Comparing the Graphic Novel and Film of Watchmen Part 1

Hey guys this is Kat “Comic Uno” and I have a new feature comparing the graphic novel and film of Watchmen. I had to do a ten page paper about Watchmen for a Novel and Film class I took. So, I decided to publish it here on Comic Frontline. Here is the first part of the article. Every week I will release a new part of this feature series. 

Watchmen is one of the most popular and well
written graphic novels. Like many popular novels on the market Watchmen received its own film
adaptation. The film was released in 2009 and was directed by Zack Snyder. Both
the film and novel represent the superhero genre, but unlike much of that genre
there is a deeper existentialist layer.
            Why has Watchmen changed the superhero genre forever? Before Watchmen superhero comic books didn’t
have any depth or deeper meaning. There were the bad guys and the good guys.
The good guy, after some struggle, usually saved the day and there wasn’t much
social commentary or character development involved in the process. In Watchmen the hero is equally a villain
and every hero has some questionable motives. Watchmen was not just a superhero book, but also a social
commentary of our world. (Klock, 150) After Watchmen
was published in 1986 many readers wanted more stories with the complexity and
depth of Watchmen. At the time it
became clear that if the comic book industry wanted to survive it would have to
change the depth and theme of its stories and create characters that would be
more complex.
was needed for the survival of the comic book industry. If Watchmen wasn’t written the comic book industry probably would have
severely declined a long time ago. On the other hand, the film adaptation did
not impact the movie industry in the same dramatic way. It didn’t even change
the film superhero genre. Watchmen
was released in 2009, but the superhero film genre started to become popular
with Spider-man in 2002. The big bang
of the superhero genre started the year before Watchmen in 2008 with the premiere of Iron Man. These are the movies that were the predecessors to the Avengers, which made over a billion
dollars in the box office worldwide.  To
the mainstream audience Watchmen was
just another superhero movie. Its major impact on the comic book industry was
not a factor to the film audience.
            The film contained much of the
symbolism and social commentary of the novel, but did not have as much of the
depth of the social commentary that the graphic novel had. Some of the
limitations of the film did not allow it to deal with the themes as well as the
graphic novel did and some things were cut out of the story. The film did not
include the story of a man reading a comic within a comic called Tales of Black Freighter. As the man
reads his book the social commentary spoke for itself. Everyone was talking
about Russia, nukes, and the coming of World War Three.
            The film decided to ignore this
story but added social commentary in different ways. Zack Snyder decided to add
commentary through the use of media in the film. Throughout the events of Watchmen there would be propaganda or
social commentary through news outlets. This was an excellent way to add some
depth to the film, but not bore the mainstream audience that is just looking
for a superhero movie. To the average viewer the film may have a two
dimensional tone, but at closer inspection the movie provides a lot of depth and
            In the film there was less direct
social and character commentary so much of this accomplished by use of
symbolism. This made the film seem to have less of a soul than the novel. A
major complaint from people who read the novel is that the movie seemed to be
very forgettable. The viewer feels somewhat disconnected while watching the
film. Although Snyder is faithful to the text, sometimes word for word, he
fails to capture much of its significance. The movie gives voice to the
characters, but not the depth that is needed in such a deeply written novel.
            Moore devotes chapters dedicated to
help us understand why the characters do the things that they do. It gives us
more of an emotional attachment to these characters. For example, in chapter
nine Laurie finds out who her father is. She repeats the name over and over
again, because she realizes the man she hated for years and the person who
raped her mother is her father. In the movie Dr. Manhattan just says, “The
Comedian is your father”. (Snyder, 2009) There was very little emotion in one
of the most emotion filled scenes of the novel.
            Snyder leaves out many important
facts in the origins of Dr. Manhattan and Rorschach. The movie skimmed over the
relationship Dr. Manhattan had with his first love, Janey Slater. This showed
that Dr. Manhattan had emotions and a strong connection to humanity. This is
why he gets so angry in the film during the press conference when he finds out
that his first love has cancer because of being exposed to him.
            The interaction between Laurie and
Dr. Manhattan on Mars made Dr. Manhattan see humanity in a new light. This is
connected to his origin story and produced greater emotion in the graphic novel
because of the little things we knew about Dr. Manhattan’s personality that
Snyder decided to leave out in the movie.
            When Rorschach is in the
interrogation room with his therapist in the film we see glimpses of
Rorschach’s past. We learn that his mother is a prostitute and bullies pick on
Rorschach because of his mother’s reputation. In the graphic novel the
narration allows the reader to see Rorschach life through his eyes. One feels
the emotion he felt and can understand why he becomes the man we know as
            The film didn’t touch upon the
impact that Rorschach had on the therapist’s life. In the beginning of the
graphic novel the therapist is happy to have such a big case, but Rorschach
makes the therapist question his life. This makes the therapist drop the case
because he started to become distant from his wife. This shows that Rorschach
impacts the most positive people in life, and shows them the natural evils in
society. Including some of these key points could have made the film less
hollow and would have allowed the movie audience to connect better with these
characters. (Meaney ,157) 


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3 Thoughts to “Comparing the Graphic Novel and Film of Watchmen Part 1”

  1. Jay

    Great Job Kat! So many people claim that the movie brought the comic book to life page by page, but you're showing how much was left out. Thank you!

  2. Am I just remembering things wrong or did the Director's Cut fix many of these things, like Dr. Manhattan's backstory, or Rorschach's?

    1. I am not sure. For the paper I watched the original which came out in theaters. That is the version that mainstream audience would probably be seeing

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