The pirate comic is a comic within the novel, which an unnamed, incidental character reads throughout the course of the main story. The pirate comic symbolizes how someone who initially seems the hero of a story may actually become a villain. The pirate comic parallels the major arcs of the main story of Watchmen, forming a microcosm of several key moments. In the comic, the unnamed narrator (the survivor) endures a pirate attack and washes up on an island, believing that the pirates will now sail for his hometown and slaughter his family as well. The survivor commits many despicable acts to beat the pirates there, only to mistakenly murder his own wife, believing her to be a pirate and himself a righteous avenger. The survivor believes he is on an urgent mission to save his family, which drives him to gradually let go of his inhibitions and commits successively more grotesque acts. This reflects the way that Rorschach and especially Adrian Veidt allow the perceived urgency of their respective missions to drive them to worse and worse behaviors. Rorschach tortures, maims, and kills to track down his “mask-killer” and unearth what he believes to be a conspiracy. Veidt, believing he must avert World War III and human extinction, rationalizes murdering millions of people in New York. Although the novel avoids making a judgment on whether Veidt’s actions are justified, the story’s ending leaves the reader, like the survivor in the pirate comic, wondering if it was all worth it.
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Pirate Comic appears in Watchmen. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3: The Judge of All the Earth
...of Nova Express, which insinuates that Dr. Manhattan gives people terminal cancer. In the pirate comic, the survivor worries that the pirates will go to his home village and murder his... (full context)
...about Dr. Manhattan’s disappearance. They suspect the Communists are somehow to blame. In the pirate comic, the survivor digs a pit to bury all the dead bodies washed up on shore.... (full context)
Chapter 5: Fearful Symmetry
...news vendor theorizes that weapons manufacturers are about to make a fortune. In the pirate comic, the survivor contemplates his morality and stares down at the dead corpses keeping him afloat. (full context)
Chapter 8: Old Ghosts
Chapter 10: Two Riders Were Approaching
...gazette, then offer him some religious literature. He angrily shoos them away. In the pirate comic, the survivor finds that killing is easy when death feels near. He ties the woman... (full context)
Chapter 11: Look on My Works, Ye Mighty…