“When I’m called out, it’s almost like somebody has pulled away the Angry Marc Curtain and there’s this giggling child in there…and I’m like ‘Ok, you’re right…what happens now…do you like me still?’”, Marc Maron confesses in the landmark 200th episode of his critically acclaimed podcast What the Fuck, with Marc Maron. It’s a critical insight, as Marc’s comments often are, into the psyche of human honesty. And one that has bearing on the most poignant scene in next week’s issue of Ozymandias. No one could have predicted how Marc exploded, and how podcasting would be his medium. Least of all writer and industry legend Len Wein, and the strange twists of fate that connect him with another comics legend, Alan Moore.
Arguably, it was Moore’s assumption of creative control on Saga of the Swamp Thing (following immediately of Wein’s run as series regular writer) than launched Moore’s mainstream career. Saga of the Swamp Thing would be a genetic launchpad of sorts for Moore’s collaboration with Dave Gibbons on Watchmen. By a strange twist, it was Len Wein who would be tapped to write the miniseries spotlighting Watchmen villain (or was he the victor?), Ozymandias in the prequel collection of miniseries, Before Watchmen.
Fans and casual observers of the comics industry alike, must be wondering what strange psychoanalytic tango the two writers find themselves caught up in. Were there hurt feelings? Was there a kind of creative disassociation that saw the work let go of as something of the past? Whatever the turns of psyche that actually exist they pale by comparison to one of the most beautifully written moments of the year in comics.
In the space of just two panels, Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias himself) intuits the close friendship between his longtime rival The Comedian and JFK. Will Veidt set into motion the conspiracy that will assassinate JFK? And in so doing, emotionally cripple The Comedian? And if so, will enacting this conspiracy be the training ground for running the grandest conspiracy of all, the one that, by the end of Watchmen, would see the world “tricked” into a lasting geopolitical piece.
What Wein captures so poignantly is the childlike simplicity (but not innocence in Veidt’s case) with which Ozymandias views the world. It’s as if nothing has changed since the 50s when Veidt finished reading the complete Encyclopedia Britannica before school-going age. Veidt’s motivations are still very much the same, an oversimplified childhood petulance of “bully-back” that often gets twisted into “bully first”. The only thing that’s changed is the scope and the ambition of Veidt’s bullying.
It’s the kind of childhood petulance that in our darker moments, we ourselves might perhaps wish to assign to the “rivalry” between Wein and Moore, the “rivalry” between Watchmen and Before Watchmen. Because Marc Maron’s analogy of his own deeper motivations can be used to shed a light as much on ourselves as on Veidt or as on Wein and Moore. But in that analogy, Marc offers a deeper more poignant insight as well—that for each of us there is a far better reason to draw closed that curtain of adulthood and reveal the grown-up we believe we are, or hope soon to become.
Please enjoy our exclusive preview of the psychologically riveting Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #4, “Shattered Visage…!”.
// Notes from the Road
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