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choie
02-27-2009, 11:31 AM
I didn't want to hijack this thread (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=508315), but this is kind of a splinter question. As someone who's never read Watchmen but would like to try, I've been scanning that thread (trying to avoid obvious spoilers but probably failing... ah well). And Dio's post struck me:

I'm somebody who was never much of a comic book reader, even as a kid, and I've read very few graphic novels. As of a couple of year ago, the only one I'd ever read was Maus (for a college class). I picked up Watchmen because it was recommended so highly on this board, and because I was intrigued that it had been listed as one of Time Magazine's 100 All-Time Greatest Novels (the only GN to make the list).

I was hugely impressed by it, and I have to say to a couple of people here like Hampshire, I think you might need to give it another chance. It's much more complex, provocative and subtle than it appears upon a casual reading. The "regular guys as superheroes" is just text, not subtext.

Rorshach, alone, is one of the most fascinating characters I've ever seen, and definitely the greatest comic book character. I'm still not sure I've really got a handle on him. Good or evil? Insane or ultra-sane. Utterly corrupt or utterly incorruptable? He's repulsive and brutal and unsympathetic, yet so indomitable and honest and badass as to be almost inspring anyway. I guess it's not an accident that he's called Rorshach. He's also got the best line in the entire book, and I've read Jackie Earle Haley's reading of that line is getting cheers in the screenings.

Anyway, I'm somebody who's not generally a comic book geek, and I have been entranced by the book ever time I've read it. There is definitely more to it than meets the eye on one reading.

So to repeat, I too have wanted to start Watchmen because I've heard so many amazing things about it. But I'm in a fairly similar position to Dio, as the only GN I've read was Maus, while, unlike him, I used to love certain superhero comics like the Legion of Super Heroes but stopped ages ago*. DC only, by the way; for some reason the Marvel heroes never did it for me. Preferred Superman over Batman, too.

My question is: if Watchman is holding a mirror to the genre, at least as it was at the time, will someone who's pretty much not part of the genre appreciate it?

(Also, I gotta ask: Jackie Earle Haley? For realsies? As in the kid from the Bad News Bears and other more shlocky '70s flicks?)


* I hate to date myself, but if it helps, the last storyline I remember reading was Braniac 5 going 'rogue' from the LSH and unleashing some scary creature called, uh, Omegaman or somethin' like that, which was the product of his hate and resentment on the other LSHers. I was so disappointed -- Braniac 5 was always my favorite! -- that I got a bit bitter and gave up. Also I was getting into my teens and in my day it wasn't 'cool' for teen girls to read boy comics, so I was embarrassed to purchase any more. Trufax.

Eureka
02-27-2009, 11:40 AM
I read 'The Watchmen' a couple of years ago. I have little knowledge of comics beyond what one would pick up by watching movies about them, usually long after the fact. I appreciated Watchmen without always enjoying it--my taste in mysteries runs to the "cozy" side, where it's sufficient that the person is dead--no need to describe in detail what happened to him. The Watchmen is not intended for that cozy feeling--it is intended to unnerve you and make you think. I don't doubt that someone else could pick up on a bunch more layers than I did, but the layers I did were worth appreciating.

KneadToKnow
02-27-2009, 11:45 AM
(Also, I gotta ask: Jackie Earle Haley? For realsies? As in the kid from the Bad News Bears and other more shlocky '70s flicks?)

As in the 2007 Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee, yes. Oh, and winner of awards for the same role from the Chicago Film Critics Association, the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Online Film Critics Society, the San Francisco Film Critics Circle, and the Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards.

Yeah, that Jackie Earle Haley.

Marley23
02-27-2009, 11:45 AM
I'm a big Watchmen fan, choie, and I think this describes me too. I've seen plenty of comic book based movies and TV shows - "Batman" was one of my first words, I'm told - but my comic book reading was basically confined to the odd X-Men issue that people would leave lying around the dorm during college. Still, if you've seen a few mainstream comic book movies you probably understand more than enough to get Watchmen and understand the cliches and things it's distorting. Even if you didn't I think it's very enjoyable as a story on its own, and some of the artwork is amazing. Dr. Manhattan's first appearance leaps off the page like nothing else I've ever seen, although granted, I already admitted I haven't seen much. :p

NAF1138
02-27-2009, 11:47 AM
A large part of Watchmen is holding a mirror up to the genre, but if that was all that was there it wouldn't really be worth still remembering nearly 25 years after it was first written.

There are thing that will likely go over your head if you are not familiar with comics, but (and I hate to use the comparison because Alan Moore isn't Shakespeare, but I have to pull from what I know) it isn't any worse than if you go to see Richard III without knowing anything about Elizabethan age politics. Yes, some stuff will go over your head, but at the end of the day it is still a good story.

Maybe the better comparison is Citizen Kane. At the end of the day, Kane is an interesting movie about an interesting person with an engaging plot that tells a story well. It is also about William Randolf Hurst, but you don't need to know that to appreciate what was being done in Kane. It also made huge leaps in how movies were made and how future film makers would think about movies, but you don't need to know about any of that to appreciate Kane either.

At the end of the day, if you don't like character studies about men who drive themselves to positions of power and end up being destroyed by their own hubris, you might not like Kane, and if you don't know any of the above in addition to not liking those kinds of stories you might not appreciate Kane, but you don't need to know any of that to "get" that it is a story well told.

So, all that being said.

