Monday, April 30, 2012

Watchmen Chapter IV - complete annotations


Thematic overview: 
This chapter focuses on Dr. Manhattan, the only true super-being in Watchmen.  Dr. Manhattan is a unique character in that he can see the universe on a quantum level.  Nothing, or almost nothing, is hidden from him, not even the future.  That is because Dr. Manhattan experiences all time at once – past, present, and future.  Time, like humanity, is irrelevant to him, a concept that has no meaning – which is why time is such a central theme in this chapter.

Moore & Gibbons attempt to offer us a glimpse of what it must be like to perceive things in the fashion Dr. Manhattan does.  They construct this chapter with that quantum perception in mind, and do a brilliant job of conveying, as best they can, this sense of uber-consciousness.  This chapter is told in a non-linear fashion, jumping from past to present to future from one page or one panel to the next – similar to the films of Alejandro González Iñárritu or TV shows like LOST – while managing to propel the narrative forward.  It is a masterful job that rewards with subsequent readings, which offer insights into earlier portions of the chapter and reveal the rich tapestry produced by Moore & Gibbons.

Another element of this chapter that heightens our understanding of Dr. Manhattan’s world-perception is the repetition of panels, whether in full or in part, that accentuates this sense of seeing everything at once (because if Dr. Manhattan does see all times at once, it only stands to reason that all of these images are on a continuous loop).  I don’t know if Gibbons utilized a photocopier to achieve this.  If not, his background in architecture, where plans and drawings must be precise, certainly helped. 

Many of the elements repeated hearken back to this time motif.  We see the falling cogs of the watch Jon worked on the day after the Hiroshima bombing – an act that prompted his father to push Jon into being a scientist.  The image of the broken watch – both Janey’s and the one salvaged from the rubble of Hiroshima after the United States dropped the atomic bomb – is seen many times.  Both of these watches symbolize, in different ways, the birth of Dr. Manhattan.  And the photograph of Jon and Janey at the circus – a frozen moment in time – which is left in the red sands of Mars by Dr. Manhattan, repeats many times, symbolizing the loss of a life Dr. Manhattan may have wanted when he was still human.   

Ultimately, Dr. Manhattan is the demarcation line in this alternate world.  Like Jesus Christ, there was “before” Dr. Manhattan and there was “after” Dr. Manhattan.  His time brought about a revolution in the world, and his exodus from our planet ushered in yet another new era.  Dr. Manhattan is the ultimate watchmaker, creating reality by either being, or not being, present on the world of Watchmen.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


On my first reading of Watchmen, I expected the text pieces in the back of each issue would all be excerpted chapters from Hollis Mason’s autobiography Under the Hood, as each of the first three chapters included these excerpts.  I found it interesting – delving into Mason’s psyche to see what prompted him to become a costumed adventurer humanized him in a way that could not be fully realized in the main comic.  And, by way of Mason’s inside knowledge, I also got to know the other members of his “spandex set.”  Of course, once I read chapter four, it was evident Moore planned on utilizing a variety of “resources” from the world of Watchmen to fully flesh out these characters. 

Much of the text in Under the Hood only tangentially relates to the main narrative, as it mostly deals with Hollis Mason’s personal history.  But Moore also peppers these excerpts with little details that flesh out the world of Watchmen, providing insights into this alternate reality not as easily conveyed through the comic narrative.  The biggest hurdle comic books have as a storytelling medium is the lack of space within the format.  Moore’s use of prose at the end of each chapter was an elegant solution to this disadvantage.

One interesting detail gleaned from Mason’s autobiography was the fact that comic books began in exactly the same manner as they did in our “real world.”  Hollis Mason, during his time as a beat cop, discovered Action Comics #1 and the Superman story therein, when he saw the kids on his beat reading it.  Mason asked one boy if he could read his copy – ostensibly to forge bonds with those he was sworn to protect – and was immediately captivated by the costumed hero from Krypton.  Like the pulps he’d enjoyed when younger, this new adventurer spurred Mason’s imagination and inspired his own later costumed exploits.

