In The Face Of Adaptation: Watchmen

Alan Moore wrote Watchmen to be unadaptable.

This is the common wisdom and it’s probably true, since Alan Moore has notoriously hated every adaptation of his work save the Justice League Unlimited take on Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow? (He’s right, it’s both a fantastic episode and a great adaptation. It’s also my favorite thing he wrote, but I’ve never read Swamp Thing…)

I read Watchmen in college, as a burgeoning closeted comics geek, it was an acceptable starting point. Watchmen wasn’t a comic book, (the horror!) it was literature. 

I didn’t get it. I saw the movie. I liked that fine. But still, didn’t get it.

I read Watchmen again a few years ago, after diving headlong into comics and superhero fandom.

I got it that time.

It’s a brilliant work.

I still don’t quite get the movie.

Also, while recognizing Watchmen’s greatness and even liking the book itself, the way the comics industry learned all the wrong lessons from it continues to piss me off. Not everything needs to be Watchmen. 

Anyway, why revisit this graphic novel that I’ve always appreciated more than I actually liked? Because HBO is airing a TV show based on it obviously!

Rather than adapt that which cannot be adapted (how does one show all of time happening to Doctor Manhattan at once on film? ONE CANNOT!) Damon Lindelof has opted to further explore the deeply interesting world that Moore created.

Watchmen the show, takes place in an alternate 2019, the 2019 of the Watchmen, where a culture shaped by masked vigilantes and accelerated technology and President Robert Redford. Of course bits of our history still happened, so the world is both alien and familiar.

And I was wary. Being not crazy about Watchmen, and even more nervous at attempts to do more with it, I didn’t know what to expect going in.

It’s good. It’s damn good. It’s thoughtful and darkly funny, and opaque, and uses TV the way the novel uses comics.

Also Regina King is the shit.

Anyway, I’m curious how the whole thing ends up, but I’m super intrigued with how things are going. Now that Adrian Veidt and Laurie Blake are in the mix, I’m even more excited for how things are going to progress. Doctor Manhattan’s appearance feels imminent. Or not, an anticlimax of  that sort would be both very in the spirit of Watchmen and Lindelof’s pedigree.

We’ll see.

60 Books In 2019 #53 & 54: The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins & Murder On The Rockport Limited by Clint, Griffin, Justin & Travis McElroy & Carey Pietsch

I’ve got a new (ish) Shibboleth when I’m around fellow nerdy people. Once you get past your standards (What’s your house? Marvel or DC? Wars or Trek?), you suss out if someone is a podcast person, and then, “Do you McElroy at all?”

I’ve decided to turn McElroy into a verb because it’s easier than running down the list of the good good podcasts, from these good nice boys and their various relatives. I McElroy pretty hard, I listen to all the podcasts, and have watched the TV show a few times and I listen to the spin off Smirl Girl podcasts. I was late to The Adventure Zone even by my standards and I’m still making my way through the Balance arc, but I decided to pick up the two (so far) graphic novels based on the podcast which is just the boys playing Dungeons And Dragons with their dad.

It’s not for everyone. I mean, if you’re allergic to JOY you might not enjoy the McElroy brand. Not but really, it’s absurdly silly stuff, where Taako, The Elf Wizard (from TV), Merle The Dwarf Cleric (Devotee of Pan), and Magnus The Human Fighter (Rushes in), go on magical adventures for The Bureau of Balance retrieving artifacts of great power.

But mostly they mess it up, and make dumb jokes, and make Griffin, their dungeon master and best friend sigh in exasperation. I was nervous if the graphic novel would live up to the slightly structured silliness of the podcast and it really did. It’s also so correct that Carey Pietsch’s art seems almost childlike, or at least like a children’s book, brightly colored and thick lined and full of whimsy.

Seriously, if you like the podcast (or want a slightly less time consuming introduction to those Good Nice McElroy boys) check it out.

I know I was supposed to be reading Cavendon Hall but here’s the deal, the book was not particularly well written and had a rape in the first 20 pages. I got too much stuff I want to read to be subjecting myself to poorly written historical fiction with rapes in it!

Up next is Doctor Sleep because we’re halfway through October and I want some ghosts damn it!

60 Books in 2019: #50 This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki

Being twelve is weird. It’s always weird, but what I’m so glad for lately, is that I’m starting to find fiction that documents how weird that times is specifically when you’re a girl. (For boys it is territory well covered.)

This One Summer captures the sort of impressionistic memories of a preteen summer in a magical blue haze of art that fully captivated me. It never takes me particularly long to read graphic novels, but this one I breezed right through in just over an hour, even sleepy after working at the day job all day.

It follows the summer that protagonist Rose spends at a beach house with her parents, the same house they’ve always rented. Rose and her friend Windy, who’s a little younger than Rose spend every year together. And this year, Rose is dealing with a rough patch in her parent’s marriage, so she’s feeling a little sensitive.

There’s so many  of the things that felt real to me. The obsessions with death and sex, but not quite understanding either. Renting rated R movies and holding your breath that the clerk doesn’t make you get your parents’s permission. A crush on an older boy that you don’t quite understand.