The Watchmen is about a group of has-been superheros some of whom are still trying to be Superheros, many of whom have moved on to something else. It's a character study with a minor little mystery akin to the mystery of Rosebud. It isn't really important, but it's a plot device. It can be introspective and it isn't action packed or fast paced. It's fairly dense for a comic book, and fairly wordy for a comic book. It also tries very hard to apply real world logic to the concept of the costumed hero and how those types of people would effect the real world and be effected by it in return. It looks at the type of people who would end up in those types of places if we lived in a world where costumed heros could be possilbe. If that sounds like it might be interesting, I say give it a shot.

My opinion: I think it is one of the best things ever done within the medium of sequential art. It's up there with Maus, A Contract with God, and The Sandman in terms of just fantastic storytelling within that medium and using the medium to it's fullest potential. There is some philosophy in it, but that isn't what does it for me, I feel like I outgrew the philosophy of Alan Moore when I was in college. But for me there has never been a better character study in the medium of comics than The Watchmen.

Ichini Sanshigo
02-27-2009, 11:49 AM
I'm wandering the same this choie is. I don't read comic books (but I do read webcomics), and aside from being a casual Batman fan, I'm not really into superhero stuff. But I've consistently heard good stuff about Watchmen from sources that do have an intersection with my interests.

What I also want to know is: should I read the comic before I see the movie, or will it make a difference?

Marley23
02-27-2009, 11:52 AM
What I also want to know is: should I read the comic before I see the movie, or will it make a difference?
Read the book. I'm looking forward to the movie and all, but the book is so good that I am on the verge of strangling my little brother, who keeps telling me he he doesn't want to spend a few hours reading the book because he'll be able to see the movie instead.

Incidentally, I can't get a 16-year-old to read a comic book. What the hell is wrong with me?

NAF1138
02-27-2009, 11:52 AM
What I also want to know is: should I read the comic before I see the movie, or will it make a difference?

I haven't seen the movie yet, but from what I can tell by advanced screening reactions...people who are familiar with the comic seem to like the movie a lot more than people who aren't.

KneadToKnow
02-27-2009, 11:56 AM
Incidentally, I can't get a 16-year-old to read a comic book. What the hell is wrong with me?

You haven't explained to him that the book has full frontal nudity.

You don't have to mention that it's a blue dude.

Diogenes the Cynic
02-27-2009, 12:03 PM
I'm sure there are references that I didn't get and that it's an even richer novel for those who are versed in the genre, but there was nothing I didn't understand and my relative lack of superhero comic fluency (which wasn't completely zero. I did read a few when I was a kid if they were laying around somewhere. I just never really collected them or geeked out on them) did not hinder my ability to appreciate the artistry or complexity of the story.

I think there are characters who are supposed to be analogues to or comments on superhero (and/or supervillain) characters who I don't specifically know, and I'm sure that adds a little extra layer for a lot of readers, but the essential themes are not about the narrative minutae of the genre, but the broad outlines. I think the only way you;d be confused or lost is if you had absolutely no idea what a superhero was or had never heard of Batman or Superman. I suspect that the more you know of the genre, the richer it is, though.

Diogenes the Cynic
02-27-2009, 12:12 PM
(Also, I gotta ask: Jackie Earle Haley? For realsies? As in the kid from the Bad News Bears and other more shlocky '70s flicks?)
Yep, same guy. He's had a comeback of late, though, most notably scoring an Oscar nomination for his role in the movie Little Children last year.

ETA, if he doesn't strike you as a conventional, square-jawed superhero, that's because Rorschach isn't close to that either.

Prox
02-27-2009, 12:31 PM
I was in the same situation - everything I knew about superheroes was from movies and the cartoons. As I said in the other thread, I enjoyed it but was that impressed with it. I was never lost due to not reading comics or anything. It may not meet the hype, but it's still worth a read, IMO.

choie
02-27-2009, 12:39 PM
Wow, thanks guys. This sounds extremely interesting and I'm encouraged by your descriptions of the book. I do like dark stuff and tales about corrupting power, even in or perhaps especially in fantasy; loved Section 31 in the Star Trek universe, for example, and I still think Dumbledore's behavior in the HP series was repulsive and I'd have liked to see him go even darker. Not a fan of relentless darkness and gloom, but if it's well-done and the story/characters justify it, I can get on board.

Is it a single book or a series? Are there sequels? Yes, I'm that ignorant. I guess a trip to Wikipedia is in order.

As in the 2007 Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee, yes. Oh, and winner of awards for the same role from the Chicago Film Critics Association, the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Online Film Critics Society, the San Francisco Film Critics Circle, and the Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards.

Yeah, that Jackie Earle Haley.

Erm, yeah, I'm not very up on current movies or award stuff, I must shamefacedly admit. Guess it was a stupid question. I'm just gobsmacked 'cause for like twenty years I've never heard of the guy doing much of anything. Which I'm sure says more about me than of JEH.

Can't wait to hear that Mason Reese is up for a prize at Cannes!

ETA to Dio: Oh it's not 'cause JEH isn't a square-jawed hero-type, it's just because I had no idea he's had a comeback. I thought he faded out with some Porky's-type movie twenty years ago.

