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Watchmen by Alan Moore

Watchmen (1986)

by Alan Moore (Writer), Dave Gibbons (Illustrator), John Higgins (Colorist), Alan Moore

Other authors: Joe Orlando (Illustrator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Watchmen - Alan Moore (Collection)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
14,879403214 (4.32)446
  1. 210
    V for Vendetta by Alan Moore (FFortuna, monktv)
    monktv: These books have the epic storytelling and interesting meaning in common.
  2. 192
    Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller (McMinty)
  3. 100
    The Absolute Sandman Volume One by Neil Gaiman (JapaG)
    JapaG: After the Watchmen, Sandman is probably the graphic novel that has most influenced the adult comic scene today. It has similarly deep storyline about humanity from the perspective of one outside of it. Also the magnificent art contributes to the great collection.
  4. 80
    From Hell by Alan Moore (sturlington)
  5. 80
    DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore by Alan Moore (artturnerjr)
    artturnerjr: Includes two earlier Moore/Gibbons collaborations.
  6. 50
    Supreme: The Story of the Year by Alan Moore (TomWaitsTables)
    TomWaitsTables: Like Watchmen, this is a superhero story. But it is the complete polar opposite of Watchmen; this is Alan Moore's love letter to the silver age superhero.
  7. 40
    Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka (sweetiegherkin)
    sweetiegherkin: I enjoyed the back stories in both, seeing how regular people end up as costumed vigilantes.
  8. 40
    Supreme: The Return by Alan Moore (TomWaitsTables)
  9. 40
    Astro City: Life in the Big City by Kurt Busiek (FFortuna)
  10. 62
    Kingdom Come by Mark Waid (jpers36)
  11. 40
    The Authority: Relentless by Warren Ellis (MyriadBooks)
  12. 30
    Miracleman Book Three: Olympus by Alan Moore (artturnerjr)
    artturnerjr: Both deconstructionist superhero tales by Alan Moore. WATCHMEN is the more formally masterful work; MIRACLEMAN, the more emotionally devastating one.
  13. 20
    Wild Cards (Volume 1) by George R. R. Martin (LamontCranston)
  14. 20
    Those Who Walk in Darkness by John Ridley (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: Which is another superhero deconstruction along these same lines.
  15. 20
    Greyshirt: Indigo Sunset (Greyshirt, 1) by Rick Veitch (kxlly)
  16. 31
    American Flagg!: Definitive Collection Volume 1 by Howard Chaykin (LKAYC)
  17. 20
    Icon: A Hero's Welcome (Milestone Comics Library) by Dwayne McDuffie (FFortuna)
  18. 10
    Atomika Vol 1: God Is Red by Sal Abbinanti (IamAleem)
  19. 10
    The Winter Men {complete} by Brett Lewis (IamAleem)
  20. 21
    The Satires of Juvenal by Juvenal (bertilak)

(see all 23 recommendations)

1980s (91)

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» See also 446 mentions

English (393)  French (3)  Danish (1)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (402)
Showing 1-5 of 393 (next | show all)
Story was okay, although I didn't like the misogyny. I really disliked the art, though. ( )
  JanetNoRules | Sep 17, 2018 |
This was my first time reading a graphic novel, or at least my first time reading a book where almost all the text is in word bubbles. Not having anything to compare it to (yet), I could be wrong, but this seemed like a somewhat challenging entry into the format. I’m going to split my review into two sections: one that focuses more on my reaction to the story, and one that focuses more on my reaction to the graphic novel format.

Story Reaction
I didn’t know anything about the story when I started this, and I was a little bit surprised by what it turned out to be. It was far bleaker than I expected, and a bit gruesome, but it was also very interesting and I can see why it made such an impact when it was published in the 80’s.

Watchmen is kind of a subversion of the superhero genre. The story focuses on a group of people who have chosen to dress up in costumes and take crimefighting and justice into their own hands. But these aren’t the noble superheroes you may have grown up with who put the welfare of the average citizen above everything and always acted honorably. Some of these “heroes” are scumbags, some of them are nutcases, and some of them believe the ends justify the means. The story opens up with the murder of one of the masked heroes, so there's an underlying mystery throughout the book as other events lead some of the characters to consider that masked heroes are being targeted.

The first half of the story focused a lot on the psychology aspect of things – what different motives might cause people to don a mask and try to fight crime, how those different personality types would clash with each other if they tried to work together, how they would clash with society, how society would affect them, and so forth. It was a pretty interesting exploration, and probably far more realistic than the way superheroes are normally portrayed, but it was also pretty depressing. The second half gets a little more action-oriented and focuses more on the plot regarding the targeting of the masked heroes.

