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PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 1:23 pm 
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Last night I finished reading Watchmen for the first time, and have been thinking about it all day. At the moment, there are two questions I have one - one a simple inquiry into why a character did something, and the second more of a thematic question.

First, why did Rorschach choose the name 'Rorschach'?

As meta-information, where we look at how his name affects us, the audience, it is perfect. Rorschach is himself a Rorschach test for the audience. Just like a Rorschach test is black & white (black splotches on white paper), so too are Rorschach's actions - the world is completely black & white to him, good vs. evil. Yet how we interpret him speaks volumes about us as individuals. One person will love the character, while the other will find him ignorant and self-serving. What we see in Rorschach, just like what we might see in a Rorschach test, says little about the test and a lot about us.

But that certainly doesn't explain why Rorschach chose that name. In his mind, there are no subtleties, no legitimate alternate ways of viewing things. Things are either viewed his way, or they are wrong. One possible explanation is that he liked the dress very much, and saw the similarities between it and a Rorschach test, and chose the name that way - but that seems too pedestrian. Another is that he feels he can see the inner sin and corruption in even outwardly pretty things, the way one can look at a Rorschach test that may look like a butterfly but can also be a dog's head split open. This doesn't completely work for me, since it ignores the fact that there isn't really a "correct" answer with a Rorschach test but he definitely feels his worldview is objectively correct, but it's the best I've been able to come up with so far. Anyone have a better explanation?

My second question is - what thematic purpose does Dr. Manhattan serve?

He's an incredibly interesting character, no doubt - creative concept, and implemented wonderfully. But he's so far removed from human thinking that it's hard to relate him to the human condition, and he also has very little effect on the story. From what I can remember, the story would play out identically without him around - just slower. There are numerous talks in the novel about how WWIII was inevitable, Dr. Manhattan just hurried it along a little. And for all his power, he's unable to see what Veidt is planning, unable to stop it, and then he chooses not to expose Veidt for the greater good of humanity. But is that the point right there - that no amount of physical power can overcome the societal problems brought on by the human condition?

The segment where Dr. Manhattan's attitude towards humans is compared to the attitude of us towards ants is also illuminating. Is Dr. Manhattan just a way of putting us into perspective, and showing how insignificant we really are to the universe?


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 1:49 pm 
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Welcome!

1. To answer this first question I think the real question is why did Moore give that name to him in the first place?. And I think the answer is simple enough. Comic book characters usually take alias' that reflect what they look like. I think the name Rorschach probably sounded better than "Ink Blot", to Moore. I don't think the answer is deeper than that.

2. I think Jon represents the realistic depiction of someone who has superpowers. Unlike Superman who can use his alias to blend in with the common man, Jon acts the way someone with a supreme knowledge might act. Why get involved with such trivial matters as relationships, when you can explore the universe?. The problem for Jon is that no one can rally come close to understanding what he is going through. Watchmen is all about trying to depict these classic comic book archetypes realistically. In the past the archetypes would represent the best attributes that could be found in a hero. However here they are shown for what they really are. Like a Batman character with too much money and time on his hands. With Jon, he is like Superman, minus the personality and humanity.

I don't know, that's the best I can describe it at the moment.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 2:12 pm 
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Yeah, there wasn't really any need to put in a cheesy explanation over why Rorschach chose his name...
It's not like all the Marvel movies that have to cover origins...
"Hey, y'know my powers are a lot like a spider's!" :roll:

Anyway, Dr M has a massive impact on the story, though it's more in the events preceding the main plotline. He completely changes everything - technology, the world and the way people think. Zack Snyder is not wrong to suggest that he's possibly the central character.

Look at how Hollis Mason and the other superheroes/vigilantes react to him, and you'll begin to understand the complicated relationship between him and their successors. He's a major character even before we get into his personality and his mind...

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it was tying it into the rape-revenge stories and making light of a verys erious sub-genre that kind of offended me.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 9:29 pm 
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Doctor Manhattan can also be a metaphor for someone who's come into some sort of power (such as political power) and begins to change.

Also, I always felt that Doc was symbolic of nuclear power/weaponry.

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 Post subject: Doc Manhattan
PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 10:04 pm 
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neo_reloaded wrote:
My second question is - what thematic purpose does Dr. Manhattan serve?

He's an incredibly interesting character, no doubt - creative concept, and implemented wonderfully. But he's so far removed from human thinking that it's hard to relate him to the human condition, and he also has very little effect on the story.


