Paperback Î Watchmen PDF æ

This Hugo Award winning graphic novel chronicles the fall from grace of a group of super heroes plagued by all too human failings Along the way the concept of the super hero is dissected as the heroes are stalked by an unknown assassinOne of the most influential graphic novels of all time and a perennial best seller Watchmen has been studied on college campuses across the nation and is considered a gateway title leading readers to other graphic novels such as V for Vendetta Batman The Dark Knight Returns and The Sandman series


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    Since the movie came out I've found myself having to explain why Watchmen is important and interesting Despite being the most revered comic book of all time it never really entered the mainstream until the film Now people are rushing to read it in droves but approaching Watchmen without an understanding of its history and influences means missing most of what makes it truly specialThe entire work is an exploration of the history and purpose of the superhero genre how readers connect to it and what it means philosophically Moore stretches from fond satire to outright subversion to minute allusion encasing the once simple genre in layers of meaning Even as he refines and compresses the genre he also constantly pushes its boundaries Watchmen is unapologetic unflinching and most miraculous of all freed from the shame which binds so many comicsMoore never stoops to making an entirely sympathetic character There is no real hero and none of the characters represents Moore's own opinions Superhero comics are almost always built around wholly sympathetic admirable characters They represent what people wish they were and they do the things normal people wish they could doIt is immediately gratifying escapism which many people attach themselves to especially the meek who lead tedious unfulfilled lives Many people also do the same thing with celebrities idolizing them and patterning their own lives on the choices those famous people make But in this modern age of reality TV and gossip media we know that celebrities are not ideal peopleIndeed their wealth and prominence often drives them mad While everyone else views the world from the bottom up they view it from the top down and this skewed perspective wreaks havoc with their morality and sense of self Moore's superheroes represent something even beyond this celebrity Not only are they on the top of the heap but they are physically different from other human beings Their superiority is not just in their heads and pocketbooks but in their geneticsThey are not meant to be sympathetic they are meant to be human They are as flawed and conflicted as any of us and while we may sometimes agree with them as often we find them distant and unstableMany people have fingered Rorschach as the 'hero' of this tale but that is as flawed as pinning Satan as the hero of 'Paradise Lost' Following the classic fantasy of power Rorschach inflicts his morality on the world around him But since he is not an ideal but a flawed human we recognize that his one man fascist revolution is unjustifiedWe all feel that we see the world clearly and everyone around us is somehow confused and mistaken Often we cannot understand how others can possibly think they way they do Sometimes we try to communicate but there is often an impassable barrier between two minds no matter how much we talk or how pure our intentions one will never be able to convince the otherWe all feel the temptation to act out if only those disagreeable people were gone the world would be a better place While this justification may be enough for most comic writers Moore realizes that the other guy thinks everything would be better if we were gone Rorschach lashes out because his ideas are too 'out there' and he is too socially insecure to convince anyone that he is right He is unwilling to question himself and so becomes a force of his own violent affirmationMost who sympathize with him are like him short sighted and desperate unable to communicate with or understand their fellow man Many are unwilling even to try Rorschach becomes a satire of the super hero code which says that as long as you call someone evil you are justified in beating him to death This same code is also commonly adopted as foreign policy by leaders in war which Moore constantly reminds us of with references to real world politicsThe rest of the characters take on other aspects of violent morality with varying levels of self righteousness Like the British government of the 1980's which inspired Moore or the American government of the beginning of this century we can see that equating physical power with moral power is both flawed and dangerous Subjugating others 'for their own good' is only a justification for leaders who feel entitled to take what they can by forceThe only character with the power to really change the world doesn't do so His point of view is so drastically different from the common man that he sees that resolving such petty squabbles by force won't actually solve anything It won't put people on the same page and will only create conflict and inequality Dr Manhattan sees man only as a tiny nearly insignificant part of the vast complexity of the cosmos Though he retains some of his humanity his perspective is so remote that he sees little justification for interference any than you or I would crush the ants of one colony to promote the otherThe ending presents another example of one man trying to enforce his moral solutions upon the entire world Not only does this subvert the role of the super hero throughout