Marley23
02-27-2009, 12:42 PM
Is it a single book or a series?
I think it was released as a series, but it's been combined into one graphic novel. It's all over the bookstores these days.
Erm
Despite not reading the thing, you apparently know Rorschach's catchprase. ;)

Horatio Hellpop
02-27-2009, 12:49 PM
I have my doubts that anything Alan Moore ever wrote can be well-adapted to the screen, but it will take only one good movie to refute this. Appreciating Watchmen requires only two things:
--A basic familiarity with the conceits of superhero comics (Costumes, presumed infallibility, the undercurrents of sexual kink, etc.)
--An openness to the possibility that there is something horribly wrong with the conceits of superhero comics

If you're down with those two things, dig in and enjoy!

Chef Troy
02-27-2009, 02:45 PM
Despite not reading the thing, you apparently know Rorschach's catchprase. ;) Rorschach's signature grunt (you can't really call it a catchphrase) was hurm, not "Erm."

Chef Troy
02-27-2009, 02:46 PM
Wow, thanks guys. This sounds extremely interesting and I'm encouraged by your descriptions of the book. I do like dark stuff and tales about corrupting power, even in or perhaps especially in fantasy; loved Section 31 in the Star Trek universe, for example, and I still think Dumbledore's behavior in the HP series was repulsive and I'd have liked to see him go even darker. Not a fan of relentless darkness and gloom, but if it's well-done and the story/characters justify it, I can get on board.

Is it a single book or a series? Are there sequels? Yes, I'm that ignorant. I guess a trip to Wikipedia is in order.



Erm, yeah, I'm not very up on current movies or award stuff, I must shamefacedly admit. Guess it was a stupid question. I'm just gobsmacked 'cause for like twenty years I've never heard of the guy doing much of anything. Which I'm sure says more about me than of JEH.

Can't wait to hear that Mason Reese is up for a prize at Cannes!

ETA to Dio: Oh it's not 'cause JEH isn't a square-jawed hero-type, it's just because I had no idea he's had a comeback. I thought he faded out with some Porky's-type movie twenty years ago. Don't feel bad - your description of Jackie Earle Haley's career is perfectly accurate up until about two years ago. At one point he was reduced to delivering pizzas.

Hampshire
02-27-2009, 03:01 PM
The Watchmen is about a group of has-been superheros some of whom are still trying to be Superheros, many of whom have moved on to something else. It's a character study with a minor little mystery akin to the mystery of Rosebud. It isn't really important, but it's a plot device. It can be introspective and it isn't action packed or fast paced. It's fairly dense for a comic book, and fairly wordy for a comic book. It also tries very hard to apply real world logic to the concept of the costumed hero and how those types of people would effect the real world and be effected by it in return. It looks at the type of people who would end up in those types of places if we lived in a world where costumed heros could be possilbe. If that sounds like it might be interesting, I say give it a shot.


I think this describes it pretty well and people should know this going into it (I wish I knew this going into it). Which makes me question why the movie looks like it's being sold as an action/adventure flick. There's not a whole lot of action/adventure going on in the novel. Lot's of talking and retrospect.

Gangster Octopus
02-27-2009, 03:07 PM
BTW, I am reading Watchmen for a second time right now. It holds up very well, but there are parts of it that are kind of dated. But those don't really affect the overall themes of the book.

My understanding is that the movie differs from the novel due to some sort of 9/11 sensibilities or something having to do with 9/11 changing the relevence of parts of the book, not sure what those are.

Hampshire
02-27-2009, 03:13 PM
My understanding is that the movie differs from the novel due to some sort of 9/11 sensibilities or something having to do with 9/11 changing the relevence of parts of the book, not sure what those are.

I'm guessing it would be The giant squid creature destroying a large chunk of NY city to cause a mayhem/chaos/catastrophe not unlike the day of 9/11

Diogenes the Cynic
02-27-2009, 03:15 PM
BTW, I am reading Watchmen for a second time right now. It holds up very well, but there are parts of it that are kind of dated. But those don't really affect the overall themes of the book.

My understanding is that the movie differs from the novel due to some sort of 9/11 sensibilities or something having to do with 9/11 changing the relevence of parts of the book, not sure what those are.
They changed the ending. I guess they thought a scene of New York City being destroyed might not play that well post 9/11.

Irishman
02-27-2009, 03:19 PM
I think this describes it pretty well and people should know this going into it (I wish I knew this going into it). Which makes me question why the movie looks like it's being sold as an action/adventure flick. There's not a whole lot of action/adventure going on in the novel. Lot's of talking and retrospect.

It's being sold as an action/adventure flick because Hollywood sees "comic book" and that's what they think.

I have hopes that the movie will convey some of the essence, but that truly depends upon the director knowing the material and being able to get his way against the producers.

ShadowFacts
02-27-2009, 03:34 PM
You haven't explained to him that the book has full frontal nudity.

You don't have to mention that it's a blue dude.

Awesome :D :D :D

Maeglin
02-27-2009, 03:46 PM
They changed the ending. I guess they thought a scene of New York City being destroyed might not play that well post 9/11.

I am a New Yorker and lived through 9/11. By some strange irony, I read the Watchmen in the last week of September, 2001. I honestly had no idea what I was in for.

I just picked it up to re-read last night. I am glad I did.

