The Colossus Crawls West

The acquisition of knowledge is not progression from point A to point B. There in fact, is no point B. The Colossus crawls ever westward, overlapping its own footprints, making new impressions in the Earth.

Countdown: The Representation of Time Through Dave Gibbons’ Art in “Watchmen”


When Watchmen is discussed, it is usually attributed primarily to its author Alan Moore, who also wrote other popular works such as From Hell or V For Vendetta. The art by Dave Gibbons however, is arguably just as, if not more important at certain points than the dialogue or text present. One of the motifs throughout the book concerns the countdown to nuclear war represented by the increasingly blood-covered pages featuring a doomsday clock at the end of each chapter. These illustrations, like many of the panels throughout the book depict the gradual but constant movement of time. While many (if not most) comics depict the passage of time through panels, but Watchmen sees time progresses from panel to panel in seemingly uniform intervals, like the second hands on a clock. Pages play out almost cinematically and seem to represent events which are constantly unfolding, rather than a snapshot or mere static illustration. The character Rorschach wears a mask made of special fabric, the design of which slightly shifts from panel to panel.

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 7.16.02 PMScreen Shot 2013-04-02 at 7.15.11 PMThe art tells the reader that the comic is in constant motion, that every event in the story, every second is ticking by unimpeded and lumbering towards the book’s bloody climax. There are no panels where nothing is happening, even the panels used as introductions to the chapters are part of the progression of time. The first chapter opens with a close up of a smiley face button sitting in blood. In this single image the blood is drawn in a way that tells the reader it is in motion; it pools around the button, it is not a puddle but a moving mass of material. the scene then zooms out panel by panel, second by second cinematically until we reach the window where the inciting crime of the book takes place. The image in chapter 2 depicts a statue in the rain which seems to be weeping. The statue is sitting in the cemetery which serves as the setting for the beginning of the chapter and the rain is falling on the characters as they pass by. When the disaster near the book’s conclusion takes place, time seems to be slowed down, and shown panel by panel, but it is never stopped; the glow of the explosion consumes the population of New York more and more with each passing second.

Watchmen full 1 to 12 . Pdf version

The inability to prevent imminent disaster is shown through dialogue as well, such as when the main antagonist reveals his master plan because he “did it 35 minutes ago” (11.27) or in the God-like Dr. Manhattan’s final words to the same antagonist “Nothing ends. Nothing ever ends.” (12.27) These lines follow the same kind of theme of an unstoppable clock which continues even past midnight and forever into the future. Through the art, however, the reader is taken along with the characters, and each panel read is a second which passes and is never regained. Watchmen presents time much as it represents Dr Manhattan: cold, but not cruel, seemingly short, but eternal and unstoppable.


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This entry was posted on April 2, 2013 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , .

Jamel Colvin
Language, Literature, and Writing Major at Eastern Michigan University.
Student of literary theory, psychology, and culture. Strong beer, strong coffee, and 4 gigs of research.


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