Books »Watchmen

watchmen graphic novelI was fascinated with long haired, silver clawed geek god Alan Moore long before I ever read a word he's written. Now, after completing his magnum opus Watchmen, I'm just as obsessed as the everybody else whose read this book. It's the mostly highly praised graphic novel of all time, often called “the Citizen Kane of comic books”; it's the only graphic novel to land a spot on TIME Magazines “100 best English-language novels” and to win the coveted Hugo award. And yes, it's about superheroes.

My expectations were high and they were met. I started it at JFK and read it straight through the flight, finishing right as I landed in Texas. It was the quickest four hours ever.

The plot, with its multiple shifts in time, numerous mysteries, dystopic politics, pages from a pirate comic book called Tales of the Black Freighter (which is read by a minor character), and chapters excerpted from a super hero tell-all called Under the Hood is, to say the least, complex. But it's also morally complex: the superheroes here are far from infallible; one in particular, The Comedian, is actually a sadistic rapist as well as a government-funded war hero. And the guy you sometimes end up rooting for is a ruthless vigilante weirdo who is beyond bitter towards the humans he has tried to save.

In direct revolt against the traditional super hero comic book, Watchmen is bleak, pessimistic, and harsh–in fact, there's a major part in the ending that I think audiences will have a very difficult time dealing with if it remains unchanged in the upcoming film adaptation. It's also an homage to the genre that so inspired it, Moore and artist David Gibbons are just taking the whole history of comics and running all the way with it; pushing the boundaries of the graphic novel itself, as well as our perceptions of good and evil.

It's not totally perfect, the end has too much direct exposition for my taste, but it comes pretty close, and it's certainly as good as they all say. Which is why all the fans are worried about the upcoming movie. Moore himself has already taken his name off the production (twice bitten by Heather Graham and Natalie Portman) and passing on all his royalties to Dave Gibbons. In the articles I've read (in EW) director Zack Snyder (a fan himself) swears his film is as true to its source material as possible–a claim I might have bought if he hadn't changed the book's tights and brights costumes to “more menacing” modern looking slick black materials. Idiot.

Thanks, Mike for letting me borrow your copy!

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Posted on August 4, 2008

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