Wednesday, Sept. 26, Noon ET
Lost Book Club: 'Watchmen'
Wednesday, September 26, 2007; 12:00 PM
Jen Chaney and Liz Kelly-- co-authors of washingtonpost.com's weekly "Lost" analysis (in season) -- continue the "Lost" Book Club series with a discussion of the graphic novel "Watchmen," a book that "Lost" co-creator Damon Lindelof once called the "greatest piece of popular fiction ever produced." The book's influence can be felt in plot lines, settings and even in characters.
This month, Jen and Liz welcome Entertainment Weekly's Jeff "Doc" Jensen to the discussion. Jensen's weekly "Lost" updates are required reading; he also wrote the definitive history of "Watchmen", interviewing creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Jensen has an ongoing dialogue with "Lost" co-creators Lindelof and Carleton Cuse so, yes, it is appropriate to hang on every word.
Jen, Liz and Doc discussed "Watchmen," "Lost" and all things in between Wednesday, Sept. 26, at noon ET.
A transcript follows
Visit washingtonpost.com's new"Lost" hub.
Liz Kelly: Apologies for not taking part in today's discussion. I totally spaced on a doc's appointment (as opposed to this "Doc" appointment) and wasn't able to resked. So, I leave you in the capable hands of Jen and Jeff, aka Doc, who will spend the next hour blowing "Lost's" "Watchmen" addiction wide open. Maybe Doc can answer my question: Will we, in fact, see Billy Crudup in the buff on the big screen? I'll check back later for the answer and to read all the much better answers to your questions.
Doc Jensen: Well, I'll miss chatting with you. Thanks for the invite! It's a real honor to be here. You guys really know how to have an intelligent conversation in this forum; I'll try to uphold the legacy. As for Billy in the buff--I'm guessing motion capture/CG is in the works, not unlike the new Beowulf movie coming out this fall. But if I get the chance to cover the film for EW, and meet Billy in his birthday suit glory, I'll make sure to tell him you said Hi.
Jen Chaney: Yes, please make sure to say that we said hi while Billy is in the buff. It will make the greeting that much more special.
We are very sorry Liz can't join us for the duration. She is, as always, being modest with this whole doc appointment charade. Truth is that Liz is on her way to a secret lair in the Antarctic to stop Donald Trump from causing a fake alien attack at the Miss U.S.A. pageant designed to bring about world peace. She didn't want to spill the beans, but there you are. Godspeed, Liz, Godspeed.
While Liz saves the world, Jeff and I will be taking your questions on "Watchmen" and "Lost," Jeff being a guru on both subjects. So let's get rolling.
Arlington, Va.: Great graphic novel (this is waaay beyond "comic book"). I totally see this as an inspiration for "Lost," especially the interpretations. For example, did anyone notice, in Chapter 10, that the boy clinging to Rorschach's landlady -- when Rorschach called her a whore -- looked a little like Rorschach? Anybody think that our hero did, um, extra work to pay the rent years before? Or was he seeing himself as a young boy again?
Doc Jensen: Wow! I never considered that maybe Rory was paying the bills with a little extra something-something. And now that you're making me imagine Rory having sex... EWWWWW! Thanks, buddy. I just horked on my computer screen. No: I always felt Rory--so damaged as a child; still very much a child, in many ways--merely identified with the kid. And that identification was a moment of grace and rare revelation for him--a rare moment Rory was able to empathize/sympathize with another human being. It begins this softening of his character that allows him to ask forgiveness from Dan in the next chapter, though it also contributes to his internal unraveling in the end that compels him to ask Manhattan for a mercy killing.
Jen Chaney: I am with Jeff on this one. It never occurred to me that the boy could actually be Rorschach's son, especially since he is so adamant about denying that he made sexual advances toward the landlady. (Though that would be an interesting parallel to the Laurie/Comedian story.)
I think he just identifies with the little boy and is able to control his anger (for once) because of it. It's a great example of how the illustrations subtle convey so much.
Worcester, Mass.: Do you think the publishing of Rorschach's diary negated the world unity/world peace Adrian Veidt was hoping to achieve with his "bomb/alien" attack?
Doc Jensen: Nah. I think in Watchmen's world, The New Frontiersman is such a dubious media entity, no one really believes anything it publishes. Now if Rory would have sent it to The Washington Post, it would be a different story.
Jen Chaney: The Washington Post does get a couple of shout-outs in Watchmen, which I find very amusing.
