|— The Comedians by Elvis Costello.|
This chapter revolves around the burial of Eddie Blake in the New York Cemetery, consisting of four flashbacks to the actions of Blake, and Rorschach's unhindered attempts at unraveling who was his murderer.
- Ozymandias/Adrian Veidt
- Jon Osterman/Doctor Manhattan
- Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl II
- Laurie Juspeczyk/Silk Spectre II
- Sally Jupiter/Silk Spectre I
- Edgar Jacobi/Moloch
- Eddie Blake/Comedian (flashbacks)
- Nelson Gardner/Captain Metropolis (flashbacks)
- Hooded Justice (flashback)
- Byron Lewis/Mothman (flashback)
- Hollis Mason/Nite Owl I (flashback)
- Ursula Zandt/Silhouette (flashback)
- Will Brady/Dollar Bill (flashback)
- Janey Slater (flashback)
- Richard Nixon (flashback)
- Vietnamese Woman (flashback)
- New York City, New York
- Saigon, Vietnam
- Rorschach's Journal
- Comedian's Badge
- Tijuana Bible
- King Mob's Ape Mask (flashback)
- Solar Mirror Weapon (flashback)
- Rorschach's Mask
- Keene Act (mentioned)
- Police Strike of 1977 (flashback)
- Owlship (flashback)
- Varga (painting)
Opening in Sally Jupiter's retirement home, Nepenthe Gardens, Laurie Juspeczyk had come to visit or had been forced to visit, transported by Jon since she hadn't wanted to attend the funeral of Eddie Blake. On that subject, Sally showed a large sense of sympathy, "I guess he finally reached the punch-line, huh? Poor Eddie." She decided that what happened had happened forty years ago and it was time to move on. "Funny," she says, "Eddie was the youngest. Always jokin' about how old we all were. He said he'd bury us. Y'see, that was Eddie, always talkin' like he was on top of it... He was The Comedian. He always thought he'd get the last laugh."
Talking about an old fan of hers who writes her letters, Sally shows Laurie an item of 'memorabilia'. It was a Tijuana Bible, or a porno comic from the '30s and '40s, except this one had been about her. Laurie finds it gross and vile, but Sally sees it as flattering. When talking about her mother's 'image', Sally replies "At least I don't sleep with an H-bomb." When Laurie says she is being unfair she says "It rains on the just an' the unjust alike... except in California."
During this conversation, Sally has a flashback to the night that the Minutemen group photo had been taken. The group discussed the war, how some wanted to get off the streets and head to Europe, and others were uninterested, or scared. Nite Owl stopped the discussion and they all headed down to the Owl's Nest, but Sally stayed behind to change. After a moment Eddie Blake stepped into the room and interrupted her, attempted sexual assault and she clawed his face. Blake brutally attacked her, intending to rape her, before Hooded Justice walked into the room. He attacked Eddie quite viciously, but let him go.
Adrian Veidt, an attendant of the funeral, recalls the first meeting of the Crimebusters, held by Nelson Gardner in April, 1966. In an attempt to tackle crime throughout New York, he proposes they all band together, but Blake interrupts, "Bullshit." He consistently mocks them for their intentions and burns Metropolis' presentation board, leaves the room with everyone following.
Doctor Manhattan recalls "V.V.N. Night" (a celebration of America's fictional victory in the Vietnam War) in Saigon with Blake and discussing his strange attitude toward life and war, how he sees it all as a joke, although admittedly not a "good joke." He mentions how anxious he is to leave the country. A Vietnamese woman approaches him telling him she is pregnant with his child. She also asserts that Blake has a responsibility to the child. Blake doesn't seem to care, saying how he will forget them and their entire country. She breaks a glass bottle and slashes his face. Blake impulsively shoots her, while Manhattan stands watching. Blake accuses Osterman of not caring about human life, and leaves, searching for a medic.
Dan Dreiberg recalls how he and the Comedian worked riot control during the the Police Strike of 1977. The streets are crowded with angry rioters, but the Comedian and Dreiberg (as the Nite Owl II) clear the streets after the Comedian throws a gas bomb into the angry mob. Looking at the devastation, Dreiberg asks Blake, "What's happened to the American dream?" Blake replies while staring into the foggy streets filled with riot gas, "It came true. You're lookin' at it.
