Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter II - complete annotations

Absent Friends

Thematic Overview:
This chapter centers on the funeral of Edward Blake, also known as the Comedian.  As such, this chapter centers around the theme of death – both real and ontological.  Ontological death is best described known as the phenomenon of “world collapse,” which occurs when one experiences an incident so jarring to his/her personal reality that the thing which gives one’s life, or world, meaning – whether God or something else – no longer applies.  Faith is extinguished, pushing one into a “new world” where a revised ontological reality must established.

Other than the most obvious – that of Blake’s funeral – there are a number of references to death within this chapter.  In the opening scenes, we have Laurie, Silk Spectre II, visiting her mother, Sally Jupiter, who was the first Silk Spectre.  As they talk, we can perceive them as mirror images of one another, if seen through a cracked mirror.  Laurie, a young, active woman who will return to superheroics later in the book, is looking at her future self – a weary, heartsick woman whose years of crime fighting are far in the past.  Laurie’s mother represents the death of Laurie’s current reality, something Sally tries to explain to her daughter, even if Laurie refuses to see it.

Other references of death can be seen in the flashback sequences, all of which seem to represent this theme.  Eddie Blake’s attempted rape of Sally Jupiter represents the loss of innocence for these heroes – most of whom seem to have a naiveté that belies the seriousness of their work.  This recollection also appears to be a harbinger of the dissolution of the Minutemen.  We also see the first meeting of the Crimebusters, the supergroup that followed the Minutemen, which also appears to be the last meeting of the Crimebusters.  And, in Vietnam, we see Blake kill the Vietnamese woman he impregnated after she cut his face.  Interestingly, all of these deaths were effected by Eddie Blake, the man for whom the funeral is being held. 

The theme of death – whether literal or metaphorical – is important in Watchmen.  For many, death represents an ending.  Certainly, that is true.  But all of the deaths in this chapter are a way to metaphorically clean the slate.  Each death also initiates a new status quo – the dissolution of the Crime Busters is where Ozymandias gets the inspiration for his plan to save mankind, while the Keene Act provides a doorway into a new reality with outlaw vigilantes such as Rorschach, authorized government operatives like the Comedian and Dr. Manhattan, and retired heroes – Dan Dreiberg and Laurie Juspeczyk.  This chapter sees Moore & Gibbons leaving the old reality of this world behind as they forge ahead into a brave new world, similar to the manner in which Watchmen, along with Dark Knight and Maus, became a demarcation line between “old” comics and “new.”  

Cover Image:  Again, the cover image is an extreme close-up of the first panel on the first interior page.  The face is that of a statue in the cemetery where Edward Blake is being buried.  The rain drop on the statues face symbolizes a teardrop, which can be taken as remorse for the death of the Comedian or as a foreshadowing of the horror that is to come as events unfold for the Watchmen.


Panel 1:  More juxtaposition of the words and images:  the caption “. . . still keepin’ her figure . . .” is dialogue from Sally Jupiter remarking on her daughter Laurie (as we see in the next panel), but also can refer ironically to the statue of a female angel in this panel.

“So, honey, what brings you to the city of the dead?” refers not only to the rest home (seen in the next panel) in which Sally Jupiter now lives, but also reflects on the cemetery (a literal city of the dead) in this panel.

Panel 2:  The red flowers Laurie has for her mother in this panel mirror the flowers that will later be left on Edward Blake’s grave by a man whom we learn to be Moloch, one of Blake’s former enemies.

Note the Nostalgia ad on the magazine in Sally’s lap as well as the copy of Nova Express beneath it, which becomes relevant later in the narrative.

Panel 3:  “I just got through throwing up in the ladies’ room,” is the first indication that Jon’s power to teleport people might have adverse effects.

Panel 5:  Note that Kovacs/Rorschach (holding his “End is Nigh” sign) is in the background as Jon (Dr. Manhattan) gets out of his government limousine (which is ironic as he can teleport anywhere)

Also note the police line holding back citizens apparently protesting Dr. Manhattan.  In this world, the heroes are not beloved as they tend to be in the comics.

Panel 7:  “I guess he (Blake) finally reached the punchline . . .” is a bit of black humor (Blake was known as the Comedian) overlaid on the scene where they are taking Blake’s coffin from the hearse.

