Why I Watch the Watchmen

Back on August 10th, 2008, I wrote the following on this site, just after finishing Watchmen for the first time:

I just finished this novel last Wednesday. I couldn’t put it down and when I did I wanted to read it again, immediately. Since then I’ve tried to get everyone I know to read it. I think you should. Think about it - this was completed/published in 1985 when I was a one year old. Since then it’s inspired so many of the things I love and take for granted. For anyone that hasn’t read a graphic novel, this should be your first. For everyone else, why haven’t you gone back to this one? This is bigger than a “comic book.” It’s deep. It’s heavy. It’s layered. It’s intense. It’s huge in both it’s scope and imagination and I can’t stop talking about it. Reading it feels like watching all of the LOST episodes at once and then wanting to watch them again. It took me a week only because I kept back tracking through the pages I’d read only to take in all the art as well as to make sure I didn’t miss anything the first time around. Please do yourself a favor and buy a copy before you see the movie in March. I’m glad I finally did.

This is the excitment one feels at the conclusion of the reading experience. Since then I’ve convinced five of my close friends to also pick up a copy and read it. Every one of them has and every one of them is glad they did.

The plot synopis/tease doesn’t do the novel any justice, try explaining LOST to someone who has never watched an episode, (from IMDB):

"Watchmen" is set in an alternate 1985 America in which costumed superheroes are part of the fabric of everyday society, and the "Doomsday Clock" - which charts the USA’s tension with the Soviet Union - is permanently set at five minutes to midnight. When one of his former colleagues is murdered, the washed up but no less determined masked vigilante Rorschach sets out to uncover a plot to kill and discredit all past and present superheroes. As he reconnects with his former crime-fighting legion - a ragtag group of retired superheroes, only one of whom has true powers - Rorschach glimpses a wide-ranging and disturbing conspiracy with links to their shared past and catastrophic consequences for the future. Their mission is to watch over humanity… but who is watching the Watchmen?"

So there you go, this novel/movie has it all: science fiction, superheroes, love and romance, action sequences, politics, landscapes both urban and natural, warfare, revisionist history, detective investigation, conspiracy, cultural significance, period piece, social commentary, philosophical debate, theological questions, sense of purpose, old and new New York, government control, utopian society, (I could go on), - all wrapped up in one of the greatest stories told. (D. Steele and R. Ludlow could learn a lot from Alan Moore, that’s all I’m saying)

(me and illustrator Dave Gibbons)

Essentially, I’m saying there’s something in this for everyone. And while I didn’t know what I was going to get with The Dark Knight, I know exactly what’s coming for Watchmen. Director Zack Snyder is a fan. The movie is an almost near perfect frame by frame adaptation of the novel, with illustrator Gibbons involved in each step of the process. Can you find fault with this?

The fact is that I almost didn’t pick up a copy because this isn’t my style. I’m used to bold dark heavy lines and a lot of white space in the comics I like (see Blankets, Bone, Clerks, etc.) and this is more traditional detail oriented graphic art, which almost turned me off. However, it’s one of the only times that I’ve become completely immersed in a story and for that, I’ll always be glad I read it.

More than read it, I picked up Watchmen and Philosophy, which gave me an even better handle on the issues brought to light in the novel. Few things can produce such inspired discussion and the things that do are things I always want to be a part of - Watchmen is conversation.

I mean, see what Gibbons is saying at NYC’s Comic Con (and Watchmen has made his entire professional life):

A lot of the background stuff that’s in the graphic novel is in the movie. But, I certainly think when it does eventually come out on DVD, probably everybody in this room including me, is going to have the remote control, stopping frame-by-frame trying to read the newspaper [in the background]… because just like we tried to do in the graphic novel, everything in the frame means something. There’s nothing that’s just filler in the background. Everything means something, so in that respect it’s just like the graphic novel.

Each character is flawed, doing what they think is best, and even though they’re deciding to take street justice into their own hands, their personal motivations are as relatable as super heroes ever get. The story is beautiful, the illustrations invite you in, and the movie will be the pinnacle of what we’ve wanted all along.

Check out the NYT article and see if you aren’t still excited. Head over to the official site and watch the interviews and behind the scenes action. Then see what Kevin Smith has to say about the movie (as he’s seen it screened with Zack). And if you’re still not excited, then reconsider if you’re excited for any other movie this year and ask why not Watchmen.

I saw “Watchmen.” It’s fucking astounding. - Kevin Smith

Because I’m telling you, I already have my tickets for opening night (get yours here) and they come with even higher expectations than I had for The Dark Knight. 10 months ago I had barely heard of this groundbreaking gamechanging 24 year old graphic novel and now I can’t seem to shut up about it. It was watching the trailer in IMAX for the first time before The Dark Knight came on, and I recognized that I was watching something special. That turned out to be the push I needed to pick up and read through it, and I’m mighty glad I did.

The movie comes out March 6th. You’ll need a week to read it properly. Better pick it up now. It’s $11.99 on Amazon - what you’d pay for a movie ticket anyway. Trust me, you’ll want to read it before you see it, and you have just enough time.

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