Sunday, March 22, 2009

The True Origin of Batman and the Watchmen Legacy

My five-year-old daughter, a big "Tiny Titans" fan, was explaining superhero origins to me today. She told me that Wonder Woman was "a woman. And she has a crown. So she's Wonder Woman."

And then she explained that Batman's first name is "Bat" and his last name is "Bat" and he's a man, so he's "Bat Man." And when I asked about Robin, she said, "well, robins eat bats right? Or, wait, do bats eat robins? They both have wings!"

In unrelated news, I've been thinking about the fallout from "Watchmen" not being a blockbuster, and I'm just totally baffled why any members of the audience would want it to be a blockbuster. Wouldn't it just help usher in that "dark" era of superhero movies that the monstrous success of "The Dark Knight" seemed to make inevitable? Maybe the relative failure of "Watchmen" will dissuade studios from wasting kazillions of dollars on movies where Superman has a mullet and dies. Or where Max Lord guns down Blue Beetle before getting his neck snapped by Wonder Woman.

The "Watchmen" experiment of the R-rated superhero film failed (and when students of mine asked me what I thought of the movie, they always said, "my friends said it's like a porno," so that's what the general public of teens and young adults seems to think of it as), and there won't be any more R-rated super heroes in the cinema anytime soon. Isn't that a good thing?


Skotti said...

See, that's the kind of whining that annoys me
people said the same thing when Batman Begins came out

"Oh my god, it's dark and brooding, not upbeat and zany like Batman 89!! Now all superhero movies are gonna be dark!!!11one1"

Even if Watchmen had been a huge success, we'd still get good comic book movies like Spidey and Iron Man

Timothy Callahan said...

1) Who's whining?

2) Who said that after "Batman Begins"? Give me a link. Because you know what I said after "Batman Begins"? Wow, Christian Bale does a really silly bat-voice, and Ra's al Ghul is the world's most ridiculous micro-manager (he really couldn't just let the bomb-train go without actually being on it?).

3) How can you say "if Watchmen had been a huge success, we'd still get good comic book movies like Spidey and Iron Man"? That doesn't make any sense on two levels: first, how do you know? And second, is the first Spider-Man movie good? Did you not see all the Green Goblin parts?

Timothy Callahan said...

btw, I like your art!

Vanja said...

Well, what other R-rated superheroes are there? "Shade the changing man"? "Doom patrol"? "Animal man"?

"Supreme power" is the only thing that comes to mind as being commercial enough to support the movie.

And I still find it strange that "Green arrow" was once a "mature readers" title.

Timothy Callahan said...

Can you imagine a "Supreme Power" movie?

Act One: Young Hyperion grows up, some other super-powered characters appear.

Act Two: Still establishing the characters. Doc Spectrum is ANGRY!

Act Three: Still establishing the characters. The Whizzer sells Nike products!

And then the movie stops. Later, it becomes a series on FOX where some villains are introduced, but nothing happens there, either.

Then it pops up on the FX network for a short lived run written by Howard Chaykin. He introduces a whole new cast of characters who are sad.

Mike Phillips said...

1) Admit it. You ARE a whiner sometimes.

2) I would like to see a Supreme Power movie. The first 2 or 3 trades were pretty good.

3) The Dark Tower cycle.

othermarlo said...

and when students of mine asked me what I thought of the movie, they always said, "my friends said it's like a porno,"

The friends of your students scare me. Either they're too sheltered or just plain ignorant. One sex scene and naked people don't make a porno. Is this at the College level? We truly are going backwards as a species.

Kieron Gillen said...

Christ, man. Baby/bathwater.


Timothy Callahan said...

I don't know what that means.

James said...

An Authority movie could be great. (Granted, that's a "could" of Watchmen magnitute - as in, "within in the realm of possiblity, but incredibly unlikely".)

Although come to think of it, an Authority movie would have been much more in Snyder's wheelhouse. (Fetishized super-violence, fascistic undertones etc.)

