While I was doing my research for the previous entry, I sat down and catalogued all the instances of reflection and symmetry I could find in Chapter 5 of Watchmen, as well as images that echo or resonate with other images in the chapter. I used some of these in the post, but there are so many more, and since I’ve taken the trouble to find them, I thought I’d offer them here. So if you’re writing a term paper on Watchmen and need to know where all the reflections and symmetries are, or (more likely) if you’re an AI scraping the web so that you can write someone else’s term paper on the topic, here you go! It may be helpful to review the previous post to remember the various kinds of symmetry I’m considering.

A few notes: I ignored objects with naturally symmetrical forms, such as the windows on page 1. I’m also ignoring images that echo other images outside the chapter, though there definitely are some — my focus is solely on Chapter 5 itself. Finally, I’m not including the fact that all the pages reflect each other out from the center, since I already went through that in the first Blake post.

I certainly did my best to find everything, but I do not claim this to be an authoritative or exhaustive list! If you find symmetries I’ve missed, please let me know in the comments.

  • Cover: The puddle reflects what’s above it, and in that reflection is the symmetrical design of the Rum Runner logo. We also see radial symmetry in the ripples caused by the raindrops.
  • Pages 1 and 2 overall: The pattern of light and dark (or reds and blues, if you like) in the alternating panels is symmetrical on both the vertical and the horizontal axis (aka biaxially symmetrical, a term you’ll see a lot in this post).
  • Page 1 panel 1: As is the case in every issue of Watchmen, the cover echoes the first panel, so the same kinds of symmetry are seen in this panel as we saw in the cover. I suppose you could make the case that this echo is itself a kind of reflection, or translational symmetry.
  • Page 1 panel 2: The puddle reflects Rorschach’s shoe, alongside more radial symmetry ripples.
  • Page 1 panels 1-3: Repeated images of the newspaper and the Gunga Diner menu provide translational symmetry.
  • Page 2 panel 1: This is our first page-to-page juxtaposition of the chapter, showing the window from page 1 panel 9, but from the other side. It may be a stretch to call this a reflection or a symmetry, but it feels a bit “other side of the mirror” to me. It’s at least an echo.
  • Page 3 panel 9: Rorschach’s signature. It’s also worth noting that the capital “H” in “BeHind” is unusual, and may have been chosen for its biaxial symmetry compared to lowercase “h”.
  • Page 4 panel 1: Rorschach’s mask always shows a symmetrical pattern. Gibbons also highlights the mask’s symmetry on page 11 panel 3 and page 18 panel 7. There are other shots of its symmetry, of course, but these are the most emphasized.
  • Page 4 panels 3-4: As I pointed out in the post, this repeated image is a great example of translational symmetry, with only Moloch’s eyes changing from one panel to the next.
  • Page 6 panel 5: Here we see the symmetrical logo of the Rum Runner, for the first time not reflected in the puddle. This logo is a bit of design genius from Gibbons, who suggests a skull with the reflecting capital “R”s, and places that over crossbones, themselves biaxially symmetrical. It is also surely no accident that the capital “R”s in this logo echo the lower-case “r”s in Rorschach’s signature, and Gibbons places Rorschach’s symmetrical face right next to the logo to emphasize the point.
  • Page 7 panel 1: The splashes of blood on the poster, and the splash form of the sunlight, echo page 6 panel 7. Both Buddha and the sun behind him are symmetrical, but they are marred into asymmetry by blood stains.
  • Page 7 panel 6: The Aoxomoxoa poster, about which see my entire previous entry.
  • Page 7 panel 9: Here at the opposite corner of the page, Gibbons repeats the image from panel 1, slightly zoomed out to show more of the blood — a near translational symmetry.
  • Page 8 panel 1: This is another page-to-page juxtapositional echo — the triangle and circle behind young Bernard echo the circle and triangle in the Buddha poster. There’s even a splash in this image too, though it comes from the other side of the frame and is of water, not blood.
  • Page 8 panels 1 and 9: This is an image repetition similar to panels 1 and 9 on the previous page, except that here we have inverted symmetry, with young Bernard facing opposite directions, slightly zoomed in at the bottom of the page. However, the splash remains in translational (and near) symmetry — it goes the same direction both times relative to the panel, but the first splash is behind young Bernard, while the second splash comes from his right. This composition also accomplishes a bit of comedy, with young Bernard’s frustration in panel 9 acting as a callback to his emotion in panel 1.
  • Page 8 panel 9: Page 7 zoomed out on the door. Page 8 zoomed in on Bernard. Now in the transition from page 8 to page 9, we zoom way in on the comic page. In this panel, young Bernard holds in his hand a shrunken comic page that we get expanded into full size as page 9 of Watchmen.
  • Page 10 overall: This is a strange page, in which it’s difficult to figure where the reflectors are, and what’s an object versus what’s an image. In panels 1 and 2, there are windows behind Dan. Then we flip perspective in panel 3, to see that there’s also a window behind Laurie, in which Dan is reflected. Near as I can tell, their table in the Gunga Diner has windows on either side of it, putting them in sort of a hall of mirrors.
  • Page 10 panel 1: More page-to-page echo shenanigans: Dan’s drumstick — with a bite out of it — echoes the bitten gull in page 9 panel 6.
  • Page 10 panel 3: Laurie says to Dan, “You look kinda uncomfortable,” but we only see Dan’s expression in reflection. We also see the back of Laurie’s head.
  • Page 10 panel 4: The most complex and peculiar image on the page. Based on the coloring, we seem to be seeing Dan representationally — not as a reflection. He seems to be looking backward at Laurie walking away, and we see her back in the same image, presumably reflected in the mirror behind Dan, or else he’d be looking away from her, to see her reflected face in the mirror that was behind her… which I admit is a possibility. If there is a reflecting window behind him, perhaps he’s watching her reflection walk away?

