August 2, 2008

Watchmen Structure

Ok, so I haven't finished it - I think I'm about 1/3 of the way through. But I want to talk about it anyways.

For those who don't know Watchmen was a 12 issues "maxi-series" originally published by DC between 1986 and 1987. It's set in a parallel earth of sorts where costumed adventurers ("masks") caught on back in the late 1930s and had a heyday between 1940 and 1977 when they were outlawed. With the exception of one character, none of the masks have powers - the exception is Doctor Manhattan, who can control matter at the molecular level, which provides him with some other capabilities as well.

What's most amazing to me is the structure. First, the comic interleaves multiple situations, such that it can be hard to follow. The often panel-by-panel alternation usually serves to let the two portions of the story serve as counter point to each other. Second, each issue ends with a "primary source document" from the world of Watchmen. These are thinks like book excerpts and newspaper articles that provide you with a timeline for things that may only be hinted at in the comic itself. Really fleshes out the world.