Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII



Non-Comic Information

World of the Watchmen



Chapter 1: "At Midnight, All the Agents..."

Certain notes are true for each issue.

This issue's title is from Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row."

Cover: First appearance of the blood-spattered smiley-face button. The button belonged to the Comedian, who we first see in flashback on page 2. The shape of the blood stain reappears in issue 11 and issue 12.

ISSUE MOTIF: Blood-spattered smiley-face button
COVER CLOCK: 11 min. to midnight
Page 1, panel 1: The narration is an excerpt from Rorschach's journal. We will see the journal later in the series.

The blood is from the Comedian.

Panel 4: Possible symbolism: "Followed in the footsteps" as the sign man tracks the blood on the sidewalk. Rorschach believes his father was a war hero (see issue 6). He sees President Truman as a good man, hard-working and honest; possibly his ordering the nuking of Hiroshima has something to do with this, too.

Truman: Harry S Truman, President of the U.S. from 1945 to 1953, taking office after the death of Franklin Roosevelt and elected to a second term in 1948. He presided over the end of WWII, and ordered the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. His image is generally of a sincere man, who did what was necessary to end the war and served a good if undistinguished term afterwards.

Panel 5: The vehicle with the triangle in the circle belongs to Pyramid Deliveries. The triangle is a continuing theme; its significance will be learned later on. Pyramid Deliveries is owned by Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias); he seems to be everywhere in this series.

If the vehicles appear strange, it's because they are electrically powered.

Panel 7: The first appearance of Joe Bourquin, who is a continuing character.

Page 2, panel 1: The first appearance of Detective Steve Fine, who is also a continuing character.

Panel 3: We see these flashbacks from another point of view in issue 11.

Panels 4-7: Edward Blake is in good shape because he's the Comedian. His identity is not public knowledge; he is well-known in diplomatic circles as Blake. As the Comedian, he has been employed by the government since WWII.

Panel 7: Steve smokes hand-rolled cigarettes.

Panel 8: We see how he got the scar in issue 2.

In our world, Ford was vice-president from 1973 (when Spiro Agnew resigned) to 1974, when Nixon resigned and he became president. In their world, somebody, maybe the Comedian, snuffed Woodward and Bernstein before they could report Watergate, and this, combined with Nixon's popularity following the victory in Vietnam, led to his serving at least five terms.

Page 3, panel 2: The theft of the money is curious. The murderer had no need for it. If it was an attempt to make it look like a normal burglary, it failed, and the murderer should have known that.

Panel 3: This shows the source of the blood-spatter on the button.

Panel 6: Note the unusual design of the pipe (?) the man in the elevator is smoking. Variants of it appear elsewhere in the series.

Panel 7: This panel is an example of a continuing narrative device throughout the series: a narration box applying to the rest of the panel, although it's not directly related. This is used to good effect in the Tales of the Black Freighter sections, for example.

Page 4, panel 1: Knot-tops are a popular hairstyle, especially common among certain street gangs. More speculation later. KT-28 seems to be a popular street drug; the users refer to them as "Katies." 'Luudes are qualuudes, a real-world drug.

Panel 2: Visible in the background is a geodesic dome. There are at least three of them in New York; one is called the Astrodome.

Panel 3: First appearance an issue of Tales of the Black Freighter. Note the other things on the newsstand: two pirate comics ("X-Ships" may be a joke on X-MEN) and a New York Times with "Vietnam 51st State: Official!" as the headline. As is demonstrated later, in this world pirate comics supplanted super-hero comics as the principal product of the industry.

Seeing the Times is curious; the paper of choice in New York is the Gazette, which appears to be the same paper under another name. Could it be an error on Gibbons' part?

Panel 5: First appearance of the Gunga Diner. The person in the lower right-hand corner has a Knot-top.

The Gunga Diner is this world's equivalent of McDonald's, as the ever-present fast-food restaurant. It was founded by an Indian who left the country during the famine in the '60's (see the poster on page 17).

If this newsstand is meant to be the same one that appears again starting with #3, it is misplaced (see notes for issue #5).

This panel is the first appearance of a reference to "Mmeltdowns," a popular candy. (See Ozymandias's interpretation in issue #10, page 8.)

Notice the 25-cent fare on the taxi.

