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Who Watches the Watchmen? Apparently the people who write Heroes.
March 12, 2007 11:08 AM   Subscribe

At a panel last weekend a major plot point was revealed about the NBC show Heroes (it goes without saying - contains spoilers). To many comic book readers this had more than a familiar similarity to the ending of the widely revered comic book series Watchmen. Stories and themes are repeated throughout history in many mediums, but when is it a unique take, when is it a a homage and when is it theft? And when the medium that is lifted from is a less respected one such as comic books, does that make it more palatable?
posted by dig_duggler (63 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
When I first read "Watchmen", I thought the ending was a ripoff of "The Sirens of Titan", so I don't see this as a big deal.

P.S. I adore "Watchmen".
posted by interrobang at 11:13 AM on March 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Didn't you just spoil it for us who did not want to follow your link but have read the Watchmen? What was the point of warning for spoilers then?
posted by rpn at 11:14 AM on March 12, 2007


See Askme
posted by taliaferro at 11:16 AM on March 12, 2007


Seconding rpn. What the fuck dude. I'm mad.

I mean, I would have been mad at Heroes when I eventually found out whatever you're talking about it is that links Heroes and Watchmen (presumably that the destruction of NYC by Peter is in fact planned by Lindeman for some "good" reason), but now I'm mad at you too.
posted by poppo at 11:18 AM on March 12, 2007


Sorry for getting mad. I should just flag and mail the admins
posted by poppo at 11:19 AM on March 12, 2007


Also, there's an EC comic by Harvey Kurtzman from the 1950s where a scientist plots to make it look like Mars is attacking Earth for the same reason as in "Watchmen" and "The Sirens of Titan", so I'd classify this idea as officially old.
posted by interrobang at 11:21 AM on March 12, 2007


Yeah, but what's the deal with the polar bear. And that crazy fog thing.
posted by four panels at 11:21 AM on March 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


And Moore's brilliance lies in his usage of tropes and literary cliches, not really in the originality of his ideas, so I don't really understand why this would upset Moore fans.
posted by interrobang at 11:23 AM on March 12, 2007


Wait, I thought 24 was the show that's going to "rip off" Watchmen (and The Outer Limits) in an upcoming episode.

While we're here: I'm enjoying Heroes but I think it has really suffered by having the 22 episode season that's standard here in the States. 13 would have kept it a lot tighter and more interesting.

Also, NBC had a spoiler in the opening credits of the last episode. They kept running these teasers, during the episode, where you'd see just this shot of part of the back of a white haired head and an announcer saying something like "The man behind it all is finally revealed". Dude, it's already revealed. You put Malcolm McDowell's name in the fucking opening credits. What, we think he's gonna be playing bus driver number 2 like Stan Lee did?

I'm mainly pissed 'cause I had a bet on the white haired actor being Donald Sutherland (even though he's way too big for Heroes).
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 11:23 AM on March 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


First off, sorry for the spoilage. The initial alternative I saw was don't ask the question. After the askme thread, I just wasn't crafty enough. Mods feel free to yank it.

A specific gripe ( not so much the idea) per se is (DO NOT READ IF YOU DIDN'T FOLLOW THE LINK):

a). In Watchmen a wealthy former hero who has been pulling the strings from behind the scenes sends a 'creature' to to nyc that sends off a "psychic shockwave" that kills a large proportion of the city in order to get the world to unite (in this 80's cold war instance Russia and the US) against a foreign alien threat and make the world a better place. He utterly believes what he's doing is right.

b). In Heroes a wealthy former hero who has been pulling the strings from behind the scenes plans to set off a bomb in nyc that kills a large proportion of the city in order to be the catalyst for a better future. He utterly believes what he's doing is right.

The specifics are much too close IMO, especially for a show based in a comic book world to use such a similar plot device down to the specifics as a seminal work in the medium.
posted by dig_duggler at 11:30 AM on March 12, 2007


Since there are only thirty-one story elements to begin with, I think this is probably a coincidence.
posted by gum at 11:31 AM on March 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


OK, so this is a question. Which belongs on Ask Metafilter, not Metafilter. Except it's a chatty, open-ended rhetorical question. Which doesn't even belong on Ask Metafilter. And it's a chatty, open-ended rhetorical question containing major spoilers for the plot of a popular, highly-anticipated show which derives much of its enjoyability from unexpected revelations. Containing one link to an article on a comic-book news site, and two links to the same official NBC website, one mislabeled (presumably it was meant to point to Wikipedia).

