Today: We’re audaciously daring to summarize the graphic novel Watchmen…
Tomorrow: We’ll use this story summary as a springboard into a discussion on when being right isn’t enough.
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Key plotpoints are pictured below. You have been warned!
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Watchmen is a 12-issue comic book series written by Alan Moore with pencils by Dave Gibbons. Originally published by DC Comics during 1986 and 1987, the series has been collected (several times!) as a single graphic novel. Perhaps you’ve heard, Hollywood has made a movie out of it–and not everyone is happy about it. C’est la vie.
Against a backdrop of growing global instability, New York City police investigate the murder of a man named Edward Blake.
The costumed vigilante Rorschach discovers Blake was actually the costumed hero, The Comedian, and was employed by the government.
Convinced he has uncovered a plot to kill costumed adventurers, Rorschach warns his retired teammates: the omnipotent and emotionally-distant Doctor Manhattan and his government-sponsored girlfriend Laurie Juspeczyk (Silk Spectre II); the hero-turned-businessman Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias); and the sad, flabby Dan Dreiberg (Nite Owl II). No one wants to believe him.
After Blake’s funeral, Doctor Manhattan is accused of causing cancer in the people closest to him. The government validates the accusations–and Manhattan exiles himself to Mars. Without this symbol of American might to keep the world in check, the spirals toward World War III.
Rorschach is framed for murder, and captured by the police.
While Doctor Manhattan’s away, Juspeczyk and Dreiberg grow closer. Together–as Silk Spectre and Nite Owl–they bust Rorschach out of prison. Doctor Manhattan teleports Juspeczyk to Mars–they argue, Juspeczyk comes to accept Blake was her biological father, and Doctor Manhattan returns with her to earth.
Nite Owl and Rorschach discover evidence that Ozymandias may be behind the death of the Comedian and the accusations against Manhattan. They confront Ozymandias at his arctic hideout, where he explains that he murdered The Comedian, and arranged for Manhattan’s friends to contract cancer. Why?
To save humanity from impending nuclear war by faking an alien attack on New York City which, he believes, will unite the nations of the world against a new, common enemy. Nite Owl and Rorschach try to stop Ozymandias’ plan–only to find out the attack has already taken place.
Doctor Manhattan and Juspeczyk are horrified by the destruction of New York City. Doctor Manhattan traces the attack to Ozymandias’ headquarters, and confronts him.
Ozymandias rejoices as news broadcasts from around the world confirm that his plan has worked: global hostilities have come to an end. Reluctantly, almost everyone agrees to conceal the truth of the “alien” attack for the sake of world peace.
Rorschach refuses to compromise and insists on revealing the truth. Doctor Manhattan atomizes him. Ozymandias wonders (a little too late) if the ends justify the means. Manhattan journeys to a new galaxy. Dreiberg and Juspeczyk assume new identities and run away together.
Tomorrow: We’ll use this story summary as a springboard into a discussion on how being right sometimes just isn’t enough.
Alan Moore reads a section of Watchmen as Rorschach…