GENERAL INFO: WATCHMEN is a 12-issue series published in 1985-86 by DC Comics, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons. It's generally acknowledged by fans of the time to be one of the most finely-done superhero comics of all. Since some of you are unfamiliar with the series, here's an intro to some of the characters and concepts.
OZYMANDIAS (Adrian Veidt): Costumed hero born 10/7/33. Billed as the "world's smartest man", Adrian Veidt was influenced by reading of the life of Alexander the Great to perfect himself in mind and body and to devote himself to bettering the human condition as a costumed crimefighter. He began his career in March of 1958 and became a tycoon in his civilian life, founding Veidt Enterprises, which manufactures many different things and liscences the Ozymandias character. In 1966, an encounter with the Comedian and several other heroes convinced him to take matters in hand to prevent a nuclear war from devastating the planet. It took him 19 years to actuate this plan, which involved killing the Comedian, who had stumbled across some details of it, having scientists create an "alien being" through cloning processes which had some ability to produce psychic resonance of horrific alien images encoded into its mind, and teleport it to New York City in 1985, where the explosive force of its arrival and the psychic feedback upon its immediate death killed approximately three million people. This occurred during a time in which Russia and America were threatening to go to nuclear war over Afghanistan. The megadeaths in New York and the sight of an alien being convinced both superpowers that Earth faced a threat from outside, and hostilities were called off to deal with it. Both the U.S. and U.S.S.R. signed an Accord, and the threat of nuclear war between the two has become more remote. But such a peace is hard to maintain, given the constant mix of nations, races, and powers in the world. And even though the other Watchmen (except for Rorschach) agreed not to expose Ozymandias's plot when they finally learned of it, three million are still dead and Veidt feels the guilt of it.
WATCHMEN: In a general sense, the principal heroes of the WATCHMEN series,
though they never formally existed as a team and are not referred to by
that name in the book. The heroes so designated include Dr. Manhattan,
Ozymandias, Nite Owl II, Silk Spectre II, Rorschach, the Comedian, and
Captain Metropolis, the latter three being dead at the opening of our story.
Their name is derived from a phrase in President Kennedy's undelivered speech which was to have been given at Dallas on the day of his assassination: "We are the watchmen on the walls of world freedom."
RORSCHACH (Walter Joseph Kovacs): The most intense and frightening of the Watchmen. Walter Kovacs (born 3/21/40) was the son of a prostitute, often abused by her until taken from her by state authorities and placed in a juvenile home. (This act was occasioned by Walter's being pushed into a fight by two older bullies, during which he partially blinded one.) Upon reaching adulthood, Kovacs became a dress cutter in the New York garment district. One such dress was a plastic garment ordered by Kitty Genovese, who was brutally murdered in an infamous incident while scores of her neighbors looked on. The garment contained two liquids, one black and one white, which did not mix, but formed patterns within the two layers of plastic. Using heated implements to instantly seal the plastic where it was cut, Rorschach fashioned at least two headmasks from the dress and began his career as a vigilante, wearing a hat and overcoat. He frequently teamed with Nite Owl II. In 1975, while working a case, he discovered that a little girl who had been kidnapped was murdered and dismembered by her abductor and fed to his dogs to remove the evidence. The realization of what was done snapped Rorschach's mind. He killed both dogs with a cleaver, chained the murderer in his own house and burned him alive. From that day on, Rorschach killed the criminals he dealt with, living on the money he took from them, and was actively (and futilely) pursued by the police. The Keene Act's outlawing of vigilantism didn't hinder him. In 1985, he learned that murder victim Edward Blake was secretly the Comedian, a hero whom he had met in 1966 and admired despite the latter's "moral lapses". The investigation of this killing endangered Ozymandias's plans, and Veidt gave the police an anonymous tip which led them to capture him. Rorschach was incarcerated in Sing Sing Prison for a few weeks until Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre II broke him out during a prison riot. He aided Nite Owl in the investigation that led them both to Ozymandias's estate in Antarctica, where they finally learned that Veidt had just killed three million people in New York City to stave off nuclear war. Three of the other Watchmen realized that the exposure of Veidt's plan would endanger the precarious nuclear peace, and agreed to keep silent about it. Rorschach refused, and left, intending to return to America and expose the plan. Dr. Manhattan followed and, unseen by the others, killed Rorschach to prevent this. Since the body was atomized and Dr. Manhattan never revealed the killing, Rorschach's demise is officially unconfirmed. But Rorschach left behind him a journal, which he mailed on the eve of his mission to Antarctica to the NEW FRONTIERSMAN, a right-wing political paper which he read assiduously. In it, Veidt was named as the probable murder of the Comedian, Moloch, and several others, and the author of a mysterious plan. The journal was glanced at by a flunky and tossed on a reject pile, mostly unread, but was found with the rest of the FRONTIERSMAN's effects when the paper folded and went into receivership.
