Study Guide

Watchmen Happy Faces (Smileys)

By Alan Moore

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Happy Faces (Smileys)

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Now that that’s out of our system, we can get back to work. From the yellow front cover to the Comedian’s pin to Seymour’s ketchup-stained sweatshirt, smiley-faces are everywhere in Watchmen. Even on Mars (IX.27.1-2).

More often than not, there’s a stain of blood (or ketchup) at the eleven o’clock spot. Even though the blood is the Comedian’s, he’d still find the gag funny… if he were alive that is. As for the location, could that have something to do with the 11th hour mentioned earlier in the Clocks and Watches section?

Veidt does end up killing three million people in “history’s greatest practical joke” (XI.24.4). Maybe all the smiley-faces add up to one giant spoonful of irony. To put it in theatrical terms, have you ever seen one of those Janus masks? One face laughs, the other cries. Tragedy and comedy require each other. They make each other special. In Watchmen, tragedy is everywhere, but there is comedy too—usually of the darker variety--and the smiley-faces help remind us of this.

Whether you look at it as a running joke (who else could smile in the face of nuclear war?) or a leitmotif (a fancy word for a repeated theme or image), you can’t read Watchmen without running into ☺ ☺ ☺.

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