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Welcome to the four hundred and seventy-eighth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and seventy-seven. This week, in what shocking way would Terry Gilliam’s version of Watchmen have ended? Who did Chris Claremont want to be as the fifth member of X-Factor instead of Jean Grey? And did the Superman writers really quickly split from John Byrne’s plots after Byrne had Superman kill in his final issue?
NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).
COMIC LEGEND: The original ending of the first attempt at a Watchmen movie was going to be that they were turned into comic book characters!
SPOILERS FOR WATCHMEN AHEAD! IF YOU HAVEN’T READ WATCHMEN YET, YOU REALLY SHOULD GO DO THAT! BUT JUST IN CASE, FEEL FREE TO GO TO THE NEXT PAGE TO AVOID SPOILERS FROM 1986!!
As acclaimed as Watchmen is (and it sure is acclaimed, as it is awesome), one critique that has existed for the comic ever since it came out (it was something that even its original editor, Len Wein, had a problem with) is the ending of the comic, specifically Ozymandias’ plan for world peace…
Therefore, for years, when filmmakers tried to adapt the story into a film, there was always a debate over how exactly to deal with the ending.
When the movie was finally made by director Zack Snyder in 2009, the solution that screenwriters David Hayter and Alex Tse came up with is instead of having the world rally against alien invaders, they would rally against Dr. Manhattan by teleporting exploding energy reactors that would make it look like Manhattan attacked the world instead of teleported “alien” squids.
However, years before Snyder finally got the Watchmen movie made, producer Joel Silver was trying to get one made with famed director Terry Gilliam. In an incredible interview with Coming Soon, Silver explains how their film would have gone:
CS: Speaking of ones that got away, as a die-hard Terry Gilliam fan I have to know if there’s anything juicy you can tell me about his conception of “Watchmen”?
Silver: It was a MUCH much better movie.
CS: Than the one Zack Snyder made…
Silver: Oh God. I mean, Zack came at it the right way but was too much of a slave to the material.
Silver: I was trying to get it BACK from the studio at that point, because I ended up with both “V For Vendetta” and “Watchmen” and I kinda lost “Watchmen.” I was happy with the way “V” came out, but we took a lot of liberties. That’s one of the reasons Alan Moore was so unpleasant to deal with. The version of “Watchmen” that Zack made, they really felt the notion. They went to Comic-Con, they announced it, they showed things, the audience lost their minds but it wasn’t enough to get a movie that would have that success. What Terry had done, and it was a Sam Hamm script–who had written a script that everybody loved for the first “Batman”–and then he brought in a guy who’d worked for him to do work on it [Charles McKeown, co-writer of “Brazil”]. What he did was he told the story as-is, but instead of the whole notion of the intergalactic thing which was too hard and too silly, what he did was he maintained that the existence of Doctor Manhattan had changed the whole balance of the world economy, the world political structure. He felt that THAT character really altered the way reality had been. He had the Ozymandias character convince, essentially, the Doctor Manhattan character to go back and stop himself from being created, so there never would be a Doctor Manhattan character. He was the only character with real supernatural powers, he went back and prevented himself from being turned into Doctor Manhattan, and in the vortex that was created after that occurred these characters from “Watchmen” only became characters in a comic book.
CS: That’s fascinating. Very META.
Silver: Oh yeah. So the three characters, I think it was Rorschach and Nite Owl and Silk Spectre, they’re all of the sudden in Times Square and there’s a kid reading a comic book. They become like the people in Times Square dressing up like characters as opposed to really BEING those characters. There’s a kid reading the comic book and he’s like, “Hey, you’re just like in my comic book.” It was very smart, it was very articulate, and it really gave a very satisfying resolution to the story, but it just didn’t happen. Lost to time.
Good or bad, that would have been quite a remarkable ending.
Thanks to Joel Silver and Coming Soon for the information!
Check out the latest Movie Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: Discover the tragic story of just how the United States film industry was forced to allow the American Human Association to determine that “No Animals Were Harmed in the Making of This Film.”
On the next page, who did Chris Claremont want to be in X-Factor instead of Jean Grey? Hint: Her last name rhymes with Pray.