Here's what happened in the 34-year gap between the Watchmen graphic novel and the HBO series. Executive produced by Damon Lindelof, Watchmen is a continuation of the classic graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons. While centering on a new cast of Watchmen characters, Lindelof's series treats Moore and Gibbons' comics as canon, not Zack Snyder's 2009 film or the Before Watchmen sequels or Doomsday Clock crossover published by DC Comics.
HBO has released supplemental materials to Lindelof's series that deepens the complex world of Watchmen: found in the tie-in website Peteypedia are files compiled by Agent Dale Petey of the FBI's Anti-Vigilante Task Force and they contain a great deal of fascinating information about what happened to Watchmen's characters and to the world they inhabit after the Watchmen graphic novel ended. These extras are similar to the supplemental materials found after the first 11 chapters of Moore and Gibbons' Watchmen, which included excerpts from the first Nite-Owl Hollis Mason's autobiography Under The Hood, parts of Dr. Malcolm Long's psychological profile of Rorschach, the second Nite-Owl Dan Dreiberg's childhood journals, and Nova Express' interview with Adrian Veidt.
HBO's Watchmen takes place 34 years after the graphic novel's ending when Adrian Veidt teleported a giant squid monster into the heart of New York City, which unleashed a psychic wave that killed 3 million people. However, what became known as the Dimensional Incursion Event (D.I.E.) worked: the nations of the world, which were on the brink of nuclear Armageddon, stood down and negotiated peace, believing that there was now a threat to the entire planet from another dimension. Veidt's D.I.E. hoax not only saved the planet, but its aftermath also altered the world politically, technologically, and culturally. Here's everything the Peteypedia files tell us about how the world of Watchmen changed after the graphic novel leading up to the beginning of HBO's series.
How Watchmen's World Changed Since 1985
In Watchmen's universe, Robert Redford succeeded Richard Nixon as President of the United States and, by 2019, the former actor has served seven consecutive terms (but he isn't seeking an eighth, which is the cause of national tension). With the support of Adrian Veidt, who was the biggest contributor to the Democratic Party, Redford rode the "Blue Wave of 1992" all the way to the White House. The liberal President ended 24 years of Nixon's conservative administration, but a rift soon formed between Redford and Veidt (publicly denied by both men) after the Campaign Finance Reform and Donor Act of 1993 curbed Veidt's ability to influence government policy. At some point as well, more territories and nations (like Vietnam) joined the United States of America as official States, causing more stars to be added to the revised American flag.
Redford's policies, which are unpopular in many areas of the country (the "red states") included the so-called "Redfordations", such as the Victims Of Racial Violence Legislation, which is a lifetime tax exemption for victims and descendants of designated areas of racial injustice in America. There was also the Defense of Police Act, which allows the police to hide their faces behind masks, enacted after the 2016 White Night incident in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when the Seventh Kavalry murdered police officers in their homes. The D.I.E. was the cause of widespread national trauma and the random squid rain that has occurred after 11/2/85 has been a regular reminder for those still suffering from post-11/2 PTSD. Redford's administration enacted controversial efforts to manage post-11/2 PTSD by putting warning labels on entertainment that could trigger people's anxieties, like those found in the TV documentary American Hero Story: Minutemen.
The world never learned that Veidt's giant squid was a hoax and so his plan ultimately worked but there was another fallout. There was a rejection of technology that scuttled the proliferation of personal computers, cell phones, wireless telecommunications, and the Internet because people were suspicious of any electronic device that was influenced by Doctor Manhattan and Manhattan-based lithium. This was a side effect of Veidt framing Doctor Manhattan's electromagnetic energies as a cause of cancer. A wave of "Luddite" sentiment swept through the world in the 1990s, eliminating a great deal of technology; by 2019, the FBI has only just begun using computers and email, which many agents are suspicious of. Also, in 1999, Elvis Presley mysteriously reappeared alive and well in a Vietnam nightclub and began performing his hit songs.
What Happened To Adrian Veidt?
As of the beginning of HBO's Watchmen, Adrian Veidt, who is now 80 years old, has been missing for seven years and was finally declared "dead" by the FBI. In 2012, Trieu Industries purchased Veidt Enterprises and the former superhero known as Ozymandias inexplicably vanished soon afterward. Officially, Veidt's passing is attributed to "unknown causes" and his disappearance spawned a "Where's Veidt?" phenomenon that resulted in numerous books about his vanishing that became best-sellers. Meanwhile, a culture of paranoia formed around Veidt's disappearance with conspiracy theories like Ozymandias being murdered by the CIA because of secrets he knows about the Dimensional Incursion Event.
