Study Guide

Watchmen

Watchmen Summary

Since Chapter XII is literally midnight, and there are more clocks in Watchmen than Geppetto’s workshop in Pinocchio, we’ll break this summary down into hours.

One o’clock (I)

An old superhero named the Comedian is dead. Another masked man, Rorschach, is on the case, and we meet the cast o’ characters. Rorschach tracks down his old pals to warn them a serial killer’s on the loose who has beef with superheroes.

Two o’clock (II)

Three other former heroes attend the Comedian’s funeral, and we learn about the dearly departed through flashback. Meanwhile, the two Silk Spectres, Laurie Juspeczyk and her mom Sally Jupiter, reveal an ugly, less funny side to the Comedian. We also learn that America doesn’t love its superheroes any more, unless they’re like Dr. Manhattan, which means big and blue and fighting the USSR.

Three o’clock (III)

After being accused of causing cancer, Dr. Manhattan says peace to Earth, and heads to Mars. Without the giant Smurf around (no really…Dr. Manhattan is giant and blue), Russia isn’t afraid to get feisty. Now Rorschach is really convinced he’s right about his superhero killer conspiracy.

Four o’clock (IV)

The life story of Dr. Manhattan: how does a normal-ish kid from Brooklyn end up looking like Mr. Clean meets Bluperman? (See what we did there?) He fails to stay away from nuclear test sites, obviously.

Five o’clock (V)

A mystery villain sets up Rorschach for the murder of Moloch (an elderly, retired supervillain), so Rorschach gets sent to prison. Also, Nite Owl (Dan Dreiberg) hangs out with Laurie (Silk Spectre 2.0), now that his main competition (Dr. Manhattan) is having some alone time on Mars.

Six o’clock (VI)

Rorschach submits to psychotherapy, and we learn about his violent, grisly past.

Seven o’clock (VII)

Dan and Laurie come out of retirement to rescue some New Yorkers from a burning building, then decide to break Rorschach out of jail.

Eight o’clock (VIII)

It’s Halloween, and ish is about to go down. The old Nite Owl, Hollis Mason, is beaten to death by drug-fiending punks, while the younger Nite Owl (Dan) and Silk Spectre (Laurie) free Rorschach from prison. Politically speaking, nuclear war looks inevitable.

Nine o’clock (IX)

Red rover, red rover, if Doc Manhattan stays on Mars, it’s over. So he brings Laurie up to convince him to come back down and save the world. In doing so, Laurie discovers the Comedian is her biological father, even though he previously tried to rape her mom. No time for that now, Dr. Manhattan’s here to stop nuclear war. Sound the trumpets…

Ten o’clock (X)

Spoiler alert: Adrian Veidt, the smartest man in the world, is the criminal mastermind behind it all. When they find out, Dan (Nite Owl 2.0) and Rorschach fly to Antarctica to stop whatever scheme he has up his sleeve.

Eleven o’clock (XI)

From the comfort of Karnak, Veidt’s South Pole retreat, the hero formerly known as Ozymandias reveals all. He’s about to fake an alien invasion, so America and Russia will lay down their arms and join forces rather than blow the planet to bits. Dan and Rorschach confront him, to no avail. Three million innocents die in New York City.

Twelve o’clock (XII)

What else is there to say? It’s over, right? Dr. Manhattan shows up with Laurie, but like a Facebook relationship status, it’s complicated. What cost is too high for world peace? Rorschach prefers the truth, so Dr. Manhattan kills him. In the end, we’re left with Seymour, the least heroic character in the book, and an intern at the New Frontiersman newspaper. If he randomly publishes Rorschach’s journal, who knows what might happen next?

  • Chapter I

    At Midnight, All the Agents…

    • Our story begins on the bloody streets of a nameless city with a journal entry by some sicko named Rorschach. It is October 12th, 1985.
    • A butcher washes blood towards a storm drain, where a yellow happy face pin smiles at the reader.
    • Buckle up, writer Alan Moore seems to be saying. Seriously, take a look at his author photo. From now on, the only way out’s through the other side.
    • Several stories above, two detectives investigate the murder of Edward Blake, a grizzly old diplomat who’d been thrown to his death.
    • The detectives sweep the case under the rug to avoid stirring up trouble with masked avengers. Especially Rorschach, who apparently never retired, even after the Keene Act of ‘77.
    • Wait, is Watchmen’s America the same thing as our America?
    • We cut from the detectives on the street -> a redheaded, sign-holding doomsayer -> a masked man in '40s style private-eye gear. Come and get me, coppers!
    • By the light of the moon, he grabs the happy face pin (which we now know belonged to Edward Blake), and rappels up to the dead man’s apartment using this crazy grappling hook.
    • In better light, the man’s mask is visible: black and white shifting shapes.
    • He sweeps the Edward Blake residence, uncovering a secret closet filled with patriotic costumes, serious weaponry and an old-timey photograph of a superhero crew, kind of like your grandpa’s Avengers.
    • Cut to that same team photo on a different wall where two retired heroes reminisce over Saturday night beers. As it turns out, Hollis was the original Nite Owl and Danny was Nite Owl 2.0.
    • Shades of another caped crusader, anyone? Less impressive than Wayne Manor, Hollis’s apartment sits above his auto shop, which is covered in graffiti.
    • We stick with Danny as he heads home. Waiting for him in the kitchen is our masked detective, Rorschach, who’s chowing down on some room-temp beans.
    • Rorschach flips the happy face pin over to Daniel (Nite Owl 2.0) and says it “belonged to the Comedian” (I.11.6). Ergo, ipso facto, [um, insert fancy word here], Edward Blake = the Comedian.
    • Rorschach follows Daniel down to his old workshop where they discuss the murder. Was it burglary gone wrong, a political killing, or masked hero assassination?
    • Rorschach points out that old man Hollis (the original Nite Owl) had bad blood with the Comedian and wrote about it in his memoir.
    • Daniel defends his mentor; Rorschach resents his onetime partner for quitting, and the not so dynamic duo parts ways.
    • Back to Rorschach’s journal, where it’s one day later (October 13th, 1985). To clue in the reader, illustrator Dave Gibbons has tinted all excerpts from it yellow.
    • We learn that the city we’re in is New York, and there’s a criminal underworld that Rorschach digs around in with no luck.
    • Never at a dead end, Rorschach visits another former costumed compadre: Adrian Veidt, the Smartest Man in the World®©™.
    • Rorschach accuses Veidt of being obsessed with $$$, and cashing in just as the Keene Act made life impossible for masked heroes.
    • Veidt suggests the Soviets killed the Comedian. In the world of Watchmen, it appears the Cold War is alive and well.
    • Cut to Rorschach’s journal later that day, where he lists all the heroes and their violent, tragic ends. There are only two left to track down, and he breaks into Rockefeller Military Research Center to find them: Dr. Manhattan and Silk Spectre (version 2.0).
    • Dr. Manhattan resembles either the not-so-jolly blue giant or the world’s biggest Smurf. There’s definitely something otherworldly about him. Even his speech balloons are blue, which separates him from everyone else.
    • Miss Jupiter (the former Silk Spectre 2.0) has foreign roots, too, and prefers to go by her real last name, the Polish Juspeczyk.
    • Rorschach bears the bad news re: the Comedian and tries to warn them. Dr. Manhattan doesn’t care; his mind is elsewhere.
    • Miss Jupiter is pleased to hear the first bit o’ news, since the Comedian raped her mom (the original Silk Spectre) back in the Minutemen days. And these are the good guys?
    • Rorschach gets under her skin (he tends to do that), and she asks Dr. Manhattan to teleport him out of sight. Yes, this one-man blue man group can make that happen, and he does.
    • Still stressed and lonely (Dr. Manhattan isn’t great at small talk), Miss Jupiter, now Laurie, calls up Dan Dreiberg (Nite Owl 2.0) and invites him to dinner, which she spends venting about the costumed life, trying to keep Jon (Dr. Manhattan) happy, and the futility of living up to her mother.
    • Meanwhile, Rorschach continues his hunt for the Comedian’s killer.
    • The chapter ends, like all the others in Watchmen, with the full quote that gives it its name.
    • Chapter Postscript: At midnight, all the agents and superhuman crew, go out and round up everyone who knows more than they do. –Bob Dylan
  • Chapter A

