Book Review: Cultural Studies

Gifting books without boundaries

Cultural Studies


Watching the Watchmen

by Dave Gibbons, Chip Kidd, and Mike Essl

Titan Books, 256 pp., $39.95

Being Rorschach is a drag. One day you're a faceless, ex-superhero vigilante trapped in a preapocalyptic, post-superhero, alternate-reality America, and the next? Well, the next day you're getting real-world master's theses written about your subtextual, neo-noir deconstruction of the traditional, long-underwear-and-cowl-wearing superdupermen. Even the Dark Knight himself generates less fanatical devotion than Watchmen (not counting last week's intriguing "Batman's gonna die" rumors). Seriously ... why so serious? Partly because Watchmen remains one of the medium's deepest reads, and we don't mean deep like the crimson shadow coagulating around the Comedian's corpse. Those flimsy, pulp-printed 12 issues made up the first (or second) thematically adult and morally complex graphic novel – ever! – when they were bound up trade-paperback style at the end of their run. We're not busting your chops, peewee, 'cause we've got a Manhattan Project of our own going on when it comes to Silk Spectre, but let's not forget how this manic-depressive, smiley-faced dystopia got Mylared into your permanent collection in the first place. Better yet, let's let Watchmen artist Gibbons remind us: "I have to say that for all that Watchmen has been seen to be a dark and gritty deconstruction of super heroes, it was actually an act of love by Alan [Moore] and me. We may have taken the genre places it hadn't been before, but our intention was always honorable." Nowhere can that love be seen to better effect than in this, the sumptuous and splendid telling of how the greatest graphic novel in the world came to be. Not only did Gibbons and author Moore's alienated antiheroics prove to be something of a genre Rosetta stone, predating everything from Heroes to Hellboy, but they also read like they were written and inked last Monday. In a world gone mad, Watchmen holds its own. Gibbons, who admits to having long ago sold off nearly all of his original series artwork, spins an insanely informative and exhaustively detailed tale here, replete with all manner of nascent character pencil sketches, photos of Moore's handwritten script addenda, visual eye-line schematics, and very nearly everything else. All told, it's just about as spectacular as the comic book itself. Ego ipse custodes custudio? Vos operor. –

Additional Reading: Marvel Chronicle by Tom DeFalco, Peter Sanderson, and Tom Brevoort (DK Adult, 352 pp., $50)

  • Cultural Studies

    Gifting books without boundaries
  • Sex Ed

    A great holiday gift for the sexually curious

    Japanese-American Exchange Program

    More Bat Scratch Fever from Chip Kidd

    U.S. Geography

    Whatever makes our states most mythic is going fast. Ain't that America?
  • Portraits of an Artist

    The fictional shenanigans of an incompetent journalist trying to paint a portrait of an artist

    Bigger-Than-Life Lives

    A warts-and-all biography of a misogynist, a depressive, a Nobel Prize winner


    Rees' strips are provocative and wise, and delivered with a punch to the gut

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Watchmen
Was It Good for You?
The year in books

Wayne Alan Brenner, Jan. 1, 2010

A Decade Under the Influence
A Decade Under Unease
The 'Chronicle' movie critics take a look back at what the Aughts wrought

Marc Savlov, Dec. 25, 2009

More Book Reviews
<i>Presidio</i> by Randy Kennedy
Presidio by Randy Kennedy
For his debut novel, Kennedy creates a road story that portrays the harsh West Texas terrain beautifully and fills it with sympathetic characters.

Jay Trachtenberg, Sept. 14, 2018

Hunting the Golden State Killer in <i>I'll Be Gone in the Dark</i>
Hunting the Golden State Killer in I'll Be Gone in the Dark
How Michelle McNamara tracked a killer before her untimely death

Jonelle Seitz, July 20, 2018

More by Marc Savlov
John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
Welcome back, Mister Wick: Everyone's favorite merciless killer gets more human and more intriguing

May 17, 2019

Carmine Street Guitars
Spend time with the quiet artisans who make the instruments that rock & roll is built upon

May 10, 2019


Watchmen, Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle