TWO RIDERS WERE APPROACHING…
The title – “Two Riders Were Approaching…” – taken from the Bob Dylan song, “All Along the Watchtower,” lays out the visual motif for Chapter X. This chapter is replete with two riders approaching, starting with Air Force 1 and Air Force 2 flying President Nixon and Vice President Ford in to NORAD. It is here, where they believe themselves safely fortified against the approaching nuclear conflagration, that these two leaders of the free world will wait and see exactly how far the conflict in Europe escalates.
From this point, we see a number of variations on two riders approaching, from the horror of the Black Freighter scenes to the pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses that stop at Bernie’s newsstand with a copy of the Watchtower. The most significant instance of the two riders motif in this chapter comes from a comment by Rorschach on page 20 when he tells Nite Owl that the world is “on verge of apocalypse. Death and War are already here. Other horsemen can’t be far behind.” This acknowledgement of the metaphorical arrival of two of the four horsemen of the apocalypse heightens the sense of urgency within this story. The end is nigh, and nothing seems able to halt that.
This metaphor also accentuates the reality that the finale of Watchmen is fast approaching. As Moore & Gibbons finally start weaving their myriad plot threads together, the pattern begins to reveal itself. The riders are the readers, marching toward the climax and the denouement that will give offer answers, while also providing more questions about this world.
Cover Image: Again, the cover image is also the first panel of the chapter. In this instance, it is a close-up view of the radar screen that is seen on panel 1 of Page 1. Looking at the readout below the radar, we see the symbols A1 and A2, representing Air Force 1 and Air Force 2, designations for the airplanes that carry the President and Vice President of the United States – in this alternate reality, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
DEFCON 2, at the top of the image, represents the “defense readiness condition” used by the U.S. armed forces. A five-level system dependent upon various military situations, the DEFCON system ranges from DEFCON 5, which is the least severe level of preparedness, to DEFCON 1, the most severe. At DEFCON 2, the United States is only one step away from hostilities igniting, a precarious position to be in.
Also worth noting is the fact that Dave Gibbons utilized the various aspects of the radar screen (the two blips for Air Force 1 and 2, the circling “hand,” and the reflected light in the lower portion of the viewscreen) to create a variation on the blood-spattered smiley face button.
Panel 2: The President and Vice President, coming in on separate planes, are the first two riders approaching in this chapter.
Panel 1: The metal object under President Nixon’s arm, which is chained to his wrist, is known as the nuclear football. Represented as a case with a football shape, in this image, the “nuclear football” is a briefcase the President of the United States is to use to authorize a nuclear attack when he, or she, is away from a fixed command center, such as when the President is on Air Force One.
Panel 6: Vice President Ford became known as an awkward President thanks to a regular skit performed by Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live. An accomplished athlete, Ford’s reputation as a klutz was motivated by unfortunate instances caught on tape, such as when he stumbled down the steps of Air Force One in Austria, similar to what is depicted here.
A note on the coloring: On this page, John Higgins, once again, utilizes a variety of reds and oranges to convey the tension simmering just below the surface of this scene.
Panel 1: Henry Kissinger and G. Gordon Liddy are the two men greeting the President and Vice President. During Nixon’s, and Ford’s, tenures as President of the United States, Kissinger served as Secretary of State (September 22, 1973 – January 20, 1977) and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (January 20, 1969 – November 3, 1975). Liddy was responsible, along with E. Howard Hunt, for organizing the Watergate burglaries of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in 1972 that led to Nixon’s resignation as President in 1974.
Panel 5: President Nixon’s dialogue: “…we sit…and we wait…” transitions directly into
Panel 1: Where Nite Owl and Rorschach are sitting and waiting. Rorschach’s dialogue here mirrors Nixon’s from the previous page, as he complains to Nite Owl, asking “how much longer” they need to remain in the Owlship because he is “tired of skulking” in the dark.
Panel 4: As Nite Owl and Rorschach exit the Owlship, we have our second example of the two riders approaching visual motif.
Panel 1: Note that Rorschach’s comment about his mask killer conspiracy – “…makes ripples…” – mirrors the ripples in the river created by the submerging of the Owlship, in the foreground.
