It’s time to get the band back together as Dan and Laurie enact their plan to break Rorschach out of prison. Meanwhile, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen #8, “Old Ghosts,” serves as an overture to the rest of the series, layering in bits of the mystery and taking one major character off the board, permanently. Plus, are superheroes full of piss? We discuss.
The theme music for Watchmen Watch was written and performed by Jeff Solomon.
Plus, here’s a transcript of the episode for you to read through as you listen:
Alex: Welcome to Watchman Watch Podcast about Watchmen where we watch Watchmen. You watch Watchmen. We all watch Watchmen. I’m Alex.
Justin: I’m Justin.
Alex: And we are going to be talking about Chapter 8 of Watchmen: Old Ghosts, as we continue our walk through Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons classic comic book series leading up to the premier of HBO’s Watchmen on October 20th. Speaking of which, I think you were away last week, Justin. You were traveling across country with our co-host, Alan Moore. And, then, this week, Pete’s gone and Alan’s gone. What’s going on?
Justin: I’m sad to say we … So we drove all the way across country out to LA for a karaoke contest. We got all set. We were both super excited. He was gregarious, just like giggling, super happy.
Alex: I know Alan. You don’t need to describe that.
Justin: Yeah, exactly. This real giggle monster. Putting his name on stuff as opposed to the other. And our song is, Paradise by the Dashboard Light, obviously, by Meat Loaf.
Justin: And, unfortunately, we both wanted to sing the woman part.
Justin: And we had to split up over creative differences.
Alex: Oh, no. So what’s going on? Where’s Pete? Is Pete off-
Justin: Pete’s out there doing the male part. Alan flew him in. He’s got all that Watchmen cache. So he flew Pete in to just do the guy part.
Alex: Yeah. I mean, if there’s one thing I know about Alan, he’s always willing to put out his own money for other people. He’s very into … He’s always dropping … and it’s honestly a little annoying … “You guys know I’m the author of Watchmen. And I’ve got a lot of money because of that.”
Justin: Yeah. And he’s like, “This round’s on me. Everybody drinks on Watchmen” is what he’s always saying.
Alex: Mm-hmm (affirmative). The other day we were hanging out and he started stuffing dollar bills in my G-string. And I was like, “I’m not wearing a G-string, Alan. You’re just stuffing dollar bills down my pants.
Justin: Yes. Though I will say those are very, very short pants, to be mistaken.
Alex: I’m comfortable.
Justin: Yeah. No, it’s good. Those are the smallest jorts I’ve seen in quite some time.
Alex: Thank you. I really appreciate that. Let’s jump in and talk about Old Ghosts. Now, I will mention that Pete did tell me about this issue. He’s very bummed to not be here to talk about this issue. Of course, this is the big prison breakout issue. A lot of Rorschach stuff going on. He’s very into it. This is … I believe he said his favorite issue in the run.
Justin: Really? Oh, that’s interesting.
Alex: Yeah. How do you feel about it, Justin?
Justin: Well, this is the issue where sort of all the gears are coming together. All the disparate stories and characters are … sort of the squad is forming with Doctor Manhattan appearing. Nite Owl and Silk Specter II, their relationship is going strong. They’re fighting crime. They rescue Rorschach. Rorschach’s sort of world view is expanded to almost all of us to including Nite Owl, the New Frontiersman as we learn here. We get a sort of inside look at that. And we’re all starting to sort of believe Rorschach.
Alex: Yeah. I did want to talk about that a bit. And this is certainly jumping right into the middle of the issue as well as the back matter of the issue. But we’ve talked a lot on the podcast about Rorschach’s worldview, how it was different back in 1986 when this was published versus 2019 when we’re viewing it now. But even through that lens, the New Frontiersman, which Rorschach read religiously, read it every single day as we know, man, that’s an anti-Semitic paper straight up. What do you think it means? This is the thing that I was wrestling, particularly reading the back matter because we get to see the staff of the New Frontiersman putting together their paper. And then we read a snippet of the dummy version of that paper. That they are both anti-Semitic, racist and terrible, but also, closer to the truth than anybody else, what do you think that means?
Justin: I think it’s confusing. A couple things … I think it’s, like I was saying, it’s meant to be sort of a larger reflection of Rorschach’s conspiracy-minded thinking. I think, if I was thinking as a writer of this, I think it’s saying, “Hey, even these outlandish things are sometimes correct. And even the disgusting wrapper.” I’m assuming Alan Moore is not a racist, anti-Semite. I think he was trying to say, “Even this disgusting package, sometimes gets it right. A stop clock is right twice a day.” I think that fits with a lot of the clock imagery we have here. That’s the way, sort of the charitable way I can say it.
