Watchmen on TV

I succumbed. As I suggested I might.

It felt a little grubby, going to the NowTV site and setting up an account. As you know, Sky TV and I have a history. Or maybe an anti-history, insofar as I am anti everything that their former owner stands for. But the key word is “former.” With Comcast now owning it, I can feel a little better about giving them my time and possibly some money.

Still, though: grubby.

But what’s worse, as a viewing experience, is that their app is the worst video-playback app I’ve ever used. It’s fine at all the basics; it even has a ten-second jump back and forward feature, which is good. But! It completely fails at subtitles.

Now, in this era — this platinum age of television — subtitles are often an essential part of viewing. And that isn’t true just due to my age, because my kids, who are young adults, are at least as likely as us olds to want them on. Mumblecore actors are to blame. Or maybe bad sound on our TV. Or a combination. Doesn’t matter. We watch with subtitles on a lot of the time, and I wanted them on for Watchmen.

But NowTV — in its Mac app, at least — just can’t handle them properly. They either freeze, so you get the same sentence stuck on the screen for five minutes; or they just get out of sync. Sometimes they rush through minutes of text at a time, as if trying to catch up. In the end I turned them off.

But I watched one episode on my iPad, and the subtitles were fine there. So I guess it is the actual Mac app. The Mac plugged into the telly is an old one. A nine-year-old MacBook Pro, in fact. I’m impressed that it’s still working, though I did upgrade it at one point.

Anyway, that can’t be the reason it’s bad, because I’ve also tried it on my 2017 MBP, with exactly the same results.

But what about the programme?

It’s a sequel to the comic, set around thirty years later. I found the first episode kind of annoying, though I’m not quite sure why. Too much of it set in the past, maybe? But as we’ve got to know the characters and things have moved along, it’s definitely interesting. I’ve watched the first five episodes so far. Up to which point it’s kind of a cop show with an unusual background. Cops go masked so that criminals can’t identify them. Criminals go masked too, of course, specifically in Rorscach-style black and white masks.

And there’s a mysterious old guy who puts on plays reenacting the origin of Doctor Manhattan. You’ll have guesses about who he is, if you know the source material. Well, one guess.

I like the way they’ve built on the comic, and are weaving the backstory in. Though I think it must be extremely confusing for anyone who hasn’t read the novel, or at least seen the movie.

My main question (apart from the obvious ones, like what’s going on with Veidt?) is: why is Laurie using her father’s surname? It doesn’t make sense to me that she’d call herself Blake, instead of Juspeczyck.

Oh, and whatever happened to Dan Dreiberg? I want to see some Nite owl action. Something that looked a lot like the Owlship appeared in the first episode, so maybe he’ll turn up. As, I imagine, will Doctor Manhattan.

Watchmen on TV

Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons (Books 2019, 21)

I like to reread this from time to time, and right now I’m considering watching the TV version that’s currently on. It’s HBO, which means Sky over here, which would traditionally have ruled it out on ethical grounds. But times and corporate ownerships have changed. The Murdochs no longer own Sky TV, so I can let myself watch it.

But then we have the other ethical question, about Watchmen in particular. Which is to say, since Alan Moore feels that he was cheated by DC over the ownership of the creative work, and repudiates all derivative works, shouldn’t we avoid them too? I saw the movie version, but I didn’t get the Before Watchmen spin-offs.

Well, it’s been a long time; Moore and Gibbons must have known what they were signing up for, even if things didn’t go quite as they expected. I recall seeing Moore at a convention in Glasgow in 1985 or 86, where he said, “DC are utter vermin.” Yet he went on to work with them often after that.

Plus, I’m already reading Doomsday Clock, which brings the Watchmen universe into the DC multiverse, so personally, that ship has sailed.

How does the story stand up today? It’s still excellent, I would say. With the obvious weakness of the ending. Though thinking about that, what’s weak is how preposterous Veidt’s plan is. Accepting that, that part of the story is well executed.

It’s still one of my favourite comics.

Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons (Books 2019, 21)

Promethea by Alan Moore, JH Williams III, Mick Gray & Todd Klein (Books 2018, 27)

This is five volumes of graphic novel that I read over a period of about a month or so, and — OK, you know how we all thought that Watchmen is Moore’s magnum opus, at least in comic terms?1

We were wrong. Promethea is the best thing Moore has done, by some margin.

In my humble opinion, of course.

The character Promethea is sort of a personification of the human imagination. She has manifested through various women in history, called from the immateria into the “real” world by an artist — usually unknowingly, at least at first — when she is needed.

There are, of course, forces ranged against her, from demons to the FBI. The Earthbound part of the action takes place in a sort of alternative comic-book New York, where there are “science heroes” like the Five Swell Guys.2

University student Sophie Bangs is writing a term paper on the recurrence of the character of Promethea through myth and literature and comics, when she is attacked by a mysterious shadowy entity. A version of Promethea turns up to help her, and… well, read it and see.

And as well as the storytelling, the art is incredible, with some wildly challenging layouts; but it never gets in the way of the story. It is magnificent, spanning all of fiction and myth and religion and magic, and reminding us that those are all the same thing. Looked at one way, anyhow.


  1. Jerusalem is even more magnum, obviously. []
  2. There aren’t four of them, and they aren’t fantastic, but you get the idea. []
Promethea by Alan Moore, JH Williams III, Mick Gray & Todd Klein (Books 2018, 27)

Reading Materials

You’re probably wondering what’s happened to my books posts. Surely I must have read something since January (and I thought I’d posted about two books this year, but apparently not).

Thing is, after the Twin Peaks book, I started something rather large. I’m over 200 pages in, which means I’m about one-sixth of the way through it.

It is Alan Moore’s Jerusalem: a monster hardback with tiny print. I picked it up when I went to see him interviewed by Stewart Lee, back in November. I could have got either the hardback or a slipcased three-volume paperback version. Almost as soon as I started reading I wished I’d gone for the latter, because it’s so damn heavy to hold.

So it’ll take me quite a while till I’m ready to write about it. I’m thoroughly enjoying it, though.

Reading Materials

Book Notes 20: The Complete Ballad of Halo Jones by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson

Another old Moore from the 2000 AD days. I’ve read it before, as three separate volumes, but I totally didn’t remember anything about Book 3, in which Halo joins the army. Well, the Space Marines, or whatever you want to call them.

It’s a great story about an ordinary young woman in a very un-ordinary world. Much better than the last one, and very much more than a curiosity: highly recommended.

Book Notes 20: The Complete Ballad of Halo Jones by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson

Book Notes 10: Skizz, by Alan Moore and Jim Baikie

The local library is proving a great source of graphic fiction at the moment. Another early-early Moore, one of which I had heard, but had definitely not read.

It is Moore’s interpretation of a theme that was then very common, the alien lost on Earth. It wears its debt to ET quite openly: one of the characters even referring to the film for inspiration in how to deal with the alien.

That said, it’s entirely possible that Moore developed it without prior knowledge of the film: it wasn’t a new idea when ET used it.

Skizz is a gentle, heartwarming tale of respect between intelligent beings, regardless of difference. A human girl meets the “other”, and finds he is not so “other” at all.

And it has a genuinely nasty and scary baddie, and reconciliation between generations. Highly recommended.

Book Notes 10: Skizz, by Alan Moore and Jim Baikie