The teens represent an age of confusion, discovery, ambition, and passion. The awkwardness stems from the fact that you are almost an adult, with a foot in both worlds. You have more responsibility than someone who is in grade school, yet there is still a degree of innocence that you hold on to.
Similar to teens, graphics novels occupy the same awkward stage between completely childish comic books and the full-blown complexity of actual serious novels. Graphics novels tackle and discuss more adult subjects and present existential ideas while keeping the capes, ridiculous outfits, and overall silliness of the comic book medium.
It seems like in modernity, we really can’t have nice things. For those who are not aware, critical theory is well…a theory that encourages criticism. Given that no human undertaking in history was perfect, you can poke holes in anything.
It has often been said that reason is the universal solvent because you can analyze anything into dust.
In another age, people would be satisfied with having heroes, and not wondering about their failures, and what they eat for breakfast. For example, The Lord Of The Rings was a wholesome series filled with archetypes and larger-than-life characters. It was written as a myth because that’s the point. It reflects the human condition at all times.
Game of Thrones turned that on its head, showing us the dark underbelly of that picturesque and idealized medieval European world.
The Watchmen does to comic books what Game of Thrones did to Lord Of The Rings. It shows superheroes with tragically flawed personalities and characters. Heroes who, in most other works, would struggle to build up and idealize.
Sure, many series over the years have introduced a “fall from grace” period for their heroes. Spiderman, Superman, and Batman have had storylines where the main characters become stalked and hated. But usually, this narrative device is used to springboard a powerful rebirth in the character.
In Watchmen, this state is permanent. It is an ever-grey situation where even the good guys are not so nice. As a reader, you will begin to understand the burdens of power, and how humans will never be able to wield power perfectly.
One begins to understand the general public’s fear and distrust from other series such as the X-Men. It is indeed dangerous to give normal people abnormal abilities. They will make mistakes, and those mistakes will cause harm.
Think of the average internet commenter, with outlandish ideas and an attitude problem. Now, imagine that person having laser-eyes, or the ability to reshape matter. Scary, right?
More cannot be said without introducing spoilers, but needless to say that this graphic novel has been a best-seller for decades.
The author is Alan Moore, who is the Tim Burton of graphic novels. He makes everything darker and more ambiguous, and fans love him for it.
V for Vendetta
The trope of the evil emperor or the tyrannical king has always existed in fiction. However, tyranny is often very hard to enforce forever. No matter how hard you try, there will always be a crack in Earth or a cave where detractors may hide.
Yet, as technologies evolve, tyrannies can cover more and more ground. Tech allows you more ways to record and survey, gather data, set traps, and produce more lethal weapons.
This is why some of the best fiction and non-fiction novels from the last century deal with authoritarian tyrannies. The dystopian novel became a genre on its own, and V for Vendetta is a comic book version of that trend.
It is very easy to read the author’s intentions, as the tyranny de jour is the Norsefire regime. Overall, a parody and exaggeration of traditional right-wing regimes. However, the criticism tends to extend past the political spectrum, as one can easily imagine a left-wing side of the same coin.
The novel is an ironic deconstruction of a dystopia in general, and a criticism of authoritarians. It is surprisingly believable and thorough for a graphic novel that will be read mostly by young adults.
As the reader, you understand why most citizens would cry out for an avenging hero. But here’s where things get interesting: one man’s hero can easily become another man’s terrorist.
“V”, is a vigilante that wears a Guy Fawkes mask. He murders, deceives and kidnaps to accomplish his goals. And if the cruelty stopped there, it would be an understandable and necessary evil. However, it gets worse.
V puts an important character through unnecessary mental anguish and torture. We’re talking serial killer-level stuff. And need I remind you that V is supposed to be the good guy.
The novel is fun to read for students in their late teens or even young adults. And it can also get you thinking about how cycles of violence perpetuate, and how bad situations create broken people.
There are tons of graphic novels and comic books that seek to subvert expectations. The 90s are famous for attempting to market gritty and morally ambiguous anti-heroes. Alan Moore’s work represents the best example of this trend, with all its faults and successes.
As a student or a young adult, the added layer of maturity and grit can be refreshing. However, falling into the extreme and becoming jaded and cynical is not the intent.
People should have nuanced views of the world, but there’s room for ideals and archetypes as well.