    Under the Hood (I-II) by Hollis Mason

    • Hollis Mason’s memoir kicks off with the heartbreaking story of Moe Vernon, his father’s boss in Depression-era NYC.
    • Earlier, Pa Mason had moved his family off their Montana farm to try his luck as an auto mechanic in the big city.
    • Moe Vernon, the ultimate practical joker, is a favorite with young Hollis, even as Vernon’s dark, ironic suicide via exhaust fumes is set up.
    • We should point out that this section swings way more towards “novel” than “graphic.” Images like Mason’s 1938 Police Academy portrait are secondary to the words on the page.

    II

    • If you’re looking for an origin story—a way to understand what makes a grown man dress up like a hooting, nocturnal bird—here it is.
    • Officer Hollis Mason wants to clean up the city and finds inspiration in ACTION COMICS, The Shadow, and the forgotten character Superman (say wha?).
    • But it’s not until the masked vigilante Hooded Justice starts taking matters into his own hands that Mason decides he should be a costumed hero himself.
  • Chapter II

    Absent Friends

    • Teleported by Jon (Dr. Manhattan) to SoCal’s Nepenthe Gardens Rest Resort, Laurie catches up with her mom while Jon, Adrian Veidt, and Dan Dreiberg attend Edward Blake’s funeral in New York.
    • Outside the cemetery gates, the redheaded, sign-holding doomsayer stands watch. Who ever could this person be?
    • Meanwhile, Laurie resents Sally (her mother) for forgiving the Comedian’s attempted rape forty years earlier.
    • Sally laments that there are now only three Minutemen left: her, Hollis Mason, and Byron Lewis, who’s been committed to an asylum in Maine. Feeling mortal at 65, Sally shows her daughter smutty comics of herself as Silk Spectre back in the day.
    • This puts Sally in a nostalgic kind of mood, and with the flash(back) of a camera, we enter Sally’s take on 1940, the day the Minutemen posed for their iconic portrait.
    • H.J. (Hooded Justice) prefers working the streets over photo ops, and young Eddie Blake wants to see what’s happening in Europe.
    • Two other costumed heroes, a vampish lady in black and a dude dressed as a moth, make minor appearances as well.
    • As Sally changes clothes upstairs, Eddie, still decked out as the Comedian, makes his move. Sally resists, and claws his face. Eddie knocks her down and forces himself upon her, when Hooded Justice shows up. The two men spar until Eddie accuses H.J. of getting turned on by violence.
    • Zoom back to the present. At Nepenthe Gardens, white-haired Sally accuses Laurie of “sleep[ing] with an H-Bomb” a.k.a. Jon (II.8).
    • Over in New York at Blake’s funeral, our focus turns to Veidt, whose memory we enter through flashback.
    • Captain Metropolis (Nelson Gardner), one of the original Minutemen, is inaugurating the brand-new Crimebusters. Pretty weak name, huh? Also present are Veidt (hero name so far unknown), the Comedian (much older now), Rorschach, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre (version 2.0), as well as Dr. Manhattan, who stands arm-in-arm with a woman.
    • Captain Metropolis explains how the Minutemen disbanded in 1949 but crime never has. The Comedian laughs, forever the skeptic.
    • The meeting falls apart before it even begins, as the Comedian burns Captain Metropolis’s plans.
    • We return to the present-day, to Edward Blake’s funeral, and now it’s time to see the Comedian from another perspective, through Dr. Manhattan’s eyes.
    • Cut to a Saigon bar at the end of the Vietnam War, where the two of them are having a chat.
    • Blake comes off as seriously jaded; he thinks war’s a joke, though he sounds like he’s got PTSD.
    • The young Vietnamese mother of his unborn child approaches. She asks Blake to be a father; he refuses. She slashes his face with the shards of a bottle, and he shoots her, point blank, in cold blood.
    • Dr. Manhattan just stands there watching, and Blake calls him out for not intervening, despite his superpowers. Blake accuses Dr. Manhattan of not caring about people, not even Janey Slater (the woman on his arm during Veidt’s flashback) or Laurie Jupiter, Jon’s new love interest.
    • We return to Blake’s funeral. It is raining. Now it’s Dreiberg’s turn.
    • Cue flashback: Nite Owl 2.0 and Blake are hovering in a bug-eyed spacecraft (hoot hoot). Below them it’s mob rule on the streets of New York.
    • The entire police force is on strike until masked heroes stop interfering with their work. Blake launches a smoke grenade into the crowd, dispersing them. He shoots rubber bullets at taggers spraying “Who Watches the Watchmen?” on a wall.
    • Blake believes he’s the only sane one left as Dreiberg wonders what has happened to America. Dreiberg and Blake agree to disagree.
    • Blake’s funeral is over now. Dreiberg throws the Comedian’s happy face pin into his grave. Veidt, Dr. Manhattan, and Dreiberg shake hands.
    • Another man, his face obscured, exits the cemetery in a hurry. The redheaded doomsayer watches all the while.
    • The mystery man returns to his apartment, where a discarded newspaper hints at rising tensions between America and the USSR. Some Shmoopy advice for you: it pays to read the headlines in Watchmen; there’s no such thing as a random scrap.
    • Our mystery man turns out to be elderly, but that doesn’t stop Rorschach from breaking in and tackling him to the ground. He identifies the old man as Moloch (a.k.a. Edgar William Jacobi), the former criminal mastermind. Rorschach wants to know why he crashed Blake’s funeral.
    • Moloch says Blake recently showed up drunk at his apartment. Time for one last flashback featuring the dead man.
    • There’s a list with him (Moloch) and Janey Slater (Dr. Manhattan’s jilted lover) on it, and something cryptic about an island full of writers, artists, and scientists. Blake is wasted, and shows remorse for the deeds he’s done, but can’t understand the punch line.
    • Likewise, Rorschach can’t make heads or tails of Moloch’s story, and that’s why he believes it.
    • Moloch reveals he has cancer, and Rorschach parts ways with old pointy-ears.
    • Back on the streets, it’s time for Rorschach’s journal (October 16th, 1985). He’s on the case, trying to connect the dots, and pays his last respects to Edward Blake’s grave with a joke about Pagliacci, the world’s saddest clown.
    • Chapter Postscript: And I’m up while the dawn is breaking, even though my heart is aching. I should be drinking a toast to absent friends instead of these comedians. –Elvis Costello
  • Chapter B