I melted into this book. I’ve made some good choices off my TBR in the past week. (Karamo excepted. Sorry Karamo!) I kind of wish that I’d read this one a few weeks ago, when summer was in it’s twilight.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this book and I’m glad that I’m mixing more graphic work back in.

Up next is Hotel On The Corner of Bitter And Sweet by Jamie Ford.

60 Books In 2019 #47: The Kitchen by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle

Oh boy, I was disappointed when the reviews for the film, The Kitchen were tepid. But now that I’ve read the graphic novel that the movie is based on, I completely understand why.

The Kitchen has a hell of a hook, a trio of wives of mid level mob guys who head to prison decide to take over their husband’s territory. It goes well until it doesn’t.

The art in the book is good, I want to make that clear. I like Ming Doyle, and kind of always have. It really sells the Scorcese-esque 70’s New York world of the book, it’s gritty and angular and never overly sexy (which is a nice change for this kind of story). I wish it were in service to something more interesting than this book. The characters are shallow and everything’s a little bit too scattered in the story, I kept feeling like I missed something, some point of convergence.

I hadn’t, it’s just not a particularly well written book. I’ve read some only OK comics, that’s kind of the deal when you get into it, but I’m stunned  by how just meh, this one was, when it’s got such a juicy premise to go off from, but it’s just not particularly well executed.

Bummer.

Up next is Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing And Hope by Karamo Brown, because I haven’t read many fluffy D-list Celeb Memoirs lately (Although I guess Queer Eye And Dancing With The Stars pushes him to C, but still.)

60 Books In 2019 #38: Check Please: Book 1: #Hockey By Ngozi Ukazu

I don’t consider this comic Very Serious ArtTM at all, but I do consider it to be something even better: fun. – Ngozi Ukazu Foreward to Check Please

As a woman who has a complicated but deeply loving relationship with fandom, sports and bro culture, I was kind of nervous about reading Check Please. I was raised by a bro, and lived my life surrounded by them. I speak their language fluently, I understand that toxic bros have hurt and broken many people, but I knew only rowdy love and kindness from them all my life. No bro has ever made me defend my love of the Manning brothers or quizzed me about Zac Brown Songs I prefer. They did not say I was wearing that Hawaiian shirt to a Jimmy Buffett concert “for the attention” or scoffed when I couldn’t keep the plots of The Fast And The Furious sequels straight.

Bros are my brother, and future brother in law, and cousins and friends. I will drink PBR and defend Sublime in their honor against nerds for always. (In turn, I will also defend my nerd loves to the bros. I walk between worlds.)

Check Please is a warm bro-ey hug and I was so grateful for it. (I have gotten many of these hugs over the years, they’re great!) The comic is based around the experiences of Erik Bittle, a college hockey player who switched from figure skating for scholarship reasons. Bitty, as his teammates call him, comes to Samwell College in Boston from a smal town in Georgia, with a love of baking and pop songs and a deep fear of being checked.

Bitty’s also gay, not quite in the closet, but not quite out, really into vlogging and has a SUPER crush on his captain, the broody, mysterious Jack Zimmerman.

Bitty is, to use a fandom term I’ve never been particularly fond of, a total cinnamon roll. All I want to do is hug him and tell him he’s wonderful and perfect and deserves love. Luckily, this is what his teammates and friends, Shitty, Ransom, Holster and many others shower him with all the time.

And then there’s Jack. *SWOON*

This first volume ends with Bitty and Jack’s first kiss and it’s adorably well earned, but mostly, I just devoured this book like one of Bitty’s sweet pies, because of the healthy warm masculinity it models. There’s so much talk about toxic masculinity but less talking and modeling about the aspects that are good. The weird bonding rituals and group hugs and SO MUCH BEER DRINKING, that’s largely harmless and delightful and fun.

Ngozi Ukazu didn’t set out to make VERY SERIOUS ART with Check Please but I think she might have anyway.

Also, the book is so stinking cute, and volume 2 isn’t available yet! Which AHHHH!!!!

Up next is Party Of The Century: The Fabulous Story Of Truman Capote And His Black And White Ball by Deborah Davis. Showbiz bios are fun for everyone!

60 Books In 2018 #3: Crisis On Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman and George Perez

OK so, I picked this up so that I would have a basis of comparison for when the Arrowverse version coming next fall.

Also, just because as I get back into superheroes (not that I was ever not into them, but you know what I mean!) and back into reading superhero comics this seemed a good place to start. (Seriously, last year the only superhero book I read was Grayson.) Like all it’s later immitators, Crisis On Infinite Earths is both wonderful and befuddling, and delightful and dull, all at once.

Wolfman’s story meant to forever simplify the DC Universe by streamlining it’s many alternate worlds into one, but only served to show the company that big crossovers will sell books and also that killing a Flash from time to time is to be expected, is given a huge leg up but Perez’s art. Seriously, I’m not even big into that era of comic book art, (I came to comics post Image and the glossy style of Jim Lee & Co really shaped my taste.) but Perez just so so good.

