This was my second time teaching Watchmen, and my second time losing a week of classes to the weather. Week 8 is gone, snowed over like Veidt's vivarium; I hope I provided you with an adequate alternative.
That left us with the daunting task of covering Watchmen just one week, the only way to keep everything else on the syllabus. The cuts were necessary but deeply unfortunate, since this book is, in a sense, the whole reason for teaching a class on superhero comics. It's the one that shows the genre warrants and deserves careful study--or rather, you might say it's the one that most rewards the kind of study we're trained to do in literature classrooms. The students can focus on the intricacies of form, the subtleties of theme, with Moore and Gibbons as they would Angela Carter or Thomas Pynchon. When we did place Watchmen in context we were as likely to do so in the larger currents of modernist and postmodernist literature as in the history and business practices of the comics industry. Every comic we've looked at so far has justified the time spent on it, but this is the one that most justifies the type of formal close reading that still carries institutional validation both in the university and the culture at large.
The last time I taught Watchmen, my students mostly wanted to debate the morality of Veidt's actions. (And to discuss the movie, which had just come out the year before.) This time, the class was understandably more interested in situating the book in relation to the other superhero comics we'd read. My first pass at Watchmen was preceded by an ill-advised attempt to cram five decades of genre history into just two class periods, a desperate bid to give students the context for Moore and Gibbons's revisionism. But this time the class has had seven weeks of context, leaving them eminently qualified to chart it for themselves. With that burden offloaded onto prior weeks, I could spend more time talking about the book's visual and narrative techniques, its conflicting ideologies, its interweaving of form and meaning on levels I'm still discovering after more than twenty-five years. We even talked about some of the structural elements last mentioned here. We just about covered it all. (Except the movie, to no one's dismay--least of all my own.)
Just as I can't imagine teaching a superheroes course without it, neither can I imagine teaching Watchmen without an entire course on superheroes. If I had to cover it in just one week, I'm glad it was this one.