Cunning Writing and Rorschach Drawings

The graphic novel Watchmen was originally published as twelve separate issues. Each issue represented a different chapter in the story. The fifth issue, “Fearful Symmetry,” is particularly intriguing because of the way the author of the Watchmen series was able to put in symmetry between the first and last pages of the issue. The coloring of each image is similar and each depicts the same situation just at a different time. This means that time is moving forward in the comic but can loop back to specific place and mean a different thing.

The author uses the cover of the second issue to set the scene by showing a dark rainy day at a graveyard and a dirty statue that has a tear coming down from the eye that could most likely be a rain drop but becomes symbolic because of the burial of a close friend of the Watchmen setting up the melancholy remembering of past times. The first panel of the issue depicts the same statue, but further away so the audience can see that it is an angel at a cemetery leading to the actual funeral of the Comedian. Also in the last panel of the issue, the illustration shows the protagonist leaving the cemetery, walking past the same angel as on the cover of the issue. The title of the issue is “Absent Friends,” adding to the solemn feeling felt throughout the reading of the issue. The words in the issue all deal with sadness and how different people remember ones once they have been lost, such as Laurie’s mother who was almost raped by the Comedian, but after his passing she remembers him another way, a much better way and connect to the title of being an absent friend.

The author portrays a image to his audience by showing the same things throughout the issue such as in the third issue of the Watchmen series, the public is dealing with a the heightened state of awareness towards radioactivity and nuclear war. The cover of this issue has a radioactive symbol with the lettering “FALLOUT SHELTER” in bold across the symbol with smoke rising from an undisclosed location. Also, the first panel in the issue depicts a close up version of the radioactive hazard symbol adding to the image the author is trying to present. Even in the last panel of the issue, the illustrations can be taken as a desolate barren wasteland that nuclear war radiation could lead to. Dr. Manhattan is sitting alone on the surface of Mars with absolutely nothing around him with again the hazard symbol for radiation in the previous panel. The title of this issue is “The Judge of All the Earth” which “Judge” can be taken as being the nuclear warhead held by every country ready to strike and turn the Earth into a desolate wasteland. Finally, in most conversations, the context can be linked to radiation or nuclear warfare fallout such as the accusation of Dr. Manhattan giving cancer to Laurie and how Dr. Manhattan is now sitting alone on a deserted land being the judge of all the Earth.

The cover page illustration of issue 4 shows a photograph of Jon, before he became Dr. Manhattan, and Laurie taken before his “accident” with the military; however the picture is resting on the soil of Mars. The first panel in this issue shows Dr. Manhattan holding the same photograph that was on the cover. The picture allows the formation of a gateway for Dr. Manhattan to think about the Watchmaker, his father, and also not coincidentally the title of the fourth issue. The last panel of the issue shows the picture again, symbolizing the end of the flashback and back to the present. The words and pictures are linked to the title by the physical nature of being the same words but also sharing in the same meaning that the watchmaker will always be too late to fix what was broken and the picture will always been there holding the memories locked up.

The discovery made is pretty amazing and makes me wonder if the same things can exist in other comic books. Without being told to do the things required I would not have made the connection from the first and last panels as well as the cover and title all being linked together. The tying of the images from the first and last panel can have potential implications for sequential art and comic books by such as the ability for authors to add a higher degree and the ability to loop it back to the beginning.

About brettsteff

Attending Trinity University as a freshman.
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