Sunday, June 26, 2005

Father's day

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My children love me. They must, to indulge their father's second childhood in middle age as they do. (We had a house fire a few years ago, in which my copies of these books were lost. They just replaced them for me.)

What is a son who reads Harry Potter and watches Yu-Gi-Oh! to make of Watchmen? How does the Batman of The Dark Knight Returns relate to the one now showing on Kids' WB? Or Adam West?

And, having read and enjoyed these books when they were new, how should that affect my discomfiture with certain events in Identity Crisis?

In some ways, I'm sorry editor Dick Giordano wouldn't let writer Alan Moore use the old "Charlton" characters (Blue Beetle, the Question, Peacemaker, Thunderbolt, Captain Atom & Nightshade) to tell the story of Watchmen. Giordano was right in that it would be impossible to use those characters after this. On the other hand, he had no way of knowing that, despite his grand plans, very little of any significance would ever be done with them. Had they been used in Watchmen, they would at least have been retired spectacularly.

Just as the nature of Sue Dibny's death, and the secrets revealed in the course of subsequent events, have generated far more interest in the character than has ever been seen before.

Watchmen is one of the few graphic novels that approaches being worth the hype that surrounds it. However, it is not the book I'd hand to someone who has never read comic books by way of introduction to the medium. Much of its appeal is rooted in the conventions that it deconstructs, the acceptance that it is perfectly reasonable for someone to put on a mask and tights and go chase crooks.

It's a very densely-written book, and you do yourself no favors by skimming it. Take your time.

The Dark Knight Returns, on the other hand, really isn't worth the hype. I mean, it's not bad, but it isn't the best comic book ever written, nor even the best Batman story ever told (Frank Miller's other magnum opus, Batman Year One, is better). Its importance to the Batman myth has been grossly overestimated: DC Comics has spent the intervening years reshaping the legend to make the Dark Knight future the character's most likely one, and I don't consider that an improvement.

Frank Miller has some serious issues.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen were both coming out at the same time and I thought then that it was a shame that Dark Knight was getting so much more attention than Watchmen. So Batman is tougher and grittier. Wolverine and Punisher and Rambo and Dirty Harry had been there, done that. Near-post-apocalyptic world? See Judge Dredd in the Scorced Earth. In short, the fundamental idea seemed rather obvious.

Watchmen, on the other hand, seemed a quantum leap in narrative for comic book superheroes. The horror of "The Abyss Also Gazes," the realism of the Dreiberg and Juspeczyk coupling juxtaposed with the romantic retake with Nite Owl and Silk Spectre, and the end of issue one which is one of the best endings I've ever read.