There are reading experiences that stay with you for your entire life. I don't want to sound overblown and fanatical, but one of these wasWatchmen. I was in college, reading a borrowed copy, and was racing to finish it because the lender wanted it back by the end of spring break. (He owned multiple copies, and the Absolute edition, but wanted every copy in his possession at all times. This is the devotion Watchmen inspires.) I knew very little about the story. I knew it was set in the 80s, I knew it was dark and depressing, and I knew there was a sequence on Mars.

I found myself racing through the book not just because I had a deadline, but because of the countdown of the doomsday clock. Every chapter tightened the screw, and I knew something bad was coming ... but this was a comic book. Nothing bad truly happens in a comic book. I remember very distinctly that the giant squid landed as I was sitting in the optometrist's office, and that Rorschach was a smear on the snow when I left. It haunted me for the rest of the day. I felt like I shouldn't be shopping in sunny Boulder while New York was covered in blood and corpses.

I give you all of this background because when the film started ... I was right back in that optometrist's office. I experienced the same sense of claustrophobia and dread, feeling like I needed a shower after walking the grimy New York street, all mingled with the geek's thrill of seeing the panels come to life. It was the book. People were eating in the Gunga Diner. There was the newspaper vendor, breathing and talking. The spaces between the panels were colored in with living people. Dr. Manhattan finally had a voice. (He was the one character I could never really hear as I read it. But there's no doubt he should sound like a distant, hollow Billy Crudup.)