Panel 8:  Note in the background the photograph of the Minutemen, which we also saw in Blake’s and Hollis Mason’s residences.

Panel 9:  “It’s history,” is an observation on the scene in this panel (Blake is now history), as those attending the funeral of Edward Blake look on while his coffin is carried into the cemetery.


Panel 1:  “. . . looks smaller somehow.” is overlaid on a camera angle taken from up high, making Sally and Laurie look small in this frame.

Panel 2:  “. . . you just wash your hands of it . . .” is an observation on Kovacs’s hands as the paint on his “The End is Nigh” sign washes over his hands, looking almost like blood – foreshadowing the blood that will run as the story unfolds.

Panel 4:  “Life goes on.” is set ironically over a scene focused on Kovacs and his sign reading “The End is Nigh,” who is in turn walking in front of a cemetery, where life does not go on.

Panel 6:  In response to her mother’s question of whether it was sunny in New York, Laurie replies, “Uh, yeah.  Yeah, pretty much . . .” which is a lie, again exhibiting a truth in these characters – we so often say what is untrue in order to avoid confrontation or be polite or, as in this case, to avoid our parents being right.

Panel 7:  The rest home is named Nepenthe Gardens.  Nepenthe is defined as a potion or drug used by the ancients to drown pain and sorrow, which could be stated as the purpose of such rest homes, but can also be seen as an ironic statement, since it is common for residents in these homes to become sorrowful and feel emotional pain at their solitude and separation from their families.

Panel 8:  “. . . without your health, where are you?” is a direct observation on Edward Blake’s coffin and his recent death, as well as a continuation of Sally’s conversation with her daughter Laurie.

Panel 9:  “It’s dead.  Extinguished.”  Coming from Laurie, this remark can be an observation on her relationship with Jon, it can also – within the wider scope of the literary ambitions of the book – be symbolic of the impending “attack” coming in the final issue, or a more metaphorical take on the manner in which the world will change by the end of the book, the present world eventually becoming “extinguished.”  And of course, it is also a representation of the Comedian’s status within the world.


Panel 1:  This image of Veidt, Manhattan, Dreiberg, and – hidden just behind Dreiberg – Moloch looking over Blake’s coffin and set above the title “Absent Friends” is ironic considering the fact that none of these adventurers and former adventurers would really call one another friend, at least not at this point in their lives.

Panel 2:  Sally Jupiter’s remark that Byron Lewis is in “the bughouse in Maine,” is ironic considering Lewis’s adventuring identity was Mothman.

Panel 3:  “He (Blake) said he’d bury us,” is another ironic comment on Blake’s death.

Panel 4:  The bottle of perfume on Sally Jupiter’s nightstand is a bottle of Nostalgia, again symbolizing the desire to return to simpler times while also showcasing how pervasive Adrian Veidt’s reach is in this world.


Panel 4:  The roles of mother and daughter are reversed as Sally enjoys the flattery of having been the subject of a Tijuana bible, while Laurie is revolted by the whole thing.

Panel 5:  Sally remarks that, “. . . the future looks a little bit darker.” foreshadowing what is to come.

Panel 6:  Sally’s statement carrying over from the previous panel, “. . . the past . . . just keeps on getting brighter all the time,” is a comment on the light from her window glinting off the photo of the Minutemen Sally is now holding in her hand, and transitions into

Panel 7:  with the flashbulb going off as that picture was actually taken.


Panel 1:  Our first interaction with the Minutemen: (left to right) Mothman, Dollar Bill, Captain Metropolis, the Comedian, Silk Spectre I, Hooded Justice, Nite Owl I, the photographer, and Silhouette.

Note the newspaper headline in the foreground:  “Scientists Make First Artificial Wonder Element: Plutonium.”  The calendar beside the paper shows us it is 1940 – the nuclear age is upon the world, foreshadowing the Manhattan Project, which will beget Dr. Manhattan, which will make these heroes obsolete.

Panel 2:  The Minutemen take their cues from superhero comics of that time period, with a “hall of justice” that has a table with all their superhero names on placards, the Minutemen symbol on the backs of the chairs, and trophies from some of their cases in the background such as Moloch’s Solar Mirror Weapon.

Panel 3:  Silhouette’s remark about the Poles aimed at Sally Jupiter (who changed her name from Juspeczyk to Jupiter) directly relates to Laurie’s comment to Rorschach in issue #1 that her mother changed her name so nobody would know she was Polish.