It was no coincidence that in the world of Watchmen, “real superheroes” came to the fore in 1939, just as their four-color analogues in our world were exploding in the public mindset.  But with real superheroes like Hooded Justice and Nite Owl and Silk Spectre, the allure of superhero comics quickly faded.  With the real thing who needed a second-rate, static version printed on cheap newsprint? This was the first of many differences between the world of Watchmen and our own, a difference that also accounted for the popularity of pirate comics in this alternate reality.

Moore knows his comics history, which probably explains why he chose to have superheroes arrive in the world of Watchmen at the same time as their rise as comic book characters in our own world – along with the obvious narrative uses an older generation of heroes could provide his story.  Similar to this costumed adventurer fad in the 1939 of Watchmen, the era of this golden age of heroes spanned roughly the same decade that the golden age of superhero comic books did in our own.  The popularity of costumed adventurers burned hotly during the early part of the 1940s, but with the successful conclusion of World War II, that popularity waned.  In 1949, the Minute Men disbanded and things became quiet on the costumed adventurer front, coinciding roughly with the decline of the golden age of superhero comics.  But the Silver Age was just around the corner, as, in the back-matter for Chapter IV, Dr. Manhattan was introduced to an unsuspecting world in March, 1960 (which falls somewhere in between the birth of the Silver Age of superhero comics – with 1956’s Showcase #4 introducing the new Flash – and that of the Marvel Age of comics – in late 1961 with the publication of Fantastic Four #1).

Perhaps the most interesting detail in the back-matter for these first four chapters can be found at the end of Chapter III (in Chapter V of Under the Hood), when Hollis discussed Hooded Justice and his exit from adventuring.  Hooded Justice was the first superhero, and when the Minute Men disbanded, he was the one who disappeared like a wisp of smoke.  Even his fellow adventurers did not know his true identity.  But the New Frontiersman wrote an article linking the disappearance of circus strong man Rolf Müller with that of Hooded Justice – both figures vanished shortly after the hearings before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC).  This was followed, three months later, by the discovery of a decomposed body that washed ashore near Boston and was believed to be Müller. 

This might seem like some innocuous, titillating conjecture, but when the connections are made with scenes from Chapter II, page 7 and Chapter XI, page 18, the truth falls into place.  The first scene takes place just after the Comedian’s rape of Silk Spectre.  Hooded Justice comes in on them and physically beats the Comedian, who threatens Hooded Justice, telling him “…I got your number, see?  And one of these days, the joke’s gonna be on you.”  In the latter scene, Ozymandias is recounting his formative years as a costumed adventurer.  Early on, he decided to research his masked predecessors and investigated the disappearance of Hooded Justice.  This investigation led him to the government operative responsible for the initial investigation after the HUAC hearings, one Edward Blake, the Comedian.  Blake reported he was unable to find Hooded Justice and the case was closed.  Ozymandias contemplates the possibility that Blake may have found Hooded Justice and killed him, reporting his failure so that it would not be pursued further.  Add this to the speculation that Hooded Justice was Rolf Müller, and we realize that Ozymandias’s conjecture is correct.

I know there are some who refuse to read the text pieces at the end of each chapter of Watchmen.  That is certainly their right, and the main story can be enjoyed without them.  But those who don’t include the back-matter as part of their reading are missing out on a lot of details that enrich and expand the main narrative in so many ways.  Moore infused this book with seemingly insignificant pieces of information that, when formed into a whole – like the bits regarding Hooded Justice’s exit from adventuring and the subsequent discovery of the decomposed body of Rolf Müller – provide a fuller, richer, and more satisfying experience.  That, above almost everything else, is what sets Watchmen apart from so many other comic stories.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Watchmen Chapter IV - page 28


Panel 4:  The comment regarding the falling cogs in 1945 that “it’s too late, always has been, always will be too late” is an appropriate description of Dr. Manhattan’s life to this point, and is also a foreshadowing of what will happen with the heroes’ attempt to stop the conspiracy come the end of the story.

Panel 5:  The Nodus Gordii Mountains, an actual mountain range on Mars, translates from the Latin to “Gordian Knot,” yet another symbol of the problem before these adventurers and another symbol of who is ultimately responsible – the man in the present patterned after Alexander the Great who cut the Gordian Knot, Adrian Veidt.

