Thursday, 20 December 2012

Comic Book Reads: Watchmen by Alan Moore / Dave Gibbons / John Higgins


Comic books are not meant for children alone. Ask the creators of Watchmen: Writer Alan Moore, illustrator Dave Gibbons and colourist John Higgins. There is violence, sex, numerous brutal deaths and superheroes that come off worse than humans. The cruelty of war and supplementary text adds more steel to this graphic novel/comic book.

First released as a 12-issue series between 1986 and 1987 by DC Comics; the complete Watchmen was published soon after. Engaging, disturbing and the darkest comic book I have yet read, Watchmen triumphs in telling a complex story with astonishing effectiveness. Legend has it that the writer’s (Moore) proposed plot would have ended the career of established comic heroes. He was thus asked to create new, original superheroes.


The story? In an alternate take on American history, a rising band of superheroes during the 1940′s and 1960′s help US win the Vietnam war. But their unpopularity during the 70′s leads to the 1977 Keene Act, declaring all superheroes illegal.

Set during the cold war period of the mid-eighties, the book starts with the murder of one Edward Blake. Wanted masked vigilante Rorschach makes his own investigations. He discovers that Blake was none other than The Comedian, a former superhero who was still working for the US government. Meanwhile, with US superhero Dr.Manhattan (The only one in the book with super powers) forced to self-exile, war clouds loom large. Soviet Union has entered Afghanistan. This is just the gist of a plot that has various threads, characters and grimness, and yet there is a convincing completeness rarely seen in a comic book story of such ambitious stature.


Of all the various strands, bordering on devilry is the ‘comic book within the comic book’ story of Tales of the Black Freighter. A sole survivor of a decimated ship rushes back to save his town from a pirate ship invasion, only to be felled by his inner demons.

One hell of an achievement in its writing and apt in its old school illustrations, Watchmen is a path-breaking comic book. Devoid of lightness and humour, it walks a lone path of comic book storytelling and surprisingly makes it through in grand style.


(Article by Snehith Kumbla) 








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