Who Wants Free Watchmen Books?

March 27th, 2009 by | Tags: , , ,

These three books are sitting on my desk right now:


For reference, they are Watchmen: Portraits, Watchmen: The Film Companion, and Watchmen: The Art of the Film.

They’re part of the Watchmen merch that came out prior to or at the same time as the film. I can attest to the fact that they’re awesome, particularly the portraits book. They’re enormous single page portraits of the cast and crew, and even a few props.

Anyway, I have these books, sent to me courtesy of Katherine at Titan Books, and I thought to myself… I should give these away. In fact, I can double it. I have two of each book. That’s six books total. I’m going to give away all six.

Here’s what you have to do. In the comments below, I want you to tell me what your favorite Alan Moore story is. Preferably, it will be a book that we can all pick up on Amazon or at our local book store. If it’s a single issue, tell us what collection it’s in. Here’s the rub, however: you need to tell me, over the course of around a paragraph, two if you’re really into it, why you love it so much.

Just for clarification, we’re talking books here. “Tom Strong” isn’t an answer, but “Tom Strong volume 1” is, as long as you back it up. “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen #1” isn’t an answer, but “LoEG v1, which includes #1,” is. Make sense?

I’m going to close off submissions on Wednesday, unless the thread dies off before then, and then I’m going to go through with my crack team of comics criticism scientists (read: me, myself, and I) and pick out the six best. Those six will get an email from me so that I can get their addresses and then I’m going to mail them a book. I get to pick the book, but all three are about equally awesome.

How’s that sound? Have at it.

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18 comments to “Who Wants Free Watchmen Books?”

  1. V for Vendetta; a seemingly obvious choice, at very least one of his most well known books. However, beyond the fact that it was good enough to inspire a somewhat lackluster movie spin-off, Moore provides us with a dark and gritty look into a post-war distopia. Alan Moore combines historical reference with Orwellian possibilities. Picking an absolute favourite aspect of V for Vendetta is a rough task. Instead I would like to examine three primary factors that allow V for Vendetta to rise above other Alan Moore publications. These are the psychosis of the anti-hero protagonist known simply as “V,” the sense of mystery behind who V is and the duality of that mystery in which the reader finds himself (or herself) rooting both for V and those who are searching for him. V is a complex character, and the reader is often found questioning whether V is sane with episodes of insanity, or absolutely insane with brief lucid interludes.
    The Guy Fawkes references serve as a strong metaphor for alternative lifestyles, which is unsurprising because a good amount of Alan Moore’s works (and comics in general) serve to elucidate the plight of a minority. This is possibly why comics are so successful, because these are issues that people feel strongly about, however in V for Vendetta, Alan Moore does it with historical reference. This is where V for Vendetta really sells itself to the informed reader, and as well to me. As a person of British descent, I know well the poem, written in condemnation of Fawkes, that goes “remember, remember, the 5th of November/ The gunpowder treason and plot/ I know of no reason/ Why the gunpowder treason/ Should ever be forgot.” Guy Fawkes was among many who were denied the opportunity to practice Roman Catholicism by King James VI. While many comics and graphic novels explain to us the plight of the discriminated, none do it on so many levels as V for Vendetta.

  2. If there is one Alan Moore story I can connect to, it’s the Top Ten Series, published in 2 volumes. But the story that hits my sweet spot is the 10th issue, which is published in Top Ten volume 1. The criminal behind the crime wave hitting the city is revealed and the attack the cops in their own home. One of the officers has been killed and I don’t want to ruin it for everyone, but Moore, Ha and Cannon really sell that page for me where an officer decides to take the criminal down.

    It felt honest in a way no other Moore work does for me.

  3. I recently fell in love with “Tygers,” you can find it in “DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore.”

    Tygris is the story of the green lantern who preceded Hal Jordan–it’s about one mission he took to a forbidden planet, and how it caused his death years later. It’s also a story of how the DC Universe used to be a Cthulhian nightmare, and what’s left of those monsters. Moore creates entire futures in a few pages, taunting you with what could be books of great stories, all contained in a few panels. Reading this comic is like looking out a series of small windows at epic battles. (Now that I think about it, it’s very similar to the first “Books of Magic.”) This isn’t Moore at his most subtle, or showing off depths of characterization, it’s just a raw exercise of imagination and myth-building.

