Extra Sequential Podcast #78-Creative Departures

39 mins. This show is dedicated to comics creators who offer us projects that surprise us, projects that show a different side to their creativity. From manga to all-ages to, um, Frank Miller we discuss a few unexpected career turns. Also, Superman pyjamas and Grant Morrison’s exercise video.

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You can email us at kris (at)extrasequential(dot)com and befriend us on the NEW ES Facebook page.

1:53 NEWS
The controversial Before Watchmen prequel series
The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man trailers
7:19 THEME – CREATIVE DIFFERENCES
Chuck Dixon writing The Simpsons comics
Jeff Lemire, from The Essex County Trilogy to Superboy and Animal Man
Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan’s Conan the Barbarian
Frank Miller and Geoff Darrow’s Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot
Frank Miller’s unrealised JESUS! project
Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Avon Oeming’s Takio
Junji Ito’s Cat Diary
Katsuhiro Otomo’s Hipira: The Little Vampire

It’s Happening: Watchmen Prequel

After years of rumours, DC Comics have officially announced that a prequel series to the 25 year old classic Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons is happening. It’s pretty controversial, and Moore’s not happy about it, but it’ll be sure to sell.

The 7 mini-series and one-shot will carry the Before Watchmen banner and focus on the characters in the original series such as Dr. Manhattan and Nite Owl and will feature work by creators such as J. Michael Straczynski, Adam Hughes, Darwyn Cooke, Brian Azzarello and more.

Check out an interesting interview with JMS here, in which he talks about the controversy, the details and his approach. It’s no surprise that this is actually happening, as DC are sure to get lots of attention and sales and I’ll probably pick up some of the mini-series out of curiosity.

Official press release, and covers, below.

This summer, DC Entertainment will publish all-new stories expanding on the acclaimed WATCHMEN universe. As highly anticipated as they are controversial, the seven inter-connected prequel mini-series will build on the foundation of the original WATCHMEN, the bestselling graphic novel of all time. BEFORE WATCHMEN will be the collective banner for all seven titles, from DC Comics.

“It’s our responsibility as publishers to find new ways to keep all of our characters relevant,” said DC Entertainment Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee. “After twenty five years, the Watchmen are classic characters whose time has come for new stories to be told. We sought out the best writers and artists in the industry to build on the complex mythology of the original.”

Stepping up to the challenge is a group of the comic book industry’s most iconoclastic writers and artists – including Brian Azzarello (100 BULLETS), Lee Bermejo (JOKER), Amanda Conner (POWER GIRL), Darwyn Cooke (JUSTICE LEAGUE: NEW FRONTIER), John Higgins (WATCHMEN), Adam Hughes (CATWOMAN), J.G. Jones (FINAL CRISIS), Andy Kubert (FLASHPOINT), Joe Kubert (SGT. ROCK), Jae Lee (BATMAN: JEKYLL AND HYDE), J. Michael Straczynski (SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE) and Len Wein (SWAMP THING).

BEFORE WATCHMEN includes:

  • RORSCHACH (4 issues) – Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: Lee Bermejo
  • MINUTEMEN (6 issues) – Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke
  • COMEDIAN (6 issues) – Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: J.G. Jones
  • DR. MANHATTAN (4 issues) – Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artist: Adam Hughes
  • NITE OWL (4 issues) – Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artists: Andy and Joe Kubert
  • OZYMANDIAS (6 issues) – Writer: Len Wein. Artist: Jae Lee
  • SILK SPECTRE (4 issues) – Writer: Darwyn Cooke. Artist: Amanda Conner

Each week, a new issue will be released, and will feature a two-page back-up story called CURSE OF THE CRIMSON CORSAIR, written by original series editor Len Wein and with art by original series colorist John Higgins. There will also be a single issue, BEFORE WATCHMEN: EPILOGUE, featuring the work of various writers and artists, and a CRIMSON CORSAIR story by Wein and Higgins.

“The original series of WATCHMEN is the complete story that Alan Moore and I wanted to tell. However, I appreciate DC’s reasons for this initiative and the wish of the artists and writers involved to pay tribute to our work. May these new additions have the success they desire,” said Dave Gibbons, WATCHMEN co-creator and original series artist.

“Comic books are perhaps the largest and longest running form of collaborative fiction,” said DiDio and Lee. “Collaborative storytelling is what keeps these fictional universes current and relevant.”

Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut Out November 3

I really enjoyed Watchmen. I saw it once at the cinema, twice on DVD, and also liked the Motion Comic and Tales of the Black Freighter. Now the whole mammoth experience is coming together in the ultimate edition. All the details below.

