The film trailer for “Watchmen” is proving to be a considerable boost to sales of the graphic novel the movie is based on. “As far as we can tell from our conversations with the book industry people, there has never been a trailer that did this,” said Paul Levitz, the president and publisher of DC Comics, which has printed 900,000 additional paperback copies of the novel since the trailer began running in mid-July. The book, about a conspiracy to discredit and murder a group of superheroes, was written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, and has been on the best-seller lists of Amazon.com, USA Today and The Washington Post. Mr. Levitz said “Watchmen” would have a print run of more than a million copies this year. Last year it sold about 100,000.
Zack Snyder says he will be happy if his movie is a "three-hour advertisement" for the graphic novel, and after visiting his Vancouver set (and seeing the same movie trailer that you’ve certainly seen by now) there’s no doubt in my mind that the "300" director is intent on remaining absolutely faithful to the story that Moore wrote (and Dave Gibbons drew) more than 20 years ago.
That has me wondering if Moore, who loathes Hollywood types after watching their mistreatment of his printed darlings, will eventually embrace this new project? It’s going to be difficult to reel the gifted eccentric back in; Moore swore off Hollywood years ago.
Moore is often called a recluse and occasionally described as a misanthrope (I’m not sure either is deserved) but he most definitely is an iconoclast and, um, pretty colorful. Check out this line from his bio on Wikipedia: "He is a vegetarian, an anarchist, a practicing magician and occultist, and he worships a Roman snake-deity named Glycon." Ah, another one of those guys.
Anyway, Moore’s comics career is flat-out genius. But he was rightly miffed by the clumsy Hollywood adaptation of his sublime "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" and offended by the behind-the-scenes industry dance involved in "V for Vendetta." He demanded his name be left off the screen on both. UPDATE: And, I should have pointed out here, he was deeply upset about the business dealings and the way DC Comics handled his creations, which they owned. That and other disputes with DC eventually led him to renounce the company and swear never to work with them again. Thanks to the readers who pointed out that I left out a good chunk of the chronology.
"Watchmen" would seem to be the film that could turn all of this around. But the early word is that the strident Moore is not willing to walk into any dark theater where his characters will be projected by others. Entertainment Weekly recently had a very smartly done Q&A with Moore and the interviewer, Nisha Gopalan, put forth the idea that Snyder seems like an ideal director to make "Watchmen" and make it right. Moore wasn’t buying it.
"He may very well be, but the thing is that he’s also the person who made ‘300.’ I’ve not seen any recent comic book films, but I didn’t particularly like the book ‘300.’ I had a lot of problems with it, and everything I heard or saw about the film tended to increase [those problems] rather than reduce them: [That] it was racist, it was homophobic, and above all it was sublimely stupid. I know that that’s not what people going in to see a film like 300 are thinking about but…I wasn’t impressed with that…. I talked to [director] Terry Gilliam in the ’80s, and he asked me how I would make ‘Watchmen’ into a film. I said, ”Well actually, Terry, if anybody asked me, I would have said, ‘I wouldn’t.’ ” And I think that Terry [who aborted his attempted adaptation of the book] eventually came to agree with me. There are things that we did with ‘Watchmen’ that could only work in a comic, and were indeed designed to show off things that other media can’t."
The marketing people for Snyder’s movie have picked up Moore’s old catchphrase, "Who watches the Watchmen?" Alan Moore, apparently, is not willing to be the answer to that question.
Artwork from "Watchmen" by artist Dave Giboons, courtesy of DC Comics.
Image from the upcoming film "Watchmen" courtesy of Warner Bros.