Monday, December 31, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter XII - complete annotations


Thematic Overview: 

Noted creators such as Darwyn Cooke and John Byrne have criticized Watchmen for being too grim, too pessimistic.  They argue it casts superheroes in the “wrong” light, eschewing the inherent optimism of these four-color demigods for a dreary, hedonistic view of humanity and superhumanity.  They protest that Watchmen is bereft of hope, a cornerstone of the superhero genre.  With all due respect, Cooke and Byrne and other like-minded people have completely misread Moore’s & Gibbons’s narrative.

Fittingly, this final chapter encompasses the overall theme of Watchmen, hope.  Hope for a better, more loving world, a world in which governments hell-bent on each other’s destruction find common ground and work toward peace.  It is a hope that subtly permeates this final chapter, simmering beneath the surface of the horror committed by Adrian Veidt and exemplified by all of the main actors in this drama.  In my introduction to this project I allowed that people’s varied interpretations of art are all valid.  But in this case, I must argue that anyone unwilling to see the optimism of Watchmen is bringing his or her prejudices too much to bear upon this narrative and has misconstrued the intent of the authors.  Watchmen is a dark and, at times, horrific piece of fiction, but behind its dismal, gray tones the possibility of a bright future is revealed.

The most obvious indication of this hopefulness is the climax of the book, when news reports stream across Veidt’s television sets proclaiming Russia’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and subsequent offer of assistance to America, averting the imminent nuclear devastation that had been hanging over everyone for so long.  This newfound cooperation between Russia and the United States is further exhibited in the final pages, as we follow Seymour through the reconstructed New York intersection that was ground zero for the “alien attack.”  Business signs – the Burgers ‘n Borscht restaurant, an advertised double feature of noted Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, at the New Utopia – and advertisements – Millennium fragrances and Sunburst candy – dot the NYC landscape, signifying this new forward-thinking atmosphere.   

Ultimately, the most significant symbols of hope are the heroes – each, in his or her own way, exemplifying the optimism inherent within the human spirit.  Veidt, unable to conceive of failure, risks his conscience and his life on a shocking plan, the outcome of which is never guaranteed.  Dr. Manhattan, so detached from humanity, brings hope to Laurie and the others when, convinced of the wonder of humanity, he returns to Earth.  Dan and Laurie, overwhelmed by the enormity of Veidt’s plan and the realization they must now become tacit accomplices, choose to take up their costumed mantles once more.  Each of them, despite the weight of their knowledge, chooses life. 

And finally, there is Rorschach.  Some might term it obstinacy, but his unwillingness to forego his moral code, even in the face of Veidt’s apparent triumph, is an unfettered and unflinching hopefulness that most of us cannot aspire to.  We are too practical, too logical, too insecure to adhere so resolutely to our convictions, especially when presented with such a damning argument against such a stance.  And yet, Rorschach refuses to give in, refuses to be swayed, refuses to give up.  And in that act he exemplifies the strongest positive outlook one can have – a hope against hope.

Cover Image:  The cover image is an extreme close-up of a blood-soaked clock that is mere seconds from ticking midnight.  This image brings together a number of recurring visual motifs from Watchmen – most notably the minutes to midnight image, signifying how close nuclear Armageddon is, and the evolving back cover image of blood running down toward a ticking clock.  This image, with the Roman numerals on the clock face and the small rivers of blood pouring over it, emphasizes the finality of the narrative with this chapter.  And, as with each chapter previous, this cover image leads directly into


Panel 1:  where we see that the clock is the one just above the entrance to Madison Square Garden, where the Pale Horse/Krystalnacht concert was letting out as Adrian Veidt’s faux alien monster teleported in, self-destructing upon impact and causing the devastation visible here. 

Notice the now-familiar shape of the blood spatter (from the Comedian’s smiley-face button) on the dislodged door with the concert poster.