On this page, we experience the scene that people in the present have alluded to without actually saying it – Edward Blake’s attempted rape of Sally Jupiter set him against almost all of the rest of the masked adventurers, but he was a welcome recruit for our government.  The manner in which this scene is crafted is very unlike a typical comic book.  It is not titillating, not overdone, allowing it to resonate more strongly with readers.

Panel 6:  The gorilla mask, which we discover is King Mob’s Ape Mask, adds a subtle visual corroboration to the animalistic scene going on in the foreground.


Panel 1:  Mirroring the scene in issue #1 where we saw Rorschach through Dr. Manhattan’s legs, this scene where the Comedian is seen through Hooded Justice’s legs symbolizes what a “small” man Blake really is.

Panel 6:  Blake’s comment, “This is what gets you hot . . .” is the first insinuation that Hooded Justice may have been homosexual.

Of significant note, this panel mirrors Issue #1, Page 3, Panel 3 even down to the spot of blood dripping onto Blake’s costume where he will eventually be wearing his infamous smiley face button when he is killed in 1985.

Panel 9:  Note the clock above the door as Blake exits:  five minutes to midnight.


Panel 1:  The remark by Hooded Justice to Sally, “And, for God’s sake, cover yourself.” would have been a typical comment of the time.  This remark also transitions nicely into

Panel 2:  where we are looking at a scene from Sally Jupiter’s Tijuana bible, an ironic juxtaposition of two ways in which women’s sexuality is disrespected.

Panel 5:  Note the Nova Express headline:  “How Sick is Dick?  After 3rd Presidential Heart Op?”

Panel 6:  The painting in the background is by Alberto Vargas, a real-world pin-up artist of the early to mid twentieth century.

Panel 7:  Sally’s remark that “. . . it rains on the just an’ the unjust alike . . .” transitions nicely into

Panel 8:  back at the funeral, focusing on the umbrella and Adrian Veidt.  The remark in the previous panel symbolizes the dichotomy of his plan – either just or unjust depending upon how one views Veidt’s actions at the end of the story.


Panel 1:  This is a transition from the final panel, previous page.  The dialogue from the minister:  “Man that is born of woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of miseries (emphasis mine),” when read over Veidt’s image, which seems to be of contemplative melancholy, can be seen as a comment on the moral struggle that might be going through his head as his plan is beginning to move forward.

Panel 3:  The line, “. . . who for our sins art justly displeased.” is a reaction to the grave sin that Veidt has perpetrated upon Blake, as well as what will come from his ultimate plan.

Panel 4:  This is a cinematic transition from the present to the past with Veidt’s look not changing as we see him as Ozymandias in 1966.

Panel 5:  Another large panel, used as an establishing shot for readers’ introduction to the Crimebusters – (clockwise from left) Janey Slater, Dr. Manhattan, Captain Metropolis (a former Minuteman), Ozymandias, the Comedian, Rorschach, Nite Owl II, and Silk Spectre II – an adventurer’s group that came between the Minutemen and the Watchmen, but never really got off the ground. 

Also of note, and which will be explained later (as so much in Watchmen is), is the fact that Dr. Manhattan and Silk Spectre (Laurie Juspeczyk) are sharing a flirtatious glance.

News headlines:  “French Withdraw Military Commitment from NATO” and “Heart Transplant Patient Stable”.  We also note that the Comedian has changed his uniform from the gaudy yellow and purple jumpsuit (of which Ozymandias’s suit mirrors) to the red, white, and blue armor he sports for the duration of his career.


Panels 1-3:  These three panels form one continuous image, which illustrates the setting well, but – through the use of placing gutters within this single drawing – also imbues the scene with its timing.  If it had been created as a single wide panel, some might have read the varying pieces of dialogue as having to occur all at once, which would have stretched its credibility and also would have muddled its pacing.

Panel 1:  Note the clock in the background is poised at five minutes to midnight.

Laurie’s body language shows her pleasure and slight embarrassment at sharing a look with Dr. Manhattan on the previous page, foreshadowing the relationship we already know they will have in the near future.

The disbanding of the Minutemen in 1949 as mentioned by Captain Metropolis also coincides very closely with what is considered the end of the Golden Age of American superhero comics. 

