Although I grew up reading my fair share of Spiderman comic books, I’m not really a comic book guy. As in, when somebody uses the phrase “graphic novel” I have a tendency to quietly chuckle.
But no more.
A couple weeks ago I borrowed The Watchmen from our friend Debbie’s 13 year-old son Billy Joe, although he now goes by Will. But as I have always believed, once a Billy Joe, always a Billy Joe. And yes, Billy is the same kid I was loaning all that music to the last several months. He’s now a better guitar player than I am (not saying much, but that’s a diss on me and not him), has also picked up the bass guitar, and is now lending me graphic novels to read. It seems my youth mentorship program was short-lived.
I borrowed The Watchmen from him for a couple reasons, the first being I’ve heard the name dropped several times as being “all that”. And since I love to drop names too, I thought maybe I ought to read the thing. So it caught my eye when I saw it on his shelf. Then, on the cover it mentions that no less a literary authority than Time magazine named it one of the 100 best English language novels since 1923. I’m not sure why they picked 1923 as a starting point for English novels, but it’s probably because nothing worthwhile was written before then, ever. Also, everything worthwhile has obviously been written in English, with the exception of Children of Orpheus.
I admit, the Time blurb hooked me on The Watchmen, and I read the thing in about four days. It’s pretty amazing, I have to say. The basic premise is best described as Pixar’s The Incredibles with adult themes. In fact, The Incredibles is pretty much a complete ripoff from The Watchmen, to the point that I’m shocked there wasn’t a major copyright case that resulted.
It’s hard to explain why the book is so good, except to say the characters are very well-developed, and there are multiple plotlines and themes that are represented in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. The sheer amount of artwork that went into the series boggles the mind, but the artwork contains an awful lot of the information needed to process the narrative.
Anyway, give it a shot if you enjoy good novels. Don’t let the comic book thing throw you, and give yourself a chance to get 25% through it. If it doesn’t take, it wasn’t meant to be. But if it does, you’ll be in the know when I start casually dropping Watchmen into conversation.