MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN
|"Watchmen" Chapter XII: "A Stronger Loving World"|
Each week until the release of Warner Bros.' film adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ “Watchmen,” Eisner Award-winning retailers Carr D’Angelo (Earth-2 Comics in Sherman Oaks, CA) and Atom! Freeman (Brave New World in Newhall, CA) have reviewed one chapter of the landmark DC Comics graphic novel with a new perspective.
Carr is reading from his “Absolute Watchmen” while Atom! is perusing his well-worn early edition trade paperback. There's also a full set of original issues handy to settle the questions of what was in the first printing and what wasn't.
Joining us to discus the final issue of “Watchmen” is Damon Lindelof, co-creator and executive producer of the popular TV series “Lost” and the writer of the best-selling “Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk” miniseries. The only one of our guests to be quoted on the back of the book, Damon calls “Watchmen” "the greatest piece of popular fiction ever produced."
If you missed previous installments of RE-READING WATCHMEN, you can check out Atom! and Carr's past commentaries right here.
CHAPTER XII: A STRONGER LOVING WORLD
CARR: Damon, did you read “Watchmen” as it came out in 1986 or come to it later?
DAMON: No. I read it in ‘86, one issue at a time. My dad and I would buy it at Forbidden Planet on Broadway in Manhattan. And on the floor of my bedroom in his place (my folks were divorced at that point) I put each issue face down in order to slowly build the clock puzzle.
ATOM!: Something very right about that. It's both incredibly awesome and geeky at the same time. Little Damon with his comics spread out, arms pointing to five-minutes to midnight...
PAGES 1-6: WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT SQUID
CARR: Have you ever seen anything like this before? A six-page panorama in a comic book? I imagine if you tear out the pages it makes a complete 360. There are a lot of those easter eggs here: the band names like Pale Horse (as in "Death rides a...") and the nom de guerre Krystalnacht. There's an electric car hydrant where the plug is now a bloody smiley face. Even the date November 2, 11/2 is a weird symmetry, 1-1=2
DAMON: Now you're just showing off.
ATOM!: So much to take in there. My favorite is the ad with Veidt promising you "Bodies beyond your wildest imaginings." But I think I have seen this kind of thing since. Wasn't there an “Ultimates” multipage panorama?
PAGES 7-8: A DOCTOR IN MANHATTAN
ATOM!: Poor Laurie, how many times has she vomited in this story?
CARR: Is she vomiting from the teleporting or the killer squid smell?
DAMON: Although, it wasn't the giant squid that killed everyone. It was the implanted cloned psychic's brain that did it! The squid got a bad rap.
ATOM!: Ain't that always the way
CARR: But do you buy the psychic thing? It seems more magic than science to me.
DAMON: Well, I think it was smart of Ozymandias to guarantee that people would interpret the "story" he was selling the way he wanted it interpreted. It's like in “The Matrix,” when Neo gets this massive download and intones, "I know Kung-fu." Except, instead of knowing Kung-fu, it's terror related to incoming squids from another dimension.
ATOM!: Would have been cool if it was a giant red herring instead.
CARR: The vaginal design of the monster—“Watchmen” is as much about Freud as Nietzche.
CARR: A new record!
ATOM!: He has a special talent.
CARR: Is vulvic better?
ATOM!: You have a special vulvic?
DAMON: "Vulvic" was the name of my college Heavy Metal band!
PAGES 9-10: PYRAMID SCHEME
CARR: Adrian admits to killing Comedian and the people in New York but there is a casualty he is not directly responsible for: Hollis Mason. His murder is a loose end, though I suppose if the Knot Tops went to the concert, justice is done. It's weird, though. Why, as a writer, kill Hollis if not part of the "mask killer conspiracy?" It's a false proof of Rorschach's theory. I would suggest that the rage murder is essential to Moore's thesis that in the "real world," people would never trust masked heroes and look up to them.
ATOM!: Hollis was killed to activate Dan.
DAMON: No. Hollis was killed to show what Adrian was up against. He wasn't trying to save mankind from nuclear annihilation. He was trying to save mankind from itself. And when a bunch of knotheads break into an old man's apartment and beat him to death, that's a very serious problem.
ATOM!: Until just moments ago, I used to think that Hollis was killed to send a message to Dan. Story-wise, Hollis' death motivates Dan, removes some of his fear. But Damon has a point. The attack on Hollis does give us society as another villain.
CARR: Bubastis getting caught in the trap is one of those great character bits that Moore throws in to show how ruthless Ozymandias is. He's willing to kill his pet to accomplish his plan. The sad part is that Bubastis is sacrificed for no reason. Any chance she can pull herself together and returns as the super-powered Dr. Bubastis?
CARR: So who's the Messiah here: Jon or Rorschach? Both sacrifice themselves, right?
ATOM!: I always picked Rorschach as more the John The Baptist type.
