Watchmen - meh...

Am I the only one who found the Watchmen graphic novel to be just ok. Personally, I think Y: The Last Man is a much better read. The odd thing is I’m not really sure why Watchmen didn’t do anything for me. Maybe it was the hype? Maybe it’s Moore’s writing; I couldn’t get through the first volume of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? The concept was certainly original, but it is not something that I’ll read again.

All that being said, I do want to see the movie, mostly to see how it is translated.

Watchmen was utterly groundbreaking when it came out. Like most true literature, it’s not as accessible as pop lit, and gains a lot from re-reading. Y: The Last Man is an amazingly fun read, but Watchmen is on another level.

Y is Star Wars. Watchmen is Citizen Kane.

Also, it helps a lot to have read it in the mid-80s Reagan/Thatcher era. Really.

Coincidentally, I finished Y: The Last Man fairly recently.

It’s a great story. I liked it a lot.

Watchmen is about Story. It’s about Form. It’s about perception and interpretation and consumption and context.

Y: The Last Man is The Stand, and Watchmen is Ulysses. They cannot be compared because the one is operating on a much, much higher level than the other. And Y’s writer BK Vaughn would be the first to tell you this.

You had to be there.

Twenty years on, the genre has absorbed everything Watchmen did and it’s become common. Now it’s just a typical well-made comic book miniseries.

Plus the Cold War atmosphere it was written in has passed.

I love Watchmen, and think it’s an impressive piece of work, but it really is tied to its time and audience. As DrFidelius notes, it was made in and for the mid080s. Even more, though, it was made for an audience of Boomers that grew up in the 1950s through 1970s, and experienced comics drawn and printed in that style, with a Golden Age of heros in the 1940s and a latr Silver Age in the 1960s, with that Golden Ae a simpler, more careftree one and the later age filled with angst-ridden Heroes With Problems. It fit together beautifully for me, but I’m noot sure how it felt to someone born in the 1980s and reading it after growing up on the slick comics of the 90s and 2000s, with their post_Crisis sensibilities.

Let alone someone who never read a comic before.

I read the novel last fall in anticipation of the movie and also found it “meh”.
It felt very cliché and the characters had no real depth. It seemed fans were reading more into it than was really there. The plot felt pulled out of the latest video game. The underlying themes were things I pondered back in grade school (would nations at odds with eachother unite if a common enemy were introduced):rolleyes:
And the whole supposedly original idea of “what if regular people became superheros?” isn’t really that original. Batman, regular guy. Ironman, regular guy. Along with the “superheros have real life problems too”. Spiderman had job problems and MaryJane problems. Those don’t count as real life?

I’m going to see the movie to see if they could actually add some pep to the book and flesh out characters shallow as the paper they were printed on. If they go strictly by the book the thing will be a lifeless bore.

Y is fun but it’s designed to appeal to the masses. The whole book is sex, violence, pop culture references, and humor.

Watchmen, I like to think, is a little more layered than that.

The person who likes Brian K. Vaughn over Alan Moore would probably be equivalent to the person who likes Michael Bay over Orson Welles. Nothing wrong with that, I guess, from an objective viewpoint, but not my way of looking at art at all.

I agree with Hampshire completely. He stated my OP better than I did.

I was 13 or 14 when Watchmen first came out and I admit it was over my head. Late 30s now and I very much get it. Still, I don’t see anything groundbreaking in it.

I mention the “superhero with problems” thing in my post. That wasn’t the original part of Moore’s writing – it was part of his assumed background. Moore was asking whether the entire idea of vigilante superheroes was at al realistic – how it woyuld play out in the real world. That’s something the 1960s comics didn’t ask – the just asumed it as a given. More to the point, what would drive an ordinary person, even if they had ability, to take on a job that involved such risk.

Basically, they’re mostly crazy in one way or another.

he also asked how it was that someonbe with god-like powers would be getting along with humans, or even with more human companions. This was well before they started treating Wonder Woman as a haughty Amazon Princess. The answer: Dr. Manhatten thinks “I have nothing in common with them.”
As for the “uniting against a common enemy” idea – Moore acknowledges the age of that idea when he cites the Robert Culp Outer Limits episode “The Architects of Fear” in the story itself. Moore knows of what he writes. But he decided it was perfect for his story, and I agree. (For the record, the idea goes back at least to William Tenn’s 1950s short story “Alexander the Bait”, and probably before that.)

