By Cole Parkinson
The best things are often sought to be replicated but can never be duplicated, and that can be said of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ landmark 1986-87 run on Watchmen.
Not only is it said to be one of the great comic series of all time, but it has also appeared on Time’s 2005 “All-Time 100 Greatest Novels” list.
Moore intended the book to be a deconstruction of comic book characters and also satire them, while also setting them in an alternate 1980s setting with the Cold War in full swing, but in this world, people donned costumes and patrolled the street.
Watchmen sees completely new characters from the known DC Comics’ characters up until that point, and while Moore originally wanted to reuse Charlton Comics’ characters, he eventually was persuaded to create his own characters.
It truly is hard to detail the book in a quick synopsis, but in general, it’s Moore’s take on how superheroes would function in the real world.
Underneath that, it’s a murder mystery filled with plenty of twists.
Beyond that, it’s best to go in without any prior knowledge, but considering how influential the series has been on comics, I’d be surprised if people went in completely blind.
And while Moore is revered for this book, let’s not forget to mention Gibbons’ artwork, which is spectacular throughout the entire run.
While many people focus on the story first, bad artwork can detract from any comic book, and Gibbons enhanced Moore’s story that much further.
And while many were probably introduced to Zack Snyder’s 2008 film, I’d argue reading the comic is a far better way to understand not only the characters, but the theme of the book.
Snyder’s movie isn’t bad, and I’d argue it’s pretty decent, but while the book shows how ridiculous it would be for normal people to put on superhero costumes, Snyder’s version tries its best to do the opposite.
The movie has plenty of stylized “Snyder” action scenes and generally tries to make all the heroes look super cool, whereas the book does the opposite.
Casting-wise, most of the cast does very good with their roles, Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Comedian) and Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach) in particular.
Both of which make the movie worth a watch at least once.
So, if you take it as two separate entities with the same characters, and different results, I don’t think it’s a terrible adaptation.
Moore has famously opposed all adaptions, remakes, or sequels to the book, but with DC owning the property, they’ve continued to pump out more Watchmen comics and live-action adaptions.
In 2019, HBO debuted their nine-part mini-series titled Watchmen — which is a remix and a direct sequel to the comic, not the movie.
While I liked the vast majority of the series, the reception has been pretty split, much like the movie.
The comic was set against the backdrop of the Cold War, while the TV show focuses a lot on race relations, with the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre playing a major part.
It’s set 34 years after the end of the comic series, and while some characters return, there’s a lot of focus on new characters, many of which are dealing with events from the comic.
In only nine episodes, I feel like showrunner Damon Lindelof and his writing team nailed a lot of what makes Watchmen great.
Not everything lands, but as a straight-up sequel, it does a great job of adding to the story without veering too far off of the themes and motifs of the original.
The middle of the series also contains some of the best TV I’ve seen since Breaking Bad.
Lindelof is a massive fan of the original comics, so his version doesn’t desecrate the original run in my opinion, and fans of the original comic will not see anything from that change whatsoever with the 12 issues being canon.
It’s purely a “what would happen if the Watchmen universe continued past the ending of the comic.”
The original series has also seen continuations on the comic landscape.
Starting in 2017, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank began Doomsday Clock which sort of acts like a sequel to the original run. I went into the book thinking it would be a true sequel, but it really isn’t.
It feels more like a traditional DC “major event” book than a sequel, and the book is really about Superman with Watchmen characters sprinkled in. I was disappointed with the book, mainly just because I don’t feel like Watchmen characters needed to be in the book at all.
While the HBO series brought new ideas to the table, and it was still set in the Watchmen universe, I feel placing those characters within DC continuity loses the entire point.
These characters weren’t meant to interact with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, or any of the DC characters because they’re directly making fun of them.
It just seems really out of place to me to include Watchmen characters in a super familiar DC “major event” book.
None of the new characters stick out in a bad way, and a few of them are actually decent, if yet unspectacular.
The artwork from Frank is spectacular though, and was easily my favourite part of the series.
And currently, Tom King is working on Rorschach, which King says “won’t contradict either the original series or the HBO series.”
I haven’t checked this one out yet as I’m waiting for the complete collection to release later this year.
But, again, it’s hard to imagine anything coming out that is set in the Watchmen universe will top the original.
Moore was open to doing a sequel and prequels way back, but that ship sailed a long time ago.
According to Moore, DC offered the rights of Watchmen back to him if he agreed to write a prequel and sequel series, but he declined for a variety of reasons. And now, he’s moved on from comics completely and is focusing on writing novels, so there’s little to no chance Moore ever returns.
But maybe, that’s for the best.
While there will no doubt be more Watchmen stories to come from different authors, fans who only want Moore’s interpretation will never be disappointed with new stories.
Those looking for different takes are also able to check them out at their free will — it’s a win-win in my book.