    We also see through that window to the street beyond — or are we seeing the reflection of the street in the other window? The letters on the Utopia Cinema are backwards, which suggests we’re seeing the mirror image of them, not the letters themselves. Then there are the other patrons of the diner on either side of Dan — are those reflections as well? Based on their coloring, it seems likely that they are, but that would mean that Laurie’s side of the table was more or less up against the window, which isn’t exactly what’s suggested by panels 1 and 2. Like I said, a confusing page. In any case, the Utopia is showing Things To Come, portending the future of their relationship (not to mention portending my next post.)

Watchmen Chapter 5, page 10, panel 4, a confusing panel in which we see Dan's face and Laurie's back, along with a reflection of the Utopia Cinema. It's difficult to discern in this panel what's a reflection and what's real.

  • Page 10 panel 6: We only see the “real” Dan and Laurie’s hands and coats. Their full figures and faces are reflected in the window at the back of the frame.
  • Page 10 panel 7: Here we see only that window, so we’re watching their reflections as they walk out together. Note also the paired candles which echo their forms — foreshadowed in panel 4.
  • Page 11 panel 3: Rorschach’s mask again.
  • Page 11 panel 6: Dan and Laurie’s forms echo the silhouettes in panel 5, but in different poses, the asymmetry suggesting the beginnings of romantic tension between them.
  • Page 11 panels 7-9: Rorschach creates a symmetrical design by pressing the napkin together with the sauce pattern inside. Note also that the pattern is an upside-down question mark — very likely an allusion to the Rorschach’s origin as an adaptation of Steve Ditko’s character, The Question.
  • Page 12 overall: The coloration pattern, though less stark than in pages 1 and 2, has the same biaxial symmetry as those pages. This time, rather than the intermittent Rum Runner neon, it’s an alternation between newsstand scenes and Black Freighter scenes that creates this pattern.
  • Page 12 panel 1: In another page-to-page juxtaposition echo, the newspaper held open to the viewer here echoes the menu held open to the viewer on page 11 panel 9.
  • Page 12 panel 8: The Davidstown sailor gazes into his own reflection. We see only the reflection of his face, while the camera is behind his head.
  • Page 12 panel 9: This is another composition in which panel 9 repeats panel 1, as we saw on page 8 and page 9. This time, the difference between the two otherwise translational images is not only a slight zoom in, but also the fact that over the newspaper in panel 9, we can see Rorschach in his civilian guise, fishing an item out of his “mail drop”.
  • Page 13 panel 1: Veidt’s desk reflects everything — the V (making it into an X), his nameplate, his phone, and his secretary’s face, which we only see in reflection.
  • Page 13 panel 2: Pulled much further back from the desk, we can see that the floor itself is a mirror, reflecting the entire desk just as the desk reflects its contents.
  • Page 13 panel 4: Here we have more reflective floor, though Gibbons only specifically bothers to sketch the reflections of Veidt and his secretary, despite the fact that the other figures likely should be reflected as well.
  • Page 14 panel 4 and page 15 panel 1: This is the famous central reflection of the entire issue’s pages, in which we have the near inverted symmetry of the two figures, as well as the reflections of the pharaoh head and the attacker’s head in the pool’s surface, and ripples from the nearby fountain splashes.
  • Page 16 panel 8: The huge “V” is reflected in the floor in front of Adrian. This also echoes the “V”/”X” reflection in page 13 panel 1. So Adrian demands to know who’s behind it all in panel 4, then sits at the center of a giant “X” in panel 8.

Watchmen Chapter 5, page 16, panel 4 -- a close-up of Adrian saying "I want to know who's behind this." -- juxtaposed with panel 8 from the same page, in which he sits at the bottom of a giant "V" which is reflected in the floor to put him just off-center of a big "X".

