Sunday, September 30, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IX - the complete annotations


Thematic Overview: 

Chapter IX centers on the haze through which we view our memories.  Whether the metaphorical rose-colored glasses (visually symbolized by the bottle of Nostalgia perfume) or the holes that crop into our minds with the distance of time, our memories are more subjective than objective, despite how ardently we might argue the point.  And with “The Darkness of Mere Being,” Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons put that truth on full display.

This chapter is most prominently about Laurie Juspeczyk – Silk Spectre II – learning the truth about who her father was, shattering the fallacies built up over the course of her life.  Not only does her mother deceive her, but Laurie also deceived herself, placing many of her memories into a distorted context that helped keep the truth suppressed.  This blurring of her history, of these memories, is most obviously represented in this chapter by the multiple times we see Laurie in a blurred or formless reflection – both in the polished surfaces of Dr. Manhattan’s Martian fortress as well as the recurring image of Laurie’s young face reflected in the snowglobe. 

Despite this focus, the vagaries of memory are not relegated solely to Laurie.  Dr. Manhattan, who is able to see all things at all times, admits, in this chapter, to having trouble seeing the future.  Images of destruction flicker in his mind’s eye, but the details are vague, stripping this information of proper context.  This is a first for the omnipotent Dr. Manhattan, but he quickly offers a plausible, if hypothetical, explanation, giving readers permission to let that little bit of data to fade away – in the same manner that memories fade over time.  But it is this inability of Dr. Manhattan to precisely see the future that leads to the climax of this chapter.  And, in the end, these indistinct memories are sometimes the realities that allow us to deal with the hardships life throws at us.

Cover Image:  Once again, the cover image for this chapter is also the first panel of the story.  The image this time is a bottle of Nostalgia perfume, for which we have seen numerous ads throughout the story thus far, and which is also Sally Jupiter’s fragrance of choice.  This bottle of Nostalgia is significant to this chapter, as this particular bottle was given to Laurie by her mother, according to Laurie’s dialogue in Chapter VIII, page 22, panels 4-6.  And in this way, the bottle of Nostalgia connects mother and daughter.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IX - The Back-Matter

The Back-Matter

Once again, Alan Moore – with Dave Gibbons providing the “photos” – gives us something new in the way of the back-matter.  This time we are able to read some of the items found in Sally Jupiter’s scrapbook, items that end up scattered across the Martian landscape when Laurie tosses them overboard on page 21 of this chapter. 

There are some interesting details to be found in the memorabilia here – consisting of newspaper clippings, letters to Sally, and an excerpt from a Playboy-style interview with the magazine Probe.  A movie was made based around Sally’s (Silk Spectre’s) exploits as a masked adventurer.  We also learn that this film met with a critical backlash in a rather humorous review that makes light of the “unconvincing and dated footage of a stuntwoman” who happens to be Sally herself.  We also learn that Sally’s relationship with Hooded Justice – whom Laurie believed was her real father – was merely a ruse to cover up his homosexuality, while providing some provocative PR for the Minutemen. 

While these details afford us, the audience, a broader picture of Sally Jupiter’s character, they add little to the overall narrative.  However, there is one item in this scrapbook that does.  In the Probe interview Sally questions how much responsibility she bears in the sexual assault b Blake.  This is a sad, misplaced, but not uncommon reaction for rape victims, which adds another human layer to this character while also helping explain, a little, how she could become intimate with him, and help conceive his daughter, years later.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IX - page 28


Panel 1:  And if it wasn’t obvious before, Dr. Manhattan’s remark to Laurie to “come…dry your eyes…” shows us that she did indeed end up crying at the end of their conversation, as he said she would on page 17.  However, these tears did not come about because Dr. Manhattan refused to intervene on Earth as Laurie had suspected.  They were a result of her realization that Blake was her father, and could possibly now be tears of joy thanks to Dr. Manhattan’s change of heart regarding the human race.

And the comment, “dry your eyes,” is also emphasized by the “eyes” we can see in this panel formed by Mars and the sun – and, of course, there is a small satellite orbiting Mars (the right eye in this case), which is yet another example of the blood-spattered smiley face button motif.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wathcmen: Chapter IX - page 27

PAGE 27 

Panel 1: The shattering of Dr. Manhattan’s fortress occurring next to a boulder that forms the right eye of a “smiley face” crater on Mars is yet another instance of this blood-spattered smiley face button motif.

And for anyone unable to accept this “contrivance” of a smiley face crater on Mars, look no further than this photograph from NASA

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IX - page 26


Panel 1:  Laurie’s remark that her life is one big joke because Blake was her father, which was kept hidden from Laurie by her mother, is not only a rather natural reaction, but it is also a commentary on the fact that Blake was known as the Comedian.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IX - page 25


Panels 1-4:  The smashing of Dr. Manhattan’s fortress by the Nostalgia perfume bottle is a larger, more direct symbol of the shattering of the walls that Laurie erected to keep secret from herself the fact that the Comedian, Eddie Blake, the man who raped her mother, is her father. Like the deception she formed to explain away her heritage, this edifice shatters, symbolizing Laurie’s shattered reality.

