Chapter 1: "At Midnight, All the Agents..."

     Watchmen is a trademark of DC Comics Inc., copyright 1995.  
These annotations copyright 1995 by Doug Atkinson.  They may be freely 
copied and distributed, provided the text is not altered.

     Certain notes are true for each issue.  Each one is written by 
Alan Moore, drawn and lettered by Dave Gibbons, and colored by John 
     Moreover, each issue has a continuing motif, a reoccuring object 
or pattern that is seen on the cover, the first and last page (usually), 
and throughout the issue.  This issue's motif is the blood-spattered 
smiley-face button.
     Another trend is the title, which is always an excerpt from an 
apropos quote shown in its entirety in the last panel.  This issue's title is 
from Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row."
     The clock appearing on the covers counts the minutes to 
midnight, similar to the clock in the _Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists_, 
which is an estimate of the world's closeness to nuclear war.  The clock 
stands at 11 minutes to midnight, and advances by one minute per issue.

Cover: First appearance of the blood-spattered smiley-face button.  
The button belonged to the Comedian, who we first see in flashback on 
page 2. The shape of the blood stain reappears in issues 11 and 12.

Page 1, panel 1: The narration is an excerpt from Rorschach's 
journal.  We will see the journal later in the series.

The blood is from the Comedian.

Panel 4: Possible symbolism: "Followed in the footsteps" as the sign 
man tracks the blood on the sidewalk.  Rorschach believes his father was 
a war hero (see issue 6).  He sees President Truman as a good man, 
hard-working and honest; possibly his ordering the nuking of Hiroshima has 
something to do with this, too.

Truman: Harry S Truman, President of the U.S. from 1945 to 1953, 
taking office after the death of Franklin Roosevelt and elected to a second 
term in 1948.  He presided over the end of WWII, and ordered the atomic 
bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  His image is generally of a sincere man, 
who did what was necessary to end the war and served a good if 
undistinguished term afterwards.

Panel 5: The vehicle with the triangle in the circle belongs to 
Pyramid Deliveries.  The triangle is a continuing theme; its significance 
will be learned later on.  Pyramid Deliveries is owned by Adrian Veidt
(Ozymandias); he seems to be everywhere in this series.

If the vehicles appear strange, it's because they are electrically 

Panel 7: The first appearance of Joe Bourquin, who is a continuing

Page 2, panel 1: The first appearance of Detective Steve Fine, who is 
also a continuing character.

Panel 3: We see these flashbacks from another point of view in issue 

Panels 4-7: Edward Blake is in good shape because he's the Comedian.  
His identity is not public knowledge; he is well-known in diplomatic 
circles as Blake.  As the Comedian, he has been employed by the government since 

Panel 7: Steve smokes hand-rolled cigarettes.

Panel 8: We see how he got the scar in issue 2.

In our world, Ford was vice-president from 1973 (when Spiro Agnew 
resigned) to 1974, when Nixon resigned and he became president.  In their 
world, somebody, maybe the Comedian, snuffed Woodward and Bernstein before 
they could report Watergate, and this, combined with Nixon's popularity
following the victory in Vietnam, led to his serving at least five 

Page 3, panel 2: The theft of the money is curious.  The murderer had 
no need for it. If it was an attempt to make it look like a normal 
burglary, it failed, and the murderer should have known that.

Panel 3: This shows the source of the blood-spatter on the button.

Panel 6: Note the unusual design of the pipe (?) the man in the 
elevator is smoking.  Variants of it appear elsewhere in the series.

Panel 7: This panel is an example of a continuing narrative device
throughout the series: a narration box applying to the rest of the 
panel, although it's not directly related.  This is used to good effect in 
the "Tales of the Black Freighter" sections, for example.

Page 4, panel 1: Knot-tops are a popular hairstyle, especially common 
among certain street gangs. More speculation later.  KT-28 seems to be a 
popular street drug; the users refer to them as "Katies." 'Luudes are 
qualuudes, a real-world drug.

Panel 2: Visible in the background is a geodesic dome.  There are at 
least three of them in New York; one is called the Astrodome.

Panel 3: First appearance an issue of "Tales of the Black Freighter." 
 Note the other things on the newsstand: two pirate comics ("X-Ships" may 
be a joke on X-MEN) and a _New York Times_ with "Vietnam 51st State: 
Official!" as the headline.  As is demonstrated later, in this world pirate 
comics supplanted super-hero comics as the principal product of the 

Seeing the _Times_ is curious; the paper of choice in New York is the
_Gazette_, which appears to be the same paper under another name.  
Could it be an error on Gibbons' part?

Panel 5: First appearance of the Gunga Diner.  The person in the 
lower right-hand corner has a Knot-top.