Justin: The uncharitable thing is back then in the ’80s, there were these zines and small publications that had these bad ideas and put them out in the world and had a small group of followers. And, literally, because of the Internet, that is why our politics are sort of so messed up because you have these far-right news sources that have moved into the mainstream. I feel like that’s a lot of what the Watchmen series is going to be getting into … the websites like Breitbart and Daily Wire, I feel like the modern translation of all this stuff, and they have affected our politics in a huge way.
Alex: Well, to get even deeper down this well, and we’re certainly going to be probably digging ourselves a grave with a certain section of the audience I think, but there’s a running theme through this entire comic that the outside people, the people who are the deviants, the people that are removed from society, like The Comedian, like Rorschach, like the New Frontiersman, they’re the only ones that really see things for how they truly are. Versus Dan and Laurie for the most part, they’re willing to just cruise in their lives. They’re just sort of doing their thing. They’re going along, they’re ignoring everything. The regular people are barely involved at all. They’re just sort of following along what everybody else is telling them to do. And, ultimately, that’s Adrian Veidt’s plan is … He believes, “Well, if I tell people it’s this thing, they’re going to believe it.”
Alex: So it’s a very cynical, very nihilistic view of the way the world works. And the reason I said digging a well, is I think one of the very bad influences that’s come out of Watchmen and seeped into comics and pop culture is this idea that if you do stand outside of society, you were the person that is always right. We’ve talked about it at our other podcasts about Joker. And certainly, we haven’t seen the movie. I think by the time this episode comes out, the movie will just be out in theaters. But that seems to be saying the same sort of thing where it’s this cynical darkness, this outsider who truly is the person who sees society for the grimy, bad that it usually is, and the rest of the normies, like us, like you and me, frankly, are just kind of trucking along. But I don’t think society is as simple as that, frankly.
Justin: No. And even in this book, I think … a lot of people, like we were saying, and Pete even really reads into Rorschach as the hero or as the person that you’re meant to identify with … and I don’t know. I think it’s pretty even-handed. I think the mystery, the fact that it lines up with Rorschach’s conspiracy theories makes it naturally feel like it’s from his point of view. But he suffers through so much of this. And in the end, he doesn’t unravel the mystery. The mystery sort of comes for the heroes. And they get drawn in by Adrian Veidt as we will read eventually. And Rorschach loses. So to me, it feels like … I don’t know … it’s not like we are … That’s is the wrong lesson to take from this, that Rorschach is right the whole time and conspiracy theories are meant to be believed.
Alex: Well, I think part of that is they’re not offering a solution, right? They’re pointing out the ills of society. They’re pointing out this corruption, this death, this rot that is at the base of everything. But all they’re really saying is, “See, this is bad” versus … Clearly, Adrian Veidt’s solution isn’t good. Just trucking along and ignoring things isn’t good. But not coming up with an out for that is also not necessarily good. Not figuring out a way forward. And, ultimately, what I think they’re pointing out is … Well, one of the things that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons are pointing out is that society is broken. There is this rot under it. There is, through the government, through our art, through our entertainment, through our everyday revelationships, they are broken.
Alex: But it’s more holding up this mirror to this thing and saying, “Here, see.” Like the New Frontiersman does, though obviously at a very extreme, very broad way. And, then, ultimately it is up to the viewer to talk about this. And to reflect on it and think about what they, themselves, are going to do.
Justin: So, then, who are we? We’re the pirate on a raft of dead bodies?
Alex: Well, I think we talked about how Rorschach is the pirate, right? I don’t know who we are in this comic.
Justin: Well, I would think the way that we see the curse of the Black Freighter through the reader who … We see the comic book page in panel a lot. I feel like that’s meant to be just a device to get us into that story. And we are, then, that person suffering. Our lives are like long and tortuous. We have these goals. And we’re always two steps away from them. And we sacrifice so much to get what we want. And, then, it’s horrifying in the end.
Alex: Well, if anything … I’ll just throw this out there, and this is a very unformed opinion … but, if anything, maybe we’re Doctor Manhattan in a certain way. We … I mean, you mentioned the kid who’s reading the comic by the newsstand. And we get to see him again this issue. We’re him, and in a way, he’s Doctor Manhattan who is able to experience all these things simultaneously in whatever order he wants. It’s the same thing with us as the comic reader, right? We’re looking at all these different panels. You can visually look at the full page where you see nine panels at the same time. Or you can choose to focus in on one panel. Or you can choose to focus in on multiple panels. Certainly, Gibbons is offering us a way of walking through it and a way of looking through it. But it’s up to us if we decide we want to flip five pages ahead or go back a couple of pages. That’s how we do it.
Justin: Yeah, that’s cool. I’ve always thought of Doctor Manhattan as the author, though.
Alex: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Justin: Sort of for the same reason, it’s the further outside perspective where the author is deciding. It knows the whole story and it’s deciding the order in which we get to read it.
