Who watches the Watchmen? (Discussion, Open Spoilers)

So I just got done reading this most excellent graphic novel for the very first time and I must say I was blown away. Easily one of the better short stories (graphic or otherwise) I’ve ever read. I think I’ve caught a Watchmen thread on the SDMB once or twice, but avoided them like the plague 'cause I really wanted to read this. With Guinness in hand, I kick this off with a few questions–



  1. Does anyone else ever attempt to God-ify themselves using the Internal Field Separator?

  2. I believe the book mentions that their are two superheros in existence with superhuman powers; who is the second? Is it Ozymandias? Certainly, his bullet-catching stunt at the end of the novel qualifies…

  3. Come to think of it, why does nobody off Ozymandias at the end for the sake of revenge? Truly, the Watchmen can tell noone of the true source of the alien monster, but why not bring him down? Dr. Manhattan certainly could have, though Rorschach tried and failed.

  4. Interpret the “Black Freighter” subplot for me. I assumed it was a direct comparison to Rorschach’s crazy antics, but Alan Moore says it is analogous to Veidt first.

In other news, Watchmen movie confirmed today apparently?!

Here are some unresearched answers based on my recollections from reading it two years ago.

I’m pretty sure there is a mention of the government having other people try it and fail because they don’t have same watchmaker’s mind.

I don’t remember that line. Ozymandias’s athletic feats are extraordinary, but not beyond the talents of a very gifted circus performer (at least in a fictional world where bullet-catching tricks really work).

In the end he’s convinced them that he was right, though they feel sick about it. Dr. M realizes that destroying the man is pointless now that he has presented them with a fait accompli. Nite Owl isn’t vengeful enough and would probably lose a straight fight anyway. Rorschach dies, but it’s implied that his diary defeats Veidt’s plan in the end.

Oh, and I don’t see how bringing in Herman’s Hermits would have helped.

It and the main plot are both about being so fearful of a perceived danger that you are willing to sacrifice everything that you ostensibly want to protect. The protagonist in The Black Freighter builds a raft of his crew’s corpses and murders his countrymen in a misguided attempt to rescue them from pirates. Ozymandias follows the same path in attempting to avert nuclear war. He is destroying the global village in order to save it. Moore is warning us against the sickness of this kind of thinking.


IIRC, the other superhuman is Deschaines – that bona fide psychic Veidt chose from among all others as the raw material for his cloned monster.

Oh, and as for this:

I’m not entirely sure Moore is trying to make that message. He sets up the whole parallel, he has Veidt then raise the point by talking about his dream of swimming to a ship in the context of struggling across the backs of dead men – and right as he brings it up, Doctor Manhattan immediately tells him that, no, you’re not condemned. Or condoned either, of course – but understood.

I remember it as doctor Manhattan saying that he is one of two extranormal operatives employed by the US government. It’s at least implicit - I believe it is made explicit but I don’t have a copy here - that the other one is the Comedian, so the doctor may not mean “superhuman” when he says it.

Oh, if that’s the line the OP had in mind, then, yeah, you’re right – and it was explicit that the Comedian was the other one.

I remember asking the Dr. Manhatten question before… here is the response:

But I think the point is valid because the threat that Ozymandias so desperately wants to avert has not (necessarily) been preveneted by the end of the book, as witnessed by the will-they-won’t-they discovery of Rorschach’s journal*. Just like the man in the pirate story, Ozymandias has commited abominable acts that have ultimately had little effect.

The trick is, of course, that, unlike the pirate-guy, Ozymandias’ actions may have, at the least, averted a real catastrophe. So it could well be that the parallel demonstrates a pit into which Veidt could have fallen, but did not.

*To those who say that “no-one will believe Rorschach”, remember firstly that Dr. Manhattan was afraid enough of what Rorschach would do to kill him (when his premonition wasn’t working, too, which means it was a real decision. Osterman has a first-class brain, maybe even the equal of Ozymandias’s), and secondly that Rorschach’s story checks out all along the line. Any reasonably dogged investigative reporter could discover the abduction of various artist etc., the hiring of those who later got cancer, the hiring of the killers (through the gangster left alive at the end of book 11). Rorschach’s journal is a very real danger.

