I've Just Re-Read Watchmen, and Would Like to Discuss Alan Moore (SPOILERS)

Actually, I was also inspired by searching the archives and by finding this thread, wherein much is made of V for Vendetta, Watchmen, and (to a lesser extent) Promethea, all by (IMO) the greatest writer to ever work in the comic industry. Having just finished my annual re-read of Watchmen, I was, once again, astonished by how even now I begin to see details I missed first time around- things that give me whole new insights to the book.

For example, in the last issue Jon dematerialises out of Ozymandias’s orrery (p.27, panel 6). As he does so, he leaves behind a cloud of dust- something we haven’t seen him do before when teleporting. Now, look at the shape of the dust cloud, especially with the orrery’s model of the sun at its centre. Am I crazy, or does it look like a mushroom cloud, with a tiny “sun” in the middle? Couple this with Jon’s last words “Nothing ever ends.” and Ozymandias’ obvious concern, and I think that there is a strong implication that all of the New York plot was for naught- the world will still be destroyed, the various “positive” visual cues were are given in the last two pages of the book notwithstanding. OK, the ending is still strongly ambiguous, but this appears to be a scary suggestion.

Now, looking back at the ending of V for Vendetta I see that, essentially, all V’s schemes have done very little. Oh, sure, the fascist government has fallen, Evey is set up in his place (even to the extent of recruiting, presumably, her own successor) and Evey is ready to unleash the contents of the Shadow Gallery (banned books and art, cheap medicine, science) on a benighted England. But look at the behaviour of the ordinary people in England- the group of drunks that accost what-her-name (the wife of the deposed leader-in-waiting), or Finch- turning his back on London to travel to the (presumably, based on what we hear the cabdriver tell him of Larkshill) deserted North. Is this the ordnung of which V had spoken? It seems no more than chaos, and unlikely to bloom into the utopian anarchy that he aspires to.

Just ramblings, really, without a real point- other than that, perhaps, the overall message of both V for Vendetta and Watchmen is to be wary of simple quick-fit solutions, ie. the solutions provided by a superhero. In both books, the “superheros” do no more than upset the status quo, leaving others to pick up the pieces- quite possibly with disastrous results. I notice a similar motif in parts of Swamp Thing, where the brute-force solutions of superheros make the problem worse often as not, and it is the willpower of the weak (Daniel, or whatever manifesting-evil-monkey boy was called) or persuasion (Swamp Thing vs. The Floronic Man) that solves the issue. The counterexample (?) is, obviously, Top 10 (all versions), where superheroes make a difference- but as people, cops and partners and prostitutes, not as magic men who can punch a problem into submission. Is this a genuine theme in the works I’ve mentioned, or am I reading too much into the source material?

(Oh, BTW, I’ve heard that Alan Moore is blind in one eye. If this is true, does anyone know which eye it is? I ask because there is a strong blindness motif in Watchmen, and the blinded eye is always the right. Supposedly, in Jewish mythology the right eye sees only good and the left only evil- make of that what you will. I just wondered whether the rationale might be slightly closer to heart, as it were.)

Those are all good points. I agree, in particular, that Moore does not place much stock in a superhero deux ex machina to set the world aright. It’s not that easy to improve society, he tells us, while failing to suggest a better course of action.

Anarchy seems the likely outcome of V’s toppling of the British fascist state. V is giving “freedom” to country long unused to it, and the early indications are none too encouraging, as you note. Even if anarchy eventually yields to some sort of social order, what guarantee is there that it will be democratic? None. It’s just as likely to be a police state of a different flavor.

Watchmen also has an ambiguous ending, and one may certainly infer that Rorschach’s diary will be discovered and printed by the right-wing hatemag, thereby leaving the superpowers right where they were before the faked alien attack on NYC, and perhaps resulting in WWIII.

I wouldn’t be surprised if “Unsettling” is Moore’s middle name.

Even if you infer that from the last panel, that still leaves matters thoroughly ambiguous – who’s going to believe something published in this rag based on the diary of an obvious nut case?

Depends – does the Watchmen-verse have an analog to Fox News? :wink:

I’m just now rereading V for Vendetta - had forgotten how powerful it was. Must reread Watchmen soon also.

I have to say that from V’s standpoint, his vendetta was wildly successful. He wanted to destroy everyone who was involved in his own torture - and he did so. Every one of them - killed or otherwise destroyed. He didn’t care what happened afterward.

I don’t see V as a force for good, at all. Yes, he had every right to want revenge and the people who harmed him utterly DESERVED everything he dished out and more. But I don’t see that V really cared all that much about making the lives of the everyday Joe any better than they were before. If that happened as a side effect, that’s cool, but it was not anything necessary to him.

While on vacation recently, we saw that the movie was showing in an Imax theatre just a block away from us. We really wanted to see it there. Unfortunately, the kids were with us. We tried talking ourselves into it by saying “See, it’s brought to you by the letter V, just like Sesame Street”. Fortunately for the kids, sanity prevailed :smiley:

Well that’s why I thought the (possible) mushroom-cloud imagery in the last issue was interesting- Dr. Manhattan can see the future, after all, so maybe he is giving Ozymandias a bit of a hint that his scheme is doomed to failure?

