Last year, after Martin Scorsese lightly dunked on Marvel movies for being cinematic roller coasters, fans of Alan Moore surfaced a 2017 interview in which the Watchmen writer went nuclear on the topic. Here’s the quote that stood out:
I think the impact of superheroes on popular culture is both tremendously embarrassing and not a little worrying. While these characters were originally perfectly suited to stimulating the imaginations of their twelve or thirteen year-old audience, today’s franchised übermenschen, aimed at a supposedly adult audience, seem to be serving some kind of different function, and fulfilling different needs. Primarily, mass-market superhero movies seem to be abetting an audience who do not wish to relinquish their grip on (a) their relatively reassuring childhoods, or (b) the relatively reassuring 20th century. The continuing popularity of these movies to me suggests some kind of deliberate, self-imposed state of emotional arrest, combined with an numbing condition of cultural stasis that can be witnessed in comics, movies, popular music and, indeed, right across the cultural spectrum. The superheroes themselves – largely written and drawn by creators who have never stood up for their own rights against the companies that employ them, much less the rights of a Jack Kirby or Jerry Siegel or Joe Shuster – would seem to be largely employed as cowardice compensators, perhaps a bit like the handgun on the nightstand. I would also remark that save for a smattering of non-white characters (and non-white creators) these books and these iconic characters are still very much white supremacist dreams of the master race. In fact, I think that a good argument can be made for D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation as the first American superhero movie, and the point of origin for all those capes and masks.
Though comic book movies and TV shows litter Moore’s filmography — from straight adaptations like From Hell, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Zack Snyder’s Watchmen to direct-to-video Justice League Dark: Apokolips War (which stars his creation John Constantine) — the writer himself has never taken the plunge into feature-film writing. He’s done comics, novels, the occasional short film, and appeared in a documentary about his career, but no movies. Probably because he doesn’t really want to be in the comic book movie business (aka the current movie business), even if meant adapting his own work.
That changes with The Show. A continuation of a short film series he began with director Mitch Jenkins, the film stars actor Tom Burke (The Souvenir) as Fletcher Dennis, “a man of many talents, passports, and identities.” Ellie Bamber, Siobhan Hewlett, Sheila Atim, and Moore himself round out the cast. The trailer for The Show feels imbued with the psychedelic mysticism that’s wound around Moore’s later work, for better or worse. The plot is loose, but a synopsis sheds a bit more light on the matter:
On a mission to locate a stolen artefact for his menacing client, Fletcher finds himself entangled in a twilight world populated with vampires, sleeping beauties, Voodoo gangsters, noir private eyes, and masked avengers. He quickly sinks into a bizarre and delirious black hole, that is hidden just beneath the surface of this seemingly quiet town. Soon enough Fletcher discovers that dreams and reality have been blurred and there might no longer be a real world to go back to.
The Show looks like the diametric opposite of everything Moore opposes in mainstream entertainment. Because of that, it’s unclear how much of a release the film will get; it’s set to premiere this month at Spain’s Sitges Film Festival. For the curious, episodes of Moore and Jenkins’ short film series, Show Pieces, are currently airing as a stitched-together feature on Shudder.