Also note, this panel is an expanded view of the partial image we first saw on page 3, panel 8.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Watchmen Chapter IV - pages 26-27

PAGES 26-27

Panels 4-5 (p.26) to 1-3(p.27):    This is another example of the thought Moore & Gibbons put into the creation and the storytelling of Watchmen.  By utilizing a static image of Dr. Manhattan floating over the Martian landscape, these two artists allow the fortress Dr. Manhattan creates to grow up out of the sand, imbuing the imagery with motion, a difficult accomplishment with a static image on a two-dimensional space such as a comic page.

It is also noteworthy that much of the construction of this fortress consists of what appear to be giant cogs, hourglasses, and arrows (as might be found on a sundial), all aspects symbolically linked to Dr. Manhattan as a “watchmaker.” 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Watchmen Chapter IV - page 25


Panel 4:  At this point in the flashbacks – which have actually caught us up to just a day before the present of this chapter – Jon now wears no costume.  It is at this point, as far from humanity as he can be, that he loses Laurie just as he lost Janey. 

Panel 8:  Note the red star in the sky – Mars.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IV - page 24


Panel 2:  Dr. Manhattan’s description of the sand of Mars running through his hands – “. . . falling haphazard, random, a disorganized stream . . . that seems pregnant with the possibility of every conceivable shape . . .” – is also an apt description of humanity – a description that will be returned to later and have great consequence to Dr. Manhattan’s story within Watchmen.

Panel 3:  Dr. Manhattan’s remark that “things have their shape in time . . . some marble blocks have statues embedded in their future” foreshadows what he creates at the end of this issue.

Panel 4:  This flashback is to a scene we have not encountered in the book, yet it contains a number of noteworthy pieces of symbolism and imagery.  We can see the signs of impending doom: the clock approaching 12:00, the mmmeltdowns advertisement, the Nostalgia ad, a copy of the New Frontiersman, and a tattered poster calling for “Four More Years” of Nixon.  Also noteworthy are the products of these superheroes, the hydrogen dirigibles in the sky and the Veidt helmet and ball pipe owned by the man in the foreground.

Panel 5:  This image is a reversal from when we saw Jon and Janey walking the boardwalk on page 6.  The boy in the foreground, as well as the balloon off-panel, was visible in the background of that previous image.

Dr. Manhattan’s remark, “. . . the fat man is already lumbering toward . . . unwitting destiny” is not only a remark on what happened when the fat man stepped on, and broke, Janey’s watch, but – with the symbolism of the broken watch – is also symbolic of the atomic bomb, code named “Fat Man,” that was dropped on Nagasaki.

Panel 7:  The time on this pocketwatch – stopped at the instant the atomic bomb detonated in Hiroshima – is at the same time as Janey’s watch when it was broken by the “fat man” as seen on page 6.  And these “frozen” hands of the watch face transition directly into

Panel 8:  and the “frozen” hands on that first beer Janey bought Jon at the bestiary in Gila Flats.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IV - Page 23


Panel 1:  Broadcast of the passage of the Keene Act, alluded to previously, which outlaws masked vigilantes unless they work for the government.  Note that Dr. Manhattan and the Comedian are not “x”-ed out, as they are part of the U.S. government.

Panel 2:  Dr. Manhattan’s remark that he cannot be outlawed when the defense of the United States “rests in his hands” is ironic since he has left Earth for Mars.  It is also a comment upon the sand slipping through his fingers in the image on this panel.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IV - Page 22


Panels 1-2:  Jon’s remark in panel 1:  “This deserted planet: it is so wonderfully, completely silent” transitions directly into panel 2, which is a flashback to the loud, raucous riots of 1977 and Jon’s observation, “In 1977, a city is shouting.”  Also note, again, how John Higgins bathes panel 2, one signifying confrontation, in a deep, dark red.

Panel 3:  Note that now – six years on from his last costume change within these flashbacks – Dr. Manhattan is wearing what is basically a g-string.  He continues to wear less and less clothing as he becomes more distant from humanity and closer to a god.

