Welcome back to Part 2 of July’s Reader’s Den: we're reading Watchmen by Alan Moore. I had always heard about the graphic novel, but it wasn’t until the movie came out that I wanted to read it to see if it would be any different from the film. While the two are similar I would totally recommend reading the book first and then watching the movie. They are basically the same, with a few differences, but the main plot is the same.
The world of Watchmen is both different and the same as our own. In this world’s 1985 costumed superheroes have been around since the 1930’s and are a common part of everyday life until the Keene Act of 1977 made all heroes outlaws unless they became government sponsored. America has won the Vietnam War, Nixon is on his third term, and the Doomsday Clock is always set to 5 till midnight as US/ Soviet relations are on the breaking point. The story begins in New York City as government hero, The Comedian, is murdered. The investigation of this brings some of his former comrades out of retirement and leads them to a darker conspiracy that may end with the death of millions.
One can see why Watchmen is the only graphic novel on Time Magazine’s 100 best books of the 20th century and there is a reason that is called by some to be the granddaddy of the comic book realism that we see today. It was not the usual world of black and white morality that was normal in comics of that era, but the shades of grey that are part of everyday life. The superheroes of this world are not all upstanding citizens who have the greatest of motives to fight crime, but real flesh and blood people with real human foibles. The first Silk Spectre’s reasons for fighting crime are less altruistic and more about fame; the murdered hero, Comedian, is seen in the novel as just as dark, twisted, and murderous as any villain. The vigilante Rorschach is not a stoic loner, but a dangerous psychopath and Nite-Owl is just a gadget geek who wants to fight crime. The only superhero with any actually powers is Dr. Manhattan and even he is beginning to become world weary and viewing himself more as a god like being than the human he once was and above mankind’s petty squabbles.
Watchmen is a must for any comic book reader, or just a book reader, not just because it is a good read and interesting, A traditional comic book with a nontraditional story written in a interesting way. It might take a little time and few rereads of chapters, but it’s worth it and I think the reader will be happy they did.