NYCC: The "Watchmen" Panel

Hundreds, if not thousands, of fans watched the "Watchmen" movie on Saturday at New York Comic Con. Well, part of it at least. As "Watchmen" artist Dave Gibbons premiered the first 18 minutes of the upcoming film adaptation of his critically acclaimed graphic novel, he likened the sensation of waiting for the film to being a kid on the night before Christmas waiting for your presents.

"You don't know quite what you're going to get," Gibbons said. "So you can think of what you're going to see today as a [gift on the night before Christmas] to whet your appetite for things to come."

Without further ado, the footage rolled. The film opens in Edward Blake's apartment as he watches a broadcast about the impending violent conflict between Russia and the United States. Blake, also known as masked crime fighter the Comedian, gets a rude interruption when a masked man breaks into his room. "Guess it was just a matter of time," Blake says with melancholy.

The two men throw themselves head-on at each other. The battle between the Comedian and his faceless assailant is a breath-taking cinematic marvel. Whereas the graphic novel depicted Blake's death through flashbacks juxtaposed against the investigation of his murder scene, the film delivers the moment in real time. From intense knife fighting, to the thorough destruction of Blake's apartment, this scene is a remarkable opening sequence, concluding in the bloody demise of the laughing vigilante.

Next, the movie cuts to a montage of historical moments. From the inception of the Minutemen, the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the first spacewalk on the moon, leading all the way to the film's current events. Set to the music of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are-A Changin'," the sequence provoked plenty of cheers from the audience, most notably during the reveal of a young Walter Kovacs and the famous portrait of the Minutemen.

Following this montage, "Watchmen" hops right into the investigation of the Comedian's death. The police are on the scene first, but it's Rorschach who makes the most out of his trip to Blake's apartment. The arrival of the grizzly voiced vigilante was met with huge approval from the fans. The sequence of Rorschach in the apartment was incredibly faithful to the source material, which Gibbons himself later described as a near "panel-to-panel" match.

At the conclusion of the opening footage, fans were treated to a huge surprise: a never-before-seen clip of an unmasked Rorschach in prison. A gigantic inmate bullies Kovacs while on the lunch line, preparing to stab him with a rudimentary knife. True to form, Rorschach easily disables his enemy with an arm twist and a healthy dose of boiling oil to the face. As he's dragged away by guards, Rorschach venomously roars: "I'm not locked in here with you... you're locked in here with me!"

Following the impressive footage, Gibbons took several fan questions. Both the first and second questions dealt with the much-discussed topic of the film's ending - specifically, squid or no squid?

"The outcome is exactly the same as the graphic novel, but the MacGuffin, the gimmick, is a little different," Gibbons responded. Then, between a fit of coughing, he muttered the words "no squid."

Regarding a possible sequel or prequel film: "If they want to make a sequel or a prequel, there's nothing I can do to stop them from doing it," Gibbons said. "I think if you add anything [after] 'Watchmen,' you're not enriching it - you're diluting it."

"My impression is, you won't get Zack Snyder directing [a sequel], and my counsel would be to leave it alone," Gibbons declared to applause.

As to whether the beloved meticulous detail of Gibbons' panel work will translate onto the big screen, the artist reassured: "There's nothing that's just filler detail. Everything means something. In that respect, it's exactly the same as the graphic novel."

One fan was curious as to whether or not Alan Moore was a little bit crazy, with Gibbons clarifying the question: "Are you asking if he's bat-shit crazy?"

"Alan isn't crazy. He's one of the most rational, sane human beings that I've ever met," Gibbons said. "Alan just says, 'I don't want to be involved, I don't want my name on it, I don't want any money from it.' By Hollywood terms, that is bat-shit crazy ... but I completely respect Alan for his decision."

On the choice of Zack Snyder as the director of "Watchmen," Gibbons said: "I went to introduce myself [at the UK premiere of '300'] and he just stopped and talked to me for about thirty minutes. I had a gut feeling then that he just got it, and I haven't seen or heard anything since then that's changed that gut feeling."

Another fan wanted to know exactly how much Dr. Manhattan nudity viewers can expect from the film: "Total," according to Gibbons.

Finally, Gibbons was asked about why the Crimebusters were called the Watchmen in the film. "Just to make the whole thing clearer," Gibbons replied. "Just to kind of avoid confusion in a movie that's full of names and places already ... I think it's just for reasons of clarity."

"Watchmen" arrives in theaters everywhere on March 6th, 2009.

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