Watchmen Background

Alan Moore 

Alan Moore was “born November 18, 1953, in Northampton, England; son of Ernest (a brewery worker) and Sylvia (a printer) Moore; married, 1974; wife’s name Phyllis; children: Amber, Leah” (MOORE, Alan 1953). Moore grew up loving to read fantasy literature, mythological tales, and mostly British comics until he finally came across an issue of “Superman;” he’s even on record stating, “I got my morals more from Superman than I ever did from my teachers or peers.” However, at 17 he was thrown out of school for dealing drugs and had to earn a living doing odd-end labor jobs. Only once he was married and with a child on the way did he finally push himself to do some more creative work. One of his earliest cartooning jobs was publishing a detective strip titled “Roscoe Mosco” in Sounds magazine under his pseudonym Curt Vile (MOORE, Alan 1953).

In the early 80’s Moore had two great breakthroughs, publishing “Marvelman” and then “V for Vendetta” in the comics anthology Warrior, where “he received the Eagle Award for Best Writing in both 1982 and 1983” (MOORE, Alan 1953) for his work on “V.” Moore said “I started to realize what you could do with comic storytelling and the . . . layering, the levels of meaning that you could attach to the story. I think that certainly V for Vendetta was one of the first real major breakthroughs I made in terms of my own personal style” (MOORE, Alan 1953).

Moore’s success with “Marvelman” and “V” lead to a job with DC Comics revamping the “Swamp Thing” series in 1984, and he began working with Dave Gibbons at the same time, adapting characters from the Charlton Comics.  Moore and Gibbons eventually produced entirely new characters from the Charlton ones in Watchmen, “including Dr. Manhattan with his nuclear powers, Rorschach, Adrian Veit and others” (MOORE, Alan 1953).  Watchmen was a critical success in the comics industry, earning Moore the “Jack Kirby Best Writer Award, 1987, Hugo Award, 1988, and Locus award, 1988, all for Watchmen; Harvey Award for best writer, 1988, for Watchmen” (MOORE, Alan 1953).

Moore has gone on to publish more critically successful comic books, including From Hell (1991-1996) and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2001).
Four of his books, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and From Hell, have been adapted to major motion pictures. 


Watchmen is a twelve-issue comic book spawning from Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’ original attempts to work with Charlton Comics characters “such as the Question, Mister A, Blue Beetle, and Captain Adam”(MOORE, Alan 1953). What we get instead:

Moore and Gibbons came up with their own super heroes, including Dr. Manhattan with his nuclear powers, Rorschach, Adrian Veit and others. In Moore’s take, these superheroes are all plagued by their human emotions and weaknesses. In an alternate America of 1985, super heroes have in fact existed for several decades. They have fought gangsters and then Nazis in World War II, have been purged in the McCarthy era, helped the country win the war in Vietnam, and have become hitmen for the CIA. One such superhero, Comedian, supposedly killed the Watergate journalists Woodward and Bernstein in 1972, thus stabilizing Richard M. Nixon’s threatened presidency, and Comedian’s own death in October of 1985 becomes the kick-off point for Moore’s dark tale. Soon it becomes clear that someone is trying to kill off the second generation of super heroes, and as a nuclear threat becomes more and more urgent, the remaining super heroes know that they must stop this anonymous assassin before time runs out. (MOORE, Alan 1953)

Watchmen included “documentary material” at the end of each issue that Frederic Paul Smoler in the Nation called “wittily crafted and weirdly interesting” (MOORE, Alan 1953).  Rose stated that the book “was a dense, meticulous deconstruction of the whole superhero game that received mainstream ‘literary’ acclaim,” and another contributor from the St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers claims Watchmen is a “formidably complex work, demanding that readers connect many references in text and art” (MOORE, Alan 1953).

Watchmen has received a number of awards and is one of only a few graphic novels to be a New York Times Bestseller.

Complimentary Readings for Contextualization:
Watchmen Plot Summary – not a replacement for reading the book, but a great primer to help with some contextualization. 
Timeline of events in the book from the Annotated Watchmen
“A Brief History of Comics” 


2 thoughts on “Watchmen Background

  1. Do you think Moore’s own flaws were the motivation for his flawed characters in Watchmen? If so, why do you think he was angered by the adoration garnered from these characters?

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