    I also love the artwork of Kevin O’Neill in this story. I’ve read comics he’s drawn before, but this is the first one where I was blown away. I don’t know how specific Moore was in his script, but putting those demons on paper couldn’t have been easy, especially since not one of them is cut from the standard biblical cloth.

  4. Well, I guess I am going to be *that* guy and say it: Watchmen is my favorite Alan Moore comic.

    I have read many of his other comic works, but I feel that Watchmen is truly his, and Dave Gibbons’, masterpiece. The characters he created are so psychologically complex, so deeply human, that the reader gets a perfect understanding of why they act the way they do. Their traumas and motivations are very real, with only their gaudy outfits (and Dr. Manhattan’s powers) set them apart from any other person.

    Watchmen is one of the few stories that I will read over and over again, and I will always discover something new, a new motif or a new “Easter egg” hidden for readers to make their own conclusions about the extended world that was created by Moore. It truly is the apex of the comic book format, fully utilizing all the tools and techniques that make comics such a unique format for storytelling. It is no surprise that the movie adaptation of the book did not measure up to the (extremely high) standards that the original series set. All of the objects, moments, and characters that appear in the comic are there, hidden in plain view for the readers to find and analyze, and to draw conclusions from.

  5. Although like many comics fans, Watchmen was a key moment in my comics-reading life, I have to say that From Hell has got to be the most mind-blowing thing Alan Moore has ever written. I had the misfortune of seeing the lobotomized film adaptation first, although in retrospect I’ve forgiven the Hughes brothers, because really, a faithful film adaptation of this work would be downright impossible (also, Menace II Society was awesome). Moore really did something extraordinary with this one. Jack the Ripper is arguably the most analyzed, written about murderer of all time, in everything from scholarly texts to trashy ‘mystery solved’ true crime paperbacks to all sorts of film and television dramas. Moore’s approach is almost halfway between a scholarly analysis and a work of pure fiction: he picks a popular hypothesis and runs with it in absolute meticulous detail, going through the history of 19th century London with a fine-toothed comb. He cherry picks historical figures from Oscar Wilde to William Blake to a gutsy and surprisingly funny appearance by a young Alesteir Crowley, almost serving as a precedent for the scouring of literary history that was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Whether or not the murders did happen the way Moore posits becomes almost inconsequential. What matters is that with Moore’s level of detailed analysis, even the staunchest skeptic is found thinking they could have.

    All the talk of meticulous research makes the book almost sound like a chore, but Moore is, as always, a master of narrative construction. Even in his lengthy discussions of Masonic ritual, occult practices and Victorian architecture, I found it damn near impossible to put the book down. In Netley and Gull’s tour through London, Moore reaches almost Joyceian levels of complex, spiraling prose. It’s not just a history lesson, but a view of an entire world and time through the fractured lens of the type of very damaged characters Moore writes best. Being a serial killer story, there’s also true horror to be found. Chapter Thirteen, a sustained symphony of mutilation from the point of view of a killer submerged in almost ecstatic glory, is one of the most challenging, disturbing passages I’ve read in comics or prose, and yet it has moments of a strange, discomforting beauty as well. And a moment around the halfway point when the murderer glimpses a startling scene through an alley window is one of the most shocking and daring narrative moments I’ve ever encountered in comics.

    Alan Moore’s writing has an unfortunate tendency to overshadow his artists, at times, so I have to give ample mention to Eddie Campbell as well. This was the first artwork I had seen of his, and while at first it seemed scratchy and imprecise, it becomes as responsible for immersing you in the dirty, seedy underbelly of London as the writing – possibly more so. The line work is almost impressionistic, conveying the drudgery of day to day life with as much skill as the almost Edward Munch horror of the loss of sanity. Together, Moore and Campbell produced something both terrifying and mesmerizing, hideous and beautiful. From Hell is not just a great comic book. It’s damn near one of the best narrative achievements of the twentieth century.

  6. “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow”. It’s in the DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore, and an upcoming hardcover.

    It’s the perfect end to the pre-Crisis Superman. Moore took concepts that were considered silly, some of which hadn’t been used in a while, and updated them.

    The story brought (and still brings) tears to my eyes, yet it has a happy ending.

    My favorite parts: Superman’s breakdown when the Legion brings him the statue, the wink at the end, and “This is an imaginary story… Aren’t they all?”