    Under the Hood (III-IV) by Hollis Mason

    III 

    • Hollis Mason continues his origin story. Here, he recalls the nuts and bolts of creating a persona (cape or no cape?).
    • After Nite Owl bursts upon the scene, so does the first female hero: the Silhouette, who shuts down a child pornography ring.
    • Then reports come in of a gliding man dressed as a moth (Mothman), a young vigilante by the name of the Comedian, the Silk Spectre (an aspiring actress and model), and Dollar Bill (a former college athlete sponsored by a chain of banks).
    • They dress up, fight crime, and become celebrities… until WWII and their own unsavory sides get in the way.
    • Hooded Justice turns out to be a semi-supporter of Hitler. Captain Metropolis is a not-so-closeted racist. The Silhouette has some sexual secrets, and the rest are flawed in other ways.
    • These Minutemen are no saints, and cause almost as many problems as they solve.

    IV

    • Moving on, Mason recounts the birth of the Minutemen supergroup, set up by Laurence Schexnayder, Sally Jupiter’s then-agent and future husband.
    • In a publicity stunt, Hooded Justice and Sally Jupiter begin to date, although H.J. never seems that into her.
    • Next on the list of superhero scandals is the Comedian’s 1940 attempted rape of Silk Spectre. Then we have the Silhouette being kicked out of the Minutemen in 1946 for being a lesbian, and her subsequent murder in bed along with her lover.
    • Once Sally retires after giving birth to Laurie in 1949, the jig is up and the Minutemen call it quits. One question remains: what is a jig, anyway?
  • Chapter III

    The Judge of All the Earth

    • As if all this wasn’t overwhelming enough, it’s time for a curveball.
    • Chapter III opens with an excerpt from another comic, Tales from the Black Freighter (text in tan). Scenes from T.B.F. are spliced with a new Odd Couple: an old, white newsstand man and the young, black teen who’s reading the T.B.F. issue in question.
    • The Nova Express newspaper is late to arrive, and the redheaded doomsayer (who the heck is this person?) strolls up to buy a copy of the New Frontiersman.
    • We head back to the world of T.B.F. where a sailor has been marooned, surrounded by the corpses of his fellow crewmen.
    • Cut to Jon (Dr. Manhattan) and Laurie Jupiter fooling around in bed. Laurie’s enjoying herself until she comes to realize there are two Dr. Manhattans in bed with her, and another performing lab experiments down the hall.
    • Laurie can’t take being with him anymore and walks out on him right before his televised interview.
    • Meanwhile, the embittered Janey Slater grants an interview to the Nova Express about Jon dumping her for Laurie Jupiter, who was then only sixteen years old!
    • Now afflicted with cancer, Slater smokes a cigarette as she blames the radioactive Jon for causing her illness. She hopes that Jon’s upcoming interview on TV will ruin him.
    • Lost and just about friendless, Laurie pays Dan Dreiberg a visit. Sound like a rebound? Well, maybe it is.
    • Dreiberg tries to defend Jon, whose mind is on another plane (as in universe, not Boeing) and Laurie agrees to walk with Dan over to his Saturday night beer session with Hollis Mason.
    • Over in TV land, we learn that Jon’s real last name is Osterman, and that he used to be a scientist. Just as the TV show is about to begin, a gang of “knot-tops” attempts to mug Dan and Laurie in an alley. Bad idea.
    • In the TV studio, Dr. Jonathan Osterman grants his first live Q & A.
    • Doug Roth, a reporter for Nova Express, sucker punches him, metaphorically speaking. He accuses Jon of spreading terminal cancer to everyone who ever spent major time with him: Wally Weaver, Moloch, Janey Slater. The show ends abruptly on a sour note.
    • Dan and Laurie, out of breath from whomping on the bad guys, part ways.
    • Dan greets Hollis, who fills him in on the just-breaking Dr. Manhattan scandal.
    • Cut to the newsstand, with the Odd Couple: the older half comments on the Dr. Manhattan situation, and the younger half reads some T.B.F.
    • Dr. Osterman returns home to the nuke facility, where a grunt is painting hazard signs on his door. The big blue guy is in turmoil, having hurt the ones he loved most. C’est la vie, non?
    • He needs to think things through, so he teleports to Arizona to grab an old photo of Janey Slater with this normal looking dude, and then he heads to Mars.
    • More excerpts of T.B.F. bring us back down to Earth. A new day has dawned. In T.B.F. the marooned sailor buries his friends.
    • Laurie Jupiter returns “home” to the nuke facility to learn that Dr. Manhattan has vacated the premises. A government agent blames Laurie for costing them Jon, America’s not-so-secret weapon.
    • Rorschach wakes up Dreiberg with the day’s headlines.
    • With the Comedian gone and Dr. Manhattan in exile, Rorschach’s theory of masked hero assassination doesn’t look so crazy.
    • Cut to the newsstand, where the Odd Couple talks about comics and the fact that without Dr. Manhattan, the Russians have just invaded Afghanistan.
    • Then we’re jerked away to a Washington D.C. war room, where the President and his staff run through nuclear holocaust scenarios. Let’s just say, things look bleak without the big blue Doc.
    • Phew, do you have whiplash yet from all the scene shifts? If so, you’re not alone.
    • Chapter Postscript: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? –Genesis chapter 18, verse 25
  • Chapter C

    Under the Hood (V) by Hollis Mason

    • Mason brings the superhero saga up through 1962, the year Under the Hood is published.
    • During the dark days of the McCarthy era, they have to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).
    • Hooded Justice refuses to and disappears, as does legendary strongman Rolf Müller. Coincidence?
    • Not only that, but without tons of costumed villains, the whole let’s dress-up to fight crime thing becomes a little embarrassing.
    • By the time Dr. Manhattan comes into existence in 1960, all the rest are has-beens, no longer needed. That is, besides a few next-gen heroes popping up here and there.
    • Now we have Ozymandias (since 1958), not to mention a new Nite Owl, who has Mason’s blessing. This frees the old Nite Owl up to go run the auto repair shop of his dreams.
  • Chapter IV