Panels 2-3: The dialogue from Nite Owl in these two panels – specifically his suggestion to contact Adrian (Ozymandias) and the follow-up commentary on the mask killer conspiracy: “…we’re talking somebody major…” – is yet another bit of foreshadowing as to who is behind all of this – Adrian Veidt, himself.
Panel 4: The background of this panel is littered with the visual motifs prevalent throughout this entire story, including the apocalyptic symbols of “Pale Horse” and “The End is Nigh,” the Nostalgia ad, Nixon political flyers, the Pink Triangle poster, a poster for the Keene Act that outlawed costumed vigilantes, and the Ozymandias poster for his southern famine relief benefit, among other bits of graffiti and refuse.
These thematic elements, particularly the apocalyptic nature of many of these (which can also include the reference to famine in the Ozymandias poster and the Nixon and Nostalgia posters, which both look to the past rather than looking forward), are emphasized by Nite Owl’s dialogue in this panel: “Future? What future?”
Panel 5: Moore & Gibbons once again juxtapose the dialogue with the imagery, as Nite Owl complains about how “close to the edge…” humanity is, as he climbs over the edge of the building’s rooftop while Rorschach approaches the opposite edge.
Panel 6: Rorschach’s response that “Some of us have always lived on the edge…” and his explanation of how to survive there: “Just hang on by fingernails and never look down…” are emphasized visually by Rorschach’s example of that, as he hangs on by his fingernails while standing on the window ledge outside his apartment.
Panel 7: Note how Rorschach’s body language, as delineated by Dave Gibbons, upon entering the window of his apartment is exactly the same as what we saw in Chapter I as he entered Eddie Blake’s apartment on page 6.
Panels 5-8: Up to this point, readers have come to understand Rorschach as one who sees the world in very black and white terms. There is no room for compromise. And in the previous panels of this page, we see him preparing to take retribution on his landlady for the lies she said about him on the news – specifically the lies that he had made sexual advances on her.
In panel 5 Rorschach refutes the thought of doing nothing, stating that he “…can’t…” because it is a slur on his reputation. Rorschach finishes by calling his landlady a whore. This – and her entreaty of Rorschach not to call her that in front of her children, who don’t know the truth of their parentage – transitions to a scene of one of the young boys clutching at his mother’s waist, an image reminiscent of the young Kovacs (Rorschach), whose own mother was a whore. With panel 7 we see Rorschach looking down at this boy with sadness – born of compassion and recognition, it seems. Then Rorschach turns to leave, without taking the retribution he was so ready to enact only seconds earlier.
In this fleeting moment, we are afforded a glimpse at the humanity within Rorschach that has lain dormant for so long.
Panel 9: The image of Mrs. Shairp and her children huddled in the doorway of Rorschach’s apartment transitions directly to
Panel 1: Where we see Bubastis and two of Adrian Veidt’s servants awaiting the arrival of their “master” in a window of Veidt’s arctic fortress.
Panel 1-3: As befits the ego and status of Veidt, his fortress and servants are colored in hues of purple (the color of royalty) and gold (a color commonly associated with power). Also note the preponderance of the letter “V,” for Veidt’s last name. It can be seen in the hat of his pilot, in the neckline of his servants, in his cufflinks, and on his jet (colored in an appropriately purple hue by John Higgins).
Panel 4: In this panel, Adrian Veidt’s life as Ozymandias is visualized masterfully by Dave Gibbons and John Higgins. There are the obvious Egyptian artifacts along the top level, the succession of the letter “V” in purple and gold along the façade of this upper level, a painting depicting Alexander the Great’s successful cutting of the Gordian Knot on the left side of the first level, the succession of television screens Veidt uses to gather his information for his business (and other) plans, multiple clocks for major cities around the world that also plays into the clock motif prevalent in Watchmen, and the banks of computers to the right on the lower level that is a more contemporary symbol of his vast knowledge and superior intelligence.
Panel 5: Veidt’s reference to the delivery is a bit of foreshadowing, and it relates directly to the scene and dialogue from Chapter VIII, page 11.
It is noteworthy that this is the first time within Watchmen that we have seen Adrian Veidt in costume, in the present. Any other reference to him in costume has been in flashback. This is important and foreshadows the “final battle” that is fast approaching.
