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?
“Poo-tee-weet?” one bird says to Billy Pilgrim. There is a fire. A man is in a box. A man is a giant. A man’s hand is smashing a window. Billy Pilgrim is in a box. A man is in a slaughterhouse. There is a war. The man is torn apart. A man discovers a conspiracy. A man is shot. A man is shaking hands with a friend. A man refuses to save the President. A man is screaming. A man is rebuilding himself. Jon Osterman is in a box. A woman is shot. A man kills the woman he loves. A man does nothing. Mars smiles. A box is glowing. A box is burning. A man swears revenge upon a stranger. A man shoots Billy Pilgrim. Jon Osterman does nothing. A bomb is dropping.
It is all going ghastly. A sun burns electric. Aliens are abducting Billy Pilgrim. Jon Osterman is burnt asunder. Billy Pilgrim steps out of a shrubbery. Jon Osterman reads a newspaper. Billy Pilgrim goes on a radio show. Jon Osterman goes on a talk show. Billy Pilgrim is dead. Jon Osterman leaves. A man is told that the world will end for reasons that could be prevented, but won’t. It has already happened. It is already done. A man claims nothing ever ends.
Yon Yonson comes from Wisconsin. Billy Pilgrim supports bombing Vietnam. Jon Osterman burns Vietnam. A War is won. A War is lost. A woman is shot. A woman is abducted. Yon Yonson works in a lumber mill. Billy Pilgrim is not loving his wife. Jon Osterman is not loving his girlfriend. Jon Osterman cheats on his girlfriend. Billy Pilgrim cheats on his wife. People ask him what his name is. The sun shines on the just and unjust alike.
A man watches a fictional blue woman fuck his best friend. He reacts in horror. A man becomes a magus. A man is abducted by aliens. A man has the universe explained to him by aliens. A man shudders in horror. A man becomes a prophet. A man is ripped asunder. A man returns, understanding the fundamental nature of the universe. All horror is excised. A man becomes a god. A being shaped like a man realizes they are not a man. A being shaped like a man uses the wrong word. A being shaped like a man learns of a word that fits them better than others. An enby is abducted by aliens. An enby has the universe explained to them by aliens. An enby shudders in horror. An enby continues their magic. A man becomes a magus. An enby stumbles into war. An enby is introduced to magic as a child. A man decides to become a magus at the age of 40. There is a war.
A child sees two towers fall. A child fails to read a book. A child reads a book. A child sees a rabbit dead on the street while reading a book. A child rejects first person when applicable. A child writes a book. A child writes an article. A child hurts a man. A child runs away. A child is alone. A child considers cleverness. A child decides they are not a child. A writer puts himself into this article. A writer stops at page 112 to write this article.
A passage reads:
…each clump of symbols is a brief, urgent message—describing a situation, a scene. We Tralfamaorians read them all at once, not one after the other. There isn’t any particular relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.
A comic uses a nine panel grid. A man is ripped asunder by the grid. A man murders his friends. A man travels through time. A man remains in one singular moment. A man sees himself for what he truly is. A man sees a better version of himself. A man hurts a man he loves. A man considers existence. A man sees the potential of nuclear Armageddon. A woman is hurt. A woman is pushed out of her own story. A woman ascends.
A magician forms a cult. A magician expresses an idea. A magician sings a song. A flock sings a song. The flock sings:
Always is always forever.
As long as one is one.
Inside yourself is your father.
All is none all is none all is one.
It’s time we put our love behind you
The illusion has just been a dream.
The valley of death and I’ll find you.
Now is when on a sunshine beam.
So bring all the young perfection,
For there us shall surely be.
No clothing, tears or hunger.
You can see you can see you can be.
A flock murders people. People say the sixties died that day. In the People’s Park, fifty people are hit with buck and bird shot. James Rector dies. A fascist justifies his actions:
If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with, no more appeasement.
So it goes.
A man is trapped. A man sees the whole of existence. A man discovers a conspiracy. A man betrays his friend. A man kills the woman he loves. A president is assassinated. A man is imprisoned. A man is abducted by aliens. A man sits at his father’s grave. A man has the universe explained to him. A black hole is made. Time moves backwards. An algorithm is written. A child kills his father. A man kills himself. A man sees his death in the future.
A man decides to write a book. A woman takes issue with a book. A man decides to throw out the book. A man returns to a slaughterhouse. A man sits in a cramped train. A man makes a wrong phone call. A man writes a book. A man adds a subtitle. A woman is pleased. Frank Sinatra is not in the movie. A baby goes to war.
A man adapts a book into a comic. The comic is quite good. The comic is lacking something. A magus teaches a class. A magus talks about adaptations. A magus remarks:
Sometimes, adaptations work fine. But not very often. I really don’t see the logic of taking something which is perfectly realized as… a… comic book, as a novel, even as a film, and then realizing it in another medium. The only advantage to that is surely a financial one. This is nothing to do with the aesthetics, it’s nothing to do with art anymore. It’s trying to see if you can squeeze a last few drops of money out of this idea by realizing it as a computer game. No. Different media are not interchangeable.
A writer thinks of Terrance Dicks.
Superman shares a panel with Dr. Manhattan’s cock. This comic does not contain Dr. Manhattan’s penis. Yon Yonson does not have a penis. Billy Pilgrim has a penis. A man is having sex in space. A man is having sex with a woman and two other versions of himself while working on an experiment. A man writes a prequel. A man makes a cock of himself in interviews.
A man goes to war. A man says it was a good war. A man writes it was not. A man justifies himself. A man fails to justify himself. A man writes a comic. The sword of Damocles stabs a man. A man writes a comic. A detective uncovers a conspiracy. A girl believes in the just nature of the universe. A girl teaches a man the just nature of the universe. A man kills people. A girl teaches a man the just nature of the universe. A man fails to kill a fascist. A fascist goes to Vietnam to kill people. A fascist is proud of what he’s done. A detective sees ghosts. A detective is unstuck in time. A detective is hollow. A detective kills a fascist.
A writer has murky audio. A writer makes a shitpost about a podcast. A shitpost is taken seriously. A writer contacts people for a podcast. A writer is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. A writer collapses in on himself. A podcast collapses. A writer tries to fix the ruins with a gag. A writer sends a pitch. An editor responds positively. An editor condenses the pitch. A writer contacts people for an article series. A writer is tired.
A cat wanders the halls of an ice castle. A girl wanders the halls of her childhood home. A cat wanders in the kitchen. A girl is at the gym. A cat watches TV. A girl goes to an audition. A cat wanders into a lab. A girl gets drunk. A cat sees a naked man. A girl is on Mars. A cat is burned alive. A girl sees herself and despairs. A man finds hope. The sun shines on the just and unjust alike.
A boy is abducted by aliens. A girl is abducted by aliens. A boy is returned to Earth. A girl remains with the aliens. A boy goes to war. A girl stars in movies. A boy becomes an optometrist. A girl becomes a porn star. A boy has a sign in his office. A girl wears a necklace between her breasts. A boy is shot in the face. A girl remains in space.
A writer reads a book. A writer comes to a revelation. A writer sees no one else has made the connection. A writer talks about the connection with other writers. A video essayist remarks the surprising obviousness of the connection. A writer writes an article. A writer considers images. A writer goes to the library. A writer returns a book. A writer finishes a book. A writer expresses an idea.
Jon Osterman has come unstuck in time.