I must confess. I’m now hooked on the Watchmen.
God, I’m so predictable. I can always (and so easily) get sucked into the vortex of seemingly unsolvable Gordian Knot-type stories, and – oh, look – in Chapter III, page 3, first panel, there’s a guy from the Gordian Knot Lock Company. How visually apropos.
During my mysterious blog interruption last month (and while traveling quite a bit), I read the graphic novel in two sittings. And yes, I read every word of the book inserts and files at the end of each chapter. It’s a habit of mine to try to digest and analyze a work as a whole first and then make decisions on what should be cut or changed.
Structurally speaking, the whole thing reminded me of the Lost TV show in that you have a group of people in the middle of a mystery in a strange world with many visual motifs while every episode reveals a different character’s backstory. I can’t help but wonder how much the Watchmen style of storytelling influenced the Lost writers.
An interesting conversation I suspect screenwriters will be having in a month or so will be about how successful Zack Snyder & company was in adapting WM and what you would’ve done differently. Personally, my early impression is that when it comes to adapting Watchmen, the novel lends itself more to a mini-series than a film. And you could probably condense the book to 5 or 6 hour-and-a-half HBO episodes.
For a film, I think you’d have to limit the backstories, keep the first generation superheroes in the far background, and pay close attention to themes and visual motifs. I would’ve cut the Black Freighter, sped up the love affair plotline, and yes, I would’ve changed the ending. What the hell am I supposed to think about that damn squid?
So I’m in the midst of studying analysis of the novel and thought I’d share a few interesting links.
I’m listening to the Watchmen podcasts by the Legion of Dudes. These guys provide for free a roundtable conversation on the novel and they go through each issue panel-by-panel discussing all the details and symbols and all things Watchmen. They’re about an hour and a half each. So settle in. I’m up to Chapter IV.
This website has a gaggle of links to great analysis of the book, the most notable is probably The Annotated Watchmen generally considered the “holy grail” of Watchmen notes.
The Boredom Festival has a complete panel-by-panel reconstruction of The Black Freighter comic book.
An Analysis of Watchmen: Symmetry and the Tragic Flaw
Erika Szabo gives us an essay on the use of symmetry in certain panel layouts (like above) within several chapters of the graphic novel. It was interesting. She wrote:
Initially, one may not even think of wondering why Adrian Veidt the hero Ozymandias, formed the central panel – pages 14-15. However, after multiple reads through Watchmen, different interpretations of his appearance can be made. Perhaps even the end of the graphic novel will come to mind. Why is this? My theory is that because Adrian Veidt was the one man who could unify the world – even if only temporarily – his ‘unification’ of the central panel was appropriate for a man capable of such. This is merely a speculation, but the theory does have merit.
I believe that if Chapter V can invoke such high speculations, so should the entire graphic novel. I will not go into complete detail over any other Chapter because, honestly, I don’t think I have enough room to. Instead I will focus on adjacent ideas, symbolism and the like. One such idea that I would like to talk about is the involvement of symmetry and how it effects Watchmen as a whole.
Also, here’s a paper I plan to digest called Reading Space in Watchmen. He writes:
In this paper I argue that the grammar of Watchmen is a spatial grammar, a place of constituent elements transformed into practised space. Watchmen provokes a modernist strategy of estrangement in its representation and problematisation of the postmodern by employing the rational grid of the orderly mode of modernity, and disabling its instinct towards compartmentalisation and containment.
Some of the early scripts are available here.
And here's The New Frontiersman viral site.