Friday, March 06, 2009

Watchmen: The Graphic Novels

Rorshach’s journal. October 12th, 1985:

Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach. This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout “Save us!” … and I’ll look down and whisper “no.” They had a choice, all of them. They could have followed in the footsteps of good men, like my father or president Truman. Decent men who believed in a day’s work for a day’s pay. Instead they followed the droppings of lechers and communists and didn’t realize that the trail led over the precipice until it was too late. Don’t tell me they didn’t have a choice. Now the whole world stands on the brink, staring down into bloody hell, all those liberals and intellectuals and smooth-talkers … and all of a sudden nobody can think of anything to say.



So begins Watchmen, a twelve-part graphic novel by Alan Moore. Called by some the greatest graphic novel of all time, I'm not so sure about that, but here are some timely impressions for whatever it is worth. Instead of masturbating over how good this book is, I just want to hint at its quality a little bit:

At once satirical and quizzical and worshipful of superhero comic books, Alan Moore's Watchmen is actually a damn good superhero comic book - sort of. Like postmodern architecture is to modern architecture, so this book is to superhero comics. Set in an alternate reality where the superhero comics craze actually led to "regular people" dressing up in costume and fighting crime. "Regular people" means people without superpowers, just a good left hook, a good mind, or whatever. However, Alan Moore is apparently too smart for that simplistic of a plot. Not only deconstructing, critiquing, and paying homage to super heroes, he dwells on the line between reality and costumed fantasy, examining the psyches of these "regular people" who, of course, are anything but. What type of person would wake up at 3AM, dress up in a costume, and "[Do] something stupid"? (Chapter 7) This is where the book begins, but like I said before, Alan Moore is too smart for a review to ever even hint at the depth of the novel. Treating the costumed characters like real people, Moore finds impetus to call into question society and really expose a piece of the body of knowledge the world possesses.

I think that is enough said.

The first time I read it, I really didn't understand it. Everything came together in the end, but it took a couple of more reads to realize the true breathtaking genius of this novel. When I finished it the first time, I thought, "Greatest of all time? Maybe, I guess..." And then two days later I thought, "Damn, it was REALLY good, but greatest?" And then five days later, "I need to read that again." And then after I finished it a second time, "..." My mind was blown. The subtlety, the vision, the [et cetera et cetera et cetera]. It's all been said before about this novel, and it'll all be said again because it's so true.

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Two other quotes I like:
“What’s that?” “Prototype exo-skeleton. First time I tried moving in it, it broke my arm. Never again.” “That sounds like the sort of costume that could really mess you up.” “Is there any other sort?”

Laurie: “Hey, you remember that guy? The one who pretended to be a super villain so he could get beaten up?”
Dan: “Oh, you mean Captain Carnage. Ha Ha Ha! He was one for the books.”
Laurie: “You’re telling me! I remember, I caught him coming out of this jewelers. I didn’t know what his racket was. I start hitting him and I think, ‘Jeez! He’s breathin’ funny! Does he have asthma?’”
Dan: “Ha ha ha. He tried that with me, only I’d heard about him, so I just walked away. He follows me down the street… broad daylight, right? He’s saying, ‘Punish me!’ I’m saying, ‘No, get lost!’”
Laurie: “Ha ha ha. Whatever happened to him?”
Dan: “Uh, well, he pulled it on Rorschach and Rorschach dropped him down an elevator shaft.”

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And now I'm off to watch the movie. Nerdgasm.

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