Watchmen: An Oral History

MOORE
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.

RAVE CULTURE
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.''

NEIL GAIMAN
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.

JOSS WHEDON
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.

DARREN ARONOFSKY/RICHARD KELLY
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.

'THE INCREDIBLES'
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.

'LOST'
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.

'PLANETARY'
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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