No dugg.
posted by designbot at 11:39 AM on March 12, 2007


To many comic book readers this had more than a familiar similarity to the ending of the widely revered comic book series Watchmen.

Do you have links to support this?
posted by brundlefly at 11:45 AM on March 12, 2007


I'm a huge fan of comics and superheroics in general. I read the Watchmen when it was originally published and Alan Moore is one of my literary heroes of the past thirty years. I've tried to watch Heroes and frankly, I find it kinda insulting to have it even mentioned in any context alongside Watchmen. It's typical network TV fluff. No sir, I don't like it.
posted by GavinR at 11:49 AM on March 12, 2007


gum: Actually it's simpler than that... There are only 5 basic story elements:

Man vs. Man
Man vs. Nature
Man vs. Society
Man vs. Himself
Man vs. Cyborg
posted by basicchannel at 11:51 AM on March 12, 2007 [4 favorites]


Heroes is so dreadfully written I'm amazed people continue to watch it. I'm curious what the appeal is.

I watched a bit of it (the first series of episodes) but got frustrated by the writers consistently breaking their own damn rules for dramatic affect. The most obvious example is the cheerleader (SPOILERS) who keeps getting messed up and immediately her body undoes the damage. However, when she's attacked by her boyfriend after homecoming, she remains 'dead' long enough to have her body carted away and dumped in a river and then later suffer an autopsy just so the creators can have a cool shot of her waking up mid-procedure. Weak.
posted by dobbs at 12:03 PM on March 12, 2007


OK, so this is a question. Which belongs on Ask Metafilter, not Metafilter. Except it's a chatty, open-ended rhetorical question. Which doesn't even belong on Ask Metafilter.

Seconded. WTF?
posted by languagehat at 12:07 PM on March 12, 2007


Eh. I'm liking Heroes. Loved Watchmen. I see it as homage, if they would only admit it as such, so much the better.

Highly relevant to readers of this thread: Picture of Rorschach from a 300 trailer posted by Synder to Youtube. High-res picture of Rorschach on the link (there are some NSFW boobies in the trailer).
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 12:07 PM on March 12, 2007


Doesn't Man vs. Zombie deserve its own listing?
posted by ewagoner at 12:08 PM on March 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Doesn't Man vs. Zombie deserve its own listing?

Of course it does.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:25 PM on March 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


What GavinR and dobbs said.
posted by dreamsign at 12:30 PM on March 12, 2007


However, when she's attacked by her boyfriend after homecoming, she remains 'dead' long enough to have her body carted away and dumped in a river and then later suffer an autopsy just so the creators can have a cool shot of her waking up mid-procedure. Weak.

That wasn't inconsistent. There was a big piece of wood jammed in Claire's brain. She couldn't regenerate her neurons while it was there, I guess. As soon as the autopsy woman pulled it out, Claire came back to life.

That's not to disagree about the writing to Heroes sucking. It's pretty well-written on a macro scale; the overarching storyline is good. But the dialogue on a line-to-line basis is horrible... especially in the first ten episodes or so. Then again, the last two episodes have been particularly excellent, so maybe the show is getting a feel for itself.

And I was going to mention the EC comic that interrobang brought up. This is hardly a rip-off of Watchmen: the "cause a calamity to unite humanity" is a tried-and-true trope of science fiction (or other literature. Or hell, even historical specualtion: all those crazy "Did England let Japan bomb Pearl Harbor?" conspiracy theorists are riffing on the same theme). I was unimpressed when it happened in Watchmen because I thought it had been played out. If you think it's ripping off Watchmen, that means you've read nothing but Watchmen.
posted by painquale at 1:06 PM on March 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


