Before Watchmen – Comedian 3

Today, Peter and Patrick are discussing Comedian 3, originally released September 12th, 2012. Comedian is part of DC’s Before Watchmen prequel series. Click here for complete Before Watchmen coverage (including release dates).

Peter: I guess it’s never really occurred to me to ask who the main character of Watchmen is. Is there one? What do you think? I guess, based on the overall narration and beginning and then end, most people would probably say Rorschach. I mean he’s constantly working on his journal and is the in the background of tons of the cells. Even though he is rather absent from the majority of the main story, could you see The Comedian in that role? So far he’s appeared in almost every Before Watchmen  story in some capacity. Could Edward Blake be the true glue that holds this franchise together?

The Comedian is on some well deserved R&R in Hawaii after getting home from Vietnam. He takes a phone call from his best bud, Bobby Kennedy. At this point in history, BK is no longer Attorney General, but a Senator for the state of New York. Bobby isn’t too happy with Eddie. Apparently, after Eddie returned home from Vietnam, he got all flustered by a familiar looking face in a protest mob. Later, Eddie finds himself in the middle of the Watts Riots, in Los Angeles. Wearing his Comedian armor, and a satirical paint mask of a smiley face. After inciting some looting and general chaos, he does what any Comedian would do; he throws dog poop in the face of the police chief. Concluding the phone call that frames this story, Eddie heads home to bang his Hawaiian ladyfriend.

I guess I had never really thought too much into it before, but the characters of Watchmen are very connected to that world’s history. They are all over the place, affecting change and policy. The Comedian takes it to the next level – in addition to being involved with the US government, and many prominent Americans, such as the Kennedys, he seems to have his hand in everything.

We know a little bit about the Comedian’s work in Vietnam from Watchmen proper. This is the first time we see the other side of that coin; the home front. He’s clearly disturbed by the protesters. He’s not against protesting, he’s just surprised that they are there to protest him. And then he sees her. Who is that girl? Is she just a girl? Could she be Laurie? Laurie’s in California the last we saw her, and doing the hippy thing, it would be consistent with the character presented in Silk Spectre for her to be anti-war. However, Eddie’s focus shifts rather quickly, the potential threat: a pinko-commie.

He’s clearly hyper-aware of things, focusing on the threat, like a soldier. And this is how Eddie views himself — he’s just a regular soldier, a government lackey. What really shakes him is the public opinion that he isn’t. The protesters don’t just treat him like any soldier returning home, they treat him like he’s the war. That can shake a man to his core.

The scene with the Watts Riots is a stroke of genius on Azzarello’s part. The Watts Riots are a key event in the civil rights movement, the fall of segregationism, and the 1960s at large. Insert the Comedian and it becomes not just a lesson about racial equality, but the drive of mankind. I remember an early episode of the show The Boondocks: Riley, upon seeing it on television, is convinced that a fight/riot will break out as long as someone is angry to throw a folding chair. He spends much of the episode trying to make this happen, thus proving the point that a riot isn’t all people with a complaint, but people just wanting to fight something. Well Edward Blake is that folding chair in Watts. He proves that, yes, some people have complaints and mean well, but others are just followers, and are reckless and destructive, and at their core, greedy.

In true Comedian fashion, he plays both sides of the issue. He verbally takes on Chief William Parker, who is notoriously forceful and has crafted the LAPD into essentially a small army. Eddie’s conversation with Bobby really drives it home though. But really, because of him, everyone DID get what they wanted out of that riot. Black people made their point and got some sweet loot, and the police got their bodies.

“There is no line.” This is the bud of the Comedian’s later philosophies on life and conflict.

The Comedian is a very introspective book. It isn’t so much an add-on to the Watchmen story like Nite Owl wants to be, but an in depth look into the evolution the Comedian’s character. It tells us how he came to be the man he is, and why. My money is now on him as the main character of the whole thing. Eddie is there through it all, and at his core, the most affected by what is going on around him. He is a true representative of the lighter side of things, and the irony that surrounds him in the world.

Patrick: Oh, man — I can’t begin to convey how much I disagree with your last sentence, Peter. Eddie doesn’t represent the lighter side of things at all — he is the darkness. He’s the inescapable truth that “there is no line.” And that’s a philosophy that Azzarello’s min-series embraces with alarming zeal.