Also, we don't know for a fact that his diary gets published, right? Seymour looks like he is about to pick it up and his editor says he leaves it in his hands. Strongly implies that he will, but we don't know for a fact. Which is the beauty of the ending.
Doc Jensen: Looks like someone forgot to post their question in this space, so wanted to use it to make an early point in this chat which Jen might like to add to. I think correlating characters and plot points between these two "texts" is fun. But I also think the most important and relevant correspondence between Lost and Watchmen is storytelling. It's here where Watchmen has had an undeniable influence on Lost's creators. The flashback structure is undeniable. In fact, I believe the following is true: in both cases, the flashback structure was mandated by the necessity of filling time. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons were asked to create a 12 issue storyline. Realizing they didn't have enough story to fill 12 issues, they came up with the idea of flashbacks, to flesh out the series. Similarly, Lost came up with the flashback structure to get the series off The Island and give the series more story to tell. Moreover, Lost shares Watchmen's uses of ironic juxtapositions, Easter eggs, foreshadowing. It's in the storytelling philosophy where Lost truly pays homage to Watchmen.
Jen Chaney: Amen, my "Lost" brother. What struck me most as I read "Watchmen," then immediately started to re-read it, is the storytelling technique, which clearly inspired Lindelof, as you so rightly describe.
I also want to take this moment to point to a passage that jumped out at me from the section that explains the history of Joe Orlando and Walt Feinberg's work. In the description of "Tales of the Black Freighter," it talks about the ending of that comic-within-a-comic and how "though [the mariner] has escaped from his island, is in the end marooned from the rest of his humanity in a much more terrible fashion." That, to me, is exactly what happened to Jack in the finale's flash-forward. So lots of parallels here that go beyond our usual fun-and-games of "Which one is Sawyer?"
Having said that, the Comedian's happy face button is totally Hurley.
Is the future of Lost an apocalypse? : Hello, Doc Jensen (love your columns). I don't really think the future of "Lost" is an apocalypse. (How much would that stink to get all the way through and have everything just explode!)
As for the "Watchmen," what a phenomenal read. Makes me want to read "V for Vendetta" ... Right away you can see how the graphic novel's narrative construction influences the show. Thoroughly planned out, the flashbacks, flash forwards (especially in Dr. Manhattan's case) were integral to understanding what was going on in the present circumstances. I also loved how there were little details all over the place ("Who will watch the watchmen?" on the wall), the use of shadow and silhouettes (the painted ones on the wall and at the end with Nite Owl and Laurie in the water). Amazing. All these visual clues that linked up to the ultimate story later on.
I kept going back to the chapter that dealt with Dr. Manhattan's flashbacks/forwards and was wondering if that is the chapter that will ultimately tell us the story of our stranded islanders -- maybe we have been thinking their stay on the island is "present day" when all the while it's really been this fast forward that we got at the end of last season.
I also kept seeing more parallels between "Heroes" and "Lost" as I read this, since "Heroes" also uses the time jumping technique (but maybe it's superficial since this book was about well -- heroes.)
Jen Chaney: Oh, I think you're dead-on about the "Heroes" thing. The image of the Exploding Man, as painted by Isaac in season one, is practically ripped right out of "Watchmen." A lot of stuff on "Heroes" -- the whole concept of a countdown to an apocalyptic event in New York, the teleporting, etc. -- is exactly like the comic. Since Tim Kring and Damon Lindelof are buddies, I would imagine both are heavily influenced by "Watchmen." Jeff, since you have a batphone to both of these guys, maybe you can speak more in-depth on this point?
I also agree with you about the layers of detail in "Watchmen." The way that Moore and Gibbons bring in other media sources -- the fake newspaper clips, excerpts from "Under the Hood," -- is very similar to what the "Lost" writers do with Easter eggs and literary references, etc. This is definitely a graphic novel one must read multiple times in order to fully absorb.
And lastly, I do not think the future of "Lost" is an apocalypse either, mainly because I think the overall guiding force behind the show is a positive one. LindeCuse and co. don't strike me as eager to end the show on a down note. A somewhat ambiguous one, maybe. But they know the fans want to see generally happy things for the Losties so I doubt they'll all go up in flames in the final ep.