I thought Lost was going to be a Watchmen rip-off, given the fact the lead writer said it was his favorite comic book. I refuse to watch any serialized dramas (Jericho, Heroes) until writers get on board that viewers only will put up with mysteries for about a season before demanding answers. I mean if Kafka write The Castle and keep unraveling mysteries only to introduce new ones, I would think a few hot shot writers could rip that off.
posted by geoff. at 1:11 PM on March 12, 2007


All matters of battling the undead fall under Man vs. Nature. That is all.
posted by basicchannel at 1:27 PM on March 12, 2007


the medium that is lifted from is a less respected one such as comic books

Are graphic novels/comix/whatever still less respected than broadcast TV? Really?
posted by freebird at 1:29 PM on March 12, 2007


Note to digg_duggler: that would have been an excellent opportunity to use [more inside].

That said - in as much as it shares plot similarities to Watchmen, well, meh. The show is good as far as it goes (though I do find it annoying that - for example - you have to read online comics to find out what happened to Hiro's eidetic memory girlfriend the second time), but has been gradually increasing in quality. It is possible to tell someone exactly what's going to happen, observing that it's a typical tragic situation, and keep them interested in how events turn out that way (b5 is the canonical example). My biggest fear is that if Watchmen does ever get translated into a different medium, people will be all "Oh piffle - that's such a Heroes rip-off".

But what maddens me most is the fact that I realise I cannot remember the ending to Sirens of Titan. Winston Ruumfoord, Kazak, Chronosynclastic Infundibulum, goofballs and rented-a-tent are all there, but the ending...? Zip. Nada. etc. Curse you, interrobang. A trip to the library is needed and it's wet out there.
posted by Sparx at 1:31 PM on March 12, 2007


Isn't this really just a rip-off of 9/11?
posted by clockzero at 1:33 PM on March 12, 2007


In the NBC drama Heroes (TV series), Niki's father is seen reading The Sirens of Titan.
posted by juv3nal at 1:51 PM on March 12, 2007


geoff: One of the things that has worked about Heroes is that they do reveal the answers to mysteries with great regularity. The last two episodes in specific dot a lot of I's and cross a lot of T's.

Considering that they have placed Kubrik, Star Trek and Marvel Easter Eggs all over their episodes, I don't imagine that the folks behind the show would have any qualms about ponying up their debt to Watchmen.

Anyhow, I'm loving the show.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:53 PM on March 12, 2007


NOT COOL. I just started watching Heroes this week and I'm going to try to forget that I ever saw this. You could have used "a famous comic book" and a [more inside]. Fucking jerk.
posted by spiderwire at 1:54 PM on March 12, 2007


When it comes to today's TV dramas, I don't give any of them the benefit of the doubt. It was ripped off.

Today's TV (US, dramas especially) really is a wasteland. It is all regurgitated tripe. And people watch the shit because they are told it's "critically acclaimed"- and just buy into the hype.
posted by wfc123 at 1:56 PM on March 12, 2007


I mean, I would have been mad at Heroes when I eventually found out whatever you're talking about it is that links Heroes and Watchmen (presumably that the destruction of NYC by Peter is in fact planned by Lindeman for some "good" reason)...

Way to go there, buddy. I HAVE NEVER READ THE WATCHMEN and so the FPP wasn't a spoiler for me -- but your comment was. Thanks a bunch.

Glass houses, throwing stones, yada yada
posted by davejay at 2:07 PM on March 12, 2007



Doesn't Man vs. Zombie deserve its own listing?


Hey, let's not forget Zombie vs. Zombie.
posted by jasonsmall at 2:11 PM on March 12, 2007


KEYSER SOZE MANUFACTURES ROSEBUD-BRAND TOBOGGANS! AND IS ACTUALLY A GHOST!
posted by blueshammer at 2:12 PM on March 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Today's TV (US, dramas especially) really is a wasteland. It is all regurgitated tripe. And people watch the shit because they are told it's "critically acclaimed"- and just buy into the hype.

Whoa. Did "Today's TV" drown your puppy or something? Chill out and watch some of them. Heroes, Dexter, Arrested Development are all part of "Today's TV", and they're all excellent, entertaining shows. I watch them because I like enjoy them; not because I buy the hype.
posted by reformedjerk at 2:16 PM on March 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Given that this spoiler covers only the very next episode... I don't think it's that big a crime against nature.