Peter, you’re right to point out that all the Watchmen characters have an effect on the politics and policies of their day, but none seem so well integrated into history as The Comedian. The two previous issues have both very explicitly shown Eddie’s role in two specifically American historic moments: the JFK assassination and the Vietnam War. In both of these situations, Eddie acts as a product of the time and the culture. He’s appropriately devastated by JFK death, and while he engages in some gruesome tactics in Vietnam, y’know, it’s a war. And more pointedly, Vietnam vets always have these ultra-grisly, hyper-violent stories — and it’s those stories that are like Eddie’s experience. Effectively, Eddie is America.

Which is why his involvement in the Watts Riots is particularly unnerving. I live in LA now, and while this is a town that’s been shaped by a lot of great things, the legacy of the riots in 1965 and 1992 loom large over just about everything. And part of the lasting impact of the ’65 riots is in how its remembered in the history books. The incident goes by two names: “The Watts Riots” and “The Watts Rebellion.” The difference between the names is clear — one is a chaotic expression of volatile time and the other is a purposeful statement of dissatisfaction. While affluent white folks at the time couldn’t understand why black men and women would loot and destroy their own community, the black community was effectively expressing itself — lashing out with the only tool they had left at their disposal. So what are we to make of the fact that — in this history — Eddie’s actions lead to the looting? It grinds directly against the idea of willful rebellion — except that’s exactly what The Comedian is doing. He shits on everything because that’s the only tool he has left.

All of these historical events are being funneled out as an expression of Eddie Blake and as such, the particular sadness, frustration and anger is so concentrated. The name of the game here is exploitation — every single one of these issues relies on our emotional attachment to our own history. If Eddie was friends with a fictional president, who was later killed, we wouldn’t give a shit. But Eddie’s loss isn’t the point, so much as OUR loss is the point. The real magic is that all three of these events are emotionally unresolved. We talked last time about how the difficulty of divining the point of Comedian is the point of Comedian, and as the story expands into more sensitive topics, it becomes harder and harder to sit with those unresolved feelings. More to the point, it’s hard to talk about them.

Well, now that I’ve sufficiently bummed myself out — let’s talk about whether or not that was Laurie in the crowd. Silk Spectre starts its story in 1966, which means Laurie would be like 15 or 16 during the events of this issue. She and Sally do live in LA, and you can tell that Eddie’s plane is landed at LAX, so all of that information does sorta line up. But I guess we need more information about who knows what when to make that call. On the phone (and in his interactions with the girl), Eddie doesn’t let on that he’s knows that’s his daughter, other than to say she is “a girl [he’d] like to know.” But maybe the most telling clue is the panel wherein she hands him the flower — it’s the only circular panel in the whole issue. After last week’s revelation that the circles represent his connection to Laurie (and not Laurie’s connection to him), that feels like an oh-so-subtle nod.

Comedian is definitely the glue that holds this world together. You know that issue of Watchmen that takes place at his funeral? It explores this character through everyone else’s memories of him — we don’t get to see anything from the Eddie’s perspective. That’s just what  Azzarello is doing here: forcing us to see the Comedian through our own painful memories.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?


19 comments on “Before Watchmen – Comedian 3

  1. Doesn’t Eddie say specifically that the girl reminds him of a girl he’d like to know? I think he does know Laurie is his daughter, but I don’t think that girl is Laurie — she just kind of looks like her. I think the connections you made with the circular panel is still valid — it’s just that they represent Eddies’ subjectivity in being reminded of his daughter, rather than an objective cue that this is actually his daughter.

    • Yeah, and in the end, I’m not sure it matters as long as the emotion of the moment is true for Eddie – and it is. Still, fun to speculate on. One thing to consider is that she didn’t have that particular SS dress made until after she moved to San Fran, so that may actually rule out the possibility of it being Laurie.

  2. With the scene at the airport, I was most struck by Eddie’s apparent patience with the protesters and his anger when the girl is knocked aside. That doesn’t seem like the Eddie we know; I had the same sort of surprise when we found out he was buddies with the Kennedys. Azz is reminding us that Eddie doesn’t take sides. Right, wrong, left, right, justice, vengence, none of that really applies. Eddie is chaos because he knows the world is chaos. He’s just trying to make the rest of the world realize it.

  3. This book doesn’t really explain to us how Eddie became the man he is, it just presents him as The Comedian. He’s kind of like the Joker in that regard; he’s this elemental force that (in this book, anyway) isn’t explained or given an origin. He just is.

    • One of my favorite things about the Comedian’s design is that, because of the Joker, they shied away from any kind of clown elements. Instead, they drew from one of the most distinctive comedians of all time: Groucho Marx. I’d long registered the mustache and cigar as references, but this is the first time I realized his domino mask is supposed to imply the Groucho glasses. Neat.

  4. Pingback: Before Watchmen – Comedian 5 | Retcon Punch

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