I disagree, but would you mind providing an example?

I rarely read comics and practically never play video games, but would you offer an example?

Here, I think you’ve missed the point here completely. None of the Watchmen characters are “regular people,” they nuts. Some of the original Minute Men are near-regular people, but the thing is, they decide to become heroes for reasons that are entirely un-altruistic:

[spoiler]Silk Spectre is only it for the publicity and Hooded Justice is a fetishist, for starters. Comedian’s sick in the head, Dollar Bill is a paid employee of a bank, and Captain Metropolis thinks he’s living in a comic book and wants to crack down on menaces like teenage drug use and black unrest. One of the chapters from Nite Owl I’s book is plain about this fact: you have to be kind of sick to get your jollies from what they were doing. He concedes the jokes about the heroes being sexual deviants and quasi-Nazis are at least somewhat accurate.

And their descendants, the lead characters in Watchmen, are even worse. Nite Owl II is impotent without his costume on, Dr. Manhattan is detached from humanity and utterly passive, even though he’s also a killer for the government, Comedian is even worse in the ‘present,’ Rorschach is a batshit crazy homeless religious fanatic who wants revenge on everybody. Etc.[/spoiler]

That’s not a theme of Watchmen. It’s just a plot device.

And the idea behind Watchmen isn’t “what if regular people became superheros?” It’s “what if superheroes existed in the real world?” That’s a very different question. Peter Parker might be a regular guy, but the Marvel Universe is certainly not a regular place. Superheroes are commonplace and accepted there. In the Watchmen universe, they’re not. The existence of even a single “superhero” (Dr. Manhattan) drastically changes the social and political structure of the world, and those changes are what Moore was trying to examine.

I don’t think that this is true. I think that you are maybe not giving enough credit to the writer and artist. I thought that the characterizations of people like Rorschac, Dr. Manhattan, and Ozimandias were brilliant and subtle. I sat down to re-read it recently before giving it to my wife to read for the first time, and was stunned (for the first time) by the level of detail in each panel and the way that the art was really used to push forward the story. That every image is deliberate and that there isn’t any wasted space, there isn’t a single inch of any panel that doesn’t tie into the story in some way is farily remarkable. Like the opening images of the nut walking around with the “The End is Near” sign underneath Rorschac’s voice over creating the forshadowing of the reveal of Rorschac MONTHS later in real time. They make it subtle enough that when it is revealed it makes total sense. Rorschac is a total lunatic. I don’t think you get how remarkable that is if you read it all at once.

That’s another thing. Watchmen wasn’t intended to be read in a single sitting. In fact I think it doesn’t work as well in a single sitting as it does if you limit yourself to a single chapter a day, or one chapter a week. There is a lot in each issue to digest with the main story and all the side stories, and they make more sense and flow more easily if you read them seperatly.

The plot feels like it was pulled from the latest video game because those video games are stealing from the Watchmen, not the other way around. Nothing like this had been done before. And the theme isn’t that “Superhero’s are regular people” It’s more complicated than that. Regular people don’t willingly put themselves into positions of power like that. Each and every one of the Superheroes in Watchmen isn’t just a regular guy, they are horrible aweful guys. It’s the idea that the people who are willing to rule are the least fit to do so by default. If there were superheroes they wouldn’t be like Spiderman, they would be like the Comedian. That’s how it would probably play out in the real world. A great detective like Batman wouldn’t be Bruce Wayne, he would be the Rorschac. And I know this no longer seems all that avant guarde, but at the time no one had spun the idea of superheros in this direction. That someone like Superman was someone the general populace should fear as much as they love was totally new. The closest you came was The Punisher, and frankly at the time even the Punisher wasn’t all that dark and he certanly couldn’t be accused of being complex.

