What is a key theme explored in Alan Moore's Watchmen?

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Alan Moore ’s seminal graphic novel was unique upon its initial release during the 1980s in that it was one of the few comics willing to deconstruct archetypal superheroes and humanize typically larger-than-life personalities. Indeed, he uses this psychologically realistic approach in superhero storytelling in order to satirize some themes...

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Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel was unique upon its initial release during the 1980s in that it was one of the few comics willing to deconstruct archetypal superheroes and humanize typically larger-than-life personalities. Indeed, he uses this psychologically realistic approach in superhero storytelling in order to satirize some themes and motifs contained within superhero stories. One of these themes is fascism. Superheroes are able to act as vigilantes and stop the “crimes” they see fit without considering the ramifications of their actions. They act without regard to established laws, and they have the ultimate say in what they pursue as crime. In a flashback scene in chapter two, Captain Metropolis warns against the dangers of promiscuity, campus subversion, and “black unrest.” The Comedian calls his peers to task for assembling a large group of superheroes and pursuing useless aims:

“You people are a joke. You hear Moloch's back in town, you think 'Oh boy! Let's gang up and bust him!' You think that matters? You think that solves anything? It don't matter squat” (11).

This theme of fascism is made even more potent by the Cold War tensions that Moore sows throughout the tale. Both the U.S. and Russia accused one another of being fascist entities during the Cold War. Finally, the ending in which Ozymandias annihilates major cities in order to secure world peace is the ultimate act of fascism. He does what he deems to be an act for the “greater good,” but he does not have the right to make this grave decision. He acts as a fascist, and Moore uses potent instances like this to explore this theme: “Who Watches the Watchmen?”  

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