If you prefer reading about characters that you can respect and cheer for, you will not find that here. Although there were some characters like Rorschach that were particularly interesting to me, there weren’t any I could say I liked. The ending was not uplifting or cheerful, but I thought it was appropriate and it fit well with the over-all tone of the book. Unlike your typical superhero story, the mastermind villain actually succeeds in his plot, and all the surviving superheroes fall in line because they believe the alternative would be worse now that the damage is already done.

Format Reaction
I’m not a very visual person, so I’ve always had some difficulty extracting meaning out of pictures. I would rather have the 1000 words. I’m also really bad at recognizing faces in the real world. I recall a time when I was 12 or 13 and my parents had somebody they knew drive me to an event along with a couple other kids around my age. I didn’t know any of these people, the driver included, and I couldn’t remember what they looked like after we went our separate ways. I spent most of the evening stressing out that I wouldn’t be able to find them again in order to get back home. Fortunately, they found me.

So that may help explain why I had so much difficulty keeping the characters straight as I read this. I’m used to prose where character names are used repeatedly to let the reader know whose point-of-view we’re in, who’s talking, etc. In Watchmen, character names were used infrequently and you had to recognize them based on the pictures. Adding complexity to this, the characters rarely looked the same from picture to picture. Sometimes they were in costume and sometimes out of costume, some scenes took place in the past when the characters looked younger, and the characters looked different depending on the different lighting conditions they were drawn in. I really needed some name tags! My issues with this led to quite a bit of confusion although usually, if I kept reading for a few more pages and paid very close attention, it would all click eventually.

Another difficulty I had was with unidentified word bubbles. I completely misinterpreted the first few pages of the book because I didn’t understand who was talking, although it all made sense after I had read a little further. There are also several sections where you have panels alternating between two different scenes, with each panel containing word bubbles for both scenes. I figured these out more easily, but was occasionally confused.

I was also thoroughly confused by the comic within the comic for a while. I thought it was part of the actual story and was trying to figure out how it fit and who “raft guy” (as I called him in my head) was supposed to be of the characters I’d already been introduced to. Eventually I grasped that this was a story within the story with parallels to the main story and I appreciated it more, but I was confused for a while.

I suspect this graphic novel may have been on the more complex side of the format, and I might have done better to seek out something a little less challenging. There are undoubtedly some things I missed altogether and I’d probably get a lot more out of a reread, although I don’t intend to take the time to do that. I was constantly retroactively understanding things as I kept reading, which caused me to reinterpret previously-read pages, so I’d probably follow things better if I re-read it with that understanding already in place. But despite the challenges, I did feel like I usually figured things out eventually, at least enough to grasp the main ideas and appreciate the cleverness of the story.

I thought this story had quite a bit of depth. It was clever, and it held my interest. On the other hand, it’s bleak and depressing and the characters are pretty awful. Due to my inexperience with the graphic novel format and my pathetic visual skills, I worked harder to keep the story straight than I would normally need to do with any plain-text novel. I’m sure I missed nuances that I might have caught otherwise. My ratings are based on my enjoyment level, and I think 3.5 stars is a pretty easy decision for this one. On Goodreads I’m going to round down. 3 seems a little too low, but 4 seems much too high. ( )
1 vote YouKneeK | Aug 29, 2018 |

I read this years ago, of course, but read it again in 2017 as part of a Facebook group of friends, some of whom were reading for the first time, taking it at the rate of a chapter a month, so as to recreate the experience of reading when it first came out in 1987. I had always enjoyed it, but I must say I really appreciated the detailed analysis that some people brought to it - in particular, I loved the observation that Chapter V is symmetrical, with the last frames mapping to reflect the first, advanced by a certain amount of time. Having also read V for Vendetta earlier in the year, I still like Watchmen much more, and if you haven't already read it, you should. ( )
  nwhyte | Aug 23, 2018 |
  kmzaytoon | Jun 16, 2018 |
Well, from about the first page I had an inkling this was going to be fantastic. And with every page that followed, this inkling only solidified into an unchallengeable truth. This was absolutely spectacular.


* Rorschach. Or however you spell his name (I don't have the book with me at the moment and I'm just too lazy to get it. Not so much super-hero material here...). It was a struggle to pronounce it in my head every time... but other than that I found his character to be fascinating, brutal in his honesty, willing to sacrifice everything for his principles. I'm not saying these are necessarily admirable characteristics at all times, but the way he was portrayed... God, I adored him. His - well - monstrosity, if you will, only made him all the more human somehow.

