Wednesday, February 13, 1985

Watchmen Chapter XII: "A Stronger Loving World"

Spoiler warning: If you have not read Watchmen, do not read these notes. See intro/disclaimer.

Cover: The cover image is a clock at a hair before midnight, drenched in blood.

Page 1: The clock is at midnight, a yellow circle stained with blood, while the repeated classic blood-drop shape is found on the sign on the lower-left of the frame. The two bands playing this concert were "Pale Horse"--named after the steed that death rides in the book of Revelation--and "Krystalnacht"--named after the pogrom near the beginning of the Holocaust in which the streets were filled with glass. The date is November 2nd, the "Day of the Dead".

Page 3: The Utopia is showing "The Day the Earth Stood Still", a movie about an alien who comes to earth to stop humans from destroying themselves in nuclear war.

Page 6: Note "THE VEIDT METHOD-I WILL GIVE YOU BODIES BEYOND YOUR WILDEST IMAGININGS". As noted, in this context it has triple meaning: The face meaning of bodybuilding, the fact that New York is now littered with thousands of dead bodies, and the fantastically grotesque body of the dead alien. Note the drop of blood on the hydrant's right "eye".

Page 7, panel 1: Note the shape of Laurie's teardrop.

Page 7, panel 3: Note that Jon is completely unfazed by his surroundings.

Page 8: More subtle than usual, Jon is narrating Laurie's actions.

Page 8, panel 4: Laurie is picking up the gun.

Page 11: Jon's dialogue and action in panels 3&4 is repeated on the next page.

Page 14, panel 2: Adrian shows more remorse over the cat than over millions of New Yorkers.

Page 14, panel 5: As Laurie creeps up behind him, "...something he wasn't expecting."

Page 17, panel 3: "...light?"

Page 19, panel 7: Once again, in front of the Gordian Knot mural.

Page 20, panel 7: Rorschach's "No compromise" face, as seen in I.24.6.

Page 23, panel 1: Rorschach's face suggests the shape of Dan and Laurie.

Page 27, panel 1: It seems that Adrian's dream is the closing scene of "Marooned". Adrian, alone on an island far away from the rest of civilization, has built a route to his society's salvation on the backs of dead men.

Page 28, panel 1: Echoing Jon, Sally says "It never ends. Never." "Peace on Earth", while a pretty standard Christmas greeting, seems particularly appropriate.

Page 28, panel 3: "The Architects of Fear" was a real episode of The Outer Limits in which scientists pretend that earth is being invaded by aliens to avert nuclear war.

Page 29, panel 6: Laurie is talking about herself, of course.

Page 30, panel 3: Her description sounds a lot like the Comedian's old costume.

Page 31, panel 1: The Institute for Extraspatial Studies is of course gone, but the new building going up is being built by "Pyramid Construction", no doubt owned by Adrian. The Utopia has been replaced by the "New Utopia", and is playing some films by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky, "Nostalgia" and "The Sacrifice", the latter being the story of a man who vows to God to give up everything to save the world from nuclear holocaust. Now that the Russians have become allies, the Gunga Diner has been replaced by Burgers 'n' Borscht.

Page 31, panel 2: The news kiosk has been replaced by a vending machine. Headline says "RR" is considering a run for the presidency. This turns out not to be Reagan.

Page 31, panel 3: In the place of the fallout shelter sign, a poster advertising the new peace with the Russians is being placed.

Page 31, panel 4: Veidt's new "Millennium" line has been released. Rather than focusing on the past, the focus is on the future. Note the people on the sign are looking to our right, towards the future in comics language. The graffiti has a far more positive tone.

Page 31, panel 5: Note V's on Seymour's shoes; are these Veidt brand shoes? Also, Pioneer Publishing's logo is visible in the background, similar to the Rumrunner's logo, it bears some resemblance to a skull.

Page 31, panel 6: There is a clock in the background at 11:55 as Seymour enters the office.

Page 31, panel 7: Another clock is found inside the office

Page 32, panel 4: "Who wants a cowboy actor in the White House?" Indeed.

Page 32, panel 5: Ketchup drips on Seymour's shirt, as yet not fully seen.

Page 32, panel 7: Seymour's hand hovers over Rorschach's journal, which holds the biggest story the New Frontiersman or any other paper will ever see, as indeed, the very fate of the world may be in Seymour's hands. The happy face logo with characteristic red drop shape is the final image, and we are left wondering what the real end of this story will be.

Monday, February 11, 1985

Watchmen Chapter XI: "Look on My Works, Ye Mighty"

Spoiler warning: If you have not read Watchmen, do not read these notes. See intro/disclaimer.

Cover: The cover image is of a butterfly surrounded by snow, a strange image in the shape, of course, of the blood drop from the cover of chapter I. It may be symbolic of the concept that Adrian is trying to create a layer of protection to preserve life against harsh reality that would easily destroy it. Of course, before the chapter is over, this too will be destroyed.

Page 1: Elements of Adrian's monologue narrate the shifting view of his fortress as the panels gradually zoom out.

Page 1, panel 2: Adrian mentions Burroughs' "cut-up technique", a method that was used to create the novel Nova Express, a name shared by the news magazine that Adrian owns through Pyramid Deliveries.

Page 4, panel 5: "...and no time like the present." Adrian says, surrounded by ancient things. He walks under the Gordian Knot mural, towards his own Gordian solution.

Page 5, panel 5: On first read, it's not clear what he is doing, but note the time: 11:25 PM, EST.

Page 5, panel 8: Note the object in the foreground of panel three is gone.

Page 6: Once again, "Marooned" and Watchmen narrate each other.

Page 8: Adrian begins to tell his life story. In all of Adrian's flashbacks, he is viewed only from the back.

Page 9, panel 1: Joey mimics Adrian's pose. One assumes that if Adrian and Alexander "meet in the Hall of Legends", the first line would be a bit more solemn.

Page 9, panel 7: Compare this panel to 13.4; most of the NY conversations in this chapter are overlapping one another in time. While the Antarctica scenes take about 45 minutes, the parallel NY scenes are about ten minutes, but it's not immediately obvious, of course

Page 11, panel 1: Adrian's greatest secrets have also been entrusted to his servants that he is going to bury in just a minute.

Page 11, panel 4: Adrian has not touched his own glass, and his servants are clearly dead.

Page 13, panel 1: Another panel mimicking the previous.

Page 14, panel 1: Another panel mimicking the previous. (Note Nite Owl in the place of the seagull.)

Page 14, panel 5: "We're out of our natural environment." Join the club...

Page 18: Adrian continues his life story, ironically narrating Rorschach's actions behind him.

Page 18, panel 7: Adrian suggests Eddie killed Hooded Justice...

Page 18, panel 8: ...and may have been involved in a plot against Kennedy.

Page 19, panel 4: Clock at 11:55.

Page 21: Adrian continues to narrate his thought process and Rorschach's actions.

Page 23, panel 9: "Another minute, we'd have been gone. Talk about lousy timing!" Another huge understatement.

Page 24: Adrian now narrates his own journey, the flashbacks to Eddie's death, and the scenes in NYC.

Page 24, panel 7: The bottom panel on these four pages shows a progression of actions at the pivotal corner in NYC, each one from a 90-degree angle from the previous. Virtually all of the supporting cast congregates at the epicenter of what is about to happen.

Page 27, panel 1: Adrian stands in front of the Gordian Knot mural, and tells them it's done.

Page 27, panel 2: A clock at one minute to midnight, and suddenly, the reader realizes the countdown-to-midnight motif was a red herring; doomsday came at 11:25.

Page 27, panel 3: The comic book kid is the first to notice something.

Page 28: Everyone freezes and stares across the street in horror at whatever is there.

Page 28, panel 1: Clock.

Page 28, panel 2: Rorschach blots and painkiller bottle.

Page 28, panel 4: "Bringing light to the world" "Gordian Knot"

Page 28, panel 5: More clocks.

Page 28, panel 12: Close with the same shape.

Page 29: In an article written immediately after Adrian retired from crime fighting, Doug Roth reveals his liberal leanings. Note that Adrian's servants are former Vietcong officers, once defeated by Dr. Manhattan, now working with their boss to destroy him. Adrian closes with, "I don't mind being the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one."

Sunday, February 10, 1985

Watchmen Chapter X: "Two Riders Were Approaching"

Spoiler warning: If you have not read Watchmen, do not read these notes. See intro/disclaimer.

Cover: The cover depicts a radar screen, and the reflections off the glass along with the two radar blips make the form of a happy face with a line passing through the right "eye". Note the clock stands at 11:59. The title of the chapter is "Two Riders Were Approaching", a theme that will be repeated profusely within the chapter.

Page 2, panel 1: During times of high tension internationally, the President of the United States carries a briefcase known as "the football", which has launch codes for our missiles. Here, President Nixon appears to be carrying a literal football, oddly enough.

Page 2, panel 6: Classic Ford slapstick; he was known for being fairly clumsy.

Page 2, panel 7: Two riders on planes are now two riders in trams.

Page 6, panel 7: Rorschach has a soft spot for children, too.

Page 7, panel 1: The servants and Bubastis mimic the pose in the previous panel.

Page 7, panel 4: "...problems to solve... It's the same old story." As the view pulls back to show the Gordian Knot mural.

