In the second half of the 80’s Frank Miller gave the Batman universe definitely a new feel with The Dark Knight Returns and Year One. But Alan Moore created around the same time the iconic The Killing Joke, on Batman’s most illustrious enemy (The Joker). Not to forget that his Watchmen is a likeminded reflection on the psychology of superheroes.
A strange parallel between The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke is Bruce Wayne’s obsession to fund a rehab program for the deranged. A unique Moore touch however are the gray flashbacks, i.c. on a failed comedian finally derailing. Completely. The sort of information on a past, an identity that the best detective in the world could kill for. The sort of detective that really can’t finish anything by the book. Moore’s layers.
Tim Burton gratefully adopted some ideas on how The Joker chemically came to be in his first Batman movie (1989). But it took nearly 20 years more before Christopher Nolan brought the terrible madness of the character to the big screen, in The Dark Knight (2008).
That madness is intensely illustrated in The Killing Joke. A suicide course. Drizzly rain, from beginning to end. Until The Joker’s last joke turns out to be a real killer. The fool prince of darkness.
My Deluxe edition has the recoloring by graphical craftsman Brian Bolland, and an epilogue that he wrote (a teaser? a dream?) to turn all upside down again.
How watching Watchmen might turn into a depressing experience:
1. Either you’ve read the extraordinary comic and you won’t recognize it.
Gone are: a carefully revealing puzzle, everyday hero backgrounds, their naive intentions, the retro-graphics, the suggestion of violence.
Enter: explicit atrocity, underportrayed characters, übershiny costumes and graphics. Luckily the end scenes preserve the philosophical core of the book and (just partly) save some of the movie.
2. Either you haven’t read the extraordinary comic and you have doubts.
You wonder: what is this movie about? What connects all pieces?
One advise: read the book. Reconsider this obnoxious movie afterwards.
By the way, it is NOT impossible to make a good movie from an Alan Moore product. Check out V for Vendetta (soundtrack by David J). And while From Hell may have been mediocre, Watchmen is really disappointing.
I certainly haven’t (yet). Because I first wanted to read the Watchmen book. As I (luckily) also did with From Hell and V for Vendetta.
As usually with Alan Moore it took me some time to get through it. Because of the figuring personas, their psychology and backgrounds, a complete society sketched and, not to be underestimated, the plot. Moore’s works are truly ‘Graphic Novels’, balancing images and narration (both of high quality). Guess why it took 4 years.
As usually with Alan Moore it was worthwhile. Certainly for Watchmen. In a historically twisted world, numerous layered tales are served, that eventually all interact and interconnect (with the Pirates’ book-in-the-book and its writer’s role as supreme example). The written intersections in the book (of varying ‘written’ nature) required my patience but added perspective. All to present a hyperoriginal perspective on superheroes, also behind the scene (how common), the early amateurism and marketing attempts of the masked avengers, their objectives, motives and ethics, the fact that they get old and… retire. No wonder that The Minutemen weren’t meant to last.
Alan Moore is without any doubt one of the greatest graphic novelists of our times. He gave us a complete hypothesis on the identity of Jack The Ripper and the motives and instructor for his outrageous killings, in an historical London with all its (dark) facets, in From Hell. Mediocre movie if you know the book. He told about this fascinating superhero-like character fighting a fascistoid authority in the truly haunting V for Vendetta (brrr, the scaring philosophy -liberating?- behind the torture scenes…). The movie was good, respecting main roles, colours and story of the book. He has not just written another Batman story with The Killing Joke, it soon became a well adapted standard for the becoming of Batman’s biggest opponent, The Joker. But Watchmen is the best I’ve read to date of Alan Moore. It really stands out with all its magnificent complexity. Sorry to say that The Ballad Of Halo Jones was just good, entertaining above all. Others would kill to be able to write it, I guess.
Now I will sit and wait. To watch the Watchmen on DVD (director’s cut).