Alex: Now, one other thing I’ll throw out at you. And this might be old news by the time we post this episode. We tape these a little while in advance. There was an article that came out about a week ago, our time. In EW, there was an interview with Damon Lindelof where he was talking about the HBO version of Watchmen. And there was a bit of an uproar online because he said that the TV show wouldn’t moralize. And people got very upset. They said, “Oh, what are you talking about?” “Oh, great, this doesn’t seem true to the spirit of Watchmen.”
Alex: But I would say based on our discussion right now, I think what Watchmen doesn’t do and what it does particularly in this issue is it doesn’t moralize, it presents you with moral situations. And then leaves it up to you, the reader, to decide how to react to them.
Justin: Yeah. Yeah, I think so. And it’s pretty even-handed like we’re not meant to … that’s why I think so many people are like, “Who’s the hero of Watchmen?” It’s hard to say. If it was more moralized, you’d be like, “Oh, it’s obviously Nite Owl.” Or, “Doctor Manhattan.” Or whoever. Or “Adrian Veidt,” for that matter. So I do think it’s pretty even-handed. When I finished watching it for the first time, I was like, “Man, Ozymandias had that shit figured out.”
Alex: You liked him?
Justin: Well, I think the book’s meant to make you think … Who saved the world? He did also.
Justin: Rorschach was, in his own way, his rigid morality … I mean, we’re going to talk about this in a few issues, obviously … killed him and he lost. So, for the sake of the world, or the fate of the world, he was a bit of the villain that was trying to stop Ozymandias from saving the planet from itself.
Alex: Yeah. Well, this is something we touched on a little bit in the last episode of the podcast, Pete and I had talked about because the issue was so focused on Dan and Laurie. And the same thing happens here. These two issues are the most superhero comic we’ve gotten so far. And I think that’s because Dan and Laurie are the most middle of the road characters. Both of them are kind of very casual about being heroes. Dan was a billionaire and thought, “Yeah, sure. I could be a superhero. That sounds like fun.” Laurie, as we were revisiting this issue, only did it because she thought, “Well, my mother did it, so I guess I should do it as well.”
Alex: But at the same time, they’re the ones that get the most superhero action. So when I first read Watchmen, they were the ones that I identified with, that I hooked into the most because to me, they felt like the most recognizable characters.
Justin: Yeah, I mean, I agree with that. That was definitely … they were the ones here like, “Oh, I get this. And I like that they’re hooking up. And maybe in love, maybe not.” You’re really pulling for Dan, I think, for a lot of this where it’s like, “Work it out, dude.”
Alex: Yeah, you could do it. I think, also, it’s very clearly painting him as a 40 year-old, overweight men with glasses is really gunning for the comic reading demographic where it’s like, “Hey, that’s you. You’re this guy. You could be Nite Owl. Get in the ship. Come on.”
Justin: Yeah. He has a plan for everything. Yeah, that’s true.
Alex: Yeah. You want to jump into the issue? You want to walk through it?
Justin: Yeah, let’s walk through it a little bit. So we start with a conversation between Hollis, the original Nite Owl and Sally Jupiter, the original Silk Specter. This is just some fun nostalgia. I feel like nostalgia’s a big theme in this issue. It’s Halloween night. There’s a bunch of kids going out for some fun. And, then, to talk about the end of the issue, this bookends the comic, a bunch of people who we see getting all crazed over the course of the issue, go and murder Hollis in his house as these innocent kids then come to trick or treat with him. I feel like this is very much the death of nostalgia, the death of the old, and the world is different now kind of a take.
Alex: Yeah. I think that’s fair. The other part of it which we actually haven’t talked about at all over the course of the podcast, one of the running things in the background that comes to bear this issue is that gang. And the way that I understand that there’s this band … it’s not called … One of the members of the band is called, Red Death, which is pretty directly from Masque of the Red Death, the Edgar Allan Poe story.
Alex: But the gang, I believe, is called the Pale Horsemen, which again, is a sign of death. So they’re running in the background and they finally make a move here. They’ve been sort of passing through things. They have occasionally … got beaten up by Dan and Laurie a couple of issues back. And ultimately here, they end up killing Hollis at least partially because they think that he is Dan Dreiberg. They think that he is the Nite Owl that broke into the prison and they want to take revenge on him. There’s a little part of me, and this might be not remembering the last couple of issues well, but does wonder if this is another part of Adrian Veidt’s plan to take people out. But maybe not.
Justin: Yeah, this feels like, to me, just general society is crumbling because of the pressure of nuclear war, and this is … I think, makes more of the case that Ozymandias’ plan, that we find out later, is right. The society is crumbling. And he needs to rewrite the course of mankind because it’s come to rely on Doctor Manhattan to protect them and solve all their political problems.