Page 9, panel 2: Rorschach's coat must actually be pretty rank; a close look at the stain on the front indicates that it's ten-year-old crusted dog blood. Compare various shots of his coat with VI.24.4.

Page 12, panel 3: Two riders approach our protagonist.

Page 13, panel 1: In the background, two riders approach. On the back of the comic, Veidt promises, "I will give you bodies beyond your wildest imaginings," a phrase with triple meaning in the beginning of chapter XII.

Page 13, panel 7: "The Watchtower", a reference to the chapter's quote.

Page 14, panel 2: Rorschach's "Happy Harry" face. (See I.15.3)

Page 15, panel 3: Many of the employees of Pyramid Deliveries (owned by Adrian) were unwittingly in on the conspiracy.

Page 15, panel 7: Up until now, Dan was of course unaware of what had happened to Hollis.

Page 16, panel 7: Dan seems to have forgotten for a moment who he's talking to.

Page 17, panel 1: Note the logo: this is a Pyramid Deliveries ship.

Page 18, panel 2: Clock one minute to midnight.

Page 19, panel 7: From this panel throughout the next page, Rorschach unwittingly narrates Dan's thoughts and actions.

Page 20, panel 7: "Do you wish to add rider?" Of course, because it's two riders, right?

Page 22, panel 5: "It paints disturbing picture" as he approaches the "Hiroshima lovers".

Page 23, panel 1: Same exact spot, the next morning. Rorschach's journal is being picked up. On this page, the dialogue and "Marooned" switch off narrating each other panel by panel.

Page 23, panel 4: The "sentry" may be another implication of a clock at near-midnight, but it's not as clear as some.

Page 23, panel 6: The "sentry" is revealed to be a scarecrow, our first clear hint that the doom the protagonist is fighting against may be just in his head.

Page 23, panel 8: Two riders were approaching...

Page 23, panel 9: No, it's only the end of the world literally.

Page 24, panel 4: New Frontiersman's hall has been vandalized with Nazi graffiti.

Page 24, panel 7: Possibly the most important piece of mail the New Frontiersman has ever received, and the editor wants to burn it.

Page 28: Two riders were approaching...

Page 29: Notes from Adrian's desk. Adrian writes to his marketing executive, "The American public has never gone in for super-heroes in a big way." Also, he suggests the introduction of the "Millenium" line, seen in the epilogue of the last chapter.

Saturday, February 09, 1985

Watchmen Chapter IX: "The Darkness of Mere Being"

Spoiler warning: If you have not read Watchmen, do not read these notes. See intro/disclaimer.

Cover: This is a bottle of "Nostalgia" perfume. In many ways nostalgia is an appropriate theme for this chapter, as it's mostly told in flashbacks that lead Laurie to the conclusion. The image appears several times throughout the chapter, but we don't find out where it is until the end, when we see that it was flung by Laurie.

Page 1: This is panels six through eight of page nine of the previous chapter, seen through Laurie's eyes.

Page 3, panel 9: It's odd that Jon knows things, and yet they "slip his mind" nonetheless.

Page 5, panel 3: Jon was surprised because he was destined to be surprised. He will be surprised at least twice again in this chapter, although he already knows how it all turns out.

Page 6, panel 8: Jon is clearly guiding Laurie through these memories, although on the face of it, they seem to have little to do with the subject at hand. Is Jon looking for an excuse to care about humanity, and thus he needs Laurie to come to the conclusion she does?

Page 7, panel 1: Who would Sally have a grudge against...

Page 7, panel 6: ...and what would it have to do with Laurie's parentage?

Page 8, panel 4: A drop of water falls on the right eye of Laurie's slipper.

Page 8, panel 7: That moment of preordained surprise.

Page 9, panel 4: Just because Jon understands "gravity" doesn't mean he has to obey it.

Page 10, panel 4: "And inside, there was only water."

Page 10, panel 7: "All that effort, and what did it ever lead to?" That's Laurie's eternal question.

Page 11, panel 5: As Hollis mentions in his autobiography, Sally loves "blue" humor.

Page 11, panel 8: Hollis' book has just recently been published.

Page 12, panel 2: These are all surviving members of the Minutemen excepting the Comedian.

Page 15, panel 4: Eddie expresses a lack of interest in other heroes, but sticks around to talk to Laurie

Page 15, panel 6: Arguably the most significant panel in this chapter, Laurie and Eddie stand together and share the only tender moment they ever will. Eddie comments that Laurie's hair is not like her mother's hair, but here we see someone who does have hair like hers. Also, I only mention it here because it's the only time attention is drawn to it, the "funny little mole": both Laurie and Sally have a mole on their face...right next to their right eyes, of course.

Page 17: The dialogue on this page is of course a red herring; Laurie and the reader are led to believe nuclear war is coming, but it's something completely unexpected.

Page 18, panel 1: The face of the person Jon kills is not yet known to him, of course.

Page 20, panel 2: Eddie has this moment in a framed photograph.

Page 20, panel 4: The Watergate scandal never broke in this world because Woodward and Bernstein were assassinated. Was the Comedian the assassin?

Page 20, panel 5: Eddie makes a joke about the JFK assassination, and an implication is made here and elsewhere (XI.18.8) that he took part in a plot that also involved Nixon. I believe the laughing man is G. Gordon Liddy.

Page 20, panel 8: This is the second (and perhaps last) time Laurie and Eddie meet, and their positions mimic 15.6, but this is clearly not a tender moment.

Page 21, panel 3: "Only once," Eddie says, the implication not being exactly what Laurie thinks it is.

Page 21, panel 4: A drop of scotch falls on the right eye of Eddie's button.

Page 22, panel 3: Of course, Jon's never wrong.

Page 23: Laurie starts to put the pieces together.

Page 26, panel 1: "My whole life's a joke." because she's the daughter of the Comedian.

Page 27, panel 1: The crater appears similar to a happy face, with the destroyed mechanism lying just below the right eye.

Page 29: Pages from Sally Jupiter's scrapbook. Newspaper clippings and an essentially failed attempt at producing a movie suggest how much Sally valued her fame. Sally's letter from Shexnayder along with the Probe interview let us into the world of the Minutemen, giving us the inside info on how Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis were sexually involved with each other, and she comments on the ousting of the Silhouette for being a "gay woman" (note that the term "lesbian" does not seem to be in use in the world of Watchmen) and how it was highly hypocritical.

Friday, February 08, 1985

Watchmen Chapter VIII: "Old Ghosts"

Spoiler warning: If you have not read Watchmen, do not read these notes. See intro/disclaimer.

Cover: The cover image of this chapter is that of Hollis' retirement statue, surrounded by various other souvenirs of his adventuring days. The theme of this chapter is the past, oddly enough, since it has no flashbacks. In the picture on the wall, the Comedian's right eye is obscured by the cigarette smoke.

Page 1: The panels in this conversation come in pairs.

Page 1, panel 1: Hollis' memorabilia with a can of beer...

Page 1, panel 2: ...and Sally's memorabilia with a bottle of "Nostalgia".

Page 1, panel 3: Hollis' point of view, looking over his phone to the television...

Page 1, panel 4: ...and Sally's point of view, same.

Page 1, panel 5: Hollis' Minutemen picture and a book about him...

Page 1, panel 6: ...and Sally's Minutemen picture and a book about her.

Page 1, panel 7: Close-up of Hollis' picture, centered on him...

Page 1, panel 8: ...and close-up of Sally's picture, centered on her, and well-meshed together in two panels.

Page 1, panel 9: Outside of Hollis' home.

Page 2, panel 1: Outside of Sally's home.

Page 2, panel 2: Side view of Hollis' hand on armrest...

Page 2, panel 3: ...and side view of Sally's hand on armrest.

Page 2, panel 4: Hollis' feet.

Page 2, panel 5: Sally's feet.

Page 3: "Marooned" and Watchmen once again trade off narration of each other.

Page 3, panel 1: The "Hiroshima lovers": a physical ghost-like appearance.

Page 3, panel 2: The newsvendor remembers the "Spirit of '77".

Page 3, panel 3: The newsvendor remembers his dead wife.

Page 3, panel 7: The newsvendor is talking to Malcolm; we've seen this panel before, indicating that we're still chronologically in the middle of the events of chapter VI.

Page 5, panel 4: "A few skeleton's are bound to keep jumping out of the closet." Of course, that's not all that's come out of the closet.

Page 7, panel 1: Rorschach busted Big Figure in '65, so that was back when he was "Kovacs pretending to be Rorschach." Most of these cons that have grudges against Rorschach probably don't know what he's like since '75.

Page 8, panel 8: "Sweet Chariot" sugar is a reference to the hymn "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" in which the chariot was to carry the hymnist to the afterlife.

Page 9, panel 1: " don't smoke." the detective says as he surveys Laurie's "cigarette" in the ashtray.

Page 9, panel 9: "Suddenly, we have a deadline." What's that deadline? It's...

Page 10, panel 1: "October thirty-first, nineteen eighty-five." There, that's all straight.

Page 10, panel 5: A dollop of glue falls on the Comedian's right eye.

Page 10, panel 6: The sixth panel on this and the next five pages narrates the seventh and final silent panel.

Page 11, panel 3: "Oh, it's plenty cold enough where that's headed." Antarctica, of course.

Page 11, panel 4: Shea is talking about "Marooned".

