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Watchmen

A 12-part comic book series written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons.

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Who should be reading the "Watchmen"?

  • Apr 23, 2007
  • by
Rating:
+5
The 1980s were a revolutionary time for the comic book industry. What began as a way to offer cheap entertainment to kids suddenly became a storytelling medium worth taking seriously, thanks in no small part to the two greatest writers to emerge from that time period: Frank Miller and Alan Moore. Miller and Moore, now recognized as arguably the greatest comic book writers who ever lived, revitalized a dying form of entertainment and turned it into what it is today: art. Miller's seminal work is "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns," released in 1986, the tale of an aging Bruce Wayne and his decision to fight one last battle against crime. Upon its release it was hailed as a landmark in the medium, and the greatest comic ever written. At the time, it was.

However, that same year, Alan Moore's "Watchmen" was released upon the world. Immediately it was hailed as the NEW greatest comic ever written, a milestone, and an immense achievement. (Moore would go on to write numerous similarly acclaimed works, in particular "V for Vendetta.") The praise was not undeserved, and time has only increased the amount of praise for Moore's masterpiece. Though "The Dark Knight Returns" seemed astoundingly deep upon its release, "Watchmen" is a far more intricate work. Moore infuses "Watchmen" with a sort of undeniably true and painfully pessimistic social commentary, and handles it just as deftly (though not with such flash) as would George Orwell. (The book often echoes Orwell's "1984.") He also juggles the main storyline with a pulp comic book read by a kid within the story, and at the same time ends each chapter with essays and clippings and such from newspapers, magazines, police reports, etc., adding even more depth to an already very deep work.

The storyline is undoubtedly one of the most brilliant, if not THE most brilliant, in comic book history. "Watchmen" is set in 1985, in a chaotic world only subtly different from our own. Richard Nixon is still president, and the United States won the Vietnam War. The biggest difference is that superheroes are real. Inspired by the classic comic superheroes which emerged from the Great Depression, a select bunch of people began dressing up in costumes and fighting crime from the 1940s until the 1960s. A law passed in the 70s, however, forbids superheroes and forced most to unmask. A select few did not. One of those who refused to quit is Rorschach, a violent, antisocial antihero. When one of his fellow superheroes, "the Comedian," is found murdered, Rorschach takes to the streets to investigate. His investigation will eventually cause ex-superheroes to reevaluate their retirement, the public to rise up in anger against their "protectors," and the world to be changed forever. The plot, the scale, and the tension of the book thickens immensely with each passing chapter, until concluding with a horrific and mind-shattering conclusion.

First off, to call "Watchmen" the greatest comic book ever made is an understatement, and unfortunately, even that statement wouldn't give the book the attention it deserves. It would be far more fitting to call it one of the finest works of popular fiction ever published, period. "Watchmen" is a work of incredible talent, depth, artistry, and meaning, a timeless masterpiece that is at once a throwback to the comics of old and a statement on the nature of humanity and the dreadful truths about society. It's also the most mature and adult comic I've ever read. It's likely that the audiences reading Siegel & Shuster's "Superman" comics or Bob Kane's "Batman" comics in the 1930s and 40s couldn't begin to comprehend "Watchmen." To modern audiences, it's as pertinent a work as ever there was.

"Watchmen" really doesn't feel so much like a comic as it does a book (partially because it's about three times the size of a normal comic), only with illustrations (by Dave Gibbons). Gibbons' illustrations are magnificent. Compared to the artwork of other modern comics like Frank Miller's Sin City series, the artwork of "Watchmen" feels very much like Golden Era artwork. The colors are particularly vibrant, even if the color scheme revolves mostly around the more rusty colors. The drawings themselves are excellent, their charmingly old-fashioned style perfectly offsetting Moore's very contemporary and modern writing. However, this is an offset that works remarkably well, once again proving the old saying "opposites attract."

One just can't conceive the brilliance of "Watchmen" without having read it. It is unquestionably the finest comic book/graphic novel ever written, and I have no doubt that it will remain so forever. It's unsurpassable. The comic book industry remains criminally underappreciated, but if there was ever a work that proves this is a medium to be taken seriously, it's "Watchmen." If you have read comics before, there is no excuse for not having read the book, and if you haven't - well, I simply can't recommend it enough. Zach Snyder's film adaptation will bring the book into the spotlight again, and that's wonderful, but "Watchmen" was designed to work solely as a comic, and that is how it should be experienced. It's a passionate book clearly made by persons who love the medium, and it should be ranked amongst the finest fiction works ever written.