Alex: Yep. But, like you said, it is nice and nicely laid out conversation as well. I love, again, the juxtaposition between … and I know I’ve been saying that word too much … but between the old pictures of Hollis Mason and Nite Owl and Sally as Silk Spectre, and them talking about themselves in costume, in particular. I thought those were just two fun, well-laid out panels. One thing I want to touch on here because this is also part of the bookend, this takes place mostly on Halloween night. We get to see three trick-or-treaters, who later discover the dead body of Hollis Mason. A ghost, a devil and a pirate. I think the pirate is very clear because we know that pirates are super popular in the way that superheros are super popular. In the real world, ghosts certainly seems to come from old ghosts. And, then, there’s the devil which also could tie in death. But what do you take away from these costumes? What do you take away from it being set on Halloween?
Justin: I think it … Well, I mean costumes, the superheros wearing costumes, I think it all, that all plays pretty directly. Last issue we saw the Nite Owl, he fucks way better when he’s in his costume just like all of us. And I think part of it is innocence wrapped in sort of horrifying things. So much of this issue is the flip of that, horrifying things wrapped up in innocence where you have these people that seem like they’re hanging out and talking to the newsstand people and, all of a sudden, they go and murder Hollis. And that juxtaposition of how we try to put ourselves out there and what is actually lying underneath.
Alex: Yeah. Well, then we jump over to a sequence set at the newsstand. We get to see the curse of the Black Freighter comic a little bit more. I think we talked about the cops being the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. I almost feel like the newsstand people have taken over that job in this issue a little bit.
Justin: Definitely, because the cops start to play a more threatening role later on in this issue. So yeah, these are definitely the people on the street. They’re dealing with the world at large. These are the people in Spider-Man who are like me. Someone’s got to catch this Green Goblin guy. And then they get buzzed by the sled line pass.
Alex: I like that you think Green Goblin rides a sled. I appreciate that.
Justin: Well, he rides a little, the air-
Alex: It’s a glider. It’s a glider. That’s the word.
Justin: Air sled.
Alex: And then we get a scene with Dan and Laurie where they’re talking about their plan to break Rorschach out of prison. Two things that I wanted the call out about this that I thought were so neat. So last issue, the visual motif was all about reflections and circles. We kept seeing everything reflected in Nite Owl’s goggles and Dan’s glasses, in Archie’s windows, or whatever you want to call them, over and over and over again as we come zooming in and out of that. And for the majority of this comic, for the majority of this issue, Dan’s glasses and Nite Owl’s lenses are opaque. Except for when he is confronted by the police officer about half way through where suddenly you can see his eyes.
Alex: And I thought this was such a neat little thing to show that even now, even when he’s dressed as Dan Dreiberg in the scene with Laurie towards the beginning, he’s still Nite Owl. He’s still in costume the entire time. He’s confident. And Dave Gibbons draws him for the first time really, he’s standing up straight. His body language is more confident. It’s such a subtle little thing, but it’s so smart and so clear and so nice.
Justin: Confidence is the ultimate costume.
Alex: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It’s true. That’s why nobody recognizes me when I’m standing up straight. I’m usually hunched over like a little old witch.
Justin: That’s right. And that’s why I go to work completely nude every day. Because confidence is the ultimate costume.
Alex: Hey, man, dress for the job you want. You know what I’m talking about?
Justin: Yeah. Naked man in public.
Alex: Yeah, I’ll tell you what. I walk into work just wearing a T-shirt. So far nobody’s hired me as Winnie the Pooh. And it’s a real bummer.
Justin: You’ll get that job. Though I guess … What office are you walking into that you think there’s a Winnie the Pooh position?
Alex: I walk into Duane Reade … Is that where they hire-
Justin: That’s pretty good. There’s a lot of honey there.
Alex: There is. I’m always eating that honey and I’m always getting stuck in their doors. Then after the Dan and Laurie stuff, we jump right into the prison stuff with Rorschach. We get to see him very stoically sitting in his prison cell. He’s just waiting for something to happen. Meanwhile, a bunch of criminals, somebody that he seemingly first tussled with back when he was a superhero called, Big Figure, who is a short guy … and that’s the funny part.
Justin: That’s a killer joke. Dude.
Alex: Oh, man, yes. I did like that. I love these little details that they throw in with the old-time superheros and supervillains because they feel so consistent with the comic books of the time.
Justin: Yeah, and goofy, I think is what you … like all these super dark gritty storytelling about all the heroes they were dealing with in this comic. And all of their back life. All of their earlier crime-fighting stuff is just like battling a bunch of goofs.
Alex: Now, let’s talk about Rorschach a little bit because he does, like I said, sit there very still the entire time while he’s interacting with Big Figure. Big Figure is threatening him. His goons are threatening him. They say, “We have plenty of time. We’re going to kill you in jail. You’re not going to survive this.” Do you think Rorschach knows that he is going to be broken out? Or do you think he knows he has a plan? Or is he just completely disengaged from everything? What’s going on with him?