Page 11, panel 6: This is the only look at the "alien" before the final chapter.

Page 12, panel 1: "God knows what these people have instead of brains..." Like what, pumpkin guts?

Page 12, panel 2: " acceptable face..."

Page 12, panel 4: Nova Express is, of course, owned by Pyramid Deliveries, which is owned by Adrian.

Page 12, panel 6: A drop of pumpkin "blood" lands on the jack-o-lantern's right eye.

Page 13: "Marooned" once again narrates the action.

Page 14, panel 3: "Too warm in there?" The first of two times the cons misinterpret Rorschach's actions.

Page 15, panel 4: This looks a lot like VI.24.4.

Page 17, panel 2: "...he's climbin' up on his bunk, like a little kid." The second time.

Page 18: Dan narrates Rorschach's chase.

Page 22, panel 3: "Guess I want somebody to wave a wand and make it all better, y'know?" Yeah, that would be one of those, um, what is it called?

Page 23, panel 3: "...deus ex machina..." yeah, that was it. And of course, an excellent description of Jon. And of Adrian's plot to stop nuclear war.

Page 26: "Marooned" narrates the knot-heads journey to Hollis' home.

Page 27, panel 1: Clock at five to midnight.

Page 27, panel 5: Hollis' memory (or fantasy?) isn’t quite holding up to his present situation.

Page 28, panel 7: A drop of blood falls on Hollis' face in the photo.

Page 29: The issue of the New Frontiersman that we saw in this chapter. While most of this seems to be paranoid rambling, the "Missing Writer" article comes surprisingly close to connecting some dots that would uncover the truth of the conspiracy that nobody else begins to suspect.

Thursday, February 07, 1985

Watchmen Chapter VII: "A Brother to Dragons"

Spoiler warning: If you have not read Watchmen, do not read these notes. See intro/disclaimer.

Cover: The cover image in this case is, at first glance, a repeat of the continuing motif of a "face" with a mark over the right eye. When on the first page we once again open with a zooming-out sequence, we see that this is indeed a mark over an eye, but in this case, a left eye, and the "eye" that we saw in the original picture was a reflection in this eye, therefore also being a left eye. While book five was specifically about symmetry, there is, of course, a symmetry to the whole series; the reversal to a left eye may allude to the fact that we are now past the midpoint of the overall story, and what follows reflects back on what came before (see comments on page 4 below). This scene being viewed through the goggles of Dan's Nite Owl costume introduces the theme of this chapter, not often stated outright: Dan feels as though his Nite Owl persona (symbolized by his continually watching costume) is somehow living and calling out to him. The whole of this chapter seems to revolve around the idea of (to borrow a phrase from Superman) "mild-mannered" Dan Dreiberg, a guy who is really pretty much as boring as he fears himself to be. And yet within Dan is the possibility of transforming into Nite Owl if he would just "...blow away the cobwebs." Many things in this chapter remind me of Frank Miller's Return of the Dark Knight.

Page 1: Clearly, Dan hasn't even touched any of this stuff in a long time until today.

Page 2, panel 7: Dan and his dusty old "jalopy" may seem sort of cute, but there's power there that one might never suspect.

Page 4, panel 8: "Looking back..."

Page 4, panel 9: "...hindsight...on reflection." Aside from these words describing the scene, they also hint at the theme of the costume watching over his shoulder.

Page 6, panel 1: The Comedian and Laurie have a few things in common, eh?

Page 7, panel 3: "These days it hardly bothers me at all." the suit looks on once again.

Page 8, panel 5: "...I sort of regretted the Crimebusters falling through..." I've noticed that many people who comment on Watchmen talk about which heroes were members of the Crimebusters, but as far as I read it, that superhero team never came to be, having only that one short meeting.

Page 8, panel 8: "Is there any other sort?" Dan knows costumed adventurers are all a little off in the head.

Page 9, panel 9: "...everything was as clear as day." Surely Rorschach feels the same way about his "face", without the night vision.

Page 10, panel 4: Dan is clearly very lonely himself. Loneliness is actually a major underlying theme to Watchmen, as all of the characters are profoundly alone; here we see even Laurie felt alone when she was with Jon, and they were the only superheroes that didn't live by themselves.

Page 10, panel 9: "These days, I feel like something's watching my every move..." To me, this panel is the central theme of the chapter.

Page 12, panel 3: Chronologically, this chapter happens before most of the events of the previous chapter.

Page 13: On the next three pages, the television narrates what's going on, sometimes with ironic contrast.

Page 18, panel 3: A yellow circle with...oh you get it.

Page 18, panel 4: Dan's owl-like shadow falls on the door to his "workshop".

Page 18, panel 5: He goes down...

Page 18, panel 8: his costume.

Page 19, panel 8: I don't think I need to explain this.

Page 20, panel 7: Dan and his suit look at each other...

Page 20, panel 9: ...and he puts it on.

Page 28, panel 1: They're both going back to old habits, apparently. (Note that "habit" is a word with multiple meanings, one actually being "costume".)

Page 28, panel 4: " come out of the closet." both figuratively and literally. The last six panels are a zoom out from the partially-obscured eye of the costume...

Page 28, panel 9: the partially-obscured eye of the Owlship. Laurie was probably talking about sex, but Dan was talking about the thrill of adventuring in itself. Nite Owl is back.

Page 29: "Blood from the Shoulder of Pallas" by Dan Dreiberg. In the movie "Batman Begins", Bruce Wayne says of choosing a bat as his symbol, "Bats frighten me. It's time my enemies shared my fear." Here we see a bit of Dan Dreiberg's view of owls, and their relationship to their prey. Like an owl, his ship comes in with a screech and paralyzes his prey, and he sees Nite Owl as a dangerous predator. Also note that in the story he is telling, he has just left visiting Mothman ("a sick acquaintance at a hospital in Maine"), and perhaps he thus fears something else as well.

Wednesday, February 06, 1985

Watchmen Chapter VI: "The Abyss Gazes Also"

Spoiler warning: If you have not read Watchmen, do not read these notes. See intro/disclaimer.

Cover: The cover of this chapter is a Rorschach blot that does indeed, as Rorschach himself claims, look like a butterfly; so much so that most people probably would say so as their first impression. The dead dog that Rorschach actually sees is however also an incredibly strong resemblance. The point of this chapter is in many ways embodied in this ink blot, as the lesson in the end is that reality is whatever you make of it when "staring at it for too long", and yet in a way, it's just blobs of ink. Of course the fact that Rorschach tests are being given to a guy named Rorschach is an irony lost on nobody except for perhaps Malcolm Long. This inkblot will be seen again on page 6 of chapter XII.

Page 1, panel 1: One might wonder why, if Malcolm is trying to help Walter disassociate himself from his fantasy Rorschach personality, he would have chosen this particular test.

Page 1, panel 3: Note nothing on the table but a couple notebooks; this will change.

Page 1, panel 6: Rorschach has been injured by his left eye. This is the reverse of the standard imagery, but then isn't Rorschach a reflection of society?

Page 1, panel 8: After being deprived of his "face" and beaten by the cops, Rorschach's face is far from symmetrical.

Page 1, panel 9: Malcolm is either stupid, overly-optimistic, or some combination of both. One meeting and a few inkblots and "I really think he might be getting better."?

Page 3, panel 2: This is the first of a handful of Rorschach's flashbacks, all of which are highly unpleasant.

Page 4, panel 5: Young Walter thought his mother needed rescuing.

Page 4, panel 8: Note the similarities both visually and in "dialogue" to 3.2.

Page 6, panel 6: Rorschach's second childhood flashback. Perhaps this vignette establishes his need to see justice?

Page 6, panel 9: In the notes at the back of the chapter, it is said that others assumed this was an unprovoked attack, as Walter apparently never explained that he was insulted and assaulted.

Page 7, panel 4: Even as a child, he improvised weapons on the spot.

Page 9, panel 2: Second session; Malcolm has brought a bottle of pain medication.

Page 10, panel 1: Walter had to work making women's clothing.

Page 10, panel 2: Dr. Manhattan even had an indirect role in helping create Rorschach.

Page 10, panel 3: Of course Rorschach would like the dress, he hates shades of gray.

Page 10, panel 6: The infamous Kitty Genovese incident really happened, and in our world as well...

Page 11, panel 8: ...but Malcolm thinks Rorschach made it up.

Page 11, panel 9: The theme ink blot again.

Page 13, panel 2: Malcolm's desk: two bottles of pain reliever. Note Veidt logo on this as just about everything.

Page 14, panel 1: Now three bottles.

Page 14, panel 9: "You have friends?" Very sensitive, Malcolm.

Page 15, panel 4: That clock again.

Page 16, panel 5: We'll see this panel again. Coincidences seem to abound at this location.

Page 16, panel 6: The graffiti lovers are a sort of Rorschach test themselves. When Rorschach saw them in the previous chapter, he thought of ghosts. Malcolm sees them and thinks of Hiroshima.

Page 16, panel 7: Another clock at five to midnight.

Page 18, panel 2: Most likely, Walter's "personal reasons" were that it made him think of himself as a child?

Page 18, panel 4: Rorschach's second and final defining moment also takes place at a dressmaker's.

Page 20, panel 9: Rorschach's "shocked face" for the first time chronologically, but the last time in the book.

Page 21, panel 9: "Dark" in every sense.