Panel 6:  Laurie’s curse, “Jesus,” is not only an emotional reaction to Dr. Manhattan’s sudden teleportation of all the rioters, but is also a commentary upon the Christ-like figure that Jon has become as he floats behind her. 

Dr. Manhattan uses the same rationalization with regard to the two rioters who suffered heart attacks upon finding themselves transported inside as was used in the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan.  Both decisions, and comments, are made at some distance from reality – in a geographical and emotional sense, respectively.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IV - Page 21


Panel 1:  The headline in the background reads:  “Third Term For Dick?” in reference to the Constitutional Amendment alluded to in the caption box, which would allow Richard “Dick” Nixon to run for more than two terms as President of the United States.

Panel 2:  Symbolically, Adrian’s choice of Antarctica as the site of his fortress is an example of how removed from humanity he is, similar to Dr. Manhattan, due to his brilliance, wealth, and power.

Some more practical thoughts regarding Adrian’s “Fortress of Solitude”: 

In order to fulfill his plan, Adrian Veidt has chosen the most inhospitable climate in which to build his base of operations, Antarctica.  Here he can be above it all – especially if one considers the fact that the man after which he patterned himself, Alexander the Great, lived at a time when “up” on a map pointed toward what is today considered “south.” 

Also, by isolating himself, he is able to distance himself from humanity in preparation for what is to come. 

And finally, as a tactical consideration, this would be an almost impossible position for someone to approach without notice.

Panel 3:  Note the small pyramids on the table just to the left in the background – Adrian’s corporate symbol.

Panel 4:  The ornamentation on the pillars in the foreground – as well as the decorative markings behind the three adventurers as they descend the staircase – form A’s and V’s for Adrian Veidt, showcasing the hubris that is such a part of Ozymandias.

Panel 5:  The exchange between Adrian and Jon, specifically Adrian’s remark that scientists are only limited “by their imaginations” coupled with Jon’s response of “and their consciences” foreshadows what is coming.  Adrian’s plan is a product of his imagination at the cost of his conscience.  It is ironic that Dr. Manhattan, so far removed from humanity, would be the one to note the importance of scientists’ consciences in their work.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IV - Page 20


Panel 1:  This first panel – taking up the same space as six panels in the 9-grid format – is another example of how Moore & Gibbons are able to utilize the comic page to great advantage.  Having worked within the confines of a 9-panel layout, the use of this large panel adds impact to the scene while putting the nature of Dr. Manhattan’s size into better context.  They also planned the chapter out so that this image would fall on a verso page, hiding the revelation from readers and enhancing the image’s impact even more. 

It is also worth noting that Dr. Manhattan is now down to what amounts to just a pair of underwear for his costume, symbolically divesting himself of more of his humanity.

Panel 2:  The remarks of how the Vietnamese wish to surrender directly to Dr. Manhattan with “an almost religious awe” and the comparison made to how the Japanese viewed the atomic bomb are two apt metaphors for Dr. Manhattan.  He is a god, and he is an atomic bomb in human form.

Panels 3-4:  Dr. Manhattan’s comment in panel 4 that he “no longer wish[es] to look at dead things” is not only a remark about him turning away from the stars (many of which are dead, the images in the sky being light from those stars that has traveled millions of years to reach us), but also relates to the previous panel, which is another view of V.V.N. night when Dr. Manhattan watched Edward Blake gun down (make dead) the woman carrying his child.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IV - Page 19


Panel 1:  Another sign of Dr. Manhattan’s disinterest in humanity is the revelation here that he never told his father that he was not dead, after the military informed him of his son Jon’s death soon after the accident with the intrinsic field experiment.

Panel 4:  Does the fact that Dr. Manhattan thinks of Edward Blake as “deliberately amoral [emphasis mine]” mean that he looks upon himself as unable to have any morality because he is no longer human?

The woman hugging Blake is the one he impregnated and then killed, as readers saw in Chapter II, Page 15.

Panel 6:  Note the drop of sweat that has fallen onto the smiley face button (just beneath the lowest caption box), just where the blood splattered on it in the first chapter.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IV - Page 18


Panel 2;  In this panel, Janey looks older – as she screams at Dr. Manhattan for chasing a teenager – and the painting in the background, specifically the melting watch face in between these two, could symbolize Janey’s time on this Earth melting away.