One of the first layers of Watchmen that I was able to pick at was the "Superhero Genre Deconstruction" layer. In it, Manhattan, whose original analog was the Charlton Comics superhero Captain Atom, fills in for the superman (little "s"). If you're going to write a twelve-issue commentary on the state of the comics industry, you've got to include a Superman (big "S") analog, yeah? Just like you've got to have the crazed vigilante who sees everything in black and white, the technological vigilante detective (two sides of the Batman coin), and, of course, the under-written and almost story-deficient female hero (which is commentary on the fact that female characters have notoriously gotten short shrift, story-wise, in the roughly seventy year history of the genre).

Thinking causally, what effects can we realistically expect a super-powered being to have on our world? To the politically cynical Moore, it certainly makes sense that he would be used as a militaristic deterrent, all the while attempting to serve mankind by mass-producing polyacetylene batteries so as to give us electric cars and provide us with a cleaner atmosphere, which is certainly commenting on the state of science in the twentieth century, as well.








*pauses*






"sonofabitch"





"Moore's a fucking genius."






And, yes, I realize that I almost certainly used the word "causally" wrong, but, really, fuck you.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 10:07 pm 
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Broken Finger wrote:
And, yes, I realize that I almost certainly used the word "causally" wrong, but, really, fuck you.


Easy now, cowboy.


Sasso wrote:
Also, I always felt that Doc was symbolic of nuclear power/weaponry.


Oh, sure. He is called Dr "Manhattan" for a reason. I'm sure you know, but he is named after the "Manhattan Project" which developed the first atomic bomb. As Jon states in his flashback the name was chosen because of the ominous connotations the name would bring up to the Soviets. I thought that was clever.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2008 12:54 am 
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I always thought that Rorschach would have chosen that name (and persona in general) because he saw himself as a sort of moral/psychological "judge." This would, of course, be a method of escape for him: by becoming the judge, he would no longer see himself as a subject of judgment. It's his way of turning the tables, hence the symbolism of him ripping off his mask at the end - he's submitting himself to the judgment of others for the first time since he became Rorschach.



P.S. Sorry for the long absence, WCM.com, I was busy graduating from high school and moving.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2008 4:25 am 
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Welcome back!!! :D
Anyway I hope neo realises that we aren't criticising him...

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it was tying it into the rape-revenge stories and making light of a verys erious sub-genre that kind of offended me.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 11:04 am 
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AYBGerrardo wrote:
Welcome back!!! :D
Anyway I hope neo realises that we aren't criticising him...


Haha no offense taken.

For Rorschach, I wasn't expecting some deep metaphoric meaning, just wondering if I missed whatever trivial reason he picked the name. Like the way Nite Owl chose his name based on something his coworkers jokingly called him, and Dr. Manhattan's name was given to him by the government to evoke thoughts of the atom bomb. I feel strongly that, on a meta-level, the name Rorschach is important, but I just wanted to know the silly reason the character chose it to go along with that.

For Dr. Manhattan, a number of you have brought up some very interesting points that I hadn't thought about. The deconstruction of the superhero is particularly evocative, and that links to the quote I brought up about how we would regard ants. Dr. Manhattan is a fabulous representation of what a superhero might "realistically" be like, and that alone is interesting enough to easily float an entire novel itself.

Someone said that "Dr. Manhattan changed everything," and I have to say I disagreed with that, however. Sure he accelerated science, but numerous things in the book make it clear that WW3 was inevitable even without Dr. Manhattan. More importantly, how could a God-like creature who doesn't really "get" people ever hope to have an effect on how people think? For example, could we change ant society? Sure we could crush them, use poison to wipe them off the face of the earth or whatever, but we don't understand what it is to be an ant and could never hope to change their society for the better. I feel Dr. Manhattan is in the same position with humanity - he can give us electric cars and destructive weapons, but he can't change the human condition, the fear that drives us, the insecurities and petty jealousies and all the other things that are part of who we are.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 6:21 pm 
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Nor does he seek to.

Manhattan doesn't strive to adhere to any form of mission statement like other superpowered beings that came before him in comics lore. Not for him answering the call and fighting for Truth, Justice and The American Way out of any inate sense of dutiful responsibilty to do so... quite frankly, he couldn't give a toss about us, hence the genre deconstructing nature of the character.

Anything that Manhattan does in the supposed 'service' of mankind (i.e. Uncle Sam) he does because he is told to by those very same fearful, insecure, and pettily jealous humans that just so happen to be running the US of A of WATCHMEN and who want to further their own interests, period. Subservient in nature to his own preordained responses, he carries out his orders without question because he's already experiencing doing so before they're even issued.

He's called Dr Manhattan because this is a name chosen for him, not by him.
He only dispassionately fights crime because the Pentagon tells him to as a PR stunt.
He enters the Vietnam conflict because Nixon 'asks' him to.
I suspect he mass produces polyacetylene batteries because he's been instructed to by those who will profit and not through personal choice, the process requiring zero effort on his part.

