Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Best Comic Ever?

What's a good comic/graphic novel review blog that doesn't review what most comic aficionados deem "the best comic of all time" - The Watchmen. Why is it the best comic you may ask? Well for one, it is the only comic/graphic novel to appear on Time's list of "100 Best Novels of All Time." (Note: The list has been amended to include a section on graphic novels, but The Watchmen is still the only comic book to be included in the actual list of 100.) That being said, what is The Watchmen and why is it so good?

The Watchmen is a twelve-part comic series created by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons that was published by DC Comics between 1986-87. Since then it has been collected into a one-volume reprint that has been sold in comic shops and book stores for the past twenty years. The story of The Watchmen is an alternate history following a band of superheroes in the 1940s and the 1960s fighting crime in the United States and abroad, including helping the US to win the Vietnam War. In the present day, according to the story, the states are in a cold war-esque confrontation with the USSR, and thus the costumed vigilantes are forced to either retire or join forces with the US government. The plot involves an investigation into the murder of a superhero turned government lackey, which in turn pulls many of the heros out of retirement.

Now you maybe asking yourself why I'm even taking the time to review a comic about superheroes when then whole point of this blog, as I have previously stated, is to find comics that fall beyond the scope of the traditional comic fodder. The fact is that even though The Watchmen story line revolves around superheroes, it is more than a superhero book. It is in fact a commentary about superhero books. It takes every superhero comic book you've ever read and turns it on its head. It brings the humanity back into the superhero and asks "What if superheroes were just like you and me, except for their cool gadgets and the ability to fly."

Beyond the fact that it's a brilliant commentary, not just on superheroes and vigilanteism, but on the social anxieties of the time, it is one of the best examples of the potential of the comic book medium. For those interested in composition for the comic book or graphic novel, The Watchmen is the best place to start. The comic uses a consistent 9 blocks-per-page format (broken only by the climx) with recurring images and themes, along with The Black Frigit, a comic book within a comic book, to comment on the overall plot line. Remember that a comic book is more than just words and pictures. It is really the pacing and the placement of the words and pictures that conveys the story. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons use the comic medium, maybe not to its fullest potential, but to more of its potential than most mainstream comic creators will even admit that it has.

The content of the story line may not interest all of you out there, but it really is The Godfather of the comic medium. It's the best of the best and reading it will help you understand the comic medium on another level.

And for those of you who have only seen the movie, do yourself a favor and read the book. You might actually learn a thing or two about the art of storytelling in the graphic medium. And the comic has something that the movie doesn't have - a giant squid from "space!" (And if that doesn't motivate you to read the book, then I don't know what will.)

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