Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter XI - page 6


Panel 1:  where Bernie, the newsvendor, is standing with his back to the audience as he pours himself a cup of coffee from his thermos.  Note that the magazine just in front of his hands appears to be titled “Holiday _____.”

Bernie’s comment that the music from Madison Square – which is a reference to the Pale Horse/Krystalnacht concert we’ve seen fliers for throughout the story – is “…music to drop bombs by…” is a symbolic reference to what Veidt just did, though that won’t become evident until later in this chapter. 

Bernie’s remarks are also juxtaposed against the Black Freighter caption, which describes Davidstown – the protagonist’s home in this pirate comic – as “…deserted save for silence.”

In the background of this panel, Dr. Long’s wife can be seen walking toward the corner.  And, we will soon discover, the other woman walking toward that same corner is Aline, Joey’s girlfriend.

Panel 2:  Again, the Black Freighter captions are juxtaposed against the dialogue from the main narrative, as we see the protagonist enter his home “noiselessly” while Bernie complains that the knot-tops will exit the concert “fightin’ drunk,” which implies a raucous exit for the concert goers. 

Bernie’s continued commentary on the knot-tops – “…covered in tattoos and earrings…” – also connects the contemporary narrative with the pirate one, as pirates are typically viewed as tattooed with earrings.

And the image of the protagonist walking away from the “camera” into his home transitions directly to

Panel 3: where we see Aline walking away from us toward the street corner where Dr. Long is waiting to cross the street.

In the background, Bernie continues to talk.  His remark that it’s “…a bad intersection…” foreshadows Watchmen’s climax, which is fast approaching.  This is followed by his comment that “…you never know what’s gonna turn up next…” which not only symbolizes this impending climax, but is also a remark on the approaching Aline, whom Bernie has never met but knows of from his interactions with Joey the cab driver.  And here, though we might have surmised it from Joey’s earlier frustration that Aline wanted to go to the concert, we can see that Aline is a knot-top.

And Bernie’s dialogue is again juxtaposed against the Black Freighter caption – “…unaware that death was amongst them…” – in a parallel, rather than ironic, fashion this time.

Panel 4:  The juxtaposition of the Black Freighter caption and the contemporary dialogue here is a bit more subtle.  In the Black Freighter, the protagonist attacks one he believes to be a pirate who slaughtered his family, while in the main narrative, Bernie makes a comment about the knot-top hairdos that makes it clear he wants to verbally attack the next one he sees.  But when a knot-top approaches, whom we can in the panel adjacent to this one see is Aline, he loses his braggadocio and greets her in a congenial manner, as a true salesman.

Panel 5:  Aline’s remark that she and Joey have been fighting is juxtaposed against the Black Freighter caption describing the protagonist as bludgeoning the intruder in his home.

Panel 6:  Aline’s comment that she isn’t looking forward to talking with Joey, since she obviously sees their relationship as over, emphasizes the terror of the protagonist in the Black Freighter panel when he encounters something worse than the pirates he expected – his family, intact, terror on their faces as he raises his fist once more against his wife, whom he believed to be a pirate butcher.

Panel 7:  In the background, we see the Gordian Knot lock service truck.

Panel 8:  Bernie’s remark to not “…go away mad…” is emphasized in this Black Freighter panel, as the protagonist comes to an “…understanding so large, it left no room for sanity…” thus, driving him mad, as he ran away from his horrified family.

A note on the coloring:  In panels 4, 6, and 8 of this page, John Higgins again utilizes red to symbolize the vicious, murderous nature of the scenes, bathing the protagonist and his wife, whom he is beating, in red in those first two panels, and then offsetting the cadaverous woman in red in panel 8.

Panel 9:  Bernie’s question about people being hostile is a remark on the violence we have just witnessed in the Black Freighter panels.  And his continued remark about how he and his wife Rosa should have left New York and “…escaped from everything…” is juxtaposed against the Black Freighter caption of the protagonist trying to escape his damnation, and failing. 

The drop of coffee spilled by Bernie is a call-back to the drop of blood we have seen fall onto the Comedian’s smiley-face button a number of times throughout this narrative. 

This theme of escape is emphasized by the “Holiday _____” magazine in the background here, which shows a lush, tropical setting where one might like to escape for a vacation.  And this tropical image transitions to

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