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September 1, 2008 | by  | in Books | [ssba]

The Watchmen by Alan Moore, illustrated by Dave Gibbons

Commonly referred to as “the Citizen Kane of comics”, Alan Moore’s The Watchmen takes the standard gangof- superheroes comic formula and subverts it by demonstrating the fascistic, apocalyptic consequences that vigilanteworship can have. While I don’t regard The Watchmen as the greatest comic ever – it doesn’t have the depth of imagination or pathos of Neil Gaiman’s epic Sandman series – it is brilliant, and forever changed the face of graphic writing. With the upcoming release of a featurefi lm adaptation, it’s time to look back on Moore’s magnum opus.

The plot, essentially, is this: after self-proclaimed masked heroes become too active in fighting crime during the 1970s, America’s police go on strike against the use of scab super-labour to do their jobs; eventually masked heroes are outlawed. Somewhere down the line, the nastiest of these heroes, the Comedian, is murdered. Moore uses the investigation into this killing to reveal the dark past of his outlawed heroes, from rape and alcoholism to winning the Vietnam War for Nixon. Around the time they are outlawed, the heroes also realise that the world’s true problems – i.e. humans treating each other like shit, from domestic violence to drug abuse – cannot be solved by a bunch of guys running around in their underwear.

Perhaps my favourite aspect of The Watchmen is the fact that each episode ends with a short section of excerpts from various texts mentioned in the illustrated storyline, from one character’s autobiography to a police file on another character, to news clippings and a brief history of piratethemed comics. Whereas the main illustrated sections subvert the classic superhero formula, Moore uses these text sections to pay homage to the comic book industry as a whole. So this book is both a meta-comic book about comic books, and itself a brilliantly compelling story illustrated in off-putting browns and purples.


About the Author ()

Tristan Egarr edited in 2008. He threw a chair once.

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