Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

June 6, 2012

Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Watchmen


It's hard to remember a time when Watchmen wasn't some emblematic work but instead was one of several comics on the stands. Its deification came quickly and thoroughly, and there was a lot of hype and anticipation for the project from day one. I have to admit: I wasn't the biggest fan of the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons superhero story, especially right away: I liked it, but there were comics I liked much, much more. (It grew in my own estimation with the Rorschach issue, and an early '90s re-reading placed it where it is now in my overall estimation of the medium.) I do remember being thoroughly impressed with Watchmen pretty early on as a quality effort and kind of generally liking that I was at a loss as to where it was going. I mentioned on this site a few weeks ago paying close attention to the detective characters that get into the Comedian's apartment because I thought the comic book would be about them. I can recall the modest thrill of realizing that they weren't all that important, that it was going to be this guy that just popped in the window. Things like that. I even kept waiting for the bad guy to make his presence known. I also remember being surprised by the quality of the back material, and the way that the covers went right into the story was probably the only formal trick I picked up on the first time around. It seemed like a lot of care and thought was put into it; it seemed substantial.

Watchmen had in common with a lot of the indy titles I was reading that they were easy investment items for my friends only partly into comics -- a group of guys into comics through reading them at my house. It was twelve issues, and that seemed more than enough. There was no rambling backstory to process, which was hugely appealing, and the various articles out there proclaiming the brilliance of Watchmen and similar comics with a strong creator imprint were handy in explaining to worried parents and baffled girlfriends the time spent reading these things. I didn't have a lot of comics with me in college because traveling with books was such in a pain the ass and there were no comics shops near where I was in Virginia. I would eventually build a little college comics collection: Matt Groening books and Read Yourself Raw and Love and Rockets issues and a few Eyebeam collections. That first year, I had some issues of Watchmen and a few other titles. I remember Watchmen having enough of a reputation, particularly after the Rolling Stone article, that friends with no interest in comics would frequently pick them up. It was usually not well-received, to be honest with you, although I didn't have any hang-ups in terms of still insisting It was good. I think I was right.
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