Coming Out

bfobToday, I am coming out of the closet.

I’ve tried for years to fit in.  I’ve tried to just stay quiet and get along.  But I can’t do it anymore.  I just can’t.  I will just have to hope my friends will understand and accept me for who I am.

Regardless, today I have to say it.

I don’t like The Watchmen.

Oh, I’m aware that this was the book that changed the comics world forever.  I am fully cognizent that this series and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight were responsible for the creation of the modern graphic novel.  The art and the storyline were groundbreaking in their complex textural use of the form.  I will agree that as a piece of writing, it is rich and that its dialogue is excellent.

I still don’t like it and I don’t mean I sort of don’t like it.  I REALLY don’t like it.

I don’t like the unrelieved cynicism.  I don’t like the unexamined sexism.  I don’t like the drumbeat sneer at the that average people are sheep and humanity as a whole is too stupid to see it needs to stand up for itself.  I don’t like the idea that to make something “real” is to necessarily make it harsh, bleak, and pointless.

I really don’t like the brand of intellectual snobbery that says that if you don’t like unrelieved and very loud cynicism, it’s because you are stupid, or at the very least hopelessly uncool.  And, yes, I am going to say it out loud, I don’t like that the only female “mask” is presented as a sex-fetishist and govermnment whore.  And I despise the fact that for bringing up the presentation of the Silk Specter, the rest of the statements here will be instantly dismissed because clearly I’m just a kill-joy for caring about how a woman is portrayed in a seminal and very popular work of fiction.  I mean, can’t I just let that slide and look at all the AMAZING stuff in there?
See previous statements.

So there it is.  That’s the truth.  That’s who I am and I am done hiding it.  If you feel you cannot be seen with me anymore, I understand.

No, I am not going to see the movie.  Instead, I am going to spend the weekend re-reading Kurt Busiek’s ASTRO CITY, probably starting with “Confession.”




Coming Out — 28 Comments

  1. Elfquest, IMHO was kind of like the Vikings’ discovery of North America. Yes, they got there first, but it was Columbus’s trip that changed the shape of the world.

  2. I agree. The thing reeks of misanthropy.

    And Ozymandius is the type of ‘idealist’ who gave us the Gulag; willing to slaughter without limit to produce Utopia.

    That said, it’s very skillfull.

  3. I think more people agree with you than you know. I never got “Watchmen” either; a but then a great deal of comic book work has long struck me as politically reactionary, disdainfully sexist, and basically a peek into the adolescent male mind at its most scared and angry.

    It’s a very fifties-cold-war mentality, IMO, that we could well do without in the modern world. I don’t care how *well* it”s done. I pretty much hate it, too.

  4. I’m so glad to know there are others out there who feel the same way I do! Like you, I’ve finally stopped trying to fit in. Thanks for making me feel like I’m not completely out of my mind because I don’t think Watchmen is a work of genius.

  5. I haven’t read the graphic novel in twenty years. I remember finding it visually very compelling. Tell the truth I can’t remember the story. I will see the movie because I write in this genre, and have a superhero movie out making the rounds. I need to know what’s happening in the field.

    That said, I’m worried because if this film does well, and you add that to the phenomenal numbers generated by The Dark Knight, I think we’re in for years of horribly bleak and violent superhero movies.
    Here is my heresy. I thought Ironman was a better movie than Dark Knight. I’m not saying Dark Knight was a bad movie, but I found it flawed — that endless fourth act for example, and I found the violence and the darkness to be almost more than I could take, and I love a good action movie with guns and chases and fight scenes.
    So, no, you are not alone.

  6. Oh, thank goodness. It’s not just me!

    I actually haven’t seen The Dark Knight yet. I just don’t feel a crying need to sit through yet another black leather angst fest.

    I enjoyed Iron Man more than I thought I would. The acting was great, the story was fun, Pepper Potts was…tolerable. I liked that they at least bowed to him being an actual engineer.

    So…Does anybody else here follow ASTRO CITY?