Page 24, panel 4: Different shape for this bloodstain, but notable anyway.

Page 26: Rorschach's personal, nihilistic philosophy; and yet he seeks justice in the midst of meaninglessness.

Page 27, panel 7: So-called "good people" sometimes wink at evil, don't they?

Page 28: In the end, Malcolm seems to have accepted Rorschach's philosophy, rather than the other way around.

Page 29: The Kovacs casefile. Note that Walter didn't think much of his mother, and so formed a complex fantasy about his father that he never met. The picture from his dream is a bit of "fearful symmetry".

Tuesday, February 05, 1985

Watchmen Chapter V: "Fearful Symmetry"

Spoiler warning: If you have not read Watchmen, do not read these notes. See intro/disclaimer.

Cover: Reflection in a puddle of the symmetric sign of the Rumrunner. Rorschach's hat is also reflected near the top; apparently this is the same moment as the first panel, from a different angle.

Page 1, panel 1: Chapter V has all of its panels (with very minor exceptions) laid out in a symmetrical pattern from front to back both visually and thematically, i.e. page 1 mirrors page 28, 2 mirrors 27, etc. The blinking neon light of the Rumrunner creates further visual symmetry in those pages in and near Moloch's apartment.

Page 2, panel 5: Moloch is left-handed.

Page 6, panel 3: The corner of fortieth and seventh is the focal point of all the New York action in Watchmen. The Utopia Theater, behind which Dan and Laurie were mugged, the Gunga Diner where they (and Rorschach) have lunch that day, the Promethian Cab Company, where Joey works, and The Institute for Extraspatial Studies, where the newsvendor has his kiosk.

Page 7, panel 1: Spot of blood over Buddha's right eye.

Page 7, panel 6: Grateful Dead poster on wall has a couple points of significance. Obviously, the father thought his family would be better off dead. Also, the poster is symmetrical with a skull and crossbones and represents the cover of an album with a palindromic title, "Aoxomoxoa".

Page 8, panel 1: The splash of water and triangle on the side of the Pyramid Delivery truck is a mirror image to the poster just seen. The boxes on this page are from part two of "Marooned", and of course form a parallel narration to the dialogue.

Page 8, panel 2: This driver is later revealed to have ordered the hit on Adrian. By now, he's already dropped off the message.

Page 8, panel 4: "...where's there to split to?" Well, two characters have found someplace else to go; Jon to Mars, and Adrian to Antarctica.

Page 9, panel 1: Now we get to the grisly focus of "Marooned", which parallels the revelation of the plot in the end: The protagonist has decided the solution to saving the world he knows is to literally rest on the bodies of those sacrificed to the horror from which he hopes to save others.

Page 10, panel 1: Dan's facial expression and activities mimic the previous frame. Also, in the theme of symmetry, note that most of this scene is viewed in a mirror.

Page 11, panel 1: Rorschach's watch, *not* at midnight. Rorschach knows time is running out, but he doesn't realize how immediate his own danger is.

Page 11, panel 4: Actually, once we get to know her, it turns out that Rorschach's landlady is a lot like his mother.

Page 12, panel 1: Note knothead kicking a can into the trash. This is the exact same moment as the previous panel.

Page 12, panel 5: In the background, we see the doomsday prophet come out of the diner where Rorschach was just having coffee...

Page 12, panel 9: ...and dig in the trash, Rorschach's "drop".

Page 13, panel 1: The central story arc concerning Adrian starts with a shot of a 'V' cufflink reflected in the polished desk, making an 'X'.

Page 13, panel 3: Adrian's assistant doesn't think it's worth thinking about death. She will soon reevaluate.

Page 13, panel 7: "Spiritual discovery..."

Page 13, panel 8: "Oh, God."

Page 14, panel 4: The composition of this panel along with its mate on the facing page is quite striking. There is a giant 'V' on the wall behind the action, symmetric and, of course, the letter of this chapter. If Adrian and the assassin were not in the foreground, no doubt it would reflect in the water, making an 'X', which is horizontally, vertically and rotationally symmetrical. As it is, however, there is a suggestion of an 'X' made by the foreground figures. At the endpoints of the 'X', there are three faces and a gun: The Egyptian head symbolizing death, the gun being an instrument of death, and Adrian and the assassin representing a murderer and his target--yet which is which? Even without the underlying knowledge of where the story is heading, the immediate truth is that the apparent roles have been reversed.

Page 16, panel 4: But of course, this is a lie, isn't it? After all, Adrian already knows.

Page 16, panel 8: "Tell them I don't have any enemies." This statement is doubly-ironic: on the face of it, it would seem obvious that he does have enemies, and he's being facetious; of course in reality, his statement is completely true, because all of his enemies are dead. Note the 'V' reflected in the polished floor, making an 'X' and echoing the image from 13.1.

Page 17, panel 1: Once again, an 'X', creating a mimicking of both the visual appearance and the dialogue of the last panel. While the dialogue of Watchmen and narrative panels of "Marooned" mimic each other, they also may be said to narrate Rorschach's current situation, as the doomsday prophet moves through the background.

Page 17, panel 8: "I bet there's all kinda stuff we never notice..." like the guy digging through the trashcan again? I certainly didn't notice it the first time I read this chapter.

Page 18, panel 1: The slant on the handwriting appears to have been written by a left-handed person, but of course, it's almost certainly a forgery. Adrian knows Rorschach is a keen detective.

Page 18, panel 2: "Things to Come" is a movie about a world war that essentially destroys mankind.

Page 18, panel 6: "...spotless gloves"? We must assume he's speaking metaphorically.

Page 18, panel 7: This panel is opposite 11.3, which is virtually identical, but represents the reverse action.

Page 19, panel 1: Like page 10, this is a conversation between Laurie and Dan viewed mostly in a mirror. The poses in the first four panels mimic in reverse order and a reversal of characters the poses in the last four panels on that page.

Page 20, panel 1: The dead body in this panel mimics the position of Dan in the previous.

Page 20, panel 6: The shark has been stabbed in the right eye.

Page 21, panel 7: Is "inversion of natural roles" a commentary on homosexuality? The protagonist of "Marooned" here eats "raw shark", get it? The appearance of the shark here becomes very suggestive of the button-with blood spot motif.

Page 21, panel 8: The poster very strikingly mimics the panel from "Marooned".

Page 22, panel 1: The positions of the characters and the poster mimic the previous panel, as does the dialogue.

Page 22, panel 4: "It's like there's a pattern..."

Page 22, panel 6: Blake's case number is not just a palindrome, it's completely symmetric.

Page 22, panel 7: "Raw shark" get it? Ha, ha, ha.

Page 23, panel 1: Rorschach is "ignoring some red lights"(22.9) like "an omen of doom"(7.5).

Page 24, panel 5: Here's that look again (see I.8.2).

Page 25, panel 2: Rorschach leaves the gun...

Page 25, panel 4: ...but improvises other weapons from pepper,...

Page 25, panel 6: ...hairspray...

Page 25, panel 7: ...and matches.

Page 26, panel 3: "Tygers"? This is hinting back to the chapter's quote.

Page 27, panel 6: This panel is framed like its opposite, 2.6.

Page 28, panel 6: Dan's aftershave bottle breaks in the fall.

Page 28, panel 9: Final panel mimics the cover page, with the sign reflected in the puddle, and Rorschach's hat at the top.

Page 29: "A Man of Fifteen Dead Men's Chests" from Treasure Island Treasury of Comics The article talks about many things, including how the government came to the defense of comics publishers because of their own real-life comic book heroes. Note that in our world, EC was nearly destroyed in a similar bit of history.

Monday, February 04, 1985

Watchmen Chapter IV: "Watchmaker"

Spoiler warning: If you have not read Watchmen, do not read these notes. See intro/disclaimer.

Cover: Picture of Jon before becoming Dr. Manhattan. This chapter takes a big departure from linear storytelling in order to give a sense of the way Jon's mind works. Like a comic book, Jon sees his own life as a series of still pictures.

Page 1, panel 1: Note that throughout the chapter, Jon's narration is always in present tense. No matter what time period he's thinking about, all times are now to Jon. The photograph is already in the sand, but it's still in the bar, too, and the couple is still at the amusement park.

Page 3, panel 8: This shot is from the last panel of this chapter.

Page 4, panel 3: Jon can't figure out women, either. "Well, I guess he's just human, like everybody else."

Page 5, panel 5: Even after becoming Dr. Manhattan, Jon is clearly a fatalist, with seemingly little control over his own actions.

Page 6, panel 5: A "fat man" steps on the watch: "Fat Man" was the nickname given to the second bomb dropped on Japan.

Page 6, panel 7: A slow zoom in on the watch shows us the time it was broken...

Page 6, panel 9: 8:16. See 24.7.

Page 9, panel 7: Jon is putting himself together like a watch.

Page 11, panel 2: Actually, all elements heavier than iron come from supernovas.

Page 12, panel 7: Dr. Manhattan was of course named after the "Manhattan Project", the group which created the atomic bomb.

Page 13, panel 2: Although Jon can do pretty much anything, everything he's shown doing is militaristic in nature. The government is trying to send a message to Russia.

Page 13, panel 6: Nelson doesn't look pleased, does he?

Page 14, panel 1: Remember, at first, Jon wasn't a "superhero"; this event leads him that way, by other people's decisions.

