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My fascination with the comic book watchmen

Dealing in many of the same concerns, it seemed to form, along with Watchmena two pronged assault upon the iconic values and conventions of the super-hero comic.

Gibbons 240 As a description of Watchmen 's relationship to the superhero comic and its audience, "assault" is not an exaggeration. Because a mystery plot structures Watchmenreading it becomes an investigation of motives. On the surface, these motives are the characters'—What memories does each of them have of the Comedian?

Is this a reason for murder? Watchmen focuses attention on the psychological mechanisms that make comics work and on the various sordid motives that fueled their commercial success, from the exploitation of "true crime" and violence, to the wartime chauvinism of Captain America, to the sexploitation of Wonder Woman. Significantly, these are motives that implicate Watchmen 's readers as they immerse themselves in the dark side of comics. The Comedian's murder makes a statement [4] that comics are not just "funnies.

Many aspects of the book help my fascination with the comic book watchmen accomplish this self-critique, including the use of subplots and texts within the text that comment upon the main story directly or by parallel, such as the pirate story and memoir and journal excerpts. We have chosen to focus our reading of Watchmen primarily on the costumed identities of Watchmen 's characters and how they problematize the heroism of comic book characters, thereby impacting the pleasure of the reader.

Watchmen as Cynical Theory-Practice Watchmen is a profoundly Cynical text, not just in terms of its generally bleak outlook and unflattering portrayal of human character, but more importantly in how it demands that readers "look behind the curtain" of comics themselves.

As is evident in its narrative and visual composition, Watchmen is a comic about comics. Scott McCloud's Understanding Comicswith which many critical comic readers are familiar, is a helpful comparison here as it explicitly presents a theory of comics.

Demonstrating his ideas about comics through the medium of comics makes it easy for McCloud to provide relevant visual examples as he explains and argues. At the same time, it makes his book more appealing to his presumed audience, people who like to read comics. The benefits of theorizing and practicing simultaneously seem obvious in this context; yet, traditionally, "theory" has been opposed to "practice. Throughout Watchmenthe act of looking shapes the narrative, constitutes the conflict and desire between characters, and structures the relationship of the reader to the novel.

The theme of looking in turn connects to the theme of time: Watchmen complicates the easy, nostalgically pleasurable act of looking at superhero comics. It exposes the fictional good old days the genre seems to imply in a harsh parrhesiastic light.

As Michel Foucault discusses in Fearless Speechparrhesia "free speech" or "frank truth-telling" was a Greek cultural practice that came to be associated with the Cynics, an informal Socratic school of philosophy. In parrhesia's earliest traceable cultural meaning, the truth-value of the speech is bound up with the risk the speaker takes in offending the audience.

Parrhesia has social, philosophical and interpersonal value because the speaker helps the leader, the thinker, or the friend correct his course of action. McCloud embeds his theory in practice through craft, my fascination with the comic book watchmen.

Watchmen shares the self-referential quality of McCloud's work as a comic about comics, but Moore and Gibbons do something rather different than "fixing" or "identifying" comics by defining them. Understanding Comics largely neglects social forces, focusing on the formal properties of comics supplemented with a universalizing psychology of reading and thus might be thought of as a throwback to New Criticism at least to the context-negating strain of New Criticism.

Watchmenby contrast, draws attention to formal and thematic commonplaces within itself in order to make a wry commentary on the relationship between comics and the world. Watchmen comes closer to parrhesia than Understanding Comics because it directs a pointed critique at its subject and audience and risks offending that audience. In addition to a self-referential, performative quality, Watchmen employs other important Cynical theory-practices: While Plato had identified rhetoric with seeking audience approval rather than truth putting lipstick on a pig, as politicians like to saythe Cynics showed that rhetoric need not pander to be winning.

The audience can be suspicious of flattery, knows its own motivations are mixed, and may regard riskier statements as evidence of authenticity and bravery. In fact, Cynical presentation has proven to be effective at times not just in politics but also in popular culture. Challenging the audience can work when the audience appreciates surprise and delights in having norms transgressed and expectations shattered. Risking offending one's audience as a kind of rhetorical appeal is a typically Cynical move.

It is in keeping with the motto of the first Cynic, Diogenes, "to deface the common currency," which announces the Cynic's intention to challenge cultural assumptions.

In a number of anecdotes Diogenes insults philosophers my fascination with the comic book watchmen other powerful figures such as Plato and Alexander the Great and thereby gains their respect, as well as great fame.

Plato sees that Diogenes is a Socrates gone mad and Alexander says that if he were not himself, he should like to be Diogenes. Diogenes speaks truth to power and thus earns his reputation.