It is worth noting that this is the very first full-page splash utilized by Moore & Gibbons in this entire story.  The regular 9-panel grid these artists use throughout the initial eleven chapters – with multiple deviations from that pattern for certain narrative effects – has been building to this moment.  This large, single image effectively communicates the gravity of the moment –enhanced by the choice to offer it without captions or dialogue.  Coupled with Dave Gibbons’s meticulous detail, readers are almost forced to pore over the page, the horror of what has transpired seeping slowly in.  It’s a deft use of the comic page made all the more powerful by that adherence to the 9-panel grid throughout the rest of the narrative.


Over the course of these first six pages of Chapter XII, Moore & Gibbons slowly and quietly “pan” around the intersection that has been ground zero for much of the storytelling, and which became ground zero for Veidt’s ultimate plan.  They utilize full-page images for each of these opening pages.  For the reasons cited in the notes for PAGE 1, this is a powerful and effective use of the comic page, enhanced by the “rhythm” these two artists created with the 9-panel grid over the course of the previous eleven chapters.

Throughout these opening pages all, or most, of the visual echoes that we have seen over the course of Watchmen can be found in these images of death and destruction.  Most prominent on PAGE 2 are the blimp (having crashed into a building behind Madison Square Garden), the apocalyptic associations with the knot-top concert for Pale Horse and Krystalnacht (posters of which have been scattered throughout the story), the feeling that nuclear devastation has been looming over the heads of the entire world as symbolized by the newspaper headline, “War?” and the watch (and, by extension, watchmaker) motif as seen by the watch peddler’s case in the lower part of the image.

On PAGE 3 we see the Utopia movie theater, which has been showing the classic film The Day the Earth Stood Still, more watches strewn across the pavement leading to the watch peddler, a number of knot-tops dead on the steps leading into the theater, and the floating elephant advertising the Gunga Diner in tatters to the right of the image, while the newspaper with the War headline floats across the image.

PAGE 4 is in front of the Gunga Diner, with the elephant face of its advertising balloon coming in from the left of the panel, Detectives Fine and Bourquin seen in the lower middle of the image, while a Rorschach blot from Dr. Long’s brief case is visible at the very bottom of the page.  And, again, newspapers flutter across the image.

PAGE 5 has both Joey & Aline and Dr. & Mrs. Long in macabre embraces – these couples seemingly only able to overcome their differences in death.  There are more echoes from earlier chapters as this image is in front of the Promethean Cab Company where we can see the overturned Gordian Knot Lock truck.  At the corner of the building where Promethean was headquartered is the nuclear fallout shelter sign, while in the foreground are more copies of the newspaper with its War headline, another Rorschach blot, and a bottle of Nostalgia perfume.

And, with PAGE 6, we finally see the body of the creature – having only perceived the arms, or tentacles, in previous pages.  Fittingly, the creature was teleported to the Institute for Extraspatial Studies – a Veidt holding where he could secretly build the receiver for his teleportation device.  The greenish liquid covering the front of this building, and the tentacle to our right, is actually the squid’s blood, which is yet another bit of verisimilitude, as squids do actually have green blood.  Also note that the letters not covered with its blood (and including the “L” formed by the newspaper corner floating over the scene) spell out:  “OR ALL DIE.”

We also have more echoes from previous chapters as we see the Pink Triangle poster Joey asked Bernie, the newsvendor, to put up at his newsstand, the spark hydrant developed by Dr. Manhattan, more instances of the newspaper with the War headline – which is not only symbolic of the threat humanity has been living under throughout this narrative, but also foreshadows the feelings about this creature (that it might be a scout for an alien invasion force) that will propel the narrative toward its end – the Black Freighter comic the younger Bernie has been reading throughout Watchmen with its back cover advocating the Veidt Method (its slogan: “I will give you bodies beyond your wildest imaginings, an ominous phrase given Veidt’s actions), another Rorschach blot from Dr. Long’s briefcase, and the cover to the spark hydrant spattered with blood, which echoes the blood spattered smiley-face button of the Comedian.


Panel 1:  Again, Moore & Gibbons ironically juxtapose the imagery with the dialogue as Dr. Manhattan comments on the fact that it is “midnight” when they arrive back on Earth while standing in front of the former offices of the Promethean Cab Company – its sign proclaiming Promethean is “Bringing Light to the World” at an hour when there would be no natural light.

