The last panel of Watchmen and what comes next was the subject of much discussion today. Since The New Frontiersman needs to fill a two page void, I think it’s likely that they will at least look at Rorschach's journal because it is long enough (and because by nature of the size it stands out). I feel like the most likely outcome is that even if it is published it will be largely ignored. New Frontiersmen is such a right wing, conspiracy obsessed, sensationalist publication from what we see it will be too easy to dismiss. Even though Veidt may not have planned for Rorschach’s journal, it will not hamper his planning. Rorschach himself is too flawed a character, an accusation from him will not carry enough weight, especially when printed in an equally flawed/questionable publication.
As a reader I don’t know how I feel about this outcome - it leaves me with the same nauseous, unsure feeling that the characters probably had. Veidt’s plan was maniacal and murderous, but now that it is enacted revealing the truth will only make the deaths have been in vain. If the journal were published and believed, it would undo any positive effects from this insane plan. Do I want his plan revealed? Do I want it to succeed? I don’t know, and not knowing is both satisfying and unsatisfying
Chaos runs rampant throughout Watchmen. It is explicitly discussed when Laurie and Jon are on mars, discussing the fate of the world. Jon expounds the beauty of the chaos in the martian landscape (although I am not totally convinced whether it is truly chaos since there are patterns and structure in nature) and Laurie counters life on Earth is beautiful chaos as well. I think the structure of the Watchmen lends itself to this, as it is incredibly chaotic at times. The narrative is nonlinear and jumps around in time and space, and intersperses itself with other narratives like the “Marooned” series from Tales of the Black Freighter.
This disruptive narration is not just limited to the jumping between stories and other stories or information (ie, now we’re following the Silk Spectre and now there’s a four page excerpt about owls), it occurs frequently on the same page. For example, when Laurie and Dan attempt to have sex the first time their dialog is overlayed with the television and they are really almost peripheral to the scene. We can barely see their forms on the couch, as the television is central. Both conversations, that of the tv and that of the attempted lovemakers, happen simultaneously making it difficult as a reader to decide where to focus and what to look at. A similar double-layered narration occurs during the pirate comics sequences, where the panels tend to feature the comic images and narration overlayed with dialogue from the newsstand or, when the images shift to show the newsstand/real world, overlay it with the narration from the comic.
In a series that is already chaotic by nature of following multiple protagonists, that adds even more layers by following their predecessors and then plays with the time stream as well, what is the significance of this cacophonous storytelling, this chaotic tapestry of stories, events, and information? One possible effect is that it puts the reader in the role of Ozymandias/Adrian. When Ozymandias sits before his multi-screened viewpanel and watches the many screens, the experience is not unlike that of the reader trying to follow several stories at once. However, since I am not the smartest man alive and I’m using a text rather than a screen, I have the luxury of reading over each page several times to disseminate meaning and attribute dialog to the appropriate speaker. It makes the multi-layered storytelling very immersive and transcendent.
The first page of Watchmen is one of the most amazing introductions to any book I can recall read. In seven simple panels and an overlying narrative it thrusts the reader directly into the story, it quite literally holds their head out the window and says “see? This is what you are in for!” It is brutal, gory, and intense. The gritty coloration and bloodstained imagery also show that this is a book that will not hold your hand or walk you softly through happy, fun themes but one that will punch you in the face with whatever it wants to show. It sets the tone of the book immediately in a fragmented series of thoughts, it introduces Rorschach before he ever officially appears on the page (of course, on rereading we know that he is walking through the dead dog, leaving a trail of bloody footprints behind him) and it shows the reader how the thinks and what he thinks. Beyond that, we see just how twisted Rorschach is in the third panel where he says “and I’ll look down and whisper ‘no’.” He would deny those who need help even if he stands in an elevated position, even if he could help, because they have dug their own grave and deserve whatever comes to them.
Yet, even though we see how psychotic Rorschach is there is something about that moment in the third panel, about the way he describe it and the way he goes on to elevate those who chose to be good and to do good that draws us to him. He may not have been intended as a sympathetic character, but somehow he is one and many readers (or at least, I) cannot help but feel for him. His message is so intensely stated and so clearly thought through that he becomes an excellent salesperson for it, in spite of himself
Steve Wozniak and Stan Lee are teaming up to launch a new comic con, read about it here!
Check out my paper and annotated bibliography on the Rogues Gallery link (or click here)
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For the third post in my ongoing series readings, I want to continue to look at the art of Russell Dauterman and coloring of Matthew Wilson. The aspect of the amazing art in the current Thor series that I want to discuss in particular is the way that it just completely disregards standard panel layout. Dauterman just plays by his own rules when it comes to page layout and the effects are pretty glorious. Again, this will be a pretty image-heavy post by necessity, but keep scrolling through!
In the image that focuses on Thor fighting frost giants, the central focus of the page is Thor herself in the bottom right. Her billowing cape breaks into the panel above her, and the panels form this amazing starburst effect that pushes the action through a collage into this final moment of her catching her breath and taunting the frost giants. In the oddly shaped panels, Thor is a tiny figure that may have gone unnoticed if not for her red cape, kicking the butts of giant creatures triple or more her size. The layout and slowly increasing zoom on Thor makes it feel almost like the panel is a spiral staircase, giving it something of an endless feel - perhaps tapping into the endless fight of Thor (in the sense of however holds Mjolnir rather than the specific character) versus frost giants. Additionally, it shows the near-futility of this tiny person battling literal giants, building up to this final, zoomed-in moment that shows how Thor also cuts an imposing figure in her own right, and maybe evens the odds a little.
The next panel I want to discuss features Odinson on the moon, with a floating Asgard in view in the background. Several things struck me out this page. First, the obvious cool town mutes even Odinson’s ragged red cape into a almost purple color and gives everything a cold, isolated feeling of “sameness” and futility. It fits nicely with the page-high image of Odinson contemplating the loss of his beloved Mjolnir in total isolation before being interrupted by Volstagg. The panels on the right side of the page conform to a more structure grid, but even they are not perfectly uniform. What I think is spectacular, though, is the gutters of these panels. Instead of blank white space, the starry background and distant Asgard are visible between the the panels.
Finally, in this panel Odinson tries to coerce Heimdall to reveal the identity of the new Thor. Again, the background image is visible between the two panels at the top and around the long panel at the bottom. Aside from this effect, the panel layout on this page is probably the most standard of the three I brought up in this post. This page is significant though because it really showcases Willson’s coloring. The middle section is zoomed on Heimdall’s face, but the shadows cast by his helmet have been replaced with swirling nebulas. Until this moment, I didn’t even know coloring in comics could be so intense and beautiful. And then he immediately tops it in the bottom panel with the most amazing image of the Bifröst that I can even imagine! The splashes of color are beyond description, but this page was so intense that I immediately reread the series with a closer regard to the coloring. Combined with the art, it lends this series a touch of intense magic and mystery that is a large part of why I intend to keep reading it as long as it is being published!