The limited quantity multi-disc set includes a whole new movie: Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut, which weaves Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter into Zack Snyder’s Director’s Cut.

Be the first to own the must-have collectible for Watchmen fans when Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on November 3 from Warner Home Video. From director Zack Snyder, this new and complete version of the action-packed blockbuster weaves Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter, the animated story-within-a-story into the Director’s Cut of the film, creating a true ultimate version of the critically acclaimed story.

image001Available in a limited quantity of 70,000, Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut also features new commentary by Dave Gibbons and Zack Snyder along with almost 3 hours of extras, including Hollis Mason’s animated tell-all, Under the Hood. Also included is Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic. Overseen by “Watchmen” illustrator Dave Gibbons and produced by Snyder, Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic contains all 12 chapters of “Watchmen,” the most celebrated graphic novel of all time, adding motion, voice and sound to the book’s strikingly drawn panels, spanning everything from the mysterious demise of the Comedian to the crisscrossed destinies of loosely allied superheroes to their fateful impact on the world.

From Director, Zack Snyder (300, Dawn of the Dead) Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut stars Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children, Semi-Pro), Malin Akerman (27 Dresses, The Heartbreak Kid), Billy Crudup (Mission Impossible III, Almost Famous), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (TV’s Grey’s Anatomy, Supernatural), Patrick Wilson (Lakeview Terrace, Little Children), and Carla Gugino (Race to Witch Mountain, Night at the Museum).

SYNOPSIS

Someone’s killing our super heroes. The year is 1985 and super heroes have banded together to respond to the murder of one of their own. They soon uncover a sinister plot that puts all of humanity in grave danger. The super heroes fight to stop the impending doom only to find themselves a target for annihilation. But, if our super heroes are gone, who will save us?

Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut will be available on Blu-ray (4 discs) for $59.99, and DVD (5 discs) for $43.87.

BLU-RAY and DVD ELEMENTS

· Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut film

· Audio Commentary with Zack Snyder and Dave Gibbons

· The Phenomenon: The Comic that Changed Comics (RT: 28:50) – Learn how the subversive, thematically complex, award winning comic that changed literature, inspired analytical debate, and won countless fans, was created.

· Real Super Heroes, Real Vigilantes (RT: 27:28) – Explores the fascination and psychology behind real-world vigilantes and where that behavior crosses over into actually donning the hood and behaving as superheroes.

· Mechanics: Technologies of a Fantastic World (RT: 16:46) – The creators of Watchmen had a great understanding of engineering and science, allowing for plausible mechanics in their characters tools and the world itself. This featurette will guide the viewer through the filmmakers process of turning these technologies into cinematic reality.

· Watchmen: Video Journals

· My Chemical Romance video Desolation Row (RT: 3:16)

· Under The Hood (RT: 36:00) – A retrospective look on the biography by Hollis Mason – the original Nite Owl – and the world of those who stood for hooded justice.

· Story Within A Story: The Books of Watchmen (RT: 26:00) – Weave through the nuanced layers of detail to see how a comic-within-a comic acts as parallel commentary to the acclaimed work of Literature, Watchmen.

· Digital Copy of the Theatrical Version

· Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comics

BASICS

PRODUCT SRP

4-Disc Blu-ray set $ 59.99

5-disc DVD set $ 43.87

DC On iTunes

The following DC titles are now available on iTunes, while Green Lantern: First Flight and Watchmen: Director’s Cut are also available on DVD, Blu-Ray and On Demand. Here’s 2 preview clips for your vieiwing pleasure.

The new Superman: Red Son Motion Comic is available here.

Green Lantern: First Flight can be bought here and Watchmen: Director’s Cut can be purchased here. Ain’t technology grand?

Watchmen Director’s Cut DVD Review

Watchmen Director's Cut DVDI remember seeing Nite Owl’s ship, and the excellent repeating trailer, on display at last year’s Comic-Con and here we are a year later. The film adaptation of DC’s classic 12 issue maxi-series has come and gone and has excited and perplexed many. I loved the film on the big screen. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. Sure, it wasn’t exactly a precisely faithful take but like Sin City before it, it showed the world that comics can be deep and mature. Hollywood had been trying to make the landmark story into a cinematic epic for the last twenty years, but it wasn’t until director Zack Snyder made 300 and proved himself worthy of the Watchmen helm.