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More Watchmen (graphic novel) reviews
review by . March 30, 2009
First, two things we need to establish up front.    1). This is the first "graphic novel" I have ever read, and the first comic book since a smattering of "Archie" comics in the 60s and MAD magazines in the 70s.     2). I have not yet seen the movie based on Watchmen, although from the trailers I instantly recognize the characters.    I am not going to overstate my enthusiasm like a newly-converted fan. Damon Lindelof (creator of the TV …
Quick Tip by . March 18, 2013
Although comic books have been evolving for years, I really think it was the publication of WATCHMEN which proved to general audiences that the medium could have narratives worthy of effective literature.  In fact, I think those who read literature and stay away from comic books might actually get more out of it.  To those people I would especially recommend this book because it might change their view on the medium.  Not only is it a mini epic filled with memorable characters, but …
review by . January 03, 2009
Watchmen Hardcover Edition cover
   First let me begin this review by saying that there are very few contemporary writers that I truly admire and respect for their artistic integrity and uncompromising ideas. And let me also inform you that there are not many books in recent years that I would call essential… but the graphic novel Watchmen by  Alan Moore is a mesmerizing exception.   I first came across the book when I was in summer camp and I was about thirteen-years old. At the time I was heavily …
Quick Tip by . June 03, 2012
I just finished this book and this is one of the absolute best pieces of literature I've completed, regardless of the medium.  The best strengths The Watchmen has going for it are that it has really well-developed characters and shows that solutions to potential catastrophies aren't in black-and-white.       While this and Batman:  The Killing Joke are the only Alan Moore comics I've tackled so far, it's books like these that are making …
review by . June 30, 2010
Watchmen is an absolutely fantastic graphic novel by acclaimed author Alan Moore. Watchmen revolves around a group of minutemen who fancy themselves as superheroes. Unlike regular superheroes such as Superman and Spiderman, the Watchmen are hardly what we usually consider superheroes. Quite the opposite - most of them hold extreme right wing views bordering on Nazism and one of them even revels in murder and almost rapes another watchmen.      The story is one of the most original …
Quick Tip by . September 18, 2010
One of the greatest comic book series of all time, bar none.
review by . June 06, 2010
Watchmen is a graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons. I personally enjoyed reading the graphic novel after watching the movie. I feel there is a lot of literal elements in the novel that can be taken from each character. I would recommend this novel to anyone that likes super heroes or a good piece of literature. The setting of this novel is interesting because it establishes a what if things had gone differently during the cold war scenario and then runs with. I liked …
Quick Tip by . July 29, 2010
Delightful and prescient exploration of the superhero mythos. Asks whether we really want anyone above the law.
Quick Tip by . July 16, 2010
A complete product of its time, "Watchmen," is something that should be experienced in it's Graphic form, rather than in motion.
Quick Tip by . July 15, 2010
Good but Negative. Maybe you agree with me, the book is good, is intelligent, is unusual. But at the end of all it made me very unhappy. It presents you a pessimist meditation.
About the reviewer
Tom Benton ()
Ranked #352
Aspiring high school English teacher with dreams of filmmaking and a strong taste for music.
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Wiki

Watchmen is a twelve-issue comic book limited series created by writer Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons, and colorist John Higgins. The series was published by DC Comics during 1986 and 1987, and has been subsequently reprinted into a collected graphic novel. Watchmen originated from a story proposal Moore submitted to DC featuring superhero characters that the company had acquired from Charlton Comics. As Moore's proposed story would have left many of the characters unusable for future stories, managing editor Dick Giordano convinced the writer to create original characters instead.

Moore used the story as a means to reflect contemporary anxieties and to critique the superhero concept. Watchmen takes place on an alternate history Earth where superheroes emerged in the 1940s and 1960s, helping the United States to win the Vietnam War. The country is edging closer to a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, freelance costumed vigilantes have been outlawed and most costumed superheroes are in retirement or working for the government. The story focuses on the personal development and struggles of the protagonists as an investigation into the murder of a government sponsored superhero pulls them out of retirement.

Creatively, the focus of Watchmen is on its structure. Gibbons used a nine-panel grid layout throughout the series and added recurring symbols such as a blood-stained smiley. All but the last issue feature supplemental fictional documents that add to the series' ...

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Details

ISBN-10: 0930289234
ISBN-13: 978-0930289232
Author: Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons
Genre: Superheroes, Comics & Graphic Novels, Political and Social Satire, Dystopian
Publisher: DC Comics
Date Published: 1986-1987
Format: Graphic novel
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