It is often said that Watchmen is the most influential comic ever to be released. That comics wouldn’t be where they are without it, for good and for ill. But how did we get here, exactly? More to the point, just what influence did Watchmen provide to the larger world of comics? What, ultimately, is the legacy of Watchmen? Who watched the Watchmen?
Let us assume that Rorschach is exactly as good as Watchmen. Not simply that it is a good comic or even a great comic, but that it is as good as what many consider to be the definitive comic. The final statement on all things comics related. There are a number of absurdities with that statement, both with regards to Rorschach and Watchmen. But, for now, let us ignore this aspect and engage with the assumption.
Many of the conversations surrounding DC Comics’ follow-ups to Watchmen that are… critical of the works tend to frame the narrative of the follow ups as nothing more than shallow knock offs that didn’t need to exist. Indeed, even the best of these can be said to have been nothing more than a waste of the creator’s time. While the worst has destroyed any faith in comics ever being good. And Rorschach is good enough that claiming it’s exactly as good as Watchmen doesn’t feel like a cruel joke as it is the best of the direct follow ups to Watchmen DC has made by a country mile.
(There is another reason why I’m taking this approach with Rorschach. But that is perhaps best saved for subtext rather than text.)
By having a text that not only lives up to, but matches the original work, this narrative can be questioned. The implications of Watchmen as a text and its subsequent legacy can be engaged with on a level more akin to works like The Wicked + The Divine or From Hell. One as a work of fiction rather than as a metaphor for everything wrong with this wicked world of ours. As such, I can write a piece that won’t end with a horrific revelation about the nature of Watchmen’s Legacy.