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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #365

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(logo by Wolden)

Well, here we are. The grand finale of this little column. Well, sorta. The archives aren’t all filled in yet. But don’t worry! They will be shortly! Anyway, it’s been real, folks, and I thank you for being here. So what did I choose for the final Reason?

Some people say this is the final word on comics. Might as well make it the final Reason.

12/31/07

365. Watchmen

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Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen is the finest graphic novel in the history of the medium. It’s highly touted, but rightfully so; it really is that good.

Author John Gardner spoke of the “vivid and continuous dream” authors needed to produce in order for their work to hold true power. It is very much my belief that Moore achieves this, sucking the reader into the world he creates. It’s incredibly well thought out, every character is fully realized, and it unfolds wonderfully, as all the disparate elements are brought together, as in a true novel. No doubt about it; Watchmen is visual literature.

Explaining the plot of Watchmen doesn’t make it sound as grand as it truly is. “An old superhero turns up dead and it leads to a conspiracy of sorts, etc.” Yes, that happens, but Watchmen is on an entirely different level from that. It’s the story of superheroes past their prime, how they live their lives, and how they’ve impacted society. It’s also about the human experience, morality, coincidence, the confluence of events, pirates, timekeeping, naked blue guys, and more, of course. With Moore, there’s always more. Heh.

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The characters are superbly fleshed out, and I mean that for everyone from Rorschach to Bernie the newsstand guy. As Watchmen was an attempt to bring superheroes into the real world and deconstruct the concept, back when that idea was new, the characters become truly real. The relationship between Dan Dreiberg (“Nite-Owl II”) and Laurie Juspeczyk (“Silk Spectre”) plays out beautifully. Rorschach is revealed as a deeply disturbed individual, but he’s really the hero of the piece. The nigh-omnipotent Dr. Manhattan, the only character in the book with superpowers, as I’ve discussed before, has to learn how to appreciate humanity again. Adrian Veidt (“Ozymandias”), dedicated to his purpose, sees his plans out to the end. Even the Comedian, who’s dead as the story opens, has a character arc. Everybody gets one, from Rorschach’s psychiatrist to Laurie’s mom, the original Silk Spectre, to poor old Moloch. It’s a terrific work of characterization. I’m quite glad that Moore or editorial or someone changed it from being the Charlton characters; I don’t think he would’ve gotten away with this kind of thing, in the end.

Dave Gibbons’ art is splendid. Yes, I think that’s the best choice of adjective. It’s excellently structured and layered. Moore keeps him to a nine-panel grid most of the time, and the pages are dense, and rife with information both verbal and visual, but they’re never crowded, thanks to Gibbons’ skill. His style is beautifully fluid and perfect for capturing the human spirit so embedded into the narrative. And man, that symmetrical chapter…! Amazing.

I know I’ve shared this scene with you before, but I’ve got to do it again. It’s the most beautiful moment in all of comics:

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Ahh, that gets me every time.

I’m sure I could go on and on about the book, but I’ll spare you. If you haven’t read it, for God’s sake, do so! If you have read it, pick it up and read it again. It’s the type of work that encourages and rewards multiple readings, and I pick up new threads every time. Watchmen is surely the most brilliant achievement in comics, and I’m very thankful for it. I would go so far as to say it’s… prepare yourselves… awesome.

Also, they’re, like, making a movie or something. I wonder how that’s going to go; I maintain the book’s unfilmable. I suppose we’ll see. You can read more about the upcoming film and the graphic novel itself at this website. There are also two sets of annotations, a reconstruction of the Black Freighter comic-within-a-comic, and the ever-present Wiki.

Thanks for joining me on this wacky yearlong look at what makes comics worth loving. I’ve enjoyed your company. One year could not contain all the greatness within the medium! If you’re jonesing for more Reasons, remember, there are still some retroactive ones to come, and those will appear in the archive. I’ll also put up a post or two listing them all out for you in due time. Plus, you can expect an epilogue post at some point.

Until then, my friends, I bid you adieu. Happy New Year.

28 Comments

A theme song and a logo?

Once the writer’s strike ends, you’re primed for a sitcom, my friend!

Also: good call on Watchmen. No argument here. Or probably anywhere.

Good choice, though I was kind of hoping for “Secret Identities”.

great final choice. no better way to end 365 reasns to love comics. You will be missed.

I thought it would be Batman.

YAY! Thanks for your posts, Bill. Congratulations on getting to the end even though it may not have been exactly the one you intended in the beginning.

J. Marcus Xavier

December 31, 2007 at 7:28 pm

Nice choice. Though I must admit I’m not a big comics fan myself, I’ve heard about this one and it sounds like quite a unique read.

Watchmen.

To one and all, a fond good night…

A-men.

Nice work, Bill. Thanks for all your work on these Reasons throughout the year!

I was STUNNED when I first read Watchmen back in the day. And “stunned” is the best word I can think to describe it. I re-read it, the Moore Superman and Swamp-Thing about every 6 months and I still enjoy all of them.

Well done, Bill.

Congrats!

Thanks for the column Bill! It’s introduced me to a lot of great stuff I’d not heard of before and made me re-evaluate a lot of stuff I’d overlooked.

