I can recall reading Alan Moore, and David Gibbons, “Watchmen” when I was in freshman year of high school. It was one of the first graphic novels that I had ever read and I can honestly say it made me think more than I ever thought a simple comic could. One of the most entertaining things about Watchmen is how easily it fits into our history. Alan Moore’s story feels right at home in the 60’s-80’s culture that we have all come to know. However, in many ways, Moore paints a completely different picture of American culture. One much more savage, filled with conspiracy plots and walking, talking Gods. While rereading Watchmen. I decided to pick out the differences in real history and the history told in Watchmen to see if any meaning could be found
One interesting difference from the real world that is featured in the comics is how certain characters smoke cigarettes. It appears as if cigarettes are either smoked traditionally as rolled in paper, or are smoked using some kind of pipe. This pipe can first be seen in use by Laurie in chapter two, on page two. The pipe appears to be glass with a bulb at the end. It is used again in chapter three on page six by Ms. Slater. I think that such a small difference is a means for Moore to suggest that while this world is very similar, it has its small and maybe even insignificant differences. Either way this small details add to Moore’s craft and his idea of an alternate American culture.
There are many key events which occurred in the 60’s-80’s which are still present in Moore’s timeline. For example, the assassination of JFK is mentioned, along with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. However, these moments are told in direct connection with the characters of Watchmen. In the intro to the movie, which I might add does a fantastic job of capturing the feel of the novel, we see the Comedian is the shooter in the grassy knoll. While this same seen is not shown in the novel, the Comedian’s involvement with the shady dealings of the government brings him into the conflict in Vietnam. In Moore’s timeline, the Vietnam war is won with the help of Dr. Manhattan. Even with the help of a god on earth, the U.S. is no more safe from the threat of communism and global nuclear annihilation. In fact, throughout the first four chapters, Moore informs the reader of various differences through the use of news papers. Whether they are reporting on a French withdrawal of support from NATO, or the health of Nixon in his third term in office. Moore is no doubt trying to show how doomed humanity is from the start. No god or great plan could save us, only suffering and loss.
For more information on Alan Moore’s Watchman timeline, you can visit the Watchman wiki.