A Note on the coloring: As alluded to previously, these pages with Veidt are awash in various hues of purple, the color of royalty, symbolizing Adrian Veidt’s status, self-imposed and otherwise, within the world.
Panel 5: Note how the reel-to-reel tapes stored in the bottom of this cart have the appearance of the nuclear fallout shelter symbol – accentuating the already prevalent apocalyptic themes within this story, and in this scene specifically.
And the image of these multiple television screens transitions directly to
Panel 1: where Rorschach is putting on his gloves in front of the multiple screens of the Owlship’s controls.
Rorschach’s comment that “…drowned corpses [are] more useful…” is an allusion to the “Tales of the Black Freighter” comic story the younger Bernie, at the newsstand, has been reading throughout Watchmen, and it signals the imminent return of the Black Freighter comic a few pages hence.
Panel 2: Note that the blood stain on Rorschach’s spare jacket not only mirrors the stain on his shirt, but also signifies that this is the coat he wore in the flashback of Chapter VI, during the kidnapping case that pushed him over the edge to become the vigilante he is in the present.
Panel 4: And note how, when Rorschach finally puts his mask back on, the word balloons change, indicating the change back to his “true” voice.
Panel 5: Dan’s remark: “…I need some pattern that makes sense of the data we have…” relates directly to the final panel of the previous page – Page 8, panel 5 – as both Veidt and Nite Owl are doing the same thing – sifting through a mass of information in order to find the pattern lying beneath it all.
Panel 8: Here is another instance of Rorschach’s humanity seeping through. His rigid world-view is cracking a bit (Rorschach isn’t one to allow a slight to go unanswered, nor is he one to offer an apology), foreshadowing Rorschach’s ultimate fate.
Panels 1-2: In a humorous reflection of the earlier moment where Dan would not let go of Laurie’s hand (seen in Chapter VII, page 6), we have the reverse of that happening, as Dan finds it necessary to release Rorschach’s grip of his hand – a result of Rorschach’s lack of social awareness and norms.
Panel 4: As with larger panels in previous chapters, this one is used to signify the importance and weight of this scene. Rorschach and Nite Owl, the once-vaunted heroic team of the 70s, are reunited and ready to hit the street in order to solve this mystery.
Also in this panel, we get Moore and Gibbons once again juxtaposing words and images, as Nite Owl remarks that it will be nice to get physical with the criminal fraternity after “…wading knee-deep in this conspiracy weirdness…” as he lifts the Owlship from the riverbed, where it has been “wading” for a while.
The final line from Nite Owl – “…it’ll be like coming home…” transitions directly to
Panel 1: and the return of the “Tales of the Black Freighter” pirate comic within the comic, where the protagonist of this pirate tale is finally coming home, after his harrowing experience on the sea. As it states in the caption box: “I was returned…I was home.”
The image also mirrors Page 11, panel 4 with the protagonist walking through the lapping water of the sea to come home, just as the Owlship erupted from the Hudson River to bring Nite Owl and Rorschach home. John Higgins links these two panels with his coloring of the Hudson from the previous panel in the oranges and yellows seen in this image.
Panel 2: Like Rorschach on the page previous, our protagonist has only thoughts of the physical encounters that lie ahead.
Panel 3: Here is another instance of the visual motif of the two riders approaching.
Panel 5: One could also argue that – by dint of the Black Freighter narrator’s choice of words (“charred ribs” for the wooden posts and his obsession with the assumed capture of his hometown, Davidstown) – the narrator’s mental state is more closely related to Rorschach’s than of anyone else’s in the main narrative.
Panel 6: Again, John Higgins utilizes a variety of reds to symbolize the murderous thoughts in the protagonist’s head and foreshadow the imminent death of these two riders.
Panel 7: Note that Higgins colors the narrator in red, to signify his murderous intent. Also, in the dialogue he likens his screams to “the black language of gulls.” This man is no longer human, having become that which pursued him on his raft of dead bodies, a killer without remorse.
Panel 8: This panel is bathed in red, as the narrator slams the rock into the moneylender’s head, killing him.