I think those saying Heroes has bad writing are missing something- they're keeping the overall show suspenseful while still revealing mysteries with regularity as Joey Michaels says, a nice change of pace from that piece of shit "Lost", and they are (mostly) consistent: things that have seemed inconsistent in some cases ended up being resolved and showed generally an eye towards planning ahead by the writing staff (for example, the cheerleader not healing right away relates to the whole "the powers are in the brain", introduced in the first minutes of the first episode and repeated ever since). Granted, it's still just a fun fantasy show, and still requires a lot of suspension of disbelief in general, but I haven't found it to be too far-fetched in either character actions/motivation or inconsistent in their own premises (unlike, say, Lost).


Regarding a Watchmen "copy" of a plotline: I believe the show has had plenty of little homages to that comic in particular, including the close up of Suresh's watch among other imagery in the "Seven Minutes to Midnight" episode (the title itself likely a reference to "Watchmen"). This is a show created by comic book fans: I don't think it's stealing, nor could it be given the discussed broad, general nature of the theme.
reformedjerk: Heroes, Dexter, Arrested Development are all part of "Today's TV" (emphasis my own)
Sadly, one of those three is no longer part of "Today's TV". More's the pity... *sniff*
posted by hincandenza at 2:21 PM on March 12, 2007


OK, that last bit was a bit harsh, but I'm still really mad.
posted by spiderwire at 2:25 PM on March 12, 2007


Man this is totally not the post I foresaw.

Anywho, [more inside] would have been the way to go. I even threw it past a friend and it passed the smell test. Guess I need a few more friends. There are legitimate gripes about the post and I suppose I will be much more careful in the future.

My specific qualms which seem to be getting glossed over somewhat are the specifics. Yes, the theme itself is not new (and there are great example in the askme link above) but the specifics to me are amazingly similar. It could be a homage, but they usually aren't so similar to the source material . In this instance it seems to have taken some of the specifics and transplanted them almost verbatim (substitute bomb for crazy ass alien). The series creator likes to pride himself on not having read a comic in his life. I just imagine someone in the writing room should have mentioned the amazing parallels in this case. Maybe they did. Reeks of laziness to me, but lots of folks dig it.

As for me, I'm trying to like Heroes. I'm about 4 eps behind but the last two have gotten rave geek reviews. I just need to get there. The dialogue as others have mentioned is sometimes painful.
posted by dig_duggler at 2:26 PM on March 12, 2007


I already spoiled myself on Heroes, because I am weak, but I was due to start reading Sirens of Titan tomorrow - where was the spoiler alert for that?

Seriously, unfortunately.
posted by TypographicalError at 2:37 PM on March 12, 2007


"Heroes" is a neat little story, and I enjoy it for like 40 tivo minutes a week when it's on, plus maybe another 30 seconds or so to say, "wow that was cool." If I spent that time, and then on top of it spent more time thinking/talking about how lame it is and/or doing an internship in copyright law to worry about who they're ripping off, then I would tend to blame myself for my pathetic inability to get a fucking life, rather than blaming, say, the writers/producers of the show.

And if you hate TV, then fine; but at least admit that the whole anti-TV thing is just your own version of enjoying television. You can decry the bandwagon, but you're doing so from the window of another bandwagon--and the people in your bandwagon are a bunch of fucking downers, dude.

TV's got some good storytelling going on these days, though.
posted by troybob at 2:58 PM on March 12, 2007


I like and enjoy (but don't love) Heroes. Frankly at the first mention of the "NYC go boom" plot I thought "Oh, potential Watchmen riff." But there are enough comics professionals involved I doubt it's a coincidence. Hell, the basis of superhero comics is repetition of mythic tropes. You don't read them to be surprised by innovative stories -- you read them to be surprised by innovative storytelling.

