web stats

CSBG Archive

…And the Superhuman Review – Before Watchmen: Comedian #3

Every week, Chad Nevett and I will be reviewing an issue of Before Watchmen through a discussion of each issue. We continue with Comedian #3 by Brian Azzarello (writer), J.G. Jones (artist) and Alex Sinclair and Tony Avina (colors).

Chad Nevett: This was one of my favourite Before Watchmen issues so far. More than almost any other issue of this series, this one seemed like an odd sort of summation of the character it was focused on. We saw all sides of Eddie Blake — and, mostly, how fucked up he is. His walking into the riot like that… christ, that one panel is just fantastic. The Comedian boiled down to a single image. Don’t you agree, Brian? Say you agree, Brian!

Brian Cronin: At the very least, this was clearly the boldest of all of the Before Watchmen issues. I mean, come on, you don’t get much bolder than the Comedian dressing in “yellowface” during the Watts riots.

That said, yes, it was impressive to see Azzarello try to capture the many facets of the Comedian, and really, Eddie Blake is likely the character with the most room for exploration of all the main Watchmen characters. Here, Azzarello nicely showed us all the reasons why Eddie is so fucked up. Let me try to detail them, bullet point style…

1. He’s a sociopath
2. He’s a sociopath that wants to belong to something bigger than himself, if only because it allows him to do what he wants
3. He’s a sociopath that presumes he should be viewed as a hero

4. He’s a sociopath that IS viewed by many as a national hero (leading to the brilliance of him rightly pointing out that he is one of the few people who actually could show up in the middle of a riot and things actually would pause for a second)
5. He’s a sociopath that is obsessed with the innocence of his daughter, Laurie (even if he has absolutely no idea of how to deal with this relationship, since he’s, you know, a sociopath)
6. He is a sociopath that places great value on those that call him friend, since they number so few
7. He is a sociopath that can see the truth of a situation, even if he doesn’t give a shit about it himself.
8. Most of all, he is a sociopath who does not like to be restrained. He believes we’re all savages at heart, so while he will work with so-called “civilization” to serve his own purposes, he is not going to be restrained by its conventions. He only does things because he CHOOSES to do so. Don’t expect him to be obedient.

He really is a fascinating guy. He totally sees the legitimate problems that the rioters have, but since he is employed by the other side, he’ll take them down in a disgusting fashion (while wearing yellowface, which is basically blackface) but then throws shit at the Los Angeles police chief. He is a man who knows how to get the job done, even if he also understands how despicable that job is. He just doesn’t care. Since he’s a sociopath.

We were wondering last issue how Eddie was going to break with the Kennedys, well, this is the answer. He is not going to be restrained by the conventions Bobby Kennedy expects him to follow. I imagine next issue we will see Eddie’s next step, to become closer to Nixon.

This was likely JG Jones’ best issue. It was a very fluid issue. And Jones really knows how to nail spotlight panels (something made clear in Final Crisis), which he did with the major panels of this issue (the yellowface bit and the shit throwing). Alex Sinclair and Tony Avina did a fine job on colors.

I liked the touch by Azzarello of having the song “Jerk Baby Jerk” playing in the beginning. It was a West Coast record. I love that Azzarello knows enough about music to have stuff like a song that was only popular on the West Coast playing in Hawaii.

The back-up by John Higgins…well…it continues in this issue. That’s about all I can say about it.

CN: Hell, he takes down the rioters in a way that both benefits and hurts them by giving them a chance to do some looting (which would presumably lead to them running home after since who keeps smashing stuff with a TV in their arms?). The riot stops, yet everyone goes from being a rioter to a thief. It’s one big example of his cynical worldview at work as he shows that people ultimately only care about themselves. The so-called ’cause’ they were rioting over was selfish and easily replaced by physical items. The dismay of one of the rioters at how it works is both sad and funny in context…

The scene where Eddie arrives at the airport is equally telling. As you say, he has a weird obsession with the innocence of Laurie and the girl there who looks like her is an easy (and obvious) stand-in. Her naive ‘give a flower to the Vietnamese so they know all Americans aren’t like you’ crap is something that you would expect him to laugh off, make a snide remark, or provoke some rude display… yet, it gets to him. The way Azzarello uses language, though, makes his reaction to the girl getting hit by a tomato (one of the rare moments where I thought Jones’s art failed to communicate exactly what was going on) made it unclear what had pissed him off so much — the girl, the tomato thrower, or even the fact that someone else had stepped in before he had a chance to do his thing. It becomes clear (I think) that it is because he felt some connection to the girl (because of Laurie) and hated that someone would treat her (his daughter) that way. I really enjoyed the ambiguous nature of the scene.

