Monday, 27 November 2017

HBO's WATCHMEN (part 1)

Sound like good news, isn’t it?
Damon Lindelof never hid his appreciation of Moore & Gibbons’ seminal comic book mini-series, which clearly influenced LOST (the non-linear structure, the mythology showcased through faux-documents, the multi-character perspective, often showing the same events from different points of view, the vonnegutian time-traveling consciousness and so on).

Besides, I didn’t dislike LOST at all, even the much-hissed last season.
I always thought the show was an experiment in story telling excess: how many twists can a plot sustain? How many double-triple-quadruple crosses are possible (both within the story and within the STRUCTURE of the story).

If the whole point was to create an almost endless series of mysteries, wrapped in riddles, inside an enigma (this is a quote), then the show delivered.

And isn’t a mini –series on HBO the natural fit for a story like WATCHMEN? Dark, edgy, detailed, ornate? Didn’t HBO produce THE WIRE, which Alan Moore publicly praised?

And while people can have problem with Zack Snyder’s turgid adaptation from 2009, doesn’t the fidelity to the details of that version bid well for any other future adaptation? Any other creative team will be forced to either approximate that level of accuracy at some level or at least replace it with something equally worthy.

Well: no, no and no.

As a general rule, any news about an adaptation of Alan Moore’s work cannot be good news.

1) I'm kind of wary of adaptations in general and particularly of works with a very high reputation or that are regarded as pinnacles in a particular art form.

It is possible that not all arts are created equal.

Some art forms do not have to put up with adaptations. Nobody will ever make a movie out of Beethoven's 5th symphony (now that I think of it, maybe someday someone will).

Other art forms, like the stage play, or the radio play, can probably translate very well in to other forms.

I suppose that fiction has an inherent "cross-adaptability" and the same material can be presented on stage, on the written (or drawn) page or on the silver screen.

But would anybody think of making a literary adaptation of Hitchcock's Vertigo or Welles'  Citizen Kane that would rival in WORTHINESS with the original?

Landmark works in art are usually not such because of the material or the plot, but rather because of the execution, and brilliant executions usually take advantage of the specifics of the art form in question.

Which brings me to point >

2) WATCHMEN is such a work. It does things that are only possible in the art form of comics, making thus any attempt to adapt the work possibly pointless.

Unless the original work is used as a starting point to build something different. If this is the case, then I have a lot less of an issue. This has happened repeatedly in history. Often such adaptation change a LOT from the material, even the title and that is a sign that the adaptation is something DIFFERENT.

Of course this makes only sense in a world where the WATCHMEN adaptation is happening for art's sake. If the writers and producers were simply attempting to create a great work of art out of another work of art.

But we all know that this is not the case. 
I will allow some bona fide intentions to Lindelof and the producers, but I think we all know what is the reasoning behind this upcoming series: we have a valuable IP and we want to turn it in to a hype, in the wake of productions like Marvel/Netfilx series or Games of Thrones.


Why shouldn't they, though?

This won't replace or obliterate the original comic book, on the contrary, it will probably rekindle the interest in it. And there is a demand for it, from fans!

That's another problem. I cannot stand this hunger for FILMED adaptation of comics or books we love. As if it is necessary to us. I do not need a movie to portray what's been in my imagination. If anything, the ones who should be attracted to adaptations are people who are NOT familiar with the material.


But anyway, the biggest argument against any adaptation of Moore's work has to do with the history of Alan Moore's relationship with DC/Time Warner.

Up until 2003 Alan Moore had no major issues with having his work adapted. Partially because he understood that it was the nature of the game in the writing business (any sensible writer will tell you that film options and film rights are one of the most substantial sources of revenue for a writer), partially because back in the day, comic book adaptations were not that big of a deal as they have become since. He thought there was little harm in getting paid for options and having a studio developing an adaptation, because most of the time the project would get stuck in development.

In those years Moore used to play along; back in 1990 he even gave Sam Hamm's draft for a WATCHMEN some credit, even though it changed a lot of stuff from the comic. I suppose he was just being nice.

Even after Moore's relation with DC had soured (not lastly because of DC's little trick played in order to keep the publishing rights on WATCHMEN) the author had no fundamental issues with adaptations, as long as he could distance himself and was not demanded to participate in the promotion.