Doc Jensen: Damon has cited Watchmen as an influence, though Tim Kring has said he never read Watchmen prior to creating Heroes. However, his writing staff is intimately familiar with the work, and while they've paid homage to it, I know for a fact that they defensively sensitive to assertions they are "ripping it off," as many fans have charged them with. The similarities between Heroes and Watchmen are conspicuous, although maybe unavoidable; Watchmen itself is a product of homage and influence. That said, I think beginning the season with a murder mystery--the victim thrown from a roof, no less!--toed the line between "homage" and "swiping." I, too, don't think Lost is about the apocalypse. I still think it's entirely possible that the Hanso mythology--wherein The Numbers predict an end to the world--is all a fiction, part of a psychological orientation that Dharma needed to instill into its volunteers that was necessary for its true ambitions on The Island.
Alexandria, Va.: I thought the Comedian and Sawyer were the characters who fit best together. Any thoughts on who else made the best fit from "The Watchmen" to "Lost"? Jon/Desmond (time theory), though I also can see a Jon/Locke connection in terms of their respective connections to the planet and the island. At any rate, "Watchmen" was great, excellent choice!
Doc Jensen: Actually, I find myself right now thinking that Christian Shepherd makes a good fit for The Comedian--the boozy/woozy man of the world whose made a mess of his life and many lives. The revelation this past season that Christian was Claire's Dad reminds me of the late-book revelation that Blake was Laurie's father. As for Sawyer, I like to think of him as the Rory of the bunch, actually. Both men have become defined by invented personas born of tragedy that have in turn warped their inner selves and views of the world.
Jen Chaney: I don't know, I kinda see the Sawyer and Comedian connection, too. The Comedian's whole attitude -- that he sees how messed-up the world is and has to laugh at it -- is very Sawyer-esque. The fact that he is both admired and reviled by his co-heroes also mirrors Sawyer, too. Obviously the "Lost" characters are not perfectly matched to the ones in "Watchmen" but the Sawyer/Comedian link leaped out at me, too.
Takoma, Washington, D.C.: The character Desmond was definitely influenced by Dr. Manhattan ... both of them are unstuck in time (just like Billy Pilgrim in "Slaughterhouse Five"). How do the other major characters on "Lost" match up with the characters in "Watchmen"?
Doc Jensen: As I mull this question, I find myself realizing how Lost actually illuminates and enhances Watchmen, not vise versa. When I look at many of the Losties, I see people who have adopted roles and guises that have taken over their lives, as a means of coping, escaping, engaging. James and his "Sawyer" mask. Jack and his doctor/savior complex. Kate and her many aliases. Locke and his hero/adventurer fantasies. But this is Watchmen, too, isn't it? Rory, Nite Owl, Silk Spectre, Dr. Manhattan, Ozy--all these storylines are about people who've been swallowed up by their alter-ego and have to rediscover and deal with their true identity. We can all relate to this, can't we? We all let roles define our lives to unhealthy degrees. (Hello, "Doc Jensen.") By comparing and contrasting Lost to Watchmen, we now see how relevant Alan Moore's superhero fantasy is to our lives.
Jen Chaney: Wow. Doc, you have actually made me feel, for the first time, that our "Lost" Book Club might actually be meaningful. I am humbled. And, frankly, a little frightened.
Really interesting point about the alter egos and escaping them. And I think you're quite right about the circularness of how this whole process works. With "Watership Down," our first book in this little online club, I found that "Lost" enhanced my understanding of the book as well as vice versa. In fact, I think "Lost" has made me a much more demanding and detail-oriented consumer of all media, including other TV shows, movies, books, everything. I'm always looking for that Easter egg that illuminates the overall work. And when I can't find it, I think, "Man, these writers just aren't on their game."
Washington, D.C.: The rap on Alan Moore is that he refuses to cooperate with adaptations. But supposedly he and Dave Gibbons both cooperated with the "Watchmen" game adaptation published at the same time as "Watchmen." Is it true that Alan Moore snuck references to the role-playing game into "Watchmen"?
Doc Jensen: Congratulations! You've stumped the band! In other words: I don't know.
Jen Chaney: Holy Thundercats! You stumped Doc? That's, like, not even doable. Hat's off to you.
Arlington, Va.: What's your thoughts on the upcoming movie? Do you think it'll do justice to the book?