Panel 2:  The “new social evils” that Captain Metropolis mentions – “promiscuity, drugs, campus subversion” – create a demarcation between his “older” conservative ideals and the more liberal sentiments of the mid-60s.  Coupled with things Hollis Mason cites in the excerpts from Under the Hood, Captain Metropolis (another red, white, and blue hero with government ties) can be seen as a neo-fascist.

News headline:  “Dr. Manhattan ‘An Imperialist Weapon’ Say the Russians.”

Also, we see Janey Slater’s reaction to Dr. Manhattan’s flirting with Laurie.  She is not pleased.

Panel 5:  Note Rorschach’s natural word balloon, in stark contrast to his rough balloons of the present.  This scene takes place before the event that changed him into the unhinged, brutal, uncompromising scourge of the underworld that everyone fears in 1985.  He also exhibits his penchant for working alone or in small groups, as he does with Nite Owl.

Panel 6:  Laurie and Dr. Manhattan are again exchanging a glance in the background.  We can also see one of Metropolis’s cards has dropped from his hand as everything he’d hoped for falls apart.

Panel 7:  The Comedian’s remark, “What’s going down . . . you got no idea,” is directed at the Crimebusters, but can also be construed as being directed at the audience, who does not know the devastation that is coming within the book (unless you’re someone that likes to look ahead in your books).


Panel 4:  The Comedian’s line, “inside thirty years the nukes are gonna be flyin’” is a bit of foreshadowing while also laying bare the fear of the citizens of the world as to what is on the horizon.

Also, we see – somewhat obscured by the Comedian’s flames – two more of the “crimes” Captain Metropolis feels they should be fighting against – anti-war demos (demonstrations) and black unrest – giving credence to the allegations made by Hollis Mason in Under the Hood.

Panel 7:  As Ozymandias looks at the charred map, which represents the fallout from a nuclear war, Captain Metropolis says, “Somebody has to save the world.”  This is the point where Veidt realizes he is the one that needs to do something about the impending doom looming over the world. 

Panel 8:  Another cinematic transition from the past to present, with the layout of the image a near match to the previous one as Veidt, in the present, appears to be contemplating that day twenty years in the past, a decision that has led him to this point right here.


Panel 1:  Back at the funeral, we are now going to see the Comedian from Dr. Manhattan’s point of view, and it is appropriate that we open with a shot looking down from on high, again symbolizing how Dr. Manhattan looms over everything in this world.

It is also worth noting that the only ones that have any color attributed to them – other than the minister’s red stole – are those that have some connection with masked adventurers – Blake’s coffin, Veidt, Manhattan, Dreiberg, and, with the distinct red roses, Moloch.

Panels 3-4:  We have another of the “cinematic” transitions where Manhattan’s visage remains unchanged (other than his dress) and the roses being held by Moloch turn into the fireworks display in Vietnam. 

Panel 5:  Newspaper headline in the foreground reads:  “[VIC]TORY!  [Sa]ys Dick!”  Unlike in our time, America wins in Vietnam thanks to Dr. Manhattan. 


Panel 2:  The Comedian’s remark, “I mean, if we’d lost this war . . . I think it might have driven us a little crazy, y’know?  As a country,” is a comment on the reality of the Vietnam conflict, in stark contrast to the Vietnam conflict in Watchmen

Panel 5:  An iconic image from the Vietnam conflict is that last helicopter leaving Saigon in 1972, but here Richard Nixon is on the first helicopter “in” to Saigon.  This lays the groundwork for Nixon’s ability to get the Constitution changed so that he can run for more than two terms.


On this page, the Comedian – in his red, white and blue uniform – acts in a manner contrary to how any “patriotic” heroes such as Captain America and the Shield have been portrayed in comics.  But, he is emblematic of how America often handles itself in these smaller, “third-world” countries (believing the might of America’s military and economy trumps any third-world nation) and is emblematic of how many countries around the world view the U.S.A.

The use of reds on this and the following page by colorist John Higgins accentuates the fatalistic nature of this confrontation between Blake and the woman he impregnated while fighting in Vietnam.

Panel 6:  This is where the Comedian gets that terrible scar we see in issue #1, and is the reason he will adopt the full mask for the remainder of his career.