This is not my only strange reading timing story. I finally read A Confederacy of Dunces and was completely entranced. I was in the beginning stages of planning a trip to New Orleans. About a week before Hurricane Katrina.

ianzin
02-27-2009, 03:50 PM
What I also want to know is: should I read the comic before I see the movie, or will it make a difference? It's not essential, but I would say it's a VERY good idea to read the book, then see the movie. First of all, because the comic book is well worth reading (and I say this as someone who has literally never read any other comic book or 'graphic novel' and probably never will). It is deep, thoughtful, smart, surprising, complex, multi-layered and very absorbing. The way that certain themes (both visual and narrative) are twisted throughout the story is ingenious and satisfying. Secondly, because no matter how well the movie tells the story, it's easier to absorb the basic plot from the book than it can ever be from the silver screen (this is true of any story, because with print you can progress at your own pace, flip back and forth to refresh your memory now and again, and so on). Thirdly, because then you have the fun of (a) appreciating the way in which the source material has been adapted, and (b) appreciate the movie on a different level as a creative work in its own right.

Stephe96
02-27-2009, 03:58 PM
I've never been into comic books/graphic novels at all, but a bunch of my friends are; they absolutely worship The Watchmen. After the first trailer for the movie hit, I was intrigued enough to give the book a shot.

(Aside: I couldn't find it at the first Border's I went into, so I asked the girl working there if they had it in stock. I looked over her shoulder as she typed Watchman into the computer. I didn't want to correct her while she was doing her job so I said, "Oh, I guess I always thought it was called Watchmen. She got huffy and said, "No. His name is 'Watchman' and he's a superhero.")

Anyway, I began reading it...and quickly became bored silly with the whole thing. I just don't get it. Too many characters and back-stories to keep track of; everything is dour and moody; very dated. I still don't understand the plot or just what the main bad guy was hoping to accomplish. I mean, I get it but I was totally underwhelmed by the whole thing.


I know it's hailed as a classic of the genre and I'm guessing it really is...but I think I'm just not a fan of that genre. And I also think it's an example of how you had to "be there" in the mid-80s to really appreciate it.

I've heard enough people talk about what a work of genius Watchmen is that I would LOVE to have someone sit down and really explain it to me. I'm so clearly in the minority that I'm sure it's just me that's not getting it.

For what it's worth, I really enjoyed the X-Men movies, Batman Begins and absolutely loved The Dark Knight.

Maeglin
02-27-2009, 04:07 PM
Anyway, I began reading it...and quickly became bored silly with the whole thing. I just don't get it. Too many characters and back-stories to keep track of; everything is dour and moody; very dated. I still don't understand the plot or just what the main bad guy was hoping to accomplish. I mean, I get it but I was totally underwhelmed by the whole thing.

For those on the fence still, the "characters and back-stories" lend the Watchmen a superb interleaved structure. This tells the story both through exposition and by contrasts with other simultaneous storylines.

While the time and place do play roles, it is not at all dated. In ways important to the plot, very little has substantively changed between then and now.

I have to wonder, for someone who claims he could not keep track of the characters and who says that he could not understand the plot, it is hard to take your claim that you "get it" without a grain of salt.

NAF1138
02-27-2009, 04:23 PM
I've heard enough people talk about what a work of genius Watchmen is that I would LOVE to have someone sit down and really explain it to me. I'm so clearly in the minority that I'm sure it's just me that's not getting it.




Check out this (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=508315) current thread for some talk about why some people really don't like it and others really love it. It's kind of gone off on a tangent at this point regarding some plot chioces that were made, but the first few pages of the thread talk about why so many people love the comic.

But it might not be that you are missing anything as much as you just don't dig that kind of story, or it might just be different enough that your expectations threw you off. I know I had a couple of false starts when I first sat down to read it because it was so very different from what I expected.

choie
02-27-2009, 04:35 PM
Personally I looove interwoven, character-based, almost soap opera-esque storylines, so this all sounds awesome to me.

Stephe96
02-27-2009, 05:33 PM
I have to wonder, for someone who claims he could not keep track of the characters and who says that he could not understand the plot, it is hard to take your claim that you "get it" without a grain of salt.

What I meant was that I spent a lot of time flipping pages back and forth just to keep track of who was who and when was when. It just seemed to me to be a lot of work for what turned out to be little payoff. Unless I missed something huge in the narrative, I just don't think the book measured up to the all the hype. Like I said, I think you sort of "had to be there" to appreciate Watchmen. Maybe reading it all at once isn't really the way to go; I think I may have appreciated it a bit more when it first came out, in serialized form. I tried to read the whole thing in one big chunk and, frankly, my interest seriously began to fade.

Hampshire
02-27-2009, 05:42 PM
What I meant was that I spent a lot of time flipping pages back and forth just to keep track of who was who and when was when. It just seemed to me to be a lot of work for what turned out to be little payoff.

I know exactly what you mean. I actually wrote a cheat-sheet to keep track of the characters from the start. Real Name- Hero Name- Status- Minuteman/Crimebuster.
Didn't offer a whole lot of payoff since a lot of them were one or two time mentions.

Maeglin
02-27-2009, 05:45 PM
What I meant was that I spent a lot of time flipping pages back and forth just to keep track of who was who and when was when. It just seemed to me to be a lot of work for what turned out to be little payoff. Unless I missed something huge in the narrative, I just don't think the book measured up to the all the hype. Like I said, I think you sort of "had to be there" to appreciate Watchmen. Maybe reading it all at once isn't really the way to go; I think I may have appreciated it a bit more when it first came out, in serialized form. I tried to read the whole thing in one big chunk and, frankly, my interest seriously began to fade.

Fair enough. For me, the more I put into it, the more I got out of it. For me, experiencing the structure of the story and the fragility of its morality were well worth the price of admission. For whatever reason, I am also passionately interested in stories of how "rational" people survive in an insane world. The character of Rorschach speaks to me as much now as he did years ago, when I was a miserable early twentysomething.

