beads strung on an armature of criss-crossing wires: it’s more, I don’t know. Tidal? It does slosh. Sort of. —Anyway.

Into the grid.

Not to go on, though, about that post (none of this is to say), a four-year-old recapitulation of an efflorescence of enthusiasm for a simple, careworn charting tool, mostly unspooled in long-since unravelled Google+ threads, which I found because I was looking for another grid, an actual grid, a fabled, magical grid:

When I started out with this I was living in a state of such terror that I would get to the end of a story and not have an ending for it, or would not have at least a satisfactory ending for it, that I would plot my stories out almost to the finest detail. If I was plotting a 24-page Swamp Thing story I would have a kind of rough idea of where I wanted the story to go in my head, I would have perhaps vague ideas of what would make a good opening scene, a good closing scene, perhaps a few muddy bits in the middle. I’d then write the numbers 1 to 24 down the side of the page and I would put down a one line description of what was happening on that page. This kind of developed to the point of mania with Big Numbers.

When I plotted Big Numbers I plotted the entire projected 12-issue series on one sheet of A1 paper—which was just frightening. A1 is scary—it’s the largest size. I divided it along the top into 12 columns and along the side into something like 48 different rows across which had got the names of all the characters, so the whole thing became a grid where I could tell what each of the characters was doing in each issue. It was all filled with tiny biro writing which looked like the work of a mental patient, it was like migraine made visible, it was really scary.

I mainly did it to frighten other writers—Neil Gaiman nearly shat, the colour drained from his face when he saw this towering work of madness. I’ve still got it somewhere, I just don’t look at it very often, it doesn’t make me feel good, it’s sort of: “Where was I?”

And much to the credit of that post, it offers a glimpse of the beast:

Big Numbers, little words.

Now: that’s a grid. But it’s not a Levitz Grid. (Which, anyway, isn’t.) It’s got nothing at all to do with the Levitz Paradigm: superficially similar, perhaps (there’s the issue numbers along the top! there’s the characters, written down the side, just like possible plots!), but the plots-as-such aren’t jockeying for position, each taking their run at the top as the previous focus retires; there’s no Story A or B or C, to track and note their relative placements in time. There’s just a grid (just), a map in time, of who needs to have done what by when, to pull it all off. —Big Numbers was episodic, in that it was strictly structured around 40-page issues that had specific beginnings and endings (at least, the three that managed to make it out into the world from the shelves of Kupe’s library)—but it isn’t (wasn’t) a serial. Or at least what was serialized about it wasn’t the start-and-stop of rising and falling repeating and returning stories, per se; I mean of course it’s a serial, any writer as devoted to rhythm and rhyme and structure as Moore, any artist as formally impishly devious as Sienkiewicz, they’re going to rank and arrange elements of their work to unfold in a serial manner, yes, of course, hang the swerves on an unrelenting nine-panel grid just to show how much it isn’t, can’t be, couldn’t, repeat and return to reach for what can’t, and yet—

My specialized communicational needs exceed my grasp. (Where the words do fail.) —Christ, I caught myself just now looking up serialist composition, just to maybe have something to say it with. (Talk about jargon creep.) —I went looking for a Big Damn Example of something I might want to think about using, myself; stumbled over a post that mildly annoyed me with its innocently inaccurate enthusiasm; started to think my way through how, and what, and why, and I’ve ended up in an unlooked-for existential crisis, over what is a serial, and what isn’t, and why I think I feel as strongly as I do about this bit, or that. Or that over there, God damn.

Thus, the problem of argument: one talks oneself onto a branch that ultimately must break. I should maybe get back to the thing-that-argues? (This was all a procrastination from the thing-that-argues.)

Bombay’s a grid.
Delhi swings.

Sed quis non custodiet ipsos custodes?

If I have to hear one more goddamn television producer insist their multimillion-dollar teevee show is really, truly punk—

Fuck you.

