Friday, November 30, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter XI - the complete annotations


Thematic Overview: 

This penultimate chapter focuses on Adrian Veidt – Ozymandias.  Detached from humanity, his only kinship with a king, Alexander of Macedon, who died over 2300 years earlier, Veidt is a singular being.  His admiration for the lateral thinking of Alexander, with the ancient king’s solution of simply cutting the Gordian Knot, is second to none and has fueled aspirations to solve his own Gordian Knot – the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction was a “knot to try even Alexander’s ingenuity” (p. 21). 

Fittingly, this chapter revolves around knots, both literal and metaphorical.  The knot-tops, whom we have seen throughout the story, are the most obvious example of this motif, as Chapter XI opens, even though we don’t see any besides Aline until the very end of the chapter.  But they are mentioned a few times – specifically by the newsvendor, Bernie – as many knot-tops are at the Pale Horse/Krystalnacht concert in Madison Square Garden.

Aline carries another example of the “knots” motif in the form of the relationship advice book she shares with Joey, entitled Knots.  This is an obvious metaphor for the romantic entanglements we often find ourselves in, and the messy knots from which we must divest ourselves when those relationships do not work out.  And this reality plays out in front of us, as Joey and Aline suffer the fraying of their relationship.

These invisible connections are the ties that bind us as a civilization, and this most important and most significant knot is exemplified across the breadth of this chapter, as we watch the various secondary characters introduced over the course of this story all come together at a single intersection.  And it is at this intersection where the fragility of these binding connections is revealed, as Veidt puts his plan into action and devastates the city of New York – with this intersection as ground zero.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter XI - The Back-Matter

The Back-Matter

The C.R.E.E.P. acronym mentioned in Veidt’s opening statement of this interview was, in reality, the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, abbreviated as CRP by Nixon’s campaign but circumvented by his adversaries through the CREEP moniker.  It was a fundraising organization for Nixon’s second term as President.  Besides its fundraising activities it was also directly involved with the Watergate scandal that eventually brought President Nixon down, in our reality.

Veidt’s use of humanoids to describe Nixon’s retinue is easily deflected by Veidt with his anecdote, but the use of this term is very much in keeping with Veidt’s character.  Adrian Veidt is detached from humanity.  Ascribed to the much higher functioning of his intellect and physicality, this facet of Veidt is evident in the “secret origin” of this chapter – particularly the nonchalant manner with which he accepted his parents’ passing.  And it is this detachment that allows him to conceive and go through with his horrific plan. 

And, finally, the text in the Nostalgia ad at the bottom of the final page – “The Times They Are A’Changing” – foreshadows the denouement of the next, and final, chapter of Watchmen.  Things are certainly going to change, but will it be for the better or the worse?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter XI - page 28


Panel 1:  And we see that the clock on the police cruiser’s dashboard reads 11:25.

Panels 2-13:  And the realization of Veidt’s plan comes to this intersection of New York.

Panels 6-12:  And the older Bernie finally realizes his goal (“I took this job to meet people, y’know?”) as he and the younger Bernie embrace in the final seconds of their lives.

Panel 9:  This image of the two Bernies embracing in silhouette against the enveloping white is reminiscent of the Hiroshima Lovers’ graffiti seen throughout this story.

Panel 12:  Note that the final image of the two Bernies forms into the blood spatter, which opened this chapter.  And, like the butterfly seen through that initial opening in the snow, this image demonstrates the fragility of life, as the two Bernies become this formless spatter and then fade away into

Panel 13:  and an all-white panel.  This white panel – white being the absence of color – symbolizes the absence of life at ground zero of Veidt’s “attack.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter XI - page 27

Page 27

Panel 2:  We see that, according to the clock, it is almost midnight in New York, verifying the fact that Veidt put his plan into action at 11:25.  This giant clock, reading a minute to midnight, is also the latest example of the clock motif that runs throughout Watchmen.  The fact that it is only a minute to midnight emphasizes the reality that we are at the climax of this story. 

An aside:  This revelation also reveals the narrative structure of this chapter, within which there are two parallel storylines unfolding, but they do not unfold in a parallel time, which allows for tension to build by keeping the final, horrific revelation hidden until the final page, even though the narrative in Karnak takes place after this final twist.  It is yet another example of a narrative structure that comics, through its combination of visuals and prose, can more easily achieve than other mediums. 

The large yellow clock transitions directly to

Panel 3: and the large yellow moon hanging high in the New York sky.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter XI - page 26


Panel 2:  And here, we get the first flashback image that is entirely new – the revelation that Veidt was indeed the one who came to the Edward Blake’s apartment and killed him, killed the Comedian.

And again, Veidt’s commentary – “…humanity’s fate rested safely in my hands…” – is mirrored by the image of him holding the Comedian’s fate in his hands, holding Blake aloft before throwing him through the window to his death.

Panel 4:  Veidt’s comment that teleportation works fine “…assuming you want things to explode on arrival…” is mirrored by the image of the Comedian exploding through the shattered window.

The remarks about the psychic shockwave that would result upon the “death” of the monster Veidt had created on that secret island is the key to the success of his plan, as we will see in the final chapter.

Panel 6:  Nite Owl’s inquiry of Veidt – “…when was this hopeless black fantasy supposed to happen…” – is played over the scene in New York just seconds before it did happen, as shown by the clock that reads 11:25 in the background.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter XI - page 25


Panel 2:  Veidt’s comment that the Comedian’s “…practiced cynicism cracked…” when confronted with the truth of Veidt’s plans is emphasized by Dave Gibbons’s visuals, as the Comedian is smashed into a mirror, cracking it into myriad shards of glass.

Panel 4:  Veidt’s remark that the Comedian’s discovery of this plan “…drove the wind from his sails…” is accentuated by the image of the Comedian struggling to catch his breath and regain his composure in this panel.  This remark also hearkens back to the Black Freighter comic and the truth the protagonist in that horror discovered.

Panel 6:  “At the end, he understood.”  This remark is made over an image of the Comedian just before he is thrown to his death – the blood spatter on his smiley-face pin bringing the entire narrative full circle.

Panel 7:  The portents commented upon by Veidt in this panel can be seen as a meta-commentary on all of the symbolism and foreshadowing that Moore & Gibbons have included within Watchmen.  The final portent is the flying elephant (advertising for the Gunga Diner) seen in the sky in the very center of this panel and mirrored by Veidt’s edification that humanity was “…rushing to join the mastodon…in extinction…” even as these secondary characters rush toward their own personal extinction at this intersection – a smaller extinction (relatively speaking) that Veidt hopes will herald in the extinction of the hostility and war-mongering that has plagued humanity for so long.