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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comic Book Moments – Day 63

Here is the latest cool comic book moment in our year-long look at one cool comic book moment a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

In honor of the opening of Watchmen at the end of the week, here’s a special “Watchmen moments” week!

Today we look at some superhero sex…

Enjoy!

In Watchmen #7, we get one of the more famous scenes in the series, where former superheroes Dan “Nite-Owl” Dreiberg and Laurie “Silk Spectre” Juspeczyk attempt an intimate encounter, but it does not go so well. They fall asleep together on the couch and Dan has a freaky dream…

That sets up the later scene, where Dan and Laurie decide to go out superheroing for the first time in forever, and after they save the day, suddenly, well, things go much better than before…

Definitely, the “moment” is the costumes line, which is where writer Alan Moore makes it clear for the folks in the cheap seats that he is making commentary about the fetishistic nature of superheroes.

Dave Gibbons is out of this world in these pages.

Great scene, with that hilarious off kilter climax.

17 Comments

That dream is even freakier when you play it four times in a row.

Ha! Too true. Fixed now! Thanks!

Very surreal!

Ah…much better. And I love the visual gag on the bottom of page 27. Way to overcome your issues Dan!

Tom Fitzpatrick

March 5, 2009 at 4:03 am

This is exactly the issue that Ennis and Robertson is addressing in almost every issue of THE BOYS. ;-)

The dream and then the sex scene are great, but I remember that when I read this issue, my moment were those 2 last lines: ” I think we should spring Rorschach” “What?”.
That cliffhanger was the best way to end that chapter.
I remember myself reading this on the train on the way home after work and started to smile. This is the moment that our heroes start the payback time.

As often happens with Moore, though, his characters get the better of his commentary. Really what’s happened is that Dreiberg has regained confidence, is feeling in control and accomplished and filled with the adrenaline of having saved a lot of people’s lives. That people might have good exciting sex under those conditions doesn’t have anything to do with fetishistic cosplay. What he says in the center panel of the last posted page (“…just problems to solve”) is what sounds true to the character– and it’s a plausible way for a plausible character to feel. The statement in the prior panel that “the costumes had something to do with it” doesn’t ring with the same conviction. Sure, he had a thing for Laurie in her costume, but her costume is a figure-flattering minidress. Much more fundamental here is the change in how he’s feeling about the world.

(The ultimate case of a character getting the better of the commentary, of course, is Rorshach. It’s not just that Punisher fanboys didn’t *understand* that Rorshach was a figure of abuse and satire. It’s that Moore made Rorshach too complex and real for him to be just that– and so we end up having to get beaten over the head with the idea that we should disapprove of Rorshach because the racists at the New Frontiersman like him, or because he likes the Comedian. But Rorshach himself is more interesting and complicated and partly-admirable than either the New Frontiersman staff or than the Comedian.)

Fun fact: when Sam Hamm adapted for a potential screenplay in 1989– the less said about the better– he actually had Dan say the exact opposite (“God! No”).

And yes, Dan has regained his confidence, but the confidence ultimately stems from being back in the costume. Dan is impotent, sexually and personally, without it. Once he puts it back on, he becomes a complete person again.

i would agree the moment is cool. if just for Dan trying to woo Luarie and both deciding they need to get back in the game.

Given everything that has been …ummm… borrowed from “Watchmen” over the years that no one has really re-visited superhero sexuality in the last 20 years.

At his best, Moore takes two dimensional characters, like Ditko’s Blue Beetle, and asks sort of basic adult questions about them. In general, they are questions about their sex lives and/or their politics. With that little magic trick, he has a three-dimensional character that can sometimes transcend the author in the way Jacob described. The borrowers of that style have too often typically used the new dimension to erase one of the prior two dimensions. Titles like “The Ultimates” are not any deeper than the Silver Age stuff, they are just different.

The reaction of the DiDio era DC Comics is worse, since it is pretty well impossible to erase the effect of post-modern comics on an adult reader. Bringing back Barry Allen and Hal Jordan is not going change that.

That said, the project of systematically examining what those Silver Age characters were about and unpacking them for a modern readership seems worthwhile. The Freudian joke that Moore makes at the bottom of page 27 is not any dirtier than a large percentage Mort Weisinger era Superman panels (to say nothing of the William Moulton-Marston era Wonder Woman), the difference is the context. Moore is making an obvious point about the fetishistic nature of the costumes, but it is more obvious than this story:
http://www.comics-db.com/comic-book/1034367-Supermans_Girl_Friend_Lois_Lane.html

or this one:
http://www.comiccollectorlive.com/LiveData/Issue.aspx?id=b5f87e71-ebc4-4a28-bc38-ee1667208077

“Sure, he had a thing for Laurie in her costume, but her costume is a figure-flattering minidress.”

The way I interpreted it, it had little to do with Laurie’s costume but rather it was about Dan’s own costume. You’re right that it was because Dan “regained confidence, is feeling in control and accomplished” but to me Dan’s costume is to him a representation of that confidence.

If we take the term ‘fetish’ away from just meaning kicky sexy prop back to its sociological roots, we can see fetishes as being objects (not desires) they are physical representations of psychological states. Dan’s costume then like Dumbo’s feather, it allows Dan to do what he was always able to do. Dan could be seen as investing psychological energy in his suit, and his various crime fighting gear, so it becomes like a totem (totem of course being a near-synonym for fetish) which links it to its animal themes, the owl then becoming Dan’s totem animal.

On one level Moore is commenting on the fact that spandex superheroes are basically vinyl fetishists. But I think on a deeper level Moore is asserting that crimefighting, and perhaps everything, requires a certain sexual potency which is unlocked by confidence. Costumes to Moore then, in my opinion, have nothing to do with hiding identity but rather allow superheroes the ability to enter a different state-of-mind, to become the alter ego. Costumes aren’t necessarily there for practical reasons, but for irrational psychological ones.

To Ted’s point re: costumes as totems, I agree completely. This reminds me of the Zelazny novel, “Lord of Light” where the characters utilize “Aspects” to wield their “Attributes”. It’s about using appearance to affect mindset, like getting a haircut and wearing nice clothes to give you confidence at a job interview.

but I remember that when I read this issue, my moment were those 2 last lines: ” I think we should spring Rorschach” “What?”

I love that bit too. Particularly the way there is a silent panel between the two lines. Moore used the same trick nicely in The Killing Joke too

This is one of my favorite examples of the use of rhythm in comics.

I like the Vice Queen.

“On one level Moore is commenting on the fact that spandex superheroes are basically vinyl fetishists. But I think on a deeper level Moore is asserting that crimefighting, and perhaps everything, requires a certain sexual potency which is unlocked by confidence. Costumes to Moore then, in my opinion, have nothing to do with hiding identity but rather allow superheroes the ability to enter a different state-of-mind, to become the alter ego. Costumes aren’t necessarily there for practical reasons, but for irrational psychological ones.”

That’s one point of view, and while interesting, it’s not the only one (or, true in general).

You have to give the man credit, he wrote a series tearing down superheroes based on his own point of view, and people say it’s the best comic book series ever. The man is a genius.

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