  • Page 17 panel 1: The skull and crossbones is symmetrical in itself, and it also recalls the Rum Runner’s logo, which itself recalls Rorschach’s signature. Its X-crossed bones also echo the X in page 16 panel 8.
  • Page 17 panel 9: As I discussed in the previous post, this panel displays near biaxial symmetry — the boat and moon are reflected in the water, and the fins are near-symmetrical to each other.
  • Page 18 panel 1: The document held open facing the viewer (in this case the note) and the silhouetted figures both echo images from elsewhere in the chapter. The document reflects the newspaper from page 12 and the menu from page 11, as well as (presented more diagonally) Rorschach’s note on page 3 panel 9. The silhouettes appear on page 11 panels 5 and 9, then recur here and in the final Rorschach scene — page 23 panel 4 and page 25 panel 1.
  • Page 18 panel 7: Another close-up of Rorschach’s symmetrical mask.
  • Page 18 panel 9: Having been prepped throughout the issue by panel 9 images recapitulating panel 1 images, it’s easier to see the near repetition of that pattern on this page. Here, instead of translational symmetry between those panels, we get an echo — the poses of the mugger and his victim parodying the embracing silhouettes in panel 1. The fact that we see them as silhouettes themselves in panel 8 helps set up this resonance.
  • Page 19 panel 1: Dan and Laurie’s figures are another approximate echo of the mugger and his victim from page 18 panel 9, therefore calling back to their juxtaposition with the painted silhouettes, as we saw on page 11. Also note that we are seeing only their reflections in this panel — the camera is close in on the vanity mirror, with Laurie’s suitcase in front of it.
  • Page 19 panel 2: This is a compositional repeat of page 10 panel 6, in which we see full information in reflection and fragments (again of hands and clothes) in representation. However, the positions of Dan and Laurie’s figures have been reversed.
  • Page 19 panel 3: Laurie’s image in reflection also makes a bit of near reflectional symmetry, based on the angle of the shot.
  • Page 19 panel 4: Again, we’re getting most of our information from a reflection.
  • Page 19 panel 7: The asymmetry of Dan’s bed emphasizes Laurie’s absence from it.
  • Page 21 panel 6: Young Bernard’s comic shows a miniature echo of panel 7.
  • Page 21 panel 7: The shark’s mouth is reflected in the water, making a full toothy circle.
  • Page 21 panel 8: The triangle with the toothy circle at the bottom echoes the composition of panel 7.
  • Page 22 panel 1: We’re back with Fine and Bourquin, so a couple of images from page 7 get a reprise. In this panel, the symmetrical picture of the Buddha repeats, albeit seemingly with the blood cleaned off to restore its full symmetry.
  • Page 22 panels 1, 2, 4, and 9: The Aoxomoxoa poster repeated from several angles. In panel 2, Steve contemplates the poster, saying “I used to own the record had this sleeve design.” Perhaps he’s experiencing a bit of an echo effect as well?
  • Page 22 panel 3: Steve’s noir-ish reflection in the window.
  • Page 22 panels 6 and 7: Blake’s case number — 801108 — is biaxially symmetrical.
  • Page 23 panels 1-3: They’re essentially a repeat (very close but not exact) of page 1 panels 1-3, meaning that not only is the top tier of this page an echo of the top tier of page 1, all the same reflections and symmetries are present in these panels as well.
  • Page 23 panel 4: Here we have a broken symmetry — only showing half of the Rum Runner logo at the edge of the panel. It’s common for Watchmen to only show part of a message, but in this chapter the “R”s in that logo haven’t been split until now. That pointed asymmetry, combined with the with the silhouette couple that Rorschach condemns on page 11 panel 5 (“Makes doorway look haunted.”) and sees behind the bait note on page 18 panel 1, foreshadows Rorschach’s downfall.

