The Comedian’s smiley-face badge symbolizes Watchmen’s critique of traditional comic book heroes. In the first scene of the novel, when Edward Blake is assaulted and thrown through his own window, a drop of his blood smears across a yellow smiley-face badge on his robe. The happy yellow badge represents the popular notion of a comic book hero as someone who is undeniably righteous and who fights an opponent that is undeniably evil. Blake’s blood smearing across the badge represents how Watchmen intentionally tarnishes the image of a perfect hero, depicting its own heroes as dynamic, deeply flawed characters and questioning whether they are really heroes at all. The image of the blood-smeared badge features prominently throughout the first two chapters, and even forms the novel’s cover image. Daniel Dreiberg ultimately tosses the badge into Blake’s grave, still bloody, signifying the end of the pure, faultless comic book hero.
The timeline below shows where the symbol Smiley-Face Badge appears in Watchmen. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: At Midnight, All the Agents…
...him through the window of his high-rise apartment. In a brief flashback, Blake wears a smiley-face badge as he’s thrown through the window. A drop of his blood splatters across it. One... (full context)
Daniel seems shocked and nervous to find Rorschach there. Rorschach tosses him Blake’s blood-smeared smiley-face badge and tells him it belonged to the Comedian; someone threw him out his window. Daniel... (full context)
Chapter 2: Absent Friends