Page 14, panel 2: As Dr. Manhattan, Jon seems to have become completely disconnected from the concept of morality.

Page 14, panel 3: As he meets JFK for the first time, he's already seeing the assassination.

Page 15, panel 4: More of Hollis' naïve optimism.

Page 15, panel 7: Hollis has just realized that Jon has made him obsolete not only as a superhero, but as a mechanic. Perhaps even as a human being.

Page 16, panel 2: Jon explains his fatalistic reality to Janey.

Page 16, panel 3: The print on the wall is "The Persistence of Memory", depicting melting clocks on an abstract landscape.

Page 16, panel 4: "Sometimes I think you're messing everything up!" Essentially, that's what Dr. Glass is suggesting in his essay at the end of the chapter.

Page 17, panel 2: Jon is completely disinterested in the Crimebusters, but very interested in Laurie. Could it partially be because he knows which of them has a future for him?

Page 19, panel 3: If Wally Weaver died of cancer in 1971, that means Adrian was planning his move for over 15 years.

Page 19, panel 4: The woman with Eddie is the same woman from the flashback in chapter II. VVN is only three months away, so she is already pregnant.

Page 20, panel 1: Once again, Jon as the personified A-bomb.

Page 20, panel 4: "I no longer wish to look at dead things." Everyone in the rest of the flashbacks in this chapter is still alive in 1985.

Page 21, panel 1: While the world is too interested in Nixon to notice Adrian, the reader might have the reverse problem. Before the Keene Act is passed, Adrian gets out of the superhero business, while Nixon overturns the 22nd Amendment to stay in the President business.

Page 21, panel 2: What sort of person wants to live in some sort of fortress of solitude in the arctic?

Page 21, panel 3: Bubastis is the name of the capital city of the religion of Bast, the Egyptian cat-goddess.

Page 21, panel 6: Is this a moment of self-doubt?

Page 22, panel 6: Another impressive display of Jon's powers. Also Jon shows that he's capable of conceptualizing utilitarian morality.

Page 23, panel 6: This is presumably the second of three murders Rorschach is charged with later.

Page 24, panel 3: The structure that Jon makes is, to his point of view, intrinsic to the sand from which he forms it. See note on 28.1.

Page 24, panel 4: Another clock in the background near twelve. The Comedian's picture is on the cover of the New Frontiersman.

Page 24, panel 7: Watch shows 8:16, same time as shown on Janey's broken watch. Both watches were broken by a "fat man". (See note on 6.5.)

Page 25, panel 1: From here forward, the short flashbacks are a review of what we've seen in the story so far.

Page 25, panel 2: Jon may be Godlike, but he's not omniscient.

Page 27: This structure is a mass of gears and hourglass shapes, and in chapter IX when we see it from above, we will see that it is shaped like a clock.

Page 28, panel 1: Jon does not consider himself to have made this structure, since it was already there in the future.

Page 29: Dr. Manhattan: Super-powers and the Superpowers by Dr. Milton Glass. Dr. Glass suggests that rather than being a deterrent to nuclear war, Dr. Manhattan's presence is encouraging escalation of Russian hostility.

Sunday, February 03, 1985

Watchmen Chapter III: "The Judge of All the Earth"

Spoiler warning: If you have not read Watchmen, do not read these notes. See intro/disclaimer.

Cover: The image of the radiation symbol is immediately compared to the black sails of a pirate ship. This symbol represents a horror bearing down upon the city of New York, as the pirate ship in the comic is bearing down on Davidstown.

Page 1: The introduction of Tales of the Black Freighter, the most significant comic-within-the-comic. Although the captions come from the story "Marooned", they of course, as in other places with other narratives, describe the images from Watchmen, and eventually form a metaphor for the story as a whole. Also, of course, the idle chit-chat of the newsvendor echoes the ideas on another level.

Page 1, panel 3: Note that the "Missing Writer" on the cover of the New Frontiersman is Max Shea, author of "Marooned".

Page 1, panel 4: The Promethean Cab Company is across the street. In Greek mythology, Prometheus stole fire from the Gods and gave it to mankind, which tends to be viewed as morally ambiguous. The Promethean Cab Company's motto is "Bringing Light to the World".

Page 2, panel 1: Another slow zoom over several panels.

Page 2, panel 9: "Is it here yet?" Refers to the New Frontiersman, of course, but obliquely refers to "THE END"...or in the background, Utopia?

Page 3, panel 2: A bit of ironic humor...

Page 3, panel 6: ...and slapstick?

Page 6, panel 2: Once again, Janey Slater's interview narrates Laurie's story as well as her own.

Page 6, panel 6: Our first view of Joey, a recurring member of the supporting cast.

Page 8, panel 1: Gordian Knot Lock Company: Adrian later talks about the Gordian Knot, which is symbolic of many aspects of the story. Note that while Rorschach was able to pick the lock at the cemetery, he chooses a different method for getting through Dan's door.

Page 8, panel 5: Dan has no sugar because Rorschach took it.

Page 8, panel 8: "'s not the end of the world, right?" That seems to be the question of this chapter.

Page 9, panel 2: And again, Laurie's words narrate Jon's actions.

Page 9, panel 9: Note the owl in the background "looking" at them. In VII.10.9, Dan says these days he feels like he's being watched.

Page 11, panel 2: Now the focus flips, and the words of Jon's interview narrate what's going on with Dan and Laurie. "This Island Earth" was a film from 1955 about scientists kidnapped in order to save a world being torn apart by war.

Page 15, panel 1: Note Tina's hairdo. The dialogue on this page suggests that even for Dan and Laurie, there's something sexual about "adventuring".

Page 16, panel 3: The dialogue shifts back one more time.

Page 17, panel 2: Graffiti on the New Frontiersman billboard gives you a hint as to its political leanings.

Page 18, panel 2: Note Dan and Laurie in the background, and compare to 11.2: like many parts of the story, this isn’t being told in a strictly linear fashion. This dialogue takes place while Dan and Laurie are having their "skirmish".

Page 18, panel 7: "All alone..." like Jon?

Page 19, panel 1: "Walking on the Moon" by The Police; apparently pop music is somewhat in line with our world.

Page 20, panel 1: First view of Gila Flats, very prominent in Jon's backstory. "Per dolorum ad astra" means "Through pain, to the stars". It seems to be implied by the following page that the red spot in the sky is Mars.

Page 20, panel 5: "Strange" and "Charmed" are two types of quarks, a subatomic particle that no doubt they were studying at Gila Flats.

Page 22, panel 4: "Are you sure?" Once again, the core question.

Page 24, panel 6: Rorschach uses Dan's aftershave...

Page 24, panel 8: ...and takes it. We'll see it later.

Page 25, panel 3: "Ripoff story ain't got no endin'!" Like Watchmen? (See XII.27.5)

Page 25, panel 6: Sudden reversal of attitude by the newsvendor...

Page 25, panel 8: ...because it looks like the doomsday prophet may have been right.

Page 26, panel 1: Nixon, Kissinger and the others narrate Jon's walk on Mars.

Page 29: Under the Hood by Hollis Mason. Hollis provides us with more speculation as to the fate of Hooded Justice, and the future of masked adventuring.

Saturday, February 02, 1985

Watchmen Chapter II: "Absent Friends"

Spoiler warning: If you have not read Watchmen, do not read these notes. See intro/disclaimer.

Cover: The cover image is of an angel statue in a graveyard. The statue has a raindrop over its right eye, like the blood drop on the right eye of the button. The shape is somewhat similar, too, although if it was intentional, it's not so blatant.

Page 1, panel 1: This chapter engages in a lot of panels with dialogue from one scene serving double-duty as narration for another scene as we cut back and forth. Essentially every piece of dialogue in California refers in some way to the New York picture behind it in the alternating frames. Here, Sally's reference to "the city of the dead" is superimposed over a cemetery.

Page 1, panel 4: Oddly enough, although Laurie's vomiting is often mentioned, nobody else seems to report this effect.

Page 1, panel 8: Sometimes, the California panels have subtle references as well. The picture was of course taken the day of the incident being discussed.

Page 1, panel 9: "It's history." While this line is most obviously another pun-like reference to Eddie's death, there are more subtle things going on here, such as the flag-draped coffin which represents both U.S. history, and Eddie's part therein. More interestingly, this is one of many panels in which Jon seems to be looking around nervously (19.5 being one of the most obvious, panel 7 on this page being more subtle). There are at least two of people at the funeral with whom Jon has "history," but he only vaguely recognizes them, if at all, since both are in disguise. (Although Jon is often referred to as being godlike, he is certainly not omniscient, remembering only events he has seen personally.)

Page 2, panel 1: The words "perspective" and "smaller" subtly reference the odd framing of this panel, in which a higher angle makes Laurie and Sally appear smaller. Note that Sally has a medical chart at the foot of her bed; is she in a retirement home or a hospital? Probably some combination.

Page 2, panel 2: "In the end, you just wash your hands and shut it away." superimposed on the dirty hands of the doomsday prophet, while somebody shuts the gates of the cemetery.

Page 2, panel 4: "Life goes on." while we see various indications to the contrary.

Page 2, panel 6: Laurie assures her mother that it's sunny in New York, but it's clearly anything but.

