Sunday, August 17, 2008

That Watchmen Trailer (and Other Political Superheroes)


That Smashing Pumpkins song used to such good effect in the Watchmen movie trailer is the same song (“The End Is the Beginning Is the End”) that won a Grammy in 1998 (without me noticing at the time) and came from the soundtrack to Batman and Robin, of all things. It’s pretty daring to put a song from what may have been DC Comics’ biggest movie disaster on a trailer for what I hope will be their finest hour, and to attach it to the front of Dark Knight to boot.

So something good came out of Batman and Robin, aside from it being well mocked on MST3K and me getting to hear a DC Comics employee — I think it was Janet Harvey — in an advance screening of the film say, “It’s like watching that gravy train roll right off a cliff, isn’t it?”

But iconic superheroes are an infinitely-renewable resource, and for DC, the end is the beginning is the end.


Another odd result of attaching the Watchmen trailer to Dark Knight is that, unbeknownst to most moviegoers, when Dark Knight opened, we basically saw two variants on Steve Ditko’s faceless detective character the Question (Ditko also being the Objectivist co-creator of Spider-Man).

The Watchmen were created as variants on the old Charlton Comics characters (the Question, Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, etc.) who DC had acquired (much as they are now planning to deploy retooled versions of the Archie Comics superheroes). Thus, the masked, anarchist, rooftop-clinging figure called Rorschach (heard in the trailer essentially abdicating his own godlike power as a superhero by saying that when humanity looks up and asks the heroes to save them, he will say “No”) is a harsher, updated Question (more radical in some ways than Ditko’s coldly Objectivist superhero, Mr. A).

And the female cop named Ramirez in Dark Knight was a last-minute replacement for the similar character Renee Montoya, who in the comics becomes the second Question (not to mention the lesbian lover of Batwoman, but we may never see that on the big screen…in IMAX…).


A Wall Street Journal column eagerly equated Batman with Bush, noting that both must resort to wiretapping but are basically heroic. I think the column fails to note how conflicted the film — and one of Batman’s assistants — were about the wiretapping, but if we’re going to draw parallels between DC Comics superheroes and political figures, I’d like to suggest a few others about whom columns may not yet have been written:

Hawkman is now uncertain whether some of his arcane knowledge derives from ancient Egypt or from space aliens. If you know enough about the strange, UFO-oriented theology of the Nation of Islam, you know we must therefore regard Hawkman as a Louis Farrakhan figure.

•Variant, unstable timelines have raised questions about the paternity of time-traveling adventurer Rip Hunter — who may have deeper ties than the public realizes to a rich, media-seeking friend of his. Is it coincidence that all the same things could be said about his namesake — and perhaps relative — Rielle Hunter (now generally regarded as either the mother of John Edwards’ offspring or a Bigfoot baby)?

•The Onion rightly traced the similarities between Al Gore and Jor-El.


And on a slightly different note, I can’t help noticing an odd irony in the stated political affiliation of the woman wearing a Catwoman costume (at a comics convention) in this great video noted by The faux-Catwoman in the video proclaims herself a libertarian — and thus presumably a strict adherent of property rights (as we all should be), yet Catwoman is the DC Universe’s most notorious thief (as I was reminded Friday when I paid a brief visit to the Paley Center for Media, formerly known as the Museum of Television and Radio, with Jamie Foehl and her boyfriend, and stayed to watch the Adam West Batman two-parter in which Catwoman would rather fall to her doom than relinquish stolen pirate treasure).

This reminds me of my idea for a tension-filled psycho-political thriller: a libertarian wracked by kleptomania. It’d be sort of like the libertarian version of a religious conservative crazed by lust or, more commonly, a socialist shopaholic.

Meanwhile, there’ve been rumors about Angelina Jolie expressing interest in the Catwoman role, and if she ever gets around to playing both that role and Rand character Dagny Taggart, she too will have been both thief and strict property rights adherent. And if we’re lucky, will also have a lesbian scene with Batwoman. Not that that happens in the comics.

But more on parallel comic book realities on Wednesday, when three versions of the Legion of Super-Heroes hit the shelves of your local comic shop simultaneously, all drawn by George Perez.


jenny said...

Batwoman? who’s that?

jenny said...

er… forget i asked. i googled. how strange. a character created to dispel rumors that batman was gay, retooled to be gay herself? how navel-gazing.

Jim Treacher said...

I guess I didn’t catch her name, because I assumed that was Montoya!

Todd Seavey said...

By the way, here’s the full excerpt from Rorschach’s journal, turned into the trailer line “They’ll look up and shout ‘Save us,’ and I’ll look down and whisper ‘No’”:

Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach. This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout ‘Save us!’ And I’ll look down, and whisper ‘no.’ They had a choice, all of them. They could have followed in the footsteps of good men like my father, or President Truman. Decent men, who believed in a day’s work for a day’s pay. Instead they followed the droppings of lechers and communists and didn’t realize that the trail led over a precipice until it was too late. Don’t tell me they didn’t have a choice. Now the whole world stands on the brink, staring down into bloody hell, all those liberals and intellectuals and smooth-talkers, and all of a sudden nobody can think of anything to say.

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Citizen Grim said...

btw, the Pumpkins song in the Watchmen trailer is actually called “The Beginning is the End is the Beginning.” It’s a remix of the grammy-winning 1998 song, “The End is the Beginning is the End.”

You are correct that both songs were on the B&R soundtrack, though.