Moore & Gibbons, Watchmen

I'm still learning about graphic novels, but gosh I did enjoy Watchmen! It reminded me how much I loved raiding my elementary school friend Matt's shelves, which were just stuffed with comics. Matt's family wasn't well off, but he had his priorities straight: comics, with just about every nickel of allowance, and specifically requested for every birthday and Christmas. It's been a long time since I read about superheroes, though ever since I delighted in the Mystery Men movie I've been meaning to get back to them.

(Uh oh, I'm going to lose my green and sensitive rep....)

Watchmen is the only graphic novel on Time's "Best 100 Novels" list, so obviously it's on the "10 Best Graphic Novels" list. Not that Time is somewhere I look for advice, not on books, at least -- actually, not on anything at all -- but these are pretty good lists. Too American, but that's to be expected, but it does say something about this book's canonical status.

The book alternates chapters between comics and sections of text, like newspaper articles, psych reports, that sort of thing. On one hand the text lends legitimacy to the graphics, but it's not that simple. This is a layered, textured story, and the graphics have great atmosphere. It'd be well worth the read just in comic form, but the current form draws on every element of the reading experience.

Oddly, though, I can't really figure out how to talk about it. Plot summary always seems so obvious, but there's no prose style as such, and I don't have the language for graphics. Guess I get to read Scott McCloud's fascinating Understanding Comics after all, which I browsed through AGAIN at the bookstore today....

Even though I keep hearing that Watchmen is one of the best, I'm totally jumping into more of these!


fiona-h said…
How's the art? I'll have to check this out.
Anonymous said…
'Watchmen' certainly is one of the best, but there's loads of other good stuff out there too. Most stuff that Moore has done is great, I'd recommend 'From Hell' in particular don't be put off by the film. Ditto the first volume of his 'League of Extraordinary Gentlement'.

I rate Gibbons' artwork in Watchmen, it's kind of what you would expect from a big budget comic, it's not particularly experimental, but conveys the information well. For info this is getting made into a film in the near future.

Frank Miller is an interesting writer too, his 'The Dark Knight Returns' is up there as one of the canonical works of the superhero graphic novel genre. (A genre which has a fair amount of chaff that needs to be set to one side).

For non-superhero stuff, then obviously 'Maus' by Spiegleman is the book that needs to be read. Chris Ware's 'Jimmy Corrigan The Smartest Kid on Earth' is beautifully drawn (get the hardback if you can as the cover itself is of interest), and the protagonist is well fleshed out. Charles Burns is an interesting writer, with stunning black and white work, 'Black Hole' is a good place to start.
richard said…
Fiona, the art's good. I especially liked the little ways in which these superheroes' bodies are letting them down as they age. Generally I agree with Keith, though, that it's about what you'd expect. Blankets, though certainly not about cartoon superheroes, has much more interesting art.

Jimmy Corrigan is a "staff pick" right now at the university bookstore, I noticed the other day, so I just might have to get that one for myself. First, though, will have to be McCloud's Understanding Comics.
Anonymous said…
I keep meaning to read the McCloud book too, I'd be interested to hear what you make of it.

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