Thursday, November 24, 2011

Book #75

Watchmen as Literature, by Sara J. van Ness. Paperback.

This is van Ness' doctoral thesis, an academic examination of Watchmen, the graphic novel by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons. There is an emerging field of comics studies in the academic world, as the literary and artistic value of works such as Watchmen (and Persepolis, Maus, The Dark Knight Returns, and others) is being taken seriously. Professors from the disciplines of literature, art, media, communications, sociology, and psychology have penned academic works on graphic novels, and some even include the study of graphic novels and comic books in their classes.

Van Ness' work covers a range of aspects of the graphic novel, including a terrific analysis of how the main characters' journeys fit into various aspects of Joseph Campbell's monomyth structure. I also enjoyed her analysis of how the use of sequential art, the unique aspect of comics among other storytelling media -- comic books and graphic novels are not a genre, they are a medium for storytelling, and can tell any type of story.

The writing can be dense at times (it is an academic work), and I wish the book included more examples of panels from Watchmen to demonstrate various points (there are a few, just not enough for me). She also includes a discussion of the movie version of Watchmen, but this discussion has a "tacked-on" feel and does not add a lot to the understanding of the graphic novel itself.

The biggest praise I can offer this book is that I learned things from reading this, and will take a different view of Watchmen next time I read it.

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