Having the first word of this final chapter be midnight emphasizes the climactic point we readers are experiencing, as midnight is often seen as the final moment of a 24-hour day. 

Conversely, the use of midnight could also be interpreted as foreshadowing the new status quo that will result from this “alien attack,” as midnight is the first minute of a new day.

Visually, Laurie’s tears are a modified version of the “blood spatter” that has been utilized throughout this narrative.  And the clasp of her choker being a skull also emphasizes, subtly, the devastation that has been wrought on New York City.

Panel 2:  Dr. Manhattan’s observation that the static, which has interfered with his ability to see into the future, was not caused by a nuclear detonation indicates that something or someone else is behind the static interference, and we will discover that that someone is Adrian Veidt.


Panels 2-4:  In panel 2, the revolver of one of the detectives is seen at Laurie’s feet.  In panel 3, the angle of the image shows Laurie looking directly at the pistol.  And then, in the background of panel 4, we can see her kneeling down – the assumption being that she is picking up the revolver.  However, by relegating this detail to the background – utilizing a close-up of Dr. Manhattan whose speech is more prominent in the panel – it may not register with some readers and will be more easily forgotten by those others who notice it.  This is artful storytelling, which will allow for a dramatic surprise later without readers feeling “cheated.”

Panel 7-9:  Laurie’s plea to Jon – “…take it away…” – and his subsequent teleportation leads directly into


Panel 1:  where Rorschach tells Veidt to “…take cat away.”  This panel, with its wash of light blue, is mirrored by Page 8, panel 8 where Dr. Manhattan’s power is represented in a burst of light blue energy.

Panel 5:  Veidt’s comment that he would have had to “catch the bullet” if his assassin had shot at him first is a bit of foreshadowing.


Panels 1-5:  This explanation of how Veidt utilized the psychic, Robert Deschaines’s, brain is the key to his whole plan.  Without this element, Veidt’s plan could not have worked.

Panel 6:  Veidt’s comment that the method in which all involved with his plan were done away with was a “lethal pyramid” is yet another instance of the pyramid motif that surrounds Veidt.


Panel 3:  Dr. Manhattan’s dialogue in this panel indicates that the tachyons are still wreaking havoc with his perspective.  Over the course of the next few pages, Dr. Manhattan’s dialogue will jump back and forth in time while he remains in the relative present – unlike Chapter IV where readers experienced his unique perspective of time by jumping back and forth through the scenes with him.  To emphasize this “mental” leap-frogging through time, Gibbons will mirror Dr. Manhattan’s physical appearance in the echoing panels.

Panel 4:  This is another of the mirroring panels.  Dr. Manhattan’s dialogue will make more sense when we get to the panel where these words are reacting to the “relative present” of the situation.


Panel 3:  This panel mirrors Page 11, panel 3.  Note that Dr. Manhattan not only has the exact same dialogue – even though the first balloon is a response to two different questions on the two pages – but he is also in the exact same place, with the exact same posture, on this page as he was on the previous.

Panel 4:  And this panel mirrors Page 11, panel 4.  Again, Dr. Manhattan’s dialogue is exactly the same, despite the fact that it is responding to two very different questions, as is his posture.


Panel 4:  Dr. Manhattan’s assertion, “…if I must follow this through to the bitter end…” is not only a commentary on his progress here, but it is also a comment on

Panel 5: as we see Laurie entering Karnak through the tunnel Rorschach and Nite Owl used, following this to the bitter end, a comment that also acts as a bit of foreshadowing for how Watchmen will end for most of those gathered here in Antarctica.

And this bitter end comment leads directly to


Panels 1-5: where we see Bubastis and Dr. Manhattan have both followed a path to Veidt that leads to their bitter end.

Panel 4 is obviously a direct callback to Chapter IV, Page 8, panel 4, where Jon Osterman was disintegrated in a similar intrinsic field subtractor.

