Day One - Watchmen
Hi everyone. It’s been a while, but I figured I’d give you something to read over Christmas. I’ve been itching to try and cover a writer’s body of work for a while, and while it might take a while to just sit and write out a rather lengthy article (which is in a way what I plan to do), your attention could be diverted elsewhere. My solution is to write short little vignettes to keep everyone entertained over the break.
I chose to write on Alan Moore not simply because he is my favourite writer nor because he has a particularly awesome beard, but because I always find there is some element of his work that I’m able to pick apart and analyze in a few hundred words. My first encounter with Moore’s work was Watchmen about four years ago when I started reading comics. At first it was a simplistic reaction, and upon second and subsequent readings I’ve found the series reads more like a novelization than any other comic I’ve read. For that reason, Watchmen is what I propose to look at here.
There are so many fascinating elements to the book, but one never ceases to amaze me: the silhouette of the lovers. This repeated image is, for me, one of the elements that really novelize the work. If you read any good novel very closely, a writer always works with certain images that compliment and drive the story in many ways. In James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, there is a recurring motif of bird imagery that subconsciously assists in driving Stephen Dedalus to his conclusion to leave Dublin at the end of the novel. Similarly, the image of the lovers occurs on a consistent basis to drive the story of Watchmen.
Moore’s careful placement of the image amongst the chaotic death and destruction of New York City (Issue 12, pg. 5) always haunts me. It gives the implication that after a nuclear war or Armageddon, all that will be left are our shadows painted on the walls. This is an image that occurs in Grant Morrison’s Invisibles as well. Does this specifically mean that our shadows, our “dark sides” or “dark reflections” will be all that is left if we continue to fight amongst ourselves? Perhaps that is what is suggested by the image; a darker side of humanity exists in the shadows.
That is too simple an explanation. The image is of two lovers kissing, and the first time Rorshach notices it he finds it haunting. It is an image that Rorschach identifies with his mother and her lovers, but the image makes its way into the Tijuana bible in Sally Jupiter’s house, as well as various scenes involving Laurie and her lovers Dan Dreiberg and Jon Osterman. The image even gets reversed in Chapter III, after Laurie and Dan fight the knot-top thugs and stand back to back. I’d even go so far to say the image gets twisted in Chapter XI when the newsvendor hugs the kid to protect him from the white flash (which incidentally transitions to repeat the image on the cover of that chapter).
Watch the image closely when it appears at the end of the novel, as Dan and Laurie kiss and then it transitions to Rorschach’s mask. For me, that suggests the image becomes a reckoning for the final stages of the novel. Given Moore’s suggestions about sex in other series, do the lovers really reconcile anything for the characters of Watchmen? Does it help justify Veidt’s actions at all, or does it just further complicate things? Does the image mean anything at all? I’m sure it does, but these are questions that we have to work out with our own interpretations of the work.
Merry Christmas! See you tomorrow!