Panel 8: The sign man is apparently left-handed. Right-handed people generally wear their watches on the left wrist, so they can wind them with their right hand.

Page 5, panel 1: The first appearance of a dirigible, apparently a common means of transportation in this series. (We never see one in anything other than a distant shot, though.)

Panel 3: The button reappears. Rorschach is left-handed, as seen here and panel 6.

Panel 6: This is Rorschach's gas-powered grappling gun, built for him by Daniel Dreiberg (Nite Owl II). The cartridge is carbon dioxide (CO2).

Page 6, panel 1: Here we see Rorschach's mask for the first time. Notice that the patterns are constantly shifting; the mask is formed by "two viscous fluids between two layers latex, heat and pressure sensitive."

Rorschach's name comes from Dr. Hermann Rorschach, who invented a psychological test based on interpretations of inkblots. Inkblots are formed by pouring ink onto a piece of paper, folding it, and unfolding it, producing a symmetrical image. The actual Rorschach test uses ten cards with multi-colored blots.

Also, notice again the geodesic dome in the background; this may be the Astrodome. Its purpose is never mentioned, apart from being the site of a charity event Ozymandias performed at; but it's identified in issue #7, page 23. (This structure does not exist in our New York; there is a building named the Astrodome, but it's in Houston. The dome is named after the Houston Astros; could there be a New York Astros in their universe?)

Page 8, panel 1: This is the Comedian's equipment and second costume. The picture on the left (which we see more clearly later) is a group shot of the Minutemen, a 1940's crimefighting team of which Blake was a member for a while. (More on his past in issue 2.)

Panel 2: Although the patterns on the mask shift, he does have a few repeating themes; one of them is the "surprise/shock face" shown here. It is indicative of Rorschach's personality that, even though he didn't know Blake's identity until now, he still searched the apartment thoroughly and suspected the hidden panel in the closet.

Page 9, panels 1-3: The man pictured and speaking is Hollis Mason, the first Nite Owl. He is speaking to Dan Dreiberg, who took up his name. Mason was the second costumed adventurer. On his wall are various pictures and clippings from his career; one is seen to read "Hero Retires: Opens Own Auto Business." Note the time on his clock. Phantom is his dog.

This panel shows another common device in the series; focussing on an image and shifting the scene around it (in this case, the Minutemen photo). This is a cinematic device, adapted for the comics medium.

Panel 4: The statuette on the left was presented to Mason upon his retirement. The books are: Two copies of his autobiography, Under the Hood; Automobile Maintenance; and Gladiator by Philip Wylie (one of the first novels about a superhero, and partial inspiration for Superman).

Note the owl items. The thing on the left of the mantelpiece bears a passing resemblance to the lantern of the first Green Lantern, a DC Comics character, but this may be coincidence.

Panel 6: The "Pale Horse" graffiti refers to a popular band.

Panel 7: "Who Watches the Watchmen" was popular graffiti around the time of the Keene act. It comes from the Latin phrase "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes," a quote from Juvenal's Satires and, of course, is the source of the title of the series. The phrase never appears in its entirety in the series; it is always cut off somehow. The state of the building says something about Mason's financial situation.

The Keene Act, re-illegalizing vigilantism, was passed in 1977; it was named after its sponsor, Senator Keene. I don't think Keene was a real person, and we never learn his (her, for all we know) name or home state. I'd guess he was from New York, though; NYC was the home of most costumed heroes, and hence would have been the likeliest site of the police strike.

(Interestingly, the Keene Act, although used differently, has been introduced to the DC Universe.)

Panel 8: "Obsolete models a specialty." Mason learned his trade on internal combustion engines, not electric ones. (It also serves as a commentary on Mason.) Note the "Gunga Diner" takeout box. It should be clear that this isn't a very good neighborhood.

Page 10, panel 1: Iggy Pop song, "Neighborhood Threat"

The male Knot-Top here is Derf, who reappears later. The headline reads, "Russia Protests US Adventurism in Afghanistan," and the storefront says "86 Buicks Here!"

The headline is a reversed version of news in our world; the US was proposing Russian adventurism at this time.

Panel 2: The first appearance of Nostalgia, a Veidt product, which reappears continually throughout the series. Veidt products seem to infiltrate every corner of life. Also, Treasure Island, a comics shop which reappears a few times. (Comics shops in our world often have superhero, science fiction, or fantasy-oriented names; in this world, they probably have pirate-related names.)

