The Watchmen was the first graphic novel/comic book series I read that didn’t have mainstream superheroes like Superman or Batman. Created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, the 12 issue series was published in 1986 and 1987. It has since spawned a movie adaptation, a prequel mini series titled Before Watchmen and a HBO tv series. Moore originally wanted to write a story that ” featured an unused line of superheroes that he could revamp.” His hope was to “shock and surprise” readers by using characters that were familiar to them. However, DC while receptive to his pitch, though using original characters was a better idea. He said that ” if I wrote the substitute characters well enough, . . . then it might work.” Dave Gibbons asked to be involved in the project and sent him the outline.
Watchmen is set in an alternate universe that is similar to the world during the 1980’s. The main difference is the existence of superheroes. These heroes alter real life events like the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon presidency. None of the superheroes have any super powers except, Doctor Manhattan. Superheroes become unpopular among the public resulting in the passage of the Keene Act. As a result many heroes retire, except the Comedian and Dr. Manhattan, while Rorschach continues to work illegally. The story is complex, as the antihero Rorschach investigates the death of the Comedian and uncovers a conspiracy that threatens to destroy the world.
The Watchmen series features structures that deviate from the comics of the time using a “nine panel grid system,” the cover of each issue was the first panel of the story and each cover “were designed as close-ups that focused on a single detail with no human elements present.” It also had a story within a story, Tales of the Black Freighter. Moore used several different images and symbols like, a stained smiley face (considered the symbol of the series), doomsday clock and craters, all cleverly woven into the series. Watchmen tackled adult themes, with a sophisticated plot. Watchmen is one of the best works I’ve ever read. It has been described as “one of the greatest literary works ever created.” Watchmen was honored in Time Magazine’s best 100 English Language novels from 1923 to present, it was the only comic present. I couldn’t recommend this graphic novel enough, if you get a chance read it.