Panel 6:  Note the time on the clock, just a few minutes to midnight.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IV - Page 17


Panel 1:  The fact that Dr. Manhattan has chosen to relieve himself of a good portion of his suit, leaving him with something akin to a gymnast’s leotard, is a sign that he is moving farther away from humankind. 

Panel 3:  As noted above, Laurie – in 1985 – has the same earrings that Dr. Manhattan gave to Janey in 1963. 

Panel 8:  Dr. Manhattan’s comment that he is “standing still” is a remark on how he no longer ages, but is also a statement to the fact that, in this panel, he is standing still while staring at the stars. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IV - Page 16


Panel 1:  This panel segues directly from the final panel of the previous page, wherein Dr. Manhattan mentioned that “Eighteen months away, an electric limousine is pulling onto Dealey Plaza,” where JFK was shot.

Panel 3:  The painting that Dr. Manhattan is studying is “The Persistence of Memory” by Salvador Dali.  The melting pocket watches, in this context, symbolize the malleable nature of time with respect to Dr. Manhattan’s perceptions, while the title of the work itself is another way of looking at Dr. Manhattan’s quantum perception.  To him, all things happen at once, which is to say that he remembers everything about his life because he has already experienced it, thus he has a persistence of memory.

Janey’s comment that Dr. Manhattan knows how things work in the world except people and that his prediction that they will soon make love is wrong is ironic considering the fact that he does have terrible difficulty with his relationships and has no empathy for the human condition, and yet, for all of that, his declaration that they will make love is correct.

Panel 8:  Note the earrings are a reproduction of the hydrogen atom – Dr. Manhattan’s symbol.  We have seen these before, or ones just like these, on Laurie in the previous issue.  That scene will be “replayed” on the following page.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IV - Page 15


Panel 1:  The cryptic mention of “Dallas” in the second caption box refers to November 22, 1963, the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

Panels 2-7:  The conversation between Hollis Mason and Dr. Manhattan signified not only the changeover from the “old guard” of the Minutemen to the “new guard,” eventually, of the Watchmen, but also, again, highlights the differences between humanity and Dr. Manhattan, while also accentuating the way in which he has changed, and will change, the world. 

And yet, some horrible incidents of history still occur, as evidenced by

Panel 7:  where Dr. Manhattan mentions – in the caption box – Dealey Plaza, the spot in Dallas, Texas where President John F. Kennedy was gunned down on November 22, 1963.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IV - Page 14


Panel 1:  Dr. Manhattan’s comment on the other costumed adventurers at the charity event in this panel is interesting and humorous and can also be seen as a commentary on superhero comics in general:  “. . . friendly middle-aged men who like to dress up.  I have nothing in common with them.”  Despite the fact that Dr. Manhattan is part of this “adventurers” fraternity, he feels no connection to these other heroes, a sign he is becoming – or is already – detached from humanity. 

The only one Dr. Manhattan finds interesting and might possibly see as a peer is Ozymandias.  This is interesting because in chapter XI the manner in which Ozymandias thinks of Dr. Manhattan – particularly by the fact that he always calls him Jon – shows that this feeling of being a peer is reciprocated, something that Adrian Veidt finds in nobody else, as far as we can tell.

Panel 2:  Yet another example of how detached from humanity Jon has become is exhibited when he disintegrates the head of a hoodlum who had pulled a gun on him.  The extreme nature of this act, done with such indifference, is a prime example of how Dr. Manhattan views humanity, especially considering the fact that the bullets could not have harmed him.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IV - Page 13


Panel 1:  This newscaster looks eerily similar to Clark Kent who worked for WGBS news in the Superman comics during the 1970s, which is appropriate considering the fact that this newsman is breaking the story of Dr. Manhattan’s existence – the Superman of this world.

Panels 8-9:  Janey’s comment that Jon has “arrived” is ironic considering his quantum perception of time, something he emphasizes in the following panel when he says, “I feel as if I’ve been here all the time.”

