By: Nick Suarez, Senior
“In the end? Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends, '' are the last words spoken by the iconic Dr. Manhattan in Allan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s seminal Watchmen. The bitter irony of this finale of his satire of the comic book industry-- its tendency to reboot, remake, and resell every story ever told in the medium. The quote is even more ironic because Watchmen has spawned various sequels, prequels, and movie adaptations.
One of these sequels is HBO’s 2019 Watchmen series by Damon Lindelof, which is set 33 years after the end of the original twelve issue series. Lindenhof does a good job giving enough exposition in the sequel to characters and events that occur within the timeline of the cable series as he relies (and expands) heavily on the mythos created by Moore. However, to those who have never read the comic, following and understanding the chronology can be daunting.
For those who didn’t read the original series, Here is a roadmap for a deeper understanding to indulge in the HBO mini-series.
The Creator of Watchmen
Watchmen is the progeny of Allan Moore (writer) and Dave Gibbon (artist), a powerhouse duo fresh off acclaimed runs like The Saga Of Swamp Thing and Action Comics respectively. The idea for Watchmen came from Moore, who originally wanted to use characters recently acquired by DC to create a murder mystery event within DC continuity (originally titled “Who Killed The Peacemaker). However, the event would have left multiple characters dead or impossible to use in later stories, resulting in DC disallowing the use of these characters within Moore’s story. The ban resulted in Moore expanding the six-issue series into a twelve-issue series creating a brand new world with characters to tell his murder mystery story.
The World of Watchmen
The point of divergence within Watchmen occurs in the thirties when “costumed adventurers” begin appearing and fighting crime similar to comic books being published at the time (In this world superhero literature never took prominence due to the appearance of actual superheroes within this world). These figures eventually form the first crime-fighting the “Minutemen” whose notable members include the first Silk Spectre, The Comedian, and the first Nite Owl. This group of heroes failed to last long due to personal relations and, eventually, the red scare, which forced nearly every masked fighter to swear an oath of loyalty to the United States and reveal themselves to the FBI. Notably, the only one to decline is the original “costumed adventurer”, Hooded Justice who simply disappears following the FBI’s summons.
In 1960, the world would forever change with the existence of Dr. Manhattan the world’s first (and only) “superhuman” inspiring the second generation of superheroes to take action. This new generation of Heroes, Rorschach (Walter Kovacs), Nite Owl II (Dan Dreiberg) Silk Specter II (Laurie Juspeczyk), and Ozymandias (Adrian Veidt) are the protagonist of the original Watchmen series. These Heroes operate relatively free of government intervention for most of the sixties and seventies until a police strike results in the Keene Act (Named after it’s author Senator Joe Keene) outlawing all forms of vigilantism. However, this act does not stop all characters from attempting to contribute to the world, as Dr. Manhattan and The Comedian still operating as members of the US government (both served the United States in Vietnam, winning the war and making it the 51st state). Vedit starts an internationally known company, abandoning the Ozymandias persona (although he continues to have a fascination with Hellenic culture, and profits massively off merchandising of his fellow heroes). Roarshaq operates as a fugitive, and Nite Owl simply retires. Silk Spectre also retires but she develops a romantic relationship with Dr.Manhattan.
The Plot of Watchmen
The story of the graphic novel begins with the murder of The Comedian, as he is thrown out the window of his New York apartment. Rorschach proceeds to investigate the murder, believing that someone is targeting various “masks” that are warning Nite Owl, Dr. Manhattan, Silk Specter (who is living with Manhattan), and Ozymanidas, foiling an attempt on his life. At the same time, Dr. Manhattan is accused of causing cancer, resulting in a self-imposed exile to Mars. After this, while Roarshach continues to investigate the murder of The Comedian, he is forced into prison by a police sting. While Walter Kovach is unmasked, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre begin a romantic relationship, deciding to bust Rorschach out of prison in order to reveal who truly murdered The Comedian. Once he is out, Silk Spectre chooses to journey with Dr. Manhattan to Mars, demanding his return to Earth. Manhattan ponders his position as a human and whether or not he truly has a place among them, finally deciding to return, but not before revealing to Juspeczyk that her father was, in fact, The Comedian. At the same time, Nite Owl and Rorschach leave to confront the true mastermind behind the cancer plot, murder of The Comedian, the main plot in the comics: Ozymandias.
Vedit reveals his plan in a grand fashion, admitting that he created an alien with hopes of using it to unite humanity around a common threat rather than see it collapse under the weight of nuclear armageddon. Despite the heroes best attempts to foil Vedit’s plan, he reveals that his master plan had been set in motion 35 minutes before anyone arrived at his doorstep, resulting in the death of 3 million people as Adrian drops his Alien on New York. The heroes attempt to bring Ozymandias to justice before realizing his plan had indeed worked, causing nations around the world calling an end to all hostilities, and proclaiming a global alliance against “aliens.” Each of the heroes agrees that bringing the plot to light would do nothing, but result in more death and destruction. Choosing to accept the New World Order, all except Rorschach leave the arctic base in order to reveal the truth to the world. This refusal to compromise results in Dr. Manhattan killing Walter Kovach to protect the lie. In the final scene, Journalists complain of the lack of news due to the new alliances formed in the process; One of these journalists suggest looking in the community suggestion box for stories to print for the next edition. In the box, One journalist finds the diary of Walter Kovacs (AKA Rorschach) detailing Vedit’s plot, and his attempt to stop it just before arriving in Antarctica.
I am Nick Suarez; an iPrep senior interested in politics, sports, and history, also a Proud Social Democrat!