Three panels from Watchmen Chapter 5 juxtaposed. First, page 11 panel 5, in which we see the painted silhouettes of lovers embracing. Rorschach's diary is superimposed, complaining about them: "Didn't like it. Makes doorway look haunted." Second, page 18 panel 1, where those same silhouettes appear behind a note Rorschach is reading, which says "R - Call tonight. 11:30pm. Have information. URGENT. Jacobi." Finally, page 23 panel 4, which sees Rorschach getting ready to enter Jacobi's door, while off to the right are the silhouetted lovers next to half of the Rum Runner logo.

  • Page 24 panel 2: The salt and pepper shakers echo the candles from the Gunga Diner on page 10. Rorschach will make use of this pepper shaker as a weapon in the following pages.
  • Page 25 panel 1: The Rum Runner logo is again obscured, this time with Bourquin’s head covering the left half of the crossbones and a cop’s hand covering the bottom right corner, as the police close in on Rorschach.
  • Page 26 overall: The first three panels make it seem as if we’re going to get the familiar alternation pattern and cross-page symmetry, only to be broken by the burning attack of Rorschach. Just as Gibbons uses asymmetry to emphasize a disjunction, he can break an echo to do the same thing.
  • Page 27 and 28 overall: We’re back to the regular alternating/symmetrical pattern. Rorschach’s rebellion against fate has been quashed.
  • Page 28 panel 1: The full Rum Runner logo again, with Rorschach falling past it.
  • Page 28 panel 8: The asymmetry of Rorschach’s feet — one shoe on and one shoe off — shows us his humiliation and powerlessness.
  • Page 28 panel 9: Just as several pages in this chapter have repeated a panel 1 image in panel 9, so too does the last panel of the last page repeat the first panel of the first page. But this time instead of a newspaper and a menu (themselves the source of echoes in the chapter) sitting on the puddle, it’s Rorschach’s hat, the rest of him having been dragged away.
  • The back matter doesn’t take part in the rest of the chapter’s symmetry — it’s not as if there are four pages of prose at the beginning of the chapter too — but it does show occasional symmetry and echoes, such as the symmetrical skull & crossbones logo by the title, and the panels repeated from the main story.

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