INSTITUTE FOR EXTRASPATIAL STUDIES: A building in New York into which Veidt's "alien" was teleported, killing three million New Yorkers as a result.
DR. MANHATTAN (Jonathan Ostermann): The only super-powered hero on Earth. Jon Ostermann (born 3/30/29) was a nuclear physicist with a somewhat passive personality who, on September 11, 1959, was subjected to a "powerful atomic bombardment" by accident at the Gila Flats Weapon Testing Center. He was atomically separated, but, by 11/22/59, had reassembled himself in a new, blue-skinned, bald, almost impossibly-powerful incarnation. Ostermann's power was almost undefined, but he could accomplish almost anything he desired through his new supercharged form. The government dubbed him "Dr. Manhattan" as a reference to the Manhattan Project and used the threat of his great power to maintain a decisive advantage over the Soviets and other Communist powers in the world. He became ever more aloof from humanity, largely doing what the government told him to do in return for being allowed to explore science in solitude with his new powers. In 1966, he met Laurie Juspeczyk (Jupiter) and soon became her lover, throwing over his old mistress Janey Slater for her. She remained his "kept woman" through 1985 at a government installation, until she finally walked out on him. The combination of that and inaccurate media accusations (actuated by Ozymandias) that he had given associates cancer by radiation from his body angered Dr. Manhattan and he left Earth. The Soviets immediately took advantage of the situation by staging an invasion of Afghanistan. Dr. Manhattan briefly returned to see Laurie, who convinced him to take part in the crisis. When he learned Ozymandias's plan, he agreed with Nite Owl and Laurie to keep silent, and killed Rorschach to prevent him from revealing it. Then, after a last meeting with Ozymandias, Dr. Manhattan left for the stars and has not been seen again on Earth.
NITE OWL II (Dan Dreiberg): Costumed hero (born 9/18/42), born to wealth, who was a fancier of birds and followed in the footsteps of Hollis Mason, the original Nite Owl, as a crimefighter, with the latter's permission. Nite Owl II's trademark was a powerful anti-grav airship, Archimedes, shaped in an owl motif. He began his superheroic career in 1963 and formed a team with Rorschach sometime afterward, which largely dissolved after Rorschach's mental trauma in 1975. He retired in 1977 after the Keene Act but, in 1985, was goaded back into action when Rorschach visited him and told him of the Comedian's murder. Dan became Silk Spectre II's (Laurie Jupiter's) lover shortly after Dr. Manhattan left Earth the first time. He discovered Adrian Veidt's connection to the murders of the Comedian and Moloch and something of his master plan, the rest of which he learned from Ozymandias himself in Antarctica. He agreed, along with Laurie and Dr. Manhattan, not to expose Veidt and endanger the nuclear peace. Since the police had discovered his double identity at this time, Nite Owl adopted a new civilian identity, Sam Hollis, along with Laurie, who posed as his wife, Sandra Hollis. Both continued to fight crime, with Dan continuing as Nite Owl and Laurie adopting the identity of the Comedienne.
BUBASTIS: A genetically-altered lynx who was Ozymandias's pet and beloved companion. He used her to lure Dr. Manhattan into a trap in which both she and Manhattan were atomized by a nuclear subtractor in Veidt's Antarctic estate. Bubastis died, which Veidt greatly regretted, but Dr. Manhattan was able to reassemble himself almost instantly.
THE GREAT ACCOMPLISHMENT: Ozymandias's term for the incident in which three million New Yorkers were killed by an "alien" of his creation, staving off nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia and leading to the signing of a peace accord between the superpowers.
PALE HORSE: A rock group, fronted by lead singer Red De'ath, which was playing at Madison Square Garden across from the Institute For Extraspatial Studies the night the "alien" was teleported there. They died along with most of the attendees of the concert and three million other New Yorkers.
THE COMEDIAN: Edward Blake (born 5/13/24), costumed hero, former member of the Minutemen, and government operative. Blake was the youngest of the Minutemen, the group of 1940's masked heroes, but left the group after an incident in which Sally Jupiter refused his affections, leading to his beating and attempted rape of her and his own subsequent beating at the hands of Hooded Justice, whom he himself secretly killed, years later. The Comedian soon became a government-sponsored hero and fought in the Pacific in World War II, then in Korea, and finally in Viet Nam, taking part in many covert operations in between. In 1966, he met with a group of other masked heroes called together by Captain Metropolis, who wanted to put together a group called the Crimebusters. The Comedian effectively broke up the meeting (and the group) by burning a display that Metropolis had created, telling everyone that it didn't matter since nuclear war was inevitable within 30 years, and walking out. In Vietnam in 1971, shortly after Dr. Manhattan's intervention in the war forced the Communists to surrender, the Comedian was confronted by a bar girl whom he had impregnated. When he flatly told her that he was returning to America without her and that the child would be her responsibility, she slashed his face. Angrily, he drew a gun and shot her to death. Dr. Manhattan, standing by, was astonished at the act, but did nothing to stop him or to bring him to justice for it, thanks to his increasing aloofness from human affairs. In 1973, back in the States, the Comedian was reputed to be the assassin who killed Woodward and Bernstein and prevented exposure of the Watergate scandal. In 1978, he freed the hostages in the Iranian kidnapping crisis. In July of 1985, on a government mission, the Comedian stumbled across Veidt's plan and later drunkenly half-revealed it to Moloch, whose apartment had been bugged by Veidt. Accordingly, Veidt broke into the Comedian's skyscraper apartment, overpowered him, beat him severely with his bare hands, and threw him through a plate-glass window to his death many stories below. Rorschach's investigation of Blake's death led to his and the other Watchmen's discovery of Veidt's plan, and Rorschach's subsequent death.
