A Watchmen Defense

Responding to my negative take on Watchmen, the cartoonist Frank Santoro — a member of the Comics Comics collective and creator of the fine graphic novel Storeyville — sent in a very smart defense of the Moore/Gibbons book. So smart, I thought it deserves attenton from readers who might not look at the comment section. Here’s what Frank wrote:

Watchmen is a Lutheran reformation text knocking on the door of the Catholic establishment by a devout believer. Or something like that. And why I think scholars of comics don’t really enjoy it because they aren’t superhero fans. The text is an indictment of the form, the laws, by a believer in the form. I don’t know if anyone who wasn’t a “true believer” to start with really “gets” the full impact of the text. It’s like a Muslim saying he doesn’t enjoy the New Testament.

4 thoughts on “A Watchmen Defense

  1. Yes, it’s very well put. But I must say I disagree with Jeet’s dissent on a more basic level. It sounded to me uncharacteristically ideological, reminiscent of Art Spiegelman’s blanket condemnations of the genre when it doesn’t perform wacky vaudeville. Yes, Jack Cole is great, but so is Jack Kirby.

    Watchmen is not, fundamentally, about ‘realistic superheroes’. It merely uses that device to talk about power and free will. I disagree that superheroes are inherently useless for examining issues such as these and think Watchmen shows this to be true.

  2. Just finding this via Frank’s reprise at TCJ. I agree in small measure with what Frank said, but am much more inclined towards the opinion of Carter Scholz which Jeet quoted in the original post here.
    Very much like CEREBUS I think it’s probably hard for people not interested in super heroes to be taken in by THE WATCHMEN. Unlike Frank, and like Scholz, I see THE WATCHMEN as just another super hero story typical of it’s time, and influenced not only by Stan Lee, but by it’s immediate cultural setting. That is to say if super hero comics had kept pace with their surroundings it’s what you would expect a super hero comic book to look like in the ’80s given the journalism, music, television, and movies of that time. Isn’t it true that early ’80s British comics had the same tone? So the only way to see the WATCHMEN as something new, and to be excited by that would be if there was some reason a person was excited about seeing super heroes catching up with the times. That to me would imply that when the book came along people were bored to death with super heroes, but if they had been looking elsewhere for their entertainment THE WATCHMEN would not have seemed like anything new. If a person is not used to looking at super heroes, and doesn’t really care what goes in in the genre, then THE WATCHMEN is seen in a different light.

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