Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Watchmen is proof that being a literary pioneer is a mixed blessing.

The graphic novel has earned numerous accolades, and deservedly so, for its mature and inventive re-imagining of the superhero concept. Unfortunately, it was so innovative that it changed everything in the field that followed.

The idea that America would regulate and ban masked heroes is now old hat, having been used in everything from X-Men to The Incredibles. Want to see angst ridden superheroes that resemble Sam Spade more than Superman? Superhero love triangles? Discussions on the nature of a 'hero'? Amoral vigilantes with no qualms about killing? Thanks to Watchmen you can see it all, in the form of a hundred inferior clones created in the last twenty years.

What was original is now cliche, and I fear many young people will read Watchmen and be left wondering what all the fuss is about.

Watchmen tells the story of a group of masked heroes who retired in the wake of a government ban on their profession. Only a rogue vigilante remains on the loose, and it is he alone who investigates the murder of one of their own. Soon a conspiracy to eliminate the group is uncovered and they must all once again don their costumes and seek an end to the threat.

It remains a powerful and thoughtful piece of literature, 'comic book' be damned. This is a hefty novel that requires thought, one I couldn't finish in a single night. But while I stand by my praise and unequivocally recommend the novel, I want to point out that Watchmen is not, despite everything, a book that raises the graphic novel to par with standard prose literature. It is in truth a hybrid, deriving a fair portion of its character and plot development from prose chapters scattered throughout its length.

As I said, I unequivocally recommend this; if you haven't read it already, you need to pick up a copy. Today.


Bridgett said...

Hmmm...I hate to say it, but this is the first book you've recommended that doesn't sound very appealing to me.

I'm just not into comics or super hero type movies/books.


I'm sorry.


Estela said...

We saw the movie. I liked it, but it most definitely wasn't the typical superhero type movie. Maybe I should pick up the book and compare.

Casey said...


I'm a superhero fan to begin with, but this goes beyond just being another comic book. This is easily in my top 5 favorite books (and I'm a former English major, not just a major geek (well I'm kind of that too though), so I like to think I have decent taste).

The depth to this story is amazing and not completely told with just reading. It has to be read multiple times to get all the nuances.

I agree with you and recommend all should read it as soon as possible!