Doc Jensen: That's hard for me to say, mostly because I hope to be reporting on the movie for EW, and in that capacity, I should remain objective and not predict/prognosticate success or failure. But I'll say this: I think adapting Watchmen would be tricky for anyone, but with the talent Wbros has assembled, the studio has as good at making a quality piece of work. That sounds really political, I know. So let me say this much more: I've always believed the best adaptations aren't literal translations, but rather inspired interpretations that stand on their own. And as much as I don't want to see Alan's story undermined or crapped upon, I apply that philosophy to the Watchmen film. I don't want a book on film--I want a film. I want the Watchmen equivalent of Alfonso Cuaron's third Harry Potter movie.
Jen Chaney: I think it will be very difficult to adapt the novel. I have to say that I was a bit more intrigued by the prospect of Darren Aronofsky directing -- he was attached to it at one point -- than Zack Snyder. I thought he did a decent job with the "Dawn of the Dead" remake, but I wasn't wowed by "300." I also think this is a deeper, more intellectual work than anything he has tackled before.
But it's possible he's very much up to the task. So, as Doc/Jeff said, I will remain optimistic and open-minded.
Jen Chaney: Here is a link to the aforementioned podcast. ABC, you can thank us later.
Not Really about the "Watchmen": I thought this would be a good place to say hooray for Locke's win at the Emmy's. That was a very pink shirt he had on...or was it the tie...
Jen Chaney: Absolutely. I was so happy that he won. The shirt was indeed pink -- one might say, hot pink -- and the tie was black. Vaguely '80s, not necessarily in a good way. But I love him, so I can overlook it.
On another tangent, thought I would mention that LindeCuse posted a new podcast a few days ago, in honor of the anniversary of the crash of Oceanic 815 on Sept. 21. It's worth a listen.
Jen Chaney: That's the link I sent out a few second ago before posting this, like the dummy that I am.
Washington, D.C.: Do you feel the ending of "Watchmen" holds any clues for the ending of "Lost"? After the conclusion of the last season I think a "Watchmen" type ending with a presiding low related to grand machinations of a deluded genius balanced by a glimmer of future hope earned by the sacrifices and travails of our Losties would be just the thing to expect.
Doc Jensen: That might have been one of the better sentences I've read in the past day. My gut tells me that the conclusion to Lost that we'll get in three years time will be more upliftingly heroic than the ambiguous optimism of Watchmen. Certainly there could be a twist, akin to Seymour finding Rory's diary at the end of Watchmen, a kind of "Never 'The End!'" comic book/Twilight Zone ending. The climactic beat at the end of season three, with Jack in the"presiding low" you reference strikes me as either the middle of the larger story unfolding, or the "Hero at the lowest point" stage that's usually located at the end of the second act of the classic, mythic Hero's Journey structure. I look at Lost this way: the on-Island stuff we've seen up until now is Act One; it will culminate with the Losties leaving The Island. Act Two will follow the Losties off The Island as they try to reclaim their lives; it will culminate with the scene we saw at the end of season three, with Jack in despair and meeting with Kate in secret and begging her to join him in trying to return to The Island. As for Act Three, well... I think that's still a season or so away, and I'm betting it involves Jack and the other Losties in the flashforward future, doing... something. Maybe together. Dunno. Does that make sense? All to say, I think we're seeing an old fashioned three act saga, but told to us in non-linear fashion.
Jen Chaney: I agree that the ending will be on the more uplifting side, as I think I said in an answer to a previous question. At the end of "Watchmen" the reader (at least this one) is not quite sure what to feel, and I don't think that will be the case on "Lost." I'm with you, Jeff, on the "Twilight Zone" factor.
I am not sure about the deluded genius stuff, either. That delves into Ben/Jacob terroritory and I think, in the very, very end, the story will come back to a tight focus on the people at the heart of the show from the beginning: Jack, Locke, Sawyer and Kate. The Ben/Jacob issues may get resolves before we reach the end of Act Three. I'm just guessing, of course, albeit in a public forum that makes it sound like I know what I'm talking about.
Arlington, Va.: Which "Lost" character is closest to Ozymandias -- Ben or Jacob? Or maybe Locke? They all seem to believe they are doing the right thing for the greater good, no matter what the cost.
Also -- the Green Lantern book Walt picked up in Season 1: Did Dave Gibbons draw that?