Nite Owl wouldn’t, Rorschach and Silk Spectre couldn’t, and Dr. Manhattan- well, he could have, but why bother? To him, Veidt is truly insignificant, and the “understanding” that he gives Veidt at the end of the book is as meaningless as a human’s compassion would be to an ant.

The Watchmen movie has languished in various states of pre-production for twenty years, with names such as Terry Gilliam attached and then unattached throughout. It’s gone from concept script to concept script, studio to studio, never getting so far as actually spending money on it. I’m with Gillain (and, I believe, Moore) in thinking the story unfilmable, except perhaps as a twelve (or maybe six) part miniseries.

First of all, Rorschach making it back to civilization to tell his story is more dangerous than his journal being published, so dr Manhattan’s decision is understandable. I think Rorschach wouldn’t have been believed anyway, but I understand why dr Manhattan didn’t want to take the risk.

As for Rorschach’s story checking out, remember (a) that it’s full of fascist ramblings which would lower its credibility and (b) the magazine publishing it isn’t exactly the London Times, if you know what I mean. They don’t do investigative reporting, and other journalists are unlikely to investigate something found in those not-so-hallowed pages.

I think we agree, but differ on whether the emphasis goes on “not” or on “necessarily”. :wink:

And to dovetail this thread with the other mentioned one while addressing the question of revenge from the heroes who reluctantly agreed that he’s logically right: in my humble opinion, Doc’s parting quip was intended to make Veidt jump into the IF subtractor. Because, well, did the plan work out in the end? No, because it never ends. The hoax can never be pronounced safe. It will always need someone watching over it – and that ain’t going to be Doc.

It can be filmed, it can be quite true to the source material. Some of the visual effects in the comics are quite startling: the surreality of how Doc Manhattan moves, Karnak, the arctic retreat, the destruction of New York when the creature arrives.

I think it’s only a matter of time before someone tries to make a film about it.

I’d like them to take a page from SIN CITY and use the exact dialogue from the comics (I do not recommend using the comics as a scene by scene storyboard, however).

But jettison all the Black Freighter sequences, all the extraneous supplementary material from Under The Hood and Powers and Superpowers to Laurie’s scrapbooks… Yeah. It can be done.

Oh, that said, it would be far better as a mini-series.

I wouldn’t go that far. The New Frontiersman gets referenced at least once by another, allegedly reputable, news-source (ABC television in Chapter VII, including a brief interview with Frontiersman editor Godfrey). The Frontiersman is two-bit and hokey, but it clearly wasn’t completely beyond the fringe.

Anyway, the OP should read the wikipedia entry on Watchmen. It’s full of microanalysis.

Well, yeah. I don’t think you can really retain the power of Watchmen in a non-comics medium, to be honest. Unlike other truly great comics, where the brilliance comes from inspired stories or dialogue, what strikes me as the finest aspect of Watchmen is its craft: the way it uses the medium of sequential art to create an experience that would be impossible in either words or on screen. Take, for example, issue 5, Fearful Symmetry, how the “symmetry” of the pages reflect each other, panel by panel; for example, where on p. 14-15 (the centre of that issue, and also the centre of the “Mask Killer” Storyline) Veidt’s defeat of the assassin is reflected in the centre panel, and contains both the reflected “V” and an “X” (X marks the spot?). I’m waffling, but my point is, I think, that the storyline or characterisation of Watchmen isn’t the feature that makes it so striking (it is good, but not great, IMO), the way Moore and Gibbons structure the comics is what makes the book so fantastic. And that is something you can’t really replicate in the movies.

Hmm, I didn’t think that Veidt was going to take a swing at becoming the next Doc (if nothing else, he would realise that that must have been tried, lots of times*). I assumed the Doc’s parting quip was a reference to the imminent discovery of Rorschach’s journal, with the suggestion that his scheme may not have been quite so final after all (also, look at the shape of the cloud he leaves in the Orrery. Am I crazy, or is that a mushroom cloud?).