Friday, April 13, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IV - Page 12


Panel 1:  The comment, “everything is frozen” represents the photograph about to be taken (a frozen moment in time) as well as the Cold War, which, as a result of the introduction of Dr. Manhattan, takes a decidedly different turn from events in our own time.  Also note that Dr. Manhattan’s image in the camera lens, as would be expected, is upside down, a symbol that he has turned the world and the reality people believed on its head.

Panel 2:  Note that at first, Dr. Manhattan wore a full suit, and the marketing department also gave him a headpiece with a brand emblem on it.  He is still, on some level, believed to be human, and he probably believes that as well at this early stage in his “quantum” being.

Panel 5:  By taking off the helmet and branding himself with the symbol of a hydrogen atom – a symbol he respects – Dr. Manhattan takes his first step away from humanity toward his new reality and says as much when he tells the photographer, “[The marketing department doesn’t] know what I need.  You don’t know what I need.”

Panel 7:  Jon discovers that he has been named Dr. Manhattan, obviously without being consulted. 

Panel 8:  The “ominous associations” with the name Dr. Manhattan to which Jon refers would be the name’s association with the “Manhattan Project,” which was the name of the project that was formed to develop the first nuclear weapon during World War II.

This fact is accentuated by the image in this panel, which we previously saw on page 3, panel 3, of Jon’s father discussing the front page story the day after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

Panel 9:  More juxtaposition of words and images as Jon says, “It’s all getting out of my hands” in reference to how the United States government branded him after he was introduced, played over the image of Jon allowing the picture of him and Janey to fall out of his hand, which, in turn, symbolizes what will happen to their relationship.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IV - Page 11


Panels 2-3:  The statement, “All gold comes from supernovas” transitions nicely into the following panel where Janey has given Jon a gold ring as a Christmas gift, a gift that is symbolically attempting to keep Jon grounded within his humanity, in spite of his transformation into Dr. Manhattan.

Panel 6:  Janey says she is scared because “it feels as if everything’s changed.”  With the appearance of Dr. Manhattan, this is a very true statement, as has already been demonstrated in Watchmen.

Panel 9:  Note again, within the caption box, that Dr. Manhattan sees everything within the present tense stating, “As I lie [to Janey in 1959] I hear her shouting at me in 1963; sobbing in 1966.  My fingers open.  The photograph [in 1985] is falling . . .” To him, these events all take place at the same time.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IV - page 10


Panel 1:  November 22nd is an auspicious date in American history – the date that John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in 1963.  The use of this date symbolizes the significance of Dr. Manhattan’s appearance within this universe.

Panel 4:  Note that Jon – now Dr. Manhattan and as close to a god on Earth as there will be – is posed in a very Christ-like pose.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IV - page 9


Panel 3:  Again, Moore & Gibbons play the words against the imagery as the gentleman on the right complains about Castro’s beard and the countercultural image of Elvis Presley, stating, “I thought I’d just about seen it all” at which point a brain and circulatory system with eyes materializes behind them – something far more jarring than Elvis or Castro.

Panels 5-7:  In this series of panels we see Jon Osterman working to reconfigure his body – first, his circulatory system, followed by a partially muscled skeleton.  The third panel repeats the image previously seen where a younger Jon was working with the many cogs and gears of his father’s watch in order to put it back together.  This image symbolizes what Jon is now doing – taking the various “cogs and gears” of his body and putting them back together in the correct order so that he can have a working body again.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IV - page 8


Panels 2-3:  The caption, “Good as new,” could be interpreted as a commentary on how Jon Osterman might be perceived once he has changed into Dr. Manhattan (A new, improved Jon Osterman!)

Also, note the hands on the watch – that had previously been frozen when it was broken – segues into a scene of Jon and Janey’s “frozen hands” on the glass of beer seen earlier in this issue.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IV - page 7


Panel 6:  Note that Jon Osterman is now looking through the thick glass of this intrinsic field chamber from the other side, a reversal of page 4, panel 5.

