I thought that for my first post it would be best to tackle the elephant in the room. Watchmen is a bit like Paris Hilton’s sex tape. You can’t help but refer to it when talking about her erm…career, what with it being the most productive and maybe even critically acclaimed part of it. Then again, who talks about Paris Hilton anyway?
The point is, you can’t talk about comics and ignore Watchmen. Whether you like it or not. Sorry! Whether you think it’s the greatest piece of graphic literature ever produced, or not. Hell, it ranks up there in some people’s opinions as literature full stop, that’s how much impact it made.
Stevie’s been running a discussion on Facebook that’s definitely divided people. Why would it be in bad taste to make prequels and sequels to Watchmen?
In my opinion Watchmen should be left alone. The film adaptation was exciting, but in a way I was simply curious to see if they could pull the thing off. I think they did a pretty decent job, but it’s not the book.
It’s a little harder to fully understand what Watchmen brought to the table over twenty years later, because we’re so used to seeing it on the pages of modern comics. Without Watchmen there would be nothing we’ve had in the past decade. I think the noughties were the year of the writer, the time when the writer was for the most part left alone to his own devices and respected above and beyond editorial.
Granted, Watchmen had to create it’s own archetypes in order to fulfill this objective, it wasn’t even allowed to play with the Charlton characters. In all aspects, Watchmen shouldn’t have worked out, but like every major piece of art that resists the passing of time, Watchmen connected with an audience.
Alan Moore managed to brilliantly put his finger on the pulse of society, and not simply constrain himself to the 80′s. He created characters that built upon Stan Lee’s idea that there should be a basic human flaw within the superhero. He made his characters so human that many of them are pathetic, amoral, kinky, selfish and murderous. Comics had never seen anything like this.
I don’t think there is one character within Watchmen who is fully likeable, or someone you would want to aspire to, and isn’t that amazing? That’s what we are like. Instead of using comics to escape to a better world, Alan Moore gave us what we thought was a window and sneakily turned it into a mirror.
There’s no real hero or villain in the story, and that’s one of the things that has made Watchmen ripe for discussion, anatomy and argument for decades, and surely for decades to come. Every point of view has a character to lean on, and every opposing point of view has a character to deconstruct. The Comedian is not simply a trigger-happy racist. Ozymandias is not just the architect of mass genocide. Rorschach is not just a psychotic vigilante (and what a beautiful nod to Ditko’s controversial views!).
The cinema version made the book version even clearer, because it exposed it to an audience who didn’t fully understand everything Watchmen tried to convey, it is still light years beyond most people’s understanding. A lot of them walked in expecting Batman and big explosions, and couldn’t understand why there was a big blue penis dangling on screen and an awkward costumed sex scene.
It had to be explained that Dr. Manhattan is a man so detached from his own humanity he no longer has a need for clothes, he is everything Superman or any person fully above mere mortals should be, living on completely different rules. The public found the sex scene hard to understand because they failed to realise how much that was about superheroes hiding beneath their idealised identities, to the point where they didn’t even have a libido unless they were in them. It was pathetic, it was meant to be. This was not Wonder Woman we were watching, this could have been your next door neighbour.
Then there’s the art, the beautiful complex, deceptively simple panelled art that hides so much and blossoms a little more after every read. I think I’m halfway through my fifth read on the book and there’s still so much that escaped me. I think there will always be something waiting for me. After every major superhero symbol, has there been anything as iconic as Watchmen’s smiley badge covered in blood? I think not.
The work is essential, it even supposedly influenced the last half of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight. Without Watchmen there would be no Authority, no Planetary, no Kick Ass or Grant Morrison’s X-Men, Animal Man or Doom Patrol.
Lasting themes. Social commentary. Beautiful art. Something new every time you read it. Plenty of humanity. Warmth. Humour. Epic scope. Intellectual. Well-developed characters. One hell of a twist.
Surely the question should be, why NOT Watchmen?