In the 1980s, two comic books redefined how the genre (and its fans) were interpreted by the world. Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore's Watchmen branched out from the stereotypical stalwarts of comics and took an emerging new genre and made it much better. The stories were still told via graphics and text bubbles, but they went further than Superman and the like. The stories were darker, the action was harder, and the sex was rampant. Suddenly, comics were more than a pastime, they started to emerge as a legitimate medium for telling a story. Thus graphic novels, which began to attain their modern form in the early 1970s, broke into the public consciousness.
Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comics spins a dark and compelling tale. Starting in the 1940s, the tale follows the adventures of masked superheroes who serve the interests of their country. From creating the atom bomb, to fighting in wars, these heroes (the Watchmen) strive to help America out while they still manage to fight crime. In the late '60s, however, Nixon decides to outlaw the masked crusaders, and they are forced to live 'normal' lives. Only two remain on the government's payroll, Dr. Manhattan and The Comedian.
After retiring, most of the Watchmen stopped talking to each other and went off to lead their separate lives. However, after the murder of Edward Blake (The Comedian) — don't worry, this is the start of the movie, there is nothing spoiled here — they are forced to unite once again. Rorschach, a man with an ever-changing mask, believes that somebody took out Blake because he was a hero, and not for any other reason. With this in mind, Rorschach starts to unite all the other Watchmen as he digs deeper and deeper into a conspiracy that is far larger than anything he could ever have imagined.
What is so fascinating about the Watchmen graphic novel series is the quality of the artwork. Unlike most comics, Watchmen focused on the art as a means to tell a story, and therefore it was a primary concern to artist Dave Gibbons. Due to this, Gibbons made sure that all of his art was well done and that the images served only to progress the story. This was groundbreaking for the time, but it has since become the status quo for modern graphic novels.