—I swear to fucking God—

I’m afraid that for a few years now, I have felt that since I am apparently not allowed to own the work that I created in the same manner that an author in a more grown-up and worthwhile field might expect to do, and since my protests at having my work stolen from me are interpreted by a surely young-at-heart and non-unionised audience as evidence of my “grouchiness” and “cantankerousness,” then the only active position that is left to me is to disown the works in question. I no longer own copies of these books and, other than the earnest creative work that I put into them at the time, my only associations with these works are broken friendships, perfectly ordinary corporate betrayals and wasted effort. Given that I will certainly never be reading any of these works again and that I have no wish to see them or even to think of them, it follows that I don’t wish to discuss them, sign copies of them or, indeed, have anything to do with them. As I would hope should be obvious, to separate emotionally from work that you were previously very proud of is quite a painful experience and is not undertaken lightly. However, having to answer questions about my opinions regarding DC Comics’ latest imbecilic use of my characters or stories would be much more harrowing. And, of course, it’s not as if I don’t have plenty of current work to be getting on with.

Alan Moore

—so yeah, I was not shall we say well-disposed to the idea of a televisual sequel to Watchmen. Sure, by all accounts it was gonna be better than the last attempt to frack monetary value from the IP’s shale (but Christ, Zack Snyder is such a low bar), and I will admit my resolve (if such a curmudgeonly disdain might be dignified with such a word) weakened when I heard what they’d managed to pull off with Hooded Justice, but then I heard what they did with Laurie and Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias and Angela Abar and Lady Trieu, and my resolve redoubled.

Should we be surprised that Damon Lindelof’s Watchmen made Lady Trieu the bad guy? That a character named after Bà Triệu, a legendary third-century nationalist hero who resisted the Chinese occupation of Vietnam, must in the end be stopped by the combined efforts of two white men associated with the genocidal destruction of multiple civilian populations (the Manhattan Project, the bombing of Vietnam itself, and the squid-fall of New York)? Should we be surprised that a show which began with an airplane dropping bombs on Tulsa provides narrative closure by thwarting Trieu’s evil plans with “a gatling gun from the heavens” fired at Tulsa? (The gatling gun, briefly used in the American civil war, and extensively used in colonial subjugation.) How did Lady Trieu, would-be avenger of colonial-violence-from-the-heavens, become the victim of yet another righteous iteration of death from the skies?

That’s from Aaron Bady’s wrap-up at the LARB, which is exactly what you’d expect from him on something like this with a title like that. —Just because I’m not gonna bother watching the show doesn’t mean I’m not going to read what people have to say about it, much as I’ve been staring agog at every Skywalker spoiler that seeps within my purview (they fucking did what now with his futhermucking X-wing?). —The one that’s stuck with me the most, most recently, has been Jaime Omar Yassin’s “Black, White, Blue”—

Lee characterizes the print Watchmen as a brilliant, subversive anti-racist and anti-fascist text that Lindelof’s TV show fails to live up to. I loved Moore’s Watchmen and have re-read it half a dozen times over the years, and that’s why I’m confident that the original text is a really unfortunate platform to launch these critiques from.

Moore built an ugly super-hero landscape, mired in imperialist politics, narcissism, cultural chauvinism and white supremacist zeitgeists, true. The birthplace of superheroing is the “Minutemen” a WW2 era group of morally-confused and easily-corrupted narcissists working under a white supremacist, capitalist definition of right and wrong who donned capes for uninspiring reasons. Moore’s work has always been about taking apart superhero tropes and putting them back together in situations atypical of the genre (1). But Moore went a few steps further here because he was able to sully the intellectual property and express his own politics about the concept. And he did it beautifully—Watchmen transcended the form with its intricate plot and a reverberating flow of prose and art. All indisputable.

Regardless of his intentions, however, Moore built a thematic framework that bolsters many awful superhero tropes—and these have outlived the subversive qualities of the text (2). Moore, to his credit, created dynamic three-dimensional characters, and that’s the problem. After all is said and done, Dr. Manhattan is a mass murderer indifferent to human suffering. Rorschach, a proto-incel, is an Alex Jonesian conspiracy-fabulist. And yet fans—like me—loved them both for decades. Moore had us spend so long in the heads of Manhattan and Rorschach that eventually their world-views became compelling.

