In this episode: Dr. Peter Coogan joins the crew to discuss his theory that the sequel to Watchmen doesn’t need to be written, because it already has…

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Take the jump for all the clues provided by Dr. Coogan, then follow along in the show and hear it all unfold.

Clues to the sequel to Watchmen
By Peter Coogan

This reading of Watchmen was inspired by a comment by Sara J. Van Ness in Watchmen as Literature (McFarland, 2010). She pointed to the excerpt from Under the Hood in chapter 1 and the paperclipped note on its first page, “‘We present here excerpts from Hollis Mason’s autobiography, UNDER THE HOOD, leading up t the time when he became the masked adventurer, Nite Owl. Reprinted with permission of the author’ (27). This ‘we’ is the novels only reference to the narrator” (p. 61). This comment inspired me to track down the identity of the narrator and it led to a series of discoveries about the novel.

Read through these clues and see if you can figure out why there is no need for a sequel to Watchmen.

How did Moore and Gibbons build the sequel into the text?

  • These clues assume that Watchmen has been published diagetically (diagetic = in the world of the story).
  • What does the diagetic publication of Watchmen imply about Veidt’s status in 1986?
  • Who probably owns DC Comics in the world of Watchmen and what does that probable imply or indicate?
  • I.9.4. What do Under the Hood and Gladiator have in common? What book is missing from Hollis Mason’s bookshelf? How is Hollis Mason’s authorship of Under the Hood connected to the authorship/source of the diagetic Watchmen?
  • D1-1. Under the Hood excerpt. In the paperclipped note, who is “we”, where is “here”, and how do they have the permission of the author, Hollis Mason, who is dead? Who has inherited Hollis Mason’s copyright of Under the Hood.
  • IV.15. Who has access to this conversation between Hollis Mason and Dr. Manhattan after Mason’s retirement?
  • D-6. Who would have the ability to get Kovac’s arrest report and various childhood files? Or Malcom Long’s notebooks?
  • VII.13-15. Who has access to the story of Dan and Laurie’s failed lovemaking?
  • D-7. Why is “Blood from the Shoulder of Pallas” included? It doesn’t reveal anything about the background of the characters. It doesn’t supply any real information that contributes to an understanding of the larger story.
  • IX. Who has access to Jon and Laurie’s conversation on Mars? This is a crucial conversation (more so than some of the invented conversations discussed below in the “Problems” section) because it explains why Jon returned to Earth and would therefore offer a real selling point for the book.
  • D-9. Who has access to Sally Jupiter’s scrapbook?
  • D-10. Who could have taken a picture of Veidt’s desktop, with calendar?
  • XI. Who has access to Veidt’s discussions with Dan and Rorschach at Karnak?
  • XII. Who has access to the events at Karnak?
  • XII.20 What does the publication of Watchmen mean about Dan and Laurie’s agreement to keep Veidt’s plan secret?

Problems with this theory:
It seems unlikely that Moore and Gibbons intended this reading of Watchmen as they initially only planned 6 issues and originally intended to run letter pages after issue three and so included Under the Hood excerpts only as a placeholder until letter pages started. Moore originally planned to use MLJ’s Mighty Crusader characters and so started the story with the death of the Shield. All of these arguments are versions of the intentional fallacy (
Watchmen was published in September 1986, so the turnaround time from October of 1985 is problematic, but not impossible.
Some of the depiction of the characters has to be declared fictional or speculative under this theory: All the Bernie/Bernard interaction at the newsstand, the Shea/Hira interaction on the island and the freighter, the police officers interaction in chapter 5 (and elsewhere), Godfrey and Seymour at the New Frontiersman, Veidt’s interactions with his servants and his role in their deaths. But some of these interactions could have been recorded by Veidt in his bugging and so might have been found. And other interactions might have come out of Congressional testimony, other investigations, or interviews published as part of the coverage of the revelations of Veidt’s role in the squid attack (such as the war room in chapter 10).
Likely the inclusion of Tales of the Black Freighter is symbolic, either on the part of the source or “Moore” and “Gibbons” (the diagetic versions of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons). It’s also likely that many of the other texts mentioned in the book (e.g. The Day the Earth Stood Still, “The Architects of Fear”) are also symbolic.


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  1. Holy Shish-Kebab.
    I read Watchmen only lately (I was 6 when it came out) and I had the same feeling as I had the first year of med-school: “This sure is heavy, and I just know that I ain’t getting it all!”

    The Doktors breakdown in this episode of MSP blew my mind. Its so esoteric and still, it’s all right there! In your face.

    Pleace, pleace, pleace Dr. Coogan would you be as kind, as to do a breakdown of Locke and Key on MSP.

    Thank you all, for a truely “Unforgettable” episode ;)

  2. Dr Coogan always hits it out of the ballpark. Wow.

    This podcast and “Matthew’s theory” … how do you guys do it?

    I have been reading Watchmen for over 30 years. Over and over and over. And there is still so much I do not know.

    When will it ever end?

    ” ‘In the end’? Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.”


  3. About the “problem with the teory”
    -Godfried and Seymours conversation would be recounted under the investigation.
    -The “Policeman talk” would Dan have accest to. We “know” by now that he has acces to some police files.
    -Veidt would never deny killing his servants. Most likely he would brag about it on at recording before taking his own life, as you guys sugested.
    -The Bernie/Bernard interaction would be the fictional Moore’s artistic touch to the story.

    Now that the signs are there the “Dan is the guy telling this story” teory is the most obvius one.

  4. This was deep…incredibly so. Pulled out my copy of Watchmen to re-read some of the inserted non-comic material. I think part of me had always wondered what Veidt thought after Jon’s last comment of nothing ever ends….and knowing that the New Frontiersman had Rorschach’s journal so that indeed, it was not going to end….Veidt killing himself in that world’s near future makes perfect sense. And the fact that Dan is now writing the whole story – also very logical. If nothing else, wouldn’t he want to get the full story out there instead of the sensationalist rag of the New Frontiersman? You know a paper like that is just going to muck up the story, make it more sensational than it even actually was, getting the facts backwards and wrong. Amazing podcast. Mind = blown.

  5. I have 4 of the Tec run of Elegy and a CBR for the full run…but hearing that I will be discussed by the good Doctor and his MS companions, I needed to run out and get the trade yesterday. It helps that the new Issue 1 was so good, also.

  6. Every week I look forward to the Major Spoilers take on whichever story the guys are focusing on. The talks are always intelligent and entertaining and it’s specifically because of the interactions between Matthew, Rodrigo, and Stephen and their various takes on art, story, and their own personal tastes and experiences which they bring to the table.

    When Dr. Koogan comes to the show with his specific academic background, he brings a completely new dimension to these talks. Fantastic show this weekend, guys. It prompted me to break out my copy of “Watchmen” and follow along.

    I hope Dr. Koogan can join the show more often for these types of discussions. It’s like being back in my coolest college literature classes again.

  7. Only having heard the early part of the podcast, the problem I have with this theory is why is it assumed that Watchmen (as we read it) was published in and read by the people of Earth-Watchmen?

    • Only having heard the early part of the podcast, the problem I have with this theory is why is it assumed that Watchmen (as we read it) was published in and read by the people of Earth-Watchmen?

      I believe that Dr. Coogan stated that the theory is predicated on that as one of the tenets you have to accept for the whole thing to hang together.

      • I do believe you are correct, sir. Having now heard the entire podcast earlier today, just a few scattered comments:

        – The version of this book on Earth-Watchmen could’ve been transliterated into a prose-only book. I’m not sure that a “retelling of the events” would count as a sequel to the event itself.

        – Since the extras, like the excerpts from “Under The Hood” were presented to us to flesh out the world of Watchmen I do question if those would be published with book that told of these events. In the context presented, they looked to me to have been shown to have been published in magazines and books before the events presented in Watchmen happened, though FWIW, I think it likely that Dan would’ve ended up with control of the estate, though how Dan taking a new identity would affect that is a good question.

        – While I agree that Dan and Laurie would be the ones who’d have the easiest time getting all the information presented, they lack motive. WHY publish the tale of “what really happened”? The only reasoning I could figure would be a tell-all biography from one, the other, or even both, and that what we read was just part of what was in there.

        – In addition to Veidt possibly being able to get access to all of the happenings, I’d add Sally Jupiter as well. She seemed to still be interested in money and, as far as we know, she never took another identity like Laurie and Dan. And she could possibly have access to all of the information pertaining to this that Dan and/or Laurie recorded in some fashion. Plus it might be a way to get back at Veidt for having killed the father of her child (The Comedian).

  8. First love critical hit and Major spoilers podcasts many thanks for both. Just to give some balance to comments above, I did find the episode interesting but not in a good way. For me this is a fascinating peek into academia’s deconstruction to ridiculous levels. ‘Analysis’ of this type is what has given many teens a hatred of Shakespeare. The central premise that Watchmen is diagetic has no basis in fact or intent of author. It exists purely to fuel intellectual surgery. I have nothing against intellectual flights of fancy but I prefer them in the form of a creation rather than pulling apart a work of art only to find paintsplatters on the floor. I have no problem with Matthew’s Franklin Richards theory for instance.

    Leave comics alone academia you have already turned generations away from literature.

  9. So let’s see if I’ve got this right.

    Rorschach’s journal is legible and the New Frontiersman decide to publish it. Probably because they still don’t trust Russia and they hate Veidt as a bleeding heart liberal who also turns out to be a mass murderer.

    The resulting furor plus evidence retrieved from the Squid lead the authorities to tackle Veidt who greets them with the spoiler that “I killed myself 35 minutes ago”.

    Dan and Laurie are hiding under assumed names. Something goes wrong, maybe Laurie finally matures into a genuine super-heroine in her own right instead of acting as a sidekick to her mother/Jon/Nite-Owl. Dan finds it difficult to cope with the new Laurie, his “problem” returns and they split up.

    In the aftermath of the Veidt revelation maybe the shaky peace has continued or maybe the Doomsday clock has started ticking again. The embittered Dan decides to tell the story from the point of view of himself and his friend Rorschach who he misses. By this time he has assumed the pen-name of Alan Moore and using his familiarity with boyhood adventure stories, myths and legends he pitches a comic book version of the Squid-pocalypse to “DC” who decide to publish it in a monthly book with back matter culled from Dan’s files and clippings. By this time DC must know who Dan is, or they believe that Moore has a direct line to Dan (his secret identity?) because he can convince them that he has the legal rights to Hollis Mason’s book and the other stuff.

    So what we’re reading is Dan’s recollections, or his version of what really happened?

  10. Umm, wow. It’s nice to see that the idea was more complex than the little idea that I came up with. I absolutely love the fact that you think Dan compiled it all. That’s just great.
    Even with the problems of this theory, I think it fits together really well, and it’s great that Dr. Coogan has thought about it enough to come up with this theory in the first place.

    I must say, that I think it holds together better than my personal theory that Disney Pixar Cars is a prequel to the Michael Bay Transformers movies.
    Basically, Cars takes place in the early days of Cybertron, and in the 3rd film….. Lightning Mcqueen learns how to transform and becomes the first Prime.
    Cool, right? What? It isn’t? Aaaaaww……..

    • Michael H Stakes on

      Omfg best comment I’ve ever read hands down!!!! That sir was hilarious and strikingly a better concept than any transformers movie shown in theaters.
      My hats off to you.

  11. Great comments everyone. I’m glad you appreciate my commentary and I’m looking forward to reading Batwoman: Elegy with Stephen, Matthew, and Rodrigo and talking about the distinction between female superheroes and superheroines.

    The idea of Dan becoming Alan Moore was just a joke; we didn’t mean that seriously.

    Regarding Ian’s comment, “The central premise that Watchmen is diagetic has no basis in fact or intent of author. It exists purely to fuel intellectual surgery.” Not quite. The diagetic Watchmen answers the question of who is “we” and where is “here” that is posed by the paperclipped notes attached to the documents.

    Incidentally, I made an error in the podcast in regards to the “Treasure Island Treasury of Comics.” On the podcast, I thought that the note “with the permission of the author and publishers” referred in part to DC Comics, but it in fact referred to Flint Editions, so diagetic Watchmen could be published by DC Comics.

    I rered Sara J. Van Ness’ discussion of this issue in Watchmen as Literature and she discusses narrator candidates, specifically Seymour and Dan/Laurie, but she does not get into the implications of the publication of Watchmen for Veidt’s plan. Her book is an amazing analysis of Watchmen and well worth reading (though since it’s a McFarland book, it’s on the expensive side and so you might want to get it from a library). She points out that the paperclipped notes and other aspects of the document appendicies indicate that the copy we have is the paste-up version of Watchmen, not a published version of the book. So that means it is not yet published in the world of the Watchmen, but that doesn’t change my conclusions as Dan would not have fed the information to Alan Moore (or DC Comics) without Veidt’s plan having been exposed and Veidt being dead, in prison, or on the run, with dead the most likely outcome.

    I’ll talk to Stephen about doing something with Locke and Key.

    If you really want to blow your mind, go check out the theory that Calvin grew up to be Jack and Hobbes to be Tyler Durden. It’s freaky cool!

    And here’s a link to the essay and trailer:

  12. I wonder if you dismissed the idea of Laurie being the author a little too quickly.
    I’ll refer you to the discussion of her earrings. At the end of the book, her earrings are simple yellow circles, which you note as being symbolic of her new life with the blonde hair, etc.
    But there is another character with yellow circles as his symbol, specifically the Comedian’s smiley faces.

    Laurie has come to the realization of who her father is, and is suggesting a costume like his to Dan.
    If she is following in her father’s footsteps, presenting this information to the public would clearly be a move the Comedian would make.

  13. Michael H Stakes on

    What would this all mean now that DC is publishing The DOOMSDAY CLOCK series?
    Would it just be an comic in the world of Watchmen-Earth?
    Are WE just another work of literature in the Watchmen-Earth!?
    How do we know this Dr. Coogan isn’t the author himself? I feel a Stephen King theme here….. This better not end with a Man in Black fleeing across the desert…..

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