Reading Shakespeare does not, as you may have noticed, leave a lot of time for reading books that aren't Shakespeare. My general schedule of life while I've been Mastering has been work three days a week, uni two days a week, with secondary reading in the mornings of those days, and reading the play of the week on a Saturday. Sundays are when I get fed a lunch, see my family, and otherwise, generally, don't want to use my brain at all. If you can find time for non-Shakespeare reading in the midst of this, then you're a better man than me! (Although, let's face it, I would be a terrible man).
It was when I was reading Shakespeare Manga (yes, it exists, yes it's awesome) and finishing it in an hour that it struck me- not that I should read the comics instead of the plays, but just that graphic novels! They could be some good gentle reading to complement the Shakespeare! So, when Bex and Katie and I hit up Forbidden Planet, I checked with them that Watchmen was excellent and then, you know, bought it. What could possibly go wrong?!
The answer, obviously, is nothing. If you've read Watchmen, you'll know that already, but I hadn't read it and I didn't know what to expect and OH MY GOD. Firstly, it's probably important to say that this is not a graphic novel you can read in an hour. I mean, I wouldn't have wanted it to be over that quickly anyway, but there's so much packed in here that it's impossible not to linger over the pages and want to take everything in. I'm pretty sure I still haven't taken everything in, but that's what re-readings are for, amiright?
But first, the story: Watchmen is set in a world where, after the birth of superheroes in comics in the US, real (but fairly strong and extraordinary and all that good stuff) people took it upon themselves to be real life superheroes/vigilantes, stamping out crime wherever they may see it and all that other good stuff. Watchmen isn't really about those people, so much as the generation who came after them, and the tension of not being the original guys, but still trying to do the same thing is so apparent in the book, as are SO MANY OTHER themes. Watchmen was released in the 1980s, so the entire thing takes place against a backdrop of the threat of MAD, plus the shitty shitty social conditions of the 80s. And then there's all the other stuff.
There's so much to say about Watchmen that it's ridiculous to pretend I'm going to sum it all up in one blog post, but let's see what I can do. I was crazy impressed with just how well written it was: the art is great (that's about all I can say about that because what do I know about graphic novel art?) but the writing and the story and oh my god. The characters are all, if not completely relatable, then wholly understandable, because their backstories and histories and everything about them is so well explored and so interesting and have I said that I liked it so much? SO much. This doesn't mean that the things they do aren't exciting and interesting in themselves, and there are so many parts with ordinary people that I need to read again because I think they hold the key to something and I don't know what.
So yeah. I was pretty obsessed with this for the entire time I was reading it, which didn't bode well for the Shakespeare I was supposed to be reading that week (I actually... Didn't read it. But for other reasons too! Also shut up.) But I still felt like I was giving my brain a workout, and learning stuff at the same time, so it's all just the same thing, right? Reading Watchmen actually made me feel way smarter than I actually am, because there's this whole section that's grounded in Nietzsche, and I read it going 'this sounds very Nietzsche-esque' and then the endquote (which is a thing at the end of each section/comic) WAS Nietzsche and I felt very smart. I also found some Shakespeare connections, but that's probably more my brain at the moment than things that are explicitly meant to be in there. But who knows?! (Probably, like, Alan Moore and stuff? Obviously... And anyway, the book belongs to the people now and I can infer any damn things I like from it cause I'm an English student, innit).
Anyway. To summarise: Watchmen is not the kind of graphic novel you're going to want to use to rest your brain from more difficult fare, but it is exquisite in its own difficulties. I know I rushed through it because I wanted it all in my brain as quickly as possible, so I'm very extremely excited to read it again as soon as possible. And you should read it too and we can discuss Dr. Manhattan's worldview and feminism and also EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERYTHING. Because that's really what this graphic novel brings.