Alan Moore (author), Dave Gibbons (illustrator), and John Higgins (colorist), Watchmen (1986, 1987)
Edition used: DC Comics
In this lecture Kevin McNeilly begins by talking about the material nature of the text, its physicality and structure, distinguishing it from the linear and confining movement of film. The collaborative nature of graphic novels resists a single, authorial intention or perspective, as does the juxtaposition of the ordered, gridlike, rational aspects of the story and illustrations with the messy, chaotic, fluid-like blood and bodies that sprawl through and across the grid lines. McNeilly concludes by discussing the “fearful symmetry” of issue 5: why should symmetry be fearful? According to McNeilly it’s possibly because of the violence of trying to contain the lived body in an authoritarian, rigid, symmetrical order.
The video recording of the lecture with slides can be viewed on the UBC MediaSite system
The lecture without slides is also on YouTube:
- “Without my face, nobody knows. Nobody knows who I am” (Moore & Gibbons 5.11). What is the significance of the focus on self-identity and masks in Watchmen, in the context of the rest of the story?
- Discuss the relationship between form and content in Watchmen, including one or more of the different forms of printed material interspersed between chapters.
- From the unreliable historical events and the character synopses that end each chapter, to repeated flashbacks and the concept of the Doomsday Clock, discuss how time functions in Watchmen.
- What does Kurtz’s apparent desire to die at the hand of Willard, and Rorschach’s demand that Dr. Manhattan “Do it!” (Moore & Gibbons 12.24), reveal about similarities or differences at work in Apocalypse Now and Watchmen?
- Evaluate the success of Watchmen as a reading of Nietzsche’s conceptions of freedom and power.
- Discuss the idea of balanced order or the mastery of form in Watchmen. Why should symmetry be fearful (Chapter V)?
- Compare the treatment of female sexuality and/or the rhetorics associated with sex work in Watchmen and one of Miller (The Crucible), Fanon (Black Skin, White Masks), Beauvoir (The Second Sex).
- Discuss the depiction of power and geopolitics in Watchmen. You may compare with either Conrad’s Heart of Darkness or Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, if you wish.
- “Who watches the Watchmen?” Compare the treatment of the state in Watchmen and one of Plato’s Republic, Hobbes’ Leviathan, or Rousseau’s A Discourse on Inequality.