  7. I like Watchmen a lot. Granted, I read it in its first incarnation, waiting anxiously from issue to issue to see where the hell it was going. I remember the extraordinary impact it had on me as a comics reader. I remember the impact of the visuals. Even now, when I read it, I’m transported to that moment of “damn, someone has just stood the superhero genre on its head” that I experienced the first time. On the other hand, I can totally understand why it’s not everyone’s cup of Moccachino.

    But if we’re really coming out of the closet: I can’t read The Lord of the Rings. I have tried umpty times. Every time, somewhere in the first hundred pages of the first book, I put it down to get a glass of water or answer the doorbell, and don’t go back. Loved the films, enjoy hearing the book read aloud, but for some reason I cannot get past page 75 or so in the books themselves. I know many people whose opinions I trust and admire who love those books. Just not me. A friend kindly refers to this as a prose allergy, and that sounds as good an excuse as any, but I still feel like I should cringe to admit it.

  8. Coming late to this discussion, courtesy Pati Nagle. I’ve reacted to other blogs who say they’re “coming out of the closet” on Watchmen. I didn’t read any Watchmen until late last year when I finally picked up the graphic novel. Exceedingly well done as visual feast. The change from “all-American superheroes who can do no wrong” to superhero jerks, good. Basic nihilism and violence, way off the chart. Story resolution, dumb. Plus, as has been noted, you’d think guys doing a remake on the old superhero tropes they could do something to make the women more than juvenile fantasies, but no. I guess it’s hard to completely cast off the mantle of geekdom. (heh-heh, I know a little about that.) As for LOTR, you know, it can be a hard read for someone who isn’t expecting a straight “reluctant hero versus bad guys” story. Don’t cringe to admit you can’t like it. It is an acquired taste despite its Standard on Whom All Others are Judged.

  9. My favorite LOTR book is The Hobbit. Among other things, it’s short, the plot is straight forward adventure, and I really like the presentation of Bilbo going from reluctant hero, to genuine hero, to misunderstood hero all in the course of about 150 pages.

    For the main series, I like them well enough. But not for the elves and the wizards and all the stuff that’s been copied out a billion times.

    Tolkein’s real genius creation, IMHO, was Gollum. But not just Gollum, but the fact that the world was saved not just by Frodo’s courage, but by Bilbo’s really tiny act of mercy waaaaaay back in The Hobbit.

    I’m just not sure he needed all the intervening 600 pages to get us there, but the guy was an Oxford Don, and he couldn’t stop lecturing.

    I am not, however, going to dispute anyone’s tastes in the matter as I’m discovering somewhat to my horror that I really like Dickens, and therefore must be some kind of mutant.

  10. Hard Times is heartbreaking, and The Pickwick Papers is a laff riot. Never mind that Dickens gets away with changing points of view from one phrase of a sentence to the next.

    Brenda, don’t you just a little bit once in a while sometimes want to take Oliver out behind the barn and smack him upside the head?

    I was a big comic book fan when I was in high school. (Class of 1966.) My first rejection slip was from Fantastic Four; I was about 14. I even didn’t hate the first movie as much as most people did. (The second, however, was unspeakable.)

    I gave up when Sue Storm had no dialogue beyond “Oh! Reed! What does it MEAN?” Gah. So I’ve kind of missed the whole Graphic Novel tide.


  11. I know many who do not care for the dark edge of a sizable portion of current graphic novels. Never read DARK KNIGHT or WATCHMEN — know I should have, both for their importance in the genre, and because I am poking around in graphic novel-ville myself.

    But I am so tired of the unrelenting dark, grungy despair we see in all these things. As you say, real doesn’t always have to be the pits. It is a danger in all who serve that way — they spend too much time catching bad guys and not enough time with the majority of folk — who are basically good. You always work with a hammer, eventually you see nails everywhere….

