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I have recently taken on the idea to submit ten essays, one per week, taking an in depth look at what I think are some of the finest examples and collections of comic book stories around. By no means have I read everything ever printed and don’t claim to know it all. I have read and own everything on this list as well as a large amount more. This is an eclectic collection that I, personally, think would please not just hardcore collectors, but casual fans as well. And that’s the most important criteria in forming this list; I looked at complete stories, easily accessible, without too much history to learn. Something that a casual fan, or even non comic fan can pick up and possibly enjoy. Last week featured The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman.
Number Seven: Watchmen penned by Alan Moore, rendered by Dave Gibbons, and colored by John Higgins, $39.99 in hardcover and $19.99 for the trade paperback.
Watchmen is a wholly functional collaborative masterpiece! Alan Moore has stated publicly that Watchmen was designed to showcase the strength of the comics medium over other media. It was about the telling more than the tale and Watchmen was designed to be read more than once, with some connections purposefully not being able to be recognized until further readings. It is the story of a murder investigation that brings together a group of super humans who either remain active at the behest of the government or are retired. Until 2009, Watchmen had the distinction of being the only comic to win a Hugo Award. It is a much deserved award. “Who watches the Watchmen?” took on a life of its own as a cultural reference.
Watchmen utilizes the non-linear approach to writing in that it jumps around space and time and isn’t necessarily in order. This becomes clear as we race towards the culmination. It also showcases Tales of the Black Freighter, a story within a story, that I’ll admit, doesn’t do much for me. In my personal subsequent readings I have skipped over the Freighter, which I understand the use for as it grounds the character reading it and creates a common bond, and there may be even more that I’m not connecting myself but I just can’t do it. The freighter portion does bore me.
This belongs on your shelf because there’s no history. This is a wonderfully written and drawn story that can captivate anyone and continue to entertain even if you’ve already read it. Higgins soft colors are a perfect complement to Gibbons art style.
In 1986, as DC Comics created the use of the word ‘graphic novel’ so that this and Dark Knight Returns could sit on book store shelves to be more closely associated with novels themselves and we saw a change in attitude towards comics. This was truly the time that we learned comics were not solely intended for children.
March 2009 saw the film adaptation of Watchmen, and I loved it. It’s a great movie and a perfect adaptation of what I personally love about the original story.
Michael R. Murray read his first comic and has been buying and collecting for over 35 years. At one point his collection included two copies of Amazing Spider-man #1, and one copy each of Amazing Fantasy #15, Fantastic Four #2, Avengers #4, Showcase #22, and dozens more high grade and key issues. The collection has grown to include original art pages, as well as statues and busts, with the current emphasis on collecting original drawings from appropriate artists on the inside of his hard covers. His personal collection of graphic novels consists of over 2,000 hardcovers and trade paperbacks. He has attended all of the Boston and New York Comic Cons and experienced Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Diego. He has championed comic books in the local schools and was very proud that both of his children read at least three years above their grade levels, due nearly exclusively to comics. He’s quick to point out that none of this makes him an expert, but that his love of comics is most enjoyable when he can share it. Follow on Twitter at mycomicstore001 or like his Facebook page.