WEEKEND OPEN BAR: Time To Put Down Watchmen, Fanboys.
[WEEKEND OPEN BAR: The one-stop ramble-about-anything weekend post at OL. Comment on the topic at hand. Tell us how drunk you are. Describe a comic you bought. This is your chance to bring the party.]
A couple of weeks ago I was talking to a few fellow graduate students waiting for a class to begin. They were all talking about what their final thesis was going to be on, when I decided to spurt nerd juice all over the crowd. “I want to work with comic books for mine”, I said. I wasn’t stunting, it’s my geeky aspiration. An unimpressive woman with no chin turned and smiled at me. “Oh, you mean graphic novels.” The smile lingered. In my mind, fantasies of spin-kicks and flawless victories danced about. Her chin shattered into a thousand pixels of hate, her smile evaporated and an announcer bellowed “KO!”
I returned the smile and informed her no, I very much meant comic books. No need to dress it up in the high-brow artsy-fartsy name.
When she assailed the cred of my favorite medium, the first thing I wanted to do was pull out the typical parry. Watchmen. It’s at the tip of every fanboy’s tongue when the medium of comic books comes under assault. If it isn’t the first thing, it’s surely the second. Watchmen, Watchmen, Watchmen. Considered one of the greatest novels of all time. Deconstructs the superhero. Blah, blah, blah. Commentary on the conflict of ideologies in the Cold War. Blah blah. Watchmen, Watchmen, Watchmen.
But I didn’t say anything, I was tired of using that usual comic book as a defense. It was then that I realized: we need to come up with new stalwarts. New examples. We need to put Watchmen down.
A couple of months ago, comic book writer Jason Aaron told Alan Moore to go fuck himself. Moore had accused modern comic book writers of being talentless, if they couldn’t come up with something to rival Watchmen. Surely Moore conjured this statement from a cauldron filled with Eye of Newt, and crumbs from whatever shit is stuck in his filthy beard. Moore’s response was reductive, ignoring market forces, ignoring creative freedoms, ignoring the changes in the comic book world since he published his opus.
But here’s the truth: there are fucking classics in our midst. What Alan Moore is perhaps too interested in conjuring Necronomicons to notice is that since his amazing maxiseries dropped back in the day, other people have churned out other works. Works worthy of being held up and used as content to champion the medium.
Jason Aaron shouldn’t have told Alan Moore to go fuck himself, he should have rattled off the countless classics that have arisen from dope minds in the past two decades or so. Just because nothing has pierced the skin of our cultural Collective Conscious doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
The problem is that we’re too taken with Watchmen to begin to mount these arguments. We’re too busy sliding our slithering fancocks between the pages of Moore’s masterpiece, gumming them up with our own Rorschach test to even begin to contemplate the other bullshit out there that we should be proud of. So Time isn’t jerking off to these works – who the fuck cares.
The point of this exercise isn’t to demean Watchmen. I love it, it’s brilliant. No doubt. No diggity. I like the way you work it, Alan Moore. However I’ve been wearing Watchmen as a bulletproof vest for too many years. It’s time for me, and I encourage you as well, to hold up other examples of the medium in the face of chinless broads sitting in a classroom.
If they look at us funny, we can drop some knowledge bombs off their collective tits. If you didn’t know, now you know, suckah!
So Here’s The Discussion Point.
You’re tasked with finding another comic series capable of justifying the medium. What is your binky? Don’t take anything easy like Persepolis. That’s cheating. Something on the fringes.
If you’ve been following the site, it may be obvious to you.
Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli’s examination of America in the throes of a second civil war is the comic series that I would trot out as an example of the medium. If Watchmen was ultra curious about the Cold War, then DMZ is my comic book champion of our Post-9/11 life. While Wood fills his universe with an America in a quite literal war with itself, the themes woven throughout it are plucked from our ever-depressing headlines.
Within the world of panels and narration boxes, Wood has taken on the hysteria of a country feuding with itself. As our country has been split into two warring factions more interested in ideological victories than actually helping We the People, DMZ follows it through to a potential conclusion. Where are we heading as a whole?
Yet, as the series evolves, it has taken us through the comic book equivalent of Jeremy Scahill’s Blackwater, it has interrogated the idealism of a populist candidate consummated in election and what happens to that idealism when it falls apart. It has done all this with gorgeous artwork by Burchielli.
DMZ is special because it engages in these topics through a world built in script and artwork. Whereas a short story predicated on these same issues may be interesting, and even excellent, the world that Wood has built thrives within the world of a comic book. Or a graphic novel.
I could blather on forever, but straight-up, fucking DMZ. It is an intelligent interrogation of the themes which have encapsulated the collective conscious of the United States of America for almost a decade. It has done this through the framework of a comic book, and it has excelled in conveying the message through artwork and dialogue bubbles.
What’s your token? Hit me. It’s time to build a new binky.