Yes, the post’s point is basically “reading a comic book is different from reading a trade paperback.”

§ February 24th, 2009 § Filed under watchmen Comments Off on Yes, the post’s point is basically “reading a comic book is different from reading a trade paperback.”

So all this Watchmen talk had me thinking…I’ve spoken to a handful of people at the shop who were new to the work, and reported stalling a bit on the text pieces between chapters. My advice to them was to go ahead and skip those bits if they’re getting in the way of the story, and go back and read them afterward. Yeah, okay, some of you are wincing, but according to a few of those folks that strategy seemed to work.

And this is what got me wondering. I read Watchmen in its original serialized format, one issue every month (or six weeks, or two months). That meant I had plenty of time to read the comic portion of the story and digest the text back-up pieces before the next issue came out.

However, in the collected format, I wonder if the text pieces function more as “speed bumps” for some readers, interruptions between chapters of the “real” story that one feels obligated to slog through before going on to the pages with actual comics on them. Without the time gaps between chapters forced by the monthly-or-so release schedule, perhaps some readers feel as if they have less time to contemplate the text pieces, knowing that the plot continues just a page turn or two away.

That’s just a random thought that occurred to me during a discussion of the work I was having yesterday. I could be completely off…but I’ve heard from enough people that the text back-ups did slow them up a bit that I think, in some cases, the pacing is drastically altered by the story’s collection under one cover.

Anyway, the other advice to readers, besides “skip ’em ’til the end,” is “take it slow” — don’t feel like you have to speed through the entire book in record time. Read just a chapter (plus text piece) a day, let it sink in, move on to the next chapter the next day. Or a few days later…whatever. But if you still feel the need to just skim that owl essay supposedly by Dan Dreiberg…well, I don’t tell anyone.

On a related note, in a preview for Watchmen that appeared in Amazing Heroes #97 (June 1986), it says the following:

“In place of a letters page in the first three issues you won’t be seeing the usual awkward selection of biographies or series notes, but extracts from ‘Under the Hood,’ the memoirs of Hollis Mason, the original Nite-Owl.”

Now I suspect this may have been a misinterpretation by the article’s writer, who was told that the first three issues would have that back-up feature and may have assumed that the letters column would appear after the back-ups were completed. Or maybe the other back-ups actually were late additions…which seems a bit unlikely, but possible, I suppose. (EDIT: Okay, ignore my suppositions…Augie reminds me that Dave Gibbons’ book Watching the Watchmen confirms the initial plans for a letter column.)

But now I’m imagining Watchmen with letter columns, people writing in guessing how it’s going to end, talking about how badass Rorschach is, asking why Dr. Manhattan isn’t wearing pants, etc. And of course the editorial plug for the next installment:

“NEXT ISSUE: One character learns a terrible secret about the past, while another makes a fateful decision that will change The Watchmen forever! Watch for issue #9, The Darkness of Mere Being by Moore and Gibbons, coming next month!”

I enjoyed writing that last bit far more than I should have.

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