The ease with which this clockwork tower shatters also symbolizes the fragility of Dr. Manhattan’s own self-deceptions (that all of time is set in stone and he has no ability to step out of the blueprint laid before him) as he finally makes a choice, on the following page, and changes his mind – something he claimed to be impossible.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IX - page 24


Panel 1:  The image of the snowglobe smashing at Laurie’s and Schexnayder’s feet symbolizes the shattering of Laurie’s beliefs about her heritage. She believed that Hooded Justice was her father.  She now realizes that Blake was her father.

This smashing snowglobe, and the spilling of the water, signifies the end of this final flashback scene.

Panel 2:  Laurie unscrewing the cover of the bottle of Nostalgia perfume is symbolic of the purging of the nostalgia she has harbored all these years.  That is now gone, as she comes to understand the man who was her father was also the man who raped her mother years before she was ever conceived.

The reflection of Laurie’s adult face in this bottle of Nostalgia perfume is a call-back to the reflection of her face in the snowglobe of her earliest memory.

Panel 4:  And here we see when the Nostalgia bottle, which we have watched slowly tumble across the Martian landscape throughout this chapter, was launched into its orbit. 

Panels 1-4:  These four panels are the symbolic purging of her distorted memories, as foreshadowed by Laurie’s actual vomiting on Page 4, panel 1 of this chapter. 
This emotional vomiting is a metaphorical variation on her exclamation from Page 4, panel 2 of this chapter that, “[she] always throw[s] up whenever [Dr. Manhattan] take[s] her anywhere…” which is triggered here by the completion of this journey through her memories that Dr. Manhattan initiated at the outset of this chapter.

Panels 5-7:  All of the captions in these three panels are from earlier in the chapter, from Laurie recounting that first memory when she found and broke the snowglobe.  The words are juxtaposed against the present scene of the Nostalgia perfume bottle tumbling toward Dr. Manhattan’s fortress, and in each panel the caption relates not only to the initial memory, but also to the Nostalgia bottle in the particular panel.
In panel 5, the “…toy, this snowstorm ball…” relates to the round bottle of perfume.
In panel 6, Laurie’s comments of “…slow time…” relates directly to how we, the readers, have experienced the tumbling of this perfume bottle throughout this chapter.
In panel 7, her final remark upon dropping and smashing the snowglobe in the previous recounting – “…and inside there was only water…” – relates to the perfume bottle as it smashes against Dr. Manhattan’s fortress.

And the smashing of the bottle of Nostalgia perfume ultimately symbolizes the draining of Laurie’s nostalgia, which has left her an empty, broken vessel. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IX - page 23


Panel 1:  Again, we have Dr. Manhattan controlling the conversation, while the only parts of Laurie visible to us are portions of her legs.  Dr. Manhattan’s words obscure Laurie, as they instigate this final journey through her memories. 

The indistinct nature of memory is again symbolized visually by the warped reflection of Laurie, continuing with the chapter’s primary visual motif, which transitions directly to

Panel 2: where Laurie’s reflection is reversed as we flashback to the evening when she was a little girl exploring the darkened house while her mother and stepfather fought. 

The dialogue also threads these two panels together as Dr. Manhattan’s final word in panel 1 – “shouting” – sparks this memory in Laurie, as she returns to her mother’s diatribe at the point where she was telling Schexnayder that she “…shouted at [Blake]…” but “…couldn’t sustain…the anger.”

And this phrase – that Sally couldn’t sustain the anger – transitions directly to

Panel 3: where Dr. Manhattan advises Laurie to relax enough so that she might see the bigger picture. 

And Dr. Manhattan’s final comment to Laurie in this panel – “…as if you’re too delicate…” – transitions into

Panel 4: where we see a young Laurie peering into the fragile (or delicate) snowglobe once more, which is the most prevalent example of the blurred reflection motif found in this chapter.

Also noteworthy in this panel is the fact that the image, one we saw earlier, is from when Laurie was five, but the accompanying text, which we also read earlier, is from when she was thirteen.  Laurie’s memories are beginning to coalesce into a singular memory that will allow her to make the connections she has been missing, or denying, all these years.

Panel 5:  Laurie’s denial here – her remark that her life is “a dumb design…” – juxtaposed against the intricate design of Dr. Manhattan’s fortress provides a visual cue that this is not true, and can also be seen as a meta-commentary on the structure of this story as crafted by Moore & Gibbons.

Panel 6:  Moore continues tethering successive panels together as the remark by Blake from Laurie’s memory – “What do you think I am?” – transitions directly to

Panel 7:  where Dr. Manhattan tells Laurie he thinks she’s avoiding something.   Dr. Manhattan’s indictment, juxtaposed with the recurrence of Blake’s words in Laurie’s head, points us and Laurie to what she has been avoiding all her life.   

And Laurie’s final remark in this panel – “I-I’ve never had any occasion to avoid the truth…” – transitions into

Panel 8: where Blake’s past response – “…only once…” – answers how many times Laurie has had need to avoid the truth, and it all revolves around Blake and his intimate encounter with Sally.

As the remarks by Blake on that evening honoring him begin to swirl and congeal in Laurie’s mind, realization starts bubbling to the surface.