Attention to Detail: On the Mindscape of a Madman, and Turning a Materpiece into Merchandising


Some people know this about me, but many don’t, because I hid the fact for years, but I’m admitting it now: For most of my life I have suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I am 29 now, and only just started getting treatment. I won’t go into the scary details about my daily cleaning rituals etc. What I want to talk about here is a side effects of my disorder that I only recently realized was not normal: I have an inhuman level of attention to detail. I have always been a slow reader, but that is not because I am dumb, it is because I am absorbing the minutiae of what I am reading, storing it away for later.

If I watch some sort of who-done-it, I pay such close attention to the details that I can figure it out in minutes. This leads to me reading very detailed books and complex music. I enjoy books where there is a mystery, but it is not obvious what the outcome is. An example of this might be Fight Club, which is particularly genius because Chuck Palahniuk tells us who Tyler Durden is throughout the book, if you re-read it you will see! Another example is American Psycho, where we are really presented with an unsolvable riddle, which is whether Patrick Bateman is a monster, or just a delusional psychopath. The other type of books that I enjoy are sprawling epic fantasies and sci-fi operas. Books like The Lord of the Ring or Dune are great examples of this, as they present extremely detailed fantasy world for the reader that seem almost limitless, and for someone like me that is priceless.

The comic Watchmen is a combination of these two qualities I tend to seek in books I like. There is a brilliant mystery presented, which does not have an obvious answer, and we are presented with detailed fictional histories for all of the characters, which makes the book so rich and memorable. There is also tons of detail hidden in Dave Gibbons’ wonderful artwork, for example the issue that mirrors itself outward, panel by panel, from the center page. Wow!

Another strange quality about mind is that I have an almost photographic memory. I have only read The Lord of the Rings twice in my life, the last time being 15 years ago, but I could recite you dialogue, and give you page references for the major events in the book. I can tell you ridiculous little details, like for example, of the top of my head: In Fellowship of the Ring Barliman Butterbur buys Bill the Pony from Bill Ferny for 12 silver pennies. Sam takes a shine to him, and he accompanies the fellowship through Rivendell to the gates of Moria. Sam can’t take him into the mines and was afraid the Watcher in the Water or Wargs would get him, but he turned up getting Bill back in Return of the Ring when they traveled back though home through Bree. Crazy, I know.

This is a blessing and a curse. A curse, because once I have read a book I find it hard to re-read them, because I already know them back to front. A blessing, because these books live with me all the time. I can summon up a book like Watchmen and actually read the pages in my head. This sounds fictional, I know, but it is 100% true.

I tend to find that when I find a book I love, and it is stuck in my head it almost becomes a part of my personality. Which is why when books get adapted to movies I am inevitably disappointed when details are skipped, or plot points are changed. I actually get quite angry. I feel sympathy for my Wife having to sit next to me as we watched V for Vendetta, or Return of the King (the only truly bad one of the movie trilogy).

If you are a comic fan you will no doubt have read Watchmen, and will inevitably know about the upcoming Hollywood movie. Now, having read what I said above, you can understand why I plan to avoid this movie. I’ll probably get really bloody angry, as I can imagine so much will get lost in translation. Alan Moore is not involved with the production, his name will not be on the credits, and he will not accept payment for it. Instead asking that the money be spread amongst the other artists involved, which is rather admirable really.

DC comics have already started ramping up the marketing campaign for the movie. Watchmen has been their biggest selling trade paperback for years, and wilth their slipping market share (25%!) it seems they are willing to milk any property until there is nothing left. It seems they are getting ready to really abuse Watchmen. There is already a trade paper back version, and the Absolute edition hardcover, now there will be a brand new hardcover version, and they are releasing action figures. The thing about these action figures that annoys me is that I know they tried to release some a few years back, but Alan Moore would not authorize them. It seems some git at DC came up with a clever idea though: why not base them on the movie characters!!! Genius, groan! Have you seen the movie versions? Gone are the classic costumes of the book, now everyone looks like S&M versions of characters from the Batman & Robin movie. I wouldn’t have figures based on these characters if you paid me.

What is next? Watchmen watches? Watchmen smiley face badges? Rorschach trench coats? Watchmen is not the Transformers for the love of God!

Maybe I am taking this to heart too much, because like I said, the book is ingrained in my mind. I have just been disappointed by so many adaptations before. The only decent adaptation I have seen of a book I love is Fight Club, and that still lost a lot in translation. Perhaps the worst was V for Vendetta, or Dune. I love David Lynch, but wow, that was a steaming pile of crap.


P.S. To get a better idea of how weird my mind is, I composed this entire article in my head during my 1 hour cycle to work. This along with 2 other articles and a few comic reviews. Seriously, word for word, I even thought up about 5 different titles for it!

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