HBO's Watchmen TV show is finally being unveiled, with a recent promo and collection of clips revealing some of the masked vigilantes who will be featured in this modern-day follow-up to the acclaimed graphic novel. Written by Alan Moore with artwork by artist Dave Gibbons and colorist John Higgins, Watchmen was a dark twist on the superhero genre set in an alternate world history. The TV series was created by Damon Lindelof (Lost) and will star Jeremy Irons, Frances Fisher, Tim Blake Nelson, Regina King, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Don Johnson, Tom Mison, Lou Gossett Jr., James Wolk, Jean Smart, Sara Vickers, Adelaide Clemens, and Andrew Howard.
Watchmen's original lineup of superheroes were called the Minutemen, and they were all flawed in one way or another. There was self-aggrandizing genius Ozymandias, the violent and brutish Comedian, the single-minded Rorschach, and the fame-hungry Silk Spectre. However, HBO's Watchmen isn't a direct adaptation of the graphic novels, nor even a direct sequel, but is instead an original story set in the same universe in modern times. So, while there will be some familiar faces, the focus will primarily be on new characters, and the main location will be Tulsa, Oklahoma rather than New York City.
Whereas masked vigilantism was at one point condemned in the world of Watchmen, it now looks like it has been adopted by the official authorities, with police officers sporting yellow masks and one tagline stating, "Masks save lives." Let's take a look at the masked individuals who have been revealed so far - both familiar and new.
- This Page: Ozymandias, Rorschach, and the Yellow-Masked Police
- Page 2: Gold Mask, Red Mask, and Cowboy Hat
Adrian Veidt a.k.a. Ozymandias technically wears a crown rather than a mask, and he's one of the few Minutemen who didn't drop his persona after the Keene Act outlawed costumed vigilantism. Instead, he used his great intellect to create the megacorporation Veidt Enterprises, selling Ozymandias action figures and merchandise as one of his many ventures. At the end of Watchmen it's revealed that Ozymandias has been the mastermind behind many terrible recent events, and he caps off his evil plan by teleporting an enormous "alien" squid monster into New York, resulting in countless deaths in the hope of averting nuclear war by giving the world a common enemy to focus on.
The Adrian Veidt of HBO's Watchmen is now around 70 years old, and is played by Jeremy Irons, who was featured in one of the recent clips saying, "It's only just begun." It seems as though Veidt still prefers to operate from the shadows, since a headline on a prop newspaper in one of the show's set photos stated, "Veidt Officially Declared Dead." Perhaps he has found another secret lair to operate from.
The Yellow-Masked Police
The masks that we've seen the most of in Watchmen's marketing are those worn by the police. These bright yellow masks cover the wearers' face up to just below the eyes (with the eyes themselves mostly concealed by the brim of a hat), revealing nothing except the vague bumps of ears and noses underneath. Captions for social media posts featuring these masked policeman include, "Hiding in plain sight," "Who watches the Watchmen?" and the aforementioned "Masks save lives." It's unclear as yet why police have become the new masked vigilantes, but it's possible that in Watchmen's alternate timeline, police have become the focus of hatred and violence from citizens, and the masks are intended to protect their identities.
Of course, there's something very unsettling about a faceless army of law enforcement officers, and everything we've seen of these masked cops so far has framed them as authoritarian and intimidating. It's not yet known if this new uniform is worn by police all across the country, but it certainly seems as though all the police in Tulsa wear the yellow masks - and even carry shotguns with yellow stocks to match.
The original Rorschach - Walter Kovacs - won't be appearing in HBO's Watchmen, on account of being blasted into a bloody smear on the snow at the end of the original graphic novel. Rorschach I was killed by Doctor Manhattan because his moral absolutist approach compelled him to tell the truth about the "alien" that attacked New York, which in turn would have meant that all those deaths would have been in vain. However, it seems that his mask and his mantle lived on, as a brief clip shows a mysterious new individual wearing a version of Rorschach's mask. It's unclear whether or not this mask, like the original, changes its pattern according to the emotions experienced by the individual underneath, or whether the pattern is simply sprayed on.
We also don't yet know who is under this mask. In the sequel comic series Doomsday Clock, written by Geoff Johns, a new character called Reggie Long donned Rorschach's mask and vigilante name, but it doesn't seem as though HBO's Watchmen will be based on Doomsday Clock. Given that the Minutemen's legacy has been cemented in history, it's likely that this Rorschach is simply some kind of copycat - though we won't rule out the possibility of him being somehow connected to Walter Kovacs.