  7. I’ll bite.

    “From Hell”. I got into it because I’ve always been a nut for horror and serial killers and Jack the Ripper and all that. And because, you know, Alan Moore knows the score. I stuck with it because Moore was also writing about some other stuff that always fascinated me — conspiracies, esotericism, sacred geography, subtly weird stuff that doesn’t seem like it’d have any place in a Ripperology whodunit, but once it’s introduced, seems like it makes perfect sense. I get bugged by Moore’s obsessions every so often, but it really is a testament to his strength as a writer that he can shoehorn all this unconnected elements into a single story, and it all makes perfect sense.

    If I had to pick out a single chapter out of that book that is my favorite, it’s gotta be the “Dance of the Gull Catchers” appendix that distills the entire history of Ripperology, its movers and shakers, and its leading theories and obsessions down into a dozen or so pages. And it makes sense, and it’s entertaining. Heck, I remember laughing out loud when he made the Jack the Ripper/Cattle Mutilators connection, partly because it was completely mad, and partly because, holy cow, it had that perfect conspiracy-theory frission that feels so good to us conspiracy fanboys.

    The whole story is really just such a perfect mix of horror, detective drama, and conspiracy theories. I wish the movie (which I’ve never managed to see) hadn’t put so many people off of the comic…

  8. The Vega backup story in Omega Men #26, available in the DC Universe: Stories of Alan Moore collection.
    This strange little story, I do always tend to enjoy Moore’s shorter stories, is really just about two people sitting on a rock. Well more accurately it is about two giants sitting still more a few seconds while an alien empire rises and falls at their feet, completely unnoticed, the bugs and the giants experiencing time differently.
    It imparted me with a genuine sense of wonder without cynicism. It thoughtful, and it was fun.

  9. Well, it’s predictably got to be WATCHMEN for me, as well. WATCHMEN came along during a very crucial period of my childhood — that mysterious and troubling transition from childhood to young-adulthood — when I was branching out and graduating from the X-MEN, FANTASTIC FOUR and SPIDER-MAN comics that I read to tatters to more mature, deeper fare. WATCHMEN, though superhero related, made me feel older just in the reading of it. The art was as bold and bright as anything else from Marvel and DC, yet it seemed to be handled and executed with a care and love that comes from something well beyond the grind of monthly comics work-for-hire. Through feeling like I was certainly not grasping the entire scope of the ambitious volume, I was encouraged and challenged to reread it and delve deeper, searching for the layers that I’d never had to peel through in my “kid’s comics”. It, along with DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, became one of my rare and favored “annual reads” that I would pull from the shelf once a year and dive into with gusto, anticipating uncovering a new detail in the art, or a hidden meaning in the subtext. With the busyness of adulthood, and the sprawling shelves of material to read, I now only get around to rereading WATCHMEN every other year or so, but I still get just as lost in the book as I did that first time I read that first printing trade I bought with my lawn-mowing money.

  10. Well, normally I’d be writing about Miracleman, but given that it’s been out of print for nearly 20 years and is prohibitively expensive to obtain, I’ll go for something slightly more accessible.

    For me, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume 2 represents probably some of the strongest character work Moore has ever done, on top of being an excellent story to begin with. Whereas the first volume was at heart a contemporary homage to Victorian-era pulp fiction, volume 2 turns the premise on its ear with its apocalyptic deconstruction of both War of the Worlds and the dynamic of the team. When presented with the motley crew gathered in the first volumes, the reader will bring himself to wonder how such a group of disparate personalities including a drug addict, a sociopath, and the very embodiment of unrestrained id could ever work together. The second issue presents the simple answer: They can’t. They would utterly destroy each other. And that’s exactly what they do.

