As promised, Watchmen madness week. I will be seeing a midnight screening (dear God, it's 2.5+ hours of comic action, not counting three supplementary DVDs? What is this, Ulysses?) and may toss up an actual review for once on Friday; Saturday would be a closer look at the film. New Topic: Watchmen by Alan Moore (writer), David Gibbons (artist), John Higgins (colorist): Part 1 Who's watching the Watchmen? Alan Moore won't. That's for certain. According to Moore in a feature from Entertainment Weekly (really worth reading), "I shan't be going to see it. My book is a comic book. Not a movie, not a novel. A comic book. It's been made in a certain way, and designed to be read a certain way: in an armchair, nice and cozy next to a fire, with a steaming cup of coffee." I can't say I blame him, either. Watchmen is a book that requires a high level of attention to detail. You might be tempted to rush past the issue ending print narratives of memoirs, scientific research, or comic book criticism, but doing so will hurt your understanding of the book later. Moore is planting seeds throughout the entirety of the graphic novel that blossom into a disturbed ending that must be read to be believed. You want to talk about the grittiness of the Nolan Batman films, or the self-effacing humor of Iron Man and claim they are some of the greatest superhero films ever made? Thank Moore for that contribution to the genre. Watchmen is a costumed hero story. Do not confuse it for a superhero story. The terms are not interchangeable in a world where Richard Nixon is serving his third term as president after mercilessly winning the Vietnam War, characters like Nite Owl (I and II), Silk Spectre (I and II), Rorschach, and The Comedian have no superhuman abilities. They trained hard to fight crime for different reasons and wore disguises to conceal their everyday identity. Think more Batman, less Superman. Only Dr. Manhattan has a grandiose origin tale, and even then he's presented as so distant and removed from humanity its hard to root for him. Ozymandias possesses super intelligence, but no other abnormal ability. There has been a lot of criticism amplified louder and louder about Watchmen leading into the film's release. Professional film critics are pretty clearly siding on the side of "this film ruins superheros" because they did not read the graphic novel. Others are criticizing the very medium, claiming graphic novels have no merit and should not be celebrated; they're just comic books, right? These are mostly the same people who went nuts for the Persepolis film and books. My conclusion? Graphic novels are ok so long as they aren't about superheroes. Is this is a fair assessment of an entire medium? I don't think it is. If a graphic novel includes violence, it's suddenly vulgar and has no merit. If a graphic novel has costumed heroes, it's suddenly just a comic book and beneath a good number of readers. And, heaven forbid, if a graphic novel shows signs of intelligence and social commentary, than it's offensive, for critics will not see the forest through the trees and pounce on the tiniest detail to rant about. I've been there, people. I like my books thick, dry, and heavy. The illustrations I'm most comfortable with have no more detail than the almost-caricatures that appear in a good Dickens edition. I like to create the image in my head, and relish in discussions that go into just what the author was trying to do because no two people will probably read the exact same text the exact same way. Then I read Watchmen. It took me longer to read than most 400+ page novels because I wanted to absorb all the details. What did that sign say behind Rorschach's head? Why are we watching a TV and not the live action? Who is watching the characters in the panel and how can they just stand there and not do anything? The visuals and text are intrinsically connected, enhancing a story that probably couldn't have been told as just a novel. Which, in Moore's own words, was the point, "I didn't design [Watchmen] to show off the similarities between cinema and comics, which are there, but in my opinion are fairly unremarkable. It was designed to show off the things that comics could do that cinema and literature couldn't." So what is my point? Like any work of literature, try reading it before you judge it. It's perfectly valid not to like a book; however, I question the validity of claiming its bad because its a graphic novel and was not read by the person in question. Open your mind, open your wallet, and give the book a read.
Labels: alan moore, david gibbons, dr manhattan, graphic novel, john higgins, nite owl, ozymandias, rorschach, silk spectre, the comedian, watchmen