After nearly two decades of comicbook reading I’ve finally completed Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen.
I think most comicbook readers would consider this a shame (or me a sham) since I spent almost seven years working in a comicbook shop, but I will also confess I’ve not read much of Sandman, Preacher, Moore’s Swamp Thing, or all of Transmetropolitan. I confess. Forgive me fanboys, for I have sinned. The holy bible of comicbook fandom went mostly unread by yours truly.
I attempted to read Watchmen maybe eight years ago. I found the book to intimidatingly thick with pages, slow moving, and the story dense. After each chapter comes about three or four text heavy pages, revealing some details about the history, world, or characters, which I imagine will not be a part of the translation of this work into a film.
Perhaps these “interruptions” of story were something I was not prepared for, having read little outside of “mainstream” superhero and sci-fi titles, and did not translate into greater appreciation. I recall making it through the first three chapters and either returning it to the store at which I worked, or the public library. My memories are faulty. Did I try it more than once? I don’t think so. Perhaps I’ll remember 90 seconds ago, or even 35 minutes, once the psychic backlash clears.
What can I say about this book?
I want to study it. I want to reread it. I want to mull over it. Ruminate ideas. I wish I had began its reading a year ago and read one issue a month, to get a feel for what it was like to read each issue as it came out (though I believe there were delays). I want Dr. Manhattan to take me back in time in an attempt to feel what it was like to live through Watchmen. Then again, I’d know what I now know and of the acclaim I’ve known about for most of my comicbook reading time. That will always taint the experience.
I wonder what people will get from seeing the movie and hopefully deciding to read the book. How will they relate it to the real world now, that is so different, yet so similar to the mid-eighties? Nothing ever ends. Hah!
Is this the greatest “graphic novel” of all time? I can’t say. Is it my favorite? Not yet, but maybe one day.
In a way, it’s probably unfortunate that I did not read this by the mid-nineties. Before I began reading books like Hitman, Transmetropolitan, The Authority, and hell, before the post-modern explosion of Punisher wannabes and whatever they were referred to even before the Punisher became vogue. I mean, what would I think of Rorshach and his methods then? Then again, I would not have made the connection between him and the Question. Somehow the other analogs didn’t quite connect until some further reading. I shouldn’t regret. I shouldn’t regret having some faint knowledge of the big reveal near the end. The conclusion was still a surpise and is still shocking in its way, despite my years of exposure to these types of “superheroes” and their methods.
I think I may have gotten off point and I can only give my honest reaction, and should focus on that as opposed to speculation.
For the most part, I felt the story dragged for the first half of the book. I struggled to get through even one issue at a time, mostly because of the text pages, I think. And then there are the characters and their histories. I didn’t feel very connected to many of them or like they were superheroes, the latter is at least probably the idea that I’m not really registering yet, taking a lot of the book at face value. The story picked up half way through and I looked forward to reading the book then, despite Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked and any articles I read probably a decade ago taking away some of the surprise at the conclusion. The end was…neat, but haven’t I seen this many times since? Shit. I am fucked by not having read this years ago. I guess the joke is on me.
So I’ll say, read this book. Read it now. Read it in small chunks, but not too far apart. Read each issue several times before moving onto the next as Cej had done over twenty years ago (that old bastard). Get to know the issues. Read Watchmen before watching it.
Next weekend, I will watch the Watchmen.
These fine collections should be available at your friendly, local comicbook shop, as well as the place I borrowed the images from, and other big box type places that should offer discounts if they’re gonna be corporate giants.
PS: Digital correspondence friend Rickey Purdin chimes in about Watchmen here, with his own unique enthusiasm of mid-to-late 80s love and an awesome scan of an early interview Watchmen with Moore.
Thanks to The Comic Book Database for the main image.