Book Review: Cultural Studies

Gifting books without boundaries

Cultural Studies

Comics

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

    Humor

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

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Watchmen, Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons

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