Monday, March 2, 2009

Brodies Notes to Watchmen...

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Who watches the watchmen?

This enigmatic graffiti tag line that appears scrawled on brick walls throughout the story sums up Watchmen.

One of the most iconic comic runs (then collected into a graphic novel) of our time, Watchmen is set in a 1980's dystopian USA during a period of heightened cold war tension. The US and Russia stand on the brink of nuclear war. Nixon is still president after the US constitution was amended to allow him to remain in power (currently into his 4th term). The US won the Vietnam War.

A mixture of fear and fatalism engulfs society as the world steadily marches towards Armageddon.

While the backdrop to the story is epic, the focus is a group of costumed (not super) heroes known as the Crimebusters - ordinary men and women who took it upon themselves to fight crime and bring hope to society. Now outlawed by the government, these heroes have gone into retirement to live out their days as ordinary citizens.

But history it seems, isn't done with them.

One of the Crimebusters is brutally murdered.

Investigation reveals other retired heroes have died in mysterious circumstances. The question becomes: is there a conspiracy to kill costumed heroes or are their past actions catching up with them?

A wonderfully deep story, Watchmen blends an intriguing detective story with social commentary. Several literary forms interweave to bring this amazing work to life - art, character narrative, newspaper articles, book excerpts, interviews and yes, even a comic within a comic.

And the ending…

Note to the uninitiated:

Comics are not every ones cup of tea, which is certainly fair enough. I can't say I'm a huge fan of the classics…that Mr Darcy thinks he's so good [shaking fist]…

Comics though, unlike classics, are a medium that polarise the literary world. Most often viewed as "low brow" pleasures with little depth (which, to be fair, does describe some) they are a form of literature that still struggles to be accepted in the mainstream literary world as a way to tell substantive stories.

Watchmen is one of the comics that proves that's not the case.

A source of discussion during this month inevitably will be the comic book (graphic novel) genre do you view it? Why do you see it that way? Would you consider a comic literature? Has Watchmen changed your view about comics or reinforced it?

I look forward to sharing your thoughts this month!

More Watchmen info to come…


Heather said...

I just started reading this yesterday and am halfway through chapter 2. Never having read a graphic novel- the closest I got was the 'Funday Telegraph' when I was little (and still sometimes now if it's a slow news week I admit) I have been totally sucked in to the genre. It's really exciting reading such a different medium. I have so far had some trouble remembering to look at the pictures and not just the words but am picking it up I think.
I remember a heated discussion when I was at uni about the graphic novel genre and one person summed it up in such a convincing way that it ended the conversation - the 'graphic novel' is to 'comic books'as the literature section is to the fiction section in the bookshop. I dig!

detecktive said...

Hope you enjoy it Heather, I understand about the whole getting used to narrative/pictures thing. I usually have to read them a couple of times to get the most out of it...I got so much more out of Watchmen second time round. There are some story panels that I missed first time and when I saw them second time round the penny dropped.