Snyder’s brave choices are immediately obvious. The 1985 setting, the profanity, the brutal violence. It’s all there and it works and there’s even more swearing, lewdness and blood splattering in this Director’s Cut. There’s always an undercurrent of menace in this dark world where superheroes, or “masks” are outlawed, and the casting is almost perfect, particularly Jackie Earle Haley as Rorshach. His gruff narration and moving ink blot mask are exactly what I’d imagined when reading the comic. Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) is the only one with actual superpowers, though the other members of The Watchmen (The Comedian, Silk Spectre, Ozymandias) fight like superhumans. His glowing blue naughty bits may unsurprisingly be too much for some but it fits with Snyder’s overall vision. It ain’t always a subtle film. The sound and special effects are suitably fantastic, though the song choices don’t always work. Watchmen doesn’t look kindly on America and it believes heroes can kill villains. It’s not the typical superhero tale, and that’s what has made Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ masterpiece stand the test of time and be lauded as the best that comics has to offer.

The Director’s Cut includes an extra 24 minutes, meaning the film is now just over 3 hours long. Obviously if you didn’t like the film at the cinema a few more scenes won’t change your mind, but those scenes, and primarily the extra content will serve to cement fans’ love of the film. The additional scenes are enjoyable, but not necessary to the film’s narrative. They include a brief look at the kid reading the Tales of the Black Freighter comic that runs in the original series (and was made into an excellent animated film), Silk Spectre II being interrogated by government agents about Dr. Manhattan’s whereabouts and President Nixon and his advisers discussing the possibility of nuclear war. A gang’s attempted home invasion of Hollis Mason’s (the original Nite Owl) home is by far the best new scene.

On the second disc there’s a music video for Desolation Row by My Chemical Romance, 11 short video journals chronicling the film’s production and a very impressive doco on the power of the source material and why it was such a wake up call to the sequential art medium. This doco includes great art from Gibbons as well as interviews with the cast and other creators, including former DC President Jenette Kahn, colourist John Higgins, editor writer Len Wein, and singer Gerard Way. It shows the visual history of the project  and is a must for those who don’t understand what all the fuss about this book is. Curiously there’s no sign of the rumoured Black Freighter segments being integrated into the film, but I think it’s better enjoyed alone anyway.

There’s simply no denying the power of this film and it is one I enjoyed watching or rather, experiencing, again. It’s available on DVD, Blu-Ray and on iTunes now.

Watchmen 1

Watchmen 2

Watchmen 3

Watchmen 4

After Watchmen…What’s Next?

Whether you loved it (like me), or you left the cinema scratching your head, one thing’s certain – Watchmen intrigued people. I’ve leant my copy of the TPB to at least 3 people at work. It’s not bad as a ‘gateway book’ for people unfamiliar with sequential art. Sure, it’s complex, but it serves as a bold statement that comics aren’t simple. DC realise that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ work will open a lot of eyes around the world, and are wisely taking advantage of that. Out now are a few more ‘gateway book’s that can ease new readers into the scary world of comics. Even if you’ve read these Trades, you might wanna grab some for friends that find comics hard to grasp. Go here to see the complete list of 20 titles available under the After Watchmen…What’s Next? banner. There’s something for every taste, from classics like Sandman and The Dark Knight Returns to newer works such as Y: The Last Man and Identity Crisis. Below are some of my faves.

after_watchmen_pamphlet-kcome

after_watchmen_pamphlet-killing-joke

after_watchmen_pamphlet-lxg

after_watchmen_pamphlet-we3

Black Freighter/Under The Hood DVD Review

Available now is the double feature DVD tying in to Watchmen, and is a must for fans of the film or ground breaking comic series.

Black Freighter DVDTales of the Black Freighter

As Watchmen readers know, the pirate adventure Tales of the Black Freighter, was a comic within the comic. As an eager kid read it at a newsstand, sometimes the panels would spill over into the narrative of the Watchmen tale. Originally, film director Zack Snyder wanted to film Black Freighter in a manner similar to how he approached 300, but due to budgetary and time constraints, chose to make it a stand-alone animated feature instead. And it was a good choice as Black Freighter is a lush, engrossing story. Written by Snyder with Alex Tse, and directed by Daniel Delpurgatorio and Mike Smith, this 25 minute short film mirrors its printed inspiration beautifully. 300’s Gerard Butler is the primary voice, narrating the descending horrors faced by his sole survivor of an attack by the titular ship of ghouls. Washing ashore, he uses the bloated carcasses of his dead crew as a makeshift raft, fighting sharks and his own descent into darkness, to Davidstown. It is here that his wife and daughters live, and it is also the Freighter’s next target. At least that’s what the captain believes.