Panel 9: The image of the two horses along with the caption that the strangulation of the woman “…took considerably longer…” transition directly into
Panel 1: where we return to the present, and to the newsstand, where Bernie says, “…I didn’t expect all this to take so long.” The horses are mirrored in the latest example of two riders approaching, as two men wearing suits and hats and riding bicycles approach this very familiar newsstand.
The news vendor’s continued dialogue – “…everybody’s scared [the bomb]’ll drop…gatherin’ on corners, looking for trouble…” – is mirrored by the continuation of the pirate comic’s caption: “At death’s approach, all creatures discover an aptitude for violence.” This aptitude for violence is also emphasized by the “Veidt Method” ad we see on the back of the Black Freighter comic, which professes to offer one an opportunity to become a physical specimen of strength and power, which could be used for violence against those who may have ridiculed you when you weren’t as strong or physically impressive.
Panel 2: Moore juxtaposes the commingling texts (from the Black Freighter and the main narrative) with the lines “…horses watched, understanding only a little,” and “…it’s too big to take in, but people know something bad’s happening…” emphasizing the gravity of the situations and the reality of how little people (and animals) know of each.
Panel 3: We get more mirroring texts as the newsvendor talks about the fact that people “know something’s coming…it’s doomsday,” while in the Black Freighter we get a caption describing how the woman looked in the narrator’s hands “when death was assured.” And, in the background, the two bicycle riders approaching the newsstand subtly emphasize this assertion that something terrible is approaching.
Panel 4: The Black Freighter caption talks of “two worlds ended,” in reference to these two deaths, while in the main narrative, we have Bernie continuing to profess that “maybe today, maybe tomorrow” the end of the world will arrive.
Panel 5: We get more mirroring texts as Bernie tells the bicyclist who asks for a Gazette that that’s what he’s there for (and by his initial stuttering, we can assume Bernie was momentarily surprised at the request and may be looking at the two men with a confused [or stupid] look on his face), while the Black Freighter caption states: “My purpose almost forgotten…I gazed stupidly at the horses.”
Panel 6: This panel is more subtle, but Moore mirrors the texts once again as both the Black Freighter story and the main narrative discuss, or show characters, trying to take advantage of a situation – the pirate narrator wonders how to turn these murders to his advantage while the man purchasing the Gazette uses that transaction as an opening to offer one of his own pamphlets to Bernie.
Panel 7: The juxtaposition of the Black Freighter and main narrative text here is interesting, in that the caption box for the Black Freighter actually answers the question posed to Bernie, even if it isn’t Bernie’s actual answer.
Also of note, the magazine offered by these Jehovah’s Witnesses is entitled “Watch Tower,” tying into the two riders approaching, motif, as this chapter’s title comes from the Bob Dylan song, “All Along the Watchtower.”
The Watch Tower also plays into the main narrative, as these pamphlets often include articles on the coming apocalypse and how one’s soul could be saved. The mushroom cloud on the cover emphasizes this sense of impending doom.
Panel 8: We get more mirroring texts, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses tell Bernie they are leaving now, while in the Black Freighter comic the narrator has tied the deceased woman to her horse so they too might leave and head back to Davidstown.
Panel 9: In this panel, it’s the imagery from the main narrative that is juxtaposed against the caption of the Black Freighter, as we watch the Jehovah’s Witnesses ride off on their bicycles while the narrator of the pirate comic thinks, “…two figures…rode back.”
This panel is also littered with the apocalyptic symbolism that has been seen throughout Watchmen, as we see the newspaper headline proclaiming the escalation of the conflict in eastern Europe, the “Utopia” theater with the poster for “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” and the Jehovah’s Witnesses who were proclaiming the end of days by God.
The “conflict escalates” headline transition directly into
Panel 1: where we see a conflict escalating, as a man clutches his face while blood streams over his chest. He is falling away from Rorschach (the one responsible for this man’s current state), who enters this bar in search of information.
Also note that, once again, John Higgins bathes this scene in hues of red to emphasize the violence within the scene.
Panel 2: Note that, in the background, Nite Owl is turning the sign to read “Closed.”
Panel 2: It feels like a throwaway line, but the fact that this guy’s boss from Pyramid Deliveries is the one who had him find a reliable hitman points right back to Adrian Veidt – Ozymandias – whose Egyptian motif is rife with pyramids and who is the owner, through a number of front companies, of Pyramid Deliveries.