One of the first adaptations to be actually produced was a Justice League episode based on "For the Man Who Has Everything", a Superman annual story written by Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, which has always been regarded as one of the character's best.

Moore has reportedly been generous towards this adaptation. and furthermore it was a story involving a character he himself did not invent.

Things started to get bad after the From Hell and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movies. They were both critical and box office disappointments, and deservedly so.

Moore probably started getting wary of his name being associated with bad movies rather that with the FAR FAR superior original material.

But still, he seemed cool enough, and quoted Raymond Chandler when people questioned him about his work getting ruined, showing them shelves full of his books and saying: "See? The movies did not ruin my work. It is still here."

But then things got bad after the lawsuit.


Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Ira Schnapp

Sounds like Gerhard Shnobble or one of those made-up names from Eisner's The Spirit.

He was the designer of the Superman comic books masthead/nameplate (admit I had to google for the right term: according to which side of the pond you live the masthead/nameplate is the "title logo" that magazines or other periodical publications sport on the front cover).

I was actually looking for the person who designed the definitive "S" shield logo.

One of the many thropes of the super hero genre started by Superman, was the idea that a hero's costume would implement some sort of symbol, emblem or crest, often boldly displayed on the chest.

I can only speculate where this idea could have originated.
Frank Miller proposed his theory in a conversation with Will Eisner (conversation transcribed for the posterioty in the must-read book "Miller/Eisner" - a book that still injects me with some residual respect for Mr. Miller, or at least for his past output, but I digress..) that the printing quality was so shitty that characters had to wear their name spelled out in order to be recognized.

The Superman symbol went through a number of permutation in its eighty-years history, and gets regular redesigns to this day with every new reboot, be it on paper or on the silver screen.

However, one version of the symbol got to be the "official" (or rather trademarked) variant and I wanted to know who did the job.

Unfortunately I was not able to find out. But in my internet scouting for an answer I stumbled upon Ira Schnapp.

Comic-books historian and man with a taste for flamboyant outfits Arlen Schumer has a full lecture on this lesser known artist, who helped shape so much of the DC graphic identity over the years.

Likewise, calligraph extraordinaire Todd Klein dedicated quite a few posts to him on his blog. It' all worth reading.

Comics are a visual medium. On the top of my head I can only think to advertisement as the only other discipline that worked that extensively on the cusp where words become VISUAL OBJECTS, with meaning emanating not only from the IDEA sealed in the word, but from its visual presentation.

But advertisement is not an art (a pretty big statement I do not want to unpack here, even though I anticipate some antagonism to it), while comics is (note the singular).

Monday, 19 June 2017


("kans"= chance, opportunity + "arm"= poor, low, lacking)
 A Dutch word literally meaning "lacking opportunities" or "disadvantaged"
It is the preferred word in the public discourse for low-income/lower class people, often immigrants (or children thereof).
For some reason this word sits uncomfortable with me.

It's like we do not want to say "poor".
Like, "they wouldn't be poor, if they only had the opportunity".
Like, we cannot call these people poor, because they have SOME money.
Or like we don't want to offend them.
"Poor" sounds more like a condition you cannot change.

Why don't call them "wealth-challenged"?
(I must say the term "underprivileged" is as much as lame. It's like "we are all privileged. Just, some are more privileged than others")

Well it does not take living under a bridge to be poor. It all depends on how your neighbors are doing.

I promise you, if you TODAY, with your current wage, your current house, car and family would move to Beverly Hills, between Brad Pitt and, I don't know, Miley Cyrus or whatnot, you would feel f***ing poor. You would look with CONTEMPT to your shabby l'il house, your cheap furniture and your crummy-ass garden half covered in weeds, half covered in burnt-brown grass.

I thinks it's denial.
Saying "She's from a poor family", is too definitive and confrontational.
It means poor people exist.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Big Decisions

Often what we call "big decisions" ain't nothing but small velleities.
Take me. I was chatting with my friend Fabio, in the typical internet hyperbolic fashion, and wrote "Sometimes I just want to get it over with everything and become a stand-up comedian!".
So this idea keeps hanging around in the back of my head for a couple of days and I think "hey, I should really get serious about it"
But you understand pretty quickly you ain't going to have much of a career in comedy when the first thing you do after making that decision is to google "how to come up with jokes".