Until May, 1960. That date saw the first publication of an extraordinary new title from National Comics, now DC. The book was called “Tales of the Black Freighter”, and while its sales never quite topped those of the E.C. giants such as PIRACY and BUCCANEERS, in terms of critical acclaim and influence upon later books of the same type, TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER made an impression upon the comic book landscape that remains to this day. Indeed, with DC comic currently reprinting the first classic thirty issues of the title and apparently meeting with considerable success, it would seem that its impact remains undiluted despite the quarter century that has elapsed since the original publication.
—Excerpt from Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN, 1986

LONG BEACH— Watchmen. At the time of its release this was considered a classic. It is the only graphic novel to make the TIME All-Time Top 100 novel’s list. It’s also the only book I’ve ever read which seemed to foreshadow its own life cycle within a subplot.

My wife picked up the novel and we began to read. It was good to get back into the comic book style reading after being away for so many years. I had never read Watchmen and was pleasantly surprised by just how good this novel was.

The story has many layers and goes into great depth on almost every character who enters a graphic frame. As I was reading I became more and more interested in the outcome and the suspense of who was behind the seemingly unrelated plot lines layered throughout the story.

I enjoyed the way this novel pulled the mask off of each hero and showed them for what they were. All were mere men with no special powers, save one. All had their moral conflicts and short comings.  None of them lived a perfect life. And quite a few lived a life of what would seem horror.

The way the story was woven into history in the midst of the Cold War was fascinating. With each character a subtle hint was given of involvement in a critical time in the history of America. The events of the past were re-written, twisted around and turned on their head which only seemed to amplify the fear of an impending war; a feeling I remember from the Cold War days.

The one short coming of the novel came with the ending, at least in my perspective. It did wonders to tie up lose ends throughout the story, but the event itself seemed a little nuts. It served its purpose well to put the villain in a fallen, psychotic idealism of his own making. But at the same time, the method of the ending presented in the motion picture seemed a little more plausible and useful.

The movie itself was entertaining. I was disappointed with some of the acting, but this is, after all, a comic turned movie. Not often do actors put forth the effort to be Oscar worthy in such a genre, The Dark Knight being the rare exception.

The changes and alterations in the film from the book were a little disappointing in some respects, but I understand the necessity. The film is already three hours long. To include the actual events as detailed as the novel would have made this film about a week long. However, I couldn’t help but notice the cheap potshots that Hollywood weaved into the film.

Ozymandias was not out to seek the end of fossil fuel. The novel seemed to imply Dr. Manhattan had already solved this dilemma by synthesizing copious amounts of lithium for improved battery technology. A point which, when made at his retirement party, broke the heart of the original Nite Owl. Secondly, in the novel, the upcoming candidate for Presidency was not Ronald Reagan. The novel had the headlines as “R.R. For President?” The initials were for Robert Redford.

Veidt, the worlds smartest man, was quite mad in the novel, and quite good at the markets. In the novel he had given away his vast fortune, traveled the world and the footsteps of Alexander the Great, and then amassed a new fortune of his own making. He did have the goal of sustained peace on Earth through a cataclysmic event. But he intended to reap his rewards and profits through the build up:

Veidt: First Impressions: Oiled muscleman with machine gun… cut to pastel bears, valentine hearts. Juxtaposition of wish fulfillment violence and infantile imagery, desire to regress be free of responsibility… This all says “war” we should buy accordingly.
Assistant: But.. sir, we have never bought into munitions…
Veidt: Of course not. Your ignoring the subtext: Increased sexual imagery, even in the candy ads. It implies erotic undercurrent not uncommon in times of war. Remember the Baby Boom…
Assistant: So, should we buy into… uh?
Veidt: Into the major erotic video companies. That’s the short term. Also we should negotiate controlling shares in selected baby foods and maternity goods manufacturers.
—WATCHMEN, Issue 10, Page 6

The movie was filled with violence. Graphic violence. Though it was tamed down from the descriptions of the novel. The nudity throughout the film was also less than found in the novel, but more frontal than the novel. It was interesting to see the Blue-Man Group make its motion picture debut, but I would have appreciated it more if they’d worn a loin cloth or something.

Seriously though, I thought they made some of the characters a little wimpy compared to the book. Dr. Manhattan sounded like Michael Jackson whereas the novel was written in a way that impressed upon me he had a strong, monotone, cold, male voice. And Rorchach’s final lines did not come across so heart broken and weepy in the novel. He seemed to go out on top of his game in full non-compromising fashion. Perhaps I am mistaken, but it would not surprise me to learn that my impressions of the novel were correct and that these changes were the result of Hollywood meddling with a great story line.

I recommend reading the novel. While I enjoyed the movie and found Ozymandias’ cinematic global event more logical, I found the book as a whole more entertaining and interesting.


2 thoughts on “Watchmen

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