Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Who Finally Read the Watchmen?

Well, last night I finished reading the copy of Watchmen that I checked out of the library. For those who aren't into comics, it is a twelve-part graphic novel, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, centering around a number of former super-heroes and how they face the changes in the world around them.

Now, I know many folks read it when it first came out in 1985 and found it to be very groundbreaking. I can certainly see that. Like Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen really told its story of heroes in a very realistic way, struggling to make sense of the chaos and try to make a better world. It was done in a style that up until that point had never been done before - or at least note in such a concentrated sort of focus. Sure Marvel Comics of the 60's really kicked into the genre the whole soap-opera type element, but these two titles from the 80's ushered in a new period of heroes forced to make some extreme choices. It was really the start of the grim-and-gritty period of comics of the late 80's and early 90's.

However, reading it for the first time today in 2007 with the ability to see it in hindsight and its context to the genre since, I didn't feel as much of its story impact as a probably would have if I had read it back in 1985. What I mean is that I've seen elements of Watchmen in so many comics since then - elements that I was not always fully aware until now that got their roots from Watchmen. And I don't just see it in comics I've read in the past 20 years; I can see television shows like Heroes drew from this thematic well too.

Was it a good read? Yes.

Was it something that a more mature reader would appreciate as opposed to, say, my twelve year old son? Definitely.

Am I glad I read it for free from the library as opposed to plopping down $20 for a copy in the bookstore? Very much so.

Is that a knock on the door by my comic-book compadrees ready to revoke my lifetime fandom membership card? Probably.


Jim McClain said...


Anonymous said...

Knock knock knock.

No, I'm not going to revoke your fanboy card. :)

You probably read it twenty years too late. That's okay. At least now you can see where many of today's writers got their inspiration.

Alan Moore, too, got his inspiration from a number of different sources. His was just the one that more people read, that put it all together. In short, a masterpiece of its time.

Personally, even at the time it was published, I thought Watchmen a bit overly wordy at points, and the whole pirate-comic thing I didn't care for - felt like filler.

Still,a darn good tale.


Martin said...

I never thought a lot of Frank Miller's Dark Knight either - so I guess my membership should be revoked. Ah well - they can't please everybody every time.

apachedug said...

Martin, you're just on suspension! Actually, I read it for the first time around 2 years ago, and I agree--I'm sure that 20 years ago it was groundbreaking.

Actually I consider it a smidgen overrated...what reawakened my love of comics was Astro City.

Jim McClain said...

Miller is crap. Dark Knight is crap. Watchmen is genius. I have read it 50 times and still see new things in every reading. Wait a few months and read it again, see if you agree.

Jim McClain said...

Apachedug, I agree with you. I was completely out of comics when Astro City came along. It is by far my favorite comic series of all time, and it got me back into reading monthly books.

Back to Watchmen: Chapter 5, Fearful Symmetry, is symmetrical in panel layout, one by one. The first panel on the first page matches layout with the last panel on the last page, and they meet in the middle. Did you notice? That's one new thing I learned recently after so many readings.