Two great interviews, published today, illuminate the topic of superhero films from opposite ends. On one side, Watchmen's Alan Moore talks creativity. On the other, producer Michael Uslan explains the differing aesthetics of Batman's movies.
Moore has turned down tons of interview requests lately, but the comics giant did talk to the Guardian newspaper, about his 750,000 word novel Jerusalem among other things. And he gave a new explanation for why he didn't think Watchmen could work as a movie:
There is something about the quality of comics that makes things possible that you couldn't do in any other medium.. Things that we did in Watchmen on paper could be frankly horrible or sensationalist or unpleasant if you were to interpret them literally through the medium of cinema. When it's just lines on paper, the reader is in control of the experience – it's a tableau vivant. And that gives it the necessary distance. It's not the same when you're being dragged through it at 24 frames per second.
Not that he's all that attached to the story anyway - turns out Moore doesn't own a copy of Watchmen, or any of his other writings that he doesn't own the rights to. But even more than his usual diatribe about movies versus comics, there's this lovely quote, which encompasses exactly why Hollywood writers might want to try and create their own original stories instead:
To me, all creativity is magic. Ideas start out in the empty void of your head – and they end up as a material thing, like a book you can hold in your hand. That is the magical process. It's an alchemical thing. Yes, we do get the gold out of it but that's not the most important thing. It's the work itself. That's the reward. That's better than money.
Meanwhile, The Rumpus talks to Michael Uslan, who's owned the movie rights to Batman for the past thirty years. Almost as if he's responding to Moore, Uslan says that in a sense, comic books are "frozen movies. If you look at a comic book, you are seeing the storyboard for a film." And he talks about the thorny issue of film-makers trying to make their movies look as much like the static images of the comic as possible:
I remember in the early days, in some of the early comic book movies, certain white dissolves were used that would try to emulate the look and feel of comic book panel borders. Sometimes they would frame shots in panels or circles that gave it a real comic book feel. With the Batman television show, they always liked to skew the camera and give it a tilted look, and often played with colors and lighting, and many of the comic book-based movies and TV projects over the years, particularly some of the early ones, loved to play with primary colors, reflecting the fact that at that time, all comic books were done at a four-color press. But you could have somebody like a Tim Burton, who, in creating the first serious comic book movie, chose to create an entire universe. As Tim brilliantly said, from the opening frame, Gotham City had to be created in a way that audiences would believe in Gotham City, in order for them to suspend their disbelief and truly believe there could be a guy dressing up as a bat and going out and fighting criminals like the Joker.
He also explains exactly what went happened with Batman Forever and Batman And Robin. (Short version: it's a mixture of paying homage to the 1950s and 1960s versions of the character, and the studios wanting lots of villains with brightly colored costumes, so they could sell toys.) [Thanks to James Tiberius Quirk for the Guardian heads up!]