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Nite Owl for WATCHMEN Film

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By AdamHughes   |   
© 2009 - 2020 AdamHughes
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.

*****Nite Owl*****

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!
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anonymous's avatar
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Morsoth's avatar
MorsothHobbyist Photographer
10 years later, I'm reading your story. That's fascinating, and a little disappointing. I re-watched the movie yesterday, and I still loves it, but I would have preferred if the costumes were more like the comics. I really love your concept art for Nite Owl! I would have preferred that look. I also love how they kept Ozymandias comic book costume for the new HBO TV Series, proving that it works on screen. Anyway, thanks for uploading this piece of art!
Iwantpuggleformers's avatar
IwantpuggleformersHobbyist Traditional Artist
This should definitely have been what he looked like in the movie.

Much more true to the comic, yet original in its own way.

Not a cheap Batman imitation like the design they went with.
TristanYonce's avatar
TristanYonceHobbyist Traditional Artist
VERY cool.
comicprints's avatar
comicprintsStudent General Artist
To be honest, I think this design was way better than the one in the film. The one in the film looked too much like Batman, and was nearly indistinguishable. However, this costume contains a lot more originality, and connects more to the book.
PenDiablo's avatar
PenDiabloStudent Traditional Artist
Cinema... its just like politics =p but I like the concept :) like your work too. Started getting into comic art this year 'cause getting help for fine art was complicated :p especially without $. plus I used to write screenplays for fun :) so I figured I'd give it a shot. You're my idol my friend.. keep em comin =D
SkellingtonGhost's avatar
SkellingtonGhostHobbyist General Artist
this is my fav dising from watchmen you did i liked their verson but it was missing the cloth thing behind his head so your right looks like flopy bat ears at lest he's not bat-mite lmao
3rdMillhouse's avatar
That's a great concept right there, even better than the one used on the movie. The things I like most about your interpretation are the mask and his "utility belt".
DanielAraya's avatar
DanielArayaProfessional Digital Artist
Y'know, I saw the movie and I flipped through the art of book, and I really enjoyed the movie and the majority of the character designs. Ozymandias REALLY threw me out of it though. The guy came off so sinister and conniving, and I always felt like the character was someone who was benevolent and caring, right up until the minute he blows everything all to hell (after which I REALLY think he should have wept). Did you get the impression that he was slightly misinterpreted in the film?

I just get the impression that someone told Snyder that he had to make the antagonist the "bad guy," if that makes any sense.
AdamHughes's avatar
I agree. I think he was painted with a big sign that says "Here's The Bad Guy" from his first scene on, so that the WHAM! of revealing him to be the bad guy at story's end was lost.
0ArmoredSoul0's avatar
0ArmoredSoul0Professional Digital Artist
Well, seems I have another addition to the list of "Stuff I Need To Save Up For", cause this is BAMF.
Well done!
Shadowofjustice123's avatar
I read that book, your designs were some of my favorites, especially Dan's look in the second panel, that one would've been kickass in the movie
dbzchuck's avatar
HI ADAM!!! :wave: I drew a little fan art bit of your Nite Owl... hope you don't mind... :)

AdamHughes's avatar
Thank you so much; it's always nice to see a chibi.

ThePaperBagMan's avatar
Looks better than the costume in the movie
Yfighter2's avatar
"Sad Batman" that's good. When I first saw Nite owl in the trailers I thought "Phony Batman", but "Sad Batman" fits well.

I think they even got rid of the instantly recognizable Owl shaped pretty much the film's Nite owl doesn't even look like Nite owl in Silhouette.
danitiwa's avatar
danitiwaHobbyist General Artist
So you're the brain behind the costumes! =D

I thought they look even cooler than in the comic books, I loved the way they looked in the movie.
danitiwa's avatar
danitiwaHobbyist General Artist
It sucks that they weren't used, but I think elements of your design might have been.
mybloodstainedshirt's avatar
mybloodstainedshirtHobbyist Traditional Artist
too bad this wasn't used in the movie.
it's amazing!!!

8Video-Kid8's avatar
nice, you designed the nite owl suit for the movie?
AdamHughes's avatar
Not really. Please read the description for the full story.

WhiteRoseBrian's avatar
WhiteRoseBrianHobbyist Artist
Excellent work.

Get a load of this!
W-Orks's avatar
W-OrksHobbyist General Artist
I've seen the movie last hour and I prefear your version of Nite Howl and your design of Ozymandias is great (the greco-roman "plastron" is more apropriate for the "Alexandre le Grand" inspiration of Ozy)

(excuse my English, is awfull ^^°;)
W-Orks's avatar
W-OrksHobbyist General Artist
Oh, th english of "plastron" is " breastplate"
anonymous's avatar
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