It is also worth noting that this is not the first time we have seen this character. He showed up at the newsstand in Chapter V, page 8 to charge his Pyramid Deliveries van at the electric charger the younger Bernie has been using to keep himself warm while he reads the Black Freighter comic.
Panel 3: Notice the body language of Nite Owl, compliments of artist Dave Gibbons, as he notices the knot-top who seems intent on not watching the torture scene that everyone else in the bar is interested in. This could get lost with the focus on Rorschach, but it’s these little details that help to elevate Watchmen.
Panel 4: This conspiracy revolving around the freight handlers mirrors the conspiracy to take out all of the costumed adventurers, which makes sense as the same man – Veidt – is behind both of these conspiracies.
Panel 1: Ironically, Nite Owl turns out to be the one who goes “off the hook” rather than the unstable Rorschach. Seeing such emotion from Dreiberg, who has remained relatively stable throughout this entire narrative, helps to show us just how much Hollis meant to him.
Panel 3: And the irony is heightened by the fact that Rorschach’s humanity seeps through again, as he stops his one friend from doing something he would regret. Again, Moore has created well-rounded characters who will act “out of character” when the moment is right.
Panel 9: Rorschach’s comment that most people who die “travel steerage” transitions directly into
Panel 1: where we see the Pyramid Deliveries boat docked at the secret island where Max Shea and the other missing persons from the New Frontiersman article in Chapter VIII’s back-matter have been working since their disappearances. And, as with most everything related to Veidt, the color of the Pyramid Deliveries ship is purple (the color of royalty).
Panel 2: Norm Leith and Lin Paley are two of the other missing persons mentioned in the New Frontiersman article.
Panel 3: Furnesse was also mentioned in the same article.
Another important bit of information is the fact that a human brain was used for the “special effect” mentioned by Shea. This is an integral part of Veidt’s overall plan.
Panel 4: The “shipwrecked voyager” that Hira Manish asks about in this conversation is the protagonist from the Black Freighter comic we have seen throughout Watchmen. Shea’s response to the question of whether the voyager got off the island – “Well, yes, but…” – is a foreboding answer and foreshadows what is to come for him and the others who have been working secretly on this island.
Panel 1: The drawing in the foreground is the one Hira Manish was working on in Chapter VIII, which, when juxtaposed with the climax of this scene in the following panels, foreshadows the eventual climax of Watchmen.
Also, Max Shea and Hira Manish are the latest instance of the two riders motif.
Panel 2: Note that the timer on the bomb is in the “minutes to midnight” motif prevalent throughout Watchmen.
Panels 5-7: We get another super-panel, which allows us to watch the passage of time after the ship blows up. The only remnant of these people’s existence is the drawing of the creature from Hira Manish, a creature that has grave consequences for the entire population of this world.
The extermination of this group transitions directly into
Panel 1: and Nite Owl’s comment – “…vanished without a trace…” – in reference to the emptiness of Adrian Veidt’s penthouse office.
Panel 5: The paper that Nite Owl is putting back down on Veidt’s desk is something we will see in the back-matter. It is a proposal for a toy line to capitalize on Veidt’s superheroics as Ozymandias.
Panel 7: Rorschach’s comment that he and Nite Owl need an “indication [of] where to start” in order to find who owns Pyramid Deliveries is placed right beside a small pyramid on Veidt’s desk – a pyramid that Nite Owl is eyeing, which is the clue Rorschach was lamenting about that directs them to the mastermind behind Pyramid Deliveries and this mask-killer conspiracy – Adrian Veidt, Ozymandias.
A note on the coloring of this scene (pages 19-22): Though this scene involves Rorschach and Nite Owl, it actually is all about Adrian Veidt, as these two adventurers finally discover who is behind the mask-killer conspiracy. With that in mind, John Higgins bathes the entire scene in hues of purple, Veidt’s color, befitting his “royal” status.
Panel 1: Rorschach continues to ask question, trying to get at the heart of who it might be behind these killings and attempted killings. He finishes with the remark, “we have so few pointers,” while the miniature pyramid remains prominent in the foreground – its pointed edges the pointers that Nite Owl and Rorschach need to find the killer.