Panel 3: The plate on the right reads "Floors 1-4 Dreiberg;" apparently Dan owns the entire building.

Panel 7: The calendar on the right appears later; it has a picture of an owl. The layout of the calendar is interesting; in our world, the practice is to put Sunday on the left column, not Monday.

Panel 8: The can refers to "58 Varieties." In our world, it's "Heinz 57." The slogan was invented in 1892; apparently there are at least trivial differences between our world and theirs going back a ways.

Page 11, panel 3: The button again.

Panel 5: The first apearance of "Sweet Chariot" sugar cubes. (I don't know if these are a Veidt product; the "Chariot" reference is his style, but the name refers to a Gospel song, "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," which isn't.)

Panel 8: This is Dreiberg's workshop. The thing under the tarps is "Archie," his flying vehicle.

Page 12, panel 1: Dreiberg retired after the Keene act.

Panel 8: On the right is Dreiberg's Nite Owl costume, which we see clearly on the next page.

Page 13, panel 2: Rorschach and Nite Owl worked together during the '70's in the dock and warehouse district.

Page 14, panel 1: Another geodesic dome in the background.

Panel 4: The sign in the window reads "Stick with Dick in '84;" obviously a Nixon campaign sign.

Panel 5: The first appearance of Happy Harry's, a sleazy bar that Rorschach patronizes for information. The headline on the paper reads, "Congress Approves Lunar Silos," and the graffiti reads, "Viet Bronx." (Meaning what, I wonder? That the U.S. should spend more money on domestic affairs, or is there some sort of VC sympathy gang out there?)

In our world, international treaties prohibit nuclear weapons in space; evidently here, the US's increased clout due to Dr. Manhattan stopped such treaties.

Panel 6: On the left is a woman with one of those pipe things; the man with the eyepatch has another common type of pipe.

Page 15, panel 2: Happy Harry himself.

Page 16, panel 1: "The Apple:" The Big Apple is slang for New York City.

Panel 4: The man on the upper left has a type of ball-pipe not seen anywhere else; it has two spheres rather than one.

Page 17, panel 1: The speaker is Adrian Veidt, formerly Ozymandias, another retired crimefighter. We learn his background in issue 11. Notice the time on the clock, the geodesic dome, and the dirigible. The pointed building to the right of the Veidt building is the Chrysler Building, a real-world landmark.

Panel 4: Dr. Manhattan, about whom we learn more later, is the center of America's current defensive strategy; he can theoretically destroy large chunks of Soviet territory and simultaneously 60% of incoming missiles fired at the US before they impact, thus giving the US an immense strategic advantage. (See the essay at the end of issue #4.)

Panel 6: The poster reads: "Veidt: OZYMANDIAS Southern Indian Famine Relief."

Panel 7: This is just what Veidt did.

Panels 7-8: Actually, Veidt is almost the Aryan ideal; if anyone's a likely candidate for Nazi accusations, it's he. A top physical and mental specimen, handsome, blonde-haired and blue-eyed, of Germanic descent; Hitler would have loved him. He would have made a terrible Nazi, though, because he's too intelligent and self-willed.

In one sound, Veidt manages to convey his opinion of Rorschach's world-view; a nice touch.

Page 18, panel 1: There is a considerable difference of opinion between the two; their political beliefs and world-views are radically different.

Panel 2: "Be seeing you" was a common phrase on the British TV show The Prisoner; the feel of the show fits Rorschach's paranoia well.

Panel 3: Rorschach's exit through the window and Veidt's "Have a nice day" is either a very subtle hint, or just coincidence.

Panel 4: The Gazette headline reads, "Nuclear Clock Stands at Five to Twelve, Warn Experts;" below it, "Geneva Talks: U.S. Refuses to Discuss Dr. Manhattan." (See the beginning of the annotation for an explanation of the nuclear clock. Five to twelve is fairly close; the closest it's been in our world is 3 to twelve, during the Cuban Missile Crisis.) The Egyptian-style pen holder fits into Veidt's Egypt obsession.

Page 19, panel 1: "Rockefeller Military Research Center, Founded 1981." The symbol on the left of the sign bears a striking resemblance to Superman's chest logo as it originally appeared.