Page 2, panel 7: Sally's retirement home is called Nepenthe Gardens. "Nepenthe" is a term from the Odyssey meaning "one that chases away sorrow". In that story, it referenced the destruction of painful memories with forgetfulness, which is essentially what they've been talking about so far.

Page 2, panel 8: "I mean, without your health, where are you?" In a cemetery, natch.

Page 3, panel 1: One might wonder how Dan really thought he was keeping his identity a secret given the company he's keeping here. Note that in addition to not feeling the weather, it appears the rain doesn't touch Jon. The rain also doesn't touch Adrian, but because of a different sort of power he has. As much as these four men (counting the Ediie in the casket) have in common, this picture shows how different they really are in the end. While the title of the chapter "Absent Friends" seems rather appropriate to this panel, there's actually an odd irony to it, as Eddie is the only one "Absent", while almost all of his "friends" (a stretch of the term) are present.

Page 3, panel 2: So Mothman is "in the bughouse"? A tacky pun, but it fits with Sally's personality. As she recalls the past, we see a bottle of "Nostalgia" before her.

Page 3, panel 3: Aside from the obvious reference to being buried, Sally refers to Eddie being "on top of it", as the American flag (upon which Eddie's costume was modeled) is put on top of his coffin.

Page 4, panel 2: The first comic-within-the-comic. "Tijuana Bibles" were a very genuine phenomenon in the real world, and Sally being the subject of one shows that she must have once been rather famous.

Page 4, panel 4: Again, no exaggerating on anyone's part here: Tijuana Bibles are valuable collectibles, and the content within was usually far more hard-core than one might think a fad from the '30s and '40s would be.

Page 4, panel 7: The past "just keeps getting brighter all the time." Perhaps only a reference to the glint of light off the picture frame, but each of the flashbacks in this chapter have a prominent theme of light vs. dark, flashes of light, fire, and explosions.

Page 4, panel 8: The first of several flashbacks in this chapter (starting with an actual flash in the previous panel; do people still use the term "flashbulb memory"?), all revolving around character development for Eddie Blake. Note that the older the flashback, the rounder the dialogue bubbles are. I've no idea what the significance of that would be, but it's definitely noticeable.

Page 5, panel 1: Headline about Plutonium in the paper. If the calendar is indicating October of 1940, this discovery is a few months early in their world.

Page 5, panel 3: The Comedian is eager to be involved in war, as indeed he later was in both WWII and Vietnam (at least). Hooded Justice gets interrupted by Silhouette (her only line of dialogue in the whole book - a not-at-all-subtle jab at recently-invaded Poland); what was he about to say? Hollis claims in his book that Hooded Justice was in favor of the Third Reich. (Under the Hood, p.8)

Page 5, panel 4: As we know from the previous chapter, Sally is Polish, but pretends not to be. Byron, while happy to fight crime, is clearly not so happy at the prospect of fighting wars.

Page 6, panel 4: Compare this panel to 14.7; Eddie is injured by his right eye.

Page 7, panel 6: Compare this panel to I.3.3. This is another mention of the concept of the superhero as sexual fetishist, and it may not be an idle comment by Eddie, as Sally's scrapbook on page 31 of chapter IX mentions that "H.J." is always "out with boys, and apparently there's a lot of rough stuff going on."

Page 7, panel 8: See Adrian's comment in XI.18.4-8: did Eddie make good on his promise and kill Hooded Justice? Note the position and shape of the bloodstain.

Page 7, panel 9: Note clock at five to midnight.

Page 8, panel 1: While in public, Hooded Justice is supposed to be Sally's boyfriend, there is clearly no actual affection between them.

Page 8, panel 2: Note that the content of the comic ironically parallels the scene in the flashback. Also, just as Hooded Justice's comment seems to imply Sally was partially responsible for her own rape, here Laurie's comment seems to imply her being partially responsible for the content of the comic.

Page 8, panel 3: While Laurie's lecture is still obviously about the comic book, with Sally still thinking about the past, there is a continued parallel to Hooded Justice's rebuke.

Page 8, panel 5: Headlines on the cover of Nova Express indicate as already hinted that Richard Nixon is still President. Assuming he was first elected in 1968 as in our history, this would imply he is currently serving his fifth term. Elsewhere it is briefly implied that in Watchmen's parallel history, the U.S. Constitution's 22nd Amendment was overturned in 1975. (See IV.21.1 and XI.30.)

Page 8, panel 6: This is the first discussion of Jon's true role he plays for the government: not merely a superhero, but a key component of the Cold War arms race. Of course, this is most thoroughly examined in the addendum to Chapter IV. The "Varga" of the pin-up poster on the wall is no doubt Alberto Vargas, one of the most popular pin-up artists of the '40s, if not all time. That Vargas would have painted Sally is yet another indication of her fame and iconic status as a sex symbol.

Page 8, panel 8: As Sally closes the scene with an old proverb about rain, we cut back to the rainy day in New York.

Page 9, panel 1: In the midst of one of the few breaks of the standard nine-panel format, Adrian stares intently at nothing at all. One might wonder, given what we know about him in the end, what he might be thinking of throughout most of the funeral.

Page 9, panel 4: While in the previous panel, God is "justly displeased"..."for our sins", Captain Metropolis feels quite differently. Is this just the use of parallel phrases to make a transition to the flashback, or is there an implication that there is something deeply, inherently wrong with costumed vigilantism?

Page 9, panel 5: Nelson Gardner introduces "the first ever meeting of the Crimebusters!" He's obviously enthusiastic, but due to a comment made by Dan in Chapter VII, I suspect this was probably also the last meeting. This scene being about 19 years before the main story gives us some interesting contrasts. Jon is still with Janey Slater, but he keeps staring at Laurie; he knows where his future lies, including of course how this meeting ends. At this point in time, he wears clothes. While the Eddie (in his new costume) was interested enough to show up for the meeting, that seems to be about the extent of his interest, as he largely ignores Nelson and reads his paper. (Actually, both he and Jon may have been ordered to go to the meeting by the government.) The smaller headline reads HEART TRANSPLANT PATIENT STABLE, another indication of the differences in scientific advancement between our world and theirs, as in the real world, a successful heart transplant wasn't performed for about another year and a half. Rorschach looks relaxed and clean, a huge contrast from 1985.

Page 10, panel 1: Another clock at five to midnight.

Page 10, panel 2: Nelson thinks the Crimebusters should be fighting "PROMISCUITY", "DRUGS", and "CAMPUS SUBVERSION"? See 11.4 for more of Nelson's "evils".

Page 10, panel 5: Note the dialogue bubbles imply that Rorschach talks normally in 1966.

Page 11, panel 1: One could say that this is Adrian's "Mission Statement".

Page 11, panel 2: Rorschach is the positive, encouraging one here?!

Page 11, panel 4: Nelson also considers "ANTI-WAR DEMOS" and "BLACK UNREST" to be "evils" the Crimebusters should be taking care of.

Page 11, panel 7: "Somebody has to save the world..." Adrian's epiphany.

Page 13, panel 1: In this world, (thanks in no small part to Dr. Manhattan) the Vietnam War ends with American victory in June 1971 instead of defeat in 1975.

Page 14, panel 7: Once again, Eddie is injured under his right eye, and a blood drop falls on the right eye of his button.

Page 15, panel 4: Eddie seems to understand Jon better than most.

Page 17, panel 4: Clearly Eddie enjoys violence.

Page 17, panel 6: Barely-seen newspaper blows past the Owlship with headline: COPS SAY: "LET THEM DO IT". The riot is due to a police strike, which is due to the "superheroes".

Page 19, panel 4: This is Moloch placing the flowers.

Page 20, panel 2: Another headline about Afghanistan.

Page 20, panel 5: Pizza boxes, etc. unnoticed by Moloch.

Page 21, panel 6: Even Rorschach didn't know the Comedian's real identity.

Page 22: This two-page spread contains a lot of oblique clues to later plot developments, of course. This odd alternating lighting is from the neon sign of the comics shop "Rumrunner" next door, as seen in Chapter V, and sets up the pacing of the narrative nicely.

Page 24, panel 8: Rorschach can be cruel, but he's not completely heartless.

Page 25, panel 1: Sex show "Enola Gay and the Little Boys"? Enola Gay was the name of the bomber that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The bomb itself was known as Little Boy.

Page 25, panel 3: Although criminals, apparently prostitutes don't fear Rorschach.

Page 25, panel 6: "Nothing is insoluble." Reference to the Gordian knot?

Page 25, panel 7: "Not while there's life," Rorschach says as he enters a cemetery.

Page 26, panel 4: Like the opening sequence, Rorschach's narrative fits the pictures behind it.

Page 29: Under the Hood by Hollis Mason, continued. Hollis fills in some holes in the history behind the story. I don't know if Alan Moore was the first to delve into this, but with this book being so "ground-breaking" this is probably one of the earliest superhero stories that goes into the processes of what it takes to become a masked hero. You don't just put on a mask and go hit bad guys, you have to think out a persona, design the look and composition of your costume, and make sure you're in top physical shape with above-average fighting skills. Also of note, it's possible that it's an error, but near the top of the second page, Hollis says, "[T]here were at least seven other costumed vigilantes operating on or around America's West Coast." (My emphasis.) If this is not an error, it implies that the eight heroes we see acting contemporaneously with Hooded Justice are just part of the overall story, as all the characters here are on the East Coast.