*Plus, think how terrible it must be to be the Doc, or rather, Osterman trapped in that body. Near-infinite power and knowledge, but absolutely no free will. It’s one thing to understand intellectually that we are puppets, as Jon says, but quite another to actually see your own actions programmed in the future.

If I believed in a deity I would pray nightly that a Watchmen movie never get made. It could only be done by completely re-imagining the premise, and , if you’re going to do that, why not make a completely original movie in the first place? The Incredibles contained amusing nods to Watchmen. Why not do a movie like that, but for adults?

As Happy clam points out, Watchmen is so great because it melds art and story. Translating Moore’s story into film might be possible. Translating Gibbons’ art wouldn’t be.
Futhermore the interplay of themes works because the art and story interplay in a way impossible to replicate in film. How would they do the Black Freighter comic-within-a-comic? How about all the frames where the art would be an Ironic comment on the dialog.

Watchmen is a creature of its medium, a brilliant superhero comic that is a good story in its own right and a commentary on superhero comics in general. You might as well right a song about Hamlet, or a dance about the Empire State Building. It could be done, but why?

I can’t see the same guy reaching that conclusion and murdering Rorschach to protect the plan anyway. I mean, yes on the journal setting up that “Lady Or The Tiger” ending, yes on the mushroom cloud, yes on the quip – but it all falls apart if you swap out ambiguity. “Logically, I’m afraid he’s right. Exposing this plot, we destroy any chance of peace. (Which is what will happen anyway.) But if we would preserve life here, we must remain silent. (Not that it will preserve life.) Anyhow, time for me to kill Rorschach. (For no reason.)” That doesn’t strike me as plausible.

Well, yeah. That was my point. It’s the perfect revenge against Veidt.

Well, it’s obviously not his Plan A – as evidenced by the fact that we, y’know, see his Plan A. But to me, he’s the guy who (a) honestly hadn’t known whether he could sight and catch a speeding bullet, and yet (b) can, if forced into it, even though it’s the kind of borderline superhuman feat that Nite Owl doesn’t believe can be done. (After all, that was his backup plan in case the gunman had been smarter; Veidt is confident in his own ability to deflect a speeding a bullet, and willing to gamble on his ability to catch one.)

Look, what’s his superweapon against Doctor Manhattan? Something else he isn’t sure would work. Obviously that’s not his ideal; we know he’d prefer to tell you he launched his masterstroke thirty-five minutes before you had the slightest chance of affecting it. But would he consider the alternative of doing as Jon did, falling into a nuclear reactor and hoping for the best? Only as a Plan B – but, yeah, as a Plan B.

To me – and this by no means a knock on anyone’s religious beliefs – this is a lot like saying you can’t retain the power of the story of Genesis in a non-Biblical medium, or accurate reinterpret the bedlam of Revelations on screen in a visual medium. Sure, there’s some structural elements that can’t be precisely replicated, but there are certainly some narrative sequences that can surely be approximated. If ever a narrative begged for a “split screen” on-screen it would be Fearful Symmetry. (Which is why it would work so much better in a mini-series – this would certainly be a somehat intrusive storytelling gimmick that an audience would tolerate better in a single episode.)

Having watched the trailer for A Scanner Darkly I could also see rotoscoping used to very good effect here.

For the life of me, I am not sure who the hell could play Dr. Manhattan. It requires being in top shape and also the ability to spout science jargon and assume a somewhat flat affect in such a way that I believe them. I do not think that Hollywood has an actor up to the task.

Excellent point. Is it possible that this elucidates the existence of some factor of chance that Dr. Manhattan cannot forsee? Or indeed is Rorschach’s last attempt at revealing the truth doomed to fail (due to the crank nature of the newspaper)? I lean towards the former, as if Dr. Manhattan knew that Rorschach’s tale was doomed to fail (that rhymes!) he might not kill Rorschach. Unless Rorschach could convince the world in person but not ex vivo–which seems possible but unlikely.

It’s amazing to me, after the events of 9/11, to observe a story about a horrible attack that brings the world together. Sadly prophetic, especially in light of how brief that moment was.