The Halloween horror in Watchmen

The Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons graphic novel is tricky to comprehend but a treat to read

Neel Dozome


Photo by Sabina Music Rich on Unsplash

“Old Ghosts” makes the eighth chapter out of the twelve-part Watchmen series. It was released on April, 1987.

Watchmen these days, however, is read as a collected edition. Some may think that it is a movie (if you Google “Watchmen Halloween” you get pages after pages of costumes from the movie). However, in my opinion, this book deserves to be treated as a serious piece of literature.

I am aware that both the terms — “literary” and “graphic novel” — are controversial. I do not use them flippantly. According to some, the term “graphic novel” was invented by creators like Will Eisner and American publishing to elevate and differentiate serious work from superhero comics and really shady headshop indie stuff (such as Robert Crumb’s). Furthermore, the term “literary” when applied to comics is seen as snobbish.

Yet, Alan Moore is no ordinary writer. When I say he is the greatest English author since William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens people laugh but I’m dead serious. His works possesses such depth, layers of story and thickness of text that they deserve to be called novel. I would go so far as to say that Watchmen is that rare thing: a literary graphic novel. I conjoin the terms to create something like a double Michelin star. You can add to this a third star: what Dave Gibbons has achieved, especially when it comes to typography (the work inspired Vincent Connare to create Comic Sans) and the Mars scenery. Type design plays a crucial role in story-telling akin to a Wes Anderson movie.

©Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons/DC comics

Gibbons, like many maestros (none less than Wally Woods), began his career as a letterer. This comic really showcases the power of artists who have such a granular level understanding of the form. Gibbons uses a 9-grid page layout for the series. Each chapter ends wit the the final ninth, corner panel with a beautiful, poetic quote that summarises the theme of that segment. That’s what I mean when I use the term literary — something that approaches literature by referencing and…