Doc Jensen: Funny: the first time I ever cottoned to a possible Lost/Watchmen connection was after seeing the episode "Orientation" in season two; Alvar Hanso struck me as Ozymandias, a utopian visionary pursuing a world-saving scheme based in trickery. But to answer your question, I think Ben is more the Ozymandias type, the cunning, far-seeing puppet master whose playing twenty moves ahead of everyone. Jacob is a powerful entity for certain, and he may really be the true mastermind here. But until we get more info on him, my read of the Ben/Jacob relationship is this: Jacob is a tragic figure, a spirit trapped on The Island, and his true nature has been grossly misinterpreted by Ben. I also am clinging to this theory that Ben has Desmond-like super-powers: he, too, has flashes of the future. He knows the ultimate end of The Island, and he's either scheming to bring that ending to fruition, or to avert it.
Doc Jensen: Oh, and this: I don't think Gibbons drew the Lost comic.
Washington, D.C.: To take a slight divergence along the lines of superheroes, do you think super-powered individuals will become an increasingly larger presence in "Lost"? Currently we have Desmond (time-travel), McPatchy (won't die), Walt (strange kid psychic) and Locke (Jedi Master). Is there room for more such people in the next three seasons or are we going to see the present ones killed or explained away?
Jen Chaney: I don't know. I think if they start peppering the show with more people with magical powers, it will seem like they're ripping off "Heroes." Plus, I don't see Locke, Walt and Desmond -- not sure I agree on McPatchy having a power, necessarily, except the power of awesomeness -- as having powers so much as gifts. To get a little literary, to me the influence here is magical realism more so than traditional comic-book heroism.
If that makes sense.
Doc Jensen: Makes sense to me, as I agree!
Doh!: I posted a question earlier wondering if I had missed the connection between "Watchmen" and "Lost" (don't think you ran the question, however). But Doc answered it for me in the beginning, pointing out that we're looking not so much a corollary as structure. You nailed it Doc! It's the story-telling that parallels the two, not necessarily the characters and plot.
Thanks. I get it now!
Doc Jensen: Don't feel bad about not seeing the literal parallels, though. In fact, we're all kinda taking it as a given that these two works really share a connection, and much off that is based on Damon's published quote that he has a high regard for the work and that it has influenced his writing of Lost. But again, I think the issue is more of storytelling technique and thematic concerns. Most of the other similarities many of us see could just be our own geeky projections.
Jen Chaney: And this entire book club is predicated on geeky projections. So please, keep 'em coming!
Falls Church, Va.: Wasn't the first season of "Heroes" essentially a retelling of the Watchmen?
Doc Jensen: A widely-held theory, which doesn't really hold for me, especially since the endings are different. In Watchmen, the world-saving apocalypse scheme worked. In Heroes, it didn't. However, given the murder mystery start to season two, maybe this season of Heroes will more closely mirror the Watchmen narrative. We'll see.
Jen Chaney: Yeah, I don't think it's a retelling either. But there are some very striking parallels, as I said, right down to the visual of the Exploding Man. Jeff pointed out earlier that the "Heroes" crew is sensitive to charges that they basically stole from Alan Moore. They may not have done so intentionally at all. But anyone who watches that show and has read "Watchmen" can't help but notice those connections. At least I can't.
Washington, D.C.: In my house I have three bookshelves that hold the books that have had the most profound impact on my life and without a doubt "The Watchmen" is there when not off the shelf for a billionth reading. If "Lost" is the Shakespeare of TV then "The Watchmen" is the Ur-Lost of the show. There is so much to compare: flashbacks, pirate ships, monsters, sharks, rafts, people who see the future, dichotomies, a Bernard and Rose(a), leitmotifs, allusions, etc... The show has sometimes subtle homages to the book - a polar bear on a tropical island compared to a tropical hothouse with butterfly in Antarctica. So many avenues to discuss it's hard to pick one.
For me the core of "The Watchmen" comes in Chapter 6, "The Abyss Gazes Also." Rorschach is fascinating from the point of his never compromise even in the face of armageddon and his black and white view of the world. But obviously there is some grey areas in the fact that Rorschach is a petty thief pilfering sugar cubes and perfume bottles. Rorschach has stared so long at evil that its return gaze is consuming him. So many of the "Lost" characters stare into to own personal abysses that they've let it rule and form their lives. Hurley is such a benignly optimistic person that he reminds me of Dr. Malcolm Long. Hurley wants to believe that the numbers are or can be a force of good, that the ink blots are a pretty butterfly or some nice flowers. When the numbers have such sinister outcomes, Hurley is confronted with the fact that the numbers -- the ink blots -- represent true evil of a dog with its head split in half. If the numbers are evil then it is a small step to the next realization. To quote: "But even that is avoiding the real horror. The horror is this: in the end, it is simply a picture of empty meaningless blackness. We are alone. There is nothing else." This is what frightens both Hurley and Locke when then confront the numbers. This is the heart of the island.