For what it's worth, I wasn't actually there. I have read very few comics in my entire life, and I only read Watchmen for the first time in 2001 in its full form. I am a New Yorker born and bred, but I never experienced the city in the mid 80s that is represented in the Watchmen.

Stephe96
02-27-2009, 05:58 PM
For what it's worth, I wasn't actually there. I have read very few comics in my entire life, and I only read Watchmen for the first time in 2001 in its full form. I am a New Yorker born and bred, but I never experienced the city in the mid 80s that is represented in the Watchmen.

Trust me, I'm not trying to argue that it's a bad book; I know it isn't. It may be a tad over-hyped (in my opinion) but you don't get raves like Watchmen did by being mediocre. I just think that for those who read it when it was first being published on a monthly basis, it must've been quite an experience. I'm just trying to honestly explain why I was underwhelmed when I read it. That's why I admitted upfront that I was never seriously into comics, although I did enjoy X-Men and Spiderman back in the day.

I look at it like this: I'm a huge Beatles fan. But I have friends who just shrug their shoulders and consider them "just another 60s band" like all the rest. I wasn't around in the 60s to experience Beatlemania first-hand, but I can understand (to a point) where my friends are coming from: it's hard to look back over the decades and really understand just what made the Fab Four so innovative and groundbreaking at the time. I'm sure this is similar to my experience with Watchmen. To paraphrase George Costanza, "It's not them, it's me!"

Maeglin
02-27-2009, 06:05 PM
To paraphrase George Costanza, "It's not them, it's me!"

I hear what you are saying. There is nothing wrong with you for not liking it. I am just emphasizing that I was neither there nor do I really know anything about comics, but I still think it is deeply impactful. I am enjoying it very much on my second read, years later. I get that you recognize that it is has a lot to offer, but that you just aren't buying. I am just trying to articulate why it speaks to me.

I can definitely look back and see why the Beatles were so groundbreaking, even if it would rarely occur to me to listen to them myself. I can appreciate their music, but it does not really speak to me. That is just a matter of taste.

mswas
02-27-2009, 06:18 PM
Allen Moore epitomizes post-modern millenialist ennui. Either you go for that or you don't. Like many things of its period it's a hipster's in joke, a satire on comic books and the gestalt of the time.

My problem with it is I don't like that mid-eighties hand-colored style. the colors are just not vibrant enough for me. They got much more vibrant very shortly after that came out. It suits the story, but I think I'll enjoy the movie more as it is much more colorful.

Yllaria
02-27-2009, 06:33 PM
I have to admit that I didn't read all of the mezzanine stuff and I skipped half of the pirate comic the first time through. You really have to be willing to dwell on/savor a walk through the past to read all of the mezzanine.

How many pages long was that essay by the first Owl? Yes, it deepens the context. No, it doesn't forward the plot. Not really. I understand why it's all there, I enjoy having it there, but I forgive myself for skimming.

Fenris
02-27-2009, 07:50 PM
* I hate to date myself, but if it helps, the last storyline I remember reading was Braniac 5 going 'rogue' from the LSH and unleashing some scary creature called, uh, Omegaman or somethin' like that, which was the product of his hate and resentment on the other LSHers. I was so disappointed -- Braniac 5 was always my favorite! -- that I got a bit bitter and gave up.
Geez--I feel old

That would be Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #251 or so (http://www.coverbrowser.com/image/superboy/251-1.jpg) circa 1979.

He made Omega by using the Miracle Machine to create a creature made out of the hate of everyone in the universe.

They solved the problem by having Matter-Eater Lad eat the Miracle Machine (which got better, without explanation--but then, it's a MIRACLE machine after all, so that's ok) which evaporated Omega. However eating the Miracle Machine made Matter-Eater Lad go mad and he had to be locked in a padded cell next to the also nuts Braniac 5. (They both got better fairly quickly)

For what it's worth, about 10 years later there was a for why Brainy suddenly went nuts--Glorith, a disciple (at the time) of the Time Trapper had had a scheme of hers uncovered by Braniac 5 and she let him see all of time at once which drove him mad!!!!!

Um....so, back on topic, if you were ok with all the Legion stuff, yeah, you'll have no trouble at all with Watchmen.

To me, it was helpful to know who the characters were originally based on, but even that's not necessary.

Fenris
02-27-2009, 07:51 PM
I have to admit that I didn't read all of the mezzanine stuff and I skipped half of the pirate comic the first time through. You really have to be willing to dwell on/savor a walk through the past to read all of the mezzanine.

How many pages long was that essay by the first Owl? Yes, it deepens the context. No, it doesn't forward the plot. Not really. I understand why it's all there, I enjoy having it there, but I forgive myself for skimming.
Actually, the "Under The Hood" stuff, I loved.

The one I've never made it through (and I've tried) is the bird article by the second Night Owl.

Anyone able to give me a brief synopsis of it?

choie
02-27-2009, 08:07 PM
Geez--I feel old

That would be Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #251 or so (http://www.coverbrowser.com/image/superboy/251-1.jpg) circa 1979.

Oh my GOD I remember that cover so vividly! Yes! And wasn't it Superboy's cousin, Mon-El, who, even though he has nearly the strength of Supes, was knocked for a loop by Omega? And then there was this other character whose name escapes me, who had a mirror-like visor that obscured his face and seemed to be a fairly 'dark' hero (for those days), who also tried to take on Omega by himself and failed pretty badly?

