As HBO and Damon Lindelof (The Leftovers, Lost) prepare to enter the world of
Adrian Veidt’s squid attack.
Perhaps even more surprising, however, was the fact that the other Watchmen choose to stay quiet about this plan after confronting Adrian about his machinations, seeing the devastation, and hearing his justification that the world is now at peace, united against the faux-alien threat. The only one of the so-called heroes who doesn’t play along is Rorschach, who’s instantly killed by Doctor Manhattan for trying to leave in order to tell the world the truth. Seen as one of the biggest final act twists in comics, it turns the idea of superheroes on their head by making the characters that readers had spent a year following complicit in what is tantamount to a genocide, a brutal killing of the relative few for the betterment of the many.
Despite the heroes’ attempt to cover up the plan, the series ends with an intern at the local newspaper picking up Rorshach’s journal, leaving open the potential to blow the lid off of Ozymandias’ victory.
A Second Comic
One of the most interesting narrative and formatting choices that the creative team made with Watchmen was to include a secondary story which runs throughout the book, introduced through the pages of a comic that a young boy reads at a local newsstand. Tales of the Black Freighter is an in-universe comic which is seen as something of a classic, and it breaks up the main story, appearing in issues three, five, eight, 10, and 11 of the series. Moore came up with the idea of a pirate story after realizing that seeing as superheroes were real, the people who lived in that universe likely wouldn’t really care about stories that feature them. Though it might seem like a random interjection, the story of a young man who ventures back to his hometown to warn them of an oncoming attack from the mysterious phantom ship known as the Black Freighter actually ends up thematically reflecting the journey of Ozymandias. It’s a conceptual commentary on the idea of heroism and the lengths that people will go to “save the world.”
This might not seem like it fits in with what we know about the Watchmen TV series so far, but Lindelof does appear to have been hinting at the importance of the story in the trailer for the show, where one can spot a yellow and black Jolly Roger flag hanging from a scythe.
Watchmen TV Show Cast and Characters
A Lesser Known Inspiration
The Watchmen characters have become iconic in their own right, but the series began life as a way for DC to use their newly acquired IP from Charlton Comics. Though that never came to pass, each of the core cast still works as an analogue of the classic publisher’s roster. Rorschach is a reworking of Steve Ditko’s the Question. Both iterations of Nite Owl are inspired by the original two heroes who took on the mantle of Blue Beetle. The near-omnipotent Doctor Manhattan is Watchmen’s version of Captain Atom. Silk Spectre was originally planned to be the Captain Atom superheroine known as Nightshade. The Comedian takes his cue from the pacifist-turned-vigilante called Peacemaker. And Ozymandias, posed as the perfect superhero, plays as a twisted reflection of Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt. Ironically, most of these heroes now exist under the DC banner in their own right, alongside the Watchmen characters they inspired.
An Unimaginable Impact
It’s not hyperbolic to say that Watchmen changed the way that comics were both made and read. Watchmen has, since its release in 1986, never left comic book — and, eventually, book store — shelves. It was included in Time’s 100 Best American Novels list, which introduced it to an entirely new audience and began the wider (and painfully late) reconsideration of comics as a true form of literature. The book has long influenced the way that comics were made for decades, with the gritty deconstruction of supers becoming the norm and their campy origins often forgotten, obliterated just like Rorshach was in the Antarctic.
Watch the trailer for HBO’s Watchmen:
How will the original Watchmen story play into the HBO series, which will feature a mix of both new and old characters? The series debuts on October 20, so we’ll start to find out then! In the meantime, check out everything we know about the Watchmen TV series right here.
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