James said...

That's not just a British saying, is it? "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater." Watchmen/Hypothetical grim 'n' gritty superhero movie(s) = bathwater; R-rated Superhero movies in general = baby.

Chad Nevett said...

It strikes me as neither a good thing nor a bad thing... but considering my lack of interest in superhero movies most of the time, that's unsurprising.

Matt Jacobson (formerly Ultimate Matt) said...

No, because it also prevents studios from potentially making GOOD r-rated superhero movies, like perhaps Preacher, because apparently "R-Rated, mature superheroes" means excessive, pointless violence, cursing and gratuitous sex.

And that is Watchmen: The Movie's greatest sin: it turned Watchmen into all of its own sleazy imitators, the entire grim-n-gritty era of hackery that missed the point of Watchmen.

Vanja said...

Good call about Authority, that could potentially make a great R-rated movie (even though it was roughly PG13 during all of it's first, most innovative phase).

"Preacher" is not a superhero series.

Matt Jacobson (formerly Ultimate Matt) said...

That wasn't really my point, but no it wasn't.

Kieron Gillen said...

Yeah - sorry. Ridiculously shorthand. Wot James Said.

Authority would end up being a 15 or 18*, I suspect, if done in actual film. You start having people's heads taken apart in the way which the Authority did and don't have Brian Hitch to make it charming, you end up with it being 15/18. 2000 AD was always 15/18s for 13 year olds, after all.

To be honest, the vast majority of superhero work I'd be interested in seeing in film would be 15/18, from Zenith to Sleeper.


*In British parlance.

Anonymous said...

I agree, The Dark Knight was not only nihilistic, but stupidly so. The best superhero movies have fun with the premise—Superman II, perhaps even Spider-Man II (once the "origin" crap is out of the way).

Robin Bougie posted his top-20 list of comics-to-flicks here:

Timothy Callahan said...

I'd like to see Authority, Zenith, Sleeper, and that sort too...but only if they're done right, and the rush to darken the superhero film on the big screen (after Dark Knight and had Watchmen been a big success) seems to echo exactly what led to such hollow and crass comics as...well, pretty much the bulk of the Marvel/DC output of the 1990s.

I'm not saying no R-rated superheroes, I'm saying it might be a good thing there's no rush to make them just BECAUSE they're hardcore.

Molly said...

I'll just be over here cracking up forever at the idea of Watchmen being "like a porno." Is there a lot of Leonard Cohen in porn these days? "Boy, 'Suzanne' really makes that DP scene work!"

Yeah, there is a lot wrong with me.

Matt said...

Yes. It is a good thing. I hope this doesn't just dissuade Hollywood from making dark superhero films, but gives the movies a bit of caution in their approach to adapting comics, period. The love affair between the media that has broken out in the past 4-5 years is something I see as not being healthy for the medium, with an incredible amount of mainstream creators forgetting they work in a truly original medium and just trying to do movies on paper, while every other independent book launched is an illustrated movie pitch.

I think the Watchmen movie is a good capstone to the past decade's continuing merger of films and comics' respective worlds. With the million copies of Watchmen sold in the movie's wake, I think a lot of new readers will be, if not frequenting shops in the future, certainly interested in reading the occasional "graphic novel". I'd like to put forth a modest proposal that comics step away from this Hollywood love affair with a much-expanded readership and take the next decade to reacquaint with what makes them our favorite medium. When the comic book's bag of tricks has been expanded and updated in, oh, let's say 2020, they'll be ready for another flash across the silver screen.

But enough is enough for now... let's relax for awhile before we do great injustice to more works of literature...

Matt Jacobson (formerly Ultimate Matt) said...

Slightly off topic, but when a really successful film adaptation of a book comes out, do sales on that book, or of that authors books, go up? I'm serious - that seems to be the closest correlation the theory that comic sales will somehow go up if superhero movies do well. Does anybody have any numbers, or know where to find them?