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.


marauder said...

This has always been my favorite issue of "Watchmen," because it is so decidedly nonlinear. Interestingly, none of the series is; the Rorshach issues notably also come out of regular chronology, as an aside to the plot progression elsewhere, but the entire story unfolds the past along with the present. Jon's questions about himself and who decides his fate are questions that permeate the entire series and ultimately our own lives.

migca said...

I'm beginning to believe that damn near everything in this book really does have multiple meanings. How could anyone think that the graphic novel was a fad or merely juvenile reading material after Watchmen? Again, many thanks for your invaluable annotations.

Page 22, panel 6: We see Jon's perfect form miraculously risen above the ground, as Laurie surveys the aftermath of his latest miracle and exclaims, "Jesus."

Or is this so blatantly obvious that only total newbies like me would even think it worthy of mention?

Brucker said...

Hmm, I'm surprised at my own failure to mention that once again. One might even expect that, as a Christian, I'd be supersensitive to such a thing. Jon is in many ways an oddly warped Christ-like figure. After all, the American military saw him as their salvation, but a salvation that came only after his death and resurrection. I suppose I spent too much time thinking about Jon's position as a sort of generic God-figure to think about him as symbolic for a specific God-figure, but there's certainly something there.

Maybe as a Christian, I don't like to think about a Christ figure being so flawed and amoral, as Jon certainly is.