Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Watching the Watchmen Watchers

With the Watchmen Trailer out, I decided to read the comic again since it’s been awhile. I’d forgotten how great the story is and I was reminded how practically every comic book has ripped it off since its initial publication in 1986. I’ve noticed some folks dismissing Watchmen but it really was a quantum leap forward in sequential storytelling. If you don’t believe me pick up some back issues of Secret Wars II that came out the same year and you’ll see what I mean.

After Watchmen came out, a light turned on about how great comics could really be, and I’m talking about structure here. As an example: to this day, I can’t stand over exposition in comics. It really bothers me when captions describe what is already clearly shown happening in he panels; basically I think it’s insulting. I can see that Superman is flying you don’t need to tell me he’s flying too. Watchmen got rid of this and other tired techniques and basically pushed the boundaries on how to tell a great comic book story in the same way Citizen Kane pushed how to make great movie.

The dark and somewhat nihilistic take on superheroes is much more of a downer nowadays and I can see why some folks are put off by it but you have to remember this was all new in 1986. To the general public superheroes were a joke and comics didn’t tell adult stories when I grew up, so it was really nice to read something that stimulated the intellect. I mean hey, Watchmen reminded me that gold is only made in the heart of supernovas.

A lot of folks were taken aback by the trailer before Dark Knight and so rushed out to pick up a copy of Watchmen. I’ve been reading folks reviews on Amazon.com. Here's a few:

I first heard of Watchmen when I saw a trailer for its movie. Liking the trailer very much, I bought a copy of the graphic novel to see what it was about. What I expected was a light fun read full of pointless action like most other comics.
I couldn't have been farther from the truth.
What I read instead was a captivating novel with wonderfully developed characters and an intriguing plot with romance, action, and deep questions involving morality and the value of a human life.

I have never been a reader of comics, and this is only the second graphic novel I've tried. I have to say, I am so glad I did! I still have 3 chapters left, but every panel of Watchmen is beautifully crafted, both in the story and the illustration. I will admit that I bought this so I will have some idea what the upcoming movie is about, and now that I have read the novel, I really hope Hollywood has done it justice!

There is a reason Time magazine named it one of the best novels of the 20th century - Watchmen transcends all other comics (with the possible exception of Frank Miller's epic The Dark Knight Returns) in its art, depth and believability. If you have never read a comic before, you don't have to worry: unlike Superman, X-men or any of the other established comics, Watchmen is entirely self-contained.

I thought it was a very very good book...for it's time! Don't get me wrong, yes, it was a great book! Everyone should read this!! I just thought it was a long long long long read, for such a so so ending. If you haven't read this, please give it a try, I just didn't think it lived up to the "Best Graphic Novel"

I'm not going to make this long but basically I saw the trailer for the movie and was blown away. When I found out it was based on "the greatest graphic novel of all time" I knew I just had to get a copy. I'm not much of a comic person but the artwork is impressive. The story has interesting characters, the ending is VERY unpredictable. Other than that, if you're like me and you read lots of novels, short stories, and movie scripts don't expect to be knocked off your feet.

Not a masterpiece everyone makes out to be. Although compare to other graphic novels, it's alittle bit better. Bascially a murder mystery that along the way in solving it, goes into each of the character's backstory until mystery is solved in the end. Ending somewhat disappointing and boring.

Wow, Time Magazine 100 top novels. Basis for Major Movies. The work that changed a genre. I had to read this book. Well, after finishing I realize I really didn't have to read it. I figure this book is like Fried Chicken. If you have a passion for Fried Chicken you will attempt to elevate it to the level of fine dining. But sorry its just fried chicken full of grease and salt and thats what makes it good. you should be happy for whatever merit there is in that. This is a competent comic book for a mature audience. It has mediocre artwork, the characterizations are thin and often poorly reasoned. But gosh its got some gory violence, space monsters and even a competent love scene.

I picked this up since there has always been a lot of hype about it in the gaming, comics and online world. It barely held my interest. It is a dark and gloomy story that is more melodrama than anything.

All I can say after I finish this book is "WOW!" LITERALLY! Its also my first graphic novel I read, I got it for my 20th birthday this year after I saw the previews in theaters while watching BATMAN: The Dark Knight. It is my favorite birthday gift this year. People that have not read this, BUY IT NOW!!! YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT!!! Its my new favorite book now!