It’s a comic book about comics more than anything, and if you don’t look at it in that context it is meaningless. You dont’ have to like it, and I think compairing it to Joyce is a little bit overkill, but give it the credit that it is due. I still don’t think anyone has come close to doing as much with comics as a medium as Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons did with Watchmen. It is comics as art and literature, and more than that (because frankly lots of people do comics as art and literature) it is Superheros as art and literature. And making superhero comics into art is actually something fairly profound considering the role that superheros play in our culture. Possibly more profound today than it was in the mid 80s.

I read it for the first time last year and I am definitely outside the audience for comic books and graphic novels (they just don’t appeal to me much as a concept so I’ve never really given them a shot).

I wasn’t blown away by it all but could appreciated the mirror it was turning on the genre and that it was engaging in an activity I often do with action movies where I try to think through, on the assumption that everything presented in the movie actually were to happen, how the larger world would respond to it.

Unfortunately for me, a somewhat realistic examination of costumed heroes just ended up not being that interesting to me even if I could appreciate the effort and skill with which it was done. But I’m still looking forward to giving the movie a shot.

I don’t really care for reading even the best mystery fiction but love even the stupidest mystery TV (currently working through Quincy on DVD). Similarly, while I have no particular interest in comic books I have enjoyed a lot of the better comic book movies (and a fair number of the worse ones as well).

I read it for the first time a couple of months ago, and while I enjoyed it, I wasn’t that impressed. Thinking I had missed something, I went online and read discussions of it and no, there wasn’t much I missed except for silly stuff like the mirrored pages in one of the chapters. Considering those who recommended it to me sold it as intricacy and a deepness on par with a good novel, it was disappointing. It may have been groundbreaking, but the basic “superheroes are crazy” theme is everywhere now. I guess I was expecting a little bit more.

Also, I never for one minute bought that Veidt’s plan would work for longer than a week, with or without Rorschach’s journal.

I’m not that well versed in comic books either, FWIW. In fact, Watchmen was the first I read since I was young.

One of the keys to remember is not that regular people became superheroes - there was only one “super hero” - Dr. Manhattan.

The others are just crimefighters - “regular heros.”

I think the thing I found so incredible about the Watchmen was the layering - the juxtapositioning of a secondary tale with a first - like the Pirate story with what was going on. The imagery, the symmetry, the symbolism - all definitely worthy of a slow first read and a supplementary 2nd or 3rd read.

I’m not trying to be an elitist - but I think it’s one of those things you love or you hate. And reading the recently published companion book, “Watching the Watchmen” by the artist who worked with Moore - Dave Gibbons, I think you see the elements even moreso.

Yes, and when I read Lord of the Rings last year, it felt like it was just a bunch of cliches pulled out of a Dungeons & Dragons game.

Watchmen was published in 1986. Nintendo’s top releases that year were Donkey Kong and Legend of Zelda. The groundbreaking comic book series of 1985 had been Crisis on Infinite Earths and Secret Wars. When Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns came out in 1986, everyone who was reading comics saw that this was a major new direction. Alan Moore and Frank Miller invented the cliches that everyone else has been using since then.

I agree with your point, but I thought I’d just step in to say that I think that’s a little harsh of a comparison :). Vaughn’s not really at the level of mindless, flashy, “blow-it-up” fun trash IMHO - he’s got a bit more style than that. Maybe more of a John Carpenter-in-his-more-inventive-moments.

Maybe you’re right. I liked BKV a lot when I first read him, but then as I started reading more of his stuff, I realized he writes every character to be, basically, Yorrick Brown. Super witty, full of historical and cultural knowledge, and condescending of lower forms of arts and entertainment. I was reading his run on . . . I think it was Ultimate X-Men . . . and Cyclops made some snide, dismissive comment putting down Jerry Bruckheimer films. Cyclops! He is exactly the kind of prick jock asshole who would love Bruckheimer movies. That, to me, was kind of a crossing the Rubicon moment with Brian K. Vaughn. I still enjoy his stories, for the most part, but his characters are as hacky as hack comes.

Truly groundbreaking for the medium. I’m not the biggest fan and it has several serious flaws that take me far, far away from the book. That said, it was revolutionary and thought-provoking both then and now.