Sorry to make you feel old. Actually I felt old when I posted that. I guess it's all perspective!

He made Omega by using the Miracle Machine to create a creature made out of the hate of everyone in the universe.

They solved the problem by having Matter-Eater Lad eat the Miracle Machine (which got better, without explanation--but then, it's a MIRACLE machine after all, so that's ok) which evaporated Omega. However eating the Miracle Machine made Matter-Eater Lad go mad and he had to be locked in a padded cell next to the also nuts Braniac 5. (They both got better fairly quickly)

That makes me feel better. I should probably have stuck with it to see the arc through, but I lost my faith. Actually it's just one of many times when favorite characters have Gone Bad. I would soon get used to that.

For what it's worth, about 10 years later there was a for why Brainy suddenly went nuts--Glorith, a disciple (at the time) of the Time Trapper had had a scheme of hers uncovered by Braniac 5 and she let him see all of time at once which drove him mad!!!!!

A retcon, presumably? I just went to wikipedia to check up on ol' Brainy and I see he went nuts a couple more times. I had no idea he was so angsty. I guess they all are these days, huh? Back when I was reading, the heroes were much simpler. I can't say I agree with this Brainiac 5.1 crap. I mean, version numbers for people? Really? Though I gather the 'new' Brainiac isn't 'human' anyway, it's some type of nanorobot or some such thing? Oy.

Someday soon I'll start another thread asking about the rationale for all these retcons and rebootings and crises and whatnot. And people say soaps are convoluted!

Um....so, back on topic, if you were ok with all the Legion stuff, yeah, you'll have no trouble at all with Watchmen.

Heh. Cool.

Fenris
02-27-2009, 08:32 PM
Oh my GOD I remember that cover so vividly! Yes! And wasn't it Superboy's cousin, Mon-El, who, even though he has nearly the strength of Supes, was knocked for a loop by Omega? And then there was this other character whose name escapes me, who had a mirror-like visor that obscured his face and seemed to be a fairly 'dark' hero (for those days), who also tried to take on Omega by himself and failed pretty badly?
Mon-El--Superboy thought he was Superboy's brother (hence the last name "El") but really Lar Gand from Daxam who just happened to stop on Krypton hours before Krypton blew up. Jor El gave him a star-map to Earth and that note started the confusion. He was actually stronger than Superboy (being older and in better shape) but allergic to lead so was beamed into the Phantom Zone for 1000 years until Brainy figured out a cure.

The "visor-dude" was Wildfire--turned into "anti-energy" (don't ask me) by a reactor accident gone wrong, he only had form/shape in that suit. He wasn't really dark, but he did have an attitude--think Green Arrow.

Sorry to make you feel old. Actually I felt old when I posted that. I guess it's all perspective!
;) No worries. :D


A retcon, presumably? I just went to wikipedia to check up on ol' Brainy and I see he went nuts a couple more times. I had no idea he was so angsty. I guess they all are these days, huh? Back when I was reading, the heroes were much simpler. I can't say I agree with this Brainiac 5.1 crap. I mean, version numbers for people? Really? Though I gather the 'new' Brainiac isn't 'human' anyway, it's some type of nanorobot or some such thing? Oy.
The short version is that DC was in a tug-of-war. Legion wanted to use Superboy and after the initial Crisis on Infinite Earths, Byrne didn't want there to have ever been a Superboy--this has led to two major reboots of the Legion and about a dozen minor reboots (one actually happening an issue after the last when an editorial battle that one side thought was won got overruled)

They're frantically trying to fix the Legion right now. You might want to run to your local comic shop and pick up this Superman and the Legion ("http://www.amazon.com/Superman-Legion-Super-Heroes-Geoff-Johns/dp/1401218199/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1235784207&sr=8) collection and pick up the three issues that are out right now of Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds (there'll be 5 issue total) where the best mainstream writer in comics (Geoff Jones) and fan fav George Perez are repairing 2 decades worth of damage to the franchise* by saying that the last time we saw the Legion was about 5 years after you (Choie) stopped reading"--after that, we were seeing various parallel world versions...and they're telling a damned good story too. If you have nostalgia, this is the perfect time to indulge yourself. Plus the "real" Brainiac 5 (the one you and I remember) is back and a major, MAJOR player--he also has some things (not entirely flattering) to say about one of the alternate Brainiac 5s.

*The argument is that regardless of how good the reboots are, and there were some excellent stories told during the reboot and threeboot, each subsequent version has to retell all the old stories again and again and it just makes for a weaker Legion.

shy guy
02-27-2009, 09:44 PM
The one I've never made it through (and I've tried) is the bird article by the second Night Owl.

Anyone able to give me a brief synopsis of it?
It's just Dreiberg ruminating on the fact that the more in-depth he studies the anatomical structure of the owl, the less likely he is to simply step back and admire its beauty. I like it a lot.

I'm a big fan of all the in-between chapter things in the book, actually. I think each one adds a lot to the narrative.

Qadgop the Mercotan
02-27-2009, 09:52 PM
I just picked up Watchmen for the very first time a week ago because I was intrigued by the hype over the movie. I too am not a real graphic novel fan (tho I was a Superman freak as a pre-teen in the 60's) so wasn't sure what to expect.

Well, I was very engrossed right from the start. I'm currently reading it for a second time, and plan to see the movie when it opens.

