Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Reading Watchmen again

I bought the original run of Watchmen as it was coming out. I don't think I missed any issues of it. My best friend and I were both getting it, and both loved it. A year or so ago I picked up a copy of the trade for a very reasonable price at a used book store, but I had never gone back and re-read the whole thing.

I just finished reading the Watchmen again. This time, I read every word. This time I understood things I didn't understand before. This time it was about fifty times better than the first time. The world doesn't need me to tell it that Watchmen is a brilliantly written, genre defining masterpiece... But it IS, and I am. Consider yourself told, World.

What was difficult about it that my 18 year old self had trouble with? Why is it better now than it was then? I guess there are a couple reasons for both of those, and one is certainly maturity and a broader worldview that comes with it, but another would have to be a greater ability to focus, or perhaps more patience. I don't know for certain, but I do know that it still wasn't an easy read, even as an older guy. I say this a lot about comics that throw in giant blocks of text along with the pictures and little word balloons. Any comic that does this has to earn my respect by proving it is better off with the text added. Watchmen certainly is. There is nothing in the volume that doesn't add value or give a better understanding of the personalities and backstory and overall setting that makes the whole thing work. I am pretty sure that on my first read through over twenty years ago I skipped a good bit of the prose.

Another piece that made it hard for me was the comic within the comic. I am pretty sure I skipped a lot of the pages centered around the newsstand and the boy reading the pirate comic because I got overwhelmed by trying to follow two things at one. I have a bit of ADD in me, especially when I was younger, and focusing like that seemed hard for whatever reason. I found the best way to read it this time was to separate the two parts and read all of the Black Freighter on the page and then go back and re-read the page for the dialog, etc.  I missed an awful lot by having skipped those things. Even this time I had to think about it to fully appreciate why we should care about all of those disparate parts.

I have a more profound respect for this comic now. It's art and writing both are just perfect in my opinion. I have been thinking about the idea of a movie, and have been flip flopping a good bit. Yes I want to see action figures and such. Yes I want to see very cool live action photos of characters. No, I am not sure how it will be made into a film that won't suck. I watched the trailer again, and I think that it could probably be done. It may be possible to make it decent. I have thought about how parts of it might translate to the pacing of a film, and worried over the guts of it being messed with too much and it's spirit and message being lost. I think that ultimately it may be best to never have it be a movie, but I doubt that's an option, lawsuit or no.

That's all I've got for right now, but feel free to give your opinions. I have a few other thoughts that will go into another post, but that's another post.


Sandy Bilus said...

I read Watchmen back-to-back with Dark Knight Returns when I was fourteen. Mind = blown. Haven't gone back to it since, although it still sits proudly on my shelf and I plan on re-reading it before the movie comes out.

Sandy Bilus said...

I should also say that I'm excited for the movie. I have high hopes for it, and the trailer was pretty great. I'm pretty good at separating things in my mind, so if it's no good I don't think it will affect my memories of the book.