31 Days of Comics Challenge: Day 31


A Comic You’d Hate to Leave Off a List of Comics

I must examine Watchmen, the same selection that another writer gave for this topic.  It stands to this day as a high watermark for the comics medium.  I will briefly explain one of the many layers that makes this comic so good.  Alan Moore imagined a vigilante team forming in the real world.  He determined that any real person who would put on a mask and fight crime would be seriously disturbed, and the things they would do in the name of “fighting evil” would be not exactly heroic or wholesome.  There would be little to separate these “heroes” from the sociopaths they fight.

One of the most interesting questions Moore poses is: what would happen to these crime-fighters if a real individual did gain super-human powers?  The answer is they would be rendered instantly obsolete, and they would all fade into obscurity.  That’s what happens in Watchmen.  The first true super-human comes into existence, and all masked vigilantes retire.  They take on normal jobs, get old and out of shape.  Until someone starts picking them off one by one.  The book starts with these individuals coming out of retirement, donning their capes and cowls for the first time in years.  Even then, the series isn’t so much about solving a murder mystery as about human weakness….

One thing I liked about Watchmen is that it is a stand-alone statement with a beginning, middle and end.  For many years, the comics world seemed to understand this.  The notion of turning the Watchmen characters into another ongoing franchise would have been heresy.  Besides, what more was there to tell about a story with a closed beginning and ending?  If you wanted to read “further adventures” of these people, you could come pretty close by reading about certain characters in the main DC continuity: the properties it bought from Charlton Comics in 1983 and upon which the Watchmen were based.  In the main continuity, Doctor Manhattan was Captain Atom; Nite Owl was Blue Beetle; Rorschach was The Question; The Comedian was Peacemaker; Ozymandias was Thunderbolt; and Silk Spectre was Nightshade.

Sadly, DC did commit this heresy recently with a series of Watchmen prequels.  And I suspect they’re not finished milking Moore’s ideas.  Of course, Moore refused to be involved in the prequels.  As far as he’s concerned, the Watchmen project ended a long time ago.  But what’s shocking to me as a bystander is that some of the most successful names in the industry were involved.  Apparently, even these comics masterminds don’t understand or respect the concept of a coherent artistic statement anymore.  The world has changed….

When the Watchmen prequels were announced, I felt like someone had drawn a line in the sand.  It was very clear to me that mainstream comics now belonged to an alien generation, one whose values I do not share nor understand.  I had already stopped buying new Marvel and DC comics several years prior to this event, but I always thought in the back of my mind that I might get back on board someday.  After the Watchmen prequels came out, there was no going back.

But that is how it has always been and always will be for aging fans.  The products and experiences we treasured in childhood will continually mutate.  They have to in order to survive in a constantly changing cultural and commercial landscape.  It happens with music, television, comics — every medium of human expression.  Those of us who have invested considerable passion and nostalgia in the experiences we remember will not move on.  But those mediums of expression will.  To the point that they become unrecognizable to us as what they were.  We will blast the young people for their horrible taste, but they will enjoy the new products as much as we enjoyed the old ones.  And one day, their world will change just as ours did.

We are passing the torch, not merely throwing it down in disgust.  The torch never stops changing hands.  This is why I have decided to continue championing comics.

End of 31 Day Challenge!!

Thank you all for reading these entries!  It’s been fun to express not only my thoughts on comics, but on so many life issues that came up along the way….  That’s the great things about comics: when they’re functioning at their best, they tell us about ourselves.

If you liked these entries, or if you have opinions of your own, please join me every third Wednesday at ChiPRC for My Favorite Comics!  We’ll be having lots of discussions like the ones you have read here….

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