Watchmen is one of the most important pieces of Pop Culture. It was even choose by Time Magazine as one of the best novels of English Literature. In the 12 issue miniseries, we have references to the Genesis, Nietzsche, Jung, Blake, Shelley, Bob Dylan etc. Considered to have the same cultural importance as Ulysses by James Joyce, Alan Moore wrote it to be an equivalent of Moby Dick by Herman Melville of the universe of comics. But what I think is the equivalent of Watchmen in High Culture is Dostoevsky's The Karamazov Brothers.
It's weird to compare Dostoevsky to Alan Moore, since the first one is an conservative Orthodox Christian and the second one is an anarchist and Satanist. But both are great and sophisticated artists who know how to take their obsessions, philosophical and moral problems to the last and most extreme consequences.
Why Watchmen is the The Karamazov Brothers of Pop Culture? Dostoevsky's last and most important masterpiece tells the story of the tragedy of a family (Pop Culture would have the same trope with stories of families such as the Corleone Family, the Sopranos, the Skywalkers etc) and how this tragedy is an reflection of deep philosophical, moral and spiritual questions. We have Fydor Karamazov, the father, who is kinda of an asshole, 3 brothers and a bastard. Dmitri, a person who is driven by passions and hedonistic desires. Ivan, the intellectual. And Alyosha, the religious brother. The 3 brothers basically represent the 3 essential aspects of human nature: Passion, Reason and Faith. And then we have Smerdyakov, the bastard, the monster hidden behind the 3 brothers, who represent the most dark aspect of Humanity: violence, fanaticism and, according to Dostoevsky, relativism.
What Watchmen has to do to any of this? We have 3 main characters who are basically "brothers", not by blood but by worldview: The Comedian, Dr. Manhattan and Rorschach. The three are marked by the nihilistic point of view towards Humanity, but each one has a personal and specific way to react to it. The Comedian react to Chaos with sarcasm and irony. Dr. Manhattan react to it with indifference. And Rorschach react to it with rancor and vengeance. And then we have Ozymandias, the "bastard", who, having the same mentality of a Raskolnikov, kills half of an entire city just to achieve World Peace, since the modern world is no more black and white , God vs Satan, instead much more grey and relative.
If we compare the Watchmen characters to the Karamazov Brothers, The Comedian would be the equivalent of both Fydor and Dmitri. Dr. Manhattan would be the equivalent of Ivan. And the most controversial part of mine analysis: Rorschach would be the equivalent of Alyosha. Why? Even though Rorschach is a nihilist and a right wing vigilante and Alyosha a religious and innocent young man, the story of both characters deals with innocence. Alyosha was the most "pure" (although not perfect) member of a decadent family, obligated to watch the downfall of his family due to the existential misery of his father and his brothers. Rorschach story is the death of innocence, it's about his personal revenge against a world that didn't permit him to be a pure child. His misery was that he thought he was just fighting Evil, doing justice and the right thing, even if it meant to kill, torture and burn someone alive. Son of a prostitute, Rorschach was also the most different of the characters (just like Alyosha), the only one who didn't accept Ozymandias's masterplan and worldview.
Another interesting parallel: Ivan leaving his father's town was a green light to Smerdyakov to consummate his brother's philosophical thesis and kill Fyodor. Dr. Manhattan leaving Earth to Mars was a green light to Ozymandias to fulfill his masterplan and kill half of New York.
Both The Karamazov Brothers and Watchmen are divided in 12 parts. In the case of the Karamazov, 12 books and 4 parts. In the case of Watchmen, 12 original issues.
Both The Karamazov Brothers and Watchmen use a parallel story that reflects the main themes and problems of the main story. In the Karamazov, we have The Grand Inquisitor. In Watchmen, we have Tales of the Black Freighter.
The only thing that makes me think Dostoevsky as a better artist than Alan Moore is that Moore wrote Rorschach to be hated by his readers (something that went completely wrong and in the opposite direction, since Rorschach is considered by many as the best and most interesting character of the graphic novel). Dostoevsky never did something like that. He clearly wrote characters who represent ideas that he didn't agree with and was very critical, but he was always more ambiguous towards them, he knew he had to create complex characters that felt real like real people, and not just representations of what he didn't like. For Dostoevsky, atheists, nihilists, anarchists, revolutionaries, hedonists weren't villains, just sad miserable people. Alan Moore is great but it seems he has much to learn from Dostoevsky.
"Looked at sky through smoke heavy with human fat and God was not there. The cold, suffocating dark goes on forever and we are alone. Live our lives, lacking anything better to do. Devise reason later. Born from oblivion; bear children, hell-bound as ourselves, go into oblivion. There is nothing else. Existence is random. Has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it for too long. No meaning save what we choose to impose. This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It’s us. Only us." – Rorschach
Source: reddit post