Reading this book the second time around is giving me all this information, context and general awesomness that I did not pick up on previously.
One of the coolest things about this novel is the quality of the writing. Alan Moore is quite possible on par with our great contemporary literary icons, such as Henry Miller, Hemingway, Chabon, Aster and dare I say….Klosterman? Actually, Moore is much more talented in this particular field that Klosterman could ever hope to be but one of the greatest strengths of The Watchmen is how much the reader cares. (which I believe to be a particular strength of Klosterman, after-all, why else would we put up with his pretentious self loathing unless we cared about it?)
A friend of mine put it wonderfully when discussing the novel last night, the characters are not only classically imperfect but they are also put into terribly imperfect situations, contrary to the classic ‘imperfect – perfect’ dynamic that both DC and Marvel tend to employ. They really are fallen hero’s who all suffer the classic downfalls. Lust, greed, sloth, anger/rage, pride, envy and gluttony.
These very human emotional states are then juxtaposed by a basic sense of good. What is good? What is evil? Such basic questions but clearly without answers. Not to make The Watchman sound overtly philosophical but both The Comedian and Rorschach are supposed “superhero’s” whose actions are contrary to what they are supposed to stand for. This becomes even more apparent with Dr. Manhattan, who is completely amoral as he is no longer human. Although he completely understands what love, anger, lust, hate, pleasure, pain, right and wrong are supposed to be, how could he employ them correctly when they are no longer a part of his inherent nature?
The political tone to the novel is a adhering itself to my heart rapidly. Despite being written in 1986 (and being a groundbreaking movement into making comic books an art, or at least a respected form of literature and art…) the context is as relevant today as it could ever be. I will get much much more into this is in subsequent posts but a passage on the placed insert entitled “Dr. Manhattan: Super-Powers and the Superpowers” is good fodder for thought…and potential discussion…if you know….you like this sort of thing….
“It is the oldest ironies that are still the most satisfying: man, when preparing for bloody war, will orate loudly and most eloquently in the name of peace. This dichotomy is not an invention of the twentieth century, yet it is in this century that the most striking examples of the phenomena have appeared. Never before has man pursued global harmony more vocally while amassing stockpiles of weapons so devastating in their effect.”
post script – Marvel lends itself to imperfect characters in always rewarding and character building situations, whereas DC tends to lend itself to perfect superheros (ie. Batman and Superman) and then puts them in imperfect situations.