Who Exactly Are The Watchmen?

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.

To say adaptations of classic comic book characters (and, more recently, comic book villains) have dominated the entertainment industry for decades is a massive understatement. It's also a fact that really seems to grind director Martin Scorsese's gears, so he's probably not thrilled that HBO's new Watchmen series is adding to the fray. But Damon Lindelof's vigilante series is coming on October 20, whether he likes it or not. The difference is, unlike the Marvel films that Scorsese spoke out against, the characters who make up the Watchmen crew might not be as familiar to audiences. In fact, the crew might not even be familiar to fans of the Watchmen comics.

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The new series introduces Sister Night (Regina King), Looking Glass (Tim Blake Nelson), Red Scare (Andrew Howard), Pirate Jenny (Adelaide Clemons), and Panda (Jacob Ming-Trent) as brand new masked crime fighters. The crew seem to be working on the same side at the start of the series, but haven't exactly formed a super group when we first meet them.

The original Watchmen, however, are the stuff of legend in the new show.

For those who didn't start with the story on the page, here are the nuts and bolts: Writer Alan Moore created the Watchmen series in 1986 with the help of artist Dave Gibbons and colorist John Higgins. (Moore and Gibbons also worked on the 2012 prequel mini-series titled Before Watchmen.) The original story transports readers and viewers to an alternative universe in which the presence of superheroes has impacted history and not everyone has a favorable view of costumed vigilantes.

While the original comics took place during an alternate reality version of the Cold War, this new show takes place just over three decades later. Lindelof confirmed at Watchmen's Television Critics Association panel in July that his series will be a totally new take on the comic's lore. “We are not going to mess with it, it’s canon,” he said when asked about the source material. “It is not supposed to be a world that you recognize to Trojan horse themes that are in a real world in a fictional one. What is actual history and what is alt-history and things start to get blended in the middle.”

Still, the first few episodes of Watchmen come at viewers fast, so it is probably helpful to go into the show knowing some basic background information. 

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In the Watchmen comics, the six main Watchmen characters are Ozymandias, The Comedian, Silk Spectre, Rorschach, Doctor Manhattan, and Nite Owl. The trailers and teasers for HBO's version have been pretty cryptic so far, but it's been made pretty clear by Lindelof that the series isn't meant to focus on the Watchmen we already know, but on new vigilantes like King's Sister Night. But, while the focus is a crop of new characters, the series does pretty heavily reference the Watchmen that came before. To help you catch those references, here is a quick rundown on who those people are, and why they're still being talked about decades after their reign.

Ozymandias

Is He On The HBO Show? Yep.

Who Is He? The first Watchmen character who will appear in the television show is Adrian Veidt who also goes by Ozymandias (Jeremy Irons). He is considered the smartest man in the world which helps him outwit his opponents. He is also an international businessman with a global empire. Despite having good intentions, his methods are questionable (which is a common trait on this list!). At one point in the comic book series, he sends a squid into Manhattan, which kills millions of people but ultimately forces all the different countries on Earth to fight together against one enemy. 

The Comedian

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Is He On The HBO Show? Not yet.

Who Is He? The Comedian’s is an alias for Edward Blake, who's not yet confirmed to appear in the HBO series. He joined the Minutemen which was a group of masked crime fighters and later was a member of the Crimebusters. Like some of the other characters on this list, The Comedian doesn’t have a positive backstory like a typical superhero, but he also isn’t a great person. He once tried to assault Silk Spectre and was banned from the Minutemen because of it. He has an by-any-means-necessary attitude and uses his advanced combat skills to defeat his enemies. His death drives the murder mystery aspect of the graphic novel. 

Silk Spectre

Is She On The HBO Show? You betcha.

Who Is She? The show will focus on the second version of Silk Spectre, Laurie Juspeczyk, or Laurie Blake (Jean Smart) in the series (presumably after her parents Sally Jupiter, aka the first Silk Spectre, and Eddie Blake). In this updated timeline, Laurie is now an FBI agent.

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In the comics, Silk Spectre takes over the role from her mother and later travels to Mars to convince Doctor Manhattan to come back to Earth and save the world from nuclear war. She becomes  a talented martial artist after being trained by her mother and seeks answers about the identity of her real father. 

Rorschach

Is He On The HBO Show? Kind of.

Who Is He? Walter Joseph Kovacs’ alter ego is Rorschach, which he inherited from the personality test used by psychologists. However, it is most likely that Rorschach sees his true self as his superhero form considering in one comic book he refers to his mask as his face. His biggest asset it his intellect as he is skilled in investigation and interrogation. These talents help him work well with Nite Owl. But the hardships he faced as a child (like being abused by his mother) has led to him having a very skewed, unstable view of how to achieve justice. 

In the new series, Rorschach has inadvertently inspired the masks of a rising white supremacist group that King's character is fighting against.

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Doctor Manhattan

Is He On The HBO Show? He almost certainly will be.

Who Is He? The final character to show up in Watchmen on HBO might just be Jonathan Osterman’s Doctor Manhattan (creators haven't confirmed his casting, but he's mentioned throughout the first few episodes). He is the only character out of the six to actually have superpowers; the others just use their natural-born strengths. Doctor Manhattan became a sort of godlike being after he was trapped inside a chamber where nuclear energy testing occurred. His abilities helped the United States win the Vietnam War. He retreats to Mars later on in the series but Silk Spectre convinces him to return to Earth. 

Nite Owl

Is He On The HBO Show? Not yet.

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Who Is He? In the comics, Dan Dreiberg is inspired by the first Nite Owl, so he adopts this alias and becomes the second version. He is a fan of gadgets, which are his biggest asset. He also has a costume that resembles a bird; this comes in handy because he can use it to patrol the city from above. He is romantically connected to Silk Spectre and eventually, they both assume new identities. Still, they stay committed to solving crime. 

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