In preparation for the release of the Watchmen movie on March 6th, I decided to reread the greatest graphic novel of all time. (If you disagree, you are wrong.) Watchmen, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, is by no means an ordinary graphic novel. If you’re looking for something light and fluffy where the hero is someone you can look up to and is seemingly above reproach, you might want to read something else.
Watchmen takes place in an alternate 1985. America won the war in Vietnam, Nixon is still President, and masked heroes are outlawed. The novel begins with the death of one of these masked heroes, the Comedian. Rorschach, a masked hero who is still active, thinks something is fishy about this murder. He is convinced, and rightly so, that someone has started killing off or, in some other way, getting rid of current and former masked heros. Rorschach makes the rounds and visits his former colleagues in crime-fighting: Nite Owl, Ozymandius, Dr. Manhattan, and the Silk Spectre. They all discount his ravings until their own lives are disrupted. Who is getting rid of masked heroes? Why? What ultimate purpose could he or she have? And what will become of the Watchmen? Well, I’ll leave that for you to discover…
(Note: The description written above doesn’t begin to come close to being an adequate account of everything that happens in this graphic novel. I could write all day about the events in the book and their larger cultural, political, and social meanings. This is more than just a graphic novel. It is one of the greatest books of all time, in my opinion. Just trust me. Read it!)
A word of caution: Read Watchmen before you see the movie. The movie may not make a lot of sense if you don’t know what is going on. And, if you’re a true nerd like myself, half of the fun is figuring out what has been changed in the transition from graphic novel to big screen. (And from what I hear, a lot, particularly the ending, has been changed. One reason the novel’s writer, genius Alan Moore, has taken his name off the film.) I hope the film lives up to my expectations, but it will no doubt fail to come even close to the greatness of the graphic novel.