Either Rorschach's watch is wrong, or the Veidt tower clock is wrong (it was midnight when he visited Veidt, and 8:30 now), or he has the power to travel through time.

Panel 2: Veidt's sexuality is never revealed.

Panel 4-5: The others referred to were all members of the Minutemen. More on them later.

Panel 5: The door reads, "Special Talent Quarters: Private."

Panel 9: The speaker is Dr. Manhattan.

Page 20, panel 1: Dr. Manhattan can change his size at will (among other things). The woman is Laurie Juspeczyk, the second Silk Spectre and daughter of the original.

Page 21, panel 1: Libya was at odds with the U.S. during the mid-'80s, but it sounds like they're being scapegoated here. Dr. Manhattan must have been informed very quickly, since the police investigation was just beginning on Saturday morning (the 12th).

Panel 6: As we see in the next issue, these "allegations" are true. The sugar cube is one he got from Dreiberg's apartment.

Page 22, panel 5: Dr. Manhattan can also teleport himself and others. He has complete control over matter (to put it in superhero terms).

Page 23, panel 7: The bestiary refers to a list of the subatomic particles whose existence has been confirmed, but The Bestiary is a place from Dr. Manhattan's past (see issue 3 and issue 4).

Page 24: A number of reoccuring themes on this page. A Gunga Diner box, "Who Watches the Watchmen" graffiti, and a Nixon campaign poster. The "Krystalnacht" graffiti and the poster refer to Pale Horse's upcoming Madison Square Garden concert (Krystalnacht is another band appearing with Pale Horse). The shadows of the embracing lovers in panels 3-4 are a continuing motif. The curved surface above Rorschach's head is a geodesic dome. A Tales of the Black Freighter appears in the trash in panel 5.

The band name, "Pale Horse," refers to Revelations 6:8: "I looked, and there was a pale [sometimes pale green] horse. Its rider's name was Death, and Hades followed with him; they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and pestilence, and by the wild animals of the earth." Part of the war imagery popular in popular culture. The band's lead singer is named Red D'Eath (more on this later). The other band's name, "Krystalnacht," refers to a night of terror against Jews in Nazi Germany; the name derives from all the broken glass from broken storefronts.

Page 25, panel 1: Another geodesic dome visible in the lower left.

Panel 2: Laurie is Dr. Manhattan's lover. She's kept around by the military to have some control over him.

Laurie is right-handed.

Panel 4: The red-headed woman also has the knot-top hairstyle; presumably she's not a gang member. (Compare the hairstyles and fashions here to those actually in use in '85, and remember that this is a fancy restaurant. Also, notice the two men embracing in the lower right-hand corner; is this an indication of social changes?) The chicken/turkey being served on the left of the panel has four legs and no wings; apparently genetic engineering has gone a ways.

Panel 5: The skyscraper just under the moon may be the Empire State Building, another real-world landmark.

Panel 8: The button yet again.

Page 26: Notice the similarity between this page and page 1.

Panels 4-5: Intriguing that Laurie, so critical of Rorschach earlier, finds this humorous.

Pages 27-32: Excerpts from "Under the Hood," Hollis Mason's autobiography, detailing his early life.

Page 5, paragraph 1: Mason was a fan of the pulps, one of the earliest sources of superheroic literature. Doc Savage and the Shadow seem to be an influence on him.

Paragraph 4: Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Superman and perhaps the most important single work in the development of the superhero.

Paragraph 5: One of those magicians was Zatara, who was a continuing DC Comics character. He and Superman were the only characters from ACTION #1 to last (he died in the mid-'80s, but he's still remembered).

Page 6, paragraph 1: "All these old characters are gone and forgotten now;" superhero comics never caught on in a world with real costumed adventurers. Lamont Cranston is one of the Shadow's identities. (Interesting that he mentions the pulps but not radio as an influence; the Shadow is better-known from radio than the pulps.)

Paragraph 4: The first costumed vigilante, Hooded Justice. More on him in the next issue.

Watchmen is a trademark of DC Comics Inc., © 1999. These annotations © 1995 by Doug Atkinson. They may be freely copied and distributed, provided the text is not altered.
The annotations are maintained at this location by R.J. White.