Giving up on Watchmen


I’ve been slowly picking through Watchmen since about September. I’d get so far in the book and then come to the poorly written autobiography stuff and stop. I’d pick it up a few weeks later and have to start all over from the beginning because I had no idea what was going on.

During the Superbowl, the TTHM said that reading all the crap between the comic book parts wasn’t necessary. Wolfdogg had told me the same thing before, but having that idea reinforced was comforting. Thus, reinvigorated I decided to give Watchmen another go. I am nothing, if not resiliant.

My desire to read the book was mostly borne out of the high esteem it is given in the graphic novel canon. People (men mostly) talk about it in reverent tones with dreamstars in their eyes. It’s like one of the high holies alongside Maus (which I haven’t read) and Jimmy Corrigan (which I also haven’t read, but own and will read sometime this year in the name RP2009).

But, well, I’ve decided to give up on Watchmen. Here’s why: it’s really fucking boring. I’m in the middle of chapter seven (of twelve) and I really don’t care what happens. I don’t care about any of the characters, I don’t care about the story, and I don’t care who is killing the masked vigilantes. That fact that anyone ever cared stuns me.

The characters have no depth, no life, they are flat and dull. I have no idea (aside from maybe Rorschach who is the only interesting one in the lot) what motivates them, what they want, or why they exist. The story is confusing. There are stories within stories within still other stories. And since I don’t find any of the characters interesting, I don’t care enough to figure out what exactly is going on, thus the book is a big zzzzzzzzero.

I blame the fanboys for my apathy. It is their reverence, their grand pedestal upon which they have placed this book that has ruined it. There is no way the book can possibly bear up under the weight of such adoration. I’m not sure what Watchmen would have had to do to meet my expectations, but whatever it’s doing it’s not working for me. This is the very same reason that I will never see Star Wars. It cannot live up to 30 years of hype.

So, I’m calling it quits. Watchmen can suck it. I’m going to go spend my time reading something that makes me at least care about what the hell’s going on.

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  1. Jason 22.Feb.09 at 5:06 pm

    I just finished reading Watchmen again, thinking maybe it would grab me the second time. And while I understand why readers were excited about it when it came out and I get what people admire about its construction, it baffles me too why people love it so dearly. Especially because the people who love it tend to be those who love superhero comics, even though the book questions the premise of all superhero comics.

    I had more to say but I have to go. Jodi you should still read Jimmy Corrigan though.

  2. jags 22.Feb.09 at 6:14 pm

    Read Maus.

  3. david 24.Feb.09 at 10:33 am

    I didn’t enjoy Watchmen much, either, when I read the first book over the holidays.

    My favorite graphic novel of all time is Epileptic, by David B., it is unforgettable like Fun Home.

  4. Doug 26.Feb.09 at 2:08 am

    I mentioned this over at already, but I’ll mention it again here:

    Watchmen is a trenchant deconstruction of the superhero paradigm. (Woo-hoo! I remember one term from my literary criticism class 15 years ago!) Which only seems amazing if one has spent the formative years of one’s life consuming the conventional superhero paradigm, so one recognizes the twist without even trying. And, yep, is more likely to have been the case if one was male during that period of one’s life. (Not to be sexist, but I worked in a comic shop for many years, and females were a distinct minority in the client base.)

    Reading it without having that heavy superhero background is kind of like tackling Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead without having first mastered Hamlet (and plays in general).

    Watchmen also held more power back in the mid ’80s when it first came out (and when I read it), when there was still tail end of the Cold War to enhance the paranoia. (It’s not the same when the boogie man is terrorism rather than communism.) To read it for the first time now–I’m not sure it could possibly be the same.

    Of course, that’s just what I remember of it from 23 years ago. I was pondering whether to re-read it before the movie comes out, but I suspect that may ruin both.

    But you are correct about being killed by hype. That happens with so much. I recently started watching Lost (my fiancee wanted to get into it), and while it’s better than I expected, I’m still not convinced it’s actually good. Obviously there are those who worship it, but they probably drank the Kool-Aid from the start.

    Wait. I should have referenced a book there. Hmm. Nothing comes to mind; I guess books don’t get that much hype, so there’s not as much to live up to.

    But ultimately, all these pieces of art, be they books, movies, plays, TV shows, etc., are what they are; it’s those who perpetuate the hype who must suck it.

    Except they’d just talk about how cool sucking it is…

  5. Placemat 01.Mar.09 at 9:00 pm

    I read this entry a few days after you posted it, but was in the middle of re-reading Watchmen myself & thought it best to finish before I made any comment.

    read: & Was shunning you. 😉

    Now, I see Doug has covered most of the bases. Good job, Doug.

    I’d also agree that reading it in the 80’s helps. While Watchmen never transcends the genre (in fact, it embraces all that had come before) it certainly reinvented it at the time. It had an impact that’s hard to put into perspective twenty years later.

    Doug also points out that having a heavy grasp of superhero history helps. Perhaps this is why the characters feel flat for you. All the the major characters are riffs off older, well established heroes.

    I’d also argue that finishing the book (& reading every page) would lend insight into the characters motivations. Moore does an excellent job of defining what drives the cast to do what they do. It’s kinda the whole point of the story.

    For a long time reader like me, comics have always been Punk rock. While it’s hard to argue that any Mats tune is overrated, I feel the same could be said for comics (although thanks to Hollywood, I might agree this is starting to change).

    & Lost rocks (even though I fought it for years myself, Doug).

    Still, don’t believe the hype…ever.


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