Tuesday, May 22, 2012

GUEST BLOG: Workshop Member Christopher Beckett on the "Reading Watchmen" Project

In this Guest Blog, Creators Workshop member Christopher Beckett discusses his recently launched Reading Watchmen project; a comprehensive, annotated examination of Moore and Gibbons' Watchmen.

I didn't know what to expect when I joined the Comics Experience Creators Workshop almost a year ago.

What I found was a community of like-minded people willing to offer suggestions and serious critiques of everyone's work in an effort to help us all grow as creators. With every personal interaction and every discussion thread, I learn something new and now find myself thinking more critically about my own writing.

This evolving critical viewpoint has not only helped me grow as a writer, but it also spurred my return to a project started back in early 2009 -- Reading Watchmen, a comprehensive, fully-annotated, examination of Watchmen.

I've been a fan of Alan Moore since first reading "The Anatomy Lesson" in an early collection of Saga of the Swamp Thing. So, of course, I am a fan of his seminal graphic novel with Dave Gibbons, Watchmen. From the outset, these two exceptional artists wanted to utilize the comics medium, and specifically the superhero genre, to create something that would transcend the ghetto into which laypeople at the time liked to consign this storytelling medium we love.

They intended to craft a graphic "novel," in the truest sense of the word, while exploiting storytelling qualities unique to the medium, as a refutation of the tired argument that comics were little more than movies on paper.

With an almost unprecedented attention to detail and a rarely incorporated literary approach, Moore & Gibbons achieved this. They created a book that has been part of college syllabi for most of its publishing life and, arguably, provided the comics medium with its Citizen Kane.

Despite its near-universal acclaim, I feel like many newer readers of Watchmen fail to properly understand and appreciate its significance. Being far removed from the Cold War reality that hangs like a pall over the narrative, and realizing that much of what was groundbreaking in Watchmen -- the heroes' psychological issues and the more realistic approach to their stories -- has been replicated in scores of comics over the past quarter century, I can understand some of this attitude.

But the heart of Watchmen is not this "realistic" approach to the superhero, but the literary layers upon which Moore & Gibbons built their story. It is rare that subsequent readings of a comic provide any new insights into the narrative. And yet, every time I read Watchmen -- every single time -- I discover something new.

My goal with Reading Watchmen is to offer readers a look "below the surface" at the myriad layers hidden within this landmark graphic novel. Each month of 2012 will be given over to a single chapter, allowing me the time and the space to properly "discuss" this dense book. I've learned a lot in my time as a Comics Experience workshop member, and that knowledge is something I've been applying to Reading Watchmen.

I hope you'll take the opportunity to check the site out and re-discover this classic with me.

-- Christopher M. Beckett


Check out the Reading Watchmen project right here.



If you want to make comics, write, draw, letter, and color comics, or improve as a comics creator, you'll find like-minded friends and colleagues in our online workshops and courses. We hope to see you there!

Posted by Rob Anderson
rob@ComicsExperience.com
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