In order to reward me for a job well done surviving yet another year on this remarkable little spheroid we call Earth, my lovely wife Lenore came up with the terrific idea of fulfilling a little whim I’ve had recently, that being to go on a minor exploration of the graphic novel medium.
Like many before me, I had always assumed that graphic novels were, in the end, nothing more than extended comic books, replete with your standard super heros and caped crusaders. And while they were certainly entertaining, I would’ve hardly described them as potential sources of real intellectual stimulation. That is, until, I saw the movie adaptation of V_for_Vendetta. “V” demonstrated to me, in dramatic fashion, that graphic novels may also explore complex issues, with interesting, multi-faceted characters. Since then, I’ve been rather curious about the medium and the potential that it holds. Thus, I thought the most natural thing would be to pick up the original “V” and Sin_City graphic novels, so I could enjoy them in their original forms. Unfortunately, a trip to the local book store demonstrated that, following the release of their associated movies, these works have become rather difficult to find. But, not wanting to leave the book store without something, I decided to pick up another work by Alan Moore which I’d heard about: Watchmen.
Now, I should start off by saying I haven’t yet reached the end of this frankly remarkable work. However, to say I’ve been impressed would be an understatement. The only graphic novel to make it on the “Time” list of 100 all-time best novels, “Watchmen” is considered one of the first attempts at a graphic novel as a form of literature. Ironically, “Watchmen” is best described as a superhero story. However, the heros of this story are, with few exceptions, nothing more than regular men and women, with remarkably complex psyches, who’s motivations for donning their costumes and fighting crime are varied and complex. Plotwise, the reader is presented with an intriguingly complex murder mystery, who’s victims are the aforementioned superheros, now retired, forced out of business by a law enacted to quell riots following a police strike protesting the actions of these perceived vigilantes.
If a compelling plot and deep, varied characters aren’t enough, the use of art and dialog in “Watchmen” is wonderful. While not particularly cutting edge, it’s the use of the visuals as a storytelling device that is truly impressive, making it vital for the reader to fully study the panels in order to take in all the details.
So, as I near the end of “Watchmen”, I’ve been trying to decide what to read next. I think I have it narrowed down to three titles:
“Maus”, a work for which it’s author, Art Spiegelman, won a Pulitzer, presents the story of Artie and his father’s experiences surviving the holocaust. “Blankets”, a memoir by Craig Thompson, explores the issues of an adolescent growing up in a fundamentalist Christian home. And lastly, we have “From Hell”, another work authored by Alan Moore, which presents a conspiracy theory involving Jack the Ripper. Intrigued? Perhaps you should check out a graphic novel… you never know, you might like it.
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