Viewing posts tagged chapter thirteen

"Anybody could have done it." (The Last War in Albion Book Two Part Fourteen: Before Watchmen: Rorschach)

Previously in The Last War in Albion: Perhaps surprisingly given his pedigree as a creator, Brian Azzarello's two contributions to the Before Watchmen line were largely disappointing and unoriginal. The first, Before Watchmen: The Comedian, frames the charater largely in terms of the Kennedies, essentially opening with the assassination of JFK and closing with that of RFK, committed by the Comedian to cover a war crime he committed in Vietnam.

Figure 895: The Comedian assassinates Bobby Kennedy. (Written by Brian Azzarello, art by J.G. Jones, from Before Watchmen: The Comedian #6, 2012)

It would be overstating the case to say that Azzarello simply allies the Comedian with Kennedy-style New Frontier liberalism: the ending makes that a hard sell, after all. Rather, it’s that Azzarello uses the two Kennedy assassinations as the poles in a fairly traditional account of the decline of 1960s leftist idealism, from JFK’s death as a tragedy that stuns the Comedian to RFK’s death as the Comedian’s own doing, with the engine of that transition being the Vietnam War. Azzarello does not do anything so crass as suggest that the Kennedys are some sort of unalloyed good, of course. He portrays ...

And do you know what she said? Her most famous quotation? (The Last War in Albion Book Two Part 13: Before Watchmen: The Comedian)

Previously in The Last War in AlbionAlan Moore and Grant Morrison's differences of opinions are numerous, but one of the most fundamental differences comes in their relationship to the atomic bomb. Both were profoundly concerned with nuclear warfare, but for Morrison it was a childhood fear he found respite from in superheroes, whereas for Moore it was an adult concern he worked through using superheroes as a metaphor.

In many ways, this is the heart of the disagreement between Pax Americana and Watchmen. Morrison sees superheroes as creatures of immense possibility whose value is as aspirational figures. For him it is the interminability of superhero narratives that is most interesting - the fact that characters get reinvented over and over again, with new ideas and new takes, and that the stories never have to come to an end. Whereas to Moore, at least in Watchmen, what is interesting are the limitations of superheroes - of what they are incapable of doing and representing. The superheroes of Watchmen are known archetypes that the audience has seen a hundred times before, only taken to logical endpoints. The point isn’t the possibility of the characters, it’s the impotence of them. Put ...

She saw places that aren’t even there any more! (The Last War in Albion Book Two Part 12: Pax Americana)

Figure 885: The eight panel grid and recurrent figure eight motif in Pax Americana. (Written by Grant Morrison, art by Frank Quitely and Nathan Fairbairn, from The Multiversity: Pax Americana, 2014)

Previously in The Last War in Albion: When it came out, Watchmen was generally hailed, along with Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns as the vanguard for a more "mature" taken on superheroes - one marked by a great degree of cynicism and violence, an approach Moore would later come to repudiate, and that would lead him towards a profound ambivalence about Watchmen as a work.

It would be ridiculous to suggest that Moore did not want Watchmen to succeed, but equally, it’s clear that the terms on which it did succeed were intensely upsetting to him. In a fundamental sense, the book he wrote and the book people read were two very different things. And the gulf between those two versions of Watchmen is a huge and fundamental part of the reaction to the book.

It is also a gulf explored by Grant Morrison in his 2014 comic Pax Americana, part of his larger Multiversity series of semi-connected one-shots exploring alternate Earths in the DC Multiverse ...

And she did it! She went out past Vega, out past Moulquet and Lambard! (The Last War in Albion Book Two Part 11: The Dark Knight Returns)

Previously in The Last War in Albion: After considering various supposed influences that work more on the level of plot and characters, it became apparent that a more helpful theory of influence on Watchmen came in the form of William S. Burroughs, whose theories of language and magic were directly cited by Moore as influences, and actually help explain the book's strange and vast influence on its world.