I just love the subtext, and things hinted at, or assumed, that leap out at me. I wonder what bits I'm missing because I don't have that particular contextual background, but it seems to me I'm appreciating a good majority of that sort of stuff.

Orr, G.
02-27-2009, 10:32 PM
I just love the subtext, and things hinted at, or assumed, that leap out at me. I wonder what bits I'm missing because I don't have that particular contextual background, but it seems to me I'm appreciating a good majority of that sort of stuff.

Yeah.

Like some others, I never got around to reading Watchmen until after I saw the trailer. I've read it twice now, and will probably read it a third time before the release date. It may seem like an overstatement to rank this creation up there with the great classics, but it's not. I think some people are just fooled by it's accessibility and the genre.

I've been reading these threads and I'm finding myself responding very emotionally to people who aren't "getting" it, or who think that the book is nothing more than a PoMo look at superheroes.

But I restrain myself, lest I do nothing more than come across as a zealot, which never really impresses people, especially here.

But I wanted to share something that really struck me upon rereading, and could serve as an example of the hints and subtext that make Watchmen so worthwhile.

I'm going to try to spolier it here, both for those who haven't read the book, and for those who have and would prefer not to have things spelled out for them.

Throughout the book, we are treated to references to the story of the Gordian Knot. The story serves as a seminal, transformative narrative for Adrian Veidt, and informs much of his character. This layers quite nicely with the various themes of the book.

Near the end of the book, the lesbians are fighting near the newstand. The one is begging the other to just "read this book", because it's about relationships, and could help them. The other rips the book in half. The book? R.D. Laing's Knots. That was a pretty nifty reference in itself.

Having read Knots, for me that one small moment expands and informs the entirety of the rest of the novel, and shows that Watchmen is not just about superheroes. It's about you, and me, and us, and them.

Fenris
02-27-2009, 10:45 PM
Goddamn Orr--I read the comics when they were new and hit the newsstand, I bought the first graphic novel version of it when it came out (the one that shows the shattered window, not the Smiley Face badge one), and I've read it at least yearly since.

And I never caught the bit you put in your spoiler. Damn! Thanks! I'm really impressed. To add another layer to what you just shared....

a further subtext is, right after she rips the book in half, Ozy dumps his killer squid on New York, killing them both instantly.

So if the two lesbians are quarreling and their quarrel is escalating (Joey (the butch one) hits whatshername-the femme one) might they be stand-ins for the USA and USSR? And if the micro-result of Ozy's action is to kill them both, what does that say about the future of the macro-result?

Rachael Rage
02-28-2009, 03:51 AM
Has anyone else here watched the Watchmen "Motion Comics" on iTunes? It's sort of a visual version of an audiobook. They take the actual art from the GN and "animate" it, adding some musical score, and the dialogue (and narration) is spoken by one male narrator. At first I thought it was a weird gimmick, but I quickly got hooked. It's a little disconcerting at first to hear Laurie voiced by a man, but the voice actor is very good, and it isn't long before you forget it's the same guy. It makes you realize even more how cinematic the book is - there is not a lot of movement added but it's very effective.

I've read the book several times over the past 15 years or so, and I noticed things in the motion comics I've never picked up before. They cut a few minor lines and you lose the extra material (ie. Under the Hood) but as a bridge between the GN and the film, it's great. There are 12 episodes (matching the original chapters), each at about 20-25 minutes, so it's good for anyone who wants to read the book but can't quite commit to the paper version before next Friday.

One of my favorite little bits was at the end of each chapter where they have the quote against the black background, the minute hand on the clock actually ticks one minute closer to midnight. For some reason I thought that little touch was cool.

Cisco
02-28-2009, 04:05 AM
My understanding is that the movie differs from the novel due to some sort of 9/11 sensibilities or something having to do with 9/11 changing the relevence of parts of the book, not sure what those are.

They changed the ending. I guess they thought . . . might not play that well post 9/11.

I am a New Yorker and lived through 9/11. By some strange irony, I read the Watchmen in the last week of September, 2001. I honestly had no idea what I was in for.
Funny. I started a thread not too long after 9/11 asking what people thought about the parallels between Watchmen and 9/11 and the response was mostly, "What are you talking about? There are no parallels between those two things."

Orr, G.
02-28-2009, 08:29 AM
Goddamn Orr--I read the comics when they were new and hit the newsstand, I bought the first graphic novel version of it when it came out (the one that shows the shattered window, not the Smiley Face badge one), and I've read it at least yearly since.

And I never caught the bit you put in your spoiler. Damn! Thanks! I'm really impressed. To add another layer to what you just shared....

Ooh, awesome. I'd let this go to my head, but I'll have to attribute this catch to a sort of "right place, right time" thing rather than my own brilliance.

Spice Weasel
02-28-2009, 09:26 AM
Like Dio, the first graphic novel I ever read was Maus (which you all MUST READ if you haven't), and the second was The Watchmen. I'm a little sad because I believe I may have set the bar too high for finding quality works in the future.

The Watchmen is certainly a marvelous work of art. What I found most interesting was the way in which it used its medium to do things that cannot be done in any other art form. Like many lovers of literature unfamiliar with graphic novels, my resounding question has always been, ''What's so special about comic books?'' Watchmen answers this question in a huge way. It does things that only comic books can do, and shows you things that only comic books can show.

