Watchmen Summary

Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons


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Watchmen Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Watchmen by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons.

Watchmen is a genre blending work by illustrator Dave Gibbons and writer Alan Moore.Although it began as a twelve-installment series of comics published by industry giant DC Comics in 1986 and 1987, it endures as a cumulative collection as a trade paperback released in 1987.While straddling the line between novel and graphic novel, Watchmen encompasses fantasy, superhero fiction, adventure, and speculative fiction, while also serving as a satire of traditional superhero tales.While alternate universes are commonplace in the world of superheroes, Moore and Gibbons go beyond that, creating an alternate history in which the characters appear in the 1940s and 1960s;their existence in those time periods changes American history.The country is victorious in Vietnam and the Watergate conspiracy remains clandestine.In 1985, with the United States and the Soviet Union on the brink of World War III, the superheroes who are retired or government employees are coaxed back into action to aid in the investigation of a murder.

When there are no leads in the murder investigation into the death of Edward Blake, costume-wearing vigilante Rorschach decides to dig deeper than the New York City police department.It is 1985 and Rorschach finds that Blake was also The Comedian, a hero who worked for the United States government.Under the impression that a movement is underfoot to eliminate such adventurers, Rorschach contacts four of his fellow retired, costumed heroes.Dan Dreiberg, once the second Nite Owl; Doctor Manhattan; Laurie Juspeczyk, the second Silk Spectre; and Adrian Veidt, formerly Ozmandias.

Manhattan is accused of having caused cancer in some friends and fellow workers; when the government looks into the situation, he flees to Mars.Having been an important military power, his absence causes great political unrest, which includes the Soviet Union taking advantage of the situation to invade Afghanistan.An attempted assassination is directed at Adrian, and Manhattan is framed for the murder of a former villain, Moloch.Juspeczyk and Dreiberg become romantically involved and return to their former personas as costumed vigilantes.They help Rorschach break out of prison.As the plot unfolds, it is revealed that Blake was Juspeczyk’s father.This bit of insight into the multifaceted nature of people has Manhattan becoming interested again in the human race.Nite Owl and Rorschach discover that Veidt might have been involved with the plot surrounding The Comedian.When confronted by the pair, Veidt explains that his actions were designed as part of a plot to save the human race from inevitable nuclear war by staging an alien invasion in New York City.He admits that he is responsible for The Comedian’s murder, for the cancer experienced by Manhattan’s friends and colleagues, an attempt on his own life, and the framing of Rorschach.All of this was to keep his plan from being found out.

Meanwhile, Manhattan and Juspeczyk, who have been on Mars, return to Earth.They find New York City in turmoil with death and ruins, along with a massive creature that had been made in Veidt’s labs, dead in the streets.Manhattan finds that his super powers have been limited. Veidt shares broadcasts that indicate the world’s superpowers are cooperating with each other due to having a new common enemy.Rorschach wants to reveal Veirdt’s plan, while almost everyone else feels it to be in the public interest not to do so.Rorschach tells Manhattan that only killing him would prevent him from exposing Veidt; Manhattan does so.Manhattan leaves earth again at the end. Dreiberg and Juspeczyk assume new identities.The ending of the book finds an editor at the New York based newspaper, New Frontiersman, looking for something with which to replace an article about Russia that was killed because of the change in the world’s political arena.He sends an assistant to find something among the rejected submissions to the paper;the assistant finds, at the top of the pile, a journal written by Rorschach.

An interesting component of the format of Watchmen is its inclusion of a story within the story.Tales of the Black Freighter is a fictional comic book series, which appears periodically in the text.The story “Marooned” is one in the Black Freighter that is being read by a young character living in New York City.In the tale, the Sea Captain is on his way to warn his town of the impending arrival of the Black Freighter, which wrecks his ship along the way.

Watchmen is considered to be one of the comic book industry’s greatest achievements as both a series, the form in which it originally gained fame, and as a collection in graphic novel form where it became one of the biggest sellers ever.Underscoring the “bridge” between novel and graphic novel that the text represents, Watchmen was the only graphic novel to appear on Time magazine’s list of the one hundred greatest novels of all-time in 2005.