Justin: I think he’s sort of a coiled snake. He’s in full fighting position. He’s just fully at peace, fully Rorschach. I think there’s a line here where we hear that his psychologist has left him. And I think that proves that he’s right. That he’s able to influence that psychologist to fully just give up on society, basically. And I think that gives him the confidence to know, “Whatever happens, I’m going to be ready and be able to be at my peak when these people come to try to kill me,” or whatever. And he is. Throughout this sequence, these series of little bits here, he dominates these criminals who have him penned in.
Alex: Yeah. And to jump back a little bit to the newsstand thing, there’s two things we find out. One, the guy that he hit with hot oil died. We find that out throughout this issue. But also, the psychologist does pass by the newsstand. They remark on it a little bit, but they don’t know who he is. And, initially, I thought that the psychologist was going into the Department of Extraspatial Studies. Looking back on it, I don’t think he’s actually doing that. But one of the big things that happened this issue that really does make it feel either like the beginning of the final act or the end of the second act is everything started to come together. Everything is passing by each other. And these coincidences are really snowballing, so to speak.
Justin: Yeah, it feels like this issue, especially the section we’re about to get to is sort of like putting everything on the table, letting everyone have a look at it while still the action is plummeting forward. As we get back to the essential mystery that we’ve sort of not really been paying attention to too much … it’s been a lot character stuff … and now we’re about to start hitting that full slope down toward the climax.
Alex: And I think part of that is just plot-wise, Dan, the realization that he comes to the last issue, that there might be more to what Rorschach is saying than just ravings of a crazy person. He starts to trust that, “Okay, I worked with this guy back in the day. Maybe he’s actually on to something. Maybe somebody is actually taking on masks. Maybe there is some bigger plan that I can’t quite see here.” And we do get to see him Batman out a little bit, putting together all the clues, which I thought was very fun.
Justin: Yeah. So let’s just skip to that. We have this scene where the cops confront him at home. Dan’s pretty panicked in that actual scene with the cop and it feels like he’s busted. But as soon as the cop leaves, he flips back into Batman Nite Owl mode where he’s like, “We’ve got to do this now. They’re getting close.” And then we get this great progression of scenes that are tipping the hat to all these other things while we’re also seeing Nite Owl and Silk Spectre just get ready for their super heroic moment. Which I think is just a … What a great montage just-
Alex: Oh, my God.
Justin: … brings together all the threads.
Alex: It’s so good. If you’re not looking at the comic right now, if your just listening to this, there’s a series of pages. They all have six panels at the top and one silent panel at the bottom. And the ones at the bottom are playing off of what’s happening at the top, of course, because it’s very consistent with what’s been going in the comic. I believe it’s called-
Justin: I believe it’s called, juxtaposition, Alex.
Alex: Oh, I was trying to avoid using that word again, but-
Justin: Interesting. I felt you feel it, felt you say in your heart, so wanted to say it out loud.
Alex: Thank you. I appreciate that. We get to see them getting everything ready. And this almost plays to me like an overture in a certain way where we get to see the New Frontiersman. For the first time, we get to see what’s happening on this island that’s been teased before. We get to see the missing nuts, superhero writer, the missing pirate, comic writer who has been working on, he thinks a Hollywood movie. We see the squid monster for the first time being drawn by somebody. We get to see-
Justin: But we truly have no idea what that means.
Alex: I definitely remember very vividly, and I had completely forgotten about that page until I got back to it, but I remember the first time reading that, I was like, “What is going on here? What is this page?”
Justin: Is this a panel from another comic that’s somehow in here? Yeah, totally out of nowhere. What do you think going back one section to the New Frontiersman? Obviously, this guy’s such a dick. And his assistant, though, is wearing a shirt with a smiley face on it.
Alex: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Justin: Is that meant to be some sort of a reference to pre-Comedian type person? Is this a person who just has no vision of the world as in just a smiley face that’s untarnished by blood?
Alex: I mean, that might be part of it. Certainly, he seems like a very naïve simple
to use modern parlance. But at the same time, I think Comedian wore that pin, right?
Alex: And he is probably a superhero fanboy. So it might just be a Comedian sweatshirt that he picked up somewhere potentially.
Justin: Tight. Yeah.
Alex: But, yeah. I don’t know. And then we get see to Hollis Mason putting together the jack-o’-lantern basically bringing around his own horror, his own doom. Once again, we get dripping pumpkin juice over an eye. It looks exactly like the Comedian’s button with the blood on it. We get that recurring visual motif. And we get to see … they are called, I don’t know if they’re called, Pale Horsemen, but they’re from the gang, Pale Horse … bothering the newsstand person and being very upset about everything that’s going on. They find out that there is a riot in the jail. They’re pretty pissed off about that. It’s, in a certain way, Rorschach being arrested really is the spark that sets this all off almost more than Russia invading Afghanistan, I think.