Panel 5:  Note the skull and crossbones on the warning sign beside Veidt, calling back to the Black Freighter comic while further linking Veidt with the protagonist of that story.  Also, slipping in from off-panel right, we can see Laurie standing and watching Veidt, melting snow dripping from her, forming a pool of water at her feet.


Panel 2:  The gun Laurie appropriated from the detective on Page 8 is revealed.

Panel 3:  The visual technique of drawing ghost images through a physical motion, as Gibbons utilizes in this panel, shows just how fast Veidt is moving as he jumps into action.


Panel 2:  The reveal in this panel supports the boastfulness exhibited by Veidt on Page 9, panel 5, which foreshadowed this confrontation.

Panels 6-7:  Veidt’s dismissal of Dan Dreiberg (Nite Owl), and Dan’s rage at Veidt’s assault on Laurie, is yet another convention subverted by Moore & Gibbons in Watchmenthe righteous indignation of a character when their significant other is assaulted leading directly to a physical confrontation. 

Also, the remark by Veidt in panel 7 – “…do grow up…” – can also be seen as a bit of meta-commentary.  Not only does the grow up remark describe what Moore & Gibbons wished to achieve for the superhero genre through the creation of this book, but it can also be seen as a direct comment to the readership.


Panel 1:  The meta-commentary continues from Veidt, as he states that the new world he hopes usher in does not need “…obvious heroism, making [Dreiberg’s] schoolboy heroics redundant…”

Panels 2-4:  The remarks by Veidt in panels 2 and 3 – “…usher in an age of illumination…” which will lead to humanity turning “…instead towards the [light]…” – is also a commentary on what is occurring in these panels, as Veidt and the others turn, in panel 3, toward the light being emanated by Dr. Manhattan, who has quickly reincorporated himself just outside the window of the main hall of Karnak.


Panel 4:  Dr. Manhattan sarcastically asks Veidt, “[Is that] another ultimate weapon [in your hand]?”  What Veidt is holding is the remote control for his television sets.  And, yes, it is an ultimate weapon, as he stops his comrades in their tracks with the news reports that seem to signal the success of his gruesome plan. 


Panel 1:  The newscaster commenting on the people going insane – specifically, the pregnant woman who believed her unborn child was eating her and terminated the pregnancy (we can assume from the context) – is an example of how the programmed brain of the psychic within Veidt’s monster influenced the populace.

Panel 5:  The “RBACHEV” mentioned in one of the dialogue balloons is Mikhail Gorbachev – at the time, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and de factor ruler of Russia.  

Panel 7:  To emphasize, symbolically, Veidt’s triumph, we see him proclaiming his victory in front of the painting of Alexander’s triumph at solving the puzzle of the Gordian Knot – linking these two more closely, as both Alexander and Veidt were able, it appears, to solve their specific Gordian Knots.


Panel 1:  Veidt is commenting on how he “…saved Earth from Hell…” even as we look down on him from a high vantage point – an atypical layout from Gibbons.  This point of view achieves two things: 
-      First, it emphasizes Veidt’s comments of how Earth was going to Hell – typically viewed as residing below the Earth.
-      Secondly, it links Veidt to Hell, providing a visual commentary on the horrific means with which Veidt achieved his end, resigning Veidt, metaphorically, to Hell for the great deed he accomplished.

Panel 4:  This logic, as stated by Dr. Manhattan, is yet another point that Moore & Gibbons wished to make with Watchmen – i.e. things are not as clear-cut in the real world as one finds in typical superhero comics, and by injecting this narrative with such a nebulous moral conundrum, they also manage to inject Watchmen with more drama than one typically finds in a superhero comic.

Panels 4-7:  The slow pan of the “camera” into a close-up of Rorschach is very effective in conveying the weight of his remark in panel 7.


Panel 4:  This image – a large panel with the figures of Nite Owl and Silk Spectre small in the background – is yet another instance of how Moore & Gibbons utilized the medium to tell their story.  This scene, with its expansive openness surrounding the two heroes, emphasizes how alone and helpless Nite Owl and Silk Spectre feel right now.  They are both literally and metaphorically small and insignificant.

