It's official: HBO's Watchmen is a sequel to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' seminal graphic novel, and a lot of original comic book characters are returning. The new series is one of HBO's big post-Game of Thrones efforts, and if a new trailer released at SDCC is anything to go by, Damon Lindelof's onto something special.
Watchmen picks up in the modern-day of the alternate timeline introduced in Watchmen. The 1985 shown in the comic was one where masked vigilantes were once prominent and are now outlawed, where Richard Nixon was serving his fifth term, and where crime and nuclear war put the Doomsday Clock dangerously close to midnight. Things are just as fraught 34 years later, it seems, with the post-squid world where alt-right terrorism has given rise to a masked police state.
One of the toughest parts of telling a new Watchmen story is that, by the end of the book, most of the core characters are removed from the equation. Rorschach is dead, Dr. Manhattan has teleported to a new galaxy, and most survivors are keeping their heads down. But that doesn't mean Lindelof hasn't found ways to bring back half-a-dozen familiar faces. Here's every original Watchmen character in the HBO series.
Adrian Veidt aka Ozymandias
The most prominent and first confirmed returning character in HBO's Watchmen is Adrian Veidt aka Ozymandias, played by Jeremy Irons. Introduced in the comic as the self-proclaimed "smartest man alive", the former member of the Minutemen was, in fact, a Republic supervillain: his plan was to trick the world into ending the Cold War by crafting another, greater fear, in this case an alien (actually the product of comic book artists) exploded in the middle of New York City. Edward Blake aka The Comedian uncovered the plot, and his subsequent murder clued in the rest of the heroes, but they were too late: Ozymandias teleported the squid and forced America and the Soviets into peace.
The very end of Watchmen suggested that the truth would come out via Rorschach's journal, which he sent to right-wing rag The New Frontiersman. However, the Watchmen trailer suggests that the threat remains, with newspapers referencing "Boise Squid Shower" and signs pointing towards alien fear. Clearly, the truth has become a fringe conspiracy theory at best.
But what of Ozymandias himself? The same newspaper has the headline "Veidt Officially Proclaimed Dead," although those reports appear to be somewhat exaggerated given Irons' prominent place in the trailer. He's shown celebrating his birthday - alone - with a cake in the color of his yellow-and-purple costume, later plunging a trigger to cause some sort of explosion, and finally at Gila Flats research base, the birthplace of Dr. Manhattan.
Given the raining squid seen in the trailer and his promise that "nothing ever ends, it's only just beginning," it would seem that Adrian is once again trying to pull strings from the shadows in shaping the world. His dream of a utopia was short-lived, but this time he's going to get it right.
Laurie Blake aka Silk Spectre
The other major player returning for Watchmen, as revealed in the SDCC trailer, is Laurie Blake, the second Silk Spectre, to be played by Jean Smart. Laurie was the daughter of original Silk Spectre, Sally Jupiter, and (unbeknownst to her until the events of the comic) The Comedian, Edward Blake. She began the story married to Dr. Manhattan, but feeling their relationship strain against the geopolitical backdrop, she ended up with Dan Dreiberg aka Nite Owl.
When Smart was first cast, she was described as the FBI's Agent Blake, which immediately pricked up ears due to The Comedian connection, but it's only now she's been confirmed to be Laurie herself. Evidently, following the events of Watchmen, Silk Spectre opted to take on her father's name, perhaps rejecting her alcoholic mother or otherwise seeing Edward for the flawed hero he was, rather than the long-assumed brute. Whatever the case, this is a very different Laurie to the one we left in 1985. She's introduced rhetorically asking "You know how you can tell the difference between a masked cop and a vigilante?", displaying active disdain for the life she once led.
The presence of the former Miss. Jupiter does pose the question of where Dan Dreiberg is, especially as his Nite Owl craft Archie is seen being put to good use later. As Laurie has her father's name, it's quite possible they broke up, if Dan's still around at all. It's been speculated that Don Johnson's Chief Judd Crawford is Dan, mainly due to him being in Archie's cockpit, but there's presently nothing substantial to suggest that.
