“...These are dangerous times, and we need dangerous shows.”
I'm paraphrasing what Damon Lindelof recently told attendees at the Vulture Festival in Los Angeles. He was of course talking about his next project, an adaptation of 'Watchmen', which received a pilot order from HBO back in September.
Now, while I feel that 'Watchmen' was a corrective the genre needed in 1986. I’m not sure what kind of corrective the genre needs now but it’s not Alan Moore’s 'Watchmen.'
Alan Moore originally wanted to use characters that had recently been brought into the DC-verse when they bought out an old competitor comic company (Charlton Comics; Captain Atom, Blue Beatle 1&2, Nightshade, The Question, Thunderbolt, Peacemaker, etc.) I’m sure fans can recognize a few of those names as characters rather popular in DC to this day. The idea being to explore what kind of people put on weird suits and run around fighting crime, to look into their psyche and explore the kind of messed up landscape they make. Since DC wanted to be able to reuse the characters he had to invent his own original ones. He deconstructed superheroes, then spent over half a decade building them back up again with Tom Strong, Promethea, Top Ten, and the rest of the ABC line.
The problem with any good deconstruction is that people listen. The genre evolves and then the deconstruction is just a dated analyses of the old paradigm. The MCU began with the words “I am Ironman” and now Thor has to deal with fans walking up to him to discuss his very public breakup. Oliver Queen has been investigated by every law enforcement agency (except for the morally dubious black ops group ARGUS) because vigilantes in hoods and masks aren’t trusted. Wolverine can’t handle being wolverine, Christian Bale can’t handle being Batman, the world hates Superman, Tony stark can’t handle being iron Man and also wants to register everybody, Daredevil is about to go through Born Again... Even just last week, Batman tried to off himself in battle due to his self-perceived character flaws. This is how the genre has been reconstructed, and anyone making a TV series out of Watchmen should ask what other tropes can be addressed nowadays.
On one hand, Damon is right that actual vigilantes in masks —unaccountable to the law, some with abilities and powers beyond human — would (and should) provoke ambivalence, concern and fear in the real world. which is an intriguing concept to explore. That’s not deconstruction of what makes superheroes work — fantasy fulfillment, both light and dark, imo — as much as a speculation as to what might happen if a fictional concept collided with our own reality.
AND...I'm not sure that a 30-year-old comic that’s been on the TIME 100 Best Novels list and sold several million copies IS dangerous in our current climate. In many ways comics help steer popular culture, and we need to steer toward absolute goodness again and working together as our moral objectives. If Mr. Lindelof really wants to help, he could give us a couple years of heroes being heroes. That would be a nice addition at this point.
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