Manhattan freely admits to being nothing but a puppet who dances to the tune played out by those darn Powers That Be along with the rest of us, an omni-powerful superbeing but with no free will, a god-like entity who is nonetheless wholly manipuable. This is the basic connection he shares with the rest of humanity and he is under no illusions on this score. He may be the only one that can see the strings but his are being pulled along with the rest of us, even more so. He knows it himself... and doesn't care.

Among the thematic purposes he serves the story, Manhattan acts as counterpoint to Adrian Veidt: the most motivated human being imaginable who strives to achieve a form of godhood himself via his deeds versus the being that has ultimate power yet appears to do so little with it. In a convoluted Marvel Comics What If? kinda way, imagine what the world, nay the universe, would be like if Veidt with his infinitely more forceful personality and ambition had become trapped in that IF Subtractor instead, emerging with his essence and driving sense of purpose intact yet with Manhattan's power at his disposal?

Primarily, I consider Manhattan to be a cautionary metaphor created by Moore to reinforce the underlying thematic message of this work. If the superman walks among us yet for all his power is so readily manipulated and ultimately impotent and incapable of action to save the world, then that is all the more reason for humanity to take responsibilty for its own survival and ensure that we as individuals Watch the Watchmen ourselves instead of becoming overly reliant upon would-be saviours when the stakes are so very high.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 8:36 pm 
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Writer Of Wrongs wrote:
Manhattan doesn't strive to adhere to any form of mission statement like other superpowered beings that came before him in comics lore. Not for him answering the call and fighting for Truth, Justice and The American Way out of any inate sense of dutiful responsibilty to do so... quite frankly, he couldn't give a toss about us, hence the genre deconstructing nature of the character.

Anything that Manhattan does in the supposed 'service' of mankind (i.e. Uncle Sam) he does because he is told to by those very same fearful, insecure, and pettily jealous humans that just so happen to be running the US of A of WATCHMEN and who want to further their own interests, period.


You are, of course, right about the nature of Manhattan's character. I am very partial to the subtextual reading of Manhattan as a metaphor of Science (which is most likely wholly contrived on my part), and, obviously, got carried away.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 8:58 pm 
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Broken Finger wrote:
Writer Of Wrongs wrote:
Manhattan doesn't strive to adhere to any form of mission statement like other superpowered beings that came before him in comics lore. Not for him answering the call and fighting for Truth, Justice and The American Way out of any inate sense of dutiful responsibilty to do so... quite frankly, he couldn't give a toss about us, hence the genre deconstructing nature of the character.

Anything that Manhattan does in the supposed 'service' of mankind (i.e. Uncle Sam) he does because he is told to by those very same fearful, insecure, and pettily jealous humans that just so happen to be running the US of A of WATCHMEN and who want to further their own interests, period.


You are, of course, right about the nature of Manhattan's character. I am very partial to the subtextual reading of Manhattan as a metaphor of Science (which is most likely wholly contrived on my part), and, obviously, got carried away.
Possibly, but in his actions and function with regard to the plot, I think he could also be a metaphor for the power of the government and the media. "Writer of Wrongs" already detailed the former, so allow me to explain the latter.

Veidt's behind-the-scenes manipulation notwithstanding, it is ultimately the media that forces Dr. Manhattan into exile. It is the journalists who hound Dr. Manhattan at every turn, asking for answers and attempting to find the truth, forcing Doc to leave and thus pushing the world closer to WWIII.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 17, 2008 6:45 pm 
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A big philosophical question is, "If there is a God, why does he allow so much disaster in our world?"

I believe Alan Moore creates Dr. Manhattan to serve as the embodiment of God -- a being that has power to do anything in our present world, yet many interpret as doing nothing.

Chapter II presents Jon flashing back to the memory of when he and Blake were in Vietnam. Blake kills his pregnant Vietnamese lady friend right in front of Jon.

"Yeah. Yeah. That's right. Pregnant woman. Gunned her down. Bang. And y'know what? You watched me. You coulda changed the gun into steam or the bullets into mercury or the bottle into snowflakes! You coulda teleported either of us to Goddamn Australia... but you didn't lift a finger!"

I believe this is one of Moore's stongest illustrations of Jon as God.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:21 pm 
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Burgers N Borscht wrote:
A big philosophical question is, "If there is a God, why does he allow so much disaster in our world?"

I believe Alan Moore creates Dr. Manhattan to serve as the embodiment of God -- a being that has power to do anything in our present world, yet many interpret as doing nothing.

Chapter II presents Jon flashing back to the memory of when he and Blake were in Vietnam. Blake kills his pregnant Vietnamese lady friend right in front of Jon.

