The 1986 Graphic Novel that is the Basis of the 2009 Watchmen Movie
In 1986, Alan Moore (writer of "V For Vendetta" and "From Hell") teamed up with graphic artist Dave Gibbons to create the graphic novel Watchmen. This was the graphic novel that showed many that comics could be more than four color superheroes, who were little more than glorified boy scouts; it revealed the fact that the graphic novel was a legitimate form of the serious novel.
The world of the Watchmen is one like our own with some minor differences. It is a world where crime exists and so does mental illness. It is a world where the American President is willing to bully the rest of the world into submission. It is a world where some criminals and vigilantes decided to don masks and dress in gaudy costumes.
Much of the novel is told though the journal of the masked vigilante known as Rorschach. One suspects that he donned his mask, for which he is named, because of a deep-seated mental problem. He is a hero quite willing to inflict pain to get information out of criminals, and kill them to bring them to justice.
When the novel opens, we learn that one of the old heroes, the Comedian has just been killed. Rorschach remembers him from the old days when costumed heroes roamed the streets at will before the government cracked down on them causing most of them to go underground and retire.
The heroes and villains of this world, for the most part, have no superpowers. There is an exception, Doctor Manhattan. Once an ordinary man, Doctor Manhattan got caught in an accident at a scientific research facility. Now he has control over atoms and can teleport himself and others. The American President Richard Nixon uses him to keep the Russians in check.
As the story the Watchmen progresses, one realizes that the world is marching steadily towards the hands of midnight, the hour of nuclear war. One of the big questions that the graphic novel asks is: Do heroes have the responsibility to save the world? In the end, the answer given is uncomfortable; one ends up wondering if the world of the Watchmen is so dark and disturbing because of the existence of the costumed heroes.
And the world of the Watchmen is disturbing sick twisted version of our own. Perhaps it is that way because of the psychological reality of Rorschach twists our view of it, or perhaps the world has always been that way and we have never noticed it due to the fabric of our own mask of normality.
Watchmen is a must read for those interested in the development of the graphic novel. 5 out of 5.
[This review originally appeared on Associated Content (Yahoo Voices) on 2/14/2009. The copy used was brought and paid for by me.]