    Watchmaker

    • Watch out everyone. Ugh. Bad joke. That nervous tic won’t happen again. See? We didn’t turn “tic” into tick-tock. We could have, but we didn’t.
    • Finally, a chapter so easy to follow, told in such a straightforward way, that it’s almost like clockwork! Yeah, um, sorry guys… we couldn’t resist.
    • Here we are, on Mars, as Dr. Manhattan sits on a rock and looks back to a more normal period of his life. Now, space and time’s all jumbled up for him, Einstein-style.
    • He stares at the 1959 photo of Janey Slater and himself (killer crew cut, Jon) at a New Jersey amusement park.
    • Flashback time: The date is August 7th, 1945; the place is Brooklyn, where sixteen-year-old Jon Osterman is futzing with his father’s old pocket watch.
    • Pop Osterman enters with news that the A-Bomb’s been dropped on Hiroshima, and that his lifetime spent as a watchmaker has been a waste.
    • Cut to May 12th, 1959, where a young Dr. Osterman is the new kid on the block at Gila Flats. With his doctorate in Physics from Princeton, Jon’s kind of a big deal, and Wally Weaver shows him the time-lock test vault.
    • At the local watering hole, Janey Slater fawns over him. They fall in love.
    • Jon fixes Janey’s broken watch but forgets it in his lab coat back at Gila Flats’s I.F. Chamber. Big mistake.
    • He goes to retrieve it, but ends up stuck in the time-lock test vault. Dr. Glass, his mentor, can’t override the system, and Jon is vaporized into a bazillion particles.
    • Six months later, he starts to put himself back together again, like a self-made Humpty Dumpty. But this eggman is giant and blue with almost unlimited superpowers.
    • He and Janey get back together, but that ship has sailed.
    • In 1960, the media names him Dr. Manhattan, and footage is released of Jon looking muy peligroso. He starts to fight crime, and meets JFK at the White House, although he proves unable to stop his assassination two years later.
    • If all this sounds choppy, pretend there are sparkly lights and a big whoosh between every scene. It is now 1962. Jon talks with Hollis Mason at his retirement party, and dashes his auto mechanic dreams. You see, Jon has invented technology for electric cars, making Mason’s skills obsolete.
    • Cut to 1966, as Jon shows up at the inaugural Crimebusters meeting (see “Chapter II”). Jon spends more and more time with young Laurie Jupiter. Janey Slater, jealous and afraid of aging, packs her bags.
    • Jon’s father dies in 1969 without ever knowing Dr. Manhattan was his son. Gila Flats closes down in 1970. The story’s pacing goes into rapid-fire mode.
    • Laurie moves in with Jon, and President Nixon asks him to end the controversial war in Vietnam. In Saigon, Jon runs into Edward Blake, who’s also working for the Government.
    • The surrendering Viet Cong worship Jon like a God. In 1975, President Nixon amends the Constitution, and runs for a third term.
    • Meanwhile, Ozymandias (Veidt) retires and invites Jon to his swanky Antarctic retreat.
    • It is 1977 now. The Keene Act has passed, making it illegal to be a masked vigilante unless working for the Government.
    • Nite Owl and Silk Spectre retire, while Rorschach goes underground.
    • Jon learns of Edward Blake’s murder. Laurie walks out on him.
    • On live TV, Doug Roth accuses Jon of being cancer incarnate, a death sentence on anyone close to him.
    • So he has come full circle, and here he is again, hanging out on Mars, where he creates a new world, perfectly in tune.
    • Fate or free will can’t touch him here. Or can they? Phew, the rollercoaster is over, for now. Let’s take a minute to catch our breaths. Inhale, exhale. Ahhh.
    • Chapter Postscript: The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking… The solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker. –Albert Einstein
  • Chapter D

    Dr. Manhattan: Super-Powers and the Superpowers (Introduction) by Professor Milton Glass

    • Jon’s mentor Professor Glass tells his version of the Dr. Manhattan story, and how it connects to the Cold War.
    • He asks whether Jon Osterman is a man to end wars or a man to end worlds. Is he a man at all, or, is it proof that “God exists and he’s American” (page II)?
    • Glass sets the stage for the ultimate US-Soviet showdown, nuclear style. He appreciates all the benefits of having Dr. Manhattan around: electric cars, airships, and more.
    • But he wonders how the pissing contest (pardon our French) between America and the USSR is supposed to end peacefully.
  • Chapter V

    Fearful Symmetry

    • Rorschach pays Moloch another visit, and sweats old pointy-ears by stuffing him in the fridge. Our masked detective asks again about the cancer list, but can’t shake anything loose.
    • Back on the gritty sidewalks of New York, we take a look through Rorschach’s journal, from October 21st, 1985.
    • Then we cut to the two detectives from Watchmen’s opening scene. Their new case? A father worried about nuclear war has murdered his two daughters.
    • Welcome to Bleak Street, population: everybody.
    • From one couple to another, we’re at the newsstand, where the next issue of the New Frontiersman is delayed.
    • In the world of T.B.F. the marooned sailor heads to Davidstown to save his family before the undead pirates of the Black Freighter get their hands on them.
    • So naturally, he has to fashion a raft out of palm trees and the bloated bodies of his old crewmates. Yuk.
    • Then again, there’s always enough raw seagull to eat. Yum.
    • Cut to the Gunga Diner, as Dan Dreiberg invites Laurie Jupiter to stay with him until she’s back on her feet.
    • And now, we return to Rorschach’s journal from the same day. Sometimes we can’t help but wonder if Alan Moore’s main goal is to mess with our heads.
    • Rorschach witnesses Dan and Laurie exiting the diner, but can’t make heads or tails of it.
    • Back at the newsstand, the older half of the Odd Couple worries about World War III, and the younger half heads deeper into T.B.F. Riding along on his corpse raft, the marooned sailor no longer recognizes his reflection in the water.
    • The scene shifts to Adrian Veidt’s office. He waxes on about ancient Egyptians not fearing death, when a gunman jumps out and tries to assassinate him.
    • Veidt foils the attack, but the gunman swallows a cyanide pill before Veidt has a chance to interrogate.
    • We return to the newsstand couple where the older half stresses out about the attempt on Veidt’s life and the younger half keeps reading T.B.F. Now, the marooned sailor has sharks on his tail.
    • Back to Rorschach’s journal; it’s still Oct. 21st. Moloch has sent a note to Rorschach, saying they need to meet, pronto.
    • Our super-gumshoe dons his black and white mask; he considers it his true face. En route, he foils an attempted rape, and dispenses justice.
    • The body count rises.
    • We move to casa de Dreiberg. Dan shows Laurie her room, and you could cut the sexual tension with a butter knife.
    • Cut to the newsstand, for more T.B.F. The marooned sailor blinds a shark with the raft’s mast-turned-spear. The shark pulls him along, until it stops swimming and dies. Dinner time.
    • The older half helps a taxi cab driver set up her poster: a benefit concert for G.W.A.R. (Gay Women Against Rape… not these guys).
    • At the police station, the two detectives sense that society’s on the verge of collapse. An anonymous tipster calls to set up Rorschach, although for what crime and why, we don’t yet know.
    • Rorschach enters Moloch’s apartment, looking for answers. The only thing Moloch has to share is a seeping bullet hole to the head.
    • The murder weapon is right next to him on the ground. Even better, the NYPD—SWAT team included—is waiting outside.
    • The innocent Rorschach never surrenders. Instead, he rigs a hairspray blowtorch and makes a run for it. Eventually, the police catch him, rip off his mask, and take Rorschach into custody. What the shmoop? Can it be? Rorschach is the redheaded doomsayer from the newsstand.
    • Chapter Postscript: Tyger, Tyger / burning bright, / In the forests of the night, / What immortal hand or eye / Could frame thy fearful symmetry? –William Blake
  • Chapter E

