Watchmen Paperback – Apr 1 1995
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Has any comic been as lauded as Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen? Possibly only Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns but Watchmen remains the critics' favourite. Why? Because Moore is a better writer, and Watchmen a more complex and dark and literate creation than Miller's fantastic, subversive take on the Batman myth. Moore, renowned for many other of the genre's finest creations (Saga of the Swamp Thing, V for Vendetta, and recently From Hell, with Eddie Campbell) first put out Watchmen in 12 issues for DC in 1986-87. It won a comic award at the time (the 1987 Jack Kirby Comics Industry Awards for Best Writer/Artist combination) and has continued to garner praise since.
The story concerns a group called the Crimebusters and a plot to kill and discredit them. Moore's characterisation is as sophisticated as any novel's. Importantly the costumes do not get in the way of the storytelling, rather they allow Moore to investigate issues of power and control--indeed it was Watchmen, and to a lesser extent Dark Knight, that propelled the comic genre forward, making "adult" comics a reality. The artwork of Gibbons (best known for 2000AD's Rogue Trooper and DC's Green Lantern) is very fine too, echoing Moore's paranoid mood perfectly throughout. Packed with symbolism, some of the overlying themes (arms control, nuclear threat, vigilantes) have dated but the intelligent social and political commentary, the structure of the story itself, its intertextuality (chapters appended with excerpts from other "works" and "studies" on Moore's characters, or with excerpts from another comic book being read by a child within the story), the fine pace of the writing and its humanity mean that Watchmen more than stands up--it retains its crown as the best the genre has yet produced. --Mark Thwaite --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
"A work of ruthless psychological realism, it’s a landmark in the graphic novel medium. It would be a masterpiece in any."
–TIME, TIME MAGAZINE’s 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present
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SPOILER: I'll discuss the story's ending. I'll also compare Watchmen to other works, such as Kingdom Come.
I think Watchmen is basically a condemnation of ubermensch theory (Nietzsche's idea that "supermen" are entitled to violate society's moral laws, imposing their will on those "inferior" to themselves. Hitler infamously used the theory to justify Nazism. I concede I am no expert on Nietzsche.), and an accusation that superhero stories endorse this philosophy by lionizing vigilantes. Watchmen also attacks the genre's simplistic good vs. evil morality.
Only one character has "superpowers" to justify claims of superiority, yet Dr. Manhattan takes too little interest in human affairs to want to control others. On the contrary, he lets himself be used as a tool, hoping to retain his humanity by pleasing people. Yet he's now too detached to morally judge his orders, becoming a living military weapon. Apparently, desire for power over others is for mortals living among mortals--like Ozymandias, the archetypal Aryan "superman": a blonde, blue-eyed, physically perfect, supremely brilliant, self-made billionaire.
Achieving peace through slaughter, Ozymandias, like his hero Alexander, embodies Nietzsche's belief that ends justify means. If paradise is attainable through atrocities, as Nazi and Soviet propaganda claimed, is it worth it? And, once the eggs are broken, should one reap the benefits of the sin?Read more ›
Three years ago, I walked into a comic book store and asked the owner, "I don't know anything about comics. How do I get started?" He told me to start with the best, and that although every later comic that I would pick up afterwards won't be as good as that first one, it's the one to start with.
Sure enough, I bought "Watchmen" that fateful day - and came back two days later for "V for Vendetta". That was the start of my love-affair with the graphic novel genre.
I went on to read Garth Ennis' Preacher, Mike Mignola's Hellboy, Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns and Sin City, all landmark graphic novels of our time.
And though these were all remarkable books (and I recommend all of the above series), they still came second to "Watchmen", which will always be the top model of the genre by which all other comics are compared to.
"Watchmen" is nothing that you could presume it could be going in. It's a satire, it's a drama, it's a murder mystery, it's a superhero comic mini-series ... and a landmark in the medium. The artwork is fantastic, and very professionally plotted out to make it easy to read. Colour is used more as an emotional anchor than to distract from what is happening. You'll find here is a fantastic literary achievement, chronicling the later adventures of strong-willed individuals, driven to save humanity from itself. It dishes out psychology-rich, deep-reaching personal profiles of the characters, exploring into what shaped them, what drives them. You come to feel that you are reading an illustrated recording of actual events, accurately portrayed, despite some tall-tale elements. Its believability is as striking as its vivid reflection of reality. "Watchmen" serves as a mirror to better view a world in crisis that we easily glance away from. There is no arguing with the problems which "Watchmen" exposes. It's stark, gritty realism.Read more ›
Moore and Gibbons present a world not unlike ours. An alternate reality where the United States won Vietnam (thanks to Dr. Manhattan--the book's only Superman) and as a result Nixon stayed President. Dirgibles instead of airplanes can be seen in the sky, there are electric powered cars and a popular fast food chain of Indian restaurants known as Gunga Diner are everywhere.
In this world, superheroes have been outlawed because the police felt that their jobs were threatened and so only Government sanctioned costumed heroes can legally operate. That doesn't stop Rorschach, a masked vigilante from plying his trade.
Why am I going into all this detail? Because Watchmen is all about the details. Moore and Gibbons vividly draw us into this world through the most minute details, often populating the backgrounds of panels so that they only become obvious upon multiple readings.
What is so astounding about Watchmen is that it works on so many levels. Superficially, it's a murder mystery. However, it also asks many big questions like, who makes the world? Who is responible? Is everything planned out or is it all up to chance?
Watchmen is also a marvel of technique. Moore and Gibbons employ all sorts of film techniques (zoom ins, close-ups, revolving "the camera" around somebody, lighting effects, etc) and also several techniques of rhythm. For example, look closely at the panel layout for Chapter 5: Feaful Symmetry. The panel layout on the first page is exactly the same as the last page and so on until the center pages which mirror each other perfectly.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
After being forced to retire, the ex-superheroes gather once more at a funeral. Rorschach is keen on finding who killed Eddy, The Comedian, afraid that they would all be next. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Book Cupid
Watchmen follows a handful of former heroes during the periods of highest Cold War tension, in a history in which masked vigilantes were first embraced and then outlawed by the US... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Jayson Vavrek
A dark, intense, and absolutely brilliant piece of literature, to my knowledge Watchmen is the only graphic novel to have won the Pulitzer. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Tristan Tolley
If you watched the movie and want to have the grpahic novel I recommend it. The movie is pretty bang on so the novel is totally awesome.Published 11 months ago by troy