Panel 4: Rorschach’s comment, “handled watchdogs before,” refers back to the case that sent him over the edge, as seen in Chapter VI.
Panel 5: Rorschach’s remark that this case is a “logic-problem [and] simply needs application of intelligence…” also refers to Nite Owl’s puzzle in the foreground, as he tries to figure out the password for Veidt’s computer files.
Panel 6: Rorschach’s comment that Veidt “could…have provided answers…” is ironic, since he is the one behind it all and, therefore, could have provided every single answer with precision.
Panel 7: Rorschach names two more riders, Death and War of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and mentions that the other two, Famine and Pestilence, “…can’t be far behind…” indicating that they are two riders approaching.
Panels 7-8: And here, on the computer screen, we get another instance of the two riders motif, as the computer asks if the user would like to add a “rider” to the password, and Dan adds the Roman numeral for two.
Panel 8: Rorschach’s comment about mistrusting the “fascination with…dead kings…” can also be seen as a commentary on Veidt, who is fascinated by Rameses II (a dead king) and whom Rorschach dislikes.
Panel 1: Dave Gibbons utilizes a tall panel that extends the full height of the comic page in order to offer a sense of scale to the image. Again, the use of the 9-panel grid throughout the story by Moore & Gibbons allows breaks from that 3x3 pattern to stand out and add impact when needed, such as this panel does.
Panel 3: The dire tone of Rorschach’s journal entry – “…offices below, headstones…” and “…oblivion gallops closer...” – is emphasized by the imagery – in particular, the banner for the bands Pale Horse and Krystalnacht.
Panel 5: This is the same corner where we saw Rorschach, in the guise of Walter Kovacs, check his mail drop in Chapter V, page 12.
Panel 6: This envelope will surface later in the story.
Also note in Rorschach’s entry he makes the comment that “…[the] writing is on the wall.” In the background of this image we can see the writing in the form of the Hiroshima lovers graffiti, which accentuates the ominous tone of this comment.
Panel 7: Rorschach’s final journal comment about leaving to try and take down Veidt “without complaint,” transitions directly into
Panel 1: where we have Bernie, the newsvendor, complaining about the oncoming war. And Bernie’s dialogue – specifically the remark about there being no “goddamn justice in the world…” – is juxtaposed against the Black Freighter captions, in which the protagonist likens himself to “God’s retribution.”
Also note that the mail carrier can be seen in the background, emptying the box where Rorschach mailed his journal.
Panel 2: As has been done previously, the text of the main narrative is mirrored with that of the Black Freighter text. In this panel we have Bernie railing about how the common man has no protection and, like a turtle without a shell, is “all washed up.” Meanwhile, in the pirate comic, the narrator talks of leaving the moneylender naked (unprotected) and in the surf (all washed up) while he rides off, an image that we can see in the foreground of this panel.
Panel 3: This is another complex panel, where all the elements tie into one another, but in varying ways.
We have the Black Freighter text that comments on the ignorance the populace of Davidstown had regarding “…what approached.” This is read over an image of the mail carrier approaching Bernie, who is unaware of the important and possibly world-changing journal the carrier now has in his pouch.
Meanwhile, Bernie is remarking on how, maybe, the people should have listened to the heroes, stating, “…maybe they had a message…” Again, this is juxtaposed against this same image of the mail carrier approaching Bernie – a mail carrier with a powerful message in his pouch, in the form of Rorschach’s journal.
Panel 4: Bernie’s dialogue – “…there’s gotta be somebody lookin’ out for us…” – is played against the Black Freighter text, where the narrator comments on the pirate sentry he spies, as he rides toward Davidstown with the dead woman on the horse beside him.
Panel 5: The Black Freighter text, “…dreading…he should attempt conversation,” is played over an image of Bernie immediately going into conversational selling mode while the mail carrier cuts him off by saying, “…just a Gazette…no offense, man…” cutting off the newsvendor before he can really get into a conversation with the man.
Panel 6: In this panel, Moore juxtaposes the mail carrier’s need to “rush” against the Black Freighter narrator’s need to keep the horses at an even trot to avoid suspicion.
