Watchmen comics, the 12-series book created by Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore, is not your usual graphic novel. It is not a rip off of any virtuous and flawless superhero stories we have been used to reading. It is dark, grim, pulp and deviant in every way.
Moore’s depiction of dystopia means to mirror the modern day dilemmas. The background for the plot is an alternate history of the United States where the country is at the brink of waging a nuclear war against Soviet Union. Populating the pages are the highly humanized and flawed characters Moore created. These characters reflect the very nature of humanity and the reality of existence. Every character possesses an ambivalent surge of emotions, despair, violence, and moral bankruptcy. Moreover, the creators wanted to show readers what these characters are all about without sugarcoating them. In an interview, Moore said, “What we wanted to do was show all of these people, warts and all. Show that even the worst of them had something going for them, and even the best of them had their flaws.”
Unlike all other heroes depicted in epics and other graphic novels, the Watchmen characters, although in costume, don’t have superpowers except for Doctor Manhattan.
The characters are nothing like Superman. They are not friendly nor stable enough to be trusted. They scheme, deceive and give in to the urgency of their own worldly needs. These characters are more of the deconstructed concept of an overman. This is one aspect of the comics that firmly grounds it on realism.
Moore and Gibbons intend to show the different facets of human condition through their characters. Doctor Manhattan is a representation of a murderous mind; The Comedian is the Peacemaker; Nite Owl, the vigilante superhero; Ozymandias, the representation of goodness; Rorschack, a symbolism of the gray area of life; and Silk Spectre, object of desire and the lust.
In the graphic novel, five radically opposing world constructs are presented. Instead of dictating to the readers the demarcation line between the spheres of good and evil, the novel throws audience into a moral debate. The creators allow the readers to get involved in an active discussion about what is black, white or gray on the morality scale.
This comic book is a marriage between fantasy and realism. The unique plot and even more humanized characters send all other comic books to shame. Watchmen was not created to give readers a good read. Instead, it was intended to make them think and come into terms with the multilevel conflicts that human existence brings.
Watchmen doesn’t only boast of an intelligently written plot. Its art and visual representations also highlight the strengths of comic books medium to premium heights.
Watchmen comics has deconstructed the overman and totally stayed true to the reality of being human. It has twisted and reinvented the comic book genre in feats never before seen. In a nutshell, it has dispelled the overman myth and showed that humans, even those we consider perfect, are flawed.