10 Things You Should Know About Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons

10 Things You Should Know About Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons

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  1. Since its creation in 1986, Watchmen has generated myriad loyal fans and even a feature film. Since it holds the ability to inspire such a devoted fan-base, it only seems right to take a look at some of the more interesting aspects of both the comic and its history.


    1. The Initial Run and Reproductions

    Watchmen was a 12-issue limited run comic book. The first issue was printed in September 1986 with a new issue being printed each month, culminating in the final installment of the story’s release in October 1987. All twelve issues were re-released as a complete volume by DC Comics in 1995. In 2005, a hardcover version was released by DC featuring bonus materials based on a limited-run reprint of the series in 1987. Warner Bros. later produced an animated graphic novel based on the comic’s original art in 2008 which was distributed electronically. In 2009, it was given a DVD release.


    2. Who Killed the Peacemaker?

    When Alan Moore originally crafted the plot for what would become Watchmen, he wanted to use existing characters from Charlton Comics, which DC Comics had acquired in 1985. He pitched the concept under the title Who Killed the Peacemaker? but DC didn’t like the idea. While they enjoyed the plot, they weren’t agreeable to having their recently purchased characters killed or otherwise rendered unusable. Instead, they urged Moore to continue the project using completely new characters.


    3. The New Characters Weren’t So New

    At first, Moore was discouraged by DC’s denial, but then realized that he could design his characters to resemble his originally intended cast. By doing so, he reasoned that readers would be able to recognize the correlations and make the appropriate connections to the Charlton characters. Here is a list of the inspiration behind Watchmen’s cast:


    Silk Spectre – Nightshade


    Rorschach – The Question


    Dr. Manhattan – Captain Atom


    The Comedian – The Peacemaker


    Ozymandias – Thunderbolt


    Nite Owl – Blue Beetle


    4. There are no Heroes

    One of the most noteworthy aspects of Watchmen is that no character really holds the moral high ground. Characters are described as “heroes” or “villains,” but some of the heroes are responsible for more carnage and heinous acts than the supposed bad guys. Even the characters who seem to have a properly aligned moral compass find themselves lost at points, and the comic as a whole leaves the reader wondering who was truly right and who was truly wrong.


    5. Time Magazine Considered it one of the 20th Century’s Greatest Novels

    For a long time, comic books held a stigma as being childish or a campy form of escapism. Though this notion is no longer as widely regarded as it was in the 1950’s, there are still those who look at graphic novels with an up-turned nose. However, the acclaim Watchmen received from Time Magazine is a notable victory in the fight for literary recognition. In 2005, Watchmen was the only graphic novel to be included in Time’s list of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to present.


    6. It Won a Hugo Award…But not for Best Novel

    Despite the abundance of science fiction comics/graphic novels, it wasn’t until 2008 that the Best Graphic Story category was created for the Hugo Award. However, that didn’t stop Watchmen from claiming an award in 1988. Each year, the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) presents the Hugo Awards, and each year the hosts of Worldcon are allowed to create a category for that year’s awards. In 2008, the category was Other Forms, a catch-all for works that didn’t fit in any of the other Hugo Categories, and Watchmen claimed the prize. Until the inaugural Best Graphic Story Hugo Award was presented to the creators of Girl Genius in 2009, Watchmen was the only graphic novel to receive a Hugo Award.


    7. Watchmen is Layered

    Like any good novel, Watchmen benefits from multiple readings. But not just from easily-missed subtlety in the dialog, but in the panels as well. Dave Gibbons’s artwork plays a major role in Watchmen and plenty of the graphic novel’s motifs (as well as some treats for the astute reader) are hidden within its images. There are so many layers to Watchmen that the creators even started noticing motifs that weren’t originally planned. Moore himself once quipped “We found a lot of these things started to generate themselves as if by magic.”


    8. Tales of the Black Freighter

    Throughout Watchmen, a boy is seen reading a comic called Tales of the Black Freighter (he appears in issues 3, 5, 8, 10 and 11). Facially, the story of this comic parallels the overall arc of Watchmen’s own plot, but read it carefully; it also shows ties to other keys parts of the story while also providing Moore’s own editorial on the thoughts and actions of the characters within the graphic novel.

    When the “story within a story” concept was planned as a part of Watchmen, Moore faced the difficulty of inserting a thematically appropriate comic in a world where super heroes were not only commonplace but also a target of scorn. Gibbons suggested a pirate setting and thus Tales of the Black Freighter was born.


    9. Watchmen Almost had a Prequel Series

    After the completion of Watchmen’s initial run, Moore expressed interest to DC in creating a prequel series starring the Minutemen, the 1940’s crime-fighting group featured in the comic. However, DC had different plans for the Watchmen universe and suggested spin-offs featuring other characters, such as The Comedian’s Vietnam Diary. Not seeing much potential in DC’s ideas, Moore and Gibbons began disputes over the rights to Watchmen’s characters that eventually led to Moore severing all ties to DC. In 2010, DC tried to salvage the relationship by offering Moore ownership of the characters provided he create both a prequel and sequel series, but by then he was no longer interested.


    10. The Watchmen Film Adaptation Spent 23 Years in Development Hell

    The rights to a Watchmen film were initially optioned by 20th Century Fox in 1986, though Moore declined to provide a screenplay. Producers Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver hired Sam Hamm (Never Cry Wolf, Batman, Batman Returns) to pen the script, and he would not be the last writer to comment on the arduous task of converting the story to film. The project never gained traction, however, and Fox put the film into turnaround in 1991. From there, Watchmen moved through several studios: Warner Bros., Universal Studios, Revolution Studios, Paramount Pictures and finally back to Warner Bros. By the time of its release in 2009, Hamm’s screenplay had been rewritten by 3 other writers, and 5 different directors had been attached to the project throughout its history.

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