One of the biggest points of this blog was to make me accountable for taking notes about the works found in my reading lists. I recently got Allan Moore’s Watchmen from a good friend and spent the majority of today reading over it. It’s the first time I had successfully read it cover to cover, though I had read parts at earlier moments, seen most of the movie, and ultimately heard about it from a good many sources from talking to friends and just reading stuff on the Internet. Now if you haven’t read this amazing piece of literature (considered a graphic novel but actually published in 12 issues and sold in its most famous compilation form later on) you should leave now because spoiler alerts will end after this sentence. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
First off, Alan Moore the writer and author is a genius but he is frickin’ insane. His bio, it is scary. The picture next to the author blurb pretty much confirms this. Secondly, it was originally designed with other characters from DC line of comics, most being not really famous but being cannonically important enough to not be put into narrative danger. because of that, he was told to make original characters and some pretty crazy stories because there would be nothing beyond the 12 issues of his work. In case you were wondering, Nite Owl is not Batman, he is actually Blue Beetle. The coolest and most obvious one is that Rorschach is The Question, who is just made of awesome in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon.
As a serial, you get a lot of moments of crazy foreshadowing and your expectations are designed to be played with at several times. Someone like Dr. Manhattan who perceives time as a constant present even though he still follows laws of causality (he can’t change the future he just knows what it will be and still gets surprised) was an interesting character to write about. He said that the future was “fuzzy” and he didn’t know specifics besides a great tragedy and him killing someone in the snow. The weird comic within a comic of the sailor that is losing his mind runs parallel to the story and expands upon the theme that fear will make you do horrible things for all the right reasons. Every installment builds up to something so much greater that I can only imagine what the original serial reading experience would have entailed. But us contemporary readers get something completely different.
I’m not exactly sure how but somewhere down the line the ending of Watchmen became as common knowledge as the reveal in Empire Strikes Back. You are too young to realize it when it first happens but by the time you are consciously reading it you know exactly where the story is going. Maybe it’s because a lot of my friends are really into comics or maybe I stumbled upon it early on but you can smell the ultimate evil plan coming a mile away. It also gets pretty weird if your curiosity gets the best of you and you start doing a quick look at all the pages to see some craziness. The first pages of issue/chapter 12 is just bodies everywhere. Somehow without even reading the full thing you know Ozymandias has the world’s greatest Batman Gambit up his sleeve, that some big catastrophe is going to happen, and that it’s all for the greater good. That and Rorschach being crazy awesome are almost ingrained into the reading experience long before you actually read the whole thing. At least that was the case for me.
But Watchmen is more than just seeing the intrinsic spectrums of law versus chaos trying to create justice. It’s about the human condition and what we do when faced with a crisis that is bigger than individuals or nations. It is somewhat depressing but definitely a good read, and what that has become essential for that cool English high school teacher that wants to teach students that comics are not just kids stuff. Moore helped redefine how images and prose can come together to deliver something heart wrenching and seriously put the “graphic in graphic novel. If you haven’t read it or just remember the basic points mentioned earlier, be sure to give it a try. Dr. Manhattan’s blue penis is not nearly as distracting as you would expect.
PS. This video is a thousand times funnier if you have read the whole thing recently. Trust me.