By far the most surprising (if, in all truth, inevitable) return is that of Dr. Manhattan. The Superman exists in the Watchmen world, and he is American. Formerly scientist John Osterman, Dr. Manhattan was created when trapped in an intrinsic field generator, reforming himself as a being able to control all matter. He became a tool of the US government, used to end the Vietnam war early and introduced in the book as working on new teleportation technology. Watchmen has him suffer a cosmic identity crisis, with his fall from favor - manipulated by Ozymandias - seeing him self-exiled to Mars before being redeemed by Laurie, then ultimately choosing to find new purpose in a different galaxy.
That, clearly, did not last. Halfway through the Watchmen trailer, it's stated that Dr. Manhattan lives on Mars (a reveal cued up by smart use of David Bowie), and while that's presented as a far way away, it's a lot closer than expected. Indeed, in the final moments, Dr. Manhattan is shown on Earth, picking up a mask of himself. Clearly, the blue meanie is back. And while nothing is revealed about his motives, it's likely to be a counterpoint to Veidt's continued campaign. Manhattan assumed that Adrian's plot, while barbaric, could do good, so let it be; now that's proven not the case, he's back to correct those wrongs - a move that puts him in direct conflict with Ozymandias.
The impact of Dr. Manhattan can be felt elsewhere in the modern Watchmen world, with parades, effigies, masks and some sort of tribute shown. There's also an old man who claims to be Dr. Manhattan, although given the God himself is seen in the electric-flesh, that seems to be more a misdirect on the part of trailer editors than a genuine plot clue.
Also spotlighted in the Watchmen trailer is Hooded Justice, albeit not in his authentic form. Hooded Justice was the first recorded masked crimefighter, a violent-yet-moral vigilante and founding member of the Minutemen A vigilante team formed in 1939 including the original Nite Owl and Silk Spectre, they were the graphic novel's equivalent of the Golden Age of Comics, eventually brought into obsolescence. In the graphic novel, he's most notable for stopping The Comedian from raping Sally Jupiter.
Although a background character, there are clues littered throughout the comics to his story. Hollis Mason, the original Nite Owl, speculates in his book Behind The Mask that Hooded Justice was Rolf Müller, while Ozymandias' research suggests Blake eventually killed him.
Hooded Justice appears in show-within-a-show American Hero Story: Minutemen, a sendup of Ryan Murphy's American Crime Story. The clip shows his emergence and esoterically raises the purposes of masks, a fiction to the supposed realism of Watchmen.
The Comedian & Captain Metropolis
Shown in adverts for American Hero Story are two more of the Minutemen, who based on their masks look to be The Comedian and Captain Metropolis. As already discussed, Edward Blake aka The Comedian is a pivotal character in the Watchmen comic: Laurie's father, Nite Owl's former-partner, all-round aggressor, his death begins to unravel Ozymandias' web. Captain Metropolis is a more minor figure in the story, notable primarily for an attempt to start a second Minutemen in the second generation heroes (something Blake puts a swift end to).
American Hero Story appears to be a rather prominent aspect of HBO's Watchmen world, appearing on blimps, buses and billboards. What's striking is that the design of the characters is rather reminiscent of the heightened realism in Zack Snyder's divisive 2009 movie. Considering this, and that the two characters spotlighted have glances with the more prominent heroes, this could be a clue that Lindelof is effectively retconning the movie as a film-within-a- series, its ending a piece of anti-Manhattan/Ozymandias propaganda.
Rorschach (Sort Of)
And, finally, there's the legacy of Watchmen's defining character, the morally-gray Rorschach. Real name Walter Kovacs, he was a low-level vigilante driven mad when uncovering a child murderer and becoming an embodiment of how dark the mask problem in America had become. But he was nothing if not driven, and with a little help from his friends, managed to bust the case of The Comedian's death wide open. Kovacs was killed by Dr. Manhattan after he refused drop plans to reveal Ozymandias' atrocities to the world, but Rorschach's legend lives on.
A group of masked criminals have taken his black-and-white masks (dyed, rather than made of the original moving material), this "Rorschach gang" targeted the houses of cops, forcing the police to take extreme measures and become masks themselves. Based on the leader's televised threat of "soon they will shout save us, and we will whisper... no", they are in possession of Rorschach's journal and are thus continuing his legacy, possibly motivated by revealing the truth behind the nonexistent alien threat. They clearly operate as the third vertex of the Watchmen continuation, advancing Kovacs' cause just as Ozymandias and Dr. Manhattan do their own.
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