Jen and Liz -- great job -- and "Hi" Jeff!
Doc Jensen: I like your analysis and application--I never would have tapped Hurley for Long. Here's my quibble: Hurley's arc on the the show is one of a pessimist/fatalist to optimist/hero; this was the point of "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead" and the application of the redemptive Three Dog Night tune "Road To Shambala." On the other hand, Long goes from optimist/hero (and an arrogant one from that) to pessimist/fatalist; his experience with Rory crushes his (cocky) spirit. He becomes swallowed up by Rory's darkness, sucked into the black hole of Rory's gazing abyss. Ultimately, Long is born again with humility and some do-gooding drive... but in his final moments with his wife in Chapter 11, I still found him lost, searching.
Doc Jensen: PS: I also have a Bookshelf Of Personally Influential Books in my house--and Watchmen is on it, too!
Seattle: Let's not forget to compare Ben to Rory...damaged by their parental relationships, their missing parent that they idolize, their twisted view of the world that leads them to lash out at others. Those parallels are pretty strong.
Jen Chaney: True. To that list, I also would add a striking lack of social skills.
Doc Jensen: Could Ben putting on the gas mask to kill his father and pursue his dark destiny = Rory adopting his mask as his new identity? Hrrrm.
Awesome: Just saw the new promo for Lost. Defend the Island or Die. How cool is that? I am kind of teary at the thought that the Losties, the Others and the Island may have an alliance of some sort going on. What do you guys think?
Doc Jensen: I think you're onto something here. My hunch is that in season four, the Losties will continue to be pitted against the Others, now led by Locke. But ultimately, they will come together against the common enemy of the freighter folk. I also think that the Losties will be forced to turn to their hated enemy, Ben, for guidance and maybe even ultimately leadership
Jen Chaney: I watched that promo, too -- or at least the shoddily filmed one where you can't hear the sound.
I think Jeff is right about Ben. He keeps insisting he is not the bad guy and I think, on at least some level, we will come to see he is telling the truth about that.
Speaking of the freighter people, there is another "Watchmen" parallel right there: To "Tales of the Black Freighter."
Boston: It's interesting how "Watchmen" uses a lot of indirect foreshadowing throughout its plot. "Lost" also uses this technique, where a new character is introduced but it's not clear what role that character will have. In "Watchmen," brief snippets of characters and scenes are introduced in a page full of panels and then disappear. This includes our few glimpses of the work on the island by the scientists and writers. We get reports of the missing writer Max Shea through the TV broadcast in the background of Dan's (Nite Owl's) apartment. We see a seemingly random set of six panels of a woman drawing what in the end appears to be a monster. In the tenth installment, we see a ship pulling away, it's people on board celebrating. A few panels later, the ship blows up. Again, it's not clear what's going on exactly, but these seemingly random scenes add up after a while.
Doc Jensen: You've identified one of the things I love most about Watchmen. I love re-reading the book, because it's so rich and dense with stuff like this, you can't catch it all upon the first read, or even the tenth. The one benefit Moore and Gibbons had was that, from the very beginning, they new how and when their story would end. So they knew how to really use these "easter egg" devices and make them work as foreshadowing. With Lost, this has been more tricky; they've long known how they want their show to end (or so they claim), but until recently, they've never known if they really could end the show, or when they could end the show. So I prefer to see Lost's easter eggs as more thematic enhancements than clues to the answers of mysteries. For example: the use of Three Dog Night's song "Road to Shambala" in "Tricia Tanaka is Dead." Many have wondered if this song means that The Island is or is like the mythical Shambala. I don't think so: I think the song merely mirrors in tone and sentiment Hurley's arc from darkness to light. But I do for a fact that the song was chosen also to give all of us theorymongers something to chew on! But now that the Lost writers have an end date, we should pay closer attention to their easter eggs and odd details in the final three seasons: now, more than ever, they may hold clues to the endgame.
Jen Chaney: The fact that Doc just said we should pay closer attention to the Easter eggs has made me giddy.
Wow, I really am becoming Queen of the Geeks.
I, too, like that the randomness adds up. And, for the record, I also like the occasional Three Dog Night tune. If the "Lost" writers can work in "Mama Told Me Not to Come," that would be sweet. Doc, work your magic with those guys and make it happen.