Hmm, I think I disagree. V clearly demonstrates a desire to help others in the very first issue, when he saves Evey without revenging himself by doing so and at great personal risk (I don’t care how much of a goddamn superman he is, taking on five armed gestapo is still risky). He takes considerable time out from his “vendetta” (which is, in any case, clearly directed against not just his persecutors but the whole Norsefire state from Book 2 onwards) to free Evey from the mental shackles that bind her- whatever you think about the shocking torture scenes, it is evident that V is really trying to “liberate” Evey, as he sees it. He is acting out of, for him, altruistic motives, and he spells that out to Evey (and us) through his quotes from Bakunin (“virwirrung” et al). Consider how he repeats his actions in attempting to liberate the “everyday Joe”, first demonstrated in microcosm on Evey, on a massive scale when he shuts down the Eye and the Ear- and look at how Moore shows us at least two characters- the man eating sausages and the girl graffiti-ing- whose lives are changed and liberated by V’s actions. V doesn’t necessarily care about making peoples’ lives better, you are correct- he cares about making them free-er. And in V’s values system, that is the ultimate good.

Also, look at what happens when Finch takes LSD to simulate V’s mindset. Throughout the rest of the comic, we have seen V only as he wished others to see him- the mask of different personalities that he presents to the world (showed not least by how many quotations he uses- he has built himself a scrapbook persona through other’s words)- but here we see the world through Finch’s/his eyes, and realise that he cares deeply about the ideals of freedom and is passionately angry about the extermination of others. Look also at how much care and compassion he shows for Valerie, to the extent that he takes home a poster of hers he finds even when no-one (except, of course, the audience) is aware of him.

I’ll admit that at the end of Book 1, the presentation of V you present- as someone only motivated by his personal vendetta- is eminently possible, and Finch spells that out for us in his presentation to Susan. But from the beginning of Book 2, when V notes his intent to get at the whole Norsefire state (through that wonderful little song, the Vicious Cabaret), it is clear that V is so much more than your penny-ante pyschopath. He always acts for what he believes to be the greater good, and I think that, like his little human touches (his affection for Valerie and, after her, Evey, both obviously unfeigned) are essential to keep us from rejecting him as a character, even as an anti-hero. The acts V commits are so horrific, even when compared to the state against which he strives, that it is necessary for us to feel sympathy for both him and his cause if we are to appreciate the book. And I think that having the length and breadth of V’s cause be his “Vendetta” does nothing for that.

Wow. I need to get a life, or else a job writing critical discourse.

I’m not entirely sure that Manhattan’s precognition is back at that point. The interference is explicitly blocking him as the issue opens, and shows no signs of being switched off; he doesn’t make any predictions, and instead limits himself to saying that “Perhaps I’ll create some.”

Having said that, even if it is back on, he might not know what’s going to happen; he only knows what he will later experience, and it’s his intention to leave permanently.

And having said that, it seems like the argument is more pro-Veidt if the precognition is back in play; Manhattan’s comments about how he’s afraid that Ozymandias is logically right and how they should all agree to remain silent and how he must protect the utopia by atomizing Rorschach don’t make a lick of sense if he knows that remaining silent and atomizing Rorschach won’t make any difference.

Me, I figure the mushroom cloud is just meant to be ominously unsettling without being definitive – exactly like that ambiguous “Lady or the Tiger” ending set up in the last panel. (And I’d be wary of reading the implication of certain doom into that “Nothing Ever Ends” sentiment likewise; why deduce from it that something is going to, well, end?)

Not to shatter your thesis or nuthin’, but check out Chapter 3, page 21, and to a lesser extent, chapter 8, page 23 and chapter 12, page 8. The amount of pyrotechnics associated with Osterman’s departures seems proportional to the distance he intends to travel. Teleports within New York are smooth, but going to Antarctica or Mars definitely creates puffs of smoke.

I think Moore avoids htis problem by showing us that Manhattan may be aware of the future events, but he still reacts to them in “real” time, like his freak-out when accused of giving Janey Slater and others cancer, or when he tells Laurie on Mars that she’s going to tell him she’swith Dan now, and then a few panels later he’s all “What! You’re sleeping with Dreiberg???”


…because, as he explains, everything is pre-ordained, even his (re)actions. He can see the future (when he’s not blinded by a squall of tachyons interfering with his perceptions) but can’t alter it. Which is why he lies to Janey about always loving her when he knows he’ll fall for Laurie in the future, which is why JFK still dies in Dallas even we he knows it will happen, which is why he can still be “surprised” and react with wounded pride when Laurie lets slip she’s sleeping with Dan, even though he tells her he already knows minutes before.

Oh, my take is that for the duration of his time on Earth after he and Laurie return to Mars, Doc Manhatten’s ability to “see” and “know” the future is affected by the tachyon stream generated by Ozymandias’ satellites. There is no mention the tachyons were EVER disabled or turned off by Ozzy. Only when he leaves Earth’s influence would his ability to see time in multiple instances would return.

I’ve always wanted a resolution to that damned ending. Deliciously annoyingly ambiguous.