Since the ART OF WATCHMEN book has come out, I feel comfortable posting the art I did for the 8 minutes I worked on the film...
First, the back story. I was contacted by representatives of 300 director Zack Snyder, while 300 was in postproduction, about doing designs for 4 of the 6 main characters from WATCHMEN. Zack wanted me to design the look of the characters, and then do 4 'cover-quality' color illustrations to hep convince the suits & ties at Warner Bros. Pictures to green-light his WATCHMEN film.
I did a first round of sketches, talked with Mr. Snyder, did a second round of looser sketches based on our discussions, and then was given the go-ahead to proceed with designing full illustrations. Since I was running late on CATWOMAN covers as well as other things, I was juggling the assignments. Since I do art for whomever yells the loudest, the WATCHMEN stuff took a minor backburner placing on my To Do List. I never heard from them, they never called or e-mailed saying "Hey, hurry up, you bastard!", so I worked on Selina Kyle.
Then, 300 came out.
It did so well in its opening weekend, Warner Bros. green-lit WATCHMEN the following Monday.
I guess my services weren't required, because I never heard back from the WATCHMEN people. I could've finished the color pieces on principle, like a good freelancer, but I'm so slow that my time is kinda precious, and I don't want to waste time drawing something that isn't going to be used. So, I just chalked it up to "That's business...".
The WATCHMEN people contacted me much later, asking for high-rez versions of the sketches for the inevitable ART OF book. I pointed out that, since I never actually did the assignment I was asked to do, I had never been paid. To their credit, once we agreed on a rate for just the sketches, they check arrived so fast, the envelope was warm, the ink was still wet, and the FedEx guy was out of breath. The WATCHMEN movie guys are a pretty respectable gang, as far as my experience goes.
Zack Snyder told me he wanted a BATMAN movie approach to Nite Owl's look; the body-armor with believable tech and all that. No problem.
Now, I think WATCHMEN is one of the greatest novels ever written, and it'd Dave Gibbons' finest work in a brilliant career. I was actually working in a comic shop in New Jersey when the original issues were coming out, and I was there, reading every one as they came out. Dave's storytelling, his design work, EVERYTHING about WATCHMEN was, and remains, brilliant.
I wanted to give Zach what he asked for, but I wanted to honor Dave Gibbons' designs as well. I know that comics (like books and anything else) cannot be translated VERBATUM to the Big Screen, but I am not a big fan of the X-MEN/GI JOE approach, where the original look of the characters is almost ignored for the sake of not alienating the non-fan audience, and you end up with black leather jumpsuits and you almost need name tags on the chests to recognize characters. "Hello, My Name Is Wolverine".
I thought that no matter what details Nite Owl's costume had, as long as he kept Gibbons' 'owl silhouette', it would be a good design. Since the reason movie studios don't like superheros in tights (with the exception of Spider-Man and Superman, my 'never worked in Hollywood' first design (on the left) was a moody shot. If we don't show the general audience the 'silly superhero' by cloaking him in shadow (the way I figure guys like Nite Owl and Batman would prefer to operate), then everyone wins. Zack liked it, but rightly asked for a sketch showing details. Hence, the second looser sketch.
When I saw the first WATCHMEN trailer in front of DARK KNIGHT, I was tickled to see some of my suggestions surviving to the Big Screen. With Nite Owl, they seem to have kept my idea of Captain America-style scale mail, but elongated to look like bird feathers. Other than that, they took the design in a different direction.
I always go into a film with an open mind; I didn't care for the look of Heath Ledger's Joker in DARK KNIGHT, but once I saw it in the context of the film, I fell in love with it. I hope that's the case with Nite Owl, who is my favorite charatcer from the novel; I agree with his stance that it's OK to compromise your morals if it serves a greater good.
That being said, I really DON'T like how Nite Owl's costume looks in the film. They seem to have abandoned Dave Gibbon's wonderful design for what a pal of mine refers to as the 'Sad Batman' look. The type of owl that Nite Owl's mask is supposed to look like makes him look like he has Batman ears that are sad & droopy.
I look forward to having my opinion changed on March 6th!