|The original, more affecting cover.|
If you don't own Watchmen already,
please buy it right now.
The Deluxe Edition includes bonus
"making-of" material but has an
even less inspired cover than the
current non-deluxe edition.
My mom, who paid more attention to things than I sometimes realized, must have noted that I wondered aloud about the trade several times and that I seemed particularly thrilled it would be coming out in a bookstore edition. (Just typing the words "Warner Books edition" in the same sentence as Watchmen evokes the image of that spinning bottle of Nostalgia in my mind.) She ordered me a copy from an ad in Comics Scene. It arrived at our house the day before Christmas Eve, a complete surprise, addressed to me. I remember being intrigued by how nondescript the cover was. (It was the one with the shattered glass and the dirigible in the distance, the Comedian's blood-stained button suspended in the air just before it begins to fall. I don't know about everyone else, but in my circle, that's sometimes called "the prequel cover.")
The book sat in my room as I ran errands and went about my day, but I started it first thing when I woke up on Christmas Eve, carrying it with me as my mom and dad dragged me along to visit cheer on aunts and uncles and deliver presents to neighbors. I was 14 at the time, and I couldn't put it down. Maybe I could have during the first "chapter," but once I'd gotten into the excerpt from Under the Hood before "chapter II," I was hooked. (They were chapters to me then, so I probably should use that word here.)
It took me the bulk of the day to work my way through five chapters of Watchmen. As we prepared to head to my grandmother's house for Christmas Eve dinner, I kept returning to that magnificent (enormous) trade, picking my way through Rorschach's confessional in #5 several panels at a time.
|Nothing but the meaning we make.|
The thing about my dark night of the soul is this: There were voices laughing, arguing, and even occasionally singing behind me, in my grandmother's house. Making meaning. An assortment of thermodynamic miracles, though I hadn't gotten to that point yet. (It would be years before I realized I was living out foreshadowing on that porch.) More than a quarter century later, I can put myself in that moment and conjure the last Christmas Eve at my grandmother's house with a precious crispness I owe Watchmen.
I continued to obsess over the trade for the next two days, finishing on Boxing Day. I wept at the two-page spread in the final chapter. Crying over all those nonexistent strangers was a tremendous catharsis. I remember thinking back to the previous Christmas, when I'd cried over something I'd read that night, and wondering if I'd spend puberty (and possibly adulthood) as some hormonal, misty-eyed sadman.
I put the book down when I finished and didn't touch it for days, as if it were radioactive. I thought about it with every spare minute. Like every 14-year-old boy who's ever read Watchmen, I recognized the adults in my life in five of the main characters and what I aspired to be myself in Rorschach. I couldn't have said so at the time, but I felt an age-appropriate self-loathing at that recognition.
1986-'87 was an era of the conceivable made
concrete and of the casually miraculous.
Just after the Christmas holiday, we were visited by the biggest snowstorm my Southern town had ever seen, and the green of a discarded Christmas wreath poking out from beneath the snow that morning reminded me of Veidt's Antarctic Karnak. I picked up Watchmen again and started over, at the beginning. I noticed for the first time how the creeping ice in that chapter mirrored the dripping blood of the endpapers (back covers).
Oddly enough, it's snowing this morning — a relatively rare occurrence down South.
Every time it snows and I'm home, I think of Watchmen and the last Christmas of my childhood.
That's my Watchmen story, as I shared it on Facebook. What's yours?