  1. Watchmen Through its costume theme, Watchmen foregrounds the acts of looking and reading toward the purpose of transforming comics and creating a more Cynical comic readership in a positive sense. Next, we see Dan as he embraces Laurie, his one bright eye standing out against his otherwise darkened face; the yellow goggles are clearly visible in the background.
  2. Interestingly, in another Alan Moore work, V for Vendetta , Stanley Milgram's infamous conformity experiments are explicitly referenced, which are considered by many psychologists to be a major influence on Darley and Latane's later experiments concerning the bystander effect which were inspired by the behavior of Kitty Genovese's neighbors witnessing her rape and murder. This backdrop of transgression makes it possible for Watchmen to explore a scenario in which costumes have taken on a fetishistic agency.
  3. To a great extent, the undoing of the readers' expectation of unproblematically pleasurable sexual imagery is effected through what the characters wear and their awareness of it, which in turn is rendered visible to the reader through the cropping and points of view of individual scenes or panels.
  4. With Watchmen , the comic audience is given the opportunity to mature past simple hero worship to a more nuanced, troubled, deeper appreciation—no longer just "looking up to," but looking from multiple perspectives and back at the problematic self.

Perhaps an even more radical example is that of Hipparchia. For a woman to embrace a philosophical life already flew in the face of Greek expectations, but she further proved her commitment to Cynical practice by rejecting her parents' requirements that she marry a wealthy man of noble status and by eschewing the standards of female modesty by standing naked unashamed. While the concept of parrhesia is not typically applied to aesthetic objects, the purpose of Foucault's Fearless Speech is to show how parrhesia has been problematized and transformed by different historical and social contexts.

Given the changing nature of the cultural meaning of parrhesia, it is "within bounds" to apply the concept to Watchmen. This Cynical practice of challenging the audience has become an important aspect of popular art that can take many forms, some of which are visual. Is it the virility of the phallic gesture which has been appropriated not just by male artists like Eminem, but also by Lady Gaga and M.

Is it because we share this anger he expresses so exuberantly, feeling such an attitude is justified towards a society gone wrong and consistent with his willingness to identify with and perform for San Quentin Prison inmates?

The gesture reflects a particular kind of intimacy with some portion of the audience that perceives itself as being in on the joke, sharing in the rebelliousness of it, assuming the F. Yet as an audience member I may also accept the gesture towards the lens as being directed at "myself" and welcome this excoriation because I know of my own follies, sins, and participation in structures of injustice.

After all, Johnny Cash was not just a kind of Cynic but also a Christian and an avowed sinner. Cynicism can activate any my fascination with the comic book watchmen these responses to evoke a positive response to a shocking gesture or aggressive posture towards audience. No one doubts, though, that Johnny Cash loves music or wants an audience. Cynicism's satirical edge often works in service of resilience, appreciation, and a desire for renewal, which proves to be no less true in Watchmen For a second example, take Damien Hirst's sculpture, For the Love of Goda platinum cast of a human skull encrusted with diamonds.

Hirst claims that the title of the work derived from his mother's question, "For the love of God, what will you make next? And, like earlier examples by the artist, this piece seems intended to shock the audience, to draw media attention, and to create a sensation—not simply because of the use of a human skull in the construction of the piece, but because of its exorbitant cost.

Drawing from experience

The materials alone were worth fourteen million pounds in 2007. When it did not sell immediately, Hirst claimed that an investment group had paid 50 million pounds cash for the piece Byrneleading to speculation that the real piece was not the skull itself but a performative exploration of the media focus drawn by the object's price Preece. In this case, shocking the audience works because all that the piece needs for its success whether as a commodity, as an art object, or as a statement about the contemporary art market is attention.

Ambivalence like this regarding the impact of media and money on art or towards other satirical targets is a fairly typical Cynical trait. Such an action on the part of the artist presumes that the audience is ready to play along.

Similarly, for comics lovers to embrace the symbolic death of their superheroes, certain conditions of possibility were necessary. Watchmen Colorist John Higgins writes, "Almost everything about it seemed to be right, the timing, the right sort of audience, the publisher finally looking at creators as an important part of the business and not just an exploitable commodity" Gibbons my fascination with the comic book watchmen.

From a commercial perspective, Watchmen was exactly the right kind of trouble for this historical moment. The comics community, for its part, was either secure or bored enough to be ready, perhaps even impatient, for Watchmen 's intensification of themes and confrontational address. An "assault upon the iconic values and conventions of the super-hero comic," Watchmen received an enthusiastic welcome by people who identify with superheroes and cherish superhero comics Gibbons 124.