* The entire super-hero concept turned on its head. That was exactly what the doctor ordered. I have decided, after several failing attempts, to give up on reading super-hero comics. There is just something about them that I can't connect to: Their so called invincibility, or rather, their superiority, or simply their blatant heroism. I can't state exactly what it is. But here exactly this issue - without me being able to define it, even - was addressed and masterfully subverted. I loved the super-heroes in this story immensely. They strived to be good and yet they were irrevocably flawed - or rather, they were just very human (see Rorschach above ;).

* I loved the art style. It wasn't the type of art that usually speaks to me, but the way it was detailed. It added so much to the story, I felt.

*The format. I'm not very knowledgeable about comics yet, but I feel it safe to say that it was kind of unusual... I found it very original and just INTERESTING. It was like a comic of puzzle pieces that added to a refreshing whole picture.

I could probably go on enthusiastically with this list for a very long time yet, but these are the things that occurred to me as most pressing.

And, to try to be fair:


Hmm... Well. Let me get back to you on that... probably never.

( )
  UDT | May 1, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 393 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Moore, AlanWriterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gibbons, DaveIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Higgins, JohnColoristmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Moore, Alanmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Orlando, JoeIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bárány, FerencTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wein, LenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Quis custodiet ipsos custodes. Who watches the watchmen? Juvenal Satires, VI, 347, quoted as the epigraph of the Tower commission report, 1987
With special thanks to Neil Gaiman, Mike Lake, Pat Mills, and Joe Orlando.
First words
Rorschach's Journal. October 12th, 1985:
Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach. This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face.
[spraypainted on wall] "Who watches the Watchmen?"
"Looked at the sky through smoke heavy with human fat and God was not there. The cold suffocating dark goes on forever and we are alone. Live our lives lacking anything better to do. Devise reason later. Born from oblivion; bear children hell-bound as ourselves; go into oblivion. There is nothing else. Existence is random. Has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it for too long. No meaning save what we choose to impose. This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It's us. Only us." (Ch. VI, pg26)
"All this, it could be gone: people, cars, T.V. shows, magazines...even the word 'gone' would be gone." (Ch. V, pg12)
"Why do we argue? Life's so fragile, a successful virus clinging to a speck of mud, suspended in endless nothing." (Ch. VI, pg28)
"We're all puppets, Laurie. I'm just a puppet that can see the strings." (Ch. IX, pg5)
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Some consider Absolute Watchmen to be a notably different work from Watchmen. There is currently a discussion in Combiners! discussing whether or not this separation is needed. Please join the discussion. Please do not combine the two works until this is resolved.
Before separating check ISBN because there are bad titles
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Book description
A New York Times Best Seller!

This Hugo Award-winning graphic novel chronicles the fall from grace of a group of super-heroes plagued by all-too-human failings. Along the way, the concept of the super-hero is dissected as the heroes are stalked by an unknown assassin.

One of the most influential graphic novels of all time and a perennial bestseller, WATCHMEN has been studied on college campuses across the nation and is considered a gateway title, leading readers to other graphic novels such as V FOR VENDETTA, BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and THE SANDMAN series.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0930289234, Paperback)

Has any comic been as acclaimed as Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen? Possibly only Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, but Watchmen remains the critics' favorite. Why? Because Moore is a better writer, and Watchmen a more complex and dark and literate creation than Miller's fantastic, subversive take on the Batman myth. Moore, renowned for many other of the genre's finest creations (Saga of the Swamp Thing, V for Vendetta, and From Hell, with Eddie Campbell) first put out Watchmen in 12 issues for DC in 1986-87. It won a comic award at the time (the 1987 Jack Kirby Comics Industry Awards for Best Writer/Artist combination) and has continued to gather praise since.

The story concerns a group called the Crimebusters and a plot to kill and discredit them. Moore's characterization is as sophisticated as any novel's. Importantly the costumes do not get in the way of the storytelling; rather they allow Moore to investigate issues of power and control--indeed it was Watchmen, and to a lesser extent Dark Knight, that propelled the comic genre forward, making "adult" comics a reality. The artwork of Gibbons (best known for 2000AD's Rogue Trooper and DC's Green Lantern) is very fine too, echoing Moore's paranoid mood perfectly throughout. Packed with symbolism, some of the overlying themes (arms control, nuclear threat, vigilantes) have dated but the intelligent social and political commentary, the structure of the story itself, its intertextuality (chapters appended with excerpts from other "works" and "studies" on Moore's characters, or with excerpts from another comic book being read by a child within the story), the finepace of the writing and its humanity mean that Watchmen more than stands up--it keeps its crown as the best the genre has yet produced. --Mark Thwaite

A Q&A with Dave Gibbons on the Making of Watchmen

Question: You were tasked with drawing new illustrations of key shots from the new Watchmen film. Was it a difficult challenge to re-imagine your work in this movie format?

