Saturday, June 21, 2008

Prove Me Wrong

I didn't grow up on comic books. Rather, they supplemented my steady diet of Encyclopedia Brown, Judy Blume, Michael Moorcock, et cetera. I remember reading a Fantastic Four sometime in the early '80s and didn't really get into comics until a few years later when I was in Junior High (also known as "Middle School").

Eventually I had to pull the plug on my comic habit. I was spending far too much money. When titles jumped up to $.75 each, it was over. When you're buying every X-men related and Spiderman related titles (plus other things), this added up fairly quickly to much more than my allowance and menial jobs could absorb.

It wasn't until the late '90s that I got back into comics -- though I flirted with "just Spiderman" in the early '90s. This time I swore to not buy single issues. I was just going to get collections/graphic novels. Rather than diving in and catching up with my old superhero friends, I went to my friend Mike Thompson and asked for his advice. What comics would blow my mind?

"Watchmen," he told me. "It's the Citizen Kane of comic books."

This clinched it for me. The way Orson Welles's Kane redefined what could be done in cinema was the perfect comparison to the way Alan Moore's Watchmen rewrote the rules of comic books.

Ever since then, I've been hooked. I still go back to Thompson for advice, especially when I find myself exhausting all of the works of Moore, Millar, Vaughn, et cetera.

Now it's nearly a decade later and Watchmen looms nine months away, destined to come to the silver screen in March '09. I'm terrified of and skeptical about this film.

Going back to Mike Thompson's comparison; Citizen Kane may have roots in the theater and radio but it's purely a creature of cinema. Moving it from one medium to another would irreparably change the storytelling and the message of the film. Can you imagine: Citizen Kane the weekly TV series! See that cranky old Mr. C.F. Kane chew out Jedediah Leland, the rascally reporter, week after week. This fall on the CW!

That said, no matter how cinematic Moore's work may be, the filmic adaptations of his work have left much wanting. It's like taking only the black and white from his works and plopping it on screen, leaving all of the color still on the pages of the original work (this metaphor doesn't work when speaking of From Hell since the comic was monochromatic).

I want to be impressed by the Watchmen movie. I want to be proven wrong. I want this to capture the spirit of Moore's work and not sully the original work. I'm just afraid that the Citizen Kane of comic books should always remain "just" a comic book.

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