Block Fifteen is the subject of the intrinsic field experiment for this day, and the fifteenth letter of the alphabet is “O” for Osterman.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IV - page 6


Panel 2:  The remark “killing time” within the caption box highlights this chapter’s theme in a number of ways.  Two of these are: 
-      It is an allusion to the atomic bombs dropped on Japan that killed time for those within the blast area.
-      The fact that Janey’s watch breaks (time killed) results in the killing of time as a linear reality for Jon Osterman when he becomes Dr. Manhattan, a reality precipitated by Jon’s father negating his son’s desire to become a watch repairman (killing his dream to work with timepieces).

Panels 2-3:  The carnival barker getting Jon and Janey’s picture calls them “young lovers.”  Jon tries to protest but is unable to get the words out.  This is yet another example of other people dictating Jon Osterman’s reality/life.

Also, note the balloon flying away in the background of panel 3, which was lost by the boy in the background of panel 2 (you can see the balloon just below the word balloon, ironically).  This is something Jon is unable to see in the present, but something to which Jon, as Dr. Manhattan, will allude to as we progress through this issue, exhibiting how the breadth of his sensory perception expands after the transformation.

Panel 5:  The “Fat Man” that steps on Janey’s watch and breaks it is symbolic of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, which was nicknamed “Fat Man.”  This is the pivotal experience that results in the creation of Dr. Manhattan.  As an accentuation of that, note the way John Higgins bathes the panel in red, symbolizing the “death” of Jon Osterman.

Panel 6:  “Events mesh together with soft precision . . .” is a commentary on how Jon and Janey’s relation is being consummated in 1959, symbolized by the precise instruments of the watch in this repeated image, which would provide for a smoothly running timepiece when put back together correctly.

Panel 9:  This image of the cracked watchface and the time at which it stopped will be mirrored later in this issue by a watchface used as a cover image of Time magazine for a remembrance of the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.  These watches represent the death of innocence (represented by Jon Osterman in Watchmen and by our world prior to the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan) and the birth of a nuclear age (represented by Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen and the use of atomic bombs on Japan by the United States in the real world).  This broken watch is the final catalyst that forces Jon onto his path of godhood.

It is also ironic that Dr. Manhattan is discussing a variety of points in time over the image of a broken watch.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IV - page 5


Panels 1-2:  These two panels mirror one another.  Panel 1 shows Jon as he first enters the bestiary at Gila Flats.  The second one shows us when he, as Dr. Manhattan, entered the bestiary in the previous chapter, just before leaving for Mars.  It is interesting to note that Dr. Manhattan comments in panel 1 that when he is remembering (from our point of view) this past event he feels a sense of déjà vu as a result of having “seen this place before.”  But that time before actually occurred almost twenty-five years in the future, at the point in the previous chapter when he retrieved the photograph before leaving Earth.  This is just another example of the quantum point of view Dr. Manhattan has, seeing the future as past, and the past as present.

Panel 4:  We discover that the pictures behind the bar, from which Dr. Manhattan took his in chapter III, are put there as remembrances of those who died at Gila Flats Research Center.

Panel 5:  Jon says, “Other people seem to make all my moves for me.”  This is accentuated when Janey replies with, “Can I get you a drink?” making the first move, deciding for Jon what he might like.

Panel 6:  This image, as with so many images in this issue, will show up again.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IV - page 4


Panel 1:  Professor Glass represents the “old” with his white hair, his bowtie, and the slide rule in his pocket, while Jon will become something completely new as Dr. Manhattan – something undreamt of.

This is also the first appearance of Wally Weaver, alluded to by Doug Roth of Nova Express in the previous chapter as having been Dr. Manhattan’s “sidekick” who died of cancer.

Panel 3:  The exchange between Wally and Jon here is a classic example of irony.  Wally:  “. . . even [Albert Einstein] couldn’t figure women!”  This is also emblematic of Jon’s failed intimacies, especially after his transformation into Dr. Manhattan.  Jon:  “Well, I guess he’s just human, like everybody else.”  This is a statement from somebody who will soon no longer be human.

Panel 5:  This image of Jon looking through the glass will be mirrored later in this issue, and will also be mirrored in chapter XI when we will see Ozymandias doing something similar. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IV - page 3


Panels 2-3:  The discussion of Hiroshima is another symbol of the impending apocalypse (Hiroshima being one of the two cities upon which the United States dropped an atomic bomb to bring about the end of WWII) and it will be echoed by the “Hiroshima lovers” graffiti we will see later in the book. 

