My New Book!

My New Book!
My New Book!

Saturday, July 18, 2020

July 18-19, 2020: AmericanStudying Watchmen: Student Perspectives

[Along with Bosch, another acclaimed show I’ve finally had a chance to check out during lockdown is HBO’s Watchmen, and it lived up to the hype. Among its many strengths, I’d emphasize in particular its remarkable depth when it comes to American history, and this week I’ve focused on five sides to those themes and threads. Leading up to this special weekend post sharing student perspectives on the show’s graphic novel source material!]
As I’ve mentioned a couple times this week, my Intro to Sci Fi/Fantasy class this semester finished, as it always does, with Watchmen. By that time we were having our discussions remotely, through a Google Doc, so I’ve got a number of written student perspectives on the graphic novel saved. With their permission, and made anonymous, here are a few of those thoughtful, compelling readings, all of which could be linked to the show as well:
1)  Stepping away from the characters for a moment, let me return to the world at large. Most of the story takes place in New York during the height of the Cold War. The fear of potential nuclear war was so thick, it could be cut with a knife. But people overall seemed hopeful that nothing would happen, that changed with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Such immense horror was sent thundering through the populace at large, that everything began to reach a boiling point that wouldn’t be reached until the end of the book. Moore wrote into existence such a surrealist and horror inducing world with the assistance of Dave Gibbons’ art that you began to feel as if you were right there. It is difficult to describe it, and honestly, the movie and TV show cannot even begin to properly and effectively replicate it. Upon rereading the first few books I noticed so many intricate little details hinting at the future. Such foreshadowing was such a massive question mark when first reading, but so incredibly obvious upon a second viewing.

2)      “Despite dealing with far more death and darker subject matter than other stories there is hardly any blood in Watchmen, with many scenes being left up to interpretation in terms of carnage aside from very specific scenes such as Comedians death and when the Squid attacks. This is very much meant to punctuate the scenes at play and show their weight. The novel is seemingly bloodless before the squid but when it arrives there are death bodies of men, women and children littering the streets of New York. It is also to note than aside from Dr. Manhattan there is not a great deal of high concept science fiction or fantasy at play. But when the squid comes it is something out of a pulp science fiction novel, almost looking like something that does not even belong in the novel to begin with. Ozymandias could have had a nuclear explosion or something of that nature but decided to go with something the people of the world had never seen before so it would be inevitable to think Dr. Manhattan, whose reputation had already been damaged, would do it. Moore’s Watchmen has been the shining example of how to handle these sorts of high stakes, realistic stories but in my opinion none have even gotten close to being on the same level. It is an extremely detailed book which is not even a traditional comic book, but rather a comment or satire on comic books. The only reason it is grouped in with other comic books is mainly down to style and some subject matter. If it is a traditional book it would have also been considered a classic. It is more enjoyable and I find more detail with every read and it is a story I will never get tired of.”

3)      About “the political side of Watchmen. Politics is a difficult topic to discuss, as there are many ideas and arguments, and there is rarely a time where most people can agree. And Moore doesn't seem to care much about appealing to all people across the Political aisle. The Watchmen themselves are completely flawed themselves. They take matters into their own hands, believing that they somehow have the right to conduct law and order. And many times, their actions are disgusting and could most definitely be considered war crimes. And the end of the book shows this self righteous attitude when Adrian Veidt decides to kill millions of people. However, this free group of superheroes are not so free, as it is shown that they are used by the United States government to win wars. The Vietnam war for example, could itself be considered a war crime carried out by the United States, and Moore reflects this in his novel to an even greater extent when the United States, in this universe, wins the war with the help of a super being and an almost villain like character, the comedian. I think that Moores reflection of the Vietnam War in his story encapsulates what America would have as an imperialist power if they had the resources like Dr. Manhattan. Moore makes it a point to have a American news reporter say, ‘We repeat: the superman exists, and he’s American.’”
4)      “Alan Moore’s Watchmen is a landmark achievement in graphic novel and superhero storytelling. For the past several years, superhero stories have dominated literature, television,
and real-life popular culture. It’s easy to see Watchmen’s influence in all of it- from similar conflicts (should the law interfere with godlike entities?) seen in films such as Batman v. Superman and Captain America: Civil War, the overall darker tone of the story, and even the direct adaptations (The 2009 theatrical film and the 2019 HBO series). Yet, many would argue that Watchmen’s biggest influence was that on stories telling alternate history. This has been a storytelling device for as long as stories have been around, yet Watchmen uses it in a unique way: by incorporating superheroes into a contemporary setting, and covering human history. By highlighting how historic events were different with the existence of godlike entities, the world feels much more believable and realistic. Many alternate history stories with godlike entities (such as Captain America or Wonder Woman) simply make the godlike character disappear for a long period of time. Watchmen instead makes the characters live throughout time, changing every event that comes after their existence. Due to all these seemingly small details, Watchmen is a much more realistic depiction of alternate history than most stories like it.
Next series starts Monday,
PS. What do you think? Other takes on the show you’d share?

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