MOLOCH (Edgar William Jacobi): A former stage magician and ganglord with a taste for Dantean and Faustian imagery, Moloch began his criminal career in the late Forties and crossed swords with the Minutemen and other subsequent heroes many times. After an incident in 1968, he was finally jailed and spent most of the Seventies in prison. Upon his release, he was lured into a high-paying job by Ozymandias, who gave him cancer by microwave radiation as part of his master plan. In July of 1985, Moloch's apartment was broken into by the Comedian, who drunkenly revealed that he had seen something very disturbing to him on an island. Moloch attended the Comedian's funeral in October and was trailed by Rorschach, who forced him to tell of his meeting with the Comedian. But Veidt had bugged Moloch's apartment and, when Rorschach set up another meeting with the former gang boss, shot Moloch to death and used his body to lure Rorschach into a police trap, resulting in Rorschach's capture.
NITE OWL I (also known as NIGHT OWL; Hollis Mason): The second American costumed hero, a policeman inspired by comic book superheroes and by the Hooded Justice to become a masked crimefighter in 1939. Nite Owl I was a founding member of the Minutemen, the 1940's superhero team which existed from 1940-49. He remained semi-active until 1962, in which he retired, revealing his secret identity in an autobiographical book, Under the Hood. Mason became an auto mechanic and passed along his identity as Nite Owl to Dan Dreiberg, his successor and friend. In 1985, after Nite Owl II broke Rorschach out of jail, a gang of punks confused him with Mason, broke into Mason's home, and murdered him. Their ringleader, Derf, was later found shot to death, and the involvement of Nite Owl II and the Comedienne was suspected but never proved.
WALLY WEAVER: A young scientist and friend of Jon Ostermann's, known later as "Dr. Manhattan's buddy". Wally was lured into a high-paying job by Adrian Veidt, given cancer by microwave exposure, and died as part of Veidt's master plan.
CAPTAIN METROPOLIS (Nelson Gardner): A Marine captain and costumed hero who became active in 1939 and, in December of that year, founded the first superhero team, the Minutemen. The team broke up in 1949 but Metropolis remained semi-active. In 1966, he called together Dr. Manhattan, the Comedian, Silk Spectre II, Nite Owl II, and Ozymandias, trying to form them into the Crimebusters, a modern super-hero group. But the Comedian burned a display he had created and walked out, effectively ending the meeting and the proposed partnership. Captain Metropolis died in 1974 in an auto accident.
THE SILHOUETTE (Ursula Zandt): A costumed heroine and member of the Minutemen who became active in 1939. She remained in the group until 1946, when she was exposed as a lesbian and forced to leave due to the resultant scandal. Two weeks later, she and her lover were killed by an old enemy.
DOLLAR BILL (Bill Brady): A former football star and costumed hero who began his career in 1939 as a promotional stunt for a bank and soon became a member of the Minutemen. In 1946 he was shot and killed by criminals while attempting to stop a bank robbery.