Panels 4-5:  Jon’s father is about to throw the pieces of his pocket watch out the window.  He wants his son to go into atomic science.  As we have seen thus far, Jon – as Dr. Manhattan – is a passive character, doing what others ask of him but rarely taking initiative, especially with respect – once he changes into Dr. Manhattan – to world-changing events that he already knows will happen.  This is another example of Jon doing what others tell him to do and failing to choose that which he wants to do. 

Panel 6:  “Professor Einstein says that time differs from place to place.”  This statement is an apt description of Dr. Manhattan’s quantum viewpoint of time and the world. 

Panel 7:   All three aspects of Dr. Manhattan’s time reality are expressed in this panel.  Jon’s father mentions his “profession is a thing of the past” while lamenting that his “son must have a future.”  And all of this is taking place in the present of 1945 as experienced by us and by Dr. Manhattan.

Panel 8:  Note, just off-panel – left, that this time when Dr. Manhattan speaks of the future, we are seeing him in the future as he stands on the glass balcony mentioned in panel 2 of the previous page.

Panel 9:  The first two captions are key pieces (or cogs) in Jon Osterman’s history – points on his road to becoming a physicist.  The cogs are a visual representation of the puzzle pieces that will make up Jon Osterman’s/Dr. Manhattan’s life.

Watchmen: Chapter IV - page 2


Panel 3:  In ancient times, the flight of comets through the sky were seen as bad omens, and the appearance of Halley’s Comet at this time, as it was actually sailing through the sky in 1986, would be yet another symbol of the approaching “end of days” within Watchmen.

Panel 4:  Jon’s fascination with watch repair and, in a broader sense, the workings of the universe has been seen in previous chapters with Dr. Manhattan’s work at Rockefeller Military Research Center.  In Chapter I, Page 23 we see Jon manipulating the various parts of a large machine with his mind (very similar to his watch repair work) and also learn of his interest in discovering a gluino, which would help advance the understanding of the infinitesimal aspects of the universe itself.

The cogs of this watch, and the specific order in which they must be connected in order for the watch to work, also represent the small, yet precisely ordered, decisions in Jon’s life – as in all our lives – that lead to him becoming Dr. Manhattan.  And they could also symbolize the many disparate pieces of the puzzle needed to solve the conspiracy against “masked adventurers” that has been put forth by Rorschach.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IV - cover image + page 1

Cover Image:  Again, the cover image is a more detailed close-up of one of the first panels within this particular issue.  In this case, the cover is a close-up of panel 2 on page 1.  


Panel 1:  The photograph in Dr. Manhattan’s hand – the photograph seen on the cover – is of him (as Jon Osterman, before the accident that changed him into this godlike being) and Janey Slater, his former lover and the woman that exposed him in the Nova Express interview from the previous chapter.  The manner in which Dr. Manhattan views the photograph – “It is the photograph of a man and a woman” – again shows how far removed from humanity he has become.

Panel 2:  This panel, with its caption stating what will happen, is the first time we as readers experience the manner in which Dr. Manhattan views and experiences time.  He is seeing the picture in the sand twelve seconds into his future, but he – along with us, the audience – is also experiencing it in the present.  All things occur in the present for Dr. Manhattan.  This all-encompassing experience of time – having the past, present, and future all happen at the same time – is how we, the audience, will experience this story over the next 27 pages.

Panel 8:  “I am going to look at the stars.”  The stars are a metaphor for the photograph he just dropped in the red sand.  For us, and for Dr. Manhattan, the fact that it takes so long for light to travel across the galaxy means, in essence, we are only looking at “photographs” of stars.  We are seeing a snapshot from some distant past, showing us how the stars looked millions of years ago.  But, we are unable to visualize them in their present state, even if they are still burning today.  The photograph in the sand represents the same thing.  A snapshot – formed by the reflection of light upon film – of a moment in time, a moment in the past, that will show only what was and not what is.

Panel 9:  That previous insight is stated concretely here.