Warning: SPOILERS for Watchmen Episode 6
The world of HBO's Watchmen is one without actual superpowers, but a new Easter Egg just showed the people living in it still know about DC's most iconic superheroes -- as Superman himself has been confirmed to exist in the TV show's universe. Just not in the way comic book fans might hope.
HBO's Watchmen has done a superb job at building on an extended universe from the original comic series created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. With the show being produced by DC Entertainment, there always existed the (unlikely) possibility that DC characters could pop up. Watchmen will probably never feature Superman facing off against Doctor Manhattan like in DC's Doomsday Clock. However, it's now been confirmed Superman does exist in the show's universe.
In Watchmen's sixth episode, "This Extraordinary Being," the narrative is taken back in time, as Will Reeves' backstory is explored after Angela Abar digests Nostalgia pills, unlocking her grandfather's memories right before her eyes. In the flashbacks, Reeves becomes a policeman on a racist, intolerant force. When he's out on patrol, he encounters a news salesman reading a comic. The book? Action Comics #1 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster - the first appearance of Superman.
Thinking it's a newspaper, Reeves asks the man what's happening in the news. The man explains to him that his book is "more hopeful." And to make sure no viewer misses the comic book superhero being referenced, the man explains that the story is about "a baby. His father puts him in a rocketship and sends him to earth just before his planet explodes."
Including the book is not only a nice nod to DC's history, but the fact that Reeves' story parallels that of Superman's. Like Kal-El, he was orphaned after a massacre, with his parents sending him away during the Tulsa Black Wall Street Massacre, in hopes of finding a better life. As the Hooded Justice, Reeves - like Superman - was an early vigilante and inspired others to don a secret identity to help those around them. It's purely coincidental, but the fact his last name is Reeves, like his childhood hero Bass Reeves AND both iconic Superman actors George Reeves and Christopher Reeve is hard to miss, too.
It's exciting to see the Watchmen continuity feature Superman even if it is just an Easter Egg. Before Doomsday Clock merged continuities in the comic book side of things, Watchmen featured just a small, somewhat obscure reference to Action Comics in Superman in Hollis Mason's "Under the Hood," story, despite the cast members being heavily based on Charlton Comics and DC Comics characters, and the book being published by DC. Had there been a hero with a heart like Superman in the Watchmen reality, perhaps things might not have gotten so grim. Even so, the parallels now drawn between Kal-El and Will Reeves' own heartbreaking backstory can only enrich the experience for comic book fans.
Wearing a mask and turning into the Hooded Justice was a real way for Will to deal with the surrounding racism and injustice. He might not always keep his hands clean like Superman, but Reeves is every bit the hero. So while we wouldn't expect any DC characters to show up in Watchmen, a subtle nod, like this one, is unexpected and pitch perfect.
Watchmen airs Sundays @ 9pm on HBO.