Panel 7:  Note the drop of blood over the right eye of the Comedian’s smiley button, just as it was when he was murdered.  Also, the Vietnamese woman’s slice along Blake’s face coincides with the bloodying of the button, as the right side of his face (same as the smiley button) is sliced open.


Panel 1:  Blake’s unflinching murder of the woman carrying his child is yet more evidence of his unrepentant personality.  But the fact that Dr. Manhattan stands there doing nothing is an even more telling indication of how detached from humanity he has become, a fact that Blake will articulate in panels 4 & 5 of this page.

Panel 5:  Blake continues to accurately analyze Dr. Manhattan, telling him how he did not care for Janey Slater and soon will drop Laurie (“Sally Jupiter’s little gal”), foreshadowing what will happen – and, more importantly, what Manhattan already knows will happen.

Panel 6:  There is irony in the Comedian’s remark, “God help us all,” as Blake is talking to God in the form of Dr. Manhattan.

Panel 7:  Dr. Manhattan is phased through the table, visually symbolizing again how out of touch he is becoming if he doesn’t even take notice of a table running through his legs.

Panel 8:  As with other transitions in this issue, we see Dr. Manhattan – now in the present – standing in exactly the same pose as he was in the previous panel fourteen years in the past.


Panel 1:  “Earth to Earth . . .” over Veidt’s head could symbolize his wish to save the “earth.”

Panel 2:  “Ashes to ashes . . .” over Dr. Manhattan’s head could symbolize his genesis, as his body was disintegrated into “ash.”

Panel 3:  “Dust to dust . . .” over Dreiberg’s head could symbolize the layers of dust on his Owl ship and accessories, and further symbolize the dust that has settled on his life since he gave up being a masked adventurer.

This homily running across panels 1-3 is also symbolic of the death of the costumed adventurer – which starts in the next panel during the police strike of 1977 and the subsequent passing of the Keene Act, which outlawed masked vigilantes.

Panel 4:  We transition into Dan Dreiberg’s flashback with the Comedian, taking place during the riots of ’77.  This scene occurs in the same intersection where a majority of the action in Watchmen happens, as we can see the Treasure Island comic store on the left and the ad for Nostalgia perfume on our right.  Below the Treasure Island sign we can see somebody spray painting the graffiti:  “Who Watches the Watchmen?” – which is never seen in its entirety throughout this series.

We also see the Comedian in his full mask for the first time.


Panel 1: In the background, the guy doing the graffiti is spray painting an “H.”

Panel 2:  The woman’s comment to the Comedian that he is “a pig [and a] rapist” means Hollis Mason’s book must have been published by this time.

Panel 4:  Having Nite Owl and the Comedian teaming up at this point really helps to accentuate the differences in their personalities, as well as giving voice to both sides of the issue within the same camp (the heroes).

Panel 5:  The Comedian’s remark about some “new act being herded through” is in reference to the Keene Act.

Panel 6:  The newspaper headline in the foreground offers more concrete evidence to the background of this incident – ‘Cops Say “Let Them Do It”’ is illustrative of the police strike while “Senator Keene Proposes Emergency Bill” is in reference to the Keene Act outlawing masked vigilantes.

The spatter on Archie – the Owl Ship – to the right of the newspaper is in the same form as the blood spatter on the Comedian’s smiley face button.


Again, this page is washed in shades of red, signifying the bloody confrontation the Comedian and Nite Owl just went through, as well as the bloody confrontation to come.  Metaphorically speaking, red would seem to be the dominant color of the Comedian’s outfit.

Panel 2:  Nite Owl’s comment that Rorschach “works mostly on his own these days” is in reference to the event that changes Rorschach into the relentless champion of justice that he becomes – an event we will see in Chapter VI: “The Abyss Gazes Also,” of which a superficial description is mentioned by the Comedian in

Panel 3:  when Blake says, “[Rorschach]’s been nuts ever since that kidnapping he handled three years back.”

Also in the foreground:  more “Who Watches the Watchmen?” graffiti.

Panel 4:  Like Rorschach, the Comedian sees himself as completely sane and mentally balanced.

Panels 7-8:  Alan Moore includes some transitional dialogue here as the Comedian tells Nite Owl, “Let’s really put these jokers through some changes” in panel 7, and the caption over panel 8, from the minister at the Comedian’s funeral, is saying, “. . . who shall change our vile body . . .” at the point when the Comedian’s body has gone through the ultimate change from life to death.