Omar deftly explicates the comic’s whiteness, and its failures to address race and racism (despite its aims and goals), and ties this to a general pro-police tenor in Moore’s work—surprising, to be sure, in an anarchist; less so, perhaps, in a writer of superhero comics: and this, I think, is where the dam’ whole enterprise falls down: “The fail condition of subversion/parody is reification.”

But I want to dig into one thing Omar brings up that reveals just how heartbreakingly Watchmen fails, or was failed—

Rorschach is every bit the reactionary Miller’s Batman is, but Moore’s superb narrative tells us why in a compelling and heart-breaking flashback. Ironically, Rorschach’s lengthy existential thought balloons (and those of Dr. Manhattan) feed into conservative ideas about a dark nature of humanity with a far greater lasting effect than Dark Knight Returns. Moore compounded this by taking Rorschach’s side in philosophical debates. When a “liberal” African American prison psychiatrist must treat Rorschach, it’s Rorschach’s perspective that infects him, not the other way around. Rorschach is shown to have the more compelling, self-aware view, while the psychiatrist is a liberal fop, as weak as Rorschach implies when he reads him. Moore—unlike Miller who actually got worse (3)—moved on from treatments of superheros in the decades after Watchmen, I suspect because he recognized the perils of even engaging the tropes (4).

The Rorschach blot.

Aaaaand—I mean, it’s not that this isn’t not what doesn’t happen, and it’s not that Dr. Malcolm Long isn’t a liberal fop, a milquetoast, even, and it’s not that he’s not infected by Rorschach’s nihilism. But that’s not the end of Long’s story.

Rorschach’s (Kovacs’) “compelling and heart-breaking flashback” is, of course, built around, based upon the Kitty Genovese story—not what actually happened, but the story

Almost 40 neighbors.(And as a brief digression, the shot here, of neighbors watching from the balconies of apartments supposedly on Austin Street in Kew Gardens, Queens, New York, lends some slim credence to the mildly contested theory that Moore tripped over the story of Kitty Genovese by way of Harlan Ellison’s “Whimper of Whipped Dogs,” which, I mean, I know I first heard the story of Kitty Genovese by way of an Ellison essay, I think, in The Glass Teat, I think, which is one more I owe the bastard, and anyway, I agree with Joanna Russ—but let’s face it, the story of Kitty Genovese is everywhere.)

—though I must admit a moment’s amusement, reconciling the queer bar manager who was, with the socialite who was supposed to have been, who rudely rejected the pop-art op-art dress that ended up becoming what would be Rorschach’s mask.

It’s pointless to argue whether 38 or “almost forty” neighbors really heard the socialite’s screams, or if it was more like what really happened; what happened that was compelling and heartbreaking was that Kovacs read an article in the New York Gazette that said that’s what had happened, which is what inspires him to make his mask and dress up as Rorschach and go and fight crime as a costumed adventurer né superhero—“I knew what people were then,” he tells Dr. Long; “behind all the evasions, all the self-deception. Ashamed for humanity, I went home. I took the remains of her unwanted dress and made a face that I could bear to look at in the mirror.”

And Dr. Long hears that and tries to dismiss it and feels badly about trying to help Rorschach or Kovacs out of somewhat selfish reasons and has movie-of-the-week arguments with his wife about the damage his dedication to his job is doing to their marriage, and in the end he breaks on the bulwark of Kovacs’ or Rorschach’s next, real origin story, which I bet Zack Snyder got a kick out of filming—but that isn’t the end of Long. It’s just the end of chapter six. (Of twelve.)

