That’s right…it’s SpongeMen SquareWatch…a mashup of Spongebob Squarepants and The Watchmen…
John Higgins was an important part of the process that turned younger me into a dedicated fan of comics. The truth is, though, that back then I probably didn’t really understand just how important he was, because his original specialty was colouring comics and my appreciation of the absolutely crucial and skilled role such folks play in the medium was, I confess, rudimentary in those early days.
John coloured Watchmen and Batman: The Killing Joke, two of the iconic and in many ways transformative comics of the 1980s, and his work on them undoubtedly broke new colouring ground. His talents don’t remotely end there, though. He’s an accomplished comics artist, with a diverse body of work that includes lots of output for 2000AD in the UK and the big US publishers.
As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also a writer, which brings us to the excuse for this interview: the publication by Titan Comics of a re-mastered collected edition of Razorjack, a character and series he created, wrote, illustrated and coloured. We talk about that, of course, but cover a lot of other ground too …
You sometimes hear the science fiction genre described as an ongoing dialogue between current authors and those who have gone before (I’m paraphrasing. I want to say the idea was articulated by the late Charles Brown, of Locus fame, but I might be wrong.).
The notion’s appealing, though I’ve never been quite sold on it as a characteristic uniquely applicable to prose science fiction. But suppose it’s true. Does that mean your enjoyment of a given novel, no matter how great, is less than it could be if you had greater familiarity with its antecedents? I don’t know. But I’m going to – kind of – talk about it anyway.
Our subject is a manga series that takes the idea of dialogue with past creators to an extreme. I know pretty much nothing about the older material that inspired it. I enjoyed it enormously, though. So much so that I think any sf fan curious about the comics medium should consider giving it a look. I kind of think this is what Isaac Asimov might have come up with, were he a 21st century manga creator with an urge to tell robot stories.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The film is set in an alternate 1985, in which Nixon has remained in office far longer than two terms, the Doomsday clock is ticking ever closer to the fatal midnight mark…and super-heroes have been existing in the world for some time now. The story begins with the murder of one of them, The Comedian. The mystery of who hunts the Watchmen begins to be explored by Rorschach.
PROS: Gorgeous imagery, with scenes from the comic copied exactly. Also, a soundtrack that you can’t help but notice as it turns up throughout the film. Some of the most amazing opening credits out there.
CONS: Almost everything else. The acting is extremely dodgy at times. There is no emotion or context or explanation for what’s happening.
BOTTOM LINE: Since one has to read the comic to really get anything of interest out of the film, the film is little more than some brought-to-life panels. Interesting to look at, but it doesn’t have a leg to stand on.