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Have you ever wondered what society as you know it would be like if there were actual superheroes in it? It’s a question that often comes to mind if you’re a comic book fan.
The Watchmen is a masterpiece that reflects upon this idea. It’s filled with grounded and flawed characters with unspeakable power. To some, it’s one of the best comic books ever made. If you want to know more about this world before you venture into it, welcome to The Watchmen’s Universe Guide.
The Watchmen Overview
This piece throws the audience into a grim world full of the worst in humanity. At the same time, the comic grounds itself in a realistic setting, with characteristics of the real world and a shimmer of supernatural in the form of superheroes.
Bruce Wayne fights criminals in Gotham City, Clarke Kent works in the Daily Planet, Barry Allen lives in Central City. Unlike them, The Watchmen spends most of their time in a real-life city, New York.
This masterpiece impacted the industry forever, and to this day, it still does. It has a movie adaptation directed by Zack Snyder and an HBO series that tackles some of its world backgrounds.
What Brought The Watchmen Together?
The Watchmen are a group of humans with no superhuman strength (except for Doctor Manhattan). They were brought together by one of their own (Rorschach) who was looking to further investigate the death of the Comedian.
How Many Watchmen Comics Are There?
“Watchmen” has 12 issues written between 1986 and 1987, fueled with increasing anxiety on a Cold War going warm and a possible nuclear apocalypse.
It was written by Alan Moore, drawn by Dave Gibbons, and colored by John Higgins. In this work, Alan Moore gives his point of view on the superhero genre, a critic that, rather than diminish the comic’s impulse, opens a new window to a more mature audience.
Most Popular Watchmen Comic
Watchmen comics are not rated based on their popularity. All of the comic books (from #1 to #12) are just as important to read and skipping one of them would completely ruin the subversive experience for the story.
What Is the Most Valuable Watchmen Comic?
Watchmen comic books are sold for prices that vary from $6 to $400. You can find them on various online websites, including eBay or My Comic Shop. The first edition is arguably the most valuable, as some people sell it for up to $1,200.
According to Wired, the cover for the first-ever Watchmen comic was sold for $155,350 to a collector at a Heritage auction.
How Does the Watchmen Movie Compare to the Comics?
To analyze the differences between the movie and the comic book, we must look at different aspects of the plot and characters.
The characters are identical in both the movie and the comic books.
Both plots are focused on a group of ex-superheroes that try to save lives by eliminating the nuclear threat. They uncover another terrifying plot as they investigate the murder of the Comedian. The film changes the ending of the comic book.
The movie: Dark and grim, emulating the comic book aesthetic and Snyder’s distinctive style, less subversive and featuring tons of action and thriller aspects.
The comic books: Gritty, dark, and characteristic of the darker comic books of the 1980s, this comic is incredibly subversive and thought-provoking.
Both the movie and the comic book are set in an alternate version of 1985. It’s the Cold War era and the fight between Russia and America leads to a potential nuclear threat.
See also: Black Panther Villains Guide
The movie: Views on authoritarianism and dictatorship, reflections on comic book characters, conspiracy theories, and other topics are covered.
The comic books: Increased Cold War tensions are causing anxiety; there are musings on tyranny and dictatorship, and the meaning of a superhero is being debated.
Who Are the Watchmen Characters?
The characters in the comics are divided into four categories:
- The Crimebusters: The Comedian, Doctor Manhattan, Nite Owl, Ozymandias, Rorschach, and Silk Spectre.
- The Minutemen: Hollis Mason, Dollar Bill, Captain Metropolis, Mothman, Sally Jupiter.
- The Adversaries: Big Figure, Twilight Lady, Moloch the Mystic, Captain Carnage.
- Other characters: Doug Roth, Janey Slater, Gloria Long, Bernard, Alien Monster, etc.
See also: Iron Man Universe Guide
What makes this comic a real gem are its characters. They are real people, sometimes good, sometimes the worst. Some say that they are realistic. I think they are pessimistic.
I don’t want to enter an argument about it, and I absolutely don’t say it as a bad thing. However, the real thing is that they are not JUST people, but utterly BROKEN people with a lot of power.
There are six main characters and a bunch of secondary ones. I’ll keep the spoilers to a minimum.
Let’s begin with the most problematic of all, The Comedian. Edward Blake is a military man, big and muscular, with a costume covered with American colors. Despite the name, he is far from being the comic relief of the gang.
The man is a sociopath, a murderer, and a rapist. His life story is detailed mainly in the second issue, and all of his “friends” remember this “hero” very well.
Edward Blake started to work for the US government as a state dog, and in that role, he went out of his way to enjoy every part of the job. He didn’t discriminate when it came to killing.
What was so heroic about him?
Well, nothing really, but he had the costume and the strength. His very death is what starts the whole comic, and this event ripples through every page until the very end.
Silk Specter II
Laurie Juspeczyk is the daughter of the last Silk Specter, a superhero of the golden age, and a woman who has lived through a lot. Laurie is probably the less powerful of all the Watchmen.
Nonetheless, she is arguably the one who has trained the most to get there. Since childhood, her mother raised her to be a hero, but none could guess what the world would become once she grew up.
