Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
(published in "Avrupa" newspaper)
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert…Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the Pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, King of kings:
Look on my words, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
What was Percy Bysshe Shelley thinking about when he wrote this poem “Ozymandias” around 1817? And more importantly, why have I chosen to include it in this weeks review? In the first instance, this poem looks at what remains of the statue of Ramses II, the rise and the fall of a great leader, which is not much, as all that is left are a pair of stumps, decay, an empty threat, and Shelley having some fun by being ironic, as he shifts the meaning of the word “despair” into another form of despair. And despair is a common theme in the dark story of Watchmen as it is set in an alternative 1985 in which the cold war is a threat and Nixon is in power. Now, I am fully aware of how these graphic novels, and comics in general get so easily dismissed, particularly by women and those who do not fit into the “geek” range, so then how is it that I have not only read the book, but have also seen the movie. Not only is this the case, but I had seen the movie before I read the book; therefore, I had broken one of my own ten commandments.
Watchmen was first published in 1986, which was a great success just as much as it is now, maybe even greater. The story is dark, dealing with themes surrounding communism, the downfall of society, retirement, the loss of faith in humanity, as well as the need to clarify the boundaries between good and evil. We are thrown into a world in which super heroes exists, but they are not the super heroes that you and I imagine them to be, as they all have dark sides to them, one’s a womaniser, one has been abused, one ends up in a sanatorium, and the list goes on, but they all have one thing in common, and that is to punish those that should be punished. Will Lawrence from the “Times” wrote, “Watchmen is the Crime and Punishment of graphic novels, a dark, difficult story set in a dystopian universe.” As I hadn’t read the story before seeing the film the way that I was meant to, I found myself at ease, as I did not find myself in that awful position, as the person sitting next to me, comparing each and every frame to what I had read, and cursing the directors for messing everything up. Instead, I sat there and enjoyed the movie for what it was, even leaving the cinema, wishing that I could be a super hero, although at the end of the day, everything is left fragmented and catastrophic, but that’s just me, I also wanted to be the Godfather after watching the first movie, but not so much after watching the second one. As I read the book, I found that the film had kept quite close to the script, and this I believe is because films begin as strips, and what better then to follow a comic strip, however, as usual, the small stories that are hidden within the novel do not come to light on the screen, and that’s when I know that people are missing out on the beauty of the story and it multifaceted stories that it carries with it. The up-side is that I have no doubt that for those who had not read the book before seeing the movie, would have the impulse to read it, and therefore, as usual, I have found the graphic novel to be a far more fulfilling experience then the movie. The strongest question that one is left behind with, after the movie and the novel, is about having the power to do good, and how far would one go to accomplish the greater good, this is what the character Adrian Veidt sets out to do, but at a cost, and it is up to you as the reader to decide if his actions can be justified, and if the actions of great leaders can be justified when they say that they are doing it for the greater good.