Watchmen Absolute Edition Book

Has any comic been as lauded as Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen? Possibly only Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns but Watchmen remains the critics' favourite. Why? Because Moore is a better writer, and Watchmen a more complex and dark and literate creation than Miller's fantastic, subversive take on the Batman myth. Moore, renowned for many other of the genre's finest creations (Saga of the Swamp Thing, V for Vendetta, and recently From Hell, with Eddie Campbell) first put out Watchmen in 12 issues for DC in 1986-87. It won a comic award at the time (the 1987 Jack Kirby Comics Industry Awards for Best Writer/Artist combination) and has continued to garner praise since.The story concerns a group called the Crimebusters and a plot to kill and discredit them. Moore's characterisation is as sophisticated as any novel's. Importantly the costumes do not get in the way of the storytelling, rather they allow Moore to investigate issues of power and control--indeed it was Watchmen, and to a lesser extent Dark Knight, that propelled the comic genre forward, making "adult" comics a reality. The artwork of Gibbons (best known for 2000AD's Rogue Trooper and DC's Green Lantern) is very fine too, echoing Moore's paranoid mood perfectly throughout. Packed with symbolism, some of the overlying themes (arms control, nuclear threat, vigilantes) have dated but the intelligent social and political commentary, the structure of the story itself, its intertextuality (chapters appended with excerpts from other "works" and "studies" on Moore's characters, or with excerpts from another comic book being read by a child within the story), the fine pace of the writing and its humanity mean that Watchmen more than stands up--it retains its crown as the best the genre has yet produced. --Mark ThwaiteRead More

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  • Dave Wallace02 February 2012

    Watchmen is to comics what the Beatles' "White Album" is to pop music. Both are highly influential works of art which are lauded by virtually everyone that experiences them, and both still struggle to be equalled by contemporary artists even decades after their creation. (Not for want of trying, however, as evidenced by DC Comics' recent announcement of a series of 'Watchmen' prequel comics to be published later this year).

    It's also arguable that both Watchmen and the White Album took a nascent art form which was regarded as juvenile, immature and crude (for the Beatles it was pop music specifically; in Watchmen's case, comic books in general - but with a particular focus on superheroes), and elevated it to a higher plane, paving the way for all who followed them, yet still overshadowing subsequent works to this day.

    Simply put, Watchmen is one of the few comics which aficionados of the medium are virtually unanimous in declaring a must-read, and its much-mooted recent appearance on Time magazine's list of the twentieth century's most important novels cemented its position as the first major turning point in the long journey towards the recognition of comic books as a 'legitimate' art form.

    Despite the apparent simplicity of its superhero roots, the book defies easy categorisation: on a base level, it's a reasonably straightforward flights 'n' tights epic which sees a group of washed-up heroes of the past face up to their own complicated histories, attempting to recapture some of their past glory at the same time as a powerful conspiracy threatens to undermine society itself.

    There's also a lot of human drama in the book, and there's as much attraction in seeing the complex web of relationships between the heroes unfold as there is in seeing them struggle against the underlying threat of the series.

    Yet Watchmen is deceptively complex, revealing secrets, nuances and deeper levels of meaning many years after over-familiarity would have exhausted the appeal of lesser works. Having devoured the book multiple times, it's telling that each new read feels like a slightly different experience, as the elements that are most striking at first glance soon give way to the book's less obvious subtexts and layered messages.

    It's easy to see the story as an allegory which examines the way in which power can corrupt, and which acts as a cautionary tale for a human race that, at the time that the book was originally published in the 1980s, appeared to be paving the way for its own demise more effectively than ever before.

    Indeed, there's a notably greater attempt at verisimilitude to be found in Watchmen than in most superhero comics, with only one major event setting the book's universe apart from the real world: in Watchmen, it's the creation of the omnipotent, godlike Dr. Manhattan which acts as the stone which is thrown into the stream of time, setting the reality presented in the book on a different, yet parallel course to our own.

