I think one of the most emotional segments in the series is the end of issue number 11, where the news vendor covers the boy.
I had tears in my eyes when I wrote that. To me, the people on the streetcorner was what Watchmen was about, just as much as the movers and shakers in the world of superheroes and presidents. The superhuman people, whether that be Nixon or Dr. Manhattan.

In contrast to Veidt's attitude, which is that he feels he knows what's best for everybody.
In some respects, Veidt is the hero of the piece. He saves the world – arguably. And he's not a completely callous monster. He does feel guilt. At the end, he talks about that and about "swimming towards a hideous No Never mind." That's where the Black Freighter narrative [the subsidiary theme introduced by the pirate-adventure comic one character reads] leads. It's almost a direct parallel with Adrian Veidt. They're both somebody who, with the best of intentions, commits atrocity.

A lot of superhero comics present the hero, and what he says about the world is what I, the author, think about the world. It's giving this unassailable moral authority to these heroes, which I think is very dangerous. In Watchmen, four of the characters have radically different slants on what humanity and the human condition is all about. We tried to treat each of them with sympathy and give them a certain amount of integrity. Rorschach's got integrity. He may be completely crazy, but he has integrity. The last thing I want my audience to do is have my opinions. I simply want them to think about the situation. The best way to do that seemed to have multiple vantage points, various characters' perspectives. Let the readers figure it out for themselves. Is the Comedian right? Is life a particularly senseless joke that all you can do is laugh along with? Is Dr. Manhattan right? Are we living in this wonderful, mystical quantum universe where nothing much matters anyway? Is Ozymandias right, that there's some sort of utopia he can see in the future if only we can get past our apocalyptic tendencies? We wanted to present all these arguments as forcefully as we could, so the reader didn't have one authority to run to. The reader is left with a series of moral questions that have to be answered. With Watchmen, we weren't trying to write an adventure story. I was trying to write some sort of moral-political exploration using superheroes as incidental icons. It could have been written without superheroes. It would've been a different story, but it would have been possible to capture the essence in a story about detectives or even cowboys.

This is going to sound pretentious, but I think that writing about a parallel world in 1985 is a very effective way of writing about our world in 1987. You can use the familiar, almost archetypal, superheroes which everyone is familiar with to some degree. What we tried to do was invest these old icons with what hopefully are a new set of meanings – if you talk about the real world, straight away you run into people's prejudices. [So] you bypass people's emotional reactions and get them to consider the problems in the abstract. You don't talk about nuclear missiles, you talk about Dr. Manhattan – no one's got any opinions on Dr. Manhattan, so they can consider the problems in a fresh light.

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Related: Interview: Zack Snyder of Watchmen, Review: Watchmen, Big pictures, More more >
  Topics: Flashbacks , Ozymandias, Adrian Veidt, Media,  More more >
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  •   BIG PICTURES  |  March 04, 2009
    Watchmen is that too rare work of popular entertainment, one that succeeds on many levels and that rewards your attention to every level it employs.
    The winner of several "Best Comics Writer" awards on both sides of the Atlantic, he's best known in America as the author of the DC Comics series Swamp Thing and, of course, Watchmen.

 See all articles by: M. HOWELL