There is an interesting dynamic here, in that Hollis seems to be aware that there were superheroes that may have done it for a sexual thrill, and yet seems blissfully unaware of the fact that Hooded Justice was gay (and not just gay, but into kinky, violent sex, as revealed in the epilogue to chapter IX). One wonders what to make of the fact that while some people (including Hollis) seem to want to label the Silhouette as a pervert simply because she's homosexual, her first case involved breaking up a child pornography ring. Because of the Silhouette being outed as a lesbian by the media, the Minutemen expel her from their group despite the ironic fact that at least two of the six remaining members were also gay. Also, while we did not get a flashback from Hollis in this chapter, he does give an evaluation of the Comedian's character, and informs us of the early work he did for the government.

Friday, February 01, 1985

Watchmen Chapter I: "At Midnight, All the Agents"

Spoiler warning: If you have not read Watchmen, do not read these notes. See intro/disclaimer.

Cover: The cover of book one is an image of a happy face button lying in a pool of blood, a single drop of blood on its face over the right eye. This incorporates numerous themes that are found throughout the whole of Watchmen. First, the shape of the drop--which is seen repeatedly in various places, notably the beginning and end of chapter XI--which is suggestive of the hands of a clock pointing at midnight (the title of this chapter being "At Midnight, All the Agents") yet another very pervasive theme. Another theme that is repeated is that of faces partially obscured. This may be meant to be provocative of the idea of masks. Note that the Comedian, the owner of the button, had a scar across the left side of his face, in roughly the same spot as the blood on the button. More subtle are the possible allusions to the idea of comedy <=> comics, and the idea of the finding of happiness and tranquility in the midst of violent bloodshed.

Page 1: Note that the layout of this page and zooming out effect centered on the button are repeated on the last page of this chapter.

Page 1, panel 1: The giving of the date in Rorschach's journal establishes that these events happen in the past, and therefore, we are made to understand immediately that this is not meant to be happening in the world with which we're familiar. Centered on the button, we read "I have seen its true face."

Page 1, panel 2: Rorschach talks metaphorically of the streets being gutters filled with blood, while the image is that literally. The first image we see of a character is the shoes of the doomsday prophet. We are meant to see it as metaphor, but of course, there are two levels of literalness to it. Real doomsday seems to be coming, in the form of possible nuclear war, and of course, while Rorschach "narrates" the opening scene, we eventually realize that this character is Rorschach in disguise. (Rorschach considers his mask to be his "true face".)

Page 1, panel 3: In the journal, the world is shouting at Rorschach as the world comes to an end; in the panel, the man with the hose is yelling at the doomsday prophet.

Page 1, panel 4: Rorschach talks of footsteps, while bloody footprints are left on the concrete.

Page 1, panel 7: Obviously, when "nobody can think of anything to say" people say stupid things. This is quite an understatement.

Page 2, panel 2: The police figure it must have been more than one person who attacked Blake. Although the killer's identity is not revealed in these flashbacks, it's clear it was a single person.

Page 2, panel 8: Note "Vice-president" Ford. Ford has not been President in this world, and with good reason as we will find out.

Page 3, panel 3: Note that this is the moment the button gets blood on it.

Page 3, panel 7: "Ground floor coming up", indeed.

Page 4, panel 3: According to the cover of the Times, Vietnam has just been made the 51st state. Also, the comics on sale are all pirate-themed, including one called "X-Ships". All of this is indicating what a very different world this is from our own.

Page 4, panel 5: The cars and the fashions are very different; a prominent restaurant seen here for the first time is "Gunga Diner", an Indian fast food place. Also, there is an ad for Mmeltdowns, a nuclear-themed candy. Note that at the mention of Rorschach, the doomsday prophet reappears.

Page 4, panel 7: Watch on right wrist? The doomsday prophet is left-handed.

Page 5, panel 1: This is the first of several page transitions with evocative panels found throughout Watchmen. This panel is the same spot as the last on the previous page, with Rorschach in the place of the doomsday prophet.

Page 5, panel 7: Note the shape that the grappling hook makes at this angle: a mirror-image of the drop of blood.

Page 7, panel 4: Rorschach, unlike Nite Owl, doesn't have fancy devices, but rather improvises.

Page 8, panel 2: Rorschach's "facial expression" in this panel is apparently a display of surprise. We see it at least two more times, in V.24.5 and VI.20.9.

Page 8, panel 7: It's interesting to me that the Comedian has a copy of this photo, given the circumstances surrounding the photo shoot. One might wonder how and why he got a copy in the first place, and also why Silk Specter I kept hers (at least at first).

Page 9, panel 3: "It's almost midnight." A bit of thematic dialogue, no doubt.

Page 9, panel 6: This panel and the next are the first appearance of graffiti, suggesting that Mason lives in a pretty bad neighborhood. In general, very little graffiti in Watchmen is without symbolism. Here we see "PALE HORSE"--the name of the knothead band playing the concert at the end of the story, whose name is taken from the book of Revelation, symbolic of the personification of Death--and a starburst cross, a symbol of Day of the Dead.

Page 9, panel 7: Here we see the first instance of "WHO WATCHES THE WATCHMEN?" a graffito that appears several times, but never in full.

Page 9, panel 8: The sign declares "OBSOLETE MODELS A SPECIALTY", a literal reference to the modern electrical car technologies that have replaced older gasoline models, and a symbolic reference to the new breed of superheroes that have replaced the old. Both of course, are in no small part due to Dr. Manhattan.

Page 10, panel 1: A headline concerning Afghanistan is in the foreground, that country being a political focus throughout the story. The lyrics are referring to Rorschach, who leaves Dan Dreiberg's house via the back door, and in chapter X (see pg. 27) claims to not be bothered by the cold.

Page 10, panel 4: Most people, upon finding their front door smashed in, would probably call the police. Dan, of course, isn't most people.

Page 10, panel 5: Dan looks rather owl-like in this panel, doesn't he?

Page 10, panel 8: Minor note: in this world, Heinz has "58 varieties".

Page 11, panel 5: These sugar cubes of course form the basis for a minor plot point later.

Page 12, panel 5: Rorschach's wording is perhaps a bit ironically paranoid here.

Page 12, panel 6: It's made immediately clear that Rorschach doesn't consider anyone above suspicion.

Page 14, panel 1: Rorschach is left-handed.

Page 14, panel 4: Poster hints of extended Nixon presidency.

Page 14, panel 5: Graffito: VIET BRONX. Headline: CONGRESS APPROVES LUNAR SILOS

Page 15, panel 1: Happy Harry's is a pretty rough sort of crowd, but everyone seems pretty intimidated by Rorschach.

Page 15, panel 3: Rorschach has the same "facial expression" the second time we see him enter Happy Harry's in X.14.2.

Page 15, panel 6: This is not the first appearance, but the first fairly close look at one of these strange smoking devices.

Page 15, panel 7: People who are not intimidated by Rorschach seem to have a bad time of it...

Page 16, panel 3: Not your stereotypical hero behavior, eh?

Page 17, panel 2: Rorschach has removed his hat in Adrian's presence. Is this an indication of some respect that he refuses to verbalize? Rorschach of course has no idea that he's asking the one person who actually knows the answer.

Page 17, panel 8: No doubt, Adrian is thinking, "Yes, you might as well, I suppose."

Page 18, panel 3: "Have a nice day." Say, isn't that a slogan for something?

Page 18, panel 4: "Doomsday clock at five to twelve" A continuing theme.

Page 19, panel 1: Note Superman symbol on sign. I'm fairly certain that "Rockefeller Military Research Center" does not exist in our world; in this world, it was probably named after Nelson Rockefeller, a prominent Republican who served as Gerald Ford's vice-President, and died in 1979.

Page 19, panel 2: "Possibly homosexual?" A fair number of the heroes in the story are, and Adrian is never seen with a girlfriend. Rorschach may be right, but it's never clear why it should matter.

Page 19, panel 3: Rorschach no doubt thinks himself the exception. Clearly he's active and healthy, but really, "without personality disorder?"

Page 19, panel 8: The idea that someone plans to murder an "indestructible man" may seem laughable, but of course an attempt is made on his life in the final chapter.

Page 19, panel 9: Jon always talks in these blue double-bubbles. Surely there must be significance to him and Rorschach having unusual dialog, visually, but it would be pure speculation on my part to suppose what.

Page 20, panel 1: Visually stunning first view of Jon, including his nudity. Aside from needing no clothing to regulate his body temperature (like Rorschach, but more so, he "don't really feel the weather") his lack of clothing symbolizes to some extent his lost grasp on human social standards.

Page 20, panel 2: Laurie and Rorschach don't like each other, and neither one hides it.

Page 20, panel 4: One gets the impression that Rorschach is one of the few people that finds the Comedian's demise to be "bad news". On the next page, it's clear Jon doesn't care, and Laurie is glad he's gone.

Page 21, panel 6: Evidently, Rorschach doesn't think much of Under the Hood.

Page 21, panel 8: Rorschach seems to be unable to think badly of the Comedian.

Page 22, panel 5: It's hard to argue with Jon.

Page 23, panel 4: A continuing display of Jon's godlike abilities, note that this is run-of-the-mill stuff for those who know him; nobody comments or reacts on his resizing himself, lifting a huge machine, teleporting Rorschach, or making machine parts float in midair.