No, Long’s end comes at the end of chapter eleven: as Ozymandias’s stupidly huge plot comes to fruition, a number of uncostumed unadventurous unsuperheroes whom we’ve seen here and there in the previous chapters milling about the business of their lives as the protagonists protagonize, these folks end up converging on a corner by Bernard’s newsstand near Madison Square Garden, Dr. Long, and Bernard (of course), and Bernie, Derf, Detectives Steven Fine and Joe Bourquin (cynical cops who in the end get to prove they’re good police, but I anticipate myself), Milo, Gladys Long, and Joey and Aline, and the point is, what happens is, when Joey and Aline get into a fight over their dissolving relationship, and when Joey attacks Aline, pushes her to the ground, starts kicking her, right there, on the sidewalk, before the newsstand, all those onlookers, those neighbors, less than 38 or almost 40, sure, but Bernard and Detective Fine and even yes Dr. Long, despite his infection with Rorschach’s nihilism, he steps up with the rest of them all to stop the fight, and that’s the end of Dr.Long, and all of them: a spontaneously anarchist fellowship, a striking reversal of a superheroic origin, a repudiation of all the cool grimdark Rorschach supposedly serves up as truth, a pro-Genovese anti–Genovese-story—

—that gets smashed in the very next instant, bigfooted by the squid-drop climax of the protagonists’ plot.

But! This ironic thematic climactic crescendo itself gets bigfooted by everything that happens around and about that squid-drop: the superhero-cool in Antarctica, “I did it thirty-five minutes ago,” Dr. Manhattan’s apotheosis and Ozymandias catching bullets and Rorschach in the snow. The book’s supreme irony—that the human fellowship Veidt despaired of is obliterated precisely by the plot that Veidt engineered to restore it—is itself ironically overwhelmed by the superheroic armature of that plot. So much so that almost no one who talks about it ends up talking about this at all…

…so that’s another way that Moore and Gibbons failed the comic (not so much Higgins, he’s still cool), and the comic failed the show, and the show failed us all, and as for us?

The Fanonian Watchmen is there, but buried deep. By quoting from the “The Internationale,” Fanon’s title gives to the Wretched of the Earth the implied imperative to “Stand up,” but Lindelof’s Watchmen submerges any revolutionary consciousness under things like the cartoonish “Red Scare” character. The only masses in the show are white supremacists. Still, if you look for it, you can find in the story of Angela and her grandfather the discovery that America’s problem is not hidden conspiracies to be revealed but the open secret of American white supremacy; if you want, you can trace out the show as it might otherwise have been, in which two granddaughters of American massacres team up to create a better world from the ashes of what was done to their families.

We’re left once again to ignore the ending we’ve been given, and imagine something else.

Ozymandias.

(Oh but one last ever-loving thing: learning that Lady Trieu’s villainous genius was explained and excused by her descent from Veidt was enough to make me want to throw the goddamn television show across the goddamn room. Why—that would be as astoundingly short-sightedly stupid as the Star Wars people deciding that instead of being her own person, Rey would have to be excused and explained by her descent from someone like Emperor Palpatine, I mean, can you imagine? —Can you imagine something else? Something different? —At all?)

Fuck death.

It hit me hard when Howard Cruse went and died, but I’d had no idea Tom Spurgeon was already gone

Woe. Mirth. Marriage. Birth. Christening. Dearth. Heaven. Hell. The Devil His Own Self.

The house lights are flashing, folks; Chase, Book Two of Dicebox, is now underway. (—But stop a moment on the way to your seats: bound-paper copies of Wander, Book One, are now available for pre-order in the lobby.)

Trapped—in a world he never made!

Abhay—I’ve told you about Abhay, right?—starts off talking about X’ed Out and Joe the Barbarian but ends up making one of those salient points about the differences between Grant Morrison’s Invisibles and his Batman, and what happens when the bald chaos magician tries to become /become/ «become» the hairy-chested love-god.

Magnificently shaggy.

Dresden Codak.

The new Dresden Codak strip is, as they say, a thing. A hell of a thing.

Antici—

Oh, go on. Click.

Scott McCloud, author of Zot! Understanding and the comic is one of the theorists of gender.

“It’s as if they had been married to comics and computer but this is still in bed former husband, who is the paper.” And even want to “husband” will be good things, hopes that the young (which are now below 20 years and have grown up with both formats) to carry out the revolution that most have not been able to achieve.

—M.J. Albaladejo,
Un manual de instrucciones para adictos al cómic” [via]

Slouching toward Muhammad.

Ladies, gentlemen, them what are otherwise designated: the lights are flashing in the lobby. The final issue of the first book of Dicebox has begun.