Panel 7: Moore continues to juxtapose dueling texts, as the Black Freighter narrator comments on how agreeable his deceased companion is while Joey complains to Bernie, in the main narrative, about how argumentative her partner Aline is – exemplified by the fact that she complained about their meeting conflicting with Pale Horse’s concert in Madison Square Garden that night, which Aline is attending.
Panel 8: The Black Freighter text remarks on the “inevitable confrontation” the narrator enthusiastically spurs his horse toward, while Bernie tells Joey to lighten up and not worry so much about her own inevitable confrontation with her lover. But his remark, “…it ain’t the end o’ the world…” is poorly constructed in this time where war and possible nuclear destruction seems inevitable.
Panel 9: In the foreground, we can see the mail carrier holding Rorschach’s envelope, which holds the vigilante’s journal. The gravity of this reality is commented upon through the Black Freighter text: “…delivered at last into the hands of a higher judgment.”
And this dialogue transitions directly into
Panel 1: where we see the mail carrier delivering the journal to the mail sorting depot, which will send the package along to its recipient
Panel 2: Note the clock in the background is very close to the familiar minutes to midnight motif seen throughout Watchmen.
Panel 5: The editorial cartoonist to whom Godfrey refers is Walt Feinberg, who worked with Max Shea on the Black Freighter comic after Joe Orlando left the book – as recounted in the back-matter to Chapter V – and is the artist for the two-part story, “Marooned,” that the younger Bernie has been reading at the newsstand throughout the main narrative.
Panel 6: The line read by Seymour from the journal is a variation on the very first line of Watchmen. It may be that Seymour read it wrong, due to Rorschach’s scratchy handwriting, or it is, more likely, a simple error on the part of Moore or Gibbons, who also lettered the book.
Panel 7: Note that Seymour is wearing a smiley face t-shirt, yet another instance of that prominent visual motif (sans blood spatter).
Panel 8: Godfrey’s comment, “I won’t see truth and integrity buried beneath an avalanche of drivel…” is ironic considering he’s telling Seymour to bury the truth, in the form of Rorschach’s journal, beneath an avalanche of drivel, in the form of the crank file submissions.
Panel 9: Again, Godfrey’s comment, “…we could miss something important…” is ironic, considering he and Seymour are missing the most important submission they have – Rorschach’s journal.
Godfrey’s final piece of dialogue, “…the birds could be in the air right now…” transitions directly into
Panel 1: where we see the Owlship in the air, flying toward Antarctica and Veidt’s fortress.
Panel 5: This image mirrors a similar one of Dr. Manhattan and Silk Spectre approaching the Olympus Mons on Mars in Chapter IX.
Panel 4: This oversized panel is another example of how to enhance the impact of a scene in comics by varying the size of panels only when necessary.
Panels 1-6: And here, as Rorschach and Nite Owl skim over the Antarctic ice on Nite Owl’s hoverbikes, we have our final instance of two riders approaching.
Again, Moore offers something different in this chapter’s back-matter. This time we see corporate correspondence and promotional material for some of Adrian Veidt’s products and interests.
The initial letter from Leo Winston, the President of Marketing and Development, is intriguing for the very believable corporate tone it evokes. This is fascinating when one considers Alan Moore’s stance regarding “corporate” comics and his animosity toward DC Comics, in particular. Also, when viewed from a place where “Before Watchmen” is now a reality, it carries even more weight than it might have before.
Veidt’s response to Winston’s letter is interesting – vis-à-vis substituting an army of terrorists for the costumed adventurers suggested – in that it reminds the audience of the reality of superheroes in this alternate world.
Perhaps the document most pertinent to the main narrative, though, is Veidt’s letter to Angela Neuberg, Director of Veidt Cosmetics & Toiletries. His suggestion that the very popular and profitable Nostalgia line be scrapped for the new Millennium line, which looks to the future, sounds somewhat reasonable in the way he frames the argument. Nuclear conflict seems imminent, at this time, and Veidt is planning for that future – if there even is a future.
This is yet another clue pointing to Veidt as the mastermind behind the mask killings. He has a plan to save the world, and this letter asking for the new Millennium line foreshadows the forward-looking, optimistic outlook that will become evident once we reach the culmination of this narrative.