The Gunga Diner is this world's equivalent of McDonald's, as the 
ever-present fast-food restaurant.  It was founded by an Indian who left 
the country during the famine in the '60's (see the poster on page 17).

If this newsstand is meant to be the same one that appears again 
starting with #3, it is misplaced (see notes for issue #5).

This panel is the first appearance of a reference to "Mmeltdowns," a
popular candy.  (See Ozymandias's interpretation in issue #10, page 

Notice the 25-cent fare on the taxi.

Panel 8: The sign man is apparently left-handed.  Right-handed people
generally wear their watches on the left wrist, so they can wind them 
with their right hand.

Page 5, panel 1: The first appearance of a dirigible, apparently a 
common means of transportation in this series.  (We never see one in 
anything other than a distant shot, though.)

Panel 3: The button reappears.  Rorschach is left-handed, as seen 
here and panel 6.

Panel 6: This is Rorschach's gas-powered grappling gun, built for him 
by Daniel Dreiberg (Nite Owl II).  The cartridge is carbon dioxide 

Page 6, panel 1: Here we see Rorschach's mask for the first time.  
Notice that the patterns are constantly shifting; the mask is formed by "two
viscous fluids between two layers latex, heat and pressure 

Rorschach's name comes from Dr. Hermann Rorschach, who invented a
psychological test based on interpretations of inkblots.  Inkblots 
are formed by pouring ink onto a piece of paper, folding it, and 
unfolding it, producing a symmetrical image.  The actual Rorschach test uses ten 
cards with multi-colored blots.

Also, notice again the geodesic dome in the background; this may be 
the Astrodome.  Its purpose is never mentioned, apart from being the site 
of a charity event Ozymandias performed at; but it's identified in issue 
#7, page 23.  (This structure does not exist in our New York; there is a
building named the Astrodome, but it's in Houston.  The dome is named 
after the Houston Astros; could there be a New York Astros in their 

Page 8, panel 1: This is the Comedian's equipment and second costume. 
 The picture on the left (which we see more clearly later) is a group shot 
of the Minutemen, a 1940's crimefighting team of which Blake was a 
member for a while.  (More on his past in issue 2.)

Panel 2: Although the patterns on the mask shift, he does have a few
repeating themes; one of them is the "surprise/shock face" shown 
here.  It is indicative of Rorschach's personality that, even though he didn't 
know Blake's identity until now, he still searched the apartment 
thoroughly and suspected the hidden panel in the closet.

Page 9, panels 1-3: The man pictured and speaking is Hollis Mason, 
the first Nite Owl.  He is speaking to Dan Dreiberg, who took up his 
name.  Mason was the second costumed adventurer.  On his wall are various 
pictures and clippings from his career; one is seen to read "Hero Retires: 
Opens Own Auto Business."  Note the time on his clock.  Phantom is his dog.

This panel shows another common device in the series; focussing on an 
image and shifting the scene around it (in this case, the Minutemen 
photo).  This is a cinematic device, adapted for the comics medium.

Panel 4: The statuette on the left was presented to Mason upon his
retirement.  The books are: Two copies of his autobiography, _Under 
the Hood_; _Automobile Maintenance_; and _Gladiator_ by Philip Wylie (one 
of the first novels about a superhero, and partial inspiration for 
Note the owl items.  The thing on the left of the mantelpiece bears a
passing resemblance to the lantern of the first Green Lantern, a DC 
Comics character, but this may be coincidence.

Panel 6: The "Pale Horse" graffiti refers to a popular band.

Panel 7: "Who Watches the Watchmen" was popular graffiti around the 
time of the Keene act.  It comes from the Latin phrase "Quis custodiet ipsos
custodes," a quote from Juvenal's _Satires_ and, of course, is the 
source of the title of the series.  The phrase never appears in its entirety 
in the series; it is always cut off somehow.  The state of the building 
says something about Mason's financial situation.

The Keene Act, re-illegalizing vigilantism, was passed in 1977; it 
was named after its sponsor, Senator Keene.  I don't think Keene was a 
real person, and we never learn his (her, for all we know) name or home 
state.  I'd guess he was from New York, though; NYC was the home of most 
costumed heroes, and hence would have been the likeliest site of the police 
(Interestingly, the Keene Act, although used differently, has been
introduced to the DC Universe.)

Panel 8: "Obsolete models a specialty." Mason learned his trade on 
internal combustion engines, not electric ones.  (It also serves as a 
commentary on Mason.) Note the "Gunga Diner" takeout box.  It should be clear that 
this isn't a very good neighborhood.

