Watchmen #7 (1986), page 16. Dave Gibbons.
I am living and breathing this comic lately, you guys. First and foremost, I wrote my latest Robot 6 column on it, which allowed me to go deep into talking about Dave Gibbons' compositional skill, archetypal images, John Higgins' killer coloring (check out that bottom tier!), and the underlying similarity between dream states and the comics medium. I love dream sequences in comics; not necessarily reading them, Michel Fiffe makes a good point in the comments about how they're usually a vehicle for lazy writing, but looking at them, oh man. Comics are inherently dreamlike, so when artists need to create actual dreams with the form, they typically have to go at least a little wild. Go read the article, that's why I'm writing this right now.
But also in Watchmen news:
- I have been rereading the book. It's as fun as ever, and boy oh boy does Higgins' coloring knock my socks off every time. I never really remember just how vividly, unconventionally colored that book is when I think about it -- it's such a serious, ponderous piece of work, but the pages really scream with airy brightness too. A lot of the time I feel like those glowing pinks and oranges and greens are the main thing keeping the book out of the po-faced, self-parodic "grim and gritty" zone that its opposite number Dark Knight Returns, for all its charms, occasionally visits. Maybe it's the settings Gibbons creates, also. Watchmen's New York feels less like the bustling hub of early Marvel or Miller's urban terror zones (the two main interpretations of that city, probably all big cities, in American comics), and a lot more like the cloud-scraped, shining, slightly dingy metropoles of the era's Eurocomics.
There's a bracing tinge of fantasy to Watchmen, a reserved blue note that's foreign to other superhero comics, but downright inherent to the work of Heavy Metal artists like Francois Schuiten, Enki Bilal, even Herge honestly. Higgins' colors are a big part of that feeling too -- it isn't monochrome and flat but crystalline, almost kaleidoscopic. Immersive. I love it. I've read that comic a billion times so the urge to push forward through the story and find out what happens has long since dissipated. I just like to look back into the panels and think about what it would be like to live there.
-I have finally watched the movie. I agree with you, it was terrible, but I also found the Dr. Manhattan monologue scenes where he's remembering his life as a human and then deciding that life does have inherent value incredibly touching. I was drawing the whole time I watched that thing, and I actually think that might have helped, because it was really the audio of those parts, just listening to them, that made them work so well for me. All that writerly Alan Moore dialogue sounds ridiculous when it's coming out of the gruff Rorschach guy or the wooden Silk Spectre girl (who is an incredibly nice person in real life, so I feel a little bad saying that). But the voice of Dr. Manhattan is perfect -- reserved and deadpan, letting the sound simply carry the words and the words themselves carry the rhetorical content. One second it sounds completely devoid of emotion, the next there are tones of longing and regret and hope and lack of understanding absolutely swirling through it. It's the ideal voice to read Alan Moore writing, never overacting material that would be so easy to ham up, but always delivering the emotional beats in it. Those sequences are also scored quite well, with soft bronze strings and synths that bear the voice up without ever overpowering it enacting a perfect counterpoint. Though the last Manhattan scene is completely ruined by the Hendrix riff kicking in at the end. Such is life when you watch bad movies.
- I have copied a bunch of Gibbons panels featuring Rorschach into my comic Affected. The first bit is up now, you will see more of them soon. Copying Gibbons is interesting because his understanding of drapery and shadow and the balance between black space and white is so strong, but his grasp of the human figure... less so. I know, you're like "whaaaat?", but take that book out again and look at those coconut heads and Ken doll hands. Look at this!
Look at it! I have a theory about the particular anatomic distortions Gibbons makes consistently throughout the book that I might make a blog post with later if my good friend Comics Alliance keeps on not posting the grand guignol masterpiece of an article I gave them days and days ago, but for now go look at my take, and if you're behind on Affected, now is a good time to catch up. Plug plug!