reading Watchmen

Thursday, October 14th, 2004

As with all excellent art, multiple readings change the experience. Moore and Gibbons’ Watchmen fits this paradigm. I’m into the second round of teaching with the graphic and continue to marvel at the subtleties of the work: clock faces I don’t remember, dialogue that I ran over, mirror juxtapositions and the complicated intercutting and dynamic panels.

“The light is taking me to pieces,” Jon says.

The idea of simultaneity (unrelated to the simultaneity of Einstein’s relativity) is powerful in the story, even though the paradox is almost impossible to picture beyond Gibbons’ art work (3 light cones for Jon?). Jon is a being who reads the world from multiple times and spaces, as said before, in god-like fashion, or a manifestation of a hyperhuman existence. He is beyond human, outside of human contact, nolonger able to “think” in human terms because he no longer experiences the world the way Lori or Dan experience it, surely not as the moral Rorschach. Jon experiences sequences differently. Simultaneous sequence. Bounded timelessness. Events for him have happened, will happened, and are happening. This, of course, reminds me of the problem of ethics and morality in the world of The Garden of Forking Paths. In Borges’ story, the question of morality is made impotent because of the notion of simultaneity. When faced with a choice, a woman chooses all the otpions at once. Pullulation and infinity. On one path, a man chooses pause; in another, he pulls the trigger. If the paths are manifest, what does it matter that Yu Tsun kills on one path if he chooses ethically in a another?

For normal people, who are fixed in the present tense, where the past and the future have to be remembered or imagined, limitations are a defining feature of existence: limited knowledge, limited reach, limited control. Janey’s responses to Jon over time, as she looses control over Jon, love, her body are directly juxtaposed to Jon. Yet, this would seem to lead to an irony: who has more control: Janey or Jon Osterman? His ability to control and assemble physical structures is one thing, but is he able to assemble anything else?

One response to “reading Watchmen”

  1. gibb says:

    Ah, yes. My dear blue man. I still dream of him often.