A riddle:

So why is it I’m thrilled to hear that Edgar Wright is filming in and around the actual dank pit that Bryan Lee O’Malley picked out for Scott and Wallace’s apartment, but the slavish care and monomaniacal attention to detail that Zach Snyder and co. slathered all over Watchmen left me cold?

How delightfully heteronormative.

With Grant Morrison interviews, you get used to brutal top-overing and simplistic piss-taking; it’s all part of the fun—and I’m pumping my fist right along with the basic fuck-yeah point:

As I said earlier, in this last decade, everyone’s been swinging for a better-paying job in the movies, so we’ve been writing comic books that were a bit like classic Robert McKee Hollywood pitches. But we all got to go to Hollywood. Every big name in comics has some kind of work in Hollywood and still loves comics enough to stick with them. So I’m just saying, “Look, we got the gig. We’ve convinced them we can write fucking action movies. Let’s get back to blowing minds.”

And there’s of course the dizzying moment of contrarian backspin, the wellyesbut:

Like I said with Superman, in imagination there exists someone who won’t stop what he’s doing until everyone’s okay, until everything’s okay. Everybody wants that feeling—it’s what you get when you meditate on the Amida Buddha but in Pop Art drag. It’s why a lot of kids who have come from broken homes like to read superhero comics. Fictional idols don’t fall and if they do, they just get up again. A superhero is a guy who just will not let you down. He or she’s our best, most aspirational image of ourselves as people. Our future potential in cartoon form. Of all the Watchmen characters, people love Rorschach most because he’s the real superhero. He’s the one who wouldn’t let you down.

But this sort of thoughtless just-so bullshit really falls flat:

IGN Comics
As much as any other theme, the idea of “the love story” plays a pivotal role in Final Crisis. There’s Lois and Superman, Weeja Dell and Nix Uotan, Mandraak and Zillo Valla, and Dinah and Ollie to a certain extent.
Grant Morrison
And even the Super Young Team. The super-compressed soap opera going on with them is a love story too. And Barry and Iris. Wally and Linda. Jay and Joan. Hourman and Liberty Belle. Tattooed Man and his wife. Even Hawkman and Hawkgirl. There are a lot of couples. They’re the binary pairs, the opposites who attract rather than repel or battle one another. They show what happens when the page starts to fancy the ink!
IGN
Not to simplify things too much, but is this kind of your way of saying “love makes the world go round?” [laughs]
Morrison
Yeah, that too. It’s also that the basic human story is about attraction, it’s about the need for contact. It really boils down to that in the end. Behind the hero story—after the fight with the villain is over—is the story of “I just want to find someone who understands me and connects with me.” That’s the basic human story, isn’t it? It’s in all our poems and our songs and our movies. Matter itself, everything we know, is created by the attraction of “particles” to one another. So yeah, the basis of this universe is a love story if you want to look at it that way. And think of the inescapable attraction of the big dualities to one another—you don’t have Good versus Down, Good always hangs around with Evil, Black looks most black when contrasted against White… and they both know it! Symmetries, as Captain Adam called them.

In which case, why not Mr. Terrific and Superman? —I know, I know. But let’s call it what it is: chickenshit commercial considerations. Not pretend it’s some grand universal organizing principle.

Tlön, Uqbar, Custodis Tertius.

Rorschach v. Rorschach.

30+ New Watchmen Photos

I finished the book, I gave it to my agent, and I said, “I want this on Henry Selick’s desk.” Henry sent me a script. My notes to Henry’s first script were, “It’s too faithful, Henry.” My notes to Henry’s second script were, “Yeah, that’s pretty good.”

Neil Gaiman (on Coraline)

Snyder says his adaptation of Warner Bros. Watchmen, slated for release next March, is more true to the source material than was the Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men.

300 director brings Watchmen to Comic-Con

Minor villains.

Watchmen’s Axis of Evil has a Dangerous “Package

To stand inside the Owl Ship... and to smell the Comedian’s cigar, to have the Comedian slap me on the back and proudly show me his guns... I was completely thrilled.