After the successful hoax Veidt perpetrated to save the world in 1985, the "World's Smartest Man" used his political clout and resources to back Robert Redford's successful Presidential campaign. However, the 1990s were a challenging time for Ozymandias as the traumatized public rejected the futurism and technology Veidt's company was peddling and his patent for spark hydrants became worthless when people rejected anything related to Doctor Manhattan and M-class lithium for fear of getting cancer. In 1999, Adrian reversed the downturn of his company's fortunes by mass-producing his cloning technology and licensing it to fields like genetically engineered food production and pet cloning. But Veidt became more reclusive and he made his last public appearance in Kenya in 2007.
What Happened To Nite-Owl And Silk Spectre?
Nite-Owl AKA Daniel Dreiberg and Laurie Juspeczyck AKA Silk Spectre continued their careers as costumed vigilantes after 11/2/85. They adopted the pseudonyms of Sam and Sandra Hollis but Laurie changed her superhero persona to The Comedienne to honor her father The Comedian (Edward Blake). However, it's not clear when Laurie legally changed her surname from Juspeczyck and took her father's last name, Blake.
In 1995, Nite-Owl and The Comedienne were arrested by federal authorities for violating the Keene Act. Their capture reignited public interest in superheroes, which led the New Frontiersman to publish Rorschach's journal in its entirety. At some point in the last 24 years, however, Laurie Blake served her time (perhaps by cooperating with authorities) and was released from custody; she later joined the Bureau and became part of the Anti-Vigilante Task Force, using her lifelong expertise to help the government hunt down the new wave of costumed vigilantes operating in violation of the Keene Act. However, Dan Dreiberg remains in federal custody (this only adds to the mystery of how the Tulsa Police Department gained possession of Nite-Owl's Owlship) and Dreiberg has refused to speak about Rorschach and his disappearance or reveal anything he knows about Adrian Veidt.
Rorschach's Legacy Was Co-Opted By Right-Wing Extremists
As far as the world knows, Rorschach (Walter Kovacs) simply vanished off the face of the Earth on 11/2/85 (in truth, he was disintegrated by Doctor Manhattan to maintain the secret of Adrian Veidt's hoax). Rorschach had left his journal detailing his investigation into Edward Blake's murder and Adrian Veidt's conspiracy with the New Frontiersman; its publisher, Hector Godfrey, began printing excerpts from Rorschach's journal on March 21, 1986. The New Frontiersman later released the entire contents of the journal as a bookazine in the 1990s after Nite-Owl and The Comedienne were arrested by the FBI. However, what Rorschach delivered to the New Frontiersman was his second journal; his original journal, with its indecipherable contents, that was on Rorschach's person when he was arrested by the NYPD in 1985 is now in the possession of federal authorities.
A right-wing cult formed around Rorschach after the New Frontiersman published his journal and the mystery of his disappearance fuels their paranoia and distrust of the government. The white supremacist, domestic terrorist group Seventh Kavalry in Tulsa adopted Rorschach's mask as their symbol and consider the missing vigilante their messiah; they blame Adrian Veidt for what happened to Kovacs because of the conclusions Rorschach drew against Ozymandias in his investigation that he detailed in his journal. Veidt laughing away Rorschach's disappearance in an interview with the Nova Express only furthered right-wing hatred of Ozymandias. The Seventh Kavalry believe Rorschach's journal and suspect the D.I.E. was a hoax perpetrated by Veidt and the "liberals" who have "taken over" the government so they declared war on the symbols of Robert Redford's administration like the police.
What About Doctor Manhattan?
Doctor Manhattan left Earth on 11/2/85 and never returned. Although he told Laurie that he planned to leave our galaxy "for a less complicated one" and try his hand at creating life, at some point in the last 30 years, Doctor Manhattan returned to Mars. The public is aware that Doctor Manhattan currently resides on Mars and there is news footage of him erecting and destroying structures he built from Martian sands, but the most powerful being in the universe has not returned to Earth - at least, not yet, but who knows what Watchmen will bring?