In American culture we seem to be re-living our original love for the comic book genre. New fans and old fans alike flock to see these movie adaptations of old beloved comic books that have remained in public memory for generations. The movies stand alone, as do the comics, but does their relationship end there? As the two may share the same plot, inhabit the same world, do they not affect each other? In this time of book to movie franchises, viewers are previous readers who claim about the book was so much better, even when the movie may closely follow the book. Even when the movie itself is good, those who have read the book first form a hatred of the movie. This pattern remains true even when one watches the movie first as the book becomes “wrong”.
Movies and comics are two very different mediums of a story, as both have their strengths and weaknesses. Movies may give the viewer a good idea of movement, tone of voice (not to mention the voices themselves), and lighting, but is limited to the amount of information that it may give at any moment in time. Comics, while they lack movement in the technical sense, move through the images and text combined as they complete the action. Comparing the two are difficult due to these differing strengths and weaknesses. Ideas of how things work in the comic may be translated differently in the movie depending on how the reader interpreted certain points. Seeing the movie before reading the comic may trip some people up as things may appear in the novel that weren’t in the movie. Some things may be more violent, some more sexual, others may be just plain weird. But the order in which we see and read things change the overall effect on our view of the story overall.
Take Watchmen for example. In some ways I have both read the book before the watching the movie and watched the movie before reading the book. I had read about half of the graphic novel before watching the movie. Many things were made more obvious in the movie that I as a reader could not understand in the comic itself. Rorschach as a character remains relatively the same, yet the use of his mask is changed. In the graphic novel, the shapes on his mask do change shape, but my interpretation differed from the fluid movement of the blots that constitute his face in the movie. Each time I saw his character in the comic, I paid close attention to the shapes made in the mask, as they provided a close look to what his inner thoughts may be. As I began watching the movie, I felt wrong as this movie Rorschach was different from my perceived comic Rorschach in small, hard to place ways. This left me stuck in certain parts of the movie as this movie Rorschach could only be a fake, imitating my, the readers, perception of who he was.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that the book did not change on account of my viewing the movie. The Rorschach jail cell scene was especially important, as it is one of the few places that the movie differs from the book. As per usual in movies, all violence is made way more intense than the original as Larry has his hands taken off with a chain saw, all on screen. This level of willingness to sacrifice for vengeance struck me in a deep way as Rorschach was baptized in the blood of a man he didn’t kill. As it sounds sick to say, I was almost looking forward to seeing the scene in the comic. Needless to say the comic was almost a disappointment in regards to what the movie had shown me. The scene overall is very important to the plot as Rorschach changes (at least he does a little in the comic version) as he regains a more human form by being showered not in his mask but his real face. The movie version is what makes the scene pop out, not the comic, but the movie still alerted me to this being a pivotal scene due to the amount of detail.
In short, I found that the order of which comes first in terms of viewing, the book or the movie, has a deep effect on how the story overall is construed. Seeing the movie first may help the reader understand average from pivotal violence, as scenes can really stand out above the rest with the way that movies can do things that pictures cannot physically do. Yet the comic allows the reader to take their time knowing each character, forming their own idea of who the characters are and how (or if) to relate to the characters. As both mediums have their strengths and weaknesses, it is important to understand both as two halves of a whole, making the story complete.
For more blogs about how a movie may cause different emotion than the book (and vis versa), I highly recommend you read “Explosions or Aliens?” by ebaumgardner16 (links will be listed below), “It May Seem Like There’s No Time or Reason” by strudeau, and “Characters and Characterization Across Movie’s and Their Comics” by nicolefindswords.
http://graphicnovel.umwblogs.org/2015/09/25/explosions-or-aliens/ http://graphicnovel.umwblogs.org/2015/09/20/it-may-seem-like-theres-no-time-or-reason/ http://graphicnovel.umwblogs.org/2015/08/30/4034/
Watchmen images are the property of Alan Moore, Warner Bros., and Paramount Pictures.
Additional pictures not from the movie are from quotesgram.com