Dave Gibbons

Centuries and centuries of idealism have not failed to influence reality. In the very oldest regions of Tlön, it is not an uncommon occurrence for lost objects to be duplicated. Two people are looking for a pencil; the first one finds it and says nothing; the second finds a second pencil, no less real, but more in keep with his expectation. These secondary objects are called hrönir and, even though awkward in form, are a little larger than the originals. Until recently, the hrönir were the accidental children of absent-mindedness and forgetfulness. It seems improbable that the methodical production of them has been going on for almost a hundred years, but so it is stated in the eleventh volume. The first attempts were fruitless. Nevertheless, the modus operandi is worthy of note. The director of one of the state prisons announced to the convicts that in an ancient river bed certain tombs were to be found, and promised freedom to any prisoner who made an important discovery. In the months preceding the excavation, printed photographs of what was to be found were shown the prisoners. The first attempt proved that hope and zeal could be inhibiting; a week of work with shovel and pick succeeded in unearthing no hrön other than a rusty wheel, postdating the experiment. This was kept a secret, and the experiment was later repeated in four colleges. In three of them the failure was almost complete; in the fourth (the director of which died by chance during the initial excavation), the students dug up—or produced—a gold mask, an archaic sword, two or three earthenware urns, and the moldered mutilated torso of a king with an inscription on his breast which has so far not been deciphered. Thus was discovered the unfitness of witnesses who were aware of the experimental nature of the search... Mass investigations produced objects which contradicted one another; now, individual projects, as far as possible spontaneous, are preferred. The methodical development of hrönir, states the eleventh volume, has been of enormous service to archæologists. It has allowed them to question and even to modify the past, which nowadays is no less malleable or obedient than the future. One curious fact: the hrönir of the second and third degree—that is, the hrönir derived from another hrön, and the hrönir derived from a hrön of a hrön—exaggerate the flaws of the original; those of the fifth degree are almost uniform; those of the ninth can be confused with those of the second; and those of the eleventh degree have a purity of form which the originals do not possess. The process is a recurrent one; a hrön of the twelfth degree begins to deteriorate in quality. Stranger and more perfect than any hrön is sometimes the ur, which is a thing produced by suggestion, an object brought into being by hope. The great gold mask I mentioned previously is a distinguished example.

—Jorge Luis Borges, “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius

In 1985, DC Comics acquired a line of characters from Charlton Comics. During that period, writer Alan Moore contemplated writing a story featuring an unused line of superheroes that he could revamp, as he had done in his Miracleman series in the early 1980s. Moore reasoned that MLJ Comics’ Mighty Crusaders might be available for such a project, so he devised a murder mystery plot which would begin with the discovery of the body of The Shield in a harbor. The writer felt it did not matter which set of characters he ultimately used, as long as readers recognized them “so it would have the shock and surprise value when you saw what the reality of these characters was.” Moore used this premise and crafted a proposal featuring the Charlton characters titled Who Killed the Peacemaker, and submitted the unsolicited proposal to DC managing editor Dick Giordano. Giordano was receptive to the proposal, but the editor opposed the idea of using the Charlton characters for the story. Moore said, “DC realized their expensive characters would end up either dead or dysfunctional.” Instead, Giordano convinced Moore to rework his pitch to feature original characters. Moore had initially believed that original characters would not provide emotional resonance for the readers, but later changed his mind. He said, “Eventually, I realized that if I wrote the substitute characters well enough, so that they seemed familiar in certain ways, certain aspects of them brought back a kind of generic super-hero resonance or familiarity to the reader, then it might work.”

Wikipedia

June, 1959.

Jon Osterman and Janey Slater pose for a significant photo.

The photograph is in my hand.