    My true confession: I love Neil Gaiman and his novels, and the SANDMAN graphic novels were seminal. But the two I read gave me nightmares for weeks. So I haven’t read anymore. I like HOBBIT but only read it a few times. I have long forgotten how many times I’ve read LOTR. But I can see where epic verse is not everyone’s cup of tea. (The movies were visually beautiful, but took a lot of liberties — and why is Frodo so special, if we never see any of the scenes from the book where he shows his mettle?)

  12. I never was able to get more than a few pages into WATCHMEN, and Sarah summed up the reason. I have no interest in the movie; everything I’ve read about it so far makes me think it will be a massive downer. Thanks, but no thanks; life has enough of those. I can handle tragedy, but that’s *not* always a downer.

    However, I not only love LOTR, I can quote passages. (Yeah, call me Geek-Girl.) I love it for the tragedy, the heroism, the poetry, the taste and flavor of the words, the immensity of the canvas. Loved the movies, despite the changes they made; I could understand the reason for most of them. I consider the movies and books parallel works, rather than equivalent.

    As far as costumed superheros and graphic works go, though, I remain faithful to Peter Parker. Spidey forever, man! 🙂 Okay, so I’m not only a geek, I’m a permanent juvenile.

  13. Brenda: Yes, I did see that, and as I hadn’t read it yet, grabbed up a copy and started in. The opening description of Mersailles in the heat…whoa. That man could WRITE.

    Vonda: In agreement about Oliver who was some days just too darned precious, but for the time, I guess that was part of the point, that essential goodness was not enough to save one…

    Kathi: For my money, the future of the graphic novels lies less in retreads of the angsty ninties (although like you I love SANDMAN) and far more in the influence of manga and anime (has anyone else here read FULL METAL ALCHEMIST. OMG!!! THERE’S a story you can sink your teeth into!

    Kate: Let your geek-flag fly, woman! I’ve really enjoyed all the Spiderman movies. Who knew Dr. Octopus could be made…really scary.

  14. Dickens used the Long Arm of Coincidence a lot too. When Oliver meets not one, but two kindly-disposed bunches of folks who are willing to take him in? I can see why the TV version felt compelled to conflate these two. And his Innate Nobility is annoying, I do agree.

  15. Re: Oliver’s Nobility (now there’s a title if I’ve ever heard one) I’m inclined to cut Dickens some slack on this. One of the things he was attempting to combat was the notion that the street children of London were “bad seeds.”

    That, of course, doesn’t stop it from being a slog for the modern reader.

  16. Sarah, Brenda, that’s a good point.

    Has anybody read the Bloody Jack series? They’re quite fun if perfectly unbelievable. Jacky is a Dickens-era London street kid who scams her way into the British Navy and is always trying to be good but by her lights failing.

  17. The author is L. Meyer; they are readily available in libraries. I would say that the first few Bloody Jack books are great fun, but as it goes on credulity becomes strained.
    FABLES is a great series, and the collected volumes are a fine way to get into them. The Quitely SUPERMAN ALL STAR GN gets completely away from this grim ‘n’ gritty stuff, which I feel is about played out. Remember WATCHMEN was first published in the 80s; we can hope that its appearance on the big screen is the last gasp of dark. I foresee a shift to brighter and happier tones.

  18. ASTRO CITY is terrific. More so in the beginning than lately, and the revealation of the old mystery of just what happened to the Silver Agent was a little bit anticlimactic. But, yes, terrific. And just the sort of thing that Moore was hoping people would create in response to his deconstruction of superheroes, BTW. Unfortunately, “grim and gritty sells” is what his peers largely took out of it. My favorite arcs are Confession and Tarnished Angel.


    I think Laurie is, besides Dan, the most normal and humane character in the series. That she has a fetish is not so strange in a novel in which anyone who’s a costumed super has some deep-rooted psychological, selfish reason for putting on the mask for the most part.

    I also don’t know about unrelieved cynicism. It ends on a potentially very hopeful note (but only potentially, I admit, given that last panel). Life as a miraculous occurrence is eloquently described by Manhattan. The fact that Nite Owl and Silk Spectre are able to put aside their costumes and have “normal” relations is a step forward for them.

