“It’s nothing but porn”!
“It was just awful”!
“I don’t get it”….
These were just a few of the comments I heard from the unwashed masses who had seen a movie that I: at the risk of totally dating myself; have been waiting 23 years to see. I am talking of course about the movie “Watchmen”. If you have been living under a rock for the past year it has been one of the most anticipated movies of the last year from the most celebrated Graphic Novels of all time.
Graphic Novel; before it was a graphic novel it was a 12 issue mini-series ; and I read each issue. It was 1986 and I was a kid going to Howards News stand. Back then DC Comics had just destroyed the Multiverse and was reconstituting its history. A few blocks away Marvel Comics was having a Secret War. I was looking for something new and fresh, I stumbled across Watchmen.
It was the first time I had ever read anything written by Alan Moore. I grew up dirt poor and could only afford a couple of comics a month. But the store owner knew I was a good kid and would let me sit there and read for hours. Watchmen got my attention from the beginning. And being a kid seeing super heroes swearing, killing, screwing and struggling with inner demons; totally changed the way that I looked at the superhero genre. It made me wonder “what if superheroes existed in the real world” ? Well for one, just to dress up in a costume, go out at night and kick the shit out of people you have got to be a pretty fucked up individual in the first place. And how do you cope mentally and emotionally with all the shit you see in the shadows of the city’s underbelly. And what would the government say. Would you be their agent, their blunt instrument? Would you hang up your tights if they passed a law banning all non-government sanction heroes, or would you keep fighting your “never ending battle” : basically becoming a fugitive.
Watchmen explores all of these issues in an alternative 1985 where Nixon is in his FIFTH term as President. And Superheroes are just as real and flawed as we are; our hopes, our dreams, our secret fetishes. We are in the midst of the cold war just as we were back then. But in the Watchmen universe we had a strategic advantage the Russians did not: A quantum superman named Dr. Manhattan.
Dr. Manhattan, along with another government sanctioned character; the bloodthirsty Comedian, won the Vietnam War for the U.S. Hell according to the opening montage it was the Comedian who was the second shooter on the grassy knoll when JFK got capped. The Opening montage is a perfect lead in to this film and the sound track is driving and heartbreaking all at once. The rest of the heroes had either retired or gone underground. And this leads me to the title of this blog. As in the comics Dr. Manhattan is nude. As a man who lives in a quantum reality, there is no past, present or future; there is only as they say in Metaphysics “the now” . If you were a transcendent being , with no need for food, or water , if you could be in multiple places at once, do just about ANYTHING and was pretty much omnipotent and indestructible: would you really think about clothes? In the book the artist Dave Gibbons said in and interview that yes Manhattan was nude, but he tried to portray it in a tasteful , understated way. The movie previews may have unintentionally misled movie goers who were not familiar with the story: in the movie previews Manhattans blue vine was blurred out with CGI. So these people got a BIG surprise…especially since the first time we see the good Doctor in the film is when he is in a his “giant” form and we get full frontal of what would technically be 7 feet of dangling blue thunder. So…Maybe the Russians fear him so much because he’s packing his very own ICBM? (sorry, I’m a naughty boy and I couldn’t resist) Yes, it blows my mind about America. We can watch bloody movies about people killing and hurting each other. But God forbid we show two grown adults making love. God forbid we show ‘Gasp’! a PENIS. And I thought that Superman’s nick name was “Big Blue” J Anyway, no animals were hurt by the Dr. Manhattan’s mighty turquoise tube steak. Only a few male egos and maybe some “good girls” who were ashamed that they could not stop staring at it. Oh America…when will you catch up? It’s not the 50’s anymore, and the invisible man who lives in the sky won’t strike you down because you were ambushed by colossal, cobalt, cocks. And if that is all you were focusing on then you missed out on a beautiful, multilayered story that is comes at you through the screen like some Greek tragedy clad in spandex and leather. Not pulling any punches and bringing you characters that are as vulnerable as they are powerful. The ending was slightly different than in the comic; but with the same shocking effect that was satisfying for fan boys like me and the unwashed masses; still asking the question asked in the book: how far would you go to save the world, at what price.
I loved it. Too bad they couldn’t incorporate the pirate story “The Black Freighter” it was a story within the story about a pirate trying to make it back to his village to warn them of the coming Black Freighter that destroyed his ship and killed his crew. (I hear its coming out as a solo story on DVD) It reflected the all the sturm and drang of the main story. In the Graphic novel there was a little African-American boy outside of the newsstand reading this story throughout most of the graphic novel.
That little boy was me.
More Later . See you on the flipside of infinity