"Yeah. Yeah. That's right. Pregnant woman. Gunned her down. Bang. And y'know what? You watched me. You coulda changed the gun into steam or the bullets into mercury or the bottle into snowflakes! You coulda teleported either of us to Goddamn Australia... but you didn't lift a finger!"

I believe this is one of Moore's stongest illustrations of Jon as God.

Not to mention the so-called "Watchmaker" theory, and the associated image of a God that created the universe but doesn't involve himself with it.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2008 12:32 pm 
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Wow, where'd a whole bunch of posts from this thread disappear to?


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2008 2:28 pm 
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neo_reloaded wrote:
Wow, where'd a whole bunch of posts from this thread disappear to?

Curiosity might have split some posts into a new topic. Curiosity?

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2008 2:31 pm 
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DoomsdayClock wrote:
neo_reloaded wrote:
Wow, where'd a whole bunch of posts from this thread disappear to?

Curiosity might have split some posts into a new topic. Curiosity?
Yeah, that's right. A few posts back, Broken Finger started drawing parallels between the Watchmen characters and the different Liberal Arts. It was a fascinating idea, though off-topic, so I split the thread.

You can find the rest here.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2008 6:56 pm 
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I don't get the feeling that Walter Kovacs so much *chose* the name "Rorschach" inasmuch as it followed from his costume. He didn't have a Bruce Wayne moment where he *chose* to strike fear in the cowardly criminal fraternity by dressing a certain way -- Rorschach's costume is less a consciously-designed outfit and more of a reflection of his mommy issues and self-hatred. He chose to obliterate his own identity and make "a face that he could look at in the mirror" by covering his entire head in a murdered woman's discarded dress. Combined with the heavy coat, hat, and shoe lifts, he was effectively insulated from what he viewed as a random, insane world. The fact that he looked like a walking inkblot was probably of secondary importance. I imagine that once he had his costume in place, he was probably dubbed "Rorschach" by the police or news media in much the same way that the Unabomber or the Cleveland Torso Murderer got their names, and he ended up embracing the name as a new identity for himself.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2008 8:08 pm 
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Disagree. I don't think the character would have become quite so obsessive to the point of clinical schizophrenia with regard to how he perceives the distinct duality of his Kovacs/Rorschach personas, certainly not to the extent that he comes to truly believe himself to have only been playing at being Rorschach prior to working the Roche case, if he hadn't undertaken a significant personal investment in the sobriquet by choosing it for himself.

Making a mask for yourself, you decided to become Rorschach...

He doesn't strike me as being possessed of a personality that would adopt a nom de guerre befitting his calling and new purpose in life that wasn't of his own selection... especially a sensationalist one coined by the police or in the media. From the very outset, we get the impression he was depositing his distinctive Double R calling cards symbolic of his new persona (or so he thought back in the soft mollycoddling early days) and indicative of his self-adopted name before the law and the papers even really had a handle on him, let alone the opportunity to popularly christen him as they saw fit themselves.

The clearly defined chiaroscuro quality of the fabric he would fashion into a face which perfectly mirrored his world-view and ideals of justice, in conjunction with the sublime symmetry it afforded (clearly of deepseated emotional importance to Walter, just check out the correspondence in the design of his drawing at age 13) would have readily steered the not unintelligent fledging fighter of crime towards selecting the particular alias for which the world would come to know him. It's conceivable also that the irony of his intended choice would not have been lost on him... the realisation that the path he was about to embark upon would make him a psychologist's dream ticket (as was almost to prove to be the case) thus making the adoption of Rorschach the only natural, sane choice in an insane world.

Y'see what Moore's gone an' done? He knew that if he'd spoon-fed all this sort of stuff to us in black and white (pardon the pun) from the very outset, what would we have left to talk about after we'd finished reading his comics?


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 19, 2008 12:33 am 
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Writer Of Wrongs wrote:
Y'see what Moore's gone an' done? He knew that if he'd spoon-fed all this sort of stuff to us in black and white (pardon the pun) from the very outset, what would we have left to talk about after we'd finished reading his comics?


Amen to that! You've got more than a few valid points pulled from the novel there, as well. I'll have to go back to the novel sometime in the next few weeks (it's been about five years since I gave it a good rereading, although I read it dozens of times prior) to review the specifics of both our ideas. Really, the characters in Watchmen are complex enough that there's a lot of ways to interpret them -- For example, I've known more than a few fellow readers who unironically enjoyed Rorschach in all of his finger-breaking Objectivist glory as an aspirational fantasy figure rather than as a scary creep with poor social skills. Not to open up any more cans of worms...

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