Los Angeles: Remember that scene when Dr. Manhattan reappears right outside the window of Veidt's Antarctic retreat? And then he says, "You are just a man. And this world's smartest man means no more to me than its smartest termite."
No question, here, but that was pretty awesome.
What was your fave scene in the book?
Jen Chaney: I was awestruck by so many. I have to say that the few frames toward the end -- where you see Laurie and Dan embracing via silhouette, then see the same image in Rorschach's mask -- was amazing. Almost brought a tear to the eye.
Doc Jensen: The Dr Manhattan issue, when he experiences time all at once, blew me away. My fave individual scenes: The Comedian telling Moloch the story of what he saw on the plane--has the same creepy, myth-making vibe of an Orientation Film. Also, Rory's death.
Seattle: To quote "SuperTroopers," "Desperation is a stinky cologne." Isn't that one of the uniting themes between the two films. Ben's obsession with reproduction, James's search for Sawyer, Locke's vision quests (remember what happened to Boone?), etc., all parallel with the terrible decisions made in "Watchmen" -- that people who obsess become that which they behold...
Jen Chaney: I'm not sure if it's as simple as desperation, although I like the track you're on.
To say a variation on what you said, I think things from the past that crushed these characters' souls in some way wind up motivating them to do things they think are good but may not be, in the end. Ben, as you say, is a great example of this. And Locke, too. The "I DID IT!" that Veidt shouts at the end of "Watchmen" echoes, in a way, Locke's refrain: "Don't tell me what I can't do!" All of these people desperately want to be proved right and, by doing so, to justify that their lives were worth something.
Washington, D.C.: Talk about hiding in plain sight. The Watchmen art on this very page is the cover of of the aforementioned 80's roleplaying game, "Who Watches the Watchmen."
The game was created in collaboration with Alan Moore while he was writing Watchmen. According to interviews with Moore, it not only had his approval, but his input, and Gibbons did original Watchmen art for it that does not appear in the graphic novel. The game was created to extend the canon of Watchmen, and purists consider it part of the story.
Also, Alan Moore tucked an Ozymandias "Ziggurat of Death" role-playing game into Watchmen as an homage to it.
Not all Alan Moore adaptations go awry.
Jen Chaney: Great. Now you have blown my mind. Seriously. I will have to leave this planet and go hang on Mars for a while.
Doc Jensen: Wow. I'm on this ship with Jen.
Mt. Pleasant, Washington, D.C.: Okay, what exactly is Laurie smoking? That thing looks like a crack pipe. 'Splain, please.
Doc Jensen: If I recall correctly, that was just something Gibbons invented--he had a lot of fun inventing stuff for Moore's alterna-future, like the electricty hydrants, for example.
Alexandria, Va.: I am surprised that no one has mentioned any connection between the pirate story in Watchmen with its black ship and the pirate ship on the Island. Could Jacob be the shipwrecked sailor?
Jen Chaney: Hmmm ... I did notice the pirate connection. But I am not sure Jacob is the marooned man in the story. I personally didn't see any deeper meaning in it other than a surface acknowledgement -- "Hey, those guys are pirates like the ones on the Black Pearl! And they are referring to a freighter, and the freighter will factor into season four!" That's about as far as it went for me.
What about you, Doc?
Doc Jensen: Well, to be all geeky literal about it--that's a slave ship in Lost, not a pirate ship. But sure, I think they have a similar thematic function. The Black Freighter storyline illuminates the vibe and character arcs in Watchmen the same way The Black Rock enlightens Lost. All the Losties are slaves to something, and yearning for physical and spiritual liberation.
Alexandria, Va.: To start, I enjoyed "The Watchmen" so much that I went back and read "Watership Down" just to catch up with the reading. I know that there are Dr. Manhattan/Desmond parallels and it seems obvious that there are similarities between Laurie and Kate, i.e., multiple love interests and messed up parents, but are there other parallels? For example, Rorschach could be either John Locke or Sawyer. Finally, when reading the parts of "Watchmen" about talented and successful people disappearing, I was reminded of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged." I hope this is not the next book, it is too long.
Jen Chaney: We have talked about many of the parallels (I think this questions was submitted much earlier, so my fault for not addressing it sooner.)
Glad you went back and read "Watership." What a great book.
Re: the next book, I will announce it at the end of this chat. Clue: It's not "Atlas Shrugged." Clue 2: It's short.