But sometimes the dialogue hurts in a visceral way. I held my head in my hands and groaned at the "What do I hear in your heart?"/"Murder" couplet. Ferchrissakes, I wrote better dialogue than that in block letters on ruled paper in Mrs. Beal's gemoetry class.
posted by mkhall at 3:02 PM on March 12, 2007


Gimme a break davejay. If you decided to read a thread about a spoiler, then you didn't care about getting spoiled.
posted by poppo at 3:07 PM on March 12, 2007


Zombie vs. Shark
posted by brundlefly at 3:26 PM on March 12, 2007


I already spoiled myself on Heroes, because I am weak, but I was due to start reading Sirens of Titan tomorrow

Am I the only one here who thinks that neither one was spoiled very much here today?
posted by mrgrimm at 3:37 PM on March 12, 2007


(SPOILER ALERT)
“In this instance it seems to have taken some of the specifics and transplanted them almost verbatim (substitute bomb for crazy ass alien)”

Well, insofar as creating teleportation a good half century before even the dawn of that technology, taking scientists, geneticists, artists, writers and other erudite folks to an island genetically enginering and manufacturing an alien body and a brain cloned from the world’s top psychics and encoding with seething imagery, sound, and sensation so horrific that while the teleported crazy ass alien carcass explodes with enough force to kill a good many people, the psychic backlash is far more lethal and so damaging worldwide that even the marginally sensitive will have nightmares for years in New York, not to mention eliminating obstacles as gigantic as a man who is nearly omnipotent and doing it all behind a Byzantine labyrinth of front corporations and then eliminating all traces and connections to yourself including your servants whom you yourself eliminate so as to unify the world against the percieved alein threat and thus prevent a well documented and predicted worldwide nuclear holocaust as compared to ‘asploding a bomb in New York so things are all cool n’ shit. Yeah, I guess.
Although one is, y’know, creative.


(Also: Man vs. Penis)
posted by Smedleyman at 3:44 PM on March 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


(Also: Man vs. Penis)

Is this like in the comics where two heroes meet and have to fight before they realize "Hey, we're on the same side, why are we fighting?!" and then team up to save the day?
posted by mkhall at 4:08 PM on March 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Did the headline get changed? I thought this morning there wasn't a reference to the name of the show, and I thought it was about Lost, which has jumped the shark IMO anyway.

Now there is a reference to Heroes, and no more inside, which is a definite spoiler. Weak sauce.
posted by Big_B at 4:14 PM on March 12, 2007


Oh, now I see that the post I was thinking of was in Askme.....
posted by Big_B at 4:17 PM on March 12, 2007


I wasn't especially thrilled by Heroes, myself. The autopsy scene cemented one of my worst suspicions concerning the regeneration gimmick:

Nf gur purreyrnqre punenpgre vf vagraqrq gb or n svpgvbany gnxr ba Uraevrggn Ynpxf, ubj ybat jvyy vg or orsber gur jevgref qrpvqrq gb fcyvg ure va unys vagb gjvaf? Jbhyq bar gura npg nf n qrpbl gb gur ivyynvaf? Be orpbzr pbzcebzvfrq va beqre gb svtug gur bgure? Jvyy fur "fnir" uhznavgl ol jnl bs ure pryyf cebivqvat n inppvar, be jvyy fur rssrpgviryl orpbzr gur uhzna enpr naq ercbchyngr gur cynarg nsgre rirelbar ryfr qvrf bss?

Fpranevbf yvxr guvf jbhyq'ir orra sne zber vagevthvat/qvfgheovat/uvynevbhf vs gur fhowrpg unq orra n unzfgre, fhpu nf Qrjrl'f crg va Znypbyz va gur Zvqqyr. Ohg V unir zl qbhogf bs vg jbexvat jryy jvgu AOP'f qenzn.


And you all forgot about Speilberg's immortal classic: dog versus vampire.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:27 PM on March 12, 2007


a scientist plots to make it look like Mars is attacking Earth

Ditto Colin Wilson's 1967 The Mind Parasites, whose psi-powered protagonists fake an alien invasion to stop a war and unite mankind.
posted by raygirvan at 4:55 PM on March 12, 2007


Smart Dalek: That is one of the weirdest connections I've seen someone make regarding Heroes.
posted by nightchrome at 6:19 PM on March 12, 2007


>>Sorry for getting mad. I should just flag and mail the admins

Unless your luck is vastly better than mine, nothing whatsoever will be done. The language scattered about which encourages us to respect others on the site appears largely to be window dressing.
posted by SaintCynr at 6:27 PM on March 12, 2007


