Notes Of A Storyteller: Why I Stopped Reading “Watchmen”

Feeling reasonable adventurous the other day, I strolled in my friend’s dorm room. Witty banter gave way to small talk, and as I conducted the small talk, I noticed a bright yellow cover on my friend’s bookshelf. My hand shot out instinctively. I grabbed a paperback with a bloody badge on the front of it. It’s name was Watchmen.

“Watchmen?” I said.

“Yeah,” said my friend. “It’s really good.”

“Hmmm… I’ve heard a lot about this. I’ve never read a graphic novel before. Could I borrow this from you?”

“Sure!”

“I’ll be really busy the next few days, but I should have back to you at the end of the week.”

We parted soon after. Once I got back to my own dorm, I simply had to pick it up. I had an idea already of what was going to happen (I had seen snippets of the movie), but I wanted to see it in it’s original form. Thus I leaned against my bed and held the books in my hands. I was already excited. The perfect storm of marketing and hearsay had already given the book an aura that was dark and irresistible.

Compulsively, my fingers peeled open the book and brought me to page one. From the very first panel, I was hooked. Alan Moore demonstrated a compelling voice from the very first sentence. His story captivated me at about the same time. Time jumped out of the way as I careened through the pages.

As I went along, I started going slower and slower. If you haven’t read this… don’t eat before you do it. There is jarring violence, and even more jarring philosophies. I had to skip one part before ever getting out of Chapter One.

Only a few pages into Chapter Two, I closed the book.

“I’m not ready to read this,” I said to myself. Quietly I returned Watchmen to my friend’s dorm and went off to study Latin.

Don’t mistake me, here. Watchmen is a well-crafted piece of work, as far as I can tell. I do mean to go back and read it soon. But there are some things that need to happen first. I’ve read lots of depressing material lately- and thinking about it. For the longest time, I’ve been singing the praises of anticlimaxes and moral quandaries that aren’t easy to solve. In fact, I was sneering at simple stories- even those of my hero Indiana Jones!

It makes me a little sick now. There’s only so much sickness you can take before you get sick yourself. That’s why I’m putting off Watchmen. For the next few weeks, I’m going to read The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser. It’s a giant poem full of knights and quests and stout moral messages. I think it will do me good. Could you recommend some other stories where good and evil aren’t complicated? Where the good guys win? I need a reminder of humanity’s optimism.

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