In UNMOORED, PART3 I wrote:
"Alan Moore is only the best writer of superheroes within an ironic literary mode"
And it later occured to me that this was a little misleading, inasmuch as it might sound as if I were saying that Moore had never written in any mode than the ironic for superheroes. This is not the case, but I do think that as yet no one else has managed to do superheroes in that mode better, though it's a short list from which to choose. The Mills-Nowlan MARSHAL LAW is probably the closest rival to WATCHMEN, though naturally WATCHMEN is more sophisticated in its satire and darker in its implications. I suppose Kurtzman would be a close analogue except that all of his satires of superheroes are one-offs, which suggests a differing form even if the mode is the same.
In the essay I'm printing next, I'll analyze a particular superhero-like work to see if I can make clear what elements privilege a work to being in one mode or another.
By the way, saw the movie, and my prediction was half-right. Even to someone who knows the story, it doesn't succeed in the mode of an irony. Snyder tries to let viewers like the characters too much, even the Comedian, so his universe isn't sufficiently nihilistic. But I was incorrect in predicting that it might be retooled to something along the lines of a high-mimetic drama, a la Moore's own high-mimetic comic THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN. Instead, Snyder's take on the WATCHMEN material is closer to the low-mimetic mode, which is the mode to which Northrop Frye assigns not only comedy but "realistic fiction" in general.
By the way, Moore may have the ironic mode almost all to himself, but he's not the best writer of high-mimetic superheroes. He has too much competition in that realm.
As far as ending the cinematic world's flirtation with superheroes, as Snyder claimed it would, I feel sure WATCHMEN will neither particularly hurt nor harm the romance. But it's an interesting translation on some levels, particularly for coming up with a better end-threat than Moore himself did.