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.)
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.
The new Dresden Codak strip is, as they say, a thing. A hell of a thing.
“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.
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.
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?
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:
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.
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!
Not to simplify things too much, but is this kind of your way of saying “love makes the world go round?” [laughs]
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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 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.
The big question: What have you got against the squid?!
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.
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!
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.
Were you disappointed that Alan Moore didn’t want to be involved?
Alan asked if his name could be removed from the film and not to be mentioned at all in relation to it—
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.”
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”
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.
Sometimes it’s nice to take a couple of disparate things from your daily media rounds and just sit ’em down next to each other. You know?
No wonder so many men are becoming gay, I mean really. You listen to women today. They’re afraid of ’em! It’s not that— A lot of guys become gay out of default. —There’s another epidemic that we’re not talking about: the lack of grandchildren epidemic. I’m gonna do a whole show on that, which is separate from the gay thing. But why so many white families don’t have grandchildren.
The latest comics blogospheric blow-up about icky-icky-girlstuff-p’tang! leads The Beat to post something which leads us to remind you that yes, pink, because it is a warm, active, yang-y color, was until early in the 20th century considered the only appropriate color for boys; blue, cool, passive, wet and yinny, was until roughly the same time considered the only appropriate color for girls. (Nelly Bly’s nickname, growing up? Pink. Because she was such a tomboy.) —It’s beyond high time in all these culture wars for us footsoldiers to remember we have so much more in common with the grunts on the other side than our own dam’ generals, but that’s usually the way with US and THEM.
“It’s like reading a really bad webcomic with a vast continuity and its own tiny and deeply insular LiveJournal community,” says Alexandra DuPont of Frank Miller’s The Spirit.