Monday, October 13, 2008

Who watches the Watchmen? Guest writer Kate

While Watchmen has always meant something big for us comic readers, its quickly on its way to rising up and becoming a true cultural phenomenon beyond graphic novels. Word of mouth is quickly spreading and the book is being found in retailers one generally wouldn't expect (even at Urban Outfitters!). My point is that interest in the story is expanding beyond the typical comic book audience and my friend and fellow blogger Kate has recently undertaken the task of reading Alan Moore's greatest work. She's been kind enough to write up her thoughts for us below;

In the interest of full disclosure, until I picked up Watchmen I had never read a graphic novel. My experience with the genre was contained to movies and the seemingly incoherent ramblings of my geeky friends. But I nearly gave Eric a heart attack when I asked him if I could borrow what is considered the greatest graphic novel of all time. And then he added to the pressure by asking me to blog about the experience of my first graphic novel.

I quickly found out that it was longer and much more complicated that I had ever anticipated - a novel as layered and engaging as anything I ever got handed in AP English. What struck me especially, were the questions of morality from a genre that I have long understood lived in a black and white world.

So when I finally did turn the last page of this work I was left pondering one of life’s BIG questions. Does the end justify the means? Especially in this modern era when the end is murky at best. Now this is a question that has been and will be continued to be debated by philosophers, novices and apparently by people who dress up and fight crime.

In an almost post President George W. Bush world, these questions take on a new and interesting layer. And certainly violence in New York is seen in a different light post 9/11. But didn’t Bush, Cheney & Co. use a horrific tragedy to unite a country (and most of the world) behind one common cause? Didn’t they use it to divert our attention to the problems that they wanted to solve? I’m not suggesting that 9/11 was a huge conspiracy perpetrated by the President but certainly it was used in an exploitive fashion.

And we know now what happens when the plot to deceive is exposed, alliances fall apart, the peace and unity created is fleeting and the President has the one lowest approval ratings in history. And the tentative end of Watchmen suggests that their created peace, may also, in fact, be fleeting at best. It’s left of a copy boy in a newspaper office.

And what about those who go along with the plot? Are they simply doing what’s best for humanity? Or are the accomplices in the most disgusting propaganda campaign that includes murder? Considering that The Night Owl and Silk Specter seem to get their happily ever after, the former seems to the case. And poor Rorschach – betrayed in probably the worst way possible. There is no way that he could even see this as a grey area. He could not live in a world post this horrific event.

I was struck by a graphic novel that was written in the mid 80s could smack so smartly with current events.

The plot kept me guessing the whole way through, which as an avid consumer of pop culture is hard to do. I can usually spot the ending about 5 miles away and have to sit patiently as everyone else catches up. But in the end I was surprised.

I’m left thinking about many things. What would I have done? Would I have stood by and let thousands die in order to bring peace to the world, however fragile?

But the real question is, will I read another graphic novel? Well, when you start at the top, there is only one place to go. But I’m open for suggestions….

Kate currently co-runs the blog where you can find her musings on a variety of topics and is also an avid trivia player. Please feel free to leave suggestions for future books other than the typical fare or respond regarding your thoughts on Watchmen. Thanks Kate!

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