    I could go on about Moore’s brilliant synthesis of elements of War of the Worlds, The Island of Dr. Moreau, John Carter of Mars and countless other works of fiction, or Kevin O’Neill’s amazing artwork, brilliantly conveying everything from the emotional moments of Mina and Quatermain’s desperate affair to the panoramic views of the Martians’ destruction of London, but to keep this concise, I’m going to focus on what to me is the heart of the volume: the characterization of Mr. Hyde, who stands in my eyes as one of the most contradictory and tragic figures of Moore’s career so far. at one point in the series, he discusses his disdain for Jekyll, whose desire to rid himself of his minor sins created in Hyde a creature far worse than anything he could have ever been and ultimately doomed both of them. He derides Jekyll as a weaking who would get Hyde killed, yet expresses no hesitation to pursue a suicidal course of actions on his own terms. Here is a character formed of all humanity’s worst impulses, yet his most horrific acts in the series are motivated by a perverse sense of affection. Hyde’s relationship with Mina forms the core of his characterization here, as he tells her early on that he cannot delude himself into believing that what he feels for her is love, but rather that “In this world, alone, I do not hate you… and alone in this world, you do not hate me.” It is from this sentiment that he commits his most horrific act of the series, the savage rape and fatal beating of Hawley Griffith as a means of revenge for Mina’s assault at Griffith’s hands, and ultimately his lying about this to Mina, telling her that Griffith’s death was “comfortable” to spare her conscience the knowledge of his suffering for her sake. He remains contradictory to the end, remarking to Mina that in his doomed final assault against the Martians he will end up “looking rather noble, when all I really want to do is slaughter something…” yet upon finally being allowed to kiss her, he remarks “Always I knew that Heaven would be the cruelest of places,” and then strides off to his death. It is this juxtaposition of the brutal and the poetic that forms the backbone of Hyde’s characterization and marks it one of the most powerful aspects of an already excellent comic.

    It’s operatic in scope, but never loses sight of the characterizations at the core, and that for me is what Moore’s best writing is all about.

  11. Wow, for some reason I wrote “Griffith” instead of “Griffin” for that entire entry. I’ve been reading way too much Berserk recently.

  12. Are people from outside of America allowed to join the mad scrabble for free loot?

  13. I think that customs fees and shipping would make it pretty expensive!

  14. It’s a common misconception among the lower branches of fanboy that Alan Moore got his ‘big break’ in comics via “Swamp Thing”. But Alan would never have gotten the job if he hadn’t done what many talented young British comic writers did and still do – getting work at the hallowed halls of 2000 AD magazine, working on small stories for “Tharg’s Future Shocks”, as well as some longer serialised stories. Stories like “Skizz”.

    Before I encountered a battered copy of Skizz, the TPB, at the second-hand bookshop where I now work (though it is still available on Amazon), I had already seen “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”, and remained singularly unimpressed. It wasn’t the fact that it was American, and I British; it wasn’t the unconvincing special FX or the melodramatic score; it was just that it didn’t appeal to me or gab my interest in the way it did others. “Skizz” – a three-part series appearing over the course of a decade – was the Englishman’s answer to that. Instead of a barely-literate walking mass of faeces with eyeballs, powers and a completely ambiguous background, we have a fully-armoured, peaceable translator who got lost. Instead the typical model of nerdy kid-person who encounters an alien – as described by Douglas Adams in the first “Hitch-Hiker’s” book, ‘some poor soul who nobody’s ever going to believe’ – we have a realistically normal young woman named Roxy, unwillingly sucked into the effort to get her new friend ‘Skizz’ home, amongst the Birmingham background of the Thatcher-era job shortage.

    The effect, as with many of Moore’s works, is genuinely charming. The military is juxtaposed as a real threat against the protagonists, rather than some shadowy figures wit walky-talkies; but even they are shown to be, essentially, human. The story is named after ‘Skizz’, but his supportng cast get as much, if not more, time to shine and express their feelings. The characters all talk in a believable way, and it’s obvious that the artwork of Jim Baikie is heavily informed by Moore’s dense scripting style – for instance, in the enraged grin of Roxy tormenting an admirer who’s done her wrong, or the moment wherein one of her friends – an emotionally-troubled, unemployed pipe-fitter – grabs her father by the collar, breaks open a window, and points out at the star-studded sky, yelling “Look at that! There’s NOTHING more important than that!”.

    That’s why I love ‘Skizz’ more than anything else Moore has ever done; it’s a charming, human piece of work with a fair balance of ups and downs…even up to the Introduction/Epilogue from “Script-Bot Moore” at the end, which is genuinely ludicrous and funny in a way that modern notes from the editor – e.g., those ‘DC Nation’ things – have never really gotten the hang of. I suppose working at 2000 AD does things to a writer, after a while.