comic book history but reflects upon the political themes touched on throughout the book Man is already under the subjugation of men they may not be superhuman but still hold the lives of countless billions in their hands It is no coincidence that Moore shows us president Nixon a compulsive liar and paranoid delusional who ran the most powerful country in the world as he saw fitMoore's strength as a writer even than creating flawed human characters is telling many different stories which are really the same story told in different ways all layered over each other Each story then comments on the others presenting many views His plots are deceptively complex but since they all share themes they flow one into the next with an effortlessness that marks Moore as a truly sophisticated writerMany readers probably read right across the top of this story flowing smoothly from one moment to the next and never even recognizing the bustling philosophical exploration that moves the whole thing along The story within a story 'The Black Freighter' winds itself through the whole of Watchmen and for Moore serves several purposes Firstly it is another subversion of comic book tropes Moore is tapping into the history of the genre when books about pirates cowboys spacemen monsters and teen love filled the racks next to the superhuman heroes before that variety was obliterated by the Comics Code yet another authoritarian act of destruction by people who thought they were morally superior But in the world of Watchmen there are real superheroes and they are difficult flawed politically motivated and petty So superhero comics are unpopular in the Watchmen world because there superheroes are fraught with political and moral complexity These are not the requisite parts of an escapist romp We don't have comic books about our politicians after all We may have political satire but that's hardly escapist funSo instead they read about pirates Beyond referencing the history of comics 'The Black Freighter' works intertextually with Watchmen The themes and events of one follow the other and the transitions between them create a continuous exploration of ideas Moore never breaks off his story because even superficially unrelated scenes flow from one to the other in a continuous multilayered self referential narrativeI continually stand in awe of Moore's ability to connect such disparate threads Many comic authors since have tried to do the same but from Morrison to Ellis to Ennis they have shown that striking that right balance is one of the hardest things an author can do Most of Moore's followers end up with an unpalatable mish mash instead of a carefully prepared and seasoned dishUnlike most comic authors Moore scripted the entire layout for the artist every panel background object and action Using this absolute control Moore stretched the comic book medium for all it was worth filling every panel with references allusions and details which pointed to the fullness and complexity of his world Moore even creates meaning with structure so that the size shape and configuration of panels tell much of the story for him One of the volumes is even mirrored so that the first page is almost identical to the last the second page to the second last and so on That most readers don't even notice this is even remarkable That means that Moore used an extremely stylized technique so well that it didn't interfere with the story at allBut therein lies the difficulty if a reader isn't looking for it they will probably have no idea what makes this books so original and so remarkable This especially true if they don't know the tropes Moore is subverting or the allusive history he calls upon to contextualize his ideasWhile many readers enjoy the book purely on its artistic merit the strength of the writing and the well paced plot others disregard the work when they are unable to recognize what makes it revolutionary One might as well try to read Paradise Lost with no knowledge of the Bible or watch Looney Toons without a familiarity with 1940's pop cultureIt is not a perfect work but there is no such thing Moore's lead heroine is unremarkable which Moore himself has lamented He did not feel entirely comfortable writing women at that point in his career and the character was forced on him by the higher ups Luckily she's not bad enough to ruin the work and only stands out because she lacks the depth of his other charactersHis politics sometimes run to the anarchic but often this is just a satire of violence and hubris Moore gives no easy answers in his grand reimagining His interlocking stories present many thoughts and many points of view In the end it is up to the reader to decide for himself who was right or wrong as if anyone truly could beMoore never insults the intelligence of his readers and so creates a work with depth than anyone is likely to plumb even after numerous readings Likewise he does not want you to 'hold on for the ride' but expects that you will engage and question and try to come to terms with his work yourself No one is necessarily the hero or villain and many people find themselves cowed and unsure of such an ambiguous world just as we do with the real worldWatchmen is not instructional nor is it simply a romp This book like all great books is a journey that you and the author share The work is meant to connect us to the real world and not to let us escape from it This is Moore's greatest subversion of the superhero genre and does even than Milton to justify the ways of God to man for many men delude themselves to godhood yet even these gods cannot escape their fundamental humanity My Suggested Readings in Comics