    Reprinted from Chapter Five of the Treasure Island Treasury of Comics

    • This faux-history of comic books (fake to us, real to Watchmen) shares the history of pirate comics in general, and Tales of the Black Freighter in particular.
    • In 1960, the first issue comes out, illustrated by Joe Orlando (an actual illustrator, from Shmoop’s mouth to your ears).
    • This first issue is penned by one Max Shea (a character invented up by Alan Moore), and the stories are darker than dark. Big shock there.
    • Not to give this chapter short shrift, as it does shed light on the comic within the comic, but this section is mostly icing on the cake, which, as you can tell by now is already twelve-layered and difficult enough to slice.
    • Spoiler alert: the sailor will make it to Davidstown, but not with his sanity intact.
    • The other key takeaway is that Max Shea has disappeared, in the world of Watchmen, not our own.
    • Is it getting harder to tell them apart? No? Maybe it’s just us.
  • Chapter VI

    The Abyss Gazes Also

    • Here we go. Now that Rorschach (a.k.a. Walter J. Kovacs) has been captured, we need a different journal to give us insight into his mind.
    • Cue the “Notes of Dr. Malcolm Long,” which begin just as the good doctor psychoanalyzes Rorschach for the first time (VI.1).
    • Over the years, Kovacs has ticked off the entire NYPD, and stuck boatloads of criminals behind bars. How is he supposed to survive a jail stint?
    • Perhaps more importantly, how did he end up this way? Flashback time.
    • Tell us Rorschach, what do you see in those inkblots?
    • Young Walt wakes up to the sounds of a man hurting his mom. Lo and behold, he discovers his mother’s a prostitute who wishes he’d never been born.
    • We return to the present, as Kovacs makes the long walk to his cell. The other inmates make grisly promises.
    • Back to young Walt, who is bullied by two older boys for being a “whoreson” (VI.6.8). In what will become typical Rorschach brutality, Walt puts out the first bully’s cigarette in his eye and bites the other boy’s cheek off.
    • He is 10 years old; the year is 1951.
    • Now it’s evening again on Oct. 25th, 1985, as Dr. Long works the Kovacs case from home. He has learned that young Walt was an exceptionally bright boy who showed no emotion at his mother’s murder in 1956.
    • Not only that, but Kovacs no longer exists; there is only Rorschach.
    • The next day, the jailed hero tells Dr. Long more of his story. We see young Walt working in a garment factory, where he discovers the fabric for his mask.
    • When the young woman who ordered that fabric is raped and killed outside her own apartment in 1964, Walt dons the mask for the first time.
    • Cut to the present. Rorschach calls out Dr. Long for spending so much time with him, just because he’s famous, when there are other patients who need more help.
    • In his entry from October 26th, Long closes the book on Rorschach, saying he’s just trying to compensate for his mother’s murder.
    • In line for breakfast at the mess hall, Rorschach fends off a shank attack from another inmate by throwing a vat of hot oil on his face.
    • Dr. Long is once again hooked on the case, which strains his relationship with his wife.
    • The following day, Rorschach recalls bringing down the Big Figure with Nite Owl (Dreiberg edition) in 1965. But the man has gone soft, unlike Rorschach, and unlike the Comedian, who he meets in 1966 at the inaugural Crimebusters meeting (see Chapters II and IV).
    • Meanwhile, Dr. Long’s marriage is on the rocks, and after stopping by the newsstand, he learns that the Soviets have marched into Pakistan.
    • On October 27th, Dr. Long reaches a breakthrough. Rorschach shares the story that turned Kovacs-in-a-costume into a living, breathing vengeance machine.
    • The year is 1975, and he’s tracking down Blair Roche, a kidnapped six-year-old girl. He winds up at an abandoned dressmaker’s in Brooklyn.
    • In the yard, two German shepherds fight over a bone. Rorschach realizes the bones are Blair’s. He picks up a meat cleaver, kills the dogs, and waits for the perpetrator, a man by the name of Gerald Grice.
    • Rorschach offers the man a Saw-style choice and burns down the building with Grice inside.
    • According to Rorschach, all there is in life is randomness, hellfire, and damnation.
    • Haha, fun, light reading, this Watchmen stuff
    • Walking home on October 28th, Dr. Long observes tempers flaring in the streets and on the front pages. The U.S. and the Soviets are on a collision course.
    • In the wake of all this, Dr. Long and his wife Gloria host a dinner party. It goes poorly, all because Rorschach has gotten inside Dr. Long’s head. Gloria walks out on him, and the reader is left with nothing but an empty panel.
    • Things aren’t looking up, let’s leave it at that.
    • Chapter Postscript: Battle not with monsters lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you. –Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
  • Chapter F

    Documents from the Life of Walter J. Kovacs

    • The first item is Kovacs’s police file, detailing his arrest for the recent murder of Moloch (which he denies having committed) as well as the older murders of Gerald Grice (see Chapter VI) and Harvey Furniss (a serial rapist).
    • The file lists the contents of Rorschach’s pockets and makes for an interesting case study.
    • Next, we have a history of Kovacs’s early life, written for the New York State Psychiatric Hospital.
    • Following that, we have a personal essay by eleven-year-old Walt, which shows us a more human, innocent side.
    • And last up, a dream narrative by Walt at thirteen (Freud would’ve loved this one), a monstrous sketch of his mother at work, and a handwritten note by Dr. Long.
  • Chapter VII

    A Brother to Dragons

    • If Chapter VI was all Rorschach, now it’s Nite Owl and Silk Spectre time. In Nite Owl’s basement workshop, sparks fly. No, really. Laurie ignites a flamethrower.
    • The two of them are on edge, as costumed heroes are dropping like flies (the Comedian is dead, Dr. Manhattan on Mars, Veidt was almost shot, and Rorschach in custody).
    • Laurie is impressed with Dan’s airship and equipment (elbow nudge, elbow nudge).
    • We learn his father was a rich banker whose resources allowed Dan to study Aeronautics and Zoology at Harvard. Yes, even superheroes have to take the SAT.
    • Dan and Laurie climb onto Archie, the Nite Owl’s airship, named after Archimedes, Merlin’s pet owl in Disney’s Sword in the Stone.
    • Dan thinks it all seems childish, but Laurie’s on board. Dan regrets the failure of the Crimebusters, his one chance at joining a new Knights of the Round Table.
    • He admits his loneliness, as does Laurie, whose only friend until now has been Jon (Dr. Manhattan).
    • Back upstairs again, Dan and Laurie debate the masked-killer conspiracy and watch the news on TV, where all coverage centers on three stories: the Rorschach case, the escalating tug-of-war between America and Russia, and the disappearance of writer Max Shea (see Chapter E).
    • Enough small talk. Laurie makes a move on Dan, and they kiss on the couch.
    • After the commercial break there’s a charity gymnastics show by Veidt, who’s slick and strong while Dan fumbles around.
    • Eventually, Dan gives up, due to performance anxiety.
    • Later, Dan’s more suave in his dreams, although a nuclear blast interrupts things even in fantasyland. He wakes up at 3 a.m. and walks down naked to his workshop, feeling über-lame and past his prime.
    • Laurie joins him, and they decide to chase the old thrill one last time. They suit up and take Archie for a spin.
    • Over there, what’s that? Oh no, a tenement fire.
    • Luckily there are two superheroes ready to break the Keene Act and save all the residents.
    • Dan and Laurie get their blood flowing, save the day, and have enough energy afterward to celebrate from Archie’s perch, both in and out of costume.
    • And voila, Dan’s a new man, the kind who decides they should go break Rorschach out of jail.
    • Chapter Postscript: I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls. My skin is black upon me, and my bones are burned with heat. –JOB chapter 30, verses 29-30
  • Chapter G

