Watchmen Will Make a Whole Lot More Sense If You Read This Before the Premiere
HBO is about to debut a new adventure drama called Watchmen, and let us tell you, it is awesome and Regina King is a total badass (like always). But it has a lot of people wondering what connection this television series has to Alan Moore's 1986 graphic novel and Zack Snyder's 2009 adaptation of the same name, plus the origins of these masked vigilantes. Don't worry, we're here to help.
The TV series is an entirely new story set four decades after the events of the graphic novel and the film adaptation. There will be some characters from the original storyline appearing on the show — at least Jeremy Irons as Ozymandias, plus Doctor Manhattan, Silk Spectre II and Nite Owl II, whose casting has been kept under wraps. So everything that happens in the novel, the movie, and the new TV series is all canon within the universe.
Ahead of Sunday's premiere, brush up on the basics of these vigilantes — trust us, this info will come in handy.
The Minutemen's Origin Story
To understand the Watchmen, you must first look at the Minutemen. This was the predecessor superhero group, fighting crime in the 1940s. They appeared in the movie because there are members of this group whose successors are part of the Watchmen: the original Nite Owl (Stephen McHattie) and Silk Spectre (Carla Gugino) were Minutemen. By the events of the Watchmen movie, which take place in the 1980s, only Silk Spectre, Nite Owl and Mothman (Niall Matter) are still alive.
This group never came to fruition in the comics. Creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons always talked about doing the Minutemen as a prequel series, but it never happened.
Rorschach's Origin Story
Largely considered the protagonist of the comics, Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), whose real name is Walter Kovacs, wears a black and white Rorschach mask that reflects his moral absolutism — there is right and there is wrong with no shades of grey in between. His origin as a crimefighter stems from the real-life Kitty Genovese case, where several neighbors heard said woman being raped and murdered in Queens and no one intervened or called the police. After that, Rorschach began fighting crime as a vigilante and eventually teamed up with Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson), which is how the Watchmen first started.
Nite Owl II's Origin Story
Hollis T. Mason was the first Nite Owl, working as part of the Minutemen in the 1940s. When he retired in 1962, Daniel Dreiberg sought him out and asked if he could don the persona to fight crime — Dreiberg then became Nite Owl II. He later met Rorschach and the two of them became a crime-fighting duo and good friends.
During the events of Watchmen, he became romantically involved with Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman) after she broke it off with Doctor Manhattan (Billy Crudup). By the end of the movie, they ran off together under new identities because they were presumed dead in Ozymandias's (Matthew Goode) attack on New York City.
Silk Spectre II's Origin Story
Laurie Juspeczyk (Akerman) is the daughter of the original Silk Spectre, Sally Jupiter (Gugino). She and her mother always had a strained relationship because Laurie suspected the man she was told was her father growing up, Laurence Schexnayder, was not actually her biological father. But she still followed in her mother's footsteps and took up crimefighting, working with Doctor Manhattan (and becoming romantically involved with him) before teaming up with Rorschach and Nite Owl II.
Over the course of the Watchmen movie, Laurie figures out that The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is her biological father, which she grapples to understand because he sexually assaulted her mother before the two of them slept together consensually; it was always hard for her to comprehend how her mother could sleep with her would-be rapist.
Doctor Manhattan's Origin Story
Doctor Manhattan (Crudup), aka Jon Osterman, has a PhD in atomic physics from Princeton. During his research, he ended up becoming trapped in a test chamber and his body was torn to pieces by the force of the atomic generator. Over the next few months, his body reformed itself until he was a normal man again — except that he glows ultraviolet.
After that, he became an instrument for the US government, helping us win the Vietnam War. He eventually rebelled from this use and wanted to end humanity, but Laurie persuaded him not to. At the end of the movie, he departs Earth altogether.
Ozymandias's Origin Story
This smart, wealthy boy named Adrian Veidt idolized Alexander the Great and Ramesses II for their intellect and power. He donned a costume at age 19 and became a vigilante, eventually catching the eye of the Crimebusters (a sort of interim group between the Minutemen and Watchmen that never really got off the ground).
But when public opinion turned against vigilantes, he retired and became a great humanitarian (at least publicly). In secret, he planned to unite the world via a catastrophic event that would kill millions. When The Comedian discovered this plan, Ozymandias killed him, which kicked off the events of the Watchmen film.
An older Ozymandias, played by Jeremy Irons, will appear on the HBO Watchmen series.
The Comedian's Origin Story
Edward Blake (Morgan) was the youngest member of the Minutemen — and also the most violent, seeming to have a blood lust that the others did not. His attempted rape of Sally Jupiter got him kicked out of the group; they later had a consensual affair that produced daughter Laurie.
In the 1960s, the Comedian began working as a government operative alongside Doctor Manhattan to help the US win the Vietnam War. He also later implied that he was behind the murders of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein before they could reveal the Watergate scandal and also the execution of President Kennedy, all on President Nixon's orders.
It is Blake's murder in 1985 that kicked off the events of Watchmen.