Justin: Yeah, though I do think there’s an existential dread for everyone there like, “We’re all going to die.” The newsstand guy is constantly talking about how he thinks everyone’s going to die, playing out that anxiety. And even the way these panels are laid out, it’s such a stressful build, an anxious build of … it’s empty. It’s a pretty empty panel with just the comic book. Then all of a sudden there’s smoke everywhere. There’s all these people. There’s a dude named, Derf. Everyone’s crowding into the panel.
Alex: That’s stressful.
Alex: Dude named Derf, stressful.
Justin: Exactly. That’s a weird name. And everyone starts shouting. It’s building up, this is a formation of a riot. And they’re trying to get those Katies.
Alex: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Got to get them Katies.
Justin: That’s that street drug.
Alex: Yeah. What’s your favorite thing about Katie.
Justin: About Katie?
Justin: Having Katies?
Justin: Taking Katies?
Alex: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Justin: I like the way they just make you crazy, make you want to cut off the sleeves off your jean jackets. And just run amok in the streets.
Alex: Yeah. I know it was kind of the look at time, but I immediately thought about Leader from Dark Knight Returns, just because they have the same sort of like, “We’re very extreme. We’re wearing those very angular sunglasses at night.”
Justin: Yeah. That’s true. That was the most menacing fashion choice you could make back in the day.
Alex: Yeah. Wear 3-D glasses, terrifying. And then we go back to the prison. We see Rorschach in a sequence that I’m 100% sure Pete absolutely loved where a dude goes after Rorschach. Rorschach turns around, twists his fingers around, ties his pinkies together through the bars of the jail cell, and then Big Figure is forced to cut his throat. Rorschach is splashed with the blood. Now, nothing is wasted in this comic, right?
Alex: Nothing is unimportant. What do you take away from the way Rorschach is splashed with the blood? Because it’s not the same design as The Comedian’s button. It’s not a Rorschach test because it’s only on one side of him. What do you think Gibbons and John Higgins who did the coloring, what do you they’re trying to do with this?
Justin: To me, its position makes me think of a toy soldier or just a doll who’s playing out his part and he’s taking all this blood on him. He’s getting splattered. He’s getting tarnished by this shitty situation that he’s in.
Alex: It might also be, just to throw something out, but it might also be that he’s only half the man right now. He still is Rorschach because as clearly explained a couple of issues back, Walter Kovacs doesn’t exist. He thinks it was just Rorschach. But he’s missing his skin right now. He’s missing the thing that truly makes him, him. So maybe that’s why he only has this Rorschach blot on the left side of his body.
Justin: Hmm. I see. Yeah.
Alex: Well, then we get a switch of everything that’s going on. Now that Nite Owl and … I keep wanting to say, Sally Spectre … Silk Spectre, thank you … are in the prison, we switch it and we get this great panel of them flying over the walls as the guards are shooting. So good. And the entire time, to get back to the Dan of it all, Nite Owl is completely in charge. He’s so confident the entire time. And it’s kind of amazing to see.
Justin: Yeah. And even though he’s dressed like a giant owl in a prison full of people who want to kill him, he’s totally chill about it. Wearing a cape that doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Alex: This is … I know we’ve lumped on the movie a lot on this podcast, and I’m sure at some point we’ll delve back into the movie and do a full episode about it. But, man, reading over the comic, I think … I read the comic again, watched the movie, and I haven’t read the comic since I watched the movie, so that was stuck in my head … So I was real surprised that they didn’t kick anybody’s asses at any point here. They basically just walk into the prison and the whole riot and everything is going on around them. And they don’t do much.
Justin: Yeah. I like that. I think it adds to the tension. It sort of has the haunted house aspect to it where they’re just trying to find Rorschach. And then when they confront him, you can’t tell if he’s bad or he’s a menace. He’s all in red. Seems like he may have officially lost it. And you just see him go and kill Big Figure, the one guy who was trying to kill him off panel in the bathroom and then walk out with the heroes.
Alex: I mean, ever since I read this, I pretty much assume anytime somebody says, “I have to go to the men’s room,” that they’re killing somebody in there.
Justin: It’s sadly true for me half the time.
Alex: Yes. Two things I want to point out visually that go on. One, when Rorschach walks out of his cell, he walks through a puddle of blood and leaves footprints of blood exactly like he did back in the very first issue of the comic, although this time, now, we know that Walter Kovacs is in fact Rorschach. And then the other thing that happens that I think is so great with the coloring that John Higgins puts in the book is after Rorschach kills Big Figure, he walks out of the room and like you mentioned, everything is in red. He’s cut out the electricity from the jail, so there’s no lights on there. Only the emergency lights. And we see this puddle coming out. And you would potentially assume out of a bathroom given that the puddle is just all red and reflective, it could be piss. It could be water. But we know, even without seeing it, that it’s Big Figure’s blood that’s coming out there. And it’s such a great choice.