BC: Yeah, it was an interesting piece of commentary on the nature of riots. I don’t know if Azzarello really believes said commentary, but Eddie Blake certainly does. And yeah, the reaction of the one leader of the riot – very sad.

That’s a great point that Jones really did fail on the reaction from the girl who got hit with the tomato. I didn’t know what was going on there, visually.

By the way, “Are we going to play or are you going to just stare at my ass all night?” “Both” “Then my knees are going to hurt.” That doesn’t really make sense, innuendo-wise, does it?

CN: HA! No, it doesn’t. I spent far too long puzzling over that bit of dialogue, struggling to figure out what I was missing. Judging from your reaction, not much. That said, I did like the closing line/wordplay. But, that’s the thing with Azzarello: I like about 80% of the way he uses language and the other 20 falls flat in some way. But, damn, that 80 per cent… that’s some good stuff.

BC: Maybe she has really bad knees and if she plays pool all night they will hurt? Yeah, that’s the ticket!

And yeah, Azzarello has a clever ear for dialogue and he’s always trying hard, but sometimes when he reaches it just falls flat. The end comments, though, were great. A perfect encapsulation of a guy who just doesn’t give enough of a fuck to be clever, so he just makes cheesy jokes. “I’m the Comedian, we both know we’re going to fuck, so why bother being clever on you?” Also, as we know from Watchmen, he is not a guy who is going to ever use a condom. He just doesn’t give a fuck.

15 Comments

Are you guys really saying you don’t get that dialogue? He means “play” as in “have sex,” and because he’ll be staring at her ass while he’s having sex, that means she’ll be on all fours, hurting her knees. It’s not very good banter, I’ll admit, but it seems pretty clear to me.

Greg: You beat me to it, but yeah, I was wondering if they were joking too. It seems crystal clear. I mean, like most Azzarello noir dialogue it was bad and trying too hard, but it was definitely clear and simple.

Actually, I take it back. It’s not great, but for Azzarello it’s definitely one of his better attempts at being clever. I should give him more credit for that one.

I’m not sure I agree with your use of the word ‘sociopath’. A notable characteristic of the sociopath is an inability to experience deep, moving emotions. And we know that Blake has feelings: for Laurie, and the breakdown he has at Veidt’s plan.
That said, he’s an amoral nihilist. That’s as close to sociopathy as you can come without having the disorder.

So, the Comedian’s a sociopath … gee, whiz, I’d never guess after reading WATCHMEN.

I mean, he shoots a pregnant woman, and rapes and assaults a fellow colleague. We could address his misogynistic attitude towards women as well as him being a sociopath.

Still, it’s interesting to see the Comedian from a different perspective.

I’m not sure I agree with your use of the word ‘sociopath’. A notable characteristic of the sociopath is an inability to experience deep, moving emotions. And we know that Blake has feelings: for Laurie, and the breakdown he has at Veidt’s plan.

The idea that sociopaths can’t feel emotions is a myth. A sociopath can totally behave in the ways you describe. The motivations behind the breakdowns and displays of “affection” a sociopath does are usually not as empathetic as they appear to onlookers and are usually a lot more self-interested and complicated beneath the surface.

| The idea that sociopaths can’t feel emotions is a myth. A sociopath can totally behave in the ways you describe.
| The motivations behind the breakdowns and displays of “affection” a sociopath does are usually not as empathetic | as they appear to onlookers and are usually a lot more self-interested and complicated beneath the surface.

Note that I didn’t say that sociopaths can’t feel emotions, but that they can’t feel deep, moving emotions. Regardless, it’s hard to imagine the kind of self-interested display you’re describing applying to Blake in the scene where he confesses to Moloch, for example. That said, it’s hardly impossible.

Are you kidding me? THIS COMIC WAS TERRIBLE! Azzarello hits a new low with the banter and the … “finishing other people’s sentences?” shit that has been an annoying trademark of his work since Jonny Double. The whole thing with the “yellowface” was stupid, the timeline’s all wrong (um. Happy face buttons aren’t from the Sixties. Just sayin’.) and Blake acting like a monkey was just offensive. Had I bought this on your recommendation (instead of because I want to see how bad this project can get), I’d demand YOU personally refund my money. Jeez, guys. I know they can’t all be winners (and you’re probably not allowed contractually to pan these comics outright) but calling this “a good comic” is a bald-faced LIE.

