The 6th Sense of Comics

Matthew Young

February 3, 12

First Year Seminar/Delwiche


The 6th Sense of Comics

            The first time I read issue five of the Watchmen comic, I really didn’t notice any particular type of pattern because I was much more focused on the plot. But upon reading it a few more times to try and grasp what’s really going on, it’s hard to miss the pattern displayed in this issue of Watchmen, which is literally presented in plain sight in its title. The first six pages of issue five and the last six pages of issue five have strikingly similar features. The first thing I noticed was the constant appearance of the reflecting puddle on the sidewalk that glowed with red emotion. Then I finally noticed the strange color pattern that resembled a tic-tac-toe board where every other panel had a specific color scheme to it. I think Moore and Gibbons portrayed it like this to show that there is a balance to life and even though there’s a lot of bad things discussed in the plot, there is also hope, and vice versa. For instance, Rorschach secretly investigating the strange activity surrounding the masked heroes and gets setup and framed by the person orchestrating these events. It connects to the idea of karma and irony because Rorschach is trying to do good work but he somehow ends up getting busted by the police. The color scheme could also point to the state of the city, which started and ended with the strong scheme of red and orange. This points to sign of chaos and unrest occurring in the city, particularly at the end when Rorschach is apprehended.

The symbolism of rain highlights the entire plot and meaning of the second issue of Watchmen. The cover of the issue is the face of a statue of a woman who is revealed to be a religious figure as the statue is located at the cemetery where Blake is being buried. There is tremendous detail used in the paintings as the rain drops hit the statues face. It also reappears in the final panel of the issue when Rorschach walks away from Blake’s grave as the rain keeps coming down. It symbolizes the saddened emotion that is being felt by the masked heroes at the loss of the comedian but more importantly because Rorschach could not attend the funeral. It relates quite literally to the title but being a wanted man, Rorschach had to be absent from the funeral. This is also highlighted by the phrase at the end of issue, which basically says Rorschach should be celebrating with old friends instead of grieving Blake.

Dr. Manhattan plays a critical role in exposing the various themes and concepts displayed in this comic series. The first theme that became apparent was the concept of irony in the third issue of Watchmen. Throughout the novel, Moore and Gibbons constantly expose the American people’s fear of Russia during a time of uncertainty. As this progresses, people begin taking measures to protect themselves, which is illustrated by the cover and first panel of the third issue. The illustration is of the radiation symbol that has “fallout shelter” printed on it. The illustration is continued upon by a random bystander talking about nuking Russia which goes to show how insecure Americans were during this time period. Moore and Gibbons introduce this character, Dr. Manhattan, who many Americans consider to be their hero and secret weapon against the Russians because he defies atomic theory and has incredible powers and abilities after his freak accident. However, we learn after an interview on national television that his exposure to the people he saw the most made them contract various types of cancer due to radiation. The irony in that is that while Americans were worried about being nuked by Russia, they were being killed by their own national superhero. Dr. Manhattan is then turned upon and the very being that was their savior is now exiled and outcast, which also connects to the last saying of the third issue because even though it’s implied he is the judge of the Earth, he doesn’t even live on Earth anymore.

There has always been a debate about whether we have pre-determined fates or if we create our own destiny. In the fourth issue of the Watchmen, it’s quite clear that our fates have already been decided, or so Dr. Manhattan would have us believe. The issue starts off with the cover of a old photo of Jon and Janey that is partially burnt as it lays in the pink sand of Mars. Then Dr. Manhattan holds up the same picture in the stars in the first panel of the issue. He goes on to recount his life and history but at the end of it all he brings up a curious thought. What if his dad hadn’t thrown out his cogs, or the fat man had stepped on Janey’s watch? He goes on to illustrate his point that even if those things hadn’t occurred, something else would have happened to get him to where he is now. Einstein’s quote at the end does a very good job of capping it off by saying that even though we have discovered the atom power, we fail to see its true capability because we were destined to be focused on its harmful nature.

Several universial and common themes appear throughout this novel; the display of emotions through artistic styles, irony in the plot, and fate vs. destiny. They all play a big role in the backstage of comic books. Hopefully it’s been made clear that although Moore and Gibbons wanted to create and illustrate a creative plot, they also wanted to deliver messages throughout the novel. Their use of coloring schemes in the fifth issue help us as readers realize that this helps us get a sense of the emotions being felt by the characters. It adds a sixth sense to the world of comics because now readers can actually feel and sympathize with what the characters are going through. It changes the way comics are written and how the authors have to think about their drawing styles. But at the end of the day, this is a very good thing for comics because it adds a new dimension of creativity to the comic world.

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