The mini-comic inside Watchmen gave me just as many memorable moments as Watchmen did, and it’s satisfying to see them on the screen. It’s filled with simple, yet bold colour choices and gross visuals such as seagulls eating brains and plucking eyeballs. Thus the R rating is understandable, compared to the PG of Under The Hood. The animation is superb and fluid and though not a lot happens, it’s still highly entertaining. You don’t have to look too far to see the allusions to Watchmen’s thematic explorations. Though at first a dark pirate tale may seem an odd companion to a superhero deconstruction, it does sit proudly on the same shelf, just like the other film included on the DVD.

Hollis MasonUnder The Hood

The live action Under The Hood is an imagined documentary about the life of Hollis Mason, who was the original costumed adventurer Nite Owl in the 1940’s world of the Watchmen. Played by Stephen McHattie, as he did in the film, it also includes interviews with Carla Gugino as Sally Jupiter/Silk Spectre, her agent and former husband, as well as bad guys (also seen in the film) Moloch, and the imprisoned midget Big Figure. Set in 1985 TV host Larry Culpeper (played by Ted Friend) introduces us to his 1975 report on Mason in an episode of the Culpeper Minute. He and Mason talk about Mason’s career as a baddie-basher, first as a cop, and then as Nite Owl, in the Gunga Diner. Dialogue from Alan Moore’s Under The Hood excerpt is used, and it brings a geeky smile to my face as Mason explains how he constructed his costume, his motivations for being a superhero (“because it was fun, and the right thing to do.”), how he was inspired by the mysterious debut of the first costumed do-gooder, Hooded Justice, and the assembling of the Minutemen (whose members are seen in authentic looking news footage).

Tying into DC Comics’ rich history, Mason mentions also being wowed by Superman’s first appearance in 1938 in Action Comics #1, and the Golden Age Green Lantern and Blue Beetle are also shown on comic covers.

The archival footage of WWII is used well, but we are only jarred out of the realism when obviously Photoshopped pics of the young Mason are revealed. The whole Hood doco really is well done though. The interviews look like they’ve been lifted directly from 1975, with their slightly grainy and faded look, without being distracting, and the 1985 ads for products such as Veidt’s Nostalgia fragrance, and Seiko’s cutting-edge LCD watches, just add that extra realism.

The actors are vital to these kinds of endeavours. All the cast sell the premise well. Sometimes these kinds of fake docos can be very unconvincing, but writer Hans Rodionoff, director Eric Matthies and the actors pull it off ably.

Special Features

The extra features are a nice touch too. Usually on straight to DVD experiences like this, the bonuses are usually just an afterthought from the marketing department. However, with Under The Hood, Black Freighter plus the extras the running time for the whole shebang comes in at a rather impressive 2 hours.

Story Within A Story – The Books Of Watchmen is essentially a combination of behind the scenes footage of Watchmen and Tales of the Black Freighter.  There are interviews with cast members (Stephen McHattie, Carla Gugino, Jeffrey Dean Morgan), DC creators of the original maxi-series (Jenette Kahn, Len Wein, artist Dave Gibbons and colourist John Higgins) and the director of Under The Hood, Eric Matthies. It’s not exactly a riveting 25 minutes, but is necessary viewing for those unaware of the importance of Alan Moore’s original extras, such as newspaper cutouts and prose pieces as well as the Black Freighter pirate comic that runs within, and alongside the Watchmen story. And if you feel like getting intellectual, influences of Black Freighter, such as German playwright Bertolt Brecht, are mentioned by a few of the interviewees.

Curiously, it also includes a behind the scenes look at the original Nite Owl, Hollis Mason attacking a punk in his home. I assume this will be on the Director’s Cut of the film.  Speaking of which, it’ll be interesting to see how director Zack Snyder manages to squeeze the Black Freighter into the film itself when the Director’s Cut DVD is released in July.

The other substantial extra is Chapter One of the Watchmen Motion Comic, which also runs at 25 minutes. I’ve seen so-called animated comics before, and the concept has been around for a long time, but this is far and above the best approach I’ve ever seen. The original Watchmen comic really does come alive, but I’ll say more once I check out the whole 2 discer Motion Comic soon.

The final inclusion amongst the special features is the first look at Green Lantern: First Flight, the next animated DVD release from Warner Bros./DC. It’s being released in July and it looks fantastic, and is a nice present for Hal Jordan, seeing as it’s the 50th anniversary of his creation this year.

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