Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic

Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic appears to be aimed at the casual fan who wants to experience the graphic novel without the hassle of, you know, reading it.

Publisher: Warner Home Video
Genres: Comics
Platforms: DVD
Price: $29.99
Multimedia: Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic
Display Artist: Jake Strider Hughes and Brian Stilwell
ESRB rating: Not Rated
Developer: Brian Stilwell
US release date: 2009-03

Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic, issued and marketed in conjunction with the theatrical film, is a fascinating specimen that offers a third option for those debating the merits of the film versus the graphic novel. It is an attempt, essentially, to apply film language to the comics format and sell a DVD version that you can watch instead of read.

Panel by panel, the 12-chapter graphic novel is faithfully reproduced digitally, complete with dialogue balloons and sharpened color and clarity. In fact, the art here is conspicuously superior to the muddy mass-market editions of the graphic novel currently available. The crisp digital transfer is perhaps the DVD set’s biggest selling point for hardcore Watchmen fans who already have their own print edition of the title.

Less successfully, the DVD creators attempt to jazz up the original work by adding voiceover, music, sound cues, and a deliberately primitive style of limited animation. So, for instance, foreground characters in a given frame are pulled out and animated paper-doll style -- much like the characters in South Park, actually. Background images are slightly blurred to suggest film perspective, and the camera restlessly pans, scans and zooms around the page.

Meanwhile, narrator Tom Stechschulte reads aloud everyone’s dialogue, similar to an audio book treatment. As with most audio books that depend on a single narrator to voice multiple characters, this approach often fails -- particularly when Stechschulte attempts female characters. If you bear in mind that Watchmen is almost entirely dialogue with very little in the way of traditional narrative text, you have a crippling dilemma.

In fact, Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic may be the first DVD ever issued that is markedly improved with the sound turned completely off (not counting Nickelback concert videos). The only actor I’ve ever heard able to pull off something like this -- giving discernable voices to dozens of characters -- is Jim Dale, the award-winning actor who voices all the Harry Potter audiobooks. That guy is unbelievable.

Nevertheless, there is a lot to like with the motion comics strategy, at least in terms of visuals. Comic book and film geeks will enjoy analyzing it all in a meta sort of way. The pan-scan-and-zoom approach necessitates certain creative choices as to where to direct the viewer’s attention, and it’s occasionally expanded to more useful ends. For instance, a panel in the print comic shows a brief glimpse of a static flowchart detailing corporate skullduggery. On the DVD, the flowchart is expanded and animated, giving more heft to a critical plot point.

Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic appears to be aimed at the casual fan who wants to experience the graphic novel without the hassle of, you know, reading it. I could see this working better if the format were ported to some kind of mobile device, ideally something like the Amazon Kindle or a similar dedicated e-reader. As it is, though, I doubt casual fans will want to spend five hours watching on DVD.

Maybe they would on a laptop where you can drop in for a few pages at a time. It’s an interesting problem. We’re used to watching DVDs in one sitting, like movies. But we’re used to reading books in chunks, over time. “Motion comics” would like to split the difference, and if there were ever a format in need of an e-reader solution, this is it.

In any case, serious Watchmen geeks will want to check it out. The DVD set is getting a good push in retail and you can find it at Blockbuster. You can also buy individual chapters via iTunes.

A variation of this column was previously published in the NPR blog, “Monkey See."


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less

Alt-rock heroes the Foo Fighters deliver a three-hour blast of rock power that defies modern norms.

It's a Saturday night in Sacramento and the downtown area around the swank new Golden 1 Center is buzzing as if people are waiting for a spaceship to appear because the alt-rock heroes known as the Foo Fighters are in town. Dave Grohl and his band of merry mates have carried the torch for 20th-century rock 'n' roll here in the next millennium like few others, consistently cranking out one great guitar-driven album after another while building a cross-generational appeal that enables them to keep selling out arenas across America.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.