Saturday, May 12, 2007

Who watches the Watch Men?

I’ve just finished reading ‘Watchmen’. This is one of those comic books that I’ve been meaning to read for some time but I kept getting put off by the fact the industry considers it a mile stone, a totem of the adult comic book world. I was worried that I’d read it and not be able to work out what all the fuss has been about. I don’t like things being built up. The moment someone says this book, film, play is the best they have ever seen I know that I’m now going to be bitterly disappointed. They have taken away the magic of discovery for me, and a piece of work that I might have watched and thought of as good, now becomes simply okay.

The best pieces of work are those that I discover for myself. I can still remember the first time I sat in the cinema as saw a re-run of Cinema Paradiso, the first time I watched Casablanca on a wet Saturday afternoon, unaware that it was considered a masterpiece. The first time I read The Great Gatsby with its magical last lines and the first time I heard Gershwin accompanied by those great black and white scene’s of Woody Allen’s.

However I digress…

‘Watchmen’ is clever. It takes something of the infantile comic book staple ‘the masked hero’, and shows them with all their failings, hang-ups and personal problems. Too many hero’s, both on TV, in films and comics, seem to have few if any problems that would stop them from spending their days fighting crime, but what effect would this have on a person’s mental state. This, coupled with a super power, would turn these do gooders into gods, practically unstoppable and left to make snap decisions about what they considered right or wrong.

Another main issue is how society would cope with these heroes living among us. If we relied on these few heroes and then they fucked up, what would be the response? Would we place them above society’s normal values and concerns or would we ensure that they toed the line - that they conform to ‘normal’ society.

The book is slightly dated, rooted in the idea of the cold war and the east / west issue, but this distance helps to gain a perspective, though it would be interesting to see the book set in today’s celebrity, reality TV, ‘terrorist around ever corner’ obsessions.

Off out tonight to see a couple of authors (one of which is the writer of ‘Scar Night’) in discussion. Will report back soon with details.

Read this week: Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
The Killing Kind by John Connolly

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