Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Watchmen #1

DC Comics' Watchmen 12-part maxi-series changed everything!

Back in 1986 writer Alan Moore proposed a revolutionary new idea for a comic book series to DC Comics' executives.'

DC Comics had purchased the rights and characters from the defunct Charlton Comic Book company.

Key characters DC purchased were Captain Atom, The Question, Peacemaker, Blue Beetle, Nightshade and Thunderbolt.

Moore wanted to stir up things a bit and outlined a story were the Charlton heroes acted, reacted and often behaved badly like ordinary people did. 

He also wanted to emphasis the point that people with super powers can make foolish, bad and dangerous decisions and are as fallible as the ordinary guy on the street. What would real super-beings be like if they existed?

At first DC embraced the idea.  But, as with most corporate politics, the decision was made to stay with the status quo.  Meaning that DC bigwigs didn't want to soil the Charlton characters.

Moore then proceeded to create his own characters based on the Charlton characters.  They were The Comedian, Ozymandias, Dr. Manhattan, Silk Spectre, Nite-Owl and Rorschach- all members of the Watchmen.

In issue #1 Rorschach investigates the death of The Comedian who was thrown out of a high rise upper floor and plummeted to his death.

As the story progresses Moore skillfully introduced the members of the Watchmen  and their reactions to The Comedian's death and offered a hint to as yet an unknown conspiracy.

By doing so Moore compelled readers to follow the story each issue offering just enough clues to whet readers' curiosities.  In addition the back-up stories about the original Watchmen and a parallel pirate story added to the mystery and suspense Moore so skillfully laid out.

Artist Dave Gibbons (another Brit brought to the United States by DC) provided the art.

Gibbons had garnered quite a reputation for himself on his stellar work at DC, among them a lengthy run on Green Lantern.

With Watchmen Gibbons let his creative energies run wild.  Every panel evoked a darkness and complexity mirroring Moore's script.

Visual clues were sprinkled throughout the max-series, culminating in one of the most talked about final issues ever created for comic books.

With Watchmen Moore and Gibbons ushered in (with fellow writer/artist Frank Miller) the 'Dark Age' of comic books.  Suddenly heroes became almost indistinguishable from villains and villains from heroes.

It would be nearly a decade later before a gradual change back to a defined line between good and evil was reestablished. 

Even today superheroes cross the line.  Comic books had suddenly grown up and the fan base ate it up.