Page 10, panel 1: I have been told that this is a song by Iggy Pop, 
but have not been supplied a title.  More information would be 

The male Knot-Top here is Derf, who reappears later.  The headline 
reads, "Russia Protests US Adventurism in Afghanistan," and the storefront 
says "86 Buicks Here!"

The headline is a reversed version of news in our world; the US was
proposing Russian adventurism at this time.

Panel 2: The first appearance of Nostalgia, a Veidt product, which
reappears continually throughout the series.  Veidt products seem to
infiltrate every corner of life.  Also, Treasure Island, a comics 
shop which reappears a few times.  (Comics shops in our world often have
superhero, science fiction, or fantasy-oriented names; in this world, 
they probably have pirate-related names.)

Panel 3: The plate on the right reads "Floors 1-4 Dreiberg;" 
apparently Dan owns the entire building.

Panel 7: The calendar on the right appears later; it has a picture of 
an owl.  The layout of the calendar is interesting; in our world, the 
practice is to put Sunday on the left column, not Monday.

Panel 8: The can refers to "58 Varieties." In our world, it's "Heinz 
The slogan was invented in 1892; apparently there are at least 
trivial differences between our world and theirs going back a ways.

Page 11, panel 3: The button again.

Panel 5: The first apearance of "Sweet Chariot" sugar cubes.  (I 
don't know if these are a Veidt product; the "Chariot" reference is his style, 
but the name refers to a Gospel song, "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," which 

Panel 8: This is Dreiberg's workshop.  The thing under the tarps is
"Archie," his flying vehicle.

Page 12, panel 1: Dreiberg retired after the Keene act.

Panel 8: On the right is Dreiberg's Nite Owl costume, which we see 
clearly on the next page.

Page 13, panel 2: Rorschach and Nite Owl worked together during the 
'70's in the dock and warehouse district.

Page 14, panel 1: Another geodesic dome in the background.

Panel 4: The sign in the window reads "Stick with Dick in '84;" 
obviously a Nixon campaign sign.

Panel 5: The first appearance of Happy Harry's, a sleazy bar that 
Rorschach patronizes for information.  The headline on the paper reads, 
"Congress Approves Lunar Silos," and the graffiti reads, "Viet Bronx." (Meaning 
what, I wonder?  That the U.S. should spend more money on domestic affairs, 
or is there some sort of VC sympathy gang out there?)

In our world, international treaties prohibit nuclear weapons in 
space; evidently here, the US's increased clout due to Dr.  Manhattan 
stopped such treaties.

Panel 6: On the left is a woman with one of those pipe things; the 
man with the eyepatch has another common type of pipe.

Page 15, panel 2: Happy Harry himself.

Page 16, panel 1: "The Apple:" The Big Apple is slang for New York 

Panel 4: The man on the upper left has a type of ball-pipe not seen
anywhere else; it has two spheres rather than one.

Page 17, panel 1: The speaker is Adrian Veidt, formerly Ozymandias, 
another retired crimefighter.  We learn his background in issue 11.  Notice 
the time on the clock, the geodesic dome, and the dirigible.  The pointed
building to the right of the Veidt building is the Chrysler Building, 
a real-world landmark.

Panel 4: Dr. Manhattan, about whom we learn more later, is the center 
of America's current defensive strategy; he can theoretically destroy 
large chunks of Soviet territory and simultaneously 60% of incoming 
missiles fired at the US before they impact, thus giving the US an immense 
strategic advantage.  (See the essay at the end of issue #4.)

Panel 6: The poster reads: "Veidt: OZYMANDIAS Southern Indian Famine

Panel 7: This is just what Veidt did.

Panels 7-8: Actually, Veidt is almost the Aryan ideal; if anyone's a 
likely candidate for Nazi accusations, it's he.  A top physical and mental
specimen, handsome, blonde-haired and blue-eyed, of Germanic descent;
Hitler would have loved him.  He would have made a terrible Nazi, 
though, because he's too intelligent and self-willed.

In one sound, Veidt manages to convey his opinion of Rorschach's 
world-view; a nice touch.

Page 18, panel 1: There is a considerable difference of opinion 
between the two; their political beliefs and world-views are radically different.

Panel 2: "Be seeing you" was a common phrase on the British TV show 
_The Prisoner_; the feel of the show fits Rorschach's paranoia well.

Panel 3: Rorschach's exit through the window and Veidt's "Have a nice 
day" is either a very subtle hint, or just coincidence.

Panel 4: The _Gazette_ headline reads, "Nuclear Clock Stands at Five 
to Twelve, Warn Experts;" below it, "Geneva Talks: U.S. Refuses to 
Discuss Dr. Manhattan." (See the beginning of the annotation for an explanation 
of the nuclear clock.  Five to twelve is fairly close; the closest it's been 
in our world is 3 to twelve, during the Cuban Missile Crisis.) The 
Egyptian-style pen holder fits into Veidt's Egypt obsession.

