Literary Criticism and Significance

Published by DC Comics during 1986 and 1987, Watchmen immediately took the comic industry by storm. The development of characters in the text was much different from that in other comic series and thus provided a new look at the archetype of the superhero. In addition, the dense plot, recurring motifs, and allegorical subtexts thrust Watchmen into a category of its own. After the publication and release of the twelve-issue limited comic series, Watchmen was collected, bound, and marketed as a graphic novel to compete with literature of other genres. Hailed as the greatest graphic novel of all time, Watchmen is the only graphic novel to appear on Time Magazine’s list of the top 100 novels. Lev Grossman wrote:

Told with ruthless psychological realism, in fugal, overlapping plotlines and gorgeous, cinematic panels rich with repeating motifs, Watchmen is a heart-pounding, heartbreaking read and a watershed in the evolution of a young medium.

In 1988, Watchmen was awarded the Hugo Award, a distinction given by the World Science Fiction Society for the best work in science fiction and fantasy; it is the only graphic novel to date that has been awarded this distinction. Since the publication of Watchmen, other comic series have explored the nature of the superhero. Watchmen remains a seminal text in the comic form.