This weekend, I read Moore’s The Watchmen, and I imagine I might have a few posts on it. I find myself saying a few posts, considering the effect the comic had on the genre and on turning comics into something besides ‘those funny books.’ In addition, to being on all those ‘must reads’ and ‘bests of all time’ lists.
I say it because I’m not quite that enamoured with The Watchmen and think that parts of the text are very problematic. My thoughts need to come forth because when I go hand back the book to my friend Steve, he’s going to demand to know my thoughts and, while he’ll never accept my arguments, they at least need to be sound in my head.
A lot of essays and arguments against some of the more common criticism of The Watchmen is rooted in contextualization or what would happen if I could magically transport myself back to 1986-87 and read it there. (Or perhaps my mother decided to read it to a 3-year-old me instead of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie…. Oh, think of my dystopian nightmares.)
I’m perfectly alright looking at context. I think it fits nicely in the millennial and Cold War panics of the final years of the Regan administration. It goes great with Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and my Dead Kennedy CDs. I’m certainly not going to fault Moore that Cold War’s over and we have a new terrorist-based panic.
All that said, if this is supposed to be “the greatest comic ever” or even in 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, I’m not sure The Watchmen would make it in. Not because it’s not a good read or fitting for its time, but because I’m not sure if it has the staying power to be the ONLY comic someone ever reads and the ONLY one to make these lists.
If we’re going to go for a Moore comic, I think V for Vendetta is a better comic, with longer staying power, and a stronger narrative/story,
(I do wonder if Persepolis won’t be added as a second comic, given the buzz and the film. (I have not read the text myself, so I can not make a good judgment call on this.))
Contextualization doesn’t save Moore from my wondering if The Watchmen will always be considered classic. If it’s enough of a universal story that readers will enjoy 100+ years from now.
You know, if a giant monster doesn’t eat us all first.
(Which wouldn’t you guess that The Watchmen as universal is what my next post might be about. Unless I write about Midnighter, because I think I love him.)