Watchmen Graphic Novel Lesson Plan

Instructor: Joanne Abramson

Joanne has taught middle school and high school science for more than ten years and has a master's degree in education.

Though it may look like a simple comic book, 'Watchmen' is a complex and multilayered work of literature. This lesson plan uses a short plot summary and analysis, pair- and group-work, and a pre-reading activity to introduce your students to this classic graphic novel. This lesson should be completed before you begin reading.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify the major characters in Watchmen
  • Describe at least two primary themes in the novel
  • Describe and predict major plot points


1 - 1.5 hours

Curriculum Standards


Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.


Analyze the impact of the author's choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).

Key Terms

  • Graphic novel
  • Rorschach
  • Nite Owl / Daniel Dreiberg
  • Dr. Manhattan
  • Ozymandias / Adrian Veidt
  • Silk Spectre / Laurie Juspeczyk



  • Begin the lesson by distributing copies of Watchmen to the class. Have the students turn to the final page of the story and read the quote, 'Who watches the watchmen?' Give students a few moments to collect their thoughts. Then, ask them to share their thoughts on the meaning and implication of the question with a partner. After a minute or so, instruct the class to read the Bob Dylan quote at the end of Chapter I, page 26. Have students continue discussing their thoughts with their partner. Bring the conversation back to the whole class and ask students to share what they were saying with their partners.
  • Explain to students that they will be reading the graphic novel Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Today's lesson will introduce them to the plot, major characters, and overall themes.
  • Distribute copies of Watchmen: Graphic Novel Summary & Analysis. Have a student read the first section, 'Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?' Ask the following discussion questions:
  • Although the definition was not given in the lesson, based on what you know, what is a graphic novel?
    • Find a picture of Rorschach. How could you tell? (Show the image of a Rorschach test for those students who have not seen one.)
  • Have a student read the second section, 'Plan for Peace.' Ask the following question:
    • Name another super villain in recent television shows, movies or comics that has a similar outlook to Adrien Veidt. How did it work out for him or her?
  • Read the next section, 'Power.' Ask students the following questions:
    • How do Dr. Manhattan's and Ozymandias' views on their power differ?
    • Flip through the novel and find a frame or page that depicts power. Why did you choose that frame?
  • Ask a student to read the section, 'Influence.' Instruct students to find the first reference to Tales of the Black Freighter on page 4 of Chapter I. Then, have them preview the first part of the story on pages 1-3 of Chapter III. Ask the following questions:
    • What are the Tales of the Black Freighter?
    • What are some differences and similarities between Watchmen and Tales of the Black Freighter?
    • Why do you think the author might have inserted this story into the middle of his book?
  • Read the 'Lesson Summary.' To check for understanding, distribute and have the students complete the lesson quiz.

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