I was born before Graphic Novels achieved their genre status as adult literature. But their precursors, Horror Comics, had their heyday when I was pre-teens and used to go up the village to have my hair cut at the part time barber’s. He sold everything that was unacceptable which gave him a certain consistency in that his haircuts were equally lacking in whatever confers self-esteem on a youngster. Anyway, condoms, horror comics, pre-marital advice books and photo-nudes were tantalisingly half-hidden around his garden shed. So you can ask me about those days and not about graphic novels. The only one I have is in French and concerns Zatoichi, the blind samurai.

One tag line for the film Watchmen, asks “Who watches the Watchmen?” Well, at one linear strip of time it was my son and I in Hiroshima last week. We cycled through the night and left our bikes outside the cinema. Unlocked. Safe. This is Japan. Three hours later, after a complex plot where not even a single atom was safe and with a death toll of 15 million plus (no mathematical error) we cycled back through the night in that hyper state which follows a good viewing. (At times I identify to such a degree with car chase films I have to restrain my driving.)

Watchmen is full of good retro dialogue and a rather sideways and sometimes sadistic take on super hero films. None of the characters are actually good. Their flaws cause many of the plot’s twists. The movie plays an interesting riff on liberal conscience. The central anti-hero, Rorschach, has a number of speeches in which he derides the liberal conscience, particularly when it comes to paedophilic killers and low lifes who have no moral parameters. As a would be tolerant and well meaning liberal, I found myself identifying guiltily with Rorscach’s bloody vendetta. I suppose it is the sign of good cinema that you can be traduced into identifying with characters that seem to be a long distance from your own. But maybe that is only the way we idealise our selves. Maybe we have the worst inside us and life is about handling and conquering what we know is base and irredeemable. The battles we fight with our consciences are micro wars that merely reflect what goes on around us on a greater scale.

Anyway, Watchmen took over a decade to be made. It is set in Nixon’s Cold War and creates a background collage of people and events of that period all played with great verisimilitude by actors. The soundtrack is redolent of the time-honoured mix of disregard for the establishment and narcissism that epitomises much of the best of rock since the fifties.

Iloved the film and it is still with me. Grrrrrrrrrhh….

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