Panel 7:  Moore & Gibbons continue to play with the words and pictures as Nite Owl’s admission that he and Silk Spectre are “out of [their] depth” is stated over an image of these two entering an area of Veidt’s fortress where there is a pool, within which one who could not swim might be out of one’s depth.


Panel 6:  The fact that Dan smells of Nostalgia is both literal – as it has been the most marketed fragrance seen in this story, and was not only the favorite perfume of Laurie’s mother but also one of the many companies owned by Veidt – and metaphorical – as the intimate relationship between these two adventurers was spurred on by their nostalgia for a past when they could openly wear their costumes and fight crime.

Panel 7:  The large shadow on the far wall of Dan and Laurie embracing is reminiscent of the Hiroshima Lovers graffiti seen throughout the story, and it transitions directly to


Panel 1: and a similar inkblot image on Rorschach’s mask.

Panel 4:  If you look closely at Dr. Manhattan’s foot in this panel you’ll notice that he is standing right on top of the wing of the dead butterfly from the previous chapter, as if he were the one who stepped on it and killed it.  This image foreshadows the outcome of this confrontation between Dr. Manhattan and Rorschach – Dr. Manhattan will kill Rorschach just as easily as the butterfly was killed.


Panel 3:  This image seems to be a call back to Chapter VI, Page 7, panel 1 in which readers experienced Rorschach’s very first documented incident of violence, when he was ten years old and attacked by the older boys in front of the fruit stand.  His tears here mirror the smeared fruit on his face from that earlier image.  These two scenes are the bookends of his life – from his first act of violence to his final act of intransigence, he came into this life as Kovacs and went out of it in the same manner, a fitting symmetry. 

Panel 4:  A question about this panel is: can Dr. Manhattan still be said to merely be performing the actions he’s seen in his quantum consciousness, or, after having been bombarded with tachyons by Veidt, which interfered with his ability to see into the future, could this be an instance of self-determination on the part of Dr. Manhattan?


Panel 5:  This image of Dr. Manhattan is a call back to Chapter I, Page 23, panel 9 where we saw a similarly smiling Dr. Manhattan, close to discovering a gluino, while Laurie was on the phone making plans to have dinner with Dan Dreiberg.
Panel 6:  Being as close to a god as any character in this story, Dr. Manhattan performs the miracle most associated with Jesus Christ, that of walking on water, which accentuates his godlike stature.


Panel 1:  Veidt’s halted admission that he “…dream[s] about swimming towards a hideous [something]…” is a direct reference to the Black Freighter story within Watchmen.  Veidt, like the protagonist in the Black Freighter, swims toward that hideous black ship in his dream because, like that comic’s protagonist, he has performed horrific acts with the intent to bring about the salvation of his world, as the colonist in the Black Freighter comic wished to save his family and friends in Davidstown from the impending doom that approached in the form of the Black Freighter (even as an impending nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union threatened Veidt’s home, Earth). 

This is the most direct link between Veidt and the Black Freighter story, which acts as a metaphor for Veidt’s journey in Watchmen.

Panel 2:  Veidt’s dialogue, once again, links him with the Black Freighter, as Veidt tells Jon (Dr. Manhattan) that he realizes he has “…struggled across the backs of murdered innocents…” in the same manner that the protagonist in the Black Freighter lashed together a raft on top of the bloated bodies of his dead comrades in order to make his way across the ocean and back to Davidstown.

Panel 7:  The image of Veidt with his back to us transitions directly to


Panel 1: and the image of Sally Jupiter with her back to us, her bathrobe mirroring Veidt’s cloak in the previous panel.

And Sally’s dialogue also calls back to the previous page, as she complains about people “begging” on Christmas day, stating “…it never ends…” mirroring Dr. Manhattan’s comment to Veidt on panel 5 of Page 27 that “…nothing ends.”

Panel 2:  The family name of this couple, Hollis, is an obvious allusion to Hollis Mason, the original Nite Owl, and is one of the many aliases that Dan Dreiberg (Nite Owl II) set up in case he ever needed to go into hiding.

