Written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons. Serialized in twelve issues in 1986 and 1987; published as a compilation in 1987.

Like many snooty bibliophiles, I always try to read an acclaimed book before the movie adaption comes out. Reading the branded tie-in edition would wound my pride. Reading the book immediately after the splashy debut of the movie preview pricks my vanity, too, but honestly, I’ve been meaning to read Sean’s copy of Watchmen for years. Truly.

I have to admit, however, that Watchmen was never at the top of my list. As much as I like to say that those who dismiss an entire medium or genre are intellectually lazy fools, I myself have a lingering prejudice against graphic novels. The hypocrisy and snobbery of that embarrasses me, but I do most of my reading on subway cars, and I feel uncomfortable carrying a book-length comic around with me.

The inevitable irony, of course, is that my own self-consciousness just delayed my enjoyment of a great book, for Watchmen really is as good as people say. A few years ago, Time included it on a list of the hundred best English-language novels written since 1923, and although the attempt to impose “objective” rankings on artistic work always makes me uncomfortable, the esteem in which Time’s critics held the book is not misplaced. Watchmen isn’t just “great for a graphic novel” (whatever that means); it’s great, period.