Study Guide

Watchmen Chapter I

By Alan Moore

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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

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