Alexandria, Va.: I still consider "Watchmen" one of the greatest graphic novels ever. But what do you think of the merits of stories like the "Preacher" and "Y the Last Man"?
Doc Jensen: Preacher: great yarnspinning, great character work, but the story itself is vastly overrated, and its inherent critique of religion and Christianity in specific is shallow and shrill; a more intelligent but equally irreverent attitude would have made it a top ten all-time book for me. Still, I admit, I read every issue.
Y: The Last Man: pure genius, a form-pushing work. Love it.
Edinburgh, Scotland by way of Washington, D.C.: Great discussion so far, anything that can provoke a "Thundercats"shout out gets major kudos from me. You both have mentioned storytelling methods in "Watchmen" being critical to the Lost writers' modus operandi, I was thinking another way that this is seen is through all the pseudo-official Web sites that have sprung up throughout the shows run as offshoots on the plot, very similar to the short text only breaks in "Watchmen." Since I never have time to follow up on all those virtual "easter eggs" I hope we see them included on the final mega-set home video release of "Lost" as I think on reviewing they would be particularly useful to focus attention and ask more questions. Also, though I defer to your experience I think we may be more hesitant to embrace the inevitable durability of the world peace engineered at the end of "Watchmen." This is humanity we are speaking of (even in fictional terms) and Rorschach's diaries would be more than enough fuel to fire the doubt necessary to tear the faux utopia down (besides it would be sad to think we can only hope to be tricked into a positive future, not achieve it on our own).
Jen Chaney: Thanks, Edinburgh. I'll try to reference He-Man and/or She-Ra a little later in the program.
I am with you on the Easter eggs and how the mirror the use of other reference points in "Watchmen," something I think I mentioned earlier. It does strike me as a similar approach, one that "Lost" isn't the only show or movie to ever use. Although I think they use it more effectively than most.
As for Rorschach's diary, I absolutely agree that it would plant seeds of doubt and potentially undo the Utopia. That's why Jon tells Veidt that "Nothing ever ends." It's a different way of saying that old cliche that history always repeats itself and all of these developments are part of a cycle.
Ozymandias: Alvar Hanso is more the Ozzy type, because of the layers of shell companies and filters between him and the actual work being done for his vision (de Groots, et al). And it may be that Ben (Rory) and Jack (Night Owl), through their own investigations, are cogs in the machine.
The wheels-within-wheels aspect, the idea that there is no transparency of the overall scheme, is the origin of the Watchmen line
Doc Jensen: Ditto.
Jen Chaney: Ditto that ditto.
We should answer all our questions with "Ditto." These chats would just FLY.
fate: How about the theme of fate in "The Watchmen"? On one hand, you have Doc Manhattan, and man who can control the very forces that define the universe, believing that he can do nothing to affect the outcome of events that have been predetermined. And then you have Rorschach, who refuses to accept the inevitable even at the moment of his death. Ozymandias believes that all events can be controlled given enough information and manipulation. I see many parallels between Locke, who is a slave to fate, Jack, who refuses to give in even when faced with destruction, and then Ben, who is using superior intellect to manipulate events.
Doc Jensen: I've been meaning to raise that idea myself--great point. Totally agree re: fate.
Arlington, Va.: I loved the art style of the "Watchmen," there was something so literary about it. I especially love the motif of the 3x3 panels, alternating two scenes in parallel, one dark and one light so that they form what looks like an X. Also very well used in the scene with Comedian and Moloch, with the neon sign outside flashing on and off.
Jen Chaney: Absolutely. So much detail, it really is impossible to capture it all in just one read.
Pirate ship: I thought the stranded guy in the comic within the comic was like Jack who goes crazy once he gets off the island (but as of yet he hasn't resorted to escaping on the bodies of his comrades)
Jen Chaney: True, I noted that earlier. I saw a connection there, too. I doubt Jack will be a boat out of the corpses of Nikki and Paolo, though ... but some fans might really get a kick out of it if he did.
Jen Chaney: Just want to thank Jeff so, so much for joining us today. He had to take off, but he also thanks all of you for the great questions. (Good work, kids. You were nice to our special guest.)
As for the October choice for the "Lost" Book Club it is ... "The Turn of the Screw" by Henry James. Read all about it over on Celebritology, and be prepared to join us for another discussion on -- ooh, spooky -- Halloween. Namaste, everyone.
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