Justin: Yeah. I like the idea that you look at this and your first thought is, “Hey, that could be piss.”
Alex: Hey, man, it’s a bathroom.
Justin: Could be yellow Gatorade.
Alex: Again, at the Duane Reade, where I’m trying to get my Winnie the Pooh job, lot of piss in there.
Justin: Yeah. So call Duane Reade … So, especially, this is something they should have done in the movie is Rorschach doesn’t go in and kill that dude. He just goes in there and sprays pee all over the place. He’s been holding it in the entire time he’s been in jail. And finally, he’s like, “Oh, yes!” That’s why he goes in the men’s room.
Alex: That’s why he’s sitting so straight up. Because he’s full of piss. Piss and vinegar, I got to say.
Justin: Yeah. You got to say that. Yeah.
Alex: The other thing that he probably does, frankly, like knowing Rorschach, knowing what’s going on here. He probably goes in, puts all the seats up. And just walks out.
Justin: Oh, what a man.
Alex: And you’re like, “Put them down. Come on, man.”
Justin: Yeah. Come on. People don’t want to touch that right when they’re in there and got to go.
Alex: Do you think Rorschach washes his hands when he leaves the bathroom?
Justin: No. I bet he reads articles about how the dirtiest part of the bathroom is the knob on the sink.
Alex: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Justin: So he’s, “I’m not touching that.”
Alex: Yeah. Speaking of dirty things, we get an interesting interaction when he shows up and sees Silk Spectre and Nite Owl there where he tells Nite Owl, “Good to see you back in the costume, Dan. Laurie, I never liked your costume. It’s gross.” Which, whatever you want to get into with the misogyny inside nature of Rorschach, it’s still a very funny and very clearly Rorschach exchange that he has there.
Justin: Yeah. That’s an insulting thing to say to your superhero friend. It’s like, “Hey, work on the costume a little bit.”
Alex: Yeah, it’s gross, but for some reason, it works for me here just because Rorschach is being such a weirdo and we’ve been away from him for so long and learned that he’s such a bad, gross guy. That seeing him compared to Nite Owl and Silk Spectre, it diffuses it a little bit.
Justin: Well, also I think it matches the idea of Nite Owl’s his buddy. And he has his new girlfriend out with him. He’s like, “Oh, I thought it was just going to be you and I hanging out, and she’s going to be here?” Like, “I thought we were going out to play darts. What’s she doing here? We’re friends. I love you.”
Alex: “And go see some [Ron.com 00:38:17] or something. Come on, man.”
Justin: “Come on. It was our night. We were going to go up to the water tower and write our names.”
Alex: So then they head out in Archie, in the Owlship, another great shot of Rorschach hanging out at the top of the Owlship as they fly away from the prison. Then they get back and there’s kind of a big twist where Laurie, who’s been touching on talking about Doctor Manhattan the entire issue accidentally mentioning his name because she’s just off the relationship with him, and keeps apologizing about it, talks about, “I wish somebody would just take care of this for us.” And Doctor Manhattan, totally dude, just holding a magazine, reading about himself, mind you, shows up in her bedroom to be like, “Oh, we’re actually having a conversation right now on Mars that hasn’t happened yet for you, but is happening simultaneously for me. Just thought I’d come done here to let you know we’re going to Mars now.”
Alex: What do you think Doctor Manhattan wants out of this conversation?
Justin: I don’t think he wants anything. I think he really is just fulfilling the gears of the clock that he says he is.
Alex: Well, what about, on the other end of the spectrum, what about Laurie? And this is something we touched on in a couple of episodes, those podcasts, but particularly we dealt into it a bit in the last episode, what Laurie wants. And here, do you think there is anything to her constantly dropping Doctor Manhattan’s name to her totally being fine to just say, “Oh, I’m going to Mars. See you later, Dan. Bye,” at the end. Is she still not as into the relationship with Dan as Dan is with Laurie? What’s your take on it?
Justin: Well, I think they’re opposites. I think when she was with John and finally their relationship falls apart because he’s being too much for her, she sort of falls for Dan because he’s the most human, the most like every man of anyone that she hangs out with, yet still has the touches of the superhero side. So she can get a little bit of everything with him. But then when she sort of conjures him out of nowhere and it’s like, “This is my guy. He’s all-powerful. He doesn’t have issues with confidence. He just is what he is.” She gets swept back up into him. I think she’s just in the middle of a tough spot. But I think at the end of it, she loves the Doctor Manhattan that she first met so many years ago. And Nite Owl just isn’t enough to fill that gap.
