Watchmen by Alan Moore
Illustrated by Dave Gibbons
First Published: 1986/1987 (previously published as individual comic books)
Genre: graphic novel, super heroes
Reason for Reading: I've been wanting to read this for quite some time. Longer than I even knew they were thinking about making a movie. I've often seen it on the library shelf but decided against picking up this very thick graphic novel. Of course, it took the recent movie to make me actually get up and read it but by then everybody else wanted to read it and I had to add my name to the very long waiting list at the library. Finally it was my turn.
Rorschach's journal, October 12th, 1985: Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach.
Comments: Only a very broad summary can tell the premise of this plot without giving anything anyway and that hardly does the story any justice. A group of costumed heroes worked at thwarting crime during the forties, early fifties but they eventually went out of fashion in the fifties. But another younger, more resourceful group took over in the sixties only to have an act passed in '77 banning vigilantes altogether, except for a select few who worked for the government. This all takes place on an alternate earth where costumed vigilantes are real, Nixon is still President in the '80s (he removed the 2-term rule) and America won the Vietnam War. Now the world finds itself on the brink of World War III as US and Soviet Nuclear weapons are pointed at each other as the USSR starts to attack Asia starting with Afghanistan then Pakistan.
In this setting we have a more personal story of former superheroes, some retired, some still working underground and suddenly, former masked heroes are turning up dead or worse. One currently working costumed vigilante has an idea that someone is picking off former masked heroes and he tries to warn the others but no one really takes him seriously in this political clime of uncertainty.
This is an amazing book! The story is so intricate. Not only are the two main themes going on as described above but each of the superheroes involved carries their own personal subplot as well throughout the series. Amazingly everything ties together and I'm always stunned when a graphic novel can show such depth and intricacies with such limited text. Of all the great books I've read this month this is my favourite so far. Certainly a product of it's time; the eighties fear of nuclear attack from the Soviets, the Cold War, the threat of a third world war and yet somehow things never change. While the "bad guys" are different today, we still have these threats of nuclear arms making headlines today.
I'm really excited to see the movie now. I've purposely avoided any notice of it as I wanted to read the book without any preconceptions. I don't even know who is in the movie and that is why while reading the book I visualized one of the characters as a certain actor. Jon is a science experiment gone wrong and is a big blue muscular naked guy with a circle on his forehead. His voice is distinctly different from the others, unemotional, and I immediately thought of him as a Jaffa, T'ilk to be exact, and I just heard Christopher Judge's deep voice saying that character's voice throughout the novel! It's weird when that happens.
Back to the book, totally engrossing and riveting. I wish I hadn't waited this long. I said this was my favourite book of the month but this is also probably one of the finest graphic novels I've ever read. It is tough, hard and bloody and most definitely one for adults though, so don't go thinking of this is a "comic" and handing it off to the kiddies. Highly recommended!