watchmen cover trade paperback alan moore david gibbons
10 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Art: 10/10

The pinnacle of superhero comics

Dated for newer readers

Comic Info

Comic Name:  Watchmen

Publisher:  DC Comics

Writer:  Alan Moore

Artist:  David Gibbons

# of Issues:  12

Release Date:  1988


Watchmen #4

Reprints Watchmen #1-12 (September 1986-October 1987).  The world is on the verge of war and as tensions rise between the nations and nuclear war could be inevitable.  A seemingly minor attack occurs on a man named Edward Blake, and Blake is killed when he is thrown from his high-rise window.  Blake was the Comedian and now, the other members of his disbanded team are investigating the death.  As more and more of the Comedian’s former team members seem to fall target to someone hunting them, it must be asked…who watches the Watchmen?

Written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, Watchmen became a phenomenon when it was released in 1986.  The series was touted as a means to show how far comic books have come over the decades.  The series broke precedents when listed as one of Time’s All-Time 100 Greatest Novels list in 2005 and has even made its way into the curriculum of many college universities as a study of the art and social events of the time.  The film was the basis for the 2009 picture by Zack Snyder which also had supplemental Under the Hood videos along with Tales of the Black Freighter.


Watchmen #6

Watchmen was a monumental event and reading it was one of those changing moments for a comic book reader.  I didn’t read Watchmen in its heyday (I would have been too young for the context anyway), but did read it a few years later.  It was one of those comics that is attainable but still is deep and layered.

The comic had a strange history as it made it to the page.  Moore initially planned to use the defunct Charlton characters for the story, but was allegedly vetoed by DC who had plans for them.  Rorschach is the Question, The Comedian is Peacemaker, Doctor Manhattan is Captain Atom, Silk Spectre is Nightshade, Nite Owl is Blue Beetle, and Ozymandias is Thunderbolt.  While Moore did tweak the characters for the story, their basic abilities do follow their Charlton equivalents.

The story of Watchmen is rather interesting and holds up well.  Younger readers might miss out on the Cold War sentiment going on between the U.S. and Soviet Union which builds the basic building blocks of the story.  Some were critical of changes made to the movie to smooth out some of this dated material but I was one that was almost glad to see the giant squid monster gone (since I felt it was one of the few weak things of this graphic novel).


Watchmen #12

The graphic novel also did something unusual at the time (and often emulated since…including by Alan Moore) in that it contained many “stories within the story”.  You get Tales of the Black Freighter which is a comic being read during the course of the story and Under the Hood which is the story of Hollis Mason and the origin of the superheroes.  Both stories are used as parallels for the events occurring within the story and help enrich the story with plot and by changing up the comic’s format.

The lasting effect of Watchmen was immeasurable.  Watchman brought a lot of attention to comics.  Moore and DC ended up having a fallout over the publication rights to the series (and V for Vendetta) and it lead to Moore severing ties to the company.  This of course led to Moore setting up different companies for different projects and a rash of different projects with varied success.

Watchmen is the comic you recommend to people who say comic books aren’t literature.  It still manages to do this while being a superhero comic book.  Serious comics like Maus, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, and American Splendor dip into real life events…they easily can be “smart comics”.  Along with the film version of Watchmen, a tie-in video game called Watchmen:  The End is Nigh covered some events leading up to the film/story.  DC Comics released prequel series to Watchmen in 2012 under the title Before Watchmen.

Related Links:

Watchmen (2009)

Watchmen:  The End Is Nigh

Before Watchmen:  Minutemen/Silk Spectre

Before Watchmen:  Comedian/Rorschach

Before Watchmen:  Ozymandias/Crimson Corsair

Before Watchmen:  Nite Owl/Dr. Manhattan

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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