Thoughts on “Watchmen” by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Watchmen has been on my reading list for quite a while, and I finally got around to it. I was somewhat concerned that the book would not live up to my expectations, but I am happy to say that it did. Now the challenge is what to write about it. There is so much that can be said about this deep psychological assessment of our society, with each character representing a modern archetype. I figured I would just talk about some of the book’s darker visions of society and where our society seems to be heading.

It seems to me that many people prefer to be blissfully unaware and ignorant of the future that appears to be racing toward us, and this sentiment is poetically expressed in the text.

Others bury their heads between the swollen teats of indulgence and gratification, piglets squirming beneath a sow for shelter… but there is no shelter… and the future is bearing down like an express train.

(p. 68)

Later in the book, one of the protagonists, Rorschach, presents his dismal view of human existence.

Looked at the sky through smoke heavy with human fat and God was not there. The cold, suffocating dark goes on forever, and we are alone. Live our lives, lacking anything better to do. Devise reason later. Born from oblivion; bear children, hell-bound as ourselves; go into oblivion. There is nothing else. Existence is random. Has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it for too long. No meaning save what we choose to impose. This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It’s us. Only us.

(p. 204)

So we are presented with a meaningless world full of hatred, fear, anxiety, insanity, greed, and countless other social ills. Faced with such a bleak view, the next logical question is whether humanity is worth saving, worth fighting for. This is the question that the characters Laurie and Jon debate in the book. Jon initially does not believe that human life matters, but then changes his mind. When Laurie asks what caused him to alter his view, Jon explains:

Thermo-dynamic miracles… events with odds against so astronomical they’re effectively impossible. Like oxygen spontaneously becoming gold. I long to observe such a thing. And yet, in each human coupling, a thousand million sperm vie for a single egg. Multiply those odds by countless generations, against the odds of your ancestors being alive; meeting; siring this precise son; that exact daughter… until your mother loves a man she has every reason to hate, and of that union, of the thousand million children competing for fertilization, it was you, only you, that emerged. To distill so specific a form from that chaos of improbability, like turning air to gold… that is the crowning unlikelihood. The thermo-dynamic miracle.

(pp. 306 – 7)

This provided me with the light I needed to find hope in this dark vision of our world. We are surrounded by miracles. Every single one of us is a living, breathing miracle, whose very existence defies all odds. And this is something I will keep in mind as I continue through this journey.



Filed under Literature

8 responses to “Thoughts on “Watchmen” by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

  1. gosh, this is heavy stuff. ‘devise reason later’ catches my attention. it is rather the state of life experience that makes it difficult to begin reasoning sooner, isn’t it, for so many. what to do but continue believing that, at some point, enough mass assembles itself into a cultural orientation that isn’t rooted in false power concepts/emotional vulnerability.
    not exactly holiday reading!
    so, cheers to the quantum potential in miracles of thermodynamics in the mind and spirit rooting quite soon after conception.

    • Hi Weaver! Thanks for your comment. Yeah, it is not light reading, but then, I’m not one who likes reading fluff. There was a really deep section on time that was just too lengthy and intense to cover in a blog post. Anyway, hope you have a blessed solstice and thank you for all your great posts this year.

  2. Pingback: Doomsday Clock: No. 1 of 12 | Stuff Jeff Reads

  3. Hey Jeff – I did find a few issues of Promethea in a comic book store although I have not read every issue I believe that they are all available in Graphic Novel form the same as Watchmen is. The issues that I have read were all excellent with really psychedelic artwork!

    • Cool! Yeah, I bought the full set in graphic novel format, which was cool cuz I got to blow through everything. And yeah, the artwork is really trippy.