On Tuesday I picked up a copy. Later that afternoon I stood in line to get coffee, and a clean-cut man in his late 40’s looked back and noticed what was in my hand. What followed was a conversation in which he’d outed himself as a devotee.
“You know what? I still got all the issues in sleeves in my study. I’ve been waiting more than twenty years for all this stuff.”
Experience with fanboys has taught me to expect disdain in this situation (e.g. “You’re just getting it because of the movie — is that right?”).
Sometimes people surprise you.
“Oh, it’s great!” said the fan, pointing to my copy. “You’ll love it. You’ll just love it.”
Thursday night I finished it.
I don’t want to say too much about Watchmen for a couple reasons. One, I’m a latecomer to the subject and know that you could get better discussion elsewhere, if you haven’t already. And two, I’m a latecomer to comic books and graphic novels in general: I’ve got stacks of Spiderman, Ghost Rider, X-Men, and Batman stashed in some plastic crate I haven’t opened in more than a decade. I guess in that sense I’m not a latecomer to the medium, but I’ve been a stranger to it.
What finally drew me to Watchmen was that its story promised moral ambivalence, something I cannot resist in literature. And it delivered: the ending is worthy of as much disturbing meditation as Heart of Darkness. The characters… you go to bed worrying about them.
And of course there’s the movie. Now, I’ve a sudden, considerable passion for Watchmen, but not a midnight-showing kind of passion; I would not wait outside the theater dressed up as Rorshach. Maybe Dr. Manhattan — except a winter night would not possibly accommodate me.
“Alan Moore always said it was unfilmable,” said the man in line. “And I think he’s right, but you know, I’ve got to see what’s been done with it.”
Suppose the film’s a disappointment. The fact would remain that I’d have not likely come to enjoy the comics without the movie’s publicity. Millions more can say the same.
I think my friend understood that, and smiled on a neophyte. He left with his coffee and a dilemma to resolve when he got home: “My wife has to go out of town this weekend and she wants me to come with her… and I would, but… ‘honey, there’s a movie I have to see…’ “