By now, you've probably seen Watchmen and come to your own conclusions. If you came away wondering what comics you should be reading next, we're here to help with more than just the usual suspects.
If You Loved The Denseness Of Watchmen:
To my mind, this is Alan Moore's masterpiece (and one we've already recommended - 500+ pages that look behind (and beyond) the legend of Jack the Ripper to offer a dissertation on murder, majesty and London, ably (and atmospherically) illustrated by Eddie Campbell. As full and as deep as Watchmen at its best, but with more subtlety and patience, From Hell offers a rich experience that may not offer as many people in costumes, but may be all the more rewarding for that. [Amazon]
If You Loved The Way The Book Played With The Comic Medium:
On the face of it, Kevin Huizenga's work is almost the very opposite of Watchmen; in many cases autobiographical and entirely devoid of superheroes or apocalyptic scenarios. But Huizenga shares a fascination - and desire to experiment - with the language of comics that goes beyond what Moore and Gibbons did in Watchmen, moving into abstract images and wordlessness that takes the medium in directions that Dr. Manhattan would be proud of. The best example - and the place to start - would be Or Else #2, "Gloriana," where a sunset turns into something altogether more unusual and magical.
If You Loved The Adult Approach To Superheroes:
Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips' story of a superpowered secret agent who goes undercover in a criminal organization only to get in way over his head - emotionally and strategically - offers up both the nods to comics' past (Especially in the twisted secret origins that pepper the series) and the "real people who just happen to have superpowers" aspects of Watchmen, but take the latter much further; the characters here aren't the iconic archetypes and stereotypes of Moore and Gibbons' book, but much more genuine, believable, and recognizable as us. Brubaker and Philips' Incognito, which just launched a couple of months ago, is in a similar vein and well worth checking out as well. [Amazon]
If You Loved Dr. Manhattan's Cosmic Perspective:
Much longer, chaotic and disorganized than Watchmen, Grant Morrison's long-running story of the 1990s The Invisibles crosses time, dimensions and questions the very nature of reality on a regular basis. Ripped off by The Matrix, The Invisibles is a much more individual work (although stealing from multiple sources itself, shamelessly) that wants to change the way you look at the world, if you let it. [Amazon]
If You Loved The Near-Future Setting Of Watchmen:
I've recommended Paul Pope's work here enough to make it clear that I'm a massive fanboy, but that doesn't change the fact that 100% is the ideal follow-on if you liked the small details that made Watchmen's world so similar-but-different to our own. Focusing on the characters allows him to sneak in all manner of alternate-world SFisms without you noticing until it's too late, but this is a beautiful and necessary book that, come to think of it, should be made into a movie of its own. Just keep Zack Snyder away from it. [Amazon]
If You Loved The Cold War World-building of Watchmen:
Howard Chaykin's American Flagg - a 1980s contemporary of Watchmen - takes the Cold War paranoia of Moore and Gibbons in a whole new, satirical, direction and to the world of 2031, where America's government has moved to Mars, turned corporate and taken on a particularly Russian approach to some subjects, allowing former television star and new "Plexus Ranger" Reuben Flagg to try and keep the peace in a future Chicago. Sharing a similar dark humor to Watchmen, it's as much a product of its time, but well worth checking out. [Amazon]
If You Want Cold War World-Building In A Near-Future Setting Complete With An Adult Approach To Superheroes, But Without That High-Brow Shit:
The Dark Knight Returns
Okay, there's really no avoiding this one although, chances are, if you've read Watchmen, you've also read this; Dark Knight, created around the same time as Watchmen, and the book that made Frank Miller into the superstar megalomaniac that he is today, still stands as a singular achievement and the book that Batman stories are still measured against today. And why not? Whether it's the satire of Reagan's appearances, the cynical re-view on Superman or the dystopia of Gotham taken to the Nth degree, there's a lot to admire about this book even twenty years (and countless rip-offs) later. [Amazon]
If You Want To See Where It All Started:
Moore's first series of note - now, sadly, out of print and lost in a legal mess over rights issues - wasn't just the start of his career, but also the the first major deconstructionist superhero work in mainstream American comics. Taking a cloned version of Captain Marvel and pushing him into a more realistic world without entirely undoing everything that came before, Moore rehearsed many of the ideas in Watchmen here, but in a less formal, more human way. One day, this series will hopefully return to bookstores and everyone will see the connections; for now, spend your time in back issue bins and on eBay looking for the original issues or collected editions.
If You Want A More Optimistic Period Piece About Superheroes:
DC: The New Frontier
In many ways, the polar opposite of Watchmen (The cynicism and despair of that book being replaced with a boldness, optimism and strong belief in the inherent goodness of its characters), New Frontier is no less an achievement. Darwyn Cooke's beautiful take on the origins of DC's Silver Age characters (focusing mostly on Green Lantern, but taking in so many more along the way) is, in its own ways, as much a love letter to comics and superheroes as Watchmen is, but simply one that chooses to focus on the happier side of things. And, with Cooke's amazing artwork (presented in a three-panel format for the entire book, in much the same way that Watchmen adheres to a nine-panel format throughout), I have to commit potential heresy and admit that New Frontier looks much, much better than Watchmen. [Amazon]