Friday, August 3, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter VIII - page 2


Panel 1:  Note that the rest home where Sally Jupiter now resides is called Nepenthe Gardens.  Nepenthe, in ancient times, was a draught that could help the imbiber forget one’s sorrows or troubles.  Sally Jupiter, with the personal outlook we have seen from her thus far, is one who works to remember just the good things in her past and pushes aside those negative experiences – particularly her rape at the hands of Eddie Blake, as shown in Chapter II– in order to, one must assume, have a better life.

This attitude is emphasized with Sally’s remark that, “maybe [Laurie]’ll thank me for all that training I made her do.”  She needs to believe that the way she pushed Laurie into adventuring – something that has driven a wedge between mother and daughter – was the right thing to do.

Panel 2:  Hollis’s comment that kids show “no gratitude till it’s too late,” is emphasized by the image of his statue in the background, which was given to him “In Gratitude” for his service as a costumed adventurer.

Panel 3:  Sally’s comment that, “choosing the right lifestyle’s just so important,” is emphasized by the imagery in this and the previous panel.  In panel 2, we see that Hollis is smoking the most recent in a string of cigarettes, as revealed by the stubs in his ashtray, while drinking a beer.  Conversely, Sally has a number of vitamin supplements, including ginseng, on the table beside her. 

Her remark about indecision and her quandary about whether to “book extra analysis or aerobics” accentuate the frivolous nature of her current existence.  This final remark leads directly into

Panel 4:  where we can read into Hollis’s sudden conclusion of their phone conversation a few ways. 
It could be interpreted as Hollis being overwhelmed by nostalgia himself and not wishing to allow those emotions to build up any more. 
Or, we could see it as the differences between he and Sally becoming sharply defined in his mind, compelling a desire for him to hang up. 
Finally, it could be seen as the gap in their personal fiscal realities coming to the fore as Hollis realizes how pampered Sally is, and he ends the conversation so that he doesn’t need to consider this disparity (and for evidence of this, see panel 6, where a tin can marked “Phone Money” is revealed, as Hollis stands up)

Panel 5:  Nixonomics is a reference to Reaganomics, which was the term given to the economic policy of President Ronald Reagan, who was the U.S. President during the initial publication of Watchmen.

Panel 7:  Note that there are no superhero costumes on these boys, but there is a pirate, in keeping with the prevalence of pirates in comic books on this alternate Earth. 

John Higgins must be given his due, once more.  It would seem obvious that Hollis Mason’s scenes on these opening pages would be cloaked in darkness, while Sally Jupiter’s are brightly lit, considering the fact that Hollis is on the east coast and Sally on the west coast of the United States – signifying that Hollis is calling in the early evening.  But this coloring also accentuates the personal realities of these two characters.  Hollis, evidenced by the fact that the news is playing on his television, is a more serious person, up on current events (note that Sally seems only to have a cursory knowledge of the return of Nite Owl and Silk Spectre at the tenement fire the previous night, which could be explained as more relevant to New York residents such as Mason, except that the return of costumed adventurers would be national news), and has a more pragmatic outlook. 
Sally, on the other hand, is blissful with her rose-tinted glasses, preferring to remember and take note of those aspects that feed into her personal outlook on the world while ignoring things that might contravene her perspective.  She is re-reading a Tijuana Bible that puts her in a salacious and desired position, while getting her nails done by Acme Manicure, as she considers whether to have extra analysis or aerobics.  It also appears that Sally is in a better place financially than Hollis – as Sally is living in a rest home where all her needs are taken care of for what one must assume is a costly fee, while Hollis continues to work on cars in order to make ends meet, living in the apartment above his garage.  Higgins masterfully chooses muted, darker colors for Hollis’s panels, while Sally’s are infused with brighter yellows and pinks – a wonderful example of how the coloring of a comic can help drive home the narrative and symbolic aspects of that comic.

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