Watchmen: An Oral History

David Hayter's screenplay was as close as I could imagine anyone getting to Watchmen. That said, I shan't be going to see it. My book is a comic book. Not a movie, not a novel. A comic book. It's been made in a certain way, and designed to be read a certain way: in an armchair, nice and cozy next to a fire, with a steaming cup of coffee. Personally, I think that would make for a lovely Saturday night.

'Watch' & Learn

Watchmen created seismic waves, not just in comics but rippling across all of pop culture. Here's a brief survey of its influence.

First evidence of Watchmen's wider impact: The Comedian's bloodied smiley-face button becomes a rave fashion accessory after Bomb the Bass feature it on the jacket of their 1988 single ''Beat Dis.''

A protégé of Alan Moore's, the author and filmmaker says Watchmen paved the way for ''intelligent comics'' like his long-running fantasy saga The Sandman, the crown jewel of DC's adult-skewing, Moore-inspired Vertigo imprint.

Deconstructing genres with fanboy affection and irreverent intelligence? Exposing the hidden hearts of larger-than-life characters? That's Watchmen. It also describes Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Serenity. ''I learned at Alan Moore's feet,'' says Whedon.

Two of Hollywood's most talented young directors, Aronofsky (pi) and Kelly (Donnie Darko) cite Watchmen as a formative influence on their head-trippy work. Both are now writing graphic novels as well.

Pixar's Oscar-winning 2004 'toon about forcibly retired superheroes struggling with post-Superman ennui plays like Watchmen in Disneyland. The gag about the occupational hazards of wearing a cape? Watchmen had that too.

Watchmen's nonlinear, character-driven, Easter egg-packed construction was a major influence on Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof. FYI: Watchmen also features a mysterious island teeming with awful secrets.

A sweeping survey of geek fiction wrapped within a conspiracy mystery, Warren Ellis and John Cassaday's ongoing comic lays claim to Watchmen's legacy with a style all its own.

Watchmen 101: The Major Players

DR. MANHATTAN (Jon Osterman)
The atomic Superman — though America's enemies see him as a living WMD. He can manipulate molecules but is incapable of feeling truly human. Issue 4 — capturing Dr. Manhattan's experience of past, present, and future happening at once — is Moore's favorite.

OZYMANDIAS (Adrian Veidt)
The world's smartest man — or so he thinks. Sensing society was souring on superheroes, Veidt quit the do-gooding biz and made millions licensing his image. ''Ozymandias has a bit of a God complex. He's like me,'' quips Moore, ''only much better-looking.''

RORSCHACH (Walter Kovacs)
The darkest of dark knights. The sordid stories behind his constantly changing inkblot mask and bloodstained trench coat explain his pitiless black-and-white morality. Moore says even he didn't know Rorschach's secret identity — or fate — when he began writing.


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