BTW, I’m in complete agreement with you about Watchmen being unfilmable. I don’t understand the need to constantly move stories between art forms as it so often goes wrong.

Thanks for the column, Bill, and for pointing out even more reasons to love comics than I had.

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 1, 2008 at 9:31 am

I’m not too sure that the book is completely unfilmable.
Providing one makes allowances for the transition from book (art) form to film and certain creative differences, it’s possible.

There is no way that one can faithfully adapt a 400 page graphic novel to a 2 (plus) hour film, so one must be creative in this.

If this was limited tv series (say 12 episodes for 12 chapters) with toned down scenes (like nudity and foul languages) it would be even more feasable. However, passing the censor board might be even questionable considering the materials that Moore have been writing about.

At any rate, this is the 21st century, one must have an open mind. ;-)

Ahhh Watchmen. Yes, a perfect ending to 365 Reasons. (Also: Very sweet logo! Which you could use if you extrapolate this into a self-published book. You know, with all the extra time you have on your hands in 2008 now that phase one of this project is finished.) (Um, of course, I’m pretending it wouldn’t be a huge hassle to get the rights to all the artwork.)

Every time I’ve read Watchmen (once every few years or so since it came out), I’ve found something new within the pages. In fact, happily (and on something of a whim, feeling flush with Christmas cash the other day), I just placed an order two days ago for Absolute Watchmen. I look forward to poring over that one.

Congrats on a year’s worth of excellent work, Bill! (The holes notwithstanding. That gives us something to look forward to over the next couple weeks as they’re filled in.)

I want to share in the thank yous for a very pleasant column. And Watchmen is a great send-off.

I re-read it recently and also found new things I hadn’t noticed before, ranging from subtle backstory (never realized Capt. Metrop and Hooded Justice were lovers) to “duh” moments (“Hey, the memoir’s also called ‘Under the Hood’ ’cause the guy writing it’s a mechanic”. The masks metaphor was never a problem, I’d just missed the painfully obvious car part all these years. Love when something silly like that hits you out of the blue).

A shame more comics couldn’t be as dense and smart as this classic.

Happy New Year.

A great finish to a great column. It’s good to have a regular reminder of why the medium is so fun.

Great work, Bill. Thanks so much!

Bill, this column will surely go down as one of the great achievements in the history of blogging. Thanks, ano glad I could be along for [most of] the ride.

Cheers Bill, happy new year!

Happy new year! I’ve really enjoyed this column, it’s been entertaining and enlightened me to how many good comics are out there that I still have yet to read!

And 20+ years later, it’s still the very best the medium has to offer. I find that very sad.

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 2, 2008 at 9:34 am

I find it even sadder that BIG NUMBERS still remains uncompleted 17 years after its last appearance. :-(

It’s probably a small thing to most people, but: Thank you for linking to my version of the annotations (the second one, for those who don’t feel like clicking through to check) rather than the version by the guy who took my annotations, added a couple of minor changes, and took my name off and put his on. Given the amount of time I spent on them back in the day, (to the extent that it’s been a long time since I’ve read the series just for entertainment), it annoys me no end to see someone else poaching my work.

With the movie coming up, this would probably be a good time to do a revised version, since I haven’t touched them in over a decade; it would be helpful to be able to take advantage of hyperlinks, and some things would be a lot easier to research with Google available. (The information on the “last helicopter out of Saigon” image and G. Gordon Liddy have always bothered me for being unnecessarily sketchy.)

this better be back entitled ‘365 MORE reasons…’ or, ‘The New 365 reasons…’ or, ‘The Young 365 reasons…’

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 2, 2008 at 1:58 pm

this better be back entitled ‘365 MORE reasons…’ or, ‘The New 365 reasons…’ or, ‘The Young 365 reasons…’

I can just see Mr. Reed thumping his head on his desk (or wall). ;-)

Wow, I actually remember Big Numbers… vaguely.

Good one!!

(BTW, in case anyone thinks my earlier comment was a slam on Watchmen – far from it. Clearly, it is the supreme masterpiece of the medium and I’ve read it a dozen times. I was pointing out that the storytelling art of the comic book hit it’s peak 20 years ago and that it’s very telling that a 20 year old story has not been dethroned.)

How often does a true classic work of fiction come along? Depending on how high you set your standards 20 years isn’t too bad.

Also some people (not me) would probably rate more recent works such as Maus, From Hell, Jimmy Corrigan, Alice in Sunderland etc more highly than Watchmen.

Overall I think the standard of comics is much higher now than it was then so don’t get too sad. I think the lower standard of comics around them made Watchmen and TDKR stand out much more than they would today and that’s a good thing about today’s comics.

I’ve always thought HBO should (‘ve) do (done) the Watchmen mini-series.

And I hope (hoping beyond hope, really) the movie is good, and I am (deep breath) OK knowing that it will most likely be a very different animal to be judged on its own merit and not on the original work, which is absolutely brilliant, and that judging the movie against the comic would be totally unfair and benefit neither myself or anyone with whom I would discuss the movie and my opinion of it, which will be based solely on the movie itself and not the comic.

Thanks for this column. It was great fun.

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