Pondering the Watchmen

And the fans react...
And the fans react...

Waiting for a flash of enlightenment in all this blood and thunder. – From Rorshach’s journal

It’s Watchmen eve.  Can you feel the excitement?

I feel something, but I’m not sure it’s excitement.  Trepidation?  Perhaps.  Annoyance?  Very likely.


I’m sick of they hyperbole that’s why.  People are getting far too worked up over this movie.  Sure, its an adaptation of one of the most revered comic books of all time, but, this just in, its still just a comic book.

I read Watchmen for the first time in 1987.  I read it the first time it was compiled into a trade paperback.  Mine is a first printing.  Jealous?  I enjoyed it, but I didn’t think it was the greatest thing I’d ever read.  At the time, that honor went to The Dark Knight Returns.  Sure, I’m a big Bat-Fan, but I liked DK better.

Blasphemy?  Not at the time.  Both Watchmen and Dark Knight came out in the same time frame in 85-86.  They were the works that transformed comics forever, for better or worse.

When I read it I had no idea the Watchmen characters were analogs of the old Charlton characters  When I found out I thought it was pretty cool.  I still do.  But not knowing that didn’t change my reading experience.  I didn’t graft any additional baggage on the characters.

I found Rorshach interesting in the same way I found his Charlton counterpart, the Question, interesting at the time.  A man dealing with absolutes in a graying world is interesting, especially when you’re 19.

I read Watchmen in 1987 and never read it again.  I don’t reread much stuff.  There is too much other stuff I haven’t read.  That being said, I did reread it again in February.  You know what?  22 years of reading and life experience makes a difference in your perspective.

Sure Rorshach is still pretty cool as the heart of the story, but I found myself far more intrigued by the Comedian, who I think is the story’s soul.

Guess I’m not the same guy at 40 that I was at 19.  Go figure.

Upon rereading Watchmen I was struck by the very solid murder mystery at its core.  If you strip away all the extra stuff at the end of each chapter, all the superhero trappings and all the doomsday stuff, what you’re left with is a murder mystery.

I love those.

Rorshach is Marlowe, Spade, Spenser, Hammer.  Take your pick.

Its pretty simple really.

So if that’s what the movie ends up being I’m okay with that.

No. Not even in the face of Armageddon. Never compromise. – Rorshach

This is where my dislike of my fellow fanboy comes in.  For years, this story was said to be unfilmable, by Moore, by Gibbons, by Terry Gilliam, and everyone agreed.  They lamented the fact that Watchmen would never be a movie, but they agreed.

Then, Zack Snyder had the balls to disagree and actually make the thing the cries changed.  No longer was it that it couldn’t be made.  No, now it was that it shouldn’t be made unless EVERYTHING was included.

Come on kids, its a movie adapataion of a book.  Things are going to change.  Despite your protests, no studio is going to greenlight a 12 hour comic book movie.  They’re in this to make money.

You want to know a secret?

So is Alan Moore. 

He may have sworn off all movie adaptations of his books, but every time one comes out he reminds us that he’s sworn them off.  That makes people wonder what’s so sacrosanct about the books and the sales go up.

Have you noticed the giant displays at Barnes & Noble?  Guess who is raking in the jack.

Alan Moore.

He’s profiting from this movie. Dont’ be fooled.

Who the hell do you think you are? You live off people while insulting them, nobody complains because they think you’re a goddamned lunatic… Do you know how hard it is being your friend? – Nite Owl to Rorshach

Let’s all relax.  Let’s all get our geek dander down.  Let’s enjoy the movie for what it is, not denigrate it for what its not.  That’s getting the joke.  That’s being the Comedian.

Y’know, this must be how ordinary people feel. This must be how ordinary people feel around us. – Nite Owl to Rorshach

Stephe has spent the better part of the week trolling Watchmen reviews and message boards.  I believe it is slowly driving him insane.  He sent me one review that suggested that every reviewer should have to announce in his review if he’d ever read the story before seeing the movie.


The movie is not the book.  A reviewer is reviewing the movie as a distinctly different entity.  Apples and oranges.

What next?  Should they have to announce if they’ve read the Harry Potter books, James Bond novels or Gone With the Wind?

Let’s just stop.  I know Watchmen is beloved.  I know it was listed as one of the top 100 works of fiction in the 20th century.

