Dr. Manhattan Exposed
The fourth issue of the Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, “Watchmaker” discusses Dr. Manhattan’s current location on Mars and his revisits to the past. The fourth chapter of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics delivers the idea that “the past is more than just memories for the audience and the future is more than just possibilities, both past and future are real and visible and all around us.” This concept helps the reader understand how important the element of time is in the transition of Dr. Manhattan’s character because it reveals how his humanity has been compromised after his incident.
The visual representation of the “Watchmaker” issue helps the readers understand Dr. Manhattan’s origins – who he was before he became Dr. Manhattan, who he is now, his transformation from human to a godlike being and also how his humanity has been compromised because of the power he acquired from his transformation.As the reader can see the panels on the third page discuss the events that happened before his transformation. In Understanding Comics page 99, panel 3 Scott McCloud explains that “the duration of time and the dimension of space are defined more by the content of the panel than the panel itself.” The panels on page 3 portray the moments in Dr. Manhattan’s life before his transformation. This helps the reader see who he was before his transformation. In addition on page 12 the panels of Dr. Manhattan dropping the picture and looking at the stars shows the reader that Dr. Manhattan is trying to make a comparison between photographs and stars. When the reader finds out that stars are just rocks in space all their significance becomes dull. Dr. Manhattan is aware that stars are just like old photographs because of this unique perception of time and matter he possess. He does not view humanity the same way as normal humans do. This helps the reader understand how his humanity has been compromised, because with all of the power he acquired after the transformation he can no longer appreciate the most beautiful things like stars and photographs since he can create anything. Additionally, he cannot appreciate these things because he experiences time in a simultaneous manner which makes photographs seem useless.
Throughout this issue time can be seen as a very important entity to the story as a whole. This is due to the fact that Dr. Manhattan narrates everything simultaneously, providing the reader with a wide scoop of moments. This style helps the reader see the world and time from Dr. Manhattan’s perspective. In Understanding Comics page 106, panel 1 Scott McCloud explains that “readers are also conditioned by other media and ‘the real time’ of everyday life to expect a very linear progression. Just a straight line from point A to point B. But is that necessary?”  The reader sees that in this issue it is not necessary. One representation of this idea is on page 18 where the panels are divided into 2 zigzag manner representing events that are not happening at the same time. This style is also represented when Dr. Manhattan explodes on page 9, panel 5 to 6 he has to put himself back together by remembering how he assemble components in a watch on the following panel 7. Then he appears before his colleagues in page 10, panel 4 and there is uproar from the crowd about his existence. Finally on the last page of this issue the reader sees the image of his dad throwing the parts of the watch on the fourth panel, as they were falling down the scene switches to him on Mars watching the meteorites falling from the sky. This is like an echo from his previous statement on the third panel of this page “photograph in my hand, falling”.
The style and graphics of this issue are not that easy to grasp after one read of the whole comic book; the reader needs to read it more than twice to appreciate its artistic content. Even though there are no onomatopoeic sound effects that are techniques used in traditional comic book telling, the graphic design of the comic makes up for it. The fourth chapter of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics helps the reader understand that both past and future events that were happening in the “Watchmaker” are real and help the reader get a feel of Dr. Manhattan’s character: who he really is and why he no longer appreciates the most beautiful things like human life.