Page 23, panel 7: "That's fascinating." I'm pretty sure it's not.

Page 23, panel 8: In continuing to look for significance to even seemingly minor details, one might ask if the name "Rafael" is meaningful. One of Renaissance painter Raphael's most well-known works is titled "Slaughter of the Innocents". In Islam, the archangel Raphael is the angel in charge of signaling Judgment Day, and in Christianity, Raphael is the patron saint of matchmakers.

Page 23, panel 9: Why is Jon smiling? Is he enjoying his work, or is he happy for Laurie, who is going to end up in a much happier relationship with Dan in the future?

Page 24, panel 1: More graffiti: KRYSTALNACHT (the band playing with Pale Horse, meaning "Night of broken glass"), ONE IN EIGHT GO MAD (of the original eight minutemen, one ended up in an asylum), WHO WATCHES THE WATCHMEN?, the looping arrow, the cross, peace and anarchy.

Page 24, panel 2: Why does Rorschach stop to watch this scene? Surely it's more than just that he's a peeping tom.

Page 24, panel 6: Compare this "facial expression" and narration to XII.20.7; Rorschach means what he says.

Page 24, panel 7: Nixon reelection poster.

Page 25, panel 3: In the face of possible nuclear war, Jon's happiness is of great importance.

Page 25, panel 4: Small but important details from left to right: Genetically engineered four-legged bird. Knot-top hairdo on upper-class woman. Open display of homosexuality. Egyptian makeup motif.

Page 25, panel 6: One seriously doubts Dan thought that such a costume was awful.

Page 25, panel 8: They don't look like they really think the Keene act was "the best thing".

Page 26: Repeat of first page structure: Seven-panel zoom out centered on button.

Page 26, panel 2: This is the first mention of the concept of costumed adventuring as a sexual fetish, and the only outright discussion of it. Several other parts of the story make veiled references to the idea that some of the heroes are doing this for more than just a need to see evil punished.

Page 26, panel 4: Rorschach clearly doesn't play games.

Page 27: Under the Hood by Hollis Mason. Hollis talks about how Action Comics and Superman were part of what inspired him to become Nite Owl, as well as the appearance of Hooded Justice. While on some level there may seem to be something inspiring about a man who decides to fight crime, one also wonders about the similarity between the costume of Hooded Justice to the outfits worn by the KKK.

Twelve to midnight

Although others have undertaken the same task, and probably done it much better than I could have possibly done, it had been my intention to put together a set of annotations for the graphic novel Watchmen, and put it out before the movie was released. Since I set the release of the movie as a deadline, although I probably could have done more and polished it up quite a bit, I've decided that I will release it now (February 2009) in a series of posts over the next few days.

There is an important note to be said about this and any other annotation of Watchmen: If you haven't read the graphic novel, don't read these annotations! It's an excellent story and intricately-structured book that has many plot twists, and I assure you, spoilers for the plot twists will appear in the notes from the very first panel. If you still haven't read Watchmen, don't read what others have to say about it, but first go find a copy and read it for yourself, preferably at least twice. Then check out some annotations (mine or others', see below) and see some of the stuff you missed if you only read it twice, because there are tons of tiny details, many of which I'm sure even I missed on the twenty or so readthroughs I've given Watchmen.

There are also a number of motifs that I was not able to work in that I think probably deserve a place, although I'm not sure where. The repeated appearance of the restaurant "Gunga Diner" seems to be significant as a reference to Rudyard Kipling's poem Gunga Din, but in what way, I am not sure. Many years ago, a friend of mine told me it referred to Ozymandias, but I suspect it may refer to Rorschach, as the member of the team that nobody seems to respect, and yet he keeps toiling relentlessly on their behalf.

Also, some of the symbols in the story seem to have significance, such as two graffiti symbols, a cross with radiating lines and a downward-spiraling arrow. I seem to recall the former being a symbol related to Día de los Muertes, a holiday falling on November 2nd, a key date in the story. The latter is a symbol that I'm not at all familiar with, but the fact that it appears repeatedly in background graffiti that seems otherwise significant suggests it has meaning.

Perhaps a lot of this is explained in Dave Gibbons' recently released Watching the Watchmen, which I'd like to get, but do not own. If a reader has a copy of this and knows the answers to some of the issues above, let me know.

Also, for the sake of politeness I should mention that while I did not use them as a reference, there are two sites that I did use as inspiration. Years ago, stumbling across these two very well-done annotations, I noticed that nobody's annotation seems to be complete (certainly mine will not be) and I considered filling in blanks with my own annotations. If you're interested in people's takes on Watchmen, these are worth browsing: Watching the Detectives, and The Annotated Watchmen. (The latter has a time line page to help sort out the jumble of events in the story.)

Skip to notes:

Chapter I: "At Midnight, All the Agents"Chapter VII: "A Brother to Dragons"
Chapter II: "Absent Friends"Chapter VIII: "Old Ghosts"
Chapter III: "The Judge of All the Earth"Chapter IX: "The Darkness of Mere Being"
Chapter IV: "Watchmaker"Chapter X: "Two Riders Were Approaching"
Chapter V: "Fearful Symmetry"Chapter XI: "Look on My Works, Ye Mighty"
Chapter VI: "The Abyss Gazes Also"Chapter XII: "A Stronger Loving World"

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

(This is a review I wrote for the movie Watchmen, and like other reviews on my blog, I wrote it without having seen the movie, back in early February of 2009. While this was written at the request of a friend and published elsewhere, I doubt there will be any legal complications with republishing it here.)

If you read much on the history of the production of the upcoming Watchmen movie, a common phrase that comes up is some variation of "mired in development hell." As this film project passed around for over twenty years from studio to studio, director to director and screenwriter to screenwriter, fans of the original graphic novel have wondered for some time if it was a movie that would ever come to be. Many others, including author Alan Moore, have wondered if it was even a good idea. Of course, Moore is partially biased by his disappointment in previous adaptations of his work to the screen, including The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and V for Vendetta.

While the silver screen has at various times managed to give us excellent adaptations of stories originally told in the medium of comics, there is no guarantee that the two visual media are a match made in heaven. While bold visual effects can easily enhance our enjoyment of watching Spider-man or Batman in action, no medium is better than any other as a vehicle for character development. It's got to be a lot easier to outline Bruce Wayne's childhood in a fifteen-minute exposition than it it will be to expand on the forty-plus year history of about a dozen superheroes who all play a part in the unfolding of Moore's multilayered comic masterpiece. One of the challenges for a cinematic adaptation of this work is the condensing of over 300 pages at nine panels per page into Hollywood's required less than three hours' screen time and not lose anything significant in the translation. Director Terry Gilliam, one of the people attached to the project in its earliest negotiation stages, eventually declined to direct the film for that very reason. Suggesting it would be better as a television miniseries, he simply couldn't see it reduced to two-an-a-half hours. Watchmen, a story taking place in a parallel 1985 in which superheroes are real, America won the Vietnam War, and Nixon is still in office, follows the investigation of the murder of the Comedian, one of the few masked heroes still active after the passage of a law outlawing them in 1977. Along the way, the characters come to life, the plot unfolds into a complex conspiracy, and a number of philosophical questions arise that will challenge the readers' sense of morality. Is there a screen big enough to hold that?

The story is an intricate web of interconnected plot threads and dialogue with double and even triple meaning and visual effects that by their nature would not lend themselves to any other medium but comics. While some comics seem to mirror the conventions of cinema, Moore and artist Dave Gibbons crafted a book that virtually made its own conventions, exploring comics (and the comic-book genre of super-heroes) as only comics can do. While some movies have managed to play with the convention of a plot that moves fairly uniformly forward in time, it is the nature of comics that since time is represented spatially from panel to panel and page to page, and thus the reader can choose interactively to go backwards and time and review a scene they have already experienced to gather more information. Actually, in one chapter of the book, the character Dr. Manhattan reveals that, in his ability to see the future, all of time seems to him more like a series of still pictures than a continuous unwinding of a thread, no doubt a veiled reference to the very medium of comics. Moore seems to be saying through his character that it's better to have the whole story at once in the palm of one's hand than to see it speed past past completely out of one's control.

Still, what with everything, the fact that Watchmen is not likely to live up to the book is hardly something that makes it unique. How often does one hear a moviegoer exiting the theater and saying, "The book was better."? It's almost an essential part of the movie experience for every movie with an adapted screenplay. No true fan of the Narnia, Harry Potter, or Lord of the Rings books went to the movies based on them and found them to be completely faithful and worthy adaptations; yet they went, and enjoyed them immensely. Movie adaptations are just that: adaptations. It's simply not possible to put a novel on a screen, because that's not what a novel is. Perhaps Moore doesn't like film adaptations of his work because he hopes to see his work on the screen, but it's not there; and it's not there because Moore wrote a comic book, not a screenplay.

Fans of the comic book who are wary of the movie adaptation perhaps need to remember this themselves. A little less than a quarter-century ago, Watchmen the comic came out, and in less than a month, Watchmen the movie will come out. They are two separate entities that will likely bear a strong resemblance to one another, but by their nature cannot be the same thing. For some time, comics fans have raved about Watchmen as one of the greatest comic books of all time. Does this reflect on the upcoming movie? Come early March, moviegoers will be able to judge for themselves.