Rorschach follows Edgar Jacobi to his home from the funeral, who was once the villain Moloch the Mystic. He questions him about Eddie Blake, and Jacobi explains how Blake broke into his room one night while he was in bed, babbling about how it's all a joke that he doesn't get. He mentions an island with writers, scientists and artists, and he says that he did bad things; to women, shooting kids in 'Nam; but nothing like this. Rorschach then leaves, leaving the retired villain alone.
Rorschach goes to the cemetery at night to pay his respects quietly, 'without fuss,' which implies the priests' scripture. Finishing with his journal entry, he leaves the cemetery with a red rose.
- The title is from the song "The Comedians" by Elvis Costello and the Attractions, first released in June 1984 on the album Goodbye Cruel World.
- The biblical verse in panels 8-9 on page 18 is from Philippians 3:21 of the King James Bible.
- In the first panel on page 25, Rorschach walks through the seedy side of town and passes by a marquee for a burlesque show called "Enola Gay and the Little Boys". This is a reference to the first atomic weapon used in combat and the plane that delivered it. On August 6, 1945, by order of U.S. President Harry S. Truman, a B-29 Superfortress bomber named Enola Gay dropped the uranium fission bomb code-named Little Boy on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
- Rorschach writes in his journal a joke referencing the "great clown Pagliacci". Pagliacci (Italian for "clowns") is an opera by Ruggero Leoncavallo, first performed in 1892, about a series of romantic entanglements among the members of a comedy troupe. The story related by Rorschach in his journal entry was originally told about Joseph Grimaldi, a British comedian and actor known as the King of the Clowns. Dave Gibbons confessed in an interview that he told the story of the sad clown to Alan Moore and mistakenly used the named Pagliacci because he couldn't recall Grimaldi in mind at that moment. Gibbons tried to convince Zack Snyder to correct his mistake for the movie adaptation, but ultimately stuck with the original dialogue anyway.
The Comedian's badge, a motif concerning a joke not able to be seen by most, was last given to Dan Dreiberg who, at Eddie Blake's funeral, throws the badge into his sepulcher along with him to be buried. This was after the flashbacks viewing some of Blake's flaws and questionable morals, giving the feeling that with his body the 'joke' will die too. The priest speaks beside him, "From henceforth, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, even so saith the spirit, for they rest from their labors. Lord have mercy upon us. Christ have mercy upon us. Lord have mercy upon us."
"Who Watches the Watchmen?" was a phrase set about before the Keene Act was set in place, which describes the public anger toward the costumed vigilantes at the time. It was spray-painted on walls across the city, and in this chapter, during Dan Dreiberg's flashback, the Comedian and himself come across one of the writings while they were first being spread. Blake interprets the message as the people saying 'They don't like us an' they don't trust us.'
Following tradition, the Doomsday Clock on the last page of the issue stands now at 11:49. Blood can be seen now, falling onto the page. Inside the issue, after Comedian's encounter with Sally Jupiter, while picking up his pants and leaving the room, the clock above the door reads approximately five minutes to midnight.
In the cemetery is an angel standing over one of the graves. She can be seen on the front cover with a particularly pronounced raindrop falling from the corner of her eye in the form of a tear.
As Rorschach tells a joke in his Journal, he ends the entry by saying 'Good joke. Everybody laughs. Roll on the snare drum. Curtains.' While saying this the panels show the Comedian falling to his death, and at 'curtains', the panel is completely red, the color of blood, and in the next panel are roses of the same color that Edgar Jacobi set by Blake's grave earlier. Rorschach takes one, placing it in his coat pocket.
Released with the second issue were the third and fourth chapters of Under the Hood, the autobiography of Hollis Mason, the first Nite Owl and one of the first masked adventurers. Revealing the newly introduced characters of this chapter's back-stories, Alan Moore likely purposed these chapters to give a feel for who these characters were, to gather sympathy, and to show all the emotions they had felt, like prevailing justice, friendship, and embarrassment.
Chapter III details precisely 'what it takes' to become a costumed vigilante. His name, his costume, exercise, fighting, a nocturnal lifestyle, and regret, all a part of putting on that costume every night. He then brushes over the backgrounds of all the Minutemen. Chapter IV discusses the beginning and end of the Minutemen, the press-enthused friendship of Sally Jupiter and Hooded Justice, his personal distaste for the Comedian, and more into their individual lives.