It seems that comic readers were ready to risk a new perspective and Watchmen arrived just in time with a Cynical lens for them to look through. Our collaboration, as art historian and rhetorician, [8] has made possible an exploration of how the formal, iconographic, and narrative properties of Watchmen help shape this Cynical lens. We have borrowed from art history and visual studies, using formal analysis to deconstruct the mechanics of the picture, breaking the image into its constituent parts—elements such as composition and space, color and line—and exploring how those parts work together graphically.

Invoking iconographic analysis, we examine how the images function within the larger artwork here, the book as symbols. As a piece of "sequential art," to use Will Eisner's term, that combines images with words, Watchmen demands a reading that also considers the interplay between images and text within the narrative. Taken together with attention to cultural context by way of gender theory and rhetoric, these methods allow us to understand Watchmen as a theory of comics and as a social commentary within comics about their cultural meaning.

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Smiley and the Squirming Mask Michael J. Prince has written convincingly on Watchmen as social commentary, in particular with my fascination with the comic book watchmen to the ways each character's attraction to costumed adventuring reveals an aspect of what Timothy Melley calls "agency panic. Without framing the issue in terms of Cynicism explicitly, Prince's reading of Watchmen addresses a central theme of Cynicism, how civilization and its advancements make human beings dependent on things and threaten the Cynical value of self-reliance.

This Cynical aspect of his reading makes it complementary with ours. Prince focuses on how Watchmen responds to historical factors directly; we are interested in how Watchmen accomplishes a study of its own genre within its cultural context. For instance, Prince provides a reading of the significance of the costume of Edward Blake, the Comedian.

Based on Marvel's Captain America, Blake is "draped in stars and stripes from the American flag" and fights against "Communist insurgents and governments, not domestically as Captain America did in the 1950sbut as a tool of American foreign policy" 819. While Prince sees Watchmen defusing "what the United States abhors domestically" 821-822 by exporting it, Blake's violence is hardly portrayed in a good light, whether when he kills a woman he has impregnated abroad, or domestically, when he attacks rioters or assaults one of the other costumed adventurers.

The Comedian is menacing by design, as we learn from Gibbons's Watching the Watchmen: The Comedian's costume was also a problem. Originally, given a military styling, he ended up in black leather complete with a rapist mask. Looking to lighten the effect, I gave him a smiley badge.

Who is Alan Moore, writer of Watchmen and V for Vendetta?

Yet, because many readers will be aware of the connection between Blake and Captain America, they may equally read Blake's actions as a commentary on Captain America's ideological role within U. It is tempting to liken Watchmen 's bright smiley face to Diogenes's lamp, which he carries around Athens, looking in vain for an honest man.

Yet, Blake the Comedian is not like Diogenes the aggressive ethical critic. He is a textbook modern cynic according to Sloterdijk's definition, in which the cynic is neither the critic nor the ignorant one who needs edification.

Blake understands the horrific implications of what he is doing but does it anyway Sloterdijk 6 see fig. Prince also comments my fascination with the comic book watchmen the "smiley face" that Blake wears as a pin, which is what remains of his Comedian look after he takes a military role and starts dressing up like Captain America.

Prince says the smiley face "stands as an icon for… careless chauvinism facilitated by a nihilistic ethical detachment" 819. As we have seen, though, Gibbons calls the smiley "the ultimate simplistic cartoon image" 45. Here it is helpful to return to McCloud's Understanding Comics. McCloud uses a smiley to explain why comics are so engaging, arguing that a more detailed drawing represents someone else to the reader, while a less detailed drawing, such as a cartoon face or a smiley, can equally represent the reader him- or herself.

The level of detail of a smiley is similar to our own awareness of the expression of our face when we are not looking in the mirror McCloud 34-39. As a result, we potentially identify with simply-drawn characters even more than we might a role played by an actor in a film.

  • For them, the costumes carry not only the attraction of the forbidden but also the enchantment of glory days;
  • The trail leads to none other than Veidt himself, who has been orchestrating events all along;
  • Manhattan and the Comedian because of their work for the military; otherwise, when a costume appears on a character, it signals transgression.

While Moore and Gibbons could not have known McCloud's interpretation, coming as it did seven years after WatchmenMcCloud's understanding of the reader's association with the smiley face can be turned to Watchmen to draw out the book's relationship to its audience.

While this connection between the smiley and the reader in Watchmen seems tenuous if we look at Blake alone, it is strengthened by attention to the mask of Rorschach, which makes psychological identification an explicit theme within Watchmen.

Rorschach's mask is a deranged, squirming, unsmiley face. It looks like the tests after which his character is named and to which he is subjected in therapy. In therapeutic use, the patient, confronted with a random inkblot, is asked to say what the shape resembles, a process that ostensibly reveals something about the patient through projection.

Much like the smiley in McCloud's theory, the Rorschach test functions through narcissistic identification McCloud 30-3 see fig.