She tries to be the hero in a world she doesn’t understand, too big for her, too chaotic. When the comic begins, she is in a relationship with Dr. Manhattan, and living with him troubles her on many occasions. In the end, she forms the romantic subplot of the story, leaving some hope amid all the comic’s death.
The less detailed character of the comic is probably the most relatable in it. Daniel Dreiberk is a Bruce Wayne in a world where being a vigilante doesn’t change much. Nite Owl has many classic vibes a hero is supposed to have.
However, it has a twist.
He is retired, and all his days of glory are back in the past. Now he has an uneventful life, not knowing if anything he did really made the difference.
Like Silk Specter, he doesn’t impact the comic as much as the others. Nonetheless, in the end, he accepts his role and lives happily.
He is not precisely a hopeful character but rather an impotent person trying to do the best he can. He gives us the everyday man questions, looking at the big problems from the outside and asking what he can do about it.
Walter Joseph Kovacs is arguably the main character of the comic. From the beginning, he is the one looking for answers and moving the story forward.
He is the detective of the group, looking for clues under the rubbish and tying events together. However, he is not necessarily correct. Unlike the typical detective archetype, Rorschach is fixed with an answer, and the rest of the clues he finds don’t change his mind until the end.
Rorschach is a simple person. It’s either good or bad, not in-between. When he was younger, he thought there was a path to redemption for criminals. With time, he learned otherwise.
The wretched world he grew up in tore his mind apart and made him a ruthless vigilante, one with no remorse for bad people. Now he is devoted to conspiracies, cruel, and remorseless.
As Professor Milton Glass once said, “God Exists, and he’s American.”
That’s Dr. Manhattan.
Jon Osterman was a scientist who got trapped in one of his experiments and obtained superpowers. Nothing too strange in the world of superheroes. What makes Dr. Manhattan stand out is his slow but steady detachment from humanity. He is not like Superman, he doesn’t see humans as equals, and he doesn’t have to.
This “hero” changed the world he inhabits in many ways. His sole presence was enough to turn the tides in a famous war, changing this “timeline” of events. Manhattan sees the world as a playground and life as an uneventful gust in the universe.
Furthermore, in the movie version, he even juggles with the possibility of ending humanity altogether. He is the answer to the question “If God existed, why should he care about us?”
Adrian Veidt went public when superheroes became illegal, and since then, he has been seen as the perfect man. He made his destiny from the bottom and became the smartest man alive, just after Dr. Manhattan.
Like the rest of his companions, he also became disappointed with his role as a masked hero and decided to go further.
Ozymandias is a megalomaniac and a narcissist. He thinks of himself as some kind of reincarnation of some great emperors of antiquity, and he even dresses similar to Alexander the Great.
His pragmatism knows no limits, and he has the most remarkable body a man could achieve. He is perfection in a human sense, but much like Jon, his superiority detaches him from his humanity, and nothing satisfies him.
Now I’ll just touch on some other comic characters with minor roles and why they are essential to the overall story.
The Minutemen / Hollis Manson, Nite Owl
The Minutemen were a group of vigilantes before Watchmen, and many of them were their future mentors.
Hollis Manson was the first Nite Owl and now is an older man with a very calm life. He serves as an insight into the story’s past and how that past is viewed. He mentored Daniel Dreiberg into the next Nite Owl.
The Minutemen / Sally Juspeczyk, Silk Specter
Another Minutemen member with a golden past. She has a distraught story that mirrors horrors of the past and how they affect the present on a human level. She also serves as a mature foil to her daughter and present Silk Specter, Laurie.
Old Enemies and Moloch
Throughout the comic, we see that the Watchmen had their fair share of enemies in the past. Nowadays, many of their old enemies are inactive or in jail. Such is the case of Moloch.
Once a mighty foe, this carcass of a supervillain serves as a commentary on the decaying of the human body and contrasts Rorschach’s point of view of the world. Given enough time, is the world really that black and white when a villain as detestable as this changes?
The Newspaper Vendor, The Kid, and The Pirate Story
Many ordinary people recurrently appear in the comic, mainly to give us a grounded perspective on what is happening in the world to the rest of the mortals. The vendor always talks about nuclear annihilation (a common theme throughout the comic).
The kid never speaks, but he reads a pirate story, ignoring the vendor until the end. Lastly, the Pirate story serves as a literary device and a metaphor. The three together form a contrast with the superheroes and their actions.
Question: What’s the central theme of Watchmen?
Answer: There are many themes in Watchmen, from fear of global extinction due to nuclear power to the smallness of human life in the universe. The central theme analyzes the complex human nature and makes one wonder about the fine line between good and evil.
Question: Why is Watchmen so renowned?
Answer: The reason for his impact is primarily due to the masterful writing of Alan Moore. His characters are as fully fleshed as they came, his plot is mostly flawless, and the background he creates is entirely alive.
Question: How powerful is Dr. Manhattan?
Answer: With Dr. Manhattan, it appears that there is no end to his abilities, making him the most powerful comic book character of all time, according to some estimates.
In the End
What makes Watchmen a masterpiece is how the characters are designed. This is not your average Superman kiddie comic book where good fights evil and everyone has their happy ending. It’s a complex tale of morality that will often make you stop and wonder if the heroes of the story are actually heroes or are on the verge of becoming villains.