It’s still a comic book.  Guys in tights beating people up and trying to save the world.

It’s not Hemingway.  It’s not Steinbeck.  It’s not Faulkner.

It’s pulp.  Above average pulp, but still pulp.

I’m not saying I don’t like the story.  I do.  I wasn’t as riveted on my second reading, but I still enjoyed it.

I’m sure I’ll like the movie too.  It will be fun to see these characters made flesh.  It will be fun to see Archie the owl ship take flight.  It will be fun to see the Comedian doing his evil deeds in the name of fighting the good fight.

These are the things that make Watchmen memorable and they’ll be there.

Why complain.  Just enjoy.  That’s what movies are for.  Comics too for that matter.

The question and tagline of the comic and the movie is “Who Watches the Watchmen?”

I’m guessing this weekend it will be fanboy nation in vast numbers.  Can’t we all just agree to take the movie for what it is an enjoy.  Is that so hard?

Remember, once you get the joke, being the Comedian is the only thing that makes sense.  If you can’t simply enjoy the movie for itself, then that joke is on you.

Have done best to make this legible. Believe it paints disturbing picture. Appreciate your recent support and hope world survives long enough for this to reach you, but tanks are in East Berlin, and writing is on wall.  – From Rorshach’s journal…

4 thoughts on “Pondering the Watchmen

  1. No…the bloat was bloat. It wasn’t richness. It was unnecessary filler (sort of redundant). As for fascist, are you sure you don’t mean ‘fetishist’? From the homosexual leanings of nearly all the Minutemen, to Nite Owl’s out of costume impotence, I think the case is made that the costumed hero/vigilante is one weird dude. And actually, that case isn’t so much made as implied.

    I also come at this 20 years removed from its original publication. It hasn’t sat on my bookshelf challenging my perceptions of the superhero. In fact, I don’t think it would have done it then, because it was just another story in a long line of stories. It was good, no denying that, but the only people for whom it changed anything were hardcore comic fans, and maybe a couple of editors and writers who figured it was time to push the form.

    Mainstream books (meaning ‘most’) haven’t changed much in the wake of Watchmen and it is by mainstream books that the industry is judged. Superman is still Clark Kent, Batman is still Bruce Wayne (although he’s more and more a prick), and Spiderman still struggles to pay his rent.

    Speaking of Spiderman, J. Jonah Jameson was calling that particular superhero a menace to society loooooong before Moore passed the Keene act. Is that a deconstruction too, or merely part of the act?

    One other thing, and this really is a dig, but I walked by the line to see Watchmen this weekend and wondered if they shouldn’t change the title to ‘Watched by Men’.

  2. To me the “bloat” was richness and completely enveloped me in the world. And the book made the case that the superhero is a fascist. A complete deconstruction and refutation of the hero myth. It altered the way people saw comics before and after.

  3. Its a good book, but it is over-hyped, or maybe it seems that way in advance of the movie. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t fall in love with it the way others have. It just didn’t click with me. Too bloated.

    I finally read it right after Christmas this year, and I think that colors my impression as well. If I had read it 22 years ago, when it came out, I probably would have thought it was pretty cool. Now that I’m 40, the political and social ‘commentary’ seems pretty superficial, more fluff than substance. The character deconstruction is kind of half-assed. Of course, compared to what was available at the time, it was huge, but now it’s kind ‘yeah, so’.

    The one character I really dig is Dr. Manhattan (god). With omnipotence comes indifference. I like that and I like the way the character was done. I wish we’d seen more of that and less of Nite Owl.

    This could have been a great book, just didn’t get the job done.

  4. Hmmm. I think I disagree about the quality of the book. I’ve read Shakespeare, Joyce, Twain, etc. and I regard Watchmen pretty highly. It’s one of my favorite novels. It’s such a rich comic and it’s one of the first that begged me to read it slowly, pay close attention to every panel, and to put down the book between chapters to digest. It’s so dense, but not pretentious.

    But I agree about the movie. As long as it’s not silly, like 300 or boring, ridiculous like V for Vendetta–book and film–then I sure won’t get upset. It’s an adaptation and it won’t change how I feel about the the book. As a film fan, I will get mad at it if it feels like a waste of time, though, much as I do any bad movie, adapted or otherwise.

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