Watchmen at Thirty, Pt. 8: Old Ghosts

Pt. 8:

"You're alone in the valley of the shadow, Rorschach, where your past has a long reach and between you and it there's one crummy lock."

The eighth chapter of Watchmen opens up with Hollis Mason calling Sally Jupiter long distance from New York ("Calling California is expensive," laments Hollis. "That's Nixonomics. We're all feeling the pinch," replies Sally) to discuss the newspaper reports of their proteges rescuing people from a tenement fire, as seen last issue. It's Halloween, and Hollis is readying his place for trick or treaters. 

The opening has a bit of the fearful symmetry we've come to expect from the series with the ending, where Hollis "faces his final fate, a random victim of the violence plaguing society (he’s actually killed because the street gang confuses him with the Nite Owl who was involved with violence at the prison riots, so Dreiberg is directly to blame for his mentor’s death, though he never realizes his role in the whole thing)." 

This inner flashback to his prime fighting days is very cinematic. As is its unfortunate conclusion:
Old ghosts indeed.

The quote above is from Tim Callahan's Alan Moore reread over at Tor. Here's another one that aptly describes things this time around:

"It’s the issue with the most different things going on, and Moore and Gibbons deftly cut between the scenes and settings cinematically, without lingering on clever transitions as they used before. No this is where Watchmen starts feeling more like a traditional superhero comic, just moreso, with more plot, more extreme characterizations, and plenty of the kind of recurring background symbolism that makes the texture of Watchmen feel so complete."

Outside of some interludes with the newsstand and the Black Freighter, the rest of the issue is devoted to discussion and execution of busting Rorschach out of prison. 

But more on that in the Rorschach part of the program. Chapter 8 gives us our first, cryptic glimpse of the island project.

Max Shea's disappearance is the focus of this installment's backpage notes.

This backpages text is from the New Frontiersman, the Watchmen's world's version of the John Birch Society's New American, Rorschach's favorite magazine.  

It's much more than an insert-right-wing-conspiracy-rag-here gag, though; it's a pivotal part of the whole meta-narrative of Watchmen. As is The Black Freighter.

But! A few rivers left to cross before we get there

In the meantime:

Rorschach is perhaps at his most traditionally bad-ass in this issue, exuding cool and calm while turning the tables against everything thrown at him. Laurie gives him some grief about not being grateful enough, but that's the funny thing - he was already completely ahead of the game before they even showed up to rescue him. 

A word on the Motion Picture Comic art this time around: it's not great. Looks and feels hurried in many places, not the carefully consideration of the previous chapters. 

The more I look at this, the more its simplicity works for me, so maybe I'm off on this. I turn the question over to you - does the above distill or obscure the original panel:

The story ends with a cliffhanger for Chapter Nine, another nod in the direction of traditional comic book storytelling. (More old ghosts.)

And that's where we'll pick up next time.



  1. "Getting reckless and diving head-first into things".

    That about sums up this whole particular issue.

    Incidentally, I've found out that Alan Moore collaborated with artist/singer David J. on a min-concept album for "V for Vendetta".

    A complete playlist can be found here:




    1. I think a lot of that V music works better in theory than in actuality. Thanks for linking to it, though.

  2. (1) Hollis getting murdered really bummed me out the first time I read this. Also, the second time, the third time, the fourth time, etc.

    (2) The dispatching of Big Figure is such a great scene. You really WANT Rorschach to have that victory, too. It gets even better -- by which I mean worse (by which I mean better) -- when you consider that Alan Moore has very carefully poisoned the waters of the series in terms of what it means for us to cheer on Rorschach's brand of vengeance. Granted, in this case it's that he's defending himself. But only up to a point. Does this keep from me cheering him on? Well...not really, no. Do I feel good about that? Not really, no. Do I feel good about not feeling good about it? You know, I kind of do.

    (3) I'm kind of skeeved out by motion comics in general. I think that panel of Nite Owl looks atrocious. But then I compare it to the actual art by Gibbons and realize it looks a bit closer than I thought. Still, on the whole, I'm against it.

    1. (3) Thanks for that. I understand the reservation, definitely.

      I'd type more, but I've got Trek on for background and Shatner just yelled "NO BLAH BLAH BLAH! NO BONK ON THE HEAD!" How can I possibly compete with that?