    “Blood from the Shoulder of Pallas” by Daniel Dreiberg (an excerpt from the Journal of the American Ornithological Society, Fall 1983).

    • In this academic essay, Dreiberg urges scientists not to forget about the art and poetry in studying birds.
    • We learn about his love and passion for the night owl, and by extension, Alan Moore’s wish for arts and science to enrich each other.
    • The title refers to Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, who also went by Pallas and kept a pet owl on her shoulder.
    • This chapter’s worth a read for those curious about Dan Dreiberg and his alter ego.
  • Chapter VIII

    Old Ghosts

    • Hollis Mason calls up Sally Jupiter to reminisce and share news of Dan and Laurie’s tenement rescue. They banter back and forth and we learn Halloween’s almost here.
    • We head to the newsstand, where the older half misses his late wife Rosa, sells a paper to Dr. Long, and realizes his best customer is actually Rorschach.
    • All the while, the younger half reads T.B.F. There, the marooned sailor believes his wife and kids are already dead.
    • Cut to the Nite Owl workshop, where Dan and Laurie are knee-deep in conspiracy theories. This one company, Dimensional Developments, employed all the folks that Dr. Manhattan allegedly gave cancer to.
    • Suspicious? Absoshmooply.
    • Dan thinks someone wants Jon out the equation in order to start World War III. He discovers that Dimensional Developments owns two other companies: the Institute for Extraspatial Studies and Pyramid Deliveries.
    • Because Veidt’s all goody two-shoes, Dan suggests they free Rorschach before bringing him into the mix.
    • Back in Sing-Sing, our jailbird Rorschach has a visitor: his old nemesis Big Figure (a little person, get it?) and two lackeys. They promise to do dastardly deeds to him, very very soon. The clock’s ticking.
    • At the Dreiberg residence, one of the detectives (Steve) pays Dan a visit, and warns him not to play any more dress-up.
    • Now, it’s Halloween night. Coincidence? Not with Alan Moore at the helm.
    • For the first time, we head to the offices of the New Frontiersman, Rorschach’s favorite right-wing newspaper.
    • Mr. Godfrey, the editor, and his pudgy assistant Seymour (of course) lay out a defense of masked heroes for the cover story. On the back page, they run a piece about Max Shea, the missing writer.
    • The scene shifts to a tropical island with said writer and an illustrator, Ms. Manish. She continues to sketch this monstro-looking alien for a movie project they think they’re working on.
    • Remember our old pal Hollis Mason? He carves a jack-o-lantern and watches the news.
    • The important snippets: Nuclear war is coming. Doug Roth of the Nova Express (a left-wing paper) calls out the New Frontiersman as fascist claptrap. In prison, Rorschach’s hot oil victim has died and a riot is about to break out.
    • Cut to the newsstand where a gang of knot-tops is hassling the older half of the Odd Couple. They’re ready to flip out, what with nuclear war on the horizon.
    • The younger half carries on with T.B.F. The marooned sailor is starting to lose his mind, making chitchat with his dead crewmates.
    • You think the New York City streets are wild? Let’s head to Sing-Sing.
    • Big Figure & Co. have taken over the prison and are about to cut through the bars of Rorschach’s cell. Unfortunately, one of Big Figure’s goons gets in the way.
    • Up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s a bird-plane! Archie swoops in over the prison, impervious to the prison guards’ gunfire.
    • Rorschach electrocutes Big Figure’s other goon, and the little crime boss runs away.
    • On foot, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre track down Rorschach, who flushes the Big Figure before heading off with them. Once they’re safely aboard Archie, Dan voices solidarity with Rorschach. Laurie still thinks his theories are insane, and wishes Jon were here to fix everything.
    • The trio returns to the Dreiberg residence to freshen up and reload. Presto change-o, Jon is waiting for Laurie in the living room. Well, some of Jon. The rest is on Mars.
    • Jon reveals Laurie’s purpose: to convince him that humankind is worth saving. They teleport away.
    • Dan and Rorschach fly off in Archie seconds before the two detectives and SWAT bust down the door.
    • To the newsstand once more, where trouble’s a-brewing. In T.B.F. the marooned sailor attempts to jump into the ocean to his death, but touches down on dry land. Curses!
    • The knot-tops are wound up and looking for blood. They blame the costumed heroes. One of them thinks he knows where Nite Owl lives.
    • But it’s sweet old Hollis Mason who answers the door, expecting trick-or-treaters. The jig is up (again with the jig, huh?). Mason fights valiantly, but succumbs to their numbers.
    • After the knot-tops flee, several kids show up in costume, hoping for candy from Mr. Mason. None is coming.
  • Chapter H

    From pages of the New Frontiersman, October 31st, 1985

    • Remember Mr. Godfrey’s cover story (VIII.10)? Well, here it is, writ large: “HONOR IS LIKE THE HAWK: SOMETIMES IT MUST GO HOODED.”
    • Godrey compares costumed heroes to the best parts of American history: the Boston Tea Party, the Lone Ranger, the, uh, Ku Klux Klan.
    • Yeah, sorry, Mr. G., but that’s where we lose you.
    • Flip to page 4, where there’s an article about missing writer Max Shea.
    • Add to that a host of other missing writers, artists, and scientists, not to mention the stolen head of a dead psychic, and we have one more bizarro situation on our hands.
  • Chapter IX