The characters are complex and interesting and it was an extremely satisfying read. I admit that many readers of this work picked up on things I didn't, and I sort of pride myself on the ability to rapidly comprehend the subtext of literary art forms... for whatever reason, this one has been difficult for me to completely grasp. There are so many symbols and characters that one read-through just doesn't give it justice. I'm hoping the film, a medium with which I am more familiar, will give me an in to re-read the book with a deeper understanding of what's going on. The only thing I really got right off the bat was the transformation of Dr. Manhattan as an analogy for the world's political landscape and how it was affected by the nuclear age... power isolates. The stuff some of you are pulling out in these posts is really fascinating and astonishing and makes me want to read it again before I see the film.

I didn't read the spoiler about how the ending was changed for the movie, but if they change it dramatically they really do risk ruining the whole point of the story.

Love Rhombus
02-28-2009, 10:09 AM
Would it be fair to tell a first-time reader that they could skip the pirate stuff and miss nothing? That was always the part that bored me the most.

KneadToKnow
02-28-2009, 10:30 AM
Would it be fair to tell a first-time reader that they could skip the pirate stuff and miss nothing? That was always the part that bored me the most.

Why would you tell someone to skip over part of anything the first time they read it? Just because it bored you doesn't mean it won't be the part they find the most fascinating.

"Going to Paris to see the Mona Lisa? Yeah, I'll tell you what: don't bother looking at her eyes, the only part you need to see is her mouth."

Maeglin
02-28-2009, 10:32 AM
Would it be fair to tell a first-time reader that they could skip the pirate stuff and miss nothing? That was always the part that bored me the most.

But you do miss something. It is there for a reason.

ianzin
02-28-2009, 10:45 AM
I didn't read the spoiler about how the ending was changed for the movie, but if they change it dramatically they really do risk ruining the whole point of the story. NO SPOILERS, SAFE TO READ. They haven't changed anything in terms of the plot, the characters, the motivation, the event, the why or the aftermath. They have just changed the means by which the event is made to happen. Would it be fair to tell a first-time reader that they could skip the pirate stuff and miss nothing? That was always the part that bored me the most. I heartily agree, if only because when I first read the book I did not know this, and would have liked it if someone had told me! I think you're doing first-timers a favour by letting them know that they can skip anything to do with the Black Freighter and still enjoy the main narrative, so they know this is an option. But I would stress the 'can'. It's not necessarily a good idea to skip it, and 'boring' is of course a subjective assessment (I know you know this). I personally enjoyed the 'story within a story' structure and the way that one related to the other, but at the same time I would have appreciated knowing that I had the option of just following the main story if I were pushed for time or just not into it.

Jurph
02-28-2009, 05:37 PM
One of the things that still blows me away about the book are the visual and textual references. In the chapter called Fearful Symmetry (coincidentally Chapter V), where Rorschach's backstory is explored, the panel layouts are symmetrical. The center page of the chapter is a two-page spread: three panels down the right edge, three down the left edge, and a giant panel of Ozymandias in the center. Grab a page from the left and a page from the right, and bring them towards you... staring down at the previous page and the following page, you'll notice that the layout of those two pages is also symmetrical, and it's not just the layout: the contents of the panels reflect each other. Sometimes Rorschach (mask down) is used to reflect Rorschach (mask up). In one pairing, a triangle painted on something - a corporate logo? - is reflected several pages later as a poster for the Grateful Dead album AOXOMOXOA, which is itself a palindrome.

This kind of visual reference pops up over and over again throughout the story.

pravnik
02-28-2009, 06:04 PM
One of the things that still blows me away about the book are the visual and textual references. In the chapter called Fearful Symmetry (coincidentally Chapter V), where Rorschach's backstory is explored, the panel layouts are symmetrical. The center page of the chapter is a two-page spread: three panels down the right edge, three down the left edge, and a giant panel of Ozymandias in the center. Grab a page from the left and a page from the right, and bring them towards you... staring down at the previous page and the following page, you'll notice that the layout of those two pages is also symmetrical, and it's not just the layout: the contents of the panels reflect each other. Sometimes Rorschach (mask down) is used to reflect Rorschach (mask up). In one pairing, a triangle painted on something - a corporate logo? - is reflected several pages later as a poster for the Grateful Dead album AOXOMOXOA, which is itself a palindrome.I never noticed that about the layout. I've reread the thing dozens of times, and there's still something new in it all the time.

pravnik
02-28-2009, 06:12 PM
Oh, and re: the "Under the Hood" and "Black Frieghter" chapters, yes, you can skip them and still enjoy the story (I'm guilty of skimming them when I first read the book), but I wouldn't advise doing it. The best analogy I can think of are the digressions Melville takes in Moby Dick. The chapters on cetology and the like don't directly advance the storyline and you could certainly understand the plot if you skip them, but they add depth and dimension to the story as a whole.

Rachael Rage
02-28-2009, 09:33 PM
The first time I read the book I skipped most of the Black Freighter and the supplemental material so I could focus more on the "main" story. But in subsequent readings I would gradually add in more and more of it until on the third or fourth reading I finally read every word from beginning to end. I agree that reading all of the material makes the book a much richer, more layered experience, and you DO miss a lot if you don't read it. But you don't necessarily need to read it the first time.

But I also think that if you don't read it all at some point you've never read the whole book. You've only read the Cliff's Notes version.

Diogenes the Cynic
02-28-2009, 09:45 PM
I think the Black Freighter story and the other supplemental stuff at least provide, in video game terms, "replay" value, even if you skip it on the first read-through.

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