Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Watchmen - by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Well, damn. Now I see what all the fuss is about.

Being a comic book fan (especially of my age group) and not having read Watchmen is like being a movie buff who has never seen Citizen Kane. Yet there I was. At the time that Watchmen first came out, I was more concerned with Comico's Robotech comics (and probably this other cool new title that Comico had just started called Grendel).

After the years passed it became one of those things I've always meant to get around to based on it's reputation, but never have. Like Citizen Kane.

Then I saw the trailer for the upcoming Watchmen movie, and I knew I had to see this movie... but there was no way I was going to go see an adaptation without having read the original first. So Rich kindly came to my rescue and loaned me his copy.

And wow, was I hooked into it. I've been reading it every chance I could over the last three days, and I finished it up this morning.

Which is saying a lot, in and of itself, because not all of the books that were revolutionary for the time hold up. I also never read The Dark Night Returns at the time, so I started reading it when Dark Night Strikes Again was announced. I hate to admit this, but I had trouble getting into it. I had to remind myself that this was the first time Batman was being handled this gritty. By 2001, those kinds of stories had become routine in general. So I was partially prepared to not be as impressed with Watchmen as I would have been in 1985....yet I was.

It's also saying a lot considering the story is firmly entrenched in 1985. I remember 1985 well. It was the year that Robotech debuted, the year I moved from the Pittsburgh suburbs to the Philadelphia suburbs... I also remember wondering which strike zone I had moved into. (We all knew at the time that if/when nuclear war did happen, then if you were in Zone 1 you were dead instantly, if you were in Zone 2 you died slowly from radiation, and if you were in Zone 3 you lived and wished you had been in Zone 1.) I also remember my Spanish teacher going on about the Red Threat in class, and watching Threads, not to mention The Day After in 1983. But that gives you a good idea about what the world was like in 1985. The attitudes aren't fiction, they aren't an embellishment, they're how the world really was at the time. I remember the Beirut embassy being bombed and just walking by myself around town, wondering if there was any point in figuring out what I would be when I grew up because I wasn't confident that the world would still be there that long.

This book captures all that, and it's made stronger in that we're reading about a parallel 1985 where the world was changed by having Super Heroes-- not just how Super Heroes fit into the "real world" of 1985. I think that makes the story work no matter when you read it.

The characters feel real. The story of "What happens when real people become super heroes?" has been done a lot since too, but as long as your characters are people you can relate to, it never gets old. And I found all of them intriguing, especially since really one one of them had super powers.

So I went back to the movie trailer with a new eye, and now I'm even more excited than ever to see it.

I guess I should get around to seeing Citizen Kane now...

1 comment:

greatplaidmoose said...

An interesting side note is that originally Watchmen was going to be a story using DC Comics' newly acquired Charlton heroes. But DC didn't want their new heroes to be permanently altered or killed by this story so Alan Moore tweaked things.

Dr. Manhattan = Captain Atom
Silk Spectre = Nightshade
Comedian = Peacemaker
Ozymandias = Thunderbolt(Peter Cannon)
Nite Owl = Blue Beetle
Rorschach = The Question

DC used them in Crisis instead and Alan Moore was actually much happier with the end result anyway.