    The Darkness of Mere Being

    • Laurie and Jon hang out on Mars, no big deal. Jon builds a giant, trippy crystal castle yet forgets Laurie needs oxygen to survive. And he’s supposed to save humanity?
    • Jon denies the existence of time, arguing that everything happens all at once.
    • Flash to Laurie’s first memory, of her mom (Sally Jupiter) and dad (agent Laurence Schexnayder) fighting.
    • Kid Laurie shakes and drops a snow globe. She knows Laurence isn’t her real father. Is it Hooded Justice?
    • Back on Mars, Laurie confesses she slept with Dan Dreiberg. Jon states that his last connection to Earth has been severed.
    • We return to Laurie’s past where her thirteen-year-old self lifts weights while her mom hosts a sad excuse for a Minutemen reunion.
    • To Mars again, where Jon and Laurie fly around in the now mobile, psychedelic castle.
    • They debate the meaning of life.
    • This brings us to another memory. At sixteen, Laurie attends the first and only Crimebusters meeting in 1966.
    • Even then, she nurses a crush on Jon. After the meeting, however, it’s the Comedian, Edward Blake, who comes over to check her out.
    • Not on mom’s watch. Sally Jupiter shows up to take Laurie home before Edward Blake can hurt another woman. But what does Jon care about any of this?
    • Usually, Jon can see the past, present, and future, except now there’s static in his way.
    • Jon and Laurie approach Olympus Mons, which is like Mt. Everest on steroids. What human drama can compete with that?
    • Flash to Laurie at a banquet in 1973.
    • Laurie, drunk, confronts Blake for attempting to rape her mom, and throws her drink in his face. We return to the present. Still flying in the trippy crystal castle, Laurie despairs, giving up.
    • She looks back at her life, at Life overall, and discovers there’s not much worth saving.
    • Jon reveals to Laurie, through piecing together her memories, that the Comedian is her father. Jon’s crystal castle implodes, crumbling to the earth. Or should we say crumbling to the mars?
    • Feeling betrayed by her mother, Laurie considers life to be a joke.
    • Somehow this helps Jon see the meaning in meaninglessness, how life is a miracle in spite of everything.
    • Laurie wins the debate; they will return, and Jon will try to prevent World War III.
    • Chapter Postscript: As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being. –C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections
  • Chapter I

    Sally Jupiter’s Scrapbook Clippings

    • First off is an article in the Daily World, with a headline reading “VILLAINS VIE FOR VOLUPTUOUS VIGILANTE” (1939).
    • In it Silk Spectre, a onetime waitress and burlesque dancer, is repeatedly objectified for her looks. There’s also a quick shout-out to her and Hooded Justice being an item.
    • Next is a letter to Sally from B-movie producer King Taylor (1945). Her career seems to be slowing down.
    • Some of the other bits and pieces from Sally’s life are: a recruitment letter from Captain Metropolis (Nelson Gardner), a semi-proposal from Larry (Laurence Schexnayder), and a capsule review of King Taylor’s eventual film.
    • Last up is Sally’s 1976 interview with the Probe. Again, the interviewer dwells on sex, sexuality, and the Comedian’s attempted rape.
    • No, it’s not easy for a girl to make it in the boys’ club.
  • Chapter X

    Two Riders Were Approaching…

    • Via helicopter, President Nixon lands in a super secret underground bunker. A nuclear detonator is chained to his wrist. The situation looks dicey.
    • Along with his generals, he sits and waits to see what the Soviets have up their sleeves.
    • Nite Owl and Rorschach plan to contact Veidt, but first, the escaped convict needs to collect his spare costume and the final draft of his journal.
    • After running into Rorschach’s landlady, a prostitute who reminds him of his mother, we cut to Veidt’s Antarctic base, where he asks his servants about a mysterious delivery.
    • Then, he pets his mutated lynx Bubastis and looks for ways to profit from all the chaos.
    • Meanwhile, Nite Owl and Rorshach disagree about tactics. N.O. thinks Blake was killed because he stumbled upon a secret island and a plot against Dr. Manhattan.
    • Shifty-face prefers the whole mask killer angle. N.O. can’t reconcile why Veidt was targeted, so Shifty-face wins this round.
    • They go off to shake up the criminal underworld.
    • Now it’s Tales from the Black Freighter time. Convinced Davidstown is overrun with zombie pirates, and his family already dead and gone, the marooned sailor seeks only revenge.
    • A rich couple nears on horseback; they look harmless enough but the sailor kills them lest they blow his cover. Yo-ho, yo-ho, no turning back for you.
    • At the newsstand, the older half is talking doomsday as tanks roll into Eastern Europe. The younger half smokes and reads T.B.F.
    • The marooned sailor rides into town dressed like the man he has just killed. To trick the pirates (if there even are any), he props up the dead man’s wife on her horse.
    • Nite Owl and Rorschach enter a seedy bar, looking for info on Veidt’s attempted assassin, Roy Victor Chess. A poor sap admits he gave Chess the gig, thanks to his boss at Pyramid Deliveries, and that ever since, anyone connected to the hit has gotten whacked (see X.15.4).
    • Also, a knot-top tells Nite Owl that Hollis Mason has been murdered. Nite Owl flips out. Rorschach calms him down (role reversal) and the duo heads off to tell Veidt the news.
    • Oh, and by the way, Veidt has a serious Egyptian fetish. Hmm, the plot thickens.
    • Cut to a giant cruise ship with a Pyramid Deliveries logo. Max Shea and all the missing writers, artists, and scientists celebrate the end of their film’s production.
    • Shea and illustrator Hira Manish canoodle below deck. Shea discovers a bomb seconds before it explodes and blows the cruise ship to smithereens. Ruh-roh.
    • Nite Owl and Rorschach head over to Veidt’s office, where everything’s been abandoned. Veidt’s calendar mentions a November 1st departure for Karnak.
    • Nite Owl hacks into Veidt’s computer using the password Rameses II, and discovers Veidt is the CEO of Pyramid Deliveries.
    • He’s the one behind it all. Double ruh-roh!
    • We’re heading for a final showdown at Karnak, Veidt’s Antarctic retreat.
    • Nite Owl and Rorschach jet off in Archie, but not before one last entry from Rorschach’s journal (November 1st, 1985). He spells out the conspiracy as best he can, and mails the journal to an unknown recipient.
    • In the world of T.B.F. the marooned sailor approaches Davidstown.
    • Back in “the real world” a mailman drops off Rorschach’s journal at the New Frontiersman office. Mr. Godrey orders Seymour to place it in the crank file.
    • No time for nonsense when the world’s about to end.
    • High above the clouds in Archie, Nite Owl and Rorschach make their way to Antarctica. After a crash landing, they ride hoverbikes the rest of the way.
    • Veidt, sitting on his throne in Karnak, strokes his chin with one hand and Bubastis with the other. He watches the monitors, transfixed, as his old pals approach.
    • Chapter Postscript: Outside in the distance a wild cat did growl, two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl. –Bob Dylan
  • Chapter J

    Memos from Veidt Enterprises

    • Look, by now you’re wise to the routine. Alan Moore serves up a little hors d’oeuvre of a character right before the main course. That’s cool.
    • So if you want to learn how Veidt built his empire, about the finer details of toy marketing, or the true extent of one man’s twisted genius, read on.
    • If not, you should probably read on anyway. Veidt is kind of a big deal.
  • Chapter XI