I guess that spoils the plans of one of the characters, but it's just one clip, from one episode, that has five entire episodes after it until the end of the season. This seems more like an effort to keep people interested in the show while it's on hiatus than a true spoiler.
posted by Emardhi at 7:31 PM on March 12, 2007


This is a show created by comic book fans

Actually, I'd heard the opposite of this somewhere (Entertainment Weekly, maybe?). The creator didn't know anything about comics, and so when he was thinking up powers for characters, the other writers would have to tell him things like "Uh...that's Magneto".
posted by graventy at 8:04 PM on March 12, 2007


Did we really think that a TV series was going to show us anything new and exciting? Or do it any better than the first two Xmen movies?

Is it true that the creator hadn't read any comic books? People like these should not be given jobs. Reminds me of the writer-director of Underworld saying he'd never heard of White Wolf Games, Vampire Masquerade or any stories with vampire-werewolf wars. And then there was Tim Burton being selected to direct Batman, after vocalizing the he didn't read comics and didn't like them. At least he has a distinct creativity.
posted by asfuller at 8:29 PM on March 12, 2007


Does THIS have something to do with another celebrity being in love with quonsar?
posted by davy at 8:57 PM on March 12, 2007


What's this got to do with the Palestinians?
posted by davy at 8:58 PM on March 12, 2007


But Metafilter jumped the zombie before I signed up.
posted by davy at 9:00 PM on March 12, 2007


Holy shit! So I looked up Tim Kring, and he was the guy behind Misfits of Science! I loved that show.
posted by symbioid at 9:27 PM on March 12, 2007


asfuller writes "Is it true that the creator hadn't read any comic books? People like these should not be given jobs."

I can't remember where I read it, but he said in an interview that he has a reading disorder that keeps him from following the word balloons.
posted by concrete at 9:27 PM on March 12, 2007


Smart Dalek: That is one of the weirdest connections I've seen someone make regarding Heroes.

Seconded.

As fa as the creators' knowledge of comics (or lack thereof), co-executive producer and writer Jeph Loeb is a pretty well-respected comics writer. Kring may be deliberately out of the loop, but Loeb and the other writers seem to bring him up to speed.
posted by mkhall at 10:12 PM on March 12, 2007


mkhall: As fa[r] as the creators' knowledge of comics (or lack thereof), co-executive producer and writer Jeph Loeb is a pretty well-respected comics writer. Kring may be deliberately out of the loop, but Loeb and the other writers seem to bring him up to speed.
Right- and for example (since I thought of a specific one last night) how about the fact that one of the principle characters, Sylar, is a) accruing numerous powers including at this point telekinesis and the ability to melt matter in an attempt to become all-powerful, and b) was a second generation watchmaker. Which is already a sign that if Tim Kring isn't a comics geek, the various writers are- and have already made specific references to Watchmen. That's why I don't think it's "stealing" a story line so much as an homage: they're too explicit about their debt to various comic histories. The character of Hiro seems to be a proxy for the writers and fans, making numerous references to topically related storylines in other comics (X-men #141-143, for example, or the Spiderman genesis).


And yeah, I don't think there's any Henrietta Lacks homage going on- what an odd connection to make. The indestructible/auto-healing person is a staple of the comics world. That's kind of what makes Heroes fun: it's recycling a lot of the same hero powers and stereotypes from X-Men et al, but manages to straddle the line pretty well between "fun, fantasy-laden comic-book suspension of disbelief and stylings" and the more "real-world implications of superheroes". It's watchable by more than just comic-book fans, hence its ratings success.
posted by hincandenza at 11:33 AM on March 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


And Moore's brilliance lies in his usage of tropes and literary cliches, not really in the originality of his ideas, so I don't really understand why this would upset Moore fans.

Spoiler alert! Because everything upsets Alan Moore fans, that's why.

(spoken as the girlfriend of a major-league AM fan who likes his work, too...)

But with good reason, because Cyborg Space Fairy only knows that he and Grant Morrison have been ripped off (*cough cough* the Matrix *cough*) enough times.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 12:40 PM on March 13, 2007


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