Panels 8-9:  And our transition from the past to the present is delineated by Dave Gibbons utilizing – as he has with all of the flashbacks in this issue – the same layout in each panel with Nite Owl’s “past” hand morphing into his “present” hand as he stands in his civilian identity of Dan Dreiberg, and the Comedian, who was disappearing into the smoke in 1977, is in the same place in the present, albeit within a coffin that is being let down into its grave.


Panels 2-3:  Dan dropping the smiley face button into Blake’s grave is obviously symbolic of the death of the Comedian.

Panel 4:  In the background, Moloch is leaving flowers on Blake’s grave.

Panel 5:  Dr. Manhattan seems to be the only one of the three adventurers that noticed Moloch’s gesture. 

Panel 6:  The caption:  “As we forgive those that trespass against us . . .” over an image of Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias shaking hands foreshadows the conflict that will come later in the book between these two.

Panel 7:  “And lead us not into temptation” could be read as Kovacs’s (as Rorschach) temptation to follow and interrogate Moloch.

Panel 8:  “. . . deliver us from evil” can be read as a commentary on Moloch walking away (trying to escape) Rorschach (in the foreground in his civilian identity)

Panel 9:  The color scheme accentuating those who had a direct relationship with Edward Blake, as noted in the commentary for Page 12, Panel 1, continues as Kovacs’s hair stands out drastically against the drab coloring of the rest of the scene.


Panel 2:  An echo of the news headline glimpsed previously as a newspaper flutters by on the wind:  “Soviets Will Not Tolerate U.S. Adventurism in Afghanistan.”

Panel 5:  Shadowed in the foreground at the right of the panel we can see an overturned ice tray, what appears to be an ice cream box in the trash can, a pizza box leaning against the trash, some frozen food beside that, and a wire refrigerator shelf also leaning against the trash can – all contents of Moloch’s refrigerator, giving us a clue as to what will happen in panel 7.


Panel 4:  Rorschach’s comment, “Heard you attended funeral today” is another clue as to the identity of Rorschach, as it would be next to impossible for him to discover Moloch had been to Blake’s funeral in the time it took Moloch to walk home, unless he had been in attendance (walking outside the cemetery with his “The End is Nigh” sign).


Panel 1:  Judging by the crucifix on the wall, the apparent image of Jesus above that, the praying angel on the dresser and what appears to be a Bible behind that, Moloch seems to have found religion during the intervening years since leaving his criminal life. 

This religious imagery in the background also symbolizes the subject of Blake’s dialogue:  Dr. Manhattan = God.

Panel 3:  The Comedian:  “You’re part of it, Moloch . . .”  This foreshadows the reality that Moloch is indeed connected – though he is unaware of this – to the intricate plan that has been set in motion, of which, the Comedian’s murder was a part.

Panel 4:  The Comedian’s mention of a list is important, including the fact that Janey Slater (Dr. Manhattan’s first “girlfriend”) is also on it.

Panel 5:  The Comedian knows that the list is intended to indict Dr. Manhattan, and the thought of “God” being attacked in this manner and how he might react is overwhelming for Blake.

Panel 7:  Another clue to the conspiracy about which Blake is talking – “the island,” as we will eventually see, is where the most outlandish aspect of this conspiracy is coming together.


Panel 3:  The Comedian drops the bottle of alcohol onto Moloch’s bed, and over the next few panels we watch it pour out of the bottle, pooling on Moloch’s bedsheets the way the Comedian’s blood pooled in the New York gutter as issue #1 opened.

Panel 4:  It won’t be blatant, but the “writers, artists, and scientists” on the island will be discussed or shown later in Watchmen.

Panel 8:  This panel mirrors Chapter I, Page 3, panel 3 where we see the Comedian bloodied by his intruder, just before he is sent through the window to the concrete below.  In this panel, the red from the neon light outside Moloch’s window coupled with Blake’s tears make it look like his face is covered with blood as it was in the scene from issue 1.

And his words, “Somebody explain it to me” mirror this same panel from the previous chapter, as the explanation – in the form of his murderer, Ozymandias – is right before him just before he is killed.