    Look on My Works, Ye Mighty…

    • Veidt records his brainiac thoughts on the future of the future. He has time to kill until Nite Owl and Rorschach arrive in from the cold.
    • Speaking of those two, they aren’t sure why or even if Veidt wants to destroy the world.
    • Inside Karnak, Veidt summons his three most loyal servants.
    • Cut to the newsstand, where the T.B.F. sailor enters his former home, and, mistaking his wife for an undead pirate, bludgeons her to death in front of their children.
    • There’s no turning back now.
    • Realizing the true nature of his curse, the sailor runs away screaming.
    • Back in Karnak, Veidt pours glasses of wine for his servants. He marvels at the tropical climate beneath the glass dome and all he has created.
    • Flashing to his childhood, Veidt shares his origin story. For more details, check out his “Character” page.
    • Veidt’s ultimate quest? To bring enlightenment to the world, by any means necessary. He seeks to one-up Alexander the Great as well as the pharaohs of Egypt.
    • Back at the newsstand, two lovers, one the taxi driver from Chapter V, the other a knot-top who works at a magazine, are in the middle of a messy and public breakup.
    • To Karnak we go, where Veidt quenches his thirst with knowledge and power. Not so lucky are his three servants, who wet their whistles with poisoned wine.
    • Veidt presses the self-destruct button and blows up the dome.
    • Speaking of bad luck, the marooned sailor has it even worse than Veidt’s servants. With a lynch mob on his trail, he heads to the shore. The Black Freighter lurks just off the coast, but will never attack Davidstown, he knows that now.
    • The ship is waiting for him to swim aboard and join the crew.
    • At the newsstand, Dr. Long’s wife Gloria walks up to the older half of the Odd Couple, looking for her husband.
    • Nite Owl and Rorschach enter Karnak. They sneak up on Veidt in the middle of dinner, and try to take him down. Womp womp, that’s the sound of failure.
    • But why Veidt, why? Pull up a chair, everyone, it’s creepy-villain monologue time.
    • After some early success as Ozymandias, Veidt discovers that governments are no different from crime syndicates. He learns it was Blake who took out Hooded Justice, and maybe even President Kennedy.
    • At the first and only Crimebusters meeting, the Comedian opens Veidt’s eyes to a future filled with conflict and nuclear war.
    • That is… dun dun dun… unless Veidt does something radical to save the world.
    • Back in NYC at the newsstand, Gloria and Dr. Long attempt to talk it out and save their marriage. She wants him to find a new line of work.
    • Down the street, the lesbian couple starts fighting, and Gloria begs Dr. Long not to intervene, but he says has no choice.
    • Karnakside, Veidt reveals how Dr. Manhattan created problems between the Soviets and the US. At the newsstand, now that the marooned sailor has reached the Black Freighter, this sweet little tale reaches its happily-ever-after end.
    • Sarcasm much?
    • For the first time, the Odd Couple acknowledges each other. They find out they have the same name: Bernard.
    • Maybe people can connect with people after all. The two detectives show up on the scene. One (Steve) wants to break up the fight between the lesbian couple, the other (Joe) wants to drive on by. They get out. The crowd swells.
    • Veidt continues to reveal his grand plan. First, get rid of Jon (Dr. Manhattan). Second, force the world to unite through “history’s greatest practical joke” (XI.24.4).
    • Between his knowledge of genetics and teleportation, and thanks to a small army of writers, artists, and scientists (the ones who died on the cruise to nowhere), Veidt is about to hoodwink the entire world with a fake alien invasion.
    • The death of Veidt’s monster will decimate half the city of New York. No, it’s not going to happen, it is happening, right this very moment.
    • Goodbye detectives, quarrelling lovers, Odd Couples. Goodbye.
    • Chapter Postscript: My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair! –Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley
  • Chapter K

    “After the Masquerade: Superstyle and the art of humanoid watching” an interview with Adrian Veidt by Doug Roth, appearing in Nova Express (July 12th, 1975)

    • Just when you think Alan Moore has created a clear-cut supervillain, he pulls the rug out from under us.
    • Read this humanizing portrait of Adrian Veidt, and you’ll see him reflect on music, politics, and his admiration for other superheroes out there.
  • Chapter XII

    A Stronger Loving World

    • The doomsday clock has struck midnight. Millions are dead in New York City and giant tentacles are draped over the wreckage.
    • Newspapers blow around with the following headline: War?
    • Jon and Laurie take a walk through the destruction. He figures out why he couldn’t see this coming back in Chapter IX. Something about tachyons and static. Sure, let’s go with it, why not?
    • He traces the tachyon signal back to the South Pole. Laurie could care less in the wake of such devastation.
    • Let’s head down to Karnak, shall we? Nite Owl can’t believe what Veidt has successfully pulled off. Not only that, but anyone who helped carry out Veidt’s plan is already dead.
    • There are no loose ends, except two, as Jon and Laurie appear outside in the snow.
    • Jon teleports inside, but it’s a trap. He walks through an Intrinsic Field Subtractor and gets vaporized along with Bubastis, Veidt’s mutated pet lynx. Collateral damage.
    • Laurie runs up and shoots Veidt; however, he is so well trained he catches the bullet.
    • Veidt thinks victory is his.
    • Nuh-uh, not today. Jon comes back with a vengeance.
    • Veidt turns on a wall of TVs, each playing the news from around the world.
    • Because of what happened in New York, Russia has agreed to withdraw its troops.
    • Checkmate, game over. There will be peace on Earth, unless…
    • The thing is, Jon agrees with Veidt. He admits that humanity’s best chance of utopia depends on the U.S. and Russia uniting behind one cause.
    • The Silk Spectre goes along with it, as does Nite Owl. Rorschach, though, won’t compromise. He heads back to the hoverbikes, ready to tell the world the truth.
    • Before Veidt heads off to meditate, he asks Dan and Laurie to make themselves comfortable. Heartbroken over the loss of three million innocent New Yorkers, Dan and Laurie console each other.
    • With newfound gratitude for being alive, they make love by a fountain.
    • Out in the frozen tundra, Jon stops Rorschach, warning him not to ruin the precarious new world order.
    • Rorschach never surrenders, and so demands that Jon kill him, which he does.
    • Jon heads back inside, and stands over the naked, sleeping Dan and Laurie. He smiles, at peace.
    • Upstairs, Jon and Veidt have one last tête-à-tête, one last meeting of the minds.
    • Veidt seeks validation that Jon won’t give him. Instead, Jon decides to leave the galaxy, to head out and build new life from scratch.
    • But Watchmen’s story isn’t over.
    • Christmas, 1985. An unnaturally-blonde couple by the name of Hollis pays a visit to Sally Jupiter. Hair aside, they bear an uncanny resemblance to Dan and Laurie.
    • Sally goes to look for presents, and Laurie tells her mom that she knows Blake is her real father. They hug; all is forgiven.
    • After Dan and Laurie leave, Sally picks up her iconic Minutemen photo, and kisses the Comedian. She cries.
    • Back to New York City, inside the office of the New Frontiersman. It looks like Mr. Godrey and Seymour have both survived the blast.
    • Seymour’s in charge of picking a piece to run from the crank file. He reaches out.
    • There, in the stack, is Rorschach’s journal. What happens next? Only one man, Alan Moore, knows for certain.
    • Chapter Postscript: It would be a stronger world, a stronger loving world, to die in. —John Cale
    • Postscript: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who watches the watchmen?) —Juvenal, Satires, VI, 347, Quoted as the epigraph of the Tower Commission Report, 1987