Roberto Camargo


            As I kid, I would wonder of the existence of a parallel world in the opposite side of the mirror, a spare world just in case something happened to the one I was in. Then, the thought would drift me into more complex situations in which the doubt would confuse me by planting the idea that maybe I was the spare, in the spare world for an original me. Something similar yet different happens in the fifth issue, Fearful Symmetry, of The Watchmen– there is a perfect opposite eerie parallelism in its writing and illustrations. Upon observing repeating patterns, I came to the conclusion that each panel, like my mirror theory, had a coexisting panel in the opposite side of the issue. To make myself clearer, the first illustration would correspond to the last and so on in a contra regressive order. The mirror panels coincide in setting, characters, and chronology of events. Panels shift from blue to red, creating a state of alarm and uneasiness in which water resembles blood and blood resembles water. Still, there is much more to it.  There is more than one type of parallel worlds- one where reality shifts and relates to a non-fiction pirate novel, one where inside is outside and up is down in the opposite sided panel, and another one where panels correspond almost identically to their match switching only characters and direction. The evident parallelism in the issue is consciously made to allude to Newton’s third law of motion applied to life.  In the first part of the law it is explained that “To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” in the same way it is depicted in the fifth chapter in more dramatic situations involving even death. Rorschach’s first visitation to Moloch, and his order to leave a note if he came across new information has an opposite reaction that leads to his own arrest and exposure to his true identity. The idea of Newton’s law can may as well be applied to the panel’s themselves. A clear example is where in the 6th and 7th panels Moloch window is viewed from the inside and in their corresponding panels the same window is depicted from the outside.

The introductory chapter in the graphic novel, although it is ingeniously crafted and possesses some ironies, is perhaps the most literal and direct chapter in the Watchmen. We are introduced to this chapter, and the whole novel with a panel depicting a bloodstained smiley face floating in a river of human blood clearly representing the death of someone who’d be wearing a smiley face as a pin. By seeing such illustration it is stated that superheroes are human beings with red blood running through their veins as well. This idea develops more into the chapter when Dan and Laurie go out for dinner and have a normal talk circled by normal people.  The irony for the chapter lies in the last lines of it, where in an excerpt from Bob Dylan states that “at midnight, all the agents and superhuman crew, go out and round up everyone who knows more than they do.” It is until later that we know that Ozymandias himself, a superhuman, is the assassin of The Comedian, also a super human but who knew more than he should have.

The reader understands Jon (Dr. Manhattan) better when he talks to himself in the Watchmaker Chapter, simultaneously reflecting on different past and present events, wondering if the world would have been a better place if he would have chosen a different profession. Einstein shares this same thought in the closing phrase of the chapter, where he states that if he were to know what the “release of the atom power” would have caused, he would have become a watchman instead. Similar to Einstein, Jon is wondering whether his existence has affected human kind in a negative way. He reflects on past actions that caused him to be disliked by some, and relates how he became the man he is now. Although he is clam, there is a hint on desperation in his words due to the fact that he is not understood my many because of his vast knowledge and abnormal nature. In the closing illustration, meteorites begin to fall as rain hinting that the sky is falling, misery and tragedy will soon hit the Earth.

In Chapter VI of Watchmen the identity of Rorschach is revealed to be that of a street bum, who with out the mask, despite of his gifted mind, is lost in the abyss of his past. The cover of the sixth chapter is one the cards with black stains arranged in figures and patterns similar to those in Rorschach’s mask alluding to the same confusion and lack of personality he has without “his face.” Those cards are used to determine the mental stability of suspected psychopaths through an exam ironically named “The Rorschach’s Blot Test” which consist of answering how one perceives the arrangement of the black stains. The ambiguity and normality with which Walter Kovacs (Rorschach’s real name) answers deceives the doctor into believing that he is not too bad after all; but the flashing of his real perception is haunting and traumatic, revealing the hidden stains of Walter’s past. The title “The Abyss Gazes Also” works almost as a summary for the entire chapter where Kovacs, in this case representing the abyss, gazes into the doctor’s life, and it is Walter who is the one asking questions in the end.

The backbones for some individual issues in Watchmen, include in them the essence that make this graphic novel one of the top 100 novels according to TIME magazine. The alternating sequence used in Chapter five, where each panel corresponds to a similar one, on the opposite chronological order, is present throughout the book. The alternation from reality to fiction, from past to present, create a sense of familiarity with the characters and settings. The same detail, which with Dr. Manhattan reflects and therefore fully introduces himself in chapter IV, is only one example of how all the characters at one point in the story tell us everything about them with out being obvious. We get to know the characters as we get to know real people, through conversation and relates of events without disclosing random facts about themselves. Although there are hints throughout the novel, there are parts where the information given is clear and concise, with no double meaning or hidden secrets. The author uses the clarity used in chapter one to remove ambiguity and doubts that may rise in the reader’s mind. The Watchmen is a novel written in an orderly and organized matter, which make is interesting to read and easy to understand at the same time it unravels secrets without being obvious.

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