Friday, 21 November 2014

Minutes to Midnight: Twelve Essays on Watchmen

Minutes to midnightMinutes to Midnight: Twelve Essays on Watchmen
Edited by Richard Bensam
 "MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT examines WATCHMEN from a variety of perspectives and uncovers surprising answers about the history of scientific theory, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, WATCHMEN's murder mystery, Rorschach and Steve Ditko, the secrets of Captain Metropolis and the Minutemen, whether the Comedian was right, who shouldn't read WATCHMEN, and how the motion picture adaptation illuminates the original text."
   Watchmen is a graphic novel which demands multiple readings. While it’s easy to fall in love with the book the first time you read it, it’s not until you go through again (and again, and again) that you start to notice how brilliantly put together it is. Upon your second read through you might start to get a grasp on the relevance of the black freighter storyline, upon your third you might notice the similar panels that appear in multiple chapters, linking certain characters to certain traits, upon your fourth perhaps you’ll notice the numerous smiley faces hidden in plain sights and the clocks that show the time as five minutes to midnight.
   It’s a real testament to the insane level of work that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons put into the book that even now, despite my numerous readthroughs (I couldn’t give an exact number, but I’m well into the double digits by this point) of Watchmen, I still found something new that I had never realised before in each of the essays collected in this book.

   Minutes to Midnight collects twelve essays on the subject of Watchmen and covers the book from multiple angles. Some essays tackle the themes of the text itself, some its context and legacy in the real world, some focus on the effectiveness of the film adaptation and others still on it’s place in the history of comics as a medium.
   Basically, whatever aspect of the book you’re interested in, you’ll find something within this book that you’ll enjoy.

Rorschach & The Comedian

   Among my personal favourites were “Reassembling the components in the right sequence: Why you shouldn’t read Watchmen first” by Walter Hudsick, which argues that you should not give Watchmen to a first time comics reader as enjoyment of the book requires an indepth knowledge of comics as a medium and comics history up to that point. While not an essay I completely agreed with (Do you really need to have read comics thoroughly from the 60’s onward to appreciate Watchmen? I don’t think so), it made some interesting points. While I don’t think the reader’s knowledge of the medium must be encyclopaedic, a working knowledge of comics history is probably required to get the most from the book.
   Also, “Somebody has to save the world: Captain Metropolis and role-playing watchmen” by Peter Sanderson which shifts focus to the little discussed and often forgotten Watchmen role playing games which were published during the series’ initial run and which are to this day, the only Watchmen spinoff (even if their place in canon is up for dispute) to be publically endorsed by Alan Moore, who even helped out with the plots for both games.
   The Watchmen RPGs are interesting in that they offer a prequel to the comic which also ties in thematically with the book itself, as Captain Metropolis pays a thug to commit a crime, faking a crime in order to bring together the Crimebusters in a manner which mimics Veidt’s overall plan to fake an alien invasion to bring about world peace.
   The essay makes a good argument for seeking them out to gain a little extra insight into the world of the graphic novel.

Watchmen   Of course, not all of these essays hit the mark, the ones dealing with Watchmen’s connections to music and science did little for me. But none stand out as being downright bad. Each of these essays has something interesting to say and offers a new way of looking at one of the most interesting and complex narratives ever written. If you’re a fan of the series and want to delve a little further into it, it’s well worth picking this collection up. 

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