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January Book Club - The Watchmen

stephengervais's picture



Welcome to the first installment of our monthly book club at Comics: The Gathering. We hope to create discussion not only on the chosen book itself but also your reading experience. Check in frequently throughout the month and let us know your thoughts and feelings as you are reading the book. Did a particular panel grab you? Did you interpret something differently if this is not your first reading of the piece? Absolutely anything at all! Share everything with us as you go along. Also very important is to comment on what others have posted. Did you see things the same way? Did you not notice that? We want to create an online discussion so sharing and participating is the key.
 
The book chosen for the month of January is the perennial classic, The Watchmen! The discussion begins tonight January 7th 2015 and will have a closing date of January 31st 2015.  I’ve posted some questions you can answer as you’re reading to help the discussion to get started. By all means post more questions and respond to the answers of others. The last week of January will be dedicated to posting your final thoughts and reviews on the book which I again encourage you all to respond to as they are posted.
 
Everyone is welcome to join in so please help promote our book club with your friends, family and through social media.
 
Questions to think about and answer as you’re reading The Watchmen:

What do you think of the book’s title?
How deep into the book did you get before you understood the relevance of the title?
Did the title reflect the main themes of the book?
Who is the protagonist of the story?
How did the personality and experiences of the protagonist shape the direction of the book?
Are the characters actions justified?
Did reading the book invoke any strong emotions in you? Did you cry? Did you laugh? Why?
Was there one event in the book that resonated with you deeply?
What themes does the author explore?
What sequences strike you as profound or insightful?
Why did the creators tell the story in this format? Was what was told suited for a comic book format?
Would you have rather read this story in prose? Or watched the movie?
 
Alright let’s get reading and sharing!
 

Comments

louis whiteford's picture
I’m four issues deep into Mr Moore’s supposed magnum opus (I’ve always been a From Hell guy myself.) and I can’t stop thinking about Grant Morrison’s claims that the book is too well assembled, that it all fits together a little too perfectly. It’s true; the comic is obsessively constructed and meticulously paced. I still say it's a great one, even if it is just about the most formal thing around.Nearly every issue so far features two scenes juxtaposed with each other one panel at a time.  Something like this could only work in a comic. It would be a chore to write these scenes as prose, and I imagine the results would look clunky and overbearing with their message in a movie, but it's perfect for comics. The nine panel grid structure drove me nuts when I was a kid, but I’ve come to appreciate it more with every read-through. The layouts invite inspection with their rigidity. This is art meant to be obsessed over. For example, each cover image is also the first panel of the comic, except issue 4, the Dr. Manhattan origin issue. This is because Dr. Manhattan lives his life outside of the whims of time. The cover of issue four is the same as the ninth panel of page one, but Dr. Manhattan’s narration tells us that that’s the panel which takes place in the present. The other eight panels are all displaced time. 
F.D. White's picture
It's been awhile since I've read this and never realized the 9 panel grid layout! I love it! Like you said, Louis, this book is so meticulously constructed. I think you can feel it on a subconscious level. That's why a lot of people read it as their intro to comics and love it even though it's a deconstruction of the genre that the reader is getting into in the first place. 
RobertJCross's picture
What do you think of the book’s title?

I remember reading an interview with Moore sometime after my initial reading of this in the late 90s. He said that he'd been trying to intermingle his views on a dystopian government (like Orwell's 1984), which he believed was brewing at a fever pace in America during the 80s, then he wanted to throw some heroes into the mix. I believe the title Watchmen really works on both ends, though if you were to take the title literally, the only TRUE Watchman would be Dr. Manhattan since he's basically God.

How deep into the book did you get before you understood the relevance of the title?

Once they start talking about passing laws in order to keep the Watchmen under control, you get the jist of the duality that the title is trying to convey. Not only are the vigilantes Watchmen, but now the government are Watchmen FOR the Watchmen. Rorsharch is obviously none too pleased with this turn of events and without his detective work, there would be no inciting incident. THOUGH, The Comedian's detective work also is to blame for everything that gets kicked off in the book. The series Before Watchmen (which is often panned by critics) has a lovely buildup with The Comedian in it to the event in the book. I highly reccomend reading it.

Did the title reflect the main themes of the book?
 
Well yeah. Like I said in the previous paragraph, it's both for the vigilantes (heroes) and for the government. Could it be for the nameless general public which inhabits the world? Maybe. They too have to be "Watchmen" at times. I'm sure that Rorsharch had to keep a watchful eye out for whomeever wanted to sell out him or his partners.
RobertJCross's picture
Who is the protagonist of the story?

I'm gonna say it's probably a mixture of Ozymandias and Rorshach. Ozy because he stops World War 3 and Rorschach because he wanted to expose it. But without The Comedian, Rorschach wouldn't have known anything.


How did the personality and experiences of the protagonist shape the direction of the book?

In Before Watchmen, you get a lot more backstory on everyone. It takes some liberties but the Ozymandias arc was actually masterfully done and you understand what occurs at the end of the main novel. Rorschach's also had a great arc but nobody will ever forget the backstory of Rorschach in the main novel. Everything he went through with his mother and his crime fighting beginnings defined why he's one of the more honest characters in the book.


Are the characters actions justified?

Ozymandia's actions are indeed justified. Gave the Earth a common enemy but Dr. Manhattan makes a good point when he tells him that nothing lasts. Rorschach's actions were justified as well but they just prove Dr. Manhattan's point.


Did reading the book invoke any strong emotions in you? Did you cry? Did you laugh? Why?

I laughed when Rorschach mentioned that he thought Ozymandias may be a homosexual. Other than that, even stuff The Comedian wasn't very funny. Most of the book made me think more than anything which means a lot more than both laughter and crying.


Was there one event in the book that resonated with you deeply?

When Rorschach goes after the little girl and The Comedian's death. Both of those events were pivotal points in the book in character development. 


What themes does the author explore?

What theme doesn't Moore explore in this is the question. Everything from immortality to parenting. It's a shame that Before Watchmen is looked down on because Moore didn't write it, because it truly feels like he wrote it (to me anyway). 


What sequences strike you as profound or insightful?

Again, The Comedian's death was a great sequence that not only kicked off the book, but also the characters. Throughout the book you are caught on the fence with whether or not Blake deserved getting killed in that way. Even after you close the book, you're still questioning his death. That's good storytelling and very profound.


Why did the creators tell the story in this format? Was what was told suited for a comic book format?

Moore could have written it as a regular novel, but it needed the visual element in order to grasp the enormity of the world that Moore was trying to convey. 


Would you have rather read this story in prose? Or watched the movie?

I like prose and I think if there were standalone novels exploring each character, that would have been cool. Snyder's movie is one of my favorite comic book adaptations ever filmed. I catch a lot of hell for that, but I absolutely love it, even though he changed the ending. The general public wouldn't have gotten the "alien" narrative without the Black Freighter story happening alongside, which makes the Ultimate Cut of the film confusing to me. But alas, still quality all around.