Marooned is a two-part comic released in the Tales of the Black Freighter series. Issue 23 and Issue 24 were written by Max Shea and the artwork by Walt Feinberg. They are read by Bernie, who sits in front of the news stand throughout the Watchmen's story.
As told in the Treasure Island Treasury of Comics' fifth chapter, Marooned is considered the height of Shea and Feinberg's talent, and is unique in that it is a one-character story narrated mostly in captions, making it different than the rest of their work in the Tales for the Black Freighter series.
Marooned tells the story of a young mariner whose vessel is wrecked by the Black Freighter before it can reach his home town of Davidstown, and the man's sickening quest to warn, or save, or avenge his family.
Only the second half of Issue 23 is shown, cutting in after (presumably) the young mariner's ship was wrecked and he had been cast to a nearby shore of some island. The issue was told throughout Chapter III: The Judge of All the Earth.
The first part was read coinciding with the placement of a Fallout Shelter sign and the presence of a man who held a sign reading "The End is Nigh". It indulged in the heartbreak of the young mariner and his realization that this place where dead bodies were piled beside him was not Hell, and he was alive.
The second part is read to coincide with the Fallout Shelter sign that was similarly being placed on Doctor Manhattan's door during his decision to leave to Mars and its inclusion in the newspaper. The mariner recalls the disaster of the attack and thinks about his unsuspecting family, imagining their onslaught. He then buried his shipmates, and along with them hope of his family's survival.
Issue 24 continued on in Chapter V: Fearful Symmetry, coinciding with Bernard raving about the war's affect on everything. As the sun rose, the mariner decided to find a way back home and unburied his shipmates so he could use their gas-bloated bodies to support his raft. He left at night and ate gulls that flew near to him. He began to drink salt water in small amounts, then could see fins approaching. The sharks took away his shipmates' bodies and then he was attacked by a large shark that he stabbed in the eye. It eventually died, and provided him with food and support for his raft since it was entangled with its cords.
The next part of the issue was seen in Chapter VIII: Old Ghosts surrounding Rorschach's escape from prison and the knot-tops decision to kill Hollis Mason. With thoughts of his dead family, the mariner in blunt terms, 'chose madness.' He decided to leap from his raft into the sea only to find he had arrived. He considered himself a spectre of revenge on the flow tide home.
The next part is seen in Chapter X surrounding Rorschach and Nite Owl's search to find out about Doctor Manhattan's disappearance. Two horse-back riders came by the shore and saw his body infest raft. The mariner killed them both and left for Davidstown upon their horses.
The last part of Issue 24 is found in Chapter XI, surrounding Adrian Veidt's ploy and the 'two riders' arrival in Antarctica to stop him. The mariner finds Davidstown and enters his once own home, that he now knew to be the home of the pirates. He attacked the first figure he could find and upon realizing it was his wife, he fled from the town and saw the Black Freighter out in the water. He swam towards the massive ship and reached for the rope, to climb to his destiny, now that he was marooned from his home, the world, his life.
It is an example of post-modern Metafiction and comic-within-a-comic that also serves as a foil for the main plot.
The comic is read by a teenage boy while he sits beside a newsstand, whose proprietor contemplates the latest headlines and discusses them with his customers. This juxtaposition of text and images from the comic-within-a-comic and its framing sequence uses the former to act as a parallel commentary to the latter—which is the plot of Watchmen itself. Specifically, Moore has said that the story of The Black Freighter ends up describing "the story of Ozymandias" (who admits, in his final scene, to having a recurring nightmare resembling a prominent image from The Black Freighter). In addition, the comic can also be seen to relate "to Rorschach and his capture; it relates to the self-marooning of Dr. Manhattan on Mars; it can be used as a counterpoint to all these different parts of the story."
- Tales Of The Black Freighter: "Marooned" (The Reconstruction), an attempt to recreate the comic as it may have looked.