DAMON: Well, I guess I'd say that if anyone's the Christ figure, it might just be the guy walking across water. And who is literally the deus ex machina: the hand of God reaching through the window and smiting Veidt. And by "smiting," I mean "doing nothing."
ATOM!: I don't really care how successful Veidt was. Any life that has an anecdote about a giant angry blue penis coming at you cannot be considered completely a success.
CARR: So in the new world, people start wearing hydrogen atoms around their necks? But there's no vengeance. Adrian lives.
DAMON: Exactly. I think Jon really respects Adrian.
CARR: Jon is totally passive. Adrian acts.
DAMON: Issue #12 goes out of its way to portray Jon as having a real appreciation for Adrian's plan. In fact, he gets excited by not knowing what's coming next. One could say that Dr. Manhattan doesn't like spoilers.
DAMON: As a result of the tachyons?
CARR: Well, prior to the tachyons.
DAMON: On Mars? Or just in general?
ATOM!: It looks to me like Jon knows he's walking into a trap. "Very well, if I must..."
CARR: He seems resigned to some predestination, reliving everything on some level.
ATOM!: No, more like I get the feeling that Jon has a real respect for anybody who can sneak up on him. So, why not, let's go into the death machine. Let's see what happens.
DAMON: Well, here's the thing about Jon -- despite Moore's genius in non-linear storytelling, we still don't entirely process how Dr. Manhattan "perceives" time. He can look forward and backward, but only if he wants to.
CARR: My interpretation is that he experiences everything simultaneously, which creates a sense of deja vu for him
DAMON: In theory, he should know that Laurie will be freaked out if he replicates for his kinky " ménage à trois."
ATOM!: Over the issues, I've come to believe that he can see the broad strokes, but not the fine ones. A bit like looking at GoogleEarth but not seeing details until he picks a spot.
DAMON: I think that's a perfect explanation, Atom. But I would ask this: When Jon says in this issue that he'd like to go create some life, doesn't he already know how it will work out? Or has he embraced not knowing?
For me, one of my favorite moments in the entire series is when Jon stands over Dan and Laurie sleeping... and smiles. It somehow communicates that he has recaptured a bit of his humanity.
ATOM!: And that he hasn't completely ruined her.
CARR: Jon is that guy who always has a girlfriend but never seeks one out.
DAMON: And sometimes gives them cancer.
ATOM!: All this is nice and all, but I'm imagining the poor CSI tech that had to analyze a bullet that was caught with human hands found at the South Pole from a gun that had been the property of a New York cop. Poor schlub.
PAGES 23-27: AND IN THE END...
DAMON: I want to talk about Rorschach. Question...
CARR: He is the Question.
DAMON: Rorshach's face is his everything. In fact, he's literally holding it on as he's fighting Adrian in the previous issue. And yet... once he realizes Jon is going to vaporize him, what does he do? He takes off his mask. And so, the question is this: does Jon kill Rorschach? Or does Jon kill Walter?
ATOM!: Wow. Who knew there were still surprises? Walter kills Rorschach. Jon kills Walter.
CARR: Removing the mask is a symbolic suicide. But it's also saying that you can kill the person who is Rorschach, but not the idea of Rorschach.
DAMON: Well, Rorshach makes such a big deal out of that mask and what it means in regards to his identity.
CARR: Rorschach lives on in the journal too. "Nothing ever ends."
DAMON: I've always felt that Moore's decision to kill Rorschach was the only way to guarantee no one would ever write a sequel.
CARR: There was talk of a Nite Owl/Rorschach prequel and a Minutemen series.
DAMON: Thank God it was just talk.
CARR: Moore, ironically, thought the book would go out of print
ATOM!: Strange to think that this wasn't designed to be read and re-read.
DAMON: I've always wondered about Rorschach's decision.
CARR: Well, he wasn't going to get very far on foot was he?
DAMON: Clearly, the difference between right and wrong seems very clear to him. But I've always wondered what he thought it would accomplish if he did expose the truth. I think Rorschach doesn't want there to be peace, because he doesn't understand it. And there's no place for him in a world where there aren't animals to put down.
ATOM!: I think the mistake is to think Rorschach thought through longterm. Veidt thought longterm and decided to grow a giant squid. Rorschach knocked heads together until he got an answer to his question.
CARR: But is a world without nuclear war necessarily a peaceful one?
DAMON: Well, that's the $64,000 question. Did it work?
ATOM!: Wait for the sequel.
PAGES 28-30: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE OWL OF TOMORROW?
CARR: This scene had a very Curt Swan "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow" feeling to me. I almost expect Dan to turn to the camera and wink.
ATOM!: No, that would be Veidt's gag.
DAMON: I like Dan's moustache. And blonde hair. I've always wondered if Dan's moustache isn't a new Nite Owl weapon... like a Batarang or something.
CARR: Another thought: if Dan and Laurie are still out there adventuring, then it must not be a crime-free world, even if it is safe from the threat of nuclear war.