I think I speak for a lot of people(who didn't read watchmen before) when I say "The movie trailer was CONFUSING!!!!!!" That's probably the main reason why I bought this book. I'm only half way through, but WOW the writing is good. Now I know why it's in the Time Magazine top 100 list and won a Hugo. If you plan to watch the movie but was confused by the trailer, or just want a really really really good comic to read, buy this, you won't regret it.

The characters are what make Watchmen great. There are so many fascinating and deep characters here, and Moore uses them to explore morality on virtually every level. For this is what Watchmen is on its basic level: a morality tale, albeit a fairly bleak one.

Tons of readers are giving credit to Moore for inventing the neurotic superhero. But Kurt Busiek doesn't. Nor does Grant Morrison. Nor do most superhero writers. They give the credit to Superfolks, a comic novel (not graphic) that came out in 1977. With a quote from Nietzsche. With the smiley yellow face. With a superhero up to his neck in personal problems. And with a lot more humor.
Superfolks clearly "inspired" Moore to write Watchmen.
So check it out on Amazon. Don't just take my word for it, because I'm biased. I wrote it.

Normally when I see or hear a lot of hype or hyperbole about something, I choose to ignore the subject, due to being disappointed too many times in the past.
But with this product I'm glad I gave in and tried it.
I've never read a graphic novel in which the characters are so well; "fleshed out" as these.

The whodunit on steroids…

Watchmen is probably one of the greatest comics ever written. Unfortunately in today's modern time the story has lost a lot of what made it great because the direction that the industry has taken. With everyone going for darker, grittier stories Watchmen just hasn't been able to stand the test of time. A great story but, you can't go in with a regular state of mind when reading it. It's a great story and worth the read.

The storytelling and artwork are as cohesive as you'll ever find, and if you're like me, you'll find yourself picking this book up every few years to give it a fresh read.

I am happy with my purchase. I got it quickly and in great condition

Incredible story, even if the ending left me a little unsatisfied. Cant wait for this to hit the big screen.

On the surface this is a story about superheroes. But it isn't deeds or super powers that are the hallmark of these characters, but rather it is who they are. Who are these people that dress up in costumes and fight crime?

I love comic books, and I wanted to love Watchmen. I expected to love it. It won a Hugo, after all. Well...it started off great, with the murder of a retired costumed hero, the Comedian. We're soon introduced to Rorschach, a somewhat mentally disturbed but very effective sort of good guy and a bunch of other costumed heroes, most now retired. The book went downhill soon after. One of the good guys, a Superman clone, is framed and goes off to Mars in a huff. A very boring chapter of his philosophical depression then follows. In the end, the "bad" guy is too powerful to be believed (he's a human without supernatural powers but he can catch a bullet in his hand--I don't think so), the plot too complex to be plausible and it depends, to a large extent, upon science that had not been previously introduced. You can use cloning and telepathy (to give an example) only if you introduce cloning and telepathy early in the story. It's like Kirk saying, "Scotty, time for the interdimensional transport beam," when no such thing has ever been mentioned. The reader does not appreciate such cheap tricks. In the end, this is a pompous work that takes itself way too seriously. Too bad. It could have been great.

Maybe in its day it was revolutionary and unique, but it hasn't stood the test of time for me. I'll stick with V For Vendetta- a true classic.

*Disclaimer: I only read a small portion of this graphic novel*

Since I'm hating on a widely acclaimed graphic novel, I feel like I first need to give some taste credentials. Sandman was awesome, Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men is a trip and Moonshadow was phenomenal. For a graphic novel to be good, it should have a good story, good art, good characters, witty dialog, and humor. I'm willing to believe that the story behind the Watchman is amazing because why else would people like it so much, but everything else is just terrible.

The artwork is gross and uninteresting, the characters, at least in the first 60 pages, are completely boring, uninteresting and hollow. And there's not a moment of comic relief. Here are some minor, but representative examples to support my claims.

The dialog and characters are completely inane. The novel begins with the death of "The Comedian," and old super hero, and we then see the reactions of his former colleagues. Everyone flashes back to days of old and I don't know how many times they made retarded comments like "We'd always thought he'd get the laugh last." It's not even funny in an over the top sort of way, it's just lame. I skipped to the middle to learn a little about the antihero's origins, and you find that he's being analyzed by a psychologist who, we are told by the author, is a really nice guy and one of the best in his field. But he's just dumb. He fully believes the crazy antihero is becoming more sane when he claims to see butterflies and daisies in a Rorschach test. And then, later, the psychologist appears wounded to the core when the antihero makes fun of him and calls him out. How is this at all believable. What kind of psychologist goes through his career never encountering a moment of adversity. It just makes no sense. I know these sound minor, but every page is filled with stupid stuff like this. It's all like the idiotic scene in V for Vendetta, when the main villain is broken because his computer has an affair with V.