The story, though, well, let’s talk about that. The Monitor and Anti-Monitor are battling for the universe, and The Monitor calls the greatest heroes from across the multiverse to his side. Two Supermen, Supergirl, The Flash, Captain Marvel and many others, join in the battle, which in the end destroys worlds, and everyone forgets and the DC Universe spins on, but simpler, until it isn’t.

What Crisis really represents is a the last gasp of a certain time in comics. It was published in 1985, just before the earth shaking forces of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns changed everything. Crisis was trying to simplify a status quo that was about to be obliterated anyway, but on it’s own, it’s a fun exciting superhero story.

When it comes to The Arrowverse, my guess is that it’s going to end with Kara Zor-El’s world merging with those of Barry Allen and Oliver Queen.

But by this time next year, we’ll know.

Up next is The Golem and The Jinni by Helene Wecker. I’ve joined the book club at my library and this is the book this month, so I’ve gotta get it read.

30 Books in 2018 #17: Grayson By Tim Seely & Tom King

Depression’s a funny thing, when you come out the other side of it. I mean, the disease itself isn’t funny at all. But I’ve always found the odd transformations that occur during one of my “foggy times,” a little bit funny.

I had a rough week, last week. Nothing happened, particularly, I just, didn’t feel well. (Seriously, concerned friends and family, I’m good. It was like the mental health version of a cold or stomach bug!) When the fog lifted however, my mind snapped into place, looking to latch on to some old obsessions.

Plus I’d been doing some heavy lifting in the reading department, so I figured, yeah, let’s take a break with some sexy spy times with everyone’s favorite ex-acrobat, ex-superhero, double agent with buns of steel and a heart of gold.

Agent THIRTY SSSEEEVEEEENNNNN! *BA BOW BOW*

AKA Dick Grayson, AKA Nightwing, AKA Robin, AKA Batman for like a minute (A GLORIOUS MINUTE) AKA The Fictional Love Of My Life.

So, when your depression brain wakes up one day and says , “I miss Dick Grayson,” and the part of you that’s trying to cope thinks, “that’s it? That’s what you want this time? We don’t need to eat our weight in pasta? Or skip work and walk around the Met? Or just lay in bed with the covers over our head wondering what the point of getting out of bed is? You just want to read some comics and obsess about Dick Grayson’s butt? WE CAN TOTALLY DO THIS DEPRESSION BRAIN!” And then your depression brain goes, “Really? Cool! Now about that pasta…”

I’m not suggesting that you negotiate with brain weasels all the time, I’m just highlighting how low level this week’s funk was.

Anyway, I decided that since my crazy self missed Mr. Grayson, I’d reread and finish the spy series that bears his name. (And then probably read Nightwing: Rebirth…but I haven’t done that yet…) I went on Amazon, bought the soft cover collections, and realized I’d previosuly read about half the series, though remembered even less of it.

I enjoyed it immensely. Grayson is a really fun book, even if I can’t quite look at it objectively. Most comic fans have “their guy.” Dick Grayson is my guy, and Grayson is written for people who choose him as their guy. Here he’s the smartest, best, funniest and obviously prettiest boy in every room he enters. (I mean he usually is anyway, IMO.)

But Grayson in particular plays to the character’s strengths and history which makes it a fun read. The spy setting lets his abilities as a performer and man-skank (seriously he’s SOOO slutty. I love him.) shine, whereas the traditional Batman urban setting plays these down, focusing on the acrobatics and quips (Also great) (And in abundance here.)

It’s also got a fun cast, (Helena Bertinelli & Tiger are true treasures. Midnighter’s fun too!) and my favorite series of moments, when Dick reveals to his fellow Bat-kids that he faked his death. Jason punches him in the face while Tim lectures him. Barbara tells him that she wishes she could be surprised by how disappointed in him she is…which ouch. And Damian just flying tackle hugs him, and I cry forever. There’s a decent exploration of identity throughout the series and the way it shifts as we grow up and change. Given how much he’s changed (Robin, Nightwing, Batman, back to Nightwing) Dick’s the perfect character in mainstream comics to explore that with. And it’s explored prtty deeply.

Am I Straight

Also this happens…because FAN SERVICE!

Like a lot of tail end New 52 stuff, things sort of fall apart when the book is forced into the massive crossovers and complex retcons happening around it. While the Robin War stuff, which crossed over with We Are Robin and I would assume Robin and Red Hood And The Outlaws and Teen Titans, I guess, (What was even was Tim’s book at this point? But see what I mean about the confusion?) was interesting, it pulled you out of some pretty important Spyral action which then takes another couple of issues to pick up. But it’s a fun mystery with a bonkers conclusion that all ties back to the question of identity. And there’s a fun Coda featuring my new favorite Constantine story. So that’s fun.

I’m trying not not let this suck me down a dark hole of comics reading, because so much time and money. But I was happy to pop in and revisit, especially with Dick. I’d missed him so.

 

Agent 37

And did I mention the fanservice?