THE COMEDIENNE (formerly SILK SPECTRE II; Laurie Juspeczyk (Jupiter): The daughter of Silk Spectre I and the Comedian, Laurie Jupiter was the product of her mother's brief affair with a man who, years earlier, had tried to rape her. Sally Jupiter, her mother, was insistent that she follow in her footsteps and become a costumed heroine. She made her debut in 1966 at the Crimebusters' abortive meeting, during which she met Dr. Manhattan. The two of them soon became lovers. Laurie basically enjoyed a "kept woman" status on the government bases at which Dr. Manhattan lived, with her duty being that of keeping the U.S.'s strategic living weapon happy. She also fought crime on the side, but gave that up in 1977 with the passage of the Keene Act, never having been all that happy with it in the first place. In 1985, she walked out on Dr. Manhattan, leading to his leaving Earth for the first time, her expulsion from the government base, and her subsequent relationship with Nite Owl II. When she, Nite Owl II, and Rorschach became involved in learning the truth behind the Comedian's murder, Dr. Manhattan briefly returned to Earth and took her to Mars with him for a meeting at which she convinced him to intervene on humanity's behalf and finally deduced that she was the Comedian's natural daughter. They returned to New York only minutes after the deaths of three million people, then went to Antarctica to confront Ozymandias. She shot a gun at Veidt after he attempted to destroy Dr. Manhattan with a nuclear subtractor, but he caught the bullet and knocked her down. Minutes later, after Manhattan reassembled himself, she agreed with the rest to keep Veidt's plot a secret to save the world from possibly resuming its march towards nuclear war. Later, she assumed the identity of Sandra Hollis, "wife" of Sam Hollis (Nite Owl II), and changed her identity to the Comedienne, in honor of her father. She also wore a leather mask to protect her face and became more ruthless with criminals, carrying a gun and using it to kill crooks when threatened. In her new identity, she is definitely influenced by the father and, to a degree (though she doesn't consciously perceive this) by Rorschach.
MOTHMAN (Byron Lewis): Costumed hero and former member of the Minutemen. Mothman became active in 1939 and was a founding member of the group. However, his left-wing sentiments were prominent, which got him into trouble in the 1950's with HUAC. This led to his subsequent alcoholism and institutionalizaion in an asylum, at which he still resides today. He is one of the two surviving Minutemen.
SILK SPECTRE I (Sally Jupiter): A former waitress and chorus girl who became a costumed crimefighter in 1939 at the behest of her manager, Laurence Shexnader, who saw it as a publicity stunt. She became a founding member of the Crimebusters and posed as the girlfriend of Hooded Justice to conceal the latter's homosexuality. Sally rejected the advances of the Comedian in 1942 and was beaten and almost raped by him, but Hooded Justice rescued her and beat the Comedian severely. Sally retired in 1947 as a crimefighter and married Schexnayder, capitalizing somewhat on her notoriety and making a decent amount of money. But their only child, Laurie (Silk Spectre II), was born as a result of a brief affair she had in 1950 with the Comedian himself, which she concealed from Laurie until 1985. In 1956, Sally and Shexnayder were divorced. Sally was a superheroic "stage mother", intent on training Laurie to become the second Silk Spectre, despite Laurie's sometime lack of enthusiasm for it. Nonetheless, in 1966, Laurie made her debut as Silk Spectre II at the Crimebusters' abortive meeting. In 1980, Sally moved to a retirement home, Nepenthe Gardens, at which she still resides. She is one of the two surviving Minutemen.
HOODED JUSTICE (Rolf Muller): The first American superhero, a carnival strongman, emigrant from Europe, and powerful vigilante. Hooded Justice's identity was unknown even to his fellow Minutemen (he became active in 1938). It was rumored that he took part of his costume motif from that of the Ku Klux Klan. Justice was a homosexual who apparently enjoyed "rough trade". To cover for him, Sally Jupiter (Silk Spectre I) posed as his girlfriend. In 1942, Hooded Justice beat the Comedian severely when he attempted to rape Sally Jupiter and forced him to leave the group. The Minutemen disbanded in 1949, and, after being called to testify with other former members before HUAC in 1954, Hooded Justice abandoned his costumed identity and dropped out of sight. A year later, in secret, the Comedian murdered him.
RED DE'ATH: Rock superstar, front man and lead singer for the group Pale Horse. He died at their November, 1985 gig at Madison Square Garden, along with the rest of the group and their audience.
RICHARD M. NIXON: Six-time president of the United States, thanks to a constitutional amendment passed in 1975 allowing him to seek re-election multiple times. He has used the Comedian on numerous occasions as an operative. Whether or not he ordered or has direct knowledge of the Comedian's killing of Woodward and Bernstein, which prevented the exposure of Watergate, is unknown. In 1985, he is still president, but may not run again due to heart problems.
KEENE ACT: Law passed in 1977, named for its author, Senator Keene, prohibiting vigilantism except for certain individuals recognized by the government. This law was passed as a result of a nationwide police strike in protest against the masked heroes' vigilantism, which resulted in widespread but shortlived chaos. The Keene Act effectively put Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre out of business. Ozymandias had publicly announced his identity a year or two beforehand and retired from crime-fighting. As government operatives, the Comedian and Dr. Manhattan were not affected. Rorschach refused to acknowledge the Keene Act, and maintained his covert and deadly assault on criminals until his capture in 1985.
JANEY SLATER: Former lover of Dr. Manhattan. Janey Slater met Jon Ostermann at Gila Flats in 1959 and soon became romantically involved with him. She remained his mistress after his return as Dr. Manhattan, but was rejected by him in 1966 in favor of Silk Spectre II. In 1981, Adrian Veidt lured her into a high-paying job and gave her cancer by microwave exposure as part of his master plan.