Saturday, August 4, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter VIII - page 3


Panel 1:  With this panel, we return to the intersection that has acted as a focal point for this series.  The dialogue from the newsvendor, Bernie, and the captions from the pirate comic being read by the young boy, also named Bernie, at the newsstand parallel one another.  We have the newsvendor commenting on how it’s “…like all our old nightmares come back…” while in the comic book’s captions we have the commentary, “…my darkest imaginings welled up unchecked…like black ink” 

This feeling of one’s darkest dreams becoming real is also accentuated by the recurring image of the “Hiroshima Lovers” graffiti on the building in this panel, which is another example of “black ink [that is] impossible to remove.” 

Panel 2:  The parallel texts continue here as the newsvendor’s comment, “Red invasion…” is juxtaposed against the comic’s caption, “I pictured Davidstown’s quiet streets overrun…” while the subsequent remark by the newsvendor, “…I mean, I remember 1977…” mirrors the comic’s caption, “…Recalling their brutality, I moaned.”

Also note the delivery van, from Pyramid Deliveries, in this panel.  Pyramid Deliveries is owned by Adrian Veidt – whose heroic name, Ozymandias, comes from the Shelley poem about the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses, and whose motif revolves around ancient Egypt and its pyramids – and it is important to note that the delivery person in the following panel,

Panel 3:  is delivering something to the Institute for Interspatial Studies, which is another holding of Veidt’s. 

And, once again, the twin dialogues parallel one another as the newsvendor and the comic’s protagonist both comment on their wives – the vendor remarking he’s glad “…[his] Rosa ain’t alive to see [things going to hell],” while the sailor in the comic expects that “…[his] wife was almost certainly dead.”

Also worth noting is the movie poster in the foreground for The Day the Earth Stood Still, which not only emphasizes how people are feeling with recent events in this story, but also foreshadows what will happen when Veidt’s ultimate plan finally reaches its conclusion.

Panel 4:  Again, the dialogues parallel as the newsvendor and the comic’s protagonist both reflect on memories of their respective wives, as we get an image of the actual pirate comic being read.  Visually, having the woman’s face mostly hidden in shadow also emphasizes the feeling of impending loss that the main character of the comic is feeling. 

Panel 5:  I’m not sure if it was intentional – though I would never put it out of the realm of possibility with this book – but the waving handkerchief in the girl’s hand in panel 4 is mirrored by the wafting smoke from the boy’s cigarette in the newsstand in this panel, a visual transition that is subtle but still links the “comic book” panel with the “real-world” panel.

The newsvendor’s remark on how his wife would have hated to see how the “superhero thing turned out,” with the loss of innocence that is permeating society at this point is emphasized by the dialogue of the comic, wherein the protagonist laments the death of his own innocence and the innocent times in which he lived with his wife and family.

Some bits of visual minutiae – In the background, we can see Dr. Long approaching the newsvendor.  On the back cover of the comic book, we see an ad for the “Veidt Method,” which is a take on the “Atlas Method” where one could send away for a booklet that could provide one with the “secret” to becoming a prime physical specimen.  Also, we can see the “Pink Triangles” poster still exhibited on the news vendor’s booth, as seen in Chapter V.

Panel 6:  The newsvendor’s comment, in response to discovering that Rorschach was a regular customer at his newsstand, that a “…a lotta stuff happens under the waterline…” is accentuated by the “comic” panel of the bloated corpse “under the waterline” that is keeping the comic protagonist’s raft afloat, which is overlaid with the caption, “Dead:  I imagined my shipmates’ bloated corpses, carrying my raft on fisheaten backs…” 

This commentary on things hiding beneath the surface is not only a response to everything the newsvendor and the comic’s protagonist see around them, but is also a commentary on the actual book itself, a remark by Moore on the hidden depths of this book – and other well-crafted comics and books – that too often go overlooked by readers unwilling or unable to dig beneath the surface narrative.

Panel 8:  The dialogue for the pirate comic here – “I [see]…their cutlasses carving relentlessly until all [my wife’s] personality, all her subtleties of posture and expression are obliterated, reduced to meat…” – mirrors the remarks made by Rorschach when he told Dr. Long about how he created his mask:  “…cut it enough, [until] it didn’t look like a woman anymore.” 

Panel 9:  The newsvendor’s comments regarding Dr. Long are ironic considering the horrors he has experienced with his recent work with Rorschach.  Dr. Long understands better than most how the world is going crazy and he is right in the thick of it.

The text from the comic is a truer account of Dr. Long’s journey – he was faced with the intolerable horrors remarked upon in the dialogue and he chooses the madness of Rorschach (without the ac of punishment) because he is now unable to return to the blissfully ignorant worldview he held before.

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