How Dystopia Relates to “Watchmen”.
Alan Moore’s graphic novel “Watchmen” presents the reader with a fictional dystopic world, where dour writing coupled by with intense graphics by Dave Gibbons, pull the reader into a world where life is depressing and its people constantly live in fear. Now famous, Watchmen was first published by DC comics between 1986 and 1987 as a twelve part series. Set in an alternate reality that resembles our world circa 1980, one of the main differences is the presence of super heroes. The Watchmen do not stick to the conventional image of the superhero; that of patriotic protectors, with the nation enjoying their servitude. While the heroes do serve the nation, their views of the world are largely cynical, as if they realize that a Utopia could never exist and have since given up on the idea.
The world created in “Watchmen” is dystopian in nature, challenging the many preconceptions of the classic hero tale that the reader might harbour. “Through this unconventional superhero story, Watchmen troubles readers’ conventional reading of superhero comics and simultaneously problematizes the conventions of reading per se- more exactly the conventional interpretation of text and reality.” Song, Ho-Rim. Text’s Resistance to Being Interpreted: Unconventional Relationship between Text and Reader in Watchmen. Practicing Science Fiction: Critical Essays on Writing, Reading, and Teaching the Genre. McFarland & Company. 2010. The conflicts emerge when the reader is forced to let go of their own personal interpretations of a comic book hero and are instead confronted by the often morose and unconventional hero archetypes presented by Allan Moore. “A team of masked heroes saves mankind, but everything changes when someone begins killing them one by one.”Leo Gilbert, Whitney Young “ Who watches the 'Watchmen?” Chicago Tribune. March 05, 2009.
The dystopian mood is presented in “Watchmen” through many mediums; the drawings are done in a graphic and uncensored manner, the subject matter is brutal and uncompromising, and moral makeup of the characters is complex and often anti-heroic, bringing the gritty content into a more tangible and accessible reality. Sucking the reader in, the text furthers this darkness through the superheroes’ fall from grace as the public becomes increasingly wary of them, eventually outlawing them as their actions blur the lines between hero and villain. The narrative present in “Watchmen” also contributes to the anti- Utopian sentiment of the graphic novel. The narrative being very cynical and anti-humanitarian, exploring the cost carried with decisions made where the end is used to justify any means.
“Watchmen” was written in 1986 by Allan Moore, born November 18th 1953 in Northampton, England, the son of a poor family. His works were influenced by his expulsion from secondary school. He did not find happiness in conventional employment and so began to work as a cartoonist. Eventually, and after many jobs, in 1986 he came out with Watchmen and has since set a new standard for the medium of graphic art. As one of the first writers to question the motivations of the superhero. Moore’s characters become fully human in ways that typical heroes, as portrayed in mainstream comics and even literature, are not. They vacillate all over the moral spectrum, they have human foibles; are at times greedy and selfish, disconnected and downright evil, while at others being altruistic and seeking redemption.
Watchmen is a gritty narrative which does not hesitate to wade through both ends of the human moral pendulum, where the answers are often anything but easy and the colours anything but black and white, forcing the reader to challenge their own ethical assumptions. The dystopia present in the graphic novel saturates the narrative, graphics, and plot as a means to counter the ideals of a conventional superhero.
Song, Ho-Rim. Text’s Resistance to Being Interpreted: Unconventional Relationship between Text and Reader in Watchmen” Practicing Science Fiction: Critical Essays on Writing, Reading, and Teaching the Genre. McFarland & Company. 2010. Pg 117.
Leo Gilbert, Whitney Young “ Who watches the 'Watchmen?” Chicago Tribune. March 05, 2009