My first encounter with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen was through entries in a copy of DC's Who's Who. I knew straight away these weren't your run-of-the-mill DC characters and not just because of the note that read "Watchmen and associated characters exist outside the present DC universe". They looked out of place with their strange costumes and code-names. The original Watchmen was clearly an ode to cheesy '40s characters like the JSA but the newer incarnation was something far stranger and distrubing. A half-nekkid blue man? A guy with blotches for a face? Ozzy who?
That sense of unease about Watchmen became all the more apparent when I read in the group's write-up that one of the original Watchmen tried to rape another. This, my ten year-old brain determined, was heavy stuff. Adult stuff. Though strangely the concept of superheroes acting so un-heroic didn't phase me as much as the fact they were dressed so badly. I just figured that adult comics would have cooler characters. I filed Watchmen away in the back of my brain for something to investigate further when I understood these matters better.
On Christmas Day 2000 I finally read Watchmen for the first time. I tried to stretch out the book over several days but I found I couldn't put it down for more than an hour at a time. I became anxious and snappy whenever anybody interrupted me from my reading for matters as inconsequential as eating. That's because ten years late I have learned what everyone else in the world already knew: Watchmen is fucking good.
After I was finished reading, I wondered what I would've thought of the comic if I had read it in its original format, as 12 individual issues. The wait each month would've been unbearable but in the mean time I probably would've figured out the plot; something I didn't have time for as I raced through my paperback edition.
The next little bit might contain some spoilers so if you haven't read the book yet I order you to go find a copy this very minute! Beg, borrow and steal! All right? Ok....
My main problem with Watchmen is one that has probably been addressed before since the book has been around for so long, although since comics are mostly read by men maybe no one's thought of it. Anyway, my gripe is the concept that a woman could forgive a man who tried to rape her so much so as to sleep with him. I find that hard to swallow, even if that woman is Sally Jupiter, who obviously has a whacked-up moral code and self-image "issues". In fact, the plot twist didn't bother me too much until at the end of the book where Sally kisses the photograph of Blake. A photograph taken only moments before her attack. It just seemed...wrong and tasteless. I'm not familiar enough with Moore's work to pass judgement on his motives so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he wasn't trying to insinuate that rape is the woman's fault. It just seemed from my perspective that a sensitive subject was handled rather clumsily.
So in conclusion...it looks like I'm going to be spending a lot of my spare change on comics. Again.