In light of the new movie coming out in May 2009 I decided to do a bit of reading and get acquainted with the “Watchmen” miniseries. To be honest it was a long slow read, but in retrospect I had the best time with a serialized graphic novel in my entire life. No wonder people keep repeating “most celebrated of all times”, plus I almost regret having to read it from my computer screen.
I and “Watchmen” started on the wrong foot. Being from a generation, where comic book heroes look like Wonder Woman or Colossus. Seeing heroes represented as simple masked vigilantes with no inkling of powers and already middle-aged and disbanded and looking so ordinary doesn’t feel so good. But issue after issue I liked seeing behind the smoke and mirror tricks the public sees and get behind the scenes so to say. The team Moore, Higgins and Gibbons break the cliché and pretty much create a different brand of comic book hero genre. Another aspect to pay attention to is the name Moore, which you might have heard even though you can’t connect in an instant. It has its own gravitational field you can’t ignore and then again there is the artwork. I have to be truthful to my tastes that I never got used to it. Fat lines and more flat colors, grim and kind of noir look doesn’t appeal to me, but yet it had a powerful effect on reading experience and when art and story collaborate great things happen.
And then again “Watchmen” is not about the story itself, but rather a lesson or exercise in the art of storytelling. The comic book format though treated lightly and with some sort of sarcasm by mainstreamers has the best capacity to accommodate a surprising quantity of symbols both visual and in content and the structure itself. I had to do some reading to check whether what I thought I found out has relevance. There is nothing worse than a dimwit know-it-all mess up a beloved classic. I confirmed my ideas, helped me develop them and got more than what I bargained for.
“Watchmen” is the sort of work that has to be reread with extra care, patience and fervor to be decoded and grasped fully. I for one don’t have the habit, so I missed some elements, but what I learned was fantastic and most satisfying. Moore poses the question whether in a world where super heroes are realistic and ask ourselves whether we would be better off without them. The Watchmen are almost all past their prime, retired, share a nihilistic viewpoint and are more are less self centered, swallowed in their own problems. As Moore said it himself he simply deconstructs the super hero myth so that readers can reflect upon its significance.
What engaged me more in the series happened to be the small touches like the yellow smiley face with the spot of blood above the eye, which is the most recognizable symbol in the whole series. I view it as the downfall of masked vigilantes in the large sense. Another interesting touch happens to be the motif of having a story within the story. “Tales of the Black Freighter” is a fictional comic book pirate series and one of its stories “Marooned” is being read by a black teen in “Watchmen”. This is a genius move to underline the main story in “Watchmen”, when Ozymandias attempts to save the world from a full out nuclear war on the back of thousands of dead people including his former teammates, the same way the young mariner in “Marooned” uses the corpses of his fellow shipmates to escape his island prison and in the process goes insane. The world and back story are also provided in the end of every issue apart from the last one with excerpts from books, letters and notes written by the characters or for them.
There is far more going on in “Watchmen” that meets the eye and in any case I would recommend this to everyone or anyone. It has this quality of awesomeness, the ultimate conspiracy and the most tension filled exposition.