Dave Gibbons: I don’t think that I actually did many key shots from the film. I had to actually imagine them rather than exactly recreate what was going to be in the movie. But as far as the drawings I did for the licensing purposes, accuracy was the real key so that they looked exactly like the movie. Whereas doing the graphic novel was creating stuff afresh and being very creative, this was more the case of interpreting something that already existed. So it was rather more a commercial art job than a creative thing.

Q: How many scenes from the original graphic novel did you redraw in the new "movie" format?

DG: I kind of did them piecemeal, these licensing drawings. I did do a section of storyboarding for Zack Snyder. There is a part of the movie that isn’t in the graphic novel and he wanted to see how I would have drawn it, if it had been in the graphic novel. So I redid the storyboards as three pages of comic on the nine-panel grid, also getting it coloured by John Higgins so it looked authentic. But I think there were probably only 3 or 4 scenes that I drew, which were from the movie.

Q: What was your working method for producing these new illustrations from the film? And how has it changed from when you originally illustrated Watchmen?

DG: When you’re producing things from existing material, you have to look at and assemble the references... you know, keep looking backwards and forwards to make sure what you’re drawing is accurate to what’s in the photos. I did have lots of photos from the movie and in some cases I had more or less the illustration I was going to do in photo form, which made it a lot easier. On others I had to construct it from various references: really just the usual illustrator’s job of drawing something to reference. And on the original illustrations of Watchmen, I was free to come up with exactly the angles and exactly the costumes and everything that I wanted to. When you’ve designed a costume and drawn it a few times, you actually internalize it and you find you can draw it without having to refer to reference at all. So in some ways it’s more creative and in some ways it’s easier!

Q: In Watchmen: The Art of the Film, there are concept designs by other artists of their visions of your iconic characters. What do you think of their versions and did you offer any guidance while they were working on these?

DG: It’s always really interesting to see versions of your characters drawn by other artists. You tend to see things in them that you hadn’t noticed before. So I really enjoyed looking at those. I certainly didn’t offer them any guidance. The purpose of getting those kinds of drawings done is to get a fresh perspective on what exists. I noticed actually that they really stuck more closely to my original designs than those, but I really enjoyed seeing them.

Q: Watchmen: Portraits is Clay Enos’s stunning black and white collection of photos of each character from the Watchmen movie. What was it like looking through this book at all the characters you had conceived years ago now being brought to life by actors?

DG: It’s rather interesting; you know if you look at the Watching the Watchmen book you can see these characters as fairly sketchy rough conceptual versions. Then when you look at Clay’s book you can actually see them right down to counting the number of pores on the skin on the end of their noses! It’s incredible high focus! It’s like zooming in through space and time to look at the surface of some moon of Saturn or something. I thoroughly enjoyed his book... it had a real artistic quality to it that was really so good. And of course to see these actors who so much are the embodiment of what I drew, that it’s a tremendous thrill to see them made flesh!

Q: Watchmen: The Film Companion features some stills from the animated version of The Black Freighter. What do you think of the look and design of this animated feature?

DG: It looks really interesting! Although I drew my version in the comic book in a kind of horror-comic style, these are very much in a savage manga style. I think they work really well... they’ve got the kind of manic intensity, which I think that work should have and I really can’t wait to see the whole feature. I’ve seen the trailer for it and that looks great and again they’ve used a lot of the compositions that I came up with but just translated them to this kind of very modern drawn animation.

Q: How much time did you spend on the set of Watchmen? Was it a surreal experience to see your work recreated like this?

DG: I was on the set of Watchmen for a couple of days and it really was surreal to walk through a door and then suddenly be in the presence of all these people in living breathing flesh! I was there for what you would call the Crimebusters meeting where they were all there in costume in the same room, which was incredible. They had obviously planned that so I would get to see everyone. It was surreal though quite a wonderful experience to see it come to life.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:45 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

This stunning graphic novel chronicles the fall from grace of a group of superheroes plagued by all too human failings. The concept of the super hero is dissected and inverted as strangely realistic characters are stalked by an unknown assassin. Originally published as a 12 issue series in 1986 and 1987, WATCHMEN remains one of DC Comics' most popular graphic novels.… (more)

» see all 7 descriptions

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