  15. Moore’s best work is always one you’ve read most recently, right? For me, that’s “The Black Dossier.”

    This sequel to “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” is ripping, Moore-calibre comics: all the reversals, revelations, rich characters, social commentary, & spectacular moments you could possibly want. Once again, it’s packed with spot-the-reference pleasures: late 1950s Britain is recovering from a decade of misrule by Orwell’s Big Brother.

    The meat of the story, told in a standard 3×3 comic grid, sees the League (Mina from Dracula & Allan Quartermain) chased across England by spies (including James Bond) after they steal the titular dossier from MI5. But rather than climax in biff-bang fisticuffs as the vols. 1 & 2 did, Moore turns a bit of metatextual magic. The duo escape into a sort of extra-dimensional polar utopia (rendered in 3-D – cardboard glasses are included, natch) to meet with Shakespeare’s Prospero, the League’s founder. This bearded stand-in for Moore turns to the reader, pulls us into the comic, so that we transcend time & space in a spiritual communion with fiction & dream.

    If that isn’t enough, there’s the dossier itself. It’s got several stand-alone adventures told in a variety of formats (like a Kerouac-style sequel to volume 1 that involves Dean Moriarty from “On the Road”). But reading between the lines reveals secret stories, like Harry Lime’s maneuvers to take over England and Lovecraft’s Elder Gods’ regular – & regularly foiled – invasions of Earth. It’s as if the extra materials in “Watchmen” weren’t just supplemental but contained hidden plots of their own.

    “The Black Dossier” synthesizes all that’s great about Moore’s previous works. The pulp adventures of “Tom Strong.” The gnostic mysteries of “Promethea.” The murderous conspiracies of “From Hell.” The dark superheroics of DC works like “Watchmen.” The deconstructive twists of “Swamp Thing.” The countercultural politics of “V for Vendetta.” It’s an incredibly dense book that works on several levels: as fun comics, as a mystical worldview, and as literary games. It’s beautiful and complex and unlike anything written by Moore or anyone else. I think it’s Alan Moore’s best work.

    But next week, a friend’s lending me “Top Ten: The 49ers.” I’ll bet that’s his best book too.

  16. […] Remember this? You’ve got today, tomorrow, and maybe early Wednesday morning before time’s up! If you’re thinking of trying to get some free books, now’s the time. […]

  17. I was amazed to learn that someone else had picked “Brief Lives” from Omega Men #26. (This tale can be found in any of the printings of the “DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore” book.) How could a four-page comic story be my favorite issue, among the hundreds of tales by Alan Moore — one of my favorite comic authors ever?

    I read it in the digest-sized “Best of DC #71,” about the only way way for a budget-minded comic reader to get a number of comic stories in a portable package. And, hey, it promised the “Year’s Best Comics Stories,” so it must have been good, right?

    Anyway, that collection came out in 1986. I was 12 at the time. My memories only started around when I was six or so, and I pegged “adulthood” at 18, so at 12 I was literally at the “midway” point between my consciousness as a person and my freedom as an adult.

    Which is to say, I was a snot-nosed kid who probably thought he was smarter than he was.

    I had read many comics before then. Not hundreds — I was fairly poor — but I was no stranger to them. But that story was probably the first time I understood that a comic was =written=. These weren’t just biographical tales telling what “really” happened with Superman or Batman or the Flash. Sure, I probably “knew” that on an intellectual level, but I didn’t understand it.

    But reading that story’s four terse pages, I understood. Someone needed to think of the story’s idea. Someone needed to put the ideas in each panel, the words strung together in just the right order.

    Around that time I decided I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. And, for the most part, I succeeded; today I make the bulk of my living writing and editing words… coming up with ideas, stringing thoughts together, putting the parts in just the right order.

    And it was that simple story — a reflection on perceptions of time and on desires and on madness that leads to dust — that made me realize the written word could be used to escape. Not by escaping into the worlds created by words, but by becoming the wordsmith and making the worlds myself.

    In a sense, my adult life began at that moment, although I didn’t realize it. But I knew I had a glimpse of how I wanted the future to look, which was enough. As the story’s climactic irony points out, “Life’s too short.”

  18. […] League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol 2 -Steven Marsh, Brief Lives -LtKenFrankenstein, From Hell -Matt Ampersand, Watchmen -Justin, Tygers […]