April 16, 2014
Watchmen is so iconic it doesn’t need a title
by Sadie Mason-Smith
A new cover for the latest paperback iteration of the epic graphic novel, Watchmen, has been released, and words cannot describe it. Literally. There are no words on the front cover.
Publishers Weekly reports that DC Entertainment has no fear of their new, word-free front cover confusing people. In fact, Pam Horvath, publicist for DC, says, “We expect the book’s cover image is so powerful and recognizable that people will know exactly what it is.” Those who have seen other publications of Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore’s gritty superhero epic before undoubtedly will get it—maybe without even noticing the change, since the previous version of the trade paperback looked the same, only it included normal book cover things such as a title and the names of the author and artist.
Those who have yet to hear about the Hugo Award-winning number 98 of TIME Magazine’s 100 best novels or see the frankly awesome and definitely non-kid-friendly Zack Snyder movie adaptation from 2009 may have a bit more trouble recognizing the book. They may also be shocked to realize after buying it that this awesome graphic novel, despite requiring no literacy for the front cover, actually has sections at the end of each chapter with no pictures whatsoever and just pages and pages of supplemental prose “written” by a character. Since Watchmen has literally millions of copies in print already, I doubt that will be a problem.
Back in the late 1980s, when Watchmen was still a serial graphic novel, each cover acted as the first panel for that issue of the story, a revolutionary approach at the time. At the 1987 UK Comic Art Convention, in a panel moderated by Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore explained the thought process behind the original cover design:
“It could be said that it’s commercial suicide just having a badge on one cover, a statue on the next cover, a radiation symbol on the third one and so on, and it was a new title with no known super-heroes in it… [B]ut DC could see what we were doing, that we were trying to produce a package that looked radical, that was maybe going to interest people who weren’t interested in comics.”
By comparison, taking an iconic front cover from a New York Times bestseller and making it speechless isn’t that much of a leap. The new printing of Watchmen will be available May 7 in comic stores and May 13 in bookstores.
Sadie Mason-Smith is a former Melville House intern.