Friday Favorites: Watchmen

Friday, August 6, 2010

"But the world is so full of people, so crowded with these miracles that they become commonplace and we forget ... I forget. We gaze continually at the world and it grows dull in our perceptions. Yet seen from another's vantage point, as if new, it may still take the breath away." - Watchmen

Before I read one, I always thought graphic novels were called that because of graphic violence within the novel. I realize that logically that doesn't make sense, but some part of my brain assumed that was the case. Obviously it's not. A graphic novel is called that because it is drawn like a comic book, pairing an in depth story (like a novel) with drawings.

That plot can deal with anything, not just superheroes like Batman. In the case of Maus (which won a Pulitzer Prize) it's the Holocaust; with Persepolis it's the autobiography of an Iranian woman. There is no limit to what can be used as subject matter in a graphic novel.

I've never been a big comic book person (though I'm starting to think that might be because I haven't given them a chance), so even once I figured out what they really were, graphic novels didn't appeal to me. Then a friend recommended Watchmen. Then he recommended it again and again and finally I read it. It was my very first graphic novel and I was completely blown away.

Here's the basic plot, the Watchmen are a group of crime fighters, including Dr. Manhattan, Nite Owl, Rorschach and others. Someone is trying to kill them off and discredit their work and the surviving members are desperately trying to find out who's behind it. The story dedicates a chapter to each of the characters, giving the reader a chance to get to know each of their history and current struggles.

I was expecting a basic good guys vs. bad guys story, predictable, but fun. This wasn't that by any stretch of the imagination. In Watchmen Alan Moore blurs the line between good and bad. He questions the characters' actions and motivations. He creates a world where you have to ask, "Who is watching the Watchmen?"

Watchmen has such a rich story full of complex characters, literary references and complicated back-stories. The writing is excellent, the illustrations are intense and the story is epic. Watchmen opened my eyes to an entire genre. I have since read quite a few graphic novels and I can't believe it took me so long to try them. I would encourage any of you who have never read one to find one that looks interesting to you and check it out.

Here are a few that are on my TBR list...

French Milk
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
V for Vendetta
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth


Alex said...

I highly recommend The League. Keep your computer close because it's likely you'll need it to check Jess Nevins' annotations. I was a bit overwelmed at first by the sheer number of references to Victorian literaure in that first book.

With the annotations you won't miss any detail.

Jenners said...

I have only dipped a toe into the world of graphic novels but you're making me want to give it a bigger try.

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I need to read this!! I made a commitment that I have to read this before seeing the movie -- which is my requirement for books to film, but it's even more so with this one!

Stop by my blog, you've got an award waiting for you!! :)

Captain Nick Sparrow said...

Ever since I saw the movie I've wanted to read this. Good to know you liked it!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Compared to the movie this was Shakespeare. I may have liked the movie if I hadn't read this first, but it was just so badly cast.

Alex - Can't wait to try the League.