Panel 3:  The Outer Limits episode running on Sally Jupiter’s television, “The Architects of Fear,” is one that has a similar plot to Watchmen.  Alan Moore has stated that he discovered this similarity while looking through a guide to cult television.  He and Gibbons had their ending already worked out and included this reference to that episode as a way of signifying this coincidence – whether unconscious or unconnected.  It need also be noted that this plot was not unique to this Outer Limits episode, writers such as Theodore Sturgeon and Kurt Vonnegut had used a similar plot in their prose years before “The Architects of Fear” aired on television.


Panel 1:  The bottle of “Millennium stuff” that Sally mentions here is the new perfume from Veidt, replacing the old Nostalgia brand, as mentioned in the back-matter for Chapter X.

Panel 2:  The book that Dan picks up from Sally’s end table is the copy of the Tijuana bible seen in Chapter II.


Panel 3:  The new costume being described by Laurie in this panel sounds very much like her father, the Comedian’s, costume.

Panels 6-7:  This scene is often looked upon harshly – the problem for some being, how can Sally Jupiter have any affection for a man who so violently assaulted her when they were young?  But one reading of this – and, by extension, Sally’s overall feelings toward Edward Blake – could be that Sally, despite the atrocity she experienced at Blake’s hands, values the daughter that came from such an unexpected coupling.

It is also worth noting that, in this panel, Sally is still living in the nostalgia that has carried her this far – an interpretation reinforced by the bottle of Nostalgia perfume featured in the center of the image on her nightstand.


Panel 1:  This panel shows us the “new dawn” on that fateful intersection of New York City that has been the hub of this narrative.  It is a time of coming together rather than divisiveness, as shown by a number of things in this image.  On our left we see a new restaurant, Burgers ‘n Borscht, which is a very literal commingling of America (burgers) and Russia (borscht), symbolizing the new understanding between these superpowers that came about as a result of Veidt’s plan. 

In the background, the Hiroshima lovers graffiti is being painted over while the nuclear fallout shelter sign is being taken down – two of the prime symbols of the fear that hung over this world. 

In the far background, high in the air at roughly the center of the panel, we see a zeppelin crossing in front of the clouds, symbolic of renewal after the demolished zeppelin seen at the opening of this chapter.  On the right, Pyramid Construction – obviously a company of Veidt’s – is helping to rebuild this intersection, and the “New Deal” sign on the construction fencing is reminiscent of FDR’s New Deal – a series of economic programs enacted in the United States during the mid-1930s, in an effort to lift us out of the Great Depression. 

In the far right of the image, we can see the placard for the New Utopia Theater, which is airing an Andrei Tarkovsky double bill – “The Sacrifice” and “Nostalgia.”  The first bit of significance of this is the fact that the New Utopia is showing films by a lauded Russian filmmaker, again exhibiting the newfound camaraderie of the United States and Russia.  Secondly, the titles allude to two of the prime themes of Watchmen – that of the nostalgia that permeated so much of the narrative and incited characters to action, and the great sacrifice exacted by Veidt on the citizens of New York in order to achieve his goal of world peace.

But we also have some graffiti remarking on the aftermath of Veidt’s “alien invasion” as we can see on the fence just below the “New Deal” sign a statement that did read “One in Eight go mad,” but the eight was crossed out and replaced with a 3, signifying the madness caused by Veidt’s squid.

Panel 2:  The point of view for this panel is from the spot where Bernie had his newsstand.  The newer, sleeker spark hydrant and the automated newspaper vending machine are symbolic of the two Bernies, the younger who liked to sit against the spark hydrant to keep warm and the older one who ran his newsstand here.

The Gazette headline – “RR to Run in 88?” – appears to be an allusion to Ronald Reagan, who was the President of the United States at the time.  But we will learn that it is not Reagan whom the pundits are asking about.

More importantly, though, this headline is another indication that the world, and the country, is moving on, as it appears Richard Nixon is not the top candidate any longer after his five terms in office.

