What is a HERO?

Author/Illustrator: Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

By: Ram Dixit


“Once you realize what a joke everything is, being the Comedian is the only thing that makes sense”-The Comedian. An old superhero dead, another Exiled, another beaten to death, another in prison. America doesn’t love its superheroes any more, but you can't blame them though, no one knows what a “Hero” really is anymore.


Watchmen is set in an alternate reality that closely mirrors the contemporary world of the 1980s. The primary difference is the presence of superheroes. Their existence in this version of America is shown to have dramatically affected and altered the outcomes of real-world events. The war in Vietnam ends with a U.S. victory in 1971 and Nixon is still president as of October 1985. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan occurs approximately six years later than in real life. When the story begins, the existence of a being with unlimited power named Doctor Manhattan has given the U.S. a strategic advantage over the Soviet Union, which has increased tensions between the two nations. Eventually, superheroes become unpopular among the police and the public, leading to a new legislation called the Keene Act to ban the superheroes from adventuring. While many of the heroes retired, Doctor Manhattan and a veteran superhero known as The Comedian operate as government-sanctioned agents. While others illegally continue to operate outside the law.

In Watchmen, there are superheroes that run about adventuring and making decisions that they think are right, but who are they to decide what is right. The idea of what a hero is or stands for is played with very well, because to us, a hero always makes the right choices because they are simply good… but that is not the case. For example, a government employed superhero called The Comedian is a brutal man who has murdered, raped, stole… but is still considered a “hero”. In the end, they are all just human. They aren’t gods. They don’t have the right to be judge, jury, and executioner. The only exception is Dr. Manhattan. His powers are above anything in their universe, and he is far from human… but he is still no god. He was once a man, just given immense power beyond human comprehension. So maybe that does make him a god, or maybe it doesn’t. Who am I to decide. What I can do, is tell you my beliefs on what a hero is and or should stand for. A hero shouldn't be restricted in having to make the hard decisions, if that makes sense. being someone who reads a lot of comics, you can see the affect making life altering decisions can have on any super hero purely because they all seem to have a mindset that closely relates to being human... weather completely human or not. They should be able to make the hard choice based on the good of all life, not what they deem is good for all. I feel this is immensely demonstrated in Watchmen, and to find out, you'll just have to read the book.

My point is, everyone has a choice. To have a choice means you have to think about the multiple outcomes your choices can have. If a man breaks into a wealthy house and robs hundreds of dollars, is he a bad man? What if I told you he was stealing because he is poor and can’t get a job that can keep his family from falling into poverty, is he still a bad man? That’s just my point, why can a hero decide whether or not to let the man rob the house. A hero is SUPPOSED to do the right thing… but why do they get to decide what is anymore right than the man who steals to support his family. If they do choose to stop that man, then he becomes a hero to the rich home owner, but a symbol of oppression… the man who favors the rich over the poor. And he can save a few poor lives too so he doesn’t look all that bad, but he can’t bring back the lost family that was pushed aside.

Overall, Watchmen was a thrilling roller coaster that I'd recommend to most. It gives a fresh perspective to the idea of what a hero is and challenges what right and wrong really means. All the rules were brilliantly broken in this book, normal humans masquerading as heroes, living and making decisions like gods. It gave me... perspective, on what being a hero is and should mean, or at least, what I think it should mean. If you read this book, I guarantee you will know what a hero is and how you can be a better one. I give this book five out of five stars, and look forward to watching the movie.


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