ATOM!: I just love that Laurie reached that mature moment when you no longer blame your parents for who you are. That really seems to be Laurie's arc. Defined by her mother, defined by her men, defined by herself.
CARR: Except she's talking about giving up Silk Spectre II in order to become Comedian II or perhaps, the Comedienne.
ATOM!: Leather! I didn't get that. Damn, I'm dumb.
PAGES 31-32: THE FINAL FRONTIERSMAN
DAMON: I'd forgotten that the RR about to run for office was not in fact Ronald Reagan, but Robert Redford.
CARR: Still a cowboy actor. Remember, Alan Moore did that book about Iran-Contra, “Brought to Light?” So does the journal get published and does it have any effect.
DAMON: Yes. Journal gets published by one of the most disreputable publications in the city.
ATOM!: I say yes to both. So long as it would also end anyplace called Burgers & Borscht. Bleccch.
DAMON: Adrian covered all his tracks, so there is no proof. Only the ramblings of a mad man. It is quickly discredited.
CARR: So does it just feed a legion of anti-Veidt conspiracy theorists, the "Loose Change" of its day? Issue #12 makes me think about 9/11 a lot.
DAMON: This theme, "Kill a few to scare the living shit out of everyone else and thus, spare the lives of many," is an incredibly strong one.
CARR: A nuclear war would have destroyed the infrastructure. Adrian did what he did to preserve society.
DAMON: So they can buy more Bubastis action figures.
CARR: And trade their Nostalgia for Millennium, moving from the past to the future. Like Jon does.
ATOM!: Dammit, you keep doing that to me. Something else I missed.
DAMON: I love the line in #12 about Dan smelling like Nostalgia. That's a nice piece of writing there.
CARR: And the transition from that shot of silhouetted lovers to Rorschach's mask with a similar design. It's used other times in the book but hits home here.
DAMON: I've gotta read the Gibbons book that talks about all that visual awesomeness. That's the stuff I've missed.
ATOM!: Damon, can you talk a bit about how “Watchmen” has informed your writing?
DAMON: Uh... other than I rip it off every opportunity I get?
CARR: I never realized the “Lost” flashback device was inspired by “Watchmen” until you said it in an interview.
DAMON: From the flashbacks to the non-linear storytelling to the deeply flawed heroes, these are all elements that I try to put into everything I write.
CARR: There are no clear heroes and villains in “Watchmen.”
ATOM!: Depends on how you define them. Rorschach is the moral compass. Jon has the power. Veidt has the brain...and a rockin' costume.
CARR: Suddenly, it's “The Wizard of oz.” Or Freud again: id, ego, superego.
DAMON: And I love how fucking risky it is.
ATOM!: It really could have been an ambitious train-wreck.
DAMON: That it takes a guy like the Comedian, who rapes Sally, and then she lays the ol' lipstick kiss on his photo by the end of the story. And somehow, you buy it. It's sick, but you buy it.
CARR: We all know people like that who love the wrong person.
DAMON: Yes. I just implied that Rihanna is like Sally Jupiter.
ATOM!: But you don't know him like she does.
DAMON: If that isn't the perfect marriage of geekdom and hip-hop, I don't know what is.
DAMON: I have another question for you guys. Why do you think Adrian wanted to kill Eddie personally? I mean, he could've just blown up his apartment or something. Was it because he burned his map?
ATOM!: Not his map.
ATOM!: True. Maybe he wanted to bring Eddie in? And it didn't take. Maybe it was like catching a bullet. He thought he could, but...
CARR: I think Adrian was waiting years for a chance to get him back.
DAMON: It's this -- this conversation that we're having right now -- that has influenced my writing more than anything else. The fact that Moore generated something worthy of forming so many theories, so many questions, so many ideas...
ATOM!: This conversation? Talk about non-linear. I inspired “Lost!”
DAMON: You inspired “Lost.” Because you have four toes.
ATOM!: Little known fact. Another one? Damon never speaks in the past tense.
CARR: It's the tachyons. Well, twelve issues later and we have reached the end. What a great way to re-read the book.
ATOM!: My last thought is that it continually surprises me that no matter how many times I read it or talk about it, there is still something else I missed. You scratch a layer of this book deep enough and there's another layer under it looking at you like you're an idiot for not seeing it before.
DAMON: God Bless you for doing this because lord knows, I haven't spent enough of my life talking about “Watchmen.”
Carr D'Angelo is a member of the Board of Directors of ComicsPRO, the Comics Professional Retailer Organization. and co-owner of Earth-2 Comics in Sherman Oaks, California, the 2007 winner of the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award. Visit them online at: http://www.earth2comics.com.
Atom! Freeman co-owns Brave New World Comics (2008 winner of the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award) in Santa Clarita with his wife Portlyn. Since Watchmen came out the first time, he's lived in 10 different houses, had 5 different jobs, got married, bought a business and had a son. Read it today and maybe you can, too.