Page 19, panel 1: "Rockefeller Military Research Center, Founded 
1981." The symbol on the left of the sign bears a striking resemblance to 
Superman's chest logo as it originally appeared.

Either Rorschach's watch is wrong, or the Veidt tower clock is wrong 
(it was midnight when he visited Veidt, and 8:30 now), or he has the 
power to travel through time.

Panel 2: Veidt's sexuality is never revealed.

Panel 4-5: The others referred to were all members of the Minutemen.  
More on them later.

Panel 5: The door reads, "Special Talent Quarters: Private."

Panel 9: The speaker is Dr. Manhattan.

Page 20, panel 1: Dr. Manhattan can change his size at will (among 
other things).  The woman is Laurie Juspeczyk, the second Silk Spectre and
daughter of the original.

Page 21, panel 1: Libya was at odds with the U.S. during the 
mid-'80s, but it sounds like they're being scapegoated here.  Dr. Manhattan must 
have been informed very quickly, since the police investigation was just
beginning on Saturday morning (the 12th).

Panel 6: As we see in the next issue, these "allegations" are true.  
The sugar cube is one he got from Dreiberg's apartment.

Page 22, panel 5: Dr. Manhattan can also teleport himself and others. 
He has complete control over matter (to put it in superhero terms).

Page 23, panel 7: The bestiary refers to a list of the subatomic 
particles whose existence has been confirmed, but The Bestiary is a place from 
Dr. Manhattan's past (see issues 3-4).

Page 24: A number of reoccuring themes on this page.  A Gunga Diner 
box, "Who Watches the Watchmen" graffiti, and a Nixon campaign poster.  
The "Krystalnacht" graffiti and the poster refer to Pale Horse's upcoming
Madison Square Garden concert (Krystalnacht is another band appearing 
with Pale Horse).  The shadows of the embracing lovers in panels 3-4 are a
continuing motif.  The curved surface above Rorschach's head is a 
geodesic dome.  A "Tales of the Black Freighter" appears in the trash in panel 

The band name, "Pale Horse," refers to Revelations 6:8: "I looked, 
and there was a pale [sometimes pale green] horse.  Its rider's name was 
Death, and Hades followed with him; they were given authority over a fourth 
of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and pestilence, and by the wild 
animals of the earth." Part of the war imagery popular in popular culture.  
The band's lead singer is named Red D'Eath (more on this later).  The 
other band's name, "Krystalnacht," refers to a night of terror against Jews 
in Nazi Germany; the name derives from all the broken glass from broken

Page 25, panel 1: Another geodesic dome visible in the lower left.

Panel 2: Laurie is Dr. Manhattan's lover.  She's kept around by the
military to have some control over him.

Laurie is right-handed.

Panel 4: The red-headed woman also has the knot-top hairstyle; 
presumably she's not a gang member.  (Compare the hairstyles and fashions here 
to those actually in use in '85, and remember that this is a fancy 
restaurant.  Also, notice the two men embracing in the lower right-hand corner; is 
this an indication of social changes?) The chicken/turkey being served on 
the left of the panel has four legs and no wings; apparently genetic
engineering has gone a ways.

Panel 5: The skyscraper just under the moon may be the Empire State
Building, another real-world landmark.

Panel 8: The button yet again.

Page 26: Notice the similarity between this page and page 1.

Panels 4-5: Intriguing that Laurie, so critical of Rorschach earlier, 
finds this humorous.

Pages 27-32: Excerpts from "Under the Hood," Hollis Mason's 
autobiography, detailing his early life.

Page 5, paragraph 1: Mason was a fan of the pulps, one of the 
earliest sources of superheroic literature.  Doc Savage and the Shadow seem to 
be an influence on him.

Paragraph 4: Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Superman and 
perhaps the most important single work in the development of the superhero.

Paragraph 5: One of those magicians was Zatara, who was a continuing 
DC Comics character.  He and Superman were the only characters from 
ACTION #1 to last (he died in the mid-'80s, but he's still remembered).

Page 6, paragraph 1: "All these old characters are gone and forgotten 
now;" superhero comics never caught on in a world with real costumed 
adventurers.  Lamont Cranston is one of the Shadow's identities.  (Interesting that 
he mentions the pulps but not radio as an influence; the Shadow is 
better-known from radio than the pulps.)

Paragraph 4: The first costumed vigilante, Hooded Justice.  More on 
him in the next issue.                 Doug Atkinson