You’ve finished Watchmen, so what’s next?

If you frequent bookshops, even only occasionally, you can’t have helped but noticed that it is now obligatory for every single book shop to have a pile of copies of Watchmen in the window, usually flanked by Dave Gibbons’ Watching the Watchmen, Watchmen: The Art of the Film and numerous other spin-offs. I actually saw a copy of a book called Watchmen and Philosophy in Waterstones the other day, which is dumber than Kelly Brook. Boxes of Alan Moore’s other titles are being dusted off and dragged out from storage, and there’s even a new version of the V for Vendetta collection coming out. Nobody bothered to bring out a new version when the movie adaptation of V for Vendetta was released, but things are different now Watchmen has come out. People are reading Watchmen. I’ve actually seen people reading Watchmen on trains. Normal people on their way to work. Reading Watchmen.

Being the most cunning gathering of foxes ever to publish comic books, DC has just launched AfterWatchmen.com. The idea is to get all those normal people, the non-geeks who have unashamedly read Watchmen in public places, to try other titles.

DC’s suggestions are, naturally enough, all other DC titles. This makes the list of recommendations a bit limited, but it’s not at all bad and there are some good comics listed.

The biggest problem DC has in compiling a list of titles like this is if people are looking for other titles like Watchmen, well, there isn’t anything else like it. Not when it comes right down to it.

I’ve been reading comics a long time and I’m pretty confident in saying nothing else comes close. Sure, there are great comics to be read — you only have to trawl through my previous posts to find a few examples — but not like Watchmen.

One of the things which sets Watchmen apart is how literary it is. Like most good novels, Watchmen is a stand alone narrative, with no sequels or spin-offs; it is not a part of an ongoing comic book series. The writing is rich in meaning, often poetic, always excellent.

There are other consciously literary comics (including a number written by Alan Moore), but Watchmen is also a sort of meta-comic (a comic book about comic books). It carefully deconstructs the medium and in doing so both exposes its flaws and elevates it to something incredibly special. There are other comics which have tried to do the same, but in my opinion nothing which comes close to being as good as Watchmen.

Those casual readers, those sorry little fuckers reading Watchmen without putting in any work in, who haven’t read hundreds of other comics, who don’t have a fucking clue what effect blue Kryptonite has or any of that other crap — those casual readers are going to be very disappointed if they’re looking for something else like Watchmen.

I love the writing on titles like Swamp Thing, Preacher and Animal Man, but for the uninitiated reader they’re probably going to be harder going than the twelve-issue Watchmen. You have to be prepared to wade through some crap and read some lengthy runs to reap the rewards of comics, and frankly I doubt most readers are prepared to go that extra mile.

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