For reasons too silly to go into here, I couldn’t post my reply to Tom’s question on The Comics Reporter (no link needed, I trust?), so I’ll post it here.
Watchmen is about what many good stories are about, especially many good noirish murder mysteries: the struggle between free will and determinism. Its innovation is to site this struggle in a world of “realistic” superheroes — that is, superheroes who are bound by pretty much the same limits of human reason and action that obtain in this, our very own real world. Why or how would anyone become a “superhero” in a world like our own, Moore and Gibbons ask…and then they find an answer to that question. How would the superhero function under the constraints we live under every day, they further ask…and then they answer that one too. It’s actually very clever; after all, every popular narrative depends on its larger-than-life characters to make it go…and this is just like that. Only, it’s ridiculously like that. So Watchmen’s about the collision of narratives, likened to the collision of particles, likened to the collision between dream and reality, likened to the collision between optimism and pessimism, likened to the collision between freedom and fate.
In other words, Watchmen’s about Time.
Hey, it’s right there in the title!
Anyway that’s what I think, right this minute.