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Watchmen and the Superhero Concept

How much influence did Alan Moore's seminal graphic novel Watchmen have on our current cultural obsession with superheroes?

Released in 1986, first as a twelve-part comic book series and then collected together as a graphic novel, Watchmen came from the unique mind of writer Alan Moore alongside artist Dave Gibbons. It featured superheroes as they had never been seen before: flawed, vulnerable, evil and damaged; existing in a dystopian, alternative 1980s America where Richard Nixon was still the President.

Published by comics giant DC, Watchmen was an enormous critical success, introducing a new, adult audience to the comic book world, winning numerous awards and eventually included on Time magazine's 100 best books of the 20th Century.

But the afterlife of Watchmen has proven to be fraught. Alan Moore bitterly opposed any sort of film adaptation - but despite this, a big budget Hollywood version was released in 2009, to highly mixed reviews. Sequels, spin-offs and video games have also been released under the Watchmen banner without Moore’s blessing. And now a new television version of the book is about to be released.

Just why was Watchmen so successful? Why has it been so difficult to adapt and how much did it influence popular culture’s current obsession with all things superhero?

With Andy Riley, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw and Nathaniel Metcalfe.

Presenter: Hayley Campbell
Producer: Dale Shaw

Release date:

Available now

42 minutes

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