This also helps explain how Watchmen relates to what was, by the mid-80s, a significant body of revisionist takes on superheroes. The most obvious point of comparison here is Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which came out from March to June of 1986, with the final issue coming a week after the first issue of Watchmen. The proximity of the two nuclear paranoia-fueled revisionist tales of aging superheroes, along with a wealth of news articles that cited them, along with Art Spiegelman’s Maus as heralding a new, mature era for comics (usually, as famously noted by Neil Gaiman, carrying titles along the lines of “Zap! Pow! Comics Aren’t Just for Kids Anymore!”), made them obvious bedfellows, an impression heightened by the fact that Moore and Miller ...

She was just somebody who had to get out. (The Last War in Albion Book Two, Part 10: Burroughs)

 

Figure 876: The revelation of Mr. Mxyzptlk's villainy is one of several shared plot points between Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow and Superfolks. (Written by Alan Moore, art by Curt Swan and Kurt Schaffenberger, from Action Comics #583, 1986)

Previously in The Last War in Albion: Among the commonly cited influences on Watchmen is Superfolks, a novel by Robert Mayer that shares several plot beats with it and other superhero stories Moore wrote in the 1980s. Moore has generally resisted this comparison, pointing to other texts that influenced him more.

This gestures towards a larger issue with treating Superfolks as a major antecedent to Watchmen, which is that very little of what Moore allegedly drew from it is actually all that innovative. Indeed, Pádraig Ó Méalóid, in a thorough analysis of Morrison’s claims, found that in almost every case either the similarities were overstated or an earlier antecedent could be found. (The sole exception was the use of Pxyzsyzgy, Mayer’s analogue for Mr. Mxyzptlk, as the ultimate villain behind everything, a plot point shared with the resolution of Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow.) But in many ways it’s more helpful to take ...

She was just somebody who felt cramped by the confines of her life. (The Last War in Albion Book Two, Part Nine: Mr. A and Superfolks)

Previously in The Last War in Albion: In its earliest development at DC, Watchmen was based around a set of fairly generic superheroes DC had acquired from the defunct Charlton Comics, leading many people to suggest that Moore's claims to the book's originality are overstated. But this accusation misses the ways in which Moore transformed and commented on the Charlton characters, most obviously the Steve Ditko-created character the Question and, indirectly, Ditko's Mr. A, whose ruthlessly Manichean worldview is echoed by Rorschach in lines such as “there is good and there is evil, and evil must be punished. Even in the face of armageddon I shall not compromise in this.”

Figure 872: A 1972 color page of Mr. A, with Mr. A himself remaining, inevitably,
in black and white. 
But there is more to this than might be immediately apparent. Mr. A, as a character, reflects Ditko’s larger investment in the work of Ayn Rand; his name, for instance, is a reference to her emphasis on Aristotle’s maxim “A is A.” Rand was a novelist and popular philosopher whose overt and insistent pro-capitalist position (forged when her wealthy Russian family lost their businesses during the ...

She wasn't anyone special. She wasn't that brave, or that clever, or that strong. (The Last War in Albion Book Two, Part Eight: The Charlton Characters)

The omnibus version of this chapter will be sent to backers in the next week or two.

Previously in The Last War in Albion: The god of Watchmen was revealed to be comprised of negative space; a tangible lack within it; a gap that demands to be filled in on the map of its psychic territory, to be named and outlined, as though doing so will finally, at last, serve to snap all the pieces into place and explain everything.

This is, perhaps, why so much ink has been spilled within the War on attempts to argue that this gap, in effect, does not exist - that Watchmen can be understood purely, or at least primarily, in terms of its influences, thus allowing those living in its wake to exist as though they are free from its vast and monolithic splendor. It is, after all, the easier option; it does not require staring too long at the cavernous depths within. It gives the comforting illusion that Watchmen is, at its heart, an easily solved mystery - a question with a definite answer. Nothing could be further from the truth, but for those who would otherwise find themselves caught in its blast, reduced to ...

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