SAN DIEGO - Zack Snyder is standing inside a 9,000-pound, tanklike metal pod in the center of the crowded Comic-Con floor. He nonchalantly points out the features of the Owl Ship, a real-life version of the flying vehicle from the award-winning graphic novel "Watchmen."
"The Owl Ship's got to have an eight-track," Snyder says. "There's also a coffee maker. That's really important to the Owl Ship."
Snyder, whose adaptation of the graphic novel "300" grossed more than $200 million, says directing "Watchmen" isn't a job he would have sought, but it's one that suits him fine: Staying true to a beloved story that dismantles the superhero archetype.
"These modern superheroes, like Iron Man, Batman and Superman, they're our mythology and (author) Alan (Moore) sort of deconstructed that mythology and said no, they're us," Snyder says. "Other superhero movies — 'Iron Man,' 'Batman' — they're like a mishmash of all the different mythology."
Snyder says his adaptation of Warner Bros. "Watchmen," slated for release next March, is more true to the source material than was the Oscar-winning "No Country for Old Men."
He sticks to the story because of the complex concepts involved, he says, such as exploring superheroes' ethical and moral challenges.
The story "deconstructs heroes. ... It kind of takes it all the way," Snyder says. "How far do you take this superhero thing? Do you take a cat out of a tree or do you create world peace? That's really the dilemma that they face. Superman has the ability to go to all the world leaders and say, 'I will kill all of you if you don't behave.' He could do that, but why doesn't he?"
Snyder showed a bit of never-before-seen footage to the more than 6,000 fans who gathered Friday for a panel featuring the "Watchmen" cast. The clip, an expanded version of the trailer that plays before "The Dark Knight" in theaters, is at once stylized and realistic — and definitely dark.
It opens with Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), then briefly introduces each of the Watchmen: Dan Dreiberg (Patrick Wilson) before he assumes his Nite Owl identity, Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), the cigar-chomping killer Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the elder and younger incarnations of the sexy Silk Spectre (Carla Gugino and Malin Akerman). It ends with the Comedian surrounded by shattered glass as he is thrown from a window.
Illustrator Dave Gibbons, who co-created "Watchmen" with Moore, said seeing his vision come to life "is just the stuff of dreams, really."
"What really did it for me was the Owl Ship," he said. "To stand inside the Owl Ship... and to smell the Comedian's cigar, to have the Comedian slap me on the back and proudly show me his guns... I was completely thrilled."
Comic-Con opened Thursday at the San Diego Convention Center. "Watchmen" is set for release in March.