Alex: There’s also a possibility that she’s lazy, frankly. That’s something that, not to take her down a notch, but that’s something that Sally mentions right at the beginning of the issue where she tells Hollis Mason on the phone, “Oh, it’s so funny that Laurie is going out and doing this stuff. She never really wanted to put in some work to be a superhero. She was always kind of annoyed and bored by it.” Certainly, that’s Sally’s take and she has her own take. But it could be a relief in a certain way to Laurie to say, “Oh, thank God, okay, we don’t have to figure out a mystery. We don’t have to break anybody else out of prison. Great. John is here. He’s going to solve everything.”
Justin: Yeah, I think there’s a little truth to that. But also, I think she’s someone who’s really never made her own decisions in her life. She just became a superhero because her mom sort of made her. She was with John because it was convenient, though I do think she actually loves him. She was with Dan because he was chasing after her. And then she doesn’t even have to really make a decision here because Doctor Manhattan is like, “No, you are talking to me in one hour.” And so she’s like, “Okay.” And off she goes.
Alex: Then we get to see Rorschach and Nite Owl escaping from the police in a parallel to the scene of Nite Owl and Laurie leaving by the tunnel the last issue. And then we get to the saddest scene in the issue, which we talked about earlier. But Hollis Mason, getting killed by this gang, it’s intercut with scenes of him in his prime beating up villains and having a great time doing it. And even though we haven’t spent a lot of time with Hollis Mason, it’s gutting, I think, the sequence.
Justin: Yeah, because I think, at our core, if you read comic books and you find Watchmen, Hollis represents sort of regular comics. And so to see him die, even though we don’t know too much about him as an individual, it feels like Batman, the comic characters you sort of grew up and have a nostalgia for are just being murdered right in front of you.
Alex: Yeah. Well, in a certain way, then, would you say the Leader of the Pale Horse is Alan Moore, and he’s like, “Yep. That’s it. Watchmen killed superhero comics.”
Justin: Yeah, I do. Especially, I think in the last panel of the issue when these kids walk in and see his dead body, I think that’s sort of the comic industry being like, “Oh, shit. Things just got fucked up in here.” Because after this comic, it was like there’s a whole new game out there.
Alex: Now, one of the last things I wanted to mention is who did Justice, this is a character that we haven’t spent a lot of time with, but will become an important type of lead, if I remember correctly pretty soon, the ghost character who shows up the trick-or-treater who’s dressed like a ghost, who shows up towards the end, looks a lot like Hooded Justice, at least in terms of the profile. Then immediately following that, we got the New Frontiersman article that’s, “Honor Is Like The Hawk: Sometimes It Must Go Hooded.” And there’s also a lower case reference to hooded justice in the text of one of those articles as well. So what I think is most interesting about that, I don’t think we’re going to get to it immediately, but it’s more, essentially, saying, “Hey, don’t forget about this Hooded Justice character. I know we’re saying we killed off the past, but we’re not quite done with it completely.”
Justin: Yeah. Because it does inform … everything is meaningful. It’s just, this issue especially, puts a real flag in just what a dystopian world is happening around all of this action right now.
Alex: And just to get back to the HBO show of it all, I think it’s going to be kind of fascinating to see a focus on Hooded Justice just because Sister Night, who is Regina King’s character in the show, seems clearly inspired in the text of the show by Hooded Justice. So I think there’s going to be a lot of rifts on that relatively underserved character when we watch the TV show, but we’ll have to see.
Justin: It almost feels like the TV series, the more we see of it is like, “Oh, it’s all happening again from the beginning.” So it’s not, it’s using all of the Watchmen stuff that we know and setting it after that. But the cycle is beginning once again.
Justin: And Hooded Justice and Rorschach is there, but in different thing. Everything is remixed. But it is from the very same beginning.
Alex: Yeah. Anything else you want to say about this issue before we wrap up here?
Justin: Comics are good.
Alex: I agree. If you’d like to support us, patreon.com/comicbookclub. We also do a live show every Tuesday night at 8:00 PM at the People’s Improv Theater Loft in New York. Come on by. We’ll chat with you about Watchmen. A couple of places you can check out this podcast. You can go to Facebook watchmenwatchpodcast. Also, Instagram watchmenwatchpodcast. On Twitter, WatchmenWatch1. Sorry, we couldn’t get WatchmenWatchPodcast. That’s just how twitter works. Also, you can check out the podcast at comicbookclublive.com. Subscribe, rate and leave a comment on iTunes, Android, Spotify, Stitcher. Or the app of your choice. And remember, we tape this podcast 35 minutes ago.
Justin: Alan just texted me. He said, “I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry. Pete is bad at karaoke. I’ll definitely be there next week.”