Yeah, this is a pretty bad comic as well. So far, Azzarello’s issues have been pretty much the worse of the lot, potentially even worse than the JMS nite owls. I don’t know why these series of reviews are giving BW as much leeway as it’s being given. Can’t you just say it? They’re REALLY mediocre as comics but as stories that are supposedly connected with Watchmen which is one of the most brilliant works in the comics medium, these comics look much worse.

You know how bad these stories are? Practically nobody’s discussing the plot even in the cbr forums! The occasional discussion nowadays only has to do with the controversies regarding DC/Moore but the actual new stories themselves, nobody is talking about them! There are no particular story hooks that are making readers go, “Wow! That’s actually a new brilliant plot point. I wonder if so and so would do this next.”

Isn’t his breakdown/confession to Moloch motivated by both the fact that he knows he’s going to be murdered for what he saw and the fact that he realizes that, even if he isn’t, he won’t have any reason to do the only thing he enjoys doing anymore? Which is to say, with world peace achieved, he won’t be able to indulge in the violence he loves. I’ve always seen his breakdown/rant as largely about what all this means for him.

“He means “play” as in “have sex,” and because he’ll be staring at her ass while he’s having sex, that means she’ll be on all fours, hurting her knees.”

I actually see it more as him meeting an equal of sorts. She’s flirting, he one-ups it by bluntly referring to sexual desire, but could still be talking about “play”ing the game of pool. He’s being sexually aggressive, sure, but then she takes it and removes all ambiguity or entendre.

I would predict, solely based on the sort of stuff Azz does, that this woman becomes important to him and then gets killed and that’s his final break from Kennedy-lover to Nixon-bootlicker. (Or, closely-related, he has to do something professionally and she finds out and disappears because now she hates him.)

Note that I didn’t say that sociopaths can’t feel emotions, but that they can’t feel deep, moving emotions.

I understood what you meant, and I do think sociopaths can feel deep, moving emotions. Just not EMPATHETIC ones. The emotions you perceive from him as being empathetic I believe only appear that way on the surface. I think he is actually motivated by self-preservation, specifically fear of annhilation, both mentally and physically. He begs forgiveness for his sins with Molocho, but is it because he’s genuinely sorry and empathetic or because with death imminent he begins to worry about whether there really is a God or not and whether he will have to suffer for his sins? His his beg for forgiveness an act of empathy or an act of self-protection? Are any feelings he has for Laurie genuine feelings of concern or are they because she shares his genetic material and is considered by him to be an extension of himself? Basically, is it true empathy or genetic narcissism? After all, as a person carrying 50% of his genes, she is his way of surviving into future generations. Descendants are the closest humans come to achieving immortality. Is his concern for her genuine empathy or is it just another manifestation of his self-obsession?

It’s not emotions that the sociopath can’t feel, it’s empathy.

Gee T you’re writing as if the Comedian were an actual person rather than a character written by an author. Your analysis is based on whether the writer understood and intended all you convey and that is doubtful.There are no genes dictating the behavior of a character in a piece of fiction.

Gee T you’re writing as if the Comedian were an actual person rather than a character written by an author. Your analysis is based on whether the writer understood and intended all you convey and that is doubtful.There are no genes dictating the behavior of a character in a piece of fiction.

I didn’t say genes dictated his behavior. I may have phrased it poorly. When I say “genetic narcissism” I mean the idea of being self-obsessed with one’s own genes, not narcissism that is genetic in origin. For example a stage mom is an example of genetic narcissism. She thinks “this child has half of my genes, she will be carrying my genes into future decades long after my physical body is dead, I’m going to treat her as an extension of myself rather than as her own separate, unique individual.” That’s what I meant by genetic narcissism, treating someone as an extension of yourself primarily because they share your genes, making your obsession over them a form of narcissism rather than a form of healthy love.

I always figured that the downside to DC inevitably rescinding their gentlemen’s agreement with Moore and Gibbons would be that someday we would get to have Comedian comics every month, and they would be awesome.

I don’t know why this comic tries so fucking hard to mean something…Comedian should be like Judge Dredd, where every issue is a blast, and the actual weight of the subject comes at you from somewhere deep in the peripheral vision.

These books should be full of death and sex, not pick-up lines and descriptions over phone calls.

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives