""At Midnight, All the Agents..."": NYPD Detectives Steve Fine and Joe Bourquin investigate the murder of Edward Blake, who was thrown out from his apartment home and fell many stories down to his death. The detectives conclude that Blake's assailant(s) were rather strong to subduing Blake given
- The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout "Save us!"... and I'll look down and whisper "No."
Appearing in "At Midnight, All the Agents..."
- Rorschach (First appearance)
- Adrian Veidt (First appearance)
- Doctor Manhattan (First appearance)
- Daniel Dreiberg (First appearance)
- Edward Blake (First appearance; dies)
- Hollis Mason (First appearance)
- Laurel Juspeczyk (First appearance)
- A Doomsayer
- Gerald Ford (In a photograph only)
- Minutemen (In a photograph only)
- New York City Police Department
- Detective Steve Fine
- Detective Joe Bourquin
- Sally Jupiter (Mentioned only)
- New York City
- Happy Harry's
- Mason's Garage
- Rockefeller Military Research Center
- Veidt Enterprises
- Owlship (Cameo)
Synopsis for "At Midnight, All the Agents..."
NYPD Detectives Steve Fine and Joe Bourquin investigate the murder of Edward Blake, who was thrown out from his apartment home and fell many stories down to his death. The detectives conclude that Blake's assailant(s) were rather strong to subduing Blake given the latter's large and stronger physique, and the sturdiness of the glass that Blake was thrown out. The detectives decide to cover up the investigation in order to avoid interference from the vigilante Rorschach.
That night, however, Rorschach enters Blake's apartment and search the rooms until finding a compartment containing weapons, a leather costume, and a picture of the Minutemen. Rorschach realizes that Edward Blake was the American government-sponsored costumed adventurer known as the Comedian.
Meanwhile, Dan Dreiberg is visiting Hollis Mason at the latter's home where they discuss about their time as the Nite Owl. After their time is over, Dan returns to his apartment to find his door broken in, and finding Rorschach awaiting him and helping himself to a can of cold beans. Rorschach informs news of the Comedian's death to Dan, who then propose having their discussion in his workshop in the basement, where it serves as storage for Dan's Nite Owl equipment. Rorschach informs him of his investigation into Edward Blake's death. Dan suggest that given Blake's services and history, his murder could have been a political killing in response to his actions in toppling Marxist Republics in South America. But Rorschach propose another theory that someone is attempting to eliminate costumed heroes. Dan is skeptical of his idea, but Rorschach points out that the Comedian had made a lot of enemies for the past forty years. Rorschach soon leaves but not before giving The Comedian's blood-stained smiley face badge that he found to Dan.
Rorschach later takes his investigation to a seedy bar called Happy Harry's, where the owner and patrons very fearfully known him well. He talks to Harry in needing information to Blake's death, which Harry honestly doesn't know. When one man named Steve mocks Rorschach, who then start breaking the man's two fingers and again demanding everyone for knowing about Blake's murder while continuing to torturing Steve. But no one knows, so Rorschach releases Steve and leaves.
Rorschach visit Adrian Veidt, a retired hero formerly known as Ozymandias and current billionaire, at his office. Veidt shares the same suggestion that Blake's murder was a political killing, perhaps committed by the Soviets. Rorschach considered it otherwise, as the Soviets never dared to antagonize America because of having their possession of the superhuman operative Dr. Manhattan since 1965, and stick to his masked killer theory. Though Veidt further explains that the Comedian had many political enemies other than the Soviets, claiming that Blake's reputation made him "practically a Nazi." Rorschach defends Blake from Veidt's remark, stating that Blake stood up for his country, never allowed anyone to retire him, and not even selling his image - unlike Veidt. The billionaire remains unaffected by Rorschach's words, as he discuss that he chose to retire prior to the passing of the Police Strike and Keene Act that outlawed unsanctioned vigilantes.
Rorschach then goes to warn Doctor Manhattan and Laurie Juspeczyk at Rockefeller Military Research Center. The couple were already informed of Blake's murder by their government superiors in which Manhattan recalls the C.I.A. suspects the Libyans were responsible. Manhattan remains unconcerned when Rorschach propose his masked killer theory, explaining that he sees life and death as "unquantifiable abstracts." Laurie is very unsympathetic of Blake, calling him a monster and that he had tried to rape her mother when they were both in the Minutemen. Her statements on Blake ends up in an argument with Rorschach, who defends Blake's behavior. Due to upsetting Laurie, Manhattan teleports Rorschach outside of the facility.
Laurie decide to calling Dan Dreiberg out for dinner at Rafael's. Manhattan politely decline to join as he is occupied on finishing his research that would validate supersymmetrical theory. Laurie discuss with Dan about regretting her old life as the second Silk Spectre and her relationship with Jon, which she mentions that the government kept her at Rockefeller is to keep Jon relaxed and happy. Though Laurie and Dan enjoys recalling the story of an old villain that only pretended to be a super-villain to get beaten up, laughing at their times as costumed heroes.
Appearing in "Under the Hood"
- Fred Motz
- Hooded Justice
- Moe Vernon
- Mr. Mason
Synopsis for "Under the Hood"
Hollis Mason starts his book by recalling his decision to write a book by turning to a writer named Denise, who had written forty-two stories but never published them, for advice. Denise told him to start with the saddest thing he could think of to get sympathy, "after that, believe me, it's a walk." Hollis dedicates his book, Under the Hood to Denise.
Hollis's story began when his father brought his family to New York City from his grandfather's farm in Montana. In 1928, Hollis' father worked in Vernon's Auto Repairs off of Seventh Avenue and made enough income to support the family. In hindsight, Hollis realized his father's dedication to his job in repairing cars means to him. Hollis made occasional trips to the auto repair shop with his father and met the employer, Moe Vernon who was a opera buff and has a peculiar sense of humor.
One day in 1933, after Hollis' seventeenth birthday, he was with his father at the repair shop when Joe Vernon received a letter from his wife Beatrice and learned that for two years she has been sleeping with Vernon's senior and trusted mechanic, Fred Motz, and she has withdrew all the money from their joint bank number and left with Motz for Tijuana. Vernon became emotionally devastated, in which he had his gramophone playing "The Ride of the Valkyries" at maximum volume until he emerged wearing his gag breast harness to tell his employees that his wife committed adultery. His staff misinterpreted this gesture and laughed uproariously at what seemed an inspired bit of humor. But eventually everyone realized of their mistake and one of them went to apologized Vernon, who then claimed that he is fine.
After the employees left that night, Vernon committed suicide by inhaling carbon monoxide fumes. Vernon's brother took over his business and later re-employed Fred Motz. Since then, Hollis considered "The Ride of the Valkyries" the saddest thing he could think of due to Vernon's death.
By 1939, at the age of twenty-three, Hollis had taken a job on the New York City police force and tried to examine what could lead him to that career choice, his first notion being his grandfather, who introduce a certain set of moral values and conditions upon Hollis. Throughout his career, Hollis became disgusted with the types of people that he dealt ranging from pimps, pornographers, protection artists, pedophiles, and rapists. Because of this, Hollis upset his parents by loudly wishing he was back in Montana.
In the autumn of the same year, Hollis learned of a news story concerning of an attempted assault and robbery in Queens. A young man and his girlfriend were walking home from a movie theater when they are set upon by a gang of three armed men. They stole the couple of their belongings before beating up the young man while threatening to assault his girlfriend. At this point, a masked figure attacked the criminals with such severity that they required their hospitalization, and that one man lost the use of his legs due to a spinal injury. The witnesses' recounting was confused and contradictory.
A week later, the same masked figure appear again in stopping a stick-up robbery at a supermarket. The robbers surrendered immediately when one of them was brutally beaten by the vigilante. Eyewitnesses described the vigilante as a 'tall man, built like a wrestler, who wore a black hood and cape and also wore a noose around his neck.' The news press dubbed the masked adventurer in their headlines as 'Hooded Justice.' Hollis became fascinated by the Hooded Justice and decided to be 'the second.' He has found his vocation.
- This issue is reprinted in the Watchmen trade paperback and Absolute hardcover edition.
- The title of this issue is taken from Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row." The lyrics of the song appears at the ending of this issue: "At midnight, all the agents and superhuman crew, go out and round up everyone who knows more than they do."
- Rorschach's initial statement in his journal: "Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach," foreshadows the incident that led to Rorschach becoming a more unhinged vigilante in issue #6.
- The Doomsayer holding the "The End is Nigh" sign on page 4 makes sporadic appearances throughout the course of the series until his significance and true identity is revealed in issue #5.
- A newspaper headline reading "Russia Protests US Adventurism in Afghanistan" is a reversed version of real-world events in which (at the time of the publishing of Watchmen) the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and ended in 1989, and was opposed by the United States and other nations. This later becomes important in the story in issue #3.
- The last page of the issue reverses the composition of the first page, with the viewpoint traveling from close-up of the smiley-face button to a high vantage point.
- The Doomsday Clock shows 12 minutes before midnight, the same time that is displayed on the front and back covers of the issue.
- The phrase "Who Watches the Watchmen?" is first seen spray-painted on the bay door of Hollis Mason's auto-garage (pp. 9). The phrase appears sporadically throughout the title and is popularly recognized as a tagline for the series as a whole.
- In the foreground where Detectives Fine and Bourquin are leaving the apartment building (1:4:3) there is a headline on the newspaper states "Vietnam 51st State: Official!" The results of the Vietnam War in the world of Watchmen is later elaborate in issue #4.
- On Hollis Mason's bookshelf, right next to two copies of Under the Hood, is Philip Wylie's science fiction novel Gladiator. The book has been cited as the inspiration for Superman.
- The can of Heinz baked beans Rorschach is eating (1:10:8) has "58" just visible (likely for "58 varieties"). In our world the founder of the Heinz corporation decided in 1892 on the tag line "57 varieties" for his products.
- On the building's window sill where Rorschach is standing on is a "Stick with Dick in 84" poster (1:14:4). This is an appeal to vote for Richard Nixon for his fifth term in office as President of the United States, his first term having commenced in January of 1969. Nixon's unlimited term of office is explain in issue #4.
- In front of Happy Harry's (1:14:5) is a newspaper with the headline: "Congress Approves Lunar Silos". This seems to indicate that the Outer Space Treaty, which prohibit weapons of mass destruction in orbit of Earth, either abrogated or never came into effect.
- In Veidt's office is a poster for his benefit performance for Indian Famine Relief. Veidt gives his televised performance in issue #7.
- On Veidt's desk is a New York Gazette with the headline, "Nuclear Doomsday Clock Stands at Five to Twelve Warn Experts" and "Geneva Talks: U.S. Refuses to Discuss Dr. Manhattan." The "Geneva Talks" is likely an allusion to the Geneva meeting between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Mikhail Gorbachev in November 1985 to discuss the international arms race.
- Gluino, as mentioned by Manhattan, is the supersymmetric partner of gluon, the exchange for strong force between quarks. Supersymmetry predicts the existence of gluons, and the discovery of a gluino would go a long way toward confirming the theory. In the real world, without the assistance of Dr. Manhattan, research continues through the use of the CERN Large Hadron Collider, the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, and other high-energy facilities. "Bestiary" is a scientific vernacular for a listing of the subatomic particles that make up all matter.
- Rorschach's musing that Veidt is "possibly homosexual," is a sign of the mid-1980's (as of the writing of Watchmen) when American conservatives (such as Rorschach) largely disapproved of homosexuality and even believed the AIDS epidemic, which came to the forefront at that time, was a homosexual disease.
- In Rafael's, there are several fashionable women wearing the knot-top hairstyle, suggesting its pervasiveness; their eye makeup is based on the Eye of Horus, suggesting Veidt's obsession with Ancient Egypt. In the foreground are two seated men who are an openly gay couple, something rarely seen in upscale straight restaurants in 1985 in the real world.
- Spaghetti Africaine, as mentioned by Laurie, is not a specific type of recipe; rather, it is a fanciful name for spaghetti with a sauce featuring African or Creole spices.
- In Under the Hood, Hollis Mason recalls that the fictional characters The Shadow, Doc Savage, and Superman (along with Action Comics #1) made on him.
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