Considering Watchmen by Andrew Hoberek (book review).

If you want a book to read in the early dark mornings then ‘Considering Watchmen’ by Andrew Hoberek would better there than in bright summer light. Any book about the 12 part turned graphic novel opus ‘Watchmen’ by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons needs the right mood to get into it.

In many respects if you’ve missed the assorted interviews with Alan Moore on the subject over the years then you’ll get a lot of snippets here. It’s a shame really that Hoberek doesn’t interview Moore himself because I’m sure he must have had questions he would want to have answered. He does pick up on a lot of subtlies from the series although I’d have to question is this from his personal experience or from what he discovered from others or their creators. A lot of the imagery is subliminal far more than deliberate intention to make the reader know what is going on. I remember being in part of an informal chat group after a UK Comicon including Dave Gibbons who commented that Alan was still working out the next part of the ‘Watchmen’ at the time’ and getting some wrinkles out of the plot so it wasn’t as though everything was laid down in concrete before the information was given to him.

Oddly, Hoberek misses out the significance of the first and only meeting of the Crimebusters where the Comedian burns the city map and its significance on Ozymandias. Although it seems obvious after the fact, it was like a throwaway line when the emphasis was afterwards with the meeting between the Comedian and Sally Jupiter. Distraction is the commodity of the writer, have something there but hide its importance until the right time.

I tend to regard Rorschach’s death as his means to ensure that his journal sees print, even if he’s deluded enough to think the editor of ‘The New Frontiersman’ would have equal values to his own than ‘Nova Express’ who would clearly have recognised the gold that they’d been handed. If anything, it’s a demonstration of contrast in the extreme right where some people are just plain nasty and someone like Rorschach sought justice.

I’m not sure if Hoberek wrote it correctly but Rorschach didn’t become masked because of the Blaire Roche kidnapping and murder but what made what he was doing more personal with the justice he meted out.

His analysis of the Thatcher run British government at the time is reasonably accurate but I’m less sure if Moore used it as a template for ‘Watchmen’ compared to ‘V For Vendetta’ which he clearly did, mainly because the former was set in America. I doubt if he would confuse the two, just escalate what would have happened had Nixon stayed in charge with what we know about him now or back then when it was still a reasonably fresh wound in the American psyche.

Alas, I think Hoberek went a bit off focus with his final ‘Coda’ looking at potential source material that might have inspired ‘Watchmen’. I don’t have any recollection of Robert Mayer’s novel ‘Superfolks’ at the time. Import books from the USA was still pretty sparse at the time and I can’t recall Moore mentioning it in any interviews. ‘Watchmen’ was certainly not written as a satire.

Don’t expect this book to be a complete analysis of the ‘Watchmen’s plot. Hoberek doesn’t even acknowledge ‘The Architects Of Fear’, the original ‘Outer Limits’ story that Ozymandias draws his idea from. Saying that, early in the book, although he describes but doesn’t recognise it, Moore also borrows from Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’, although it has been used many times since where one of the victims is actually the murderer to draw attention away from themselves. I think that was one of the disappointments when I read the series originally, even if I dismissed it as being too obvious and thought Alan Moore would do a different twist.

Again, the length of the review does show there is a lot to think about here, just don’t get hung up on the number of note pages at the back of the book. The ‘Watchmen’ is always going to get some deep analysis from time to time. A lot of Hoberek’s observations are reasonable and should make you think, its only the few above that are a little off.

GF Willmetts

November 2017

(pub: Rutgers University Press. 227 page sparse illustrated indexed enlarged paperback. Price: £27.50 (UK), $29.95 (US). ISBN: 978-0-8135-9036-3)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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