  19. Brenda: I tried with FABLES. I was really hooked for awhile, but then…stuff started to stick in my craw (like the 1 inch deep understanding of the 1001 Nights stories, and I sort of went all grumpy old woman on it, which I do sometimes.

    Elio “CONFESSION” is utterly fantastic and is my very most favorite twist on “Batman.”

    As to Watchmen, If Silk Spectre was just a fetishist, that would be one thing, but as the only female mask in the book, she’s also kept by the government to have sex with Dr. Manhattan. What on earth am I supposed to make of this? Only woman in the book and her main storyline involves sex, sex and more sex. Oh, and she’s sleeping with the guy her mother slept with.

    Thanks loads, Mr. Moore.

    That her semi-happy ending after a life as a semi-pro sex worker is that she goes monogamous with one of the guys she sleeps with does not give me a whole lot to cheer about.

    I’d forgotten the speech about life (I haven’t read the book in well over a decade), but the fact of the matter is, in the end, the heroes all fail, the bad guy wins, and normal people just trudge along sheeplike. I don’t know how to read that in any way but cynical.

  20. Mmm, no — unless the movie is different. Silk Spectre 1 had sex with Comedian, and also with her husband Laurence Schexnayder. Other lovers were hinted at (her alleged Minutemen boyfriend Hangman was actually gay) but she struck me as a woman who was content with being viewed as sexy rather than actually having sex.

    Her daughter Silk Spectre 2 was Dr. Manhattan’s squeeze and then rebounded to Nite Owl. No overlap. The fact that the current Nite Owl is also a 2 may be confusing you; it was Nite Owl 1 who was SS1’s contemporary and team mate (but not sex partner).

    Interestingly, in the comic, once SS1 left the organization the super-hero team fell apart. In the text material Nite Owl 1 remembers that SS1 lent the group an air of civilization. Once she was gone the clubhouse went to seed and the group lost focus. This may be a heritable trait; notice that when Laurie walks Dr. Manhattan loses interest in humanity.

  21. Really? Mmmph. I had gotten the impression that SS1 had also slept with Dr. Manhattan and when she got too old to be considered pretty, “they” recruited her daughter to take on the job.

    I’ll actually be delighted to find out I got that part wrong, ’cause, you know, that’s really skanky.

  22. No, during the Minutemen years Laurie was a child. (One of the great things about this GN is the way that time moves inexorably; unlike Superman, Batman et al, people are of their era and age.) Her mother did shove her into super-heroing, where she met Dr. M.

    Only just now did I realize the significance of those team names. Minutemen, Watchmen? I love it.

  23. I haven’t read Watchmen yet, but I did read an interesting article in Wired where Alan Moore said he never expected Watchmen to set off a trend of grim stories. He originally thought that it would make it easier for writers to get new ideas accepted. He also said that things that were meant “satirically or critically in Watchmen now seem to be simply accepted as kind of what they appear to be on the surface.” As for the Cold War stuff, that was more relevant at the time and just seems out of step now that the movie is being screened.

    I don’t know Moore’s intent with the female characters. Was he over-exaggerating to make a point that comics exploit women? Someone should ask him.

    I am looking forward to his upcoming book on Magic, and to seeing what the comic is like for myself.

  24. Hi Brenda,

    “Credulity becomes strained” — Yes, exactly what I meant by “unbelievable.”

    More or less from the beginning in my opinion.

    If I hadn’t been enjoying them, I wouldn’t have suspended my disbelief about a kid who could hide that she was a girl in the close quarters of a Napoleonic-era British warship, and I surely wouldn’t have got past the part where they let the girl who’s been riding for about six months get on the incredibly expensive racehorse (who is also the potential savior of the family’s fortunes) in the first place, and then after it runs away with her, they let her get on it again. (Not to mention the ramifications of that event, which would be spoilers to mention, though you’ll see them coming a mile away.)

    Like I say, enjoyable, but bring along a block and tackle for suspending the ol’ disbelief.