In the second panel, the dialogue is word-specific; that is, “the words provide all you need to know, while the picture illustrates aspects of the scenes being described” (130). Word-specific captions are often used to compress time—slap “thirteen years later” on any picture and there you are, thirteen years later—but here Moore uses them to move us back and forth through time. Without the captions, the transition from the first to second to third panel would seem occur via action-to-action, because the panels follow a single subject in a series of actions: Dr. Manhattan holds the photo, drops it, picks it back and sits down. (Keep in mind for later: were that the case, we would have inferred actions not actually pictured.) The word-specific captions inform us that the transition is actually scene-to-scene.
McCloud defines scene-to-scene as “transitions across significant distances of time and/or space” (15). Moore deliberately confounds that expectation in order to prepare the reader for twenty-six pages focused on a character for whom:
  • the year 1959 (mentioned in the first panel) is no more significant a distance in time than twelve seconds from now (depicted in the second panel)
  • Mars (depicted in the first three panels) is no more significant a distance in space than the Gila Flats (mentioned in the third panel and depicted in the fourth)

—Scott Eric Kaufman, “How to teach comics responsibly in a composition class

There are no nouns in the hypothetical Ursprache of Tlön, which is the source of the living language and the dialects; there are impersonal verbs qualified by monosyllabic suffixes or prefixes which have the force of adverbs. For example, there is no word corresponding to the noun moon, but there is a verb to moon or to moondle. The moon rose over the sea would be written hlör u fang axaxaxas mlö, or, to put it in order: upward beyond the constant flow there was moondling. (Xul Solar translates it succinctly: upward, behind the onstreaming it mooned.)
The previous passage refers to the languages of the southern hemisphere. In those of the northern hemisphere (the eleventh volume has little information on its Ursprache), the basic unit is not the verb, but the monosyllabic adjective. Nouns are formed by an accumulation of adjectives. One does not say moon; one says airy-clear over dark-round or orange-faint-of-sky or some other accumulation. In the chosen example, the mass of adjectives corresponds to a real object. The happening is completely fortuitous. In the literature of this hemisphere (as in the lesser world of Meinong), ideal objects abound, invoked and dissolved momentarily, according to poetic necessity.

—Borges, op. cit.

The most obvious sense in which Watchmen is tethered to comics is the fact that it’s specifically about comics’ form and content and readers’ preconceptions of what happens in a comic book story. Beneath that surface, though, it relies on being a comic book for its crucial sense of time and chronology. The amount of time the reader has to spend working through the story isn’t the same as the amount of time the events in the story encompass—it’s longer—and the direction in which the reader experiences the story isn’t linear but keeps skipping backwards to revisit the past, as the narrative does.
Perhaps somebody at some point has read Watchmen straight through, but one of the joys of reading it is flipping back to see how images and scenes have been set up.

—Douglas Wolk, Reading Comics

Worry not, fans of brutal superheroes: The rape that’s central to Watchmen’s complex character dynamics will be featured in the movie without any censorship. Maybe just the opposite, in fact.
Talking to MTV, Jeffrey Dean Morgan—who plays the Comedian in Zack Snyder’s movie adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ classic comic—said that the scene where his character is discovered raping Carla Gugino’s Silk Spectre wasn’t an easy one to shoot:
It was a three-day process shooting that particular scene, and it was hard... It was three of the hardest days of filming I have ever had to do. It was really very violent.
Violent, you may be thinking? Wasn’t it kind of... understated in the original comic? Well, yes, but certain liberties have to be taken in adapting things into movies, Morgan explained:
When you’re looking at the comic book you only get a couple panels so there is a lot of stuff there that needs to be filled in, so we fill in the blanks there between three and four panels, and it turns out to be one hell of a violent scene. And it’s all intact, [Hooded Justice] comes in and interrupts the attempted rape—it’s all there. We stayed very loyal to it, and I haven’t actually seen the scene yet, but I did see a piece of playback when we were filming it and it’s a lot... It’s rated R for a reason.

—“Watchmen’s Rape Scene is Intact... And Violent

The squid.

Watchmen fans were thrown into a tailspin over the weekend when fans reporting in from the film’s first test screening in Portland carried out with them shocking news. In the version they saw, Zack Snyder had changed the ending of the comic. If you don’t want that ending spoiled for you, then read no further because this entire page will be devoted to nothing but an in depth discussion of what it might mean for the future of Watchmen, if the ending really does play out as reported.

—“Great Debate: Does Watchmen Need A Giant Squid?