Panel 9:  Another visual transition with the image from the previous panel being laid out in a similar fashion to this one, with Rorschach taking the place of Blake, with both of them holding on to Moloch’s shirt in each of their scenes.

It is also interesting to note that the lighting effect of the neon sign outside of Moloch’s apartment, which creates a checker board effect on these two pages, is also symbolic of the fractured, uneven nature of Blake’s emotional state as he was confessing what he knew to Moloch.  This is the only time I can think of that we see the Comedian in such a state of anxiety.


Panel 4:  Laetril (or Laetrile) is a real-world drug chemically related to amygdaline, a substance found naturally in the pits of apricots and various other fruits.  It was marketed as a cancer cure but ultimately found to be fraudulent.

Panel 5:  The fact that Moloch has cancer will become important later in the series, as this will be part of the basis for publicly indicting Dr. Manhattan.


Panel 1:  The name of the act performing at the Burlesk theatre is “Enola Gay and the Little Boys” which is a reference to the first atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in WWII (nicknamed Little Boy) and the nickname of the B-29 bomber that dropped it (Enola Gay).  This also ties into Ozymandias's theories in Chapter X about increased warlike imagery in times of international tension – evidenced by the news headlines about the Russians not tolerating America in Afghanistan.

Panels 2-7:  It is again interesting to compare Rorschach’s journal entries, which are darkly poetic, with his conversational dialogue from the previous page, which comes across as stilted and direct. 

Panel 6:  Rorschach’s comment, “nothing is insoluble” also refers to his ability to easily pick the lock to the cemetery gate.

Panel 7:  “Nothing is hopeless.  Not while there’s life.”  These statements overlaid on a scene of Rorschach walking into the cemetery where Blake is buried is another example of the ironic juxtaposition Moore & Gibbons utilize in Watchmen.


Panel 4:  “We never die in bed” is overlaid on the scene where the Comedian is sitting watching television just before he is murdered.

Panel 5:  “Some animal urge to fight and struggle . . .” not only refers to King Mob’s ape mask in this picture, but, more importantly, to the rape scene we see just off-panel – highlighting the Comedian’s “animal urge” and Sally Jupiter’s “struggle.”

Panel 6:  “Others bury their head between the swollen teats . . .” is a comment on the Comedian’s head falling into the picture of a nude woman – his head falling “between [her] swollen teats” as he is beaten.

Panel 7:  “. . .and the future is bearing down like an express train” is in reference to the symbolic torching of the United States when the nuclear bombs fly, which the Comedian was talking about when he lit Captain Metropolis’s map with his lighter in this flashback scene.


Again, this page of flashbacks on the Comedian’s life along with the similar panels from the previous page are all bathed in shades of red, symbolizing the bloody life of Edward Blake and his equally bloody death.

Panel 1:  “He saw the cracks in society” refers to the cracks in the mirror behind Blake’s head as Ozymandias smashes him into it. 

Panel 2:  “He saw the true face of the twentieth century” refers to Blake’s scarred face, which became an outward sign of the ugliness he carried within him.

Panel 3:  “. . . life seems harsh and cruel” is overlaid on a scene where Blake is on the floor with blood flowing from his mouth as he is being kicked hard in the ribs.

Panel 4:  “. . . feels all alone in a threatening world” is a comment on this scene of the Comedian going off, alone if need be, to subdue the rioters during the police strike in 1977.

Panel 5:  “That should pick you up” is overlaid on the image of Blake being lifted by Ozymandias, just before he is thrown out his window.  Also, the mention of the “great clown Pagliacci” could be seen as a reference to the smiley face button, which is now spattered with blood, or the bloody face of the “Comedian” – both seen as symbols of Pagliacci’s sadness, which is the crux of the joke Rorschach is writing in his journal.

Panel 6:  “Man bursts into tears” is over the panel where the Comedian burst into tears in Moloch’s apartment.

Panel 7:  The punchline, “I am Pagliacci” is unexpected and sad, similar to this scene in which Blake is thrown out his apartment window.


Panel 2:  We discover the answer to Detective Fine’s question from Chapter I.  Blake does not black out before hitting the pavement.

Panel 3:  The caption “curtains” is on a scene that, colloquially, fades to black – though in this case it fades to red – as if a curtain were being dropped on the end of a Broadway show, representing the bloody end of the Comedian’s life.  It also transitions into

Panel 4:  as we have a close up shot of the red roses.  The rain on the roses almost looks like tears. 