    Historical events of the 1970s and 1980s are even explicitly referenced, albeit with twists such as the deployment of Dr. Manhattan in support of the USA's war efforts in Vietnam, and the passing of laws to outlaw costumed vigilantes. There's a heavy undercurrent of Cold War angst running throughout the book, as well as a hypertextual commentary on the story's themes which is provided by the comic-within-a-comic that is Tales of the Black Freighter, a pulpy pirate yarn which also functions as a dark, ominous musing on humanity's capacity for self-destruction.

    In the original pitch for the book (which can be found at the back of this "Absolute" edition), Alan Moore claims to reject the notion that a comic book universe needs to be close to our own and easy to relate to in order for readers to find it involving. However, in examining the more realistic implications that the presence of superheroes might have on society, and in exploring his characters' personalities and motivation in far greater depth than anything that had been attempted in the genre up to that point, Moore actually creates a fantasy which is far more relevant and culturally significant than the escapism that had been provided by his peers for so long.

    The prose endpapers that accompany each of the 12 individual Watchmen comics collected here reinforce the reality of Moore's fictional universe, presenting extracts from books, magazine articles and interviews which give us additional information about the story and its characters, enriching the already detailed world that the writer has created.

    It's interesting to note that Moore had originally intended to populate this book with existing DC characters rather than his own creations, and there are obvious elements of those characters which have been retained - but the commercial imperatives that ultimately restricted him from doing so may actually have made Watchmen even more successful: without any previous baggage, Moore is free to do as he likes with his cast of characters and their world, pushing the limits of what can be done in the genre - and the mixture of childish hero archetypes with a darker, more realistic and more complex edge makes the book an excellent metaphor for the coming-of-age of comic books themselves.

    To some extent, Watchmen's enduring success has been due to the surprising realisation that a comic book can be constructed and executed with as much complexity and maturity as a prose novel. Many of Moore's writing techniques are not particularly innovative or inventive, but they mark one of the first times that such sophistication in storytelling was brought to the medium of comic books, and their application in the field revolutionised the way people see comics.

    It's surprising, then, that this new "Absolute" edition is the first time that Watchmen has really been given the deluxe treatment - if you don't count the rare 'Graphitti' edition published years ago, which has been highly sought-after for many years due to the wealth of extra material which it contained. Thankfully, those extras are all reproduced here, and in addition to the oversized, luxuriously bound and slipcased Absolute format, with its high-quality paper and remastered colouring, it really is the finest presentation that the book has ever received.

    In addition to the original twelve issues, there are afterwords by both Moore and Gibbons which give some insight into how the project came into being and what a mammoth achievement it was for both creators. Moore's piece is particularly interesting, shedding some light on his feelings towards superhero comics and what he wanted to achieve with the book. There's also a copy of Moore's original proposal for the book which goes into detail about the themes and tone of the series, showing a remarkable self-awareness concerning just how mould-breaking Watchmen would turn out to be.

    The years (and decades!) which have passed since Watchmen's publication may have seen superhero comics stagnate to a certain extent, and as a genre it certainly hasn't overcome its simplistic, childish trappings to the extent that readers in 1986 might have hoped. However, to read Watchmen again is to reignite the spark of a suggestion that superheroics and sophistication don't have to be mutually exclusive concepts, that superhero comics might still have something profound and important to say, and that there may be yet more new ground to be broken in future by someone who can take to concept and do something genuinely fresh and innovative with it. Until that day, we'll have to be content for this book to continue to reign as the pinnacle of the genre.

  • BookDepository

    Watchmen: Absolute Edition : Hardback : DC Comics : 9781401207137 : 1401207138 : 13 Dec 2011 : Celebrate the 20th anniversary of "Watchmen"" with this oversized hardcover collection, packaged inside a beautifully designed slipcase. Each page of art has been restored and re-colored by WildStorm FX, and 48 pages of supplemental material offer a cornucopia of rare and historically valuable treasures, including samples of Moore's ""Watchmen"" scripts, the original proposal, conceptual art, cover roughs, and much more.DC Comics"

  • 1401207138
  • 9781401207137
  • Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons
  • 1 November 2005
  • DC
  • Hardcover (Book)
  • 464
  • New title

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