IGN
The big question: What have you got against the squid?!
Zach Snyder
I had a bad calamari experience as a child! Look I’ve got nothing against the squid. When I sat down with the studio and talked about the film, we had to make a decision about what stuff we included and what stuff we wouldn’t. For me Watchmen is all about the characters, whereas if we included the squid, I would have to illustrate it in the story and cut out some of the character. So I wanted more character and less story.
So we came up with something else—no one knows yet what we’ve done but we hope it’s similar in philosophy to the ending of the graphic novel. I mean the end is all about taking a superhero all the way—you know it’s the bad guy who is the one who wants world peace. It’s a moral dilemma for all the characters involved.
Dave Gibbons
The tone of the graphic novel—the message, the moral ambiguity—has still been left intact. Also it’s not a squid; it’s a fifth dimensional phalymapod!

—“Director Discusses Watchmen Squid

About 1944, a reporter from the Nashville, Tennessee, American uncovered, in a Memphis library, the forty volumes of the First Encyclopedia of Tlön. Even now it is uncertain whether this discovery was accidental, or whether the directors of the still nebulous Orbis Tertius condoned it. The second alternative is more likely. Some of the more improbable features of the eleventh volume (for example, the multiplying of the hrönir) had been either removed or modified in the Memphis copy. It is reasonable to suppose that these erasures where in keeping with the plan of projecting a world which would not be too incompatible with the real world. The dissemination of objects from Tlön throughout various countries would complement that plan...

—Borges, op. cit.

Watchmen.

IGN
Were you disappointed that Alan Moore didn’t want to be involved?
Snyder
Alan asked if his name could be removed from the film and not to be mentioned at all in relation to it—

Resolved:

that henceforth anyone whose argument hinges in any way upon the consideration of America as a “post-racial” society be classed with and treated as anyone prone to statements prefaced by “I’m not a racist, but.”

Some versions of proprietary, persistent, large-scale popular fiction.

Elizabethan epics ride to the rescue of the beleaguered floppy comicbook:

One would expect this to come naturally to the Elizabethans because their taste must partly have been formed on those huge romances which run on as great tapestries of incident without changing or even much stressing character, and are echoed in the Arcadia and Færy Queen; any one incident may be interesting, but the interest of their connection must depend on a sort of play of judgment between varieties of the same situation. Thus there is a lady in the Arcadia, unnamed, who induces the king her husband to suspect of treason the prince her stepson; a magnificent paragraph explains all the devices by which this was achieved. Twenty folio pages later, after some one has told another story, the knights come to the castle of a queen called Andromana, who tries to seduce them and finally allows them to joust for the pleasure of watching, by which means they escape. It is with pleasure and some interest that one finds, on considering who her relations are, that this is the same lady, but it is quite unimportant; in both parts she is only developed enough to fill the situation. Bianca in Women Beware Women is treated very like this, only more surprisingly; she is first the poor man’s modest wife, then the Duke’s grandiose and ruthless mistress; the idea of “development” is irrelevant to her. Nor is this crude or even unlifelike; it is the tragic idea of the play. She had chosen love in a cottage and could stick to it, but once seduced by the Duke she was sure to become a different person; what is “developed” is a side of her that she had suppressed till then altogether. The system of “construction by scenes” which allows of so sharp an effect clearly makes the scenes, the incidents, stand out as objects in themselves, to be compared even when they are not connected.

—William Empson, “Double Plots

“They’re all going to suck, people! They’re all going to suck!”

Douglas Wolk demonstrates his marvelous politesse:

Still, there’s a cautionary tale within the pages of the graphic novel. In the ’40s, the Betty Grable-ish superheroine Sally Jupiter (played by Carla Gugino in Snyder’s film) agrees to star in a biopic, to be called Silk Spectre: the Sally Jupiter Story. Of course, after the director and the studio have their way with it, its working title becomes Sally Jupiter: Law In Its Lingerie, then She-Devils in Silk, and it eventually appears as a bondage-heavy exploitation flick called Silk Swingers of Suburbia. What goes into the Hollywood machine is never what comes out. Snyder’s Watchmen may be a terrific movie—but if it is, what’s great about it won’t be what’s great about Moore and Gibbons’ book.