Panel 6:  The fact that Rorschach takes a rose for his lapel exhibits more humanity than we have seen from him thus far, and gives us insight into the fact that he had great respect for the Comedian.


  1. Hey, nice effort you put here. Amazing job! I'm going through Watchmen again, reading your notes and those from here ( and it's been a great experience so far. Thank you very much. (As a side note, some of your notes are identical to those on website I linked before. Who copied who? Or... are you the same person? :o) )

  2. Mário,
    Thank you for the kind words. I truly appreciate that. As for any identical notes, that falls on me—“capnwacky” got there first with his annotations. I remember reading those notes many years back, and when I started this project I did go back and re-read a healthy chunk of that site again, along with listening to a couple of podcasts that did a deep dive into Watchmen around 2008-09, in anticipation of Zack Snyder’s film adaptation.
    I don’t remember actively copying any of the notes, but it is certainly possible that in taking notes from that site, I transcribed some of them verbatim, or close enough that when I expanded them for this project, I used the same wording. So, guilty as charged.


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  4. Hello! beautiful work u have done here. Just I wanted to say, that I'm pretty sure that the pagliacci joke is a reference to an spanish poem called "Vivir Llorando" (To live crying)
    In spanish is says:
    Viendo a Garrick -actor de la Inglaterra-
    el pueblo al aplaudirlo le decía:
    “Eres el más gracioso de la tierra,
    y más feliz…” y el cómico reía.

    Víctimas del spleen, los altos lores
    en sus noches más negras y pesadas,
    iban a ver al rey de los actores,
    y cambiaban su spleen en carcajadas.

    Una vez, ante un médico famoso,
    llegóse un hombre de mirar sombrío:
    sufro -le dijo-, un mal tan espantoso
    como esta palidez del rostro mío.

    Nada me causa encanto ni atractivo;
    no me importan mi nombre ni mi suerte;
    en un eterno spleen muriendo vivo,
    y es mi única pasión la de la muerte.

    -Viajad y os distraeréis. -¡Tanto he viajado!
    -Las lecturas buscad. -¡Tanto he leído!
    -Que os ame una mujer. -¡Si soy amado!
    -Un título adquirid. -¡Noble he nacido!

    -¿Pobre seréis quizá? -Tengo riquezas.
    -¿De lisonjas gustáis? -¡Tantas escucho!
    -¿Qué tenéis de familia? -Mis tristezas.
    -¿Vais a los cementerios? -Mucho… mucho.

    -De vuestra vida actual ¿tenéis testigos?
    -Sí, mas no dejo que me impongan yugos:
    yo les llamo a los muertos mis amigos;
    y les llamo a los vivos, mis verdugos.

    Me deja -agrega el médico- perplejo
    vuestro mal, y no debe acobardaros;
    tomad hoy por receta este consejo
    “Sólo viendo a Garrick podréis curaros”.
    -¿A Garrik? -Sí, a Garrick… La más remisa
    y austera sociedad le busca ansiosa;
    todo aquel que lo ve muere de risa;
    ¡Tiene una gracia artística asombrosa!
    -¿Y a mí me hará reír? -¡Ah! sí, os lo juro;
    Él sí; nada más él; más… ¿qué os inquieta?
    -Así -dijo el enfermo-, no me curo:
    ¡Yo soy Garrick!… Cambiadme la receta.

    ¡Cuántos hay que, cansados de la vida,
    enfermos de pesar, muertos de tedio,
    hacen reír como el actor suicida,
    sin encontrar para su mal remedio!

    ¡Ay! ¡Cuántas veces al reír se llora!
    ¡Nadie en lo alegre de la risa fíe,
    porque en los seres que el dolor devora
    el alma llora cuando el rostro ríe!

    Si se muere la fe, si huye la calma,
    si sólo abrojos nuestra planta pisa,
    lanza a la faz la tempestad del alma
    un relámpago triste: la sonrisa.

    El carnaval del mundo engaña tanto,
    que las vidas son breves mascaradas;
    aquí aprendemos a reír con llanto,
    y también a llorar con carcajadas.

    Juan de Dios Peza

    1. I don't have a good translation yet, as soon as I get one I will share it here