TV Review | Watchmen: The Motion Comic Chapters 1, 2

I’ve never placed Watchmen on a pedestal as one of the masterpieces of comics.  I’m not taking away from Watchmen‘s greatness.  I just don’t like treating anything as godlike.  Watchmen was the right comic written by the right person at the right time, coming off a highly publicized reboot of the DC Universe.  The comic book series was written during a period in Alan Moore’s career where he could bang out a good story at the drop of a hat – Skizz, Miracleman, V for Vendetta and Swamp Thing stand as testaments to his talent.

Moore would later have a falling-out with DC over ownership rights issues.  He disowned the film version of Watchmen and its direct spinoff, Watchmen: The Motion Comic (SPACE: premiered Wednesday, June 9, 10:00 PM ET/7:00 PM PT.)

Moore might – I have to underline that, might – have liked Watchmen: The Motion Comic had he owned Watchmen optioning rights.  While the comic’s text-based asides have been excised, Watchmen: The Motion Comic is a good introduction to the series.

Watchmen‘s plot is less important than its milieu.  The story is set in a 1985 where Richard Nixon is still President and the United States won its war against Vietnam.  Non-government “costumed adventuring” has been outlawed as a reaction to superheroes using excessive force when punishing criminals.  Superheroes are shown as deeply flawed people, trying to exist in a world that became disillusioned with them years ago.

While Miracleman explores the idea of the superhero and its possible impact on society at large, Watchmen expands on it.  Watchmen‘s greatest legacy is its relentless tearing down of superhero mores, proving that the superhero fantasy genre can be intelligent and literate if treated as such.  To date, Watchmen is the only comic book to be given the Hugo Award.

Watchmen: The Motion Comic reminds me of Marvel Super Heroes, although the limited animation in W:TMC is much better realized.  I like the Grantray-Lawrence Marvel Super Heroes style of animation, so Watchmen: The Motion Comic doesn’t bother me.  The series comes across as a way for DC to maximize profit from the Watchmen property, but the overall presentation of Watchmen: The Motion Comic belies its low-key production values.

The decision to have Tom Stechschulte narrate is both good and bad.  While Stechschulte is at times expressive and engaging, why have him voice every character in the story, including the two Silk Spectres?  His voice isn’t suited to female characters at all, and the falsetto he gives them rings false.  Stechschulte does what he can with the material, but the one-person narration makes Watchmen: The Motion Comic an audiobook with visual content.

SPACE is scheduling two Watchmen: The Motion Comic episodes per week over six weeks, albeit with commercials.  This causes the episodes to be aired in an odd 75-minute block, as they’re not cut for time.  Watchmen: The Motion Comic might work better on a commercial-free station like TVO, but at least the comic’s not being sacrificed to fit a half-hour timeslot.

As it is, there are complaints on the official SPACE blog about the motion comics being a cynical cash-in to the Watchmen film.  Of course they are, and I’m sure the tie-ins have given Alan Moore no end of grief.  At least this tie-in is by and large respectful to the source material.

I can’t say I’d like to see more DC-related motion comics in the near future, but Watchmen: The Motion Comic proves that such a thing can be watchable.  It’s no substitute for the comics, but nothing is.

C. Archer
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