Friday, February 01, 1985

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"

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