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Who will Watch what I write about “the Watchmen”?

March 7, 2009

I just finished reading the Watchmen, that is, the re-released graphic novel by Alan Moore, illustrated by Dave Gibbons.

I’m not going to front and say that this was a comic that means so much to me, that I had read growing up as a kid.  Uh, because for one reason I was three when they released it.  But I did read it, and now that I am done with the book, I gotta say it’s really good.  Would I put it in my 100 best books of the 20th century?  Probably not, but it is really, really smart and well-written.  In fact Moore makes a couple nods to himself in the book about how good he is, through a subplot about, guess what? a comic book writer whose works are appreciated as genius in the future.

The most appealing thing about the Watchmen was its compelling deconstruction of the superhero and the vigilante.  Following close on the heels of the cinema release of the Dark Knight, Hollywood is capitalizing on our receding memory of the Bush administration and their policies of secrecy, war, and torture.  While movie critics have complained about the grusome torture scenes in both movies, I felt that the Dark Knight couldn’t go longer than twenty minutes without some good ol’ torture, it’s almost impossible to separate out these sadistic scenes from whats been described and infamously and shamefully photographed at Abu Gharib and Guantanamo Bay.  Torture is on America’s mind and conscience.    I haven’t yet seen the Watchmen on the big screen, so I’ll have to write more on that when I do.

What was interesting in the book though was its restraint when it came to depicting torture and graphic violence.  That’s right, how many writers have said this book was restrained on violence?  Sure the book is packed full of classic punch-outs, and fist fights, but it didn’t really depict gore or graphic torture.  In fact, the most horrifying scene was only implied in the book, not depicted, I had to flip back and forth on pages to get the whole impact.  It will be interesting to see how the Director of the Watchmen Zack Snyder handles it, whether he is capable of similar subtlety.  From his other movies I doubt it.  It’s also interesting to note that Rorschach’s, one of the most brutal characters in the book, preferred method is simply breaking one finger at a time on a criminal’s hand to get the information that he needs, not even close to what Jack Bauer will do on 24 to get information.  In the novel, for the criminal that deserves the most pain or punishment, Rorschach handcuffs him to a pipe in a basement, gives him a hacksaw, then spreads around kerosene, lights a match and walks away.  The torture here is totally mental, and totally devoid of gore.  This episode describes one of the most chilling, horrifying and disgusting chapters in the book, but it’s done in a pitch-perfect tone, conveying the evils that humans maybe capable of and forcing the reader to experience and look at it.

So I’m thinking I can write a lot more about the Watchmen but who will read what I write about the Watchmen?  Post something if you want me to write more.  I could write on: America’s love of vigilantism, how Adrien Viedt is a nazi superman, existentialism and Nietzche in the Watchmen, or the various art references the Watchmen makes.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. sterlinglynch permalink
    March 7, 2009 12:48 pm

    I am mostly unimpressed by the book (and the movie) and am curious to understand why the book is so popular — so yes please say more to justify your appreciation of the book.

    Also, have you read Frank Miller’s Dark Night Returns. Infinitely better.

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