Sunday, May 24, 2009

My Take on Watchmen

I had never read Watchmen, the highly popular graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (artist). When the movie came out a few months ago, the book gained in popularity again, and I finally caved and got a copy to see what all the hype was about.

I am by no means a graphic novel aficionado, I have just read a few things that have caught my interest over the years, so I'm not one who feeds on these types of books. I have, however, started branching out and trying to read more, and have found it to be a varied experience.

My first thought when I began reading Watchmen was "wow, this is just a big giant comic book." I was drawing back on my childhood experiences, reading X Men and Superman comics, among others. However, when looking at this book through a historical lens, knowing that it was written during the later years of the Cold War, there was a lot to this book. The cynicism, the disillusionment, and the tongue-in-cheek dialogue, especially from the narrator Rorschach, made this a great adult reading experience.

I'll admit that some of the Dr. Manhattan stuff got a little "out there," but I enjoyed the metaphor that lied behind it. That's a good way to describe my overall experience with this book. It was out there, but was a great story that kept having me go "ah yes, I got that, very nice."

Now, does this book have potential in the classroom? First off, if you're talking anything below AP English Literature for Seniors or really insightful Juniors, forget it, don't even bother. If this book fits some kind of unit of study on, say, the Cold War, or in a greater survey of graphic novels, comic books, or something along those lines, then sure, I can see it fitting in terms of its content along those subject lines.

It is a very witty, very multi-dimensional story. There is a lot more sophistication than I was anticipating, and I'm not saying that in a snooty, "those darn kids won't get it, they're just not smart enough," kind of way. I am saying that it simply might go over their heads and end up being just another comic book with an adult theme.

This is a great piece of literature that has aged well, but is an adult piece of literature. I commend anyone who has managed to use this in the classroom and go deeper than surface level with it. Personally, I say it's more of an adult read, but if you've had experiences teaching with this, please share.