I know that it's arrogant and mean to come down hard on a graphic novel so many people know and love without even reading enough to get into the story. But, there are so many glowing reviews of this piece or literature that Alan Moore can deal with a little bit of criticism. The whole story just felt so hollow and empty that it seems pointless to continue reading to find out more.


Some of the reviews on here are a little ridiculous. YES, it is a tedious read. YES, the plot is difficult to understand and follow. YES, some of the themes are dated. However, that does not negate the fact that this is, by far, the BEST.Graphic.Novel.Ever. The characters feel real, the plot is absolutely mind blowingly good once you fully grasp it, and the action is perfectly paced. I absolutely cannot wait for the movie!

In short, Watchmen is a great, great comic that has had a profound influence over the years. If you've been at all impressed by the more adult comics in recent times, you not only have this volume to thank, in part, but you also owe it to yourself to give this book a read. You'll be happy that you did.



-Swinebread

7 comments:

Arkonbey said...

To me, the story and art of Watchmen are good, but not great.

What makes it great, though (as you mentioned) is the timing. It is arguably the first true American graphic novel. Sure, Marvel had graphic novels, but they were really just extensions of the existing Marvel Universe.

Watchmen was/is a self-contained standalone work that is its own universe where good and bad are quite ambiguous.

At any rate, I've read the GN three times, but will likely avoid the film.

Dean Wormer said...

Wow, that Whedon fan embarrassed me. He doesn't get Whedon either if he thinks it's all shits and giggles.

He also doesn't get Watchmen if he thinks there's nothing funny in that book. Humor is not the point but it's there and it's very dark. Sorry if it was over his head.

I think I mentioned to you that my 15-year old daughter read Watchmen while we were on vacation. She was completely addicted to the thing. One night she stayed up till the wee hours of the morning in the r.v. reading it with a flashlight.

I think that's a real testament to the power of that story.

rob! said...

"The artwork is gross and uninteresting"

????

Arkonbey said...

Well, Rob!, I'd agree with "uninteresting". It wasn't bad, but wasn't as ground-breaking or as engrossing as the story. I can only imagine what Bill Bienkiewicz might have done with it.

But, "gross"? How much of a prude is that guy, he hasn't read Powers or Preacher, then. Now, that's gross.

pidomon said...

wow a wide range of reviews
for me i still remember i was still getting back into comics and walked in my local shop and the manager was "Pido BUY THIS"
And I was all like "EHHHH looks boring and expensive"
And she said "Buy it if you dont like it bring it back"

So I bought issue 1.

Amazing how a clip can propel the sales of a book. not sure where it is on Amazon now but on Bookscan rumor has it it is red hot.

And I do reread it once a year or so. Its (IMHO) a damn good read.

Some flaws sure but what work doesnt have those?

(sorry to go on so long lol)

Swinebread said...

Arky – The concept of the first graphic novel is a long debate, but Watchmen should be considered the first completely successful G N.

I think the film might be OK as there are some things that give me hope (like it’s set in 1985) but then there is stuff that irks me too (like Rorschach’s mask). I guess I wait for the reviews.

Dean – There is all kinds of humor in Watchmen. I found all most all of the negative reviews stunningly ignorant but they are still entertain nonetheless

No dean, I don’t think you did mention you daughter reading watchmen. That’s really cool. I was same age her when I read it the first time. I can see her really enjoying it as it works on so many different levels and in so many different genres.

Watchmen is very effective that for sure. I’ll have to ask her about it next time I see her.

Rob – I couldn’t think of how to respond to that either

Arky – Sienkiewicz, hmmmm I don’t know. I really like the naturalistic style of Gibbions work on watchmen. I think Sienkiewicz style would be too distracting. But that’s just me.

Pido – I missed the first issue of Watchmen myself. I didn’t get to read it until about issue 7 or 8 was published because to was sold out. I had to buy a copy of #1 at a comic show for about 5 bucks.

My one hope, which has already come true, is that the film would get more folks to read the book.

Bob Andelman said...

You might enjoy this Mr. Media podcast interview with Dave Gibbons, co-creator and artist of Watchmen, as he discusses the Warner Bros./Fox dispute, being on the set during production, and what he thinks of the trailer and the rough cut he saw of Watchmen. He also talks about the possibility of working with Frank Miller and the message he took to Alan Moore from Will Eisner. Here's the link!