Panel 3:  The “One World One Accord” poster is the most prominent symbol of this new world order in this panel, and it is significant that this poster is replacing the old nuclear fallout shelter one.  The Promethean Cab (+ Limo) Company sign stating it is “under new management” offers an equally positive message, as that company is able to start over after the devastation wrought by Veidt’s “alien attack.”

Panel 4:  Here we see the ad for Millennium by Veidt – a new fragrance that looks to the future rather than at the past, as Nostalgia did.  Again, another indication of the new world order that came about, as a result of Adrian Veidt.  Also noteworthy is the graffiti:  “Quantum Jump” and “New Deal,” both of which are positive, forward looking phrases.

Panel 5:  Note that the figure walking down the street, Seymour from the New Frontiersman, is wearing what appear to be Veidt shoes.  More importantly, the graffiti beyond his legs reads “Watch the Skies” instead of “Who Watches the Watchmen?”  The world has rallied around their common enemy in the stars and, even if they haven’t forgiven or forgotten, the populace seems able to reconcile living in a world with adventurers now – or, at the very least, they don’t feel the need to be on the lookout for them now.

Also, just beyond Seymour’s right shin, we can see the Pioneer Publishing entrance – publishers of the New Frontiersman where Seymour is employed – and its symbol, which are two “P”s back to back forming a symmetrical image very similar to Rorschach’s signature and the symbol for the Rumrunner Bar, as seen in Chapter V.

Panel 6:  Across the street, in the background, we can see a clock at roughly a minute to noon (which looks the same as the “minutes to midnight” clock motif that has run throughout the book) and an advertisement for a new candy, sunbursts, which seems to have replaced mmmmeltdowns and it allusions to nuclear devastation.


Panel 1:  In the pile in the foreground we can see that Rorschach’s journal is still there.

Also note that Seymour is wearing a smiley face shirt, which certainly seems in keeping with the character.

Panel 3: And we discover that the “RR” who might be running for President is, in fact, Robert Redford.

Panel 4:  Hector Godfrey’s remark, “…who wants a cowboy actor in the White House…” is obviously an ironic commentary on the fact that, at the time Watchmen was published, there was a cowboy actor, Ronald Reagan, in the White House.

Panels 5-6:  And with the drop of ketchup that fell onto his shirt in panel 5, Seymour now has a smiley face image with the same red splatter as we saw on the Comedian’s smiley face button.

Panel 7:  And with this close-up image of the splattered smiley face shirt, Watchmen ends as it began.

The dialogue in this panel – “I leave it entirely in your hands.” – is not only a directive for Seymour, but is also a directive for the audience, leaving it in our hands how we believe the story continues.  Does Seymour run something from Rorschach’s journal?  Does he run something else?  Will the tenuous peace achieved by Veidt crumble in light of the revelations from Rorschach’s journal?  Or does the world continue to move forward, working to solidify this peace that was achieved at such a cost?  The questions, and the possibilities, are endless, and Moore & Gibbons leave it all in our hands.


  1. Page 20, Panel 5:
    Laurie says: 'Jesus! All we did was stop him trying to save the world! Jesus!'
    This is a reference to Jesus Christ 'saving humanity'.

  2. Page 3:
    Note how a (bent) sign with 'ONE WAY' points at 'U OPIA'. According to Veidt there is only one way to a (flawed) utopia.

  3. I'd just like to say, thank you very much for all of these wonderful annotations. They helped me realize the absolute brilliance of Watchmen even more than I already did, as I reread along to them. Certainly the best ones I could find, and you did a fantastic job with them. Watchmen is simply one of the best. I'm astounded by it more and more over the years, and like life, it's a miracle it exists.

  4. Page 19, Panel 4. Note that the British Prime Minister is [Denis] Healey. A long-term Cabinet Minister in the Labour Party, and whom Alan Moore obviously thought would have beaten Mrs Thatcher (who he hated/hates with a passion) in an election had he been the leader instead of Neil Kinnock. It is little touches like these which prove that while Watchmen might be set in America, it was written by a Brit.