I love comic books. I have done since I was a wee nipper, where every Saturday I would get a lift to the local comic book shop in Blackpool and blow my pocket money on the new issues of Spider-man and the X-Men. As I passed through childhood, and the snow fell off the trees, my fads began to fall by the wayside. My interest in W.W.F. and skateboarding faded almost as fast as they had begun, but my love of comics never went away. I discovered the works of Alan Moore, Grant Morrison and Garth Ennis to just name a few. The detail in the artwork of their collaborators can make you stay on a single frame for hours, the precise technicality in the storyboarding. I could (and probably have) blather on and on but that wouldn’t make for good reading. What does all this have to do with this review? Well, dear readers, all shall become clear.
I first became aware of the Watchmen Animated Comic late last year when it was originally released on iTunes. I’ve already made my feelings towards Watchmen clear on this website elsewhere, but to recap: massive fan. Unfortunately, I’m also a cheap bastard and wasn’t going to pay for something I felt was a marketing gimmick. Well, now the entire collection has been released on DVD just in time for the release of the movie, so I can see whether I was just being cynical or not.
Each of Watchmen‘s twelve issues are divided into half hour episodes and the term ‘animated comic’ really describes what we have here. The makers have taken Dave Gibbons’ artwork straight from the page and transported it to the screen almost verbatim. The best way to describe it would be like the old Spider-man cartoon from the ’60s. Although it takes a little getting used to, I have to say that visually it does the job’ although they’re already onto a winner with Gibbons’ artwork as good as it is. The speech bubbles are even left on for that added authenticity.
All the voices are done by one chap, Tom Stechschulte, who although seems very game, by doing all the voices himself gives the impression of an adult Jackanory. It can also get quite confusing sometimes as to which character is supposed to be talking, except when he’s doing a female voice, which gets downright disturbing. Credit where credits due though, Stechschulte does a pretty mean Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger.
Although the animated comic was always going to be far more in depth than the forthcoming film, due to the run time, I was disappointed to see that not everything was left in. There’s no major sections cut, just the odd line here and there, but they’re lines that are missed. Why, for example, set up Laurie accidentally finding the flame-throwers on Archie, if you’re not going to then include the punch line of her stopping one of the tenement fire rescuees from making the same mistake. Also missing are the excellent extra pages that occur in between Watchmen‘s chapters that give you important story and character details. Although probably not feasible to include, it leads me to my one major criticism.
Just like a condom machine in the Vatican, Watchmen Animated Comic is completely useless. Although well put together, in all honesty, I cannot see the point in it. If it was to give newcomers to the Watchmen universe a way to catch up without having to actually read the comic book, not only is it useless but it’s completely counter productive. People should be encouraged to read the comic, which hopefully they will after watching the Zack Snyder film, but will not as likely feel they need to after watching the animated version. Which is a crying shame because you lose all the subtle touches that you discover from reading Watchmen. For anyone who is already a fan there is nothing new to be found in the animated comic. Because the comic is so well put together you don’t need to be told how kinetic certain scenes are as you’ve already filled in the blanks yourself. I’m probably arguing against the reasons for making the film, of which I’m giddy with excitement about seeing, but at least it has the chance to offer something to a new medium. The animated comic is neither something or nothing.
It seems a little strange after being a fan for all these years to suddenly see all the merchandise tie-ins that are coming out for Watchmen. I’m not completely against some of them. I’m looking forward to the Tales Of The Black Freighter DVD and if I had the cash would be first in line for the Comedian’s Guns and dog-tags, but the Animated Movie is a step too far. If you’re completely new to Watchmen and want to get up to scratch before seeing the film, take the time to read the comic. You won’t regret it. And hopefully it’ll give you the impetus to seek out other excellent comics and fall in love with them for the reasons I mentioned earlier. To everyone else, all I can say is reopen your well-thumbed copy and give it another read. It’s far better.