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Watchmen-Characters

The main cast of Watchmen (from left to right): The Comedian, Nite Owl, Rorschach, Silk Spectre, Dr. Manhattan, and Ozymandias.

Watchmen is a twelve-issue comic book limited series created by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, and John Higgins, published by DC Comics in 1986 and 1987. Watchmen focuses on six main characters: the Comedian, Doctor Manhattan, the Nite Owl, Ozymandias, Rorschach, and the Silk Spectre. These characters were originally based on the Mighty Crusaders and then reworked in an unsolicited proposal to fit superhero properties DC had acquired from Charlton Comics in the early 1980s. Series writer Alan Moore created the main characters to present six "radically opposing ways" to perceive the world, and to give readers of the story the privilege of determining which one was most morally comprehensible.

Main characters

The Comedian

The Comedian is Edward Morgan Blake. The Comedian was initially based on the Shield and then on the Charlton Comics character Peacemaker, with elements of the Marvel Comics spy character Nick Fury added. Moore and Gibbons saw the Comedian as "a kind of Gordon Liddy character, only a much bigger, tougher guy". Gibbons went with a Groucho Marx-style appearance (mustache and cigar) for the Comedian in his design, deciding that the "clown" look had already been appropriated by the DC Comics supervillain the Joker. His costume itself was noted by Gibbons as being particularly problematic; he was initially designed with a more militaristic costume which was later dropped for a black leather outfit with a "rapist mask". He believes that humans are savage in nature, and that civilization can never be more than an idea. He therefore chooses to become a mockery of society, fighting and killing without reservation.

Blake's murder, which takes place shortly before the story begins in 1985, sets the plot of Watchmen in motion. The character appears throughout the story in flashbacks and aspects of his personality are revealed by other characters. Richard Reynolds described the Comedian as "ruthless, cynical, and nihilistic, and yet capable of deeper insights than the others into the role of the costumed hero". Nicholas Michael Grant said the Comedian is "the only character in the Watchmen universe who is almost totally unlikeable."

In the Watchmen film he is played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

Doctor Manhattan

Dr. Jonathan "Jon" Osterman is a physicist who was transformed into a blue-skinned god-like being after he was disintegrated in an Intrinsic Field Subtractor in 1959. He had returned to the chamber to retrieve his girlfriend's watch (which he had repaired), and was accidentally locked inside when the Subtractor started automatically. Jon was blown into atoms, with nothing left of his body. Within a few months, his disembodied consciousness managed to reconstruct a physical body for itself. Following his reanimation, he is immediately pressed into service by the United States government, which gives him the name Doctor Manhattan, after the Manhattan Project. He is the only character in the story that possesses actual superpowers. Though he dabbles briefly in crime-fighting, his greatest influence is to grant the U.S. a strategic advantage over the Soviet Union during the Cold War, with his most significant action taking place after he is personally asked by President Richard Nixon to intervene in the Vietnam War, leading to an unqualified victory for the U.S. with the defeat of North Vietnam and the Vietcong, preventing the collapse of the Saigon government. Since he works for the U.S. government, he is exempt from the provisions of the Keene Act, but spends much of his time doing advanced technology research and development, and physics research. He is single-handedly responsible for the shift to electric-powered vehicles (by synthesizing the needed elements and chemicals himself) and Veidt credits him with causing a huge leap forward in myriad areas of science and technology. As a result, the technology of the alternative 1985 of the Watchmen universe is far more advanced. After the death of his father in 1969, he does not conceal his birth name and is referenced as "Jon" or "Dr. Osterman".

Doctor Manhattan was partly based on Charlton's Captain Atom, who in Moore's original proposal was surrounded by the shadow of nuclear threat. However, the writer found he could do more with Manhattan as a "kind of a quantum super-hero" than he ever could have with Captain Atom. Moore sought to delve into nuclear physics and quantum physics in constructing the character of Dr. Manhattan. The writer believed that a character living in a quantum universe would not perceive time with a linear perspective, which would influence the character's perception of human affairs. Moore also wanted to avoid creating an emotionless character like Spock from Star Trek, so he sought for Dr. Manhattan to retain "human habits" and to grow away from them and humanity in general. Gibbons had created the blue character Rogue Trooper, and explained he reused the blue skin motif for Doctor Manhattan as it resembles skin tonally, but has a different hue. Moore incorporated the color into the story, and Gibbons noted the rest of the comic's color scheme made Manhattan unique. The blue skin color is explained as being a result of Cherenkov radiation. Moore recalled that he was unsure if DC would allow the creators to depict the character as fully nude, which partially influenced how they portrayed the character. Gibbons wanted to tastefully depict Manhattan's nudity, selecting carefully when full frontal shots would occur and giving him "understated" genitals — like a classical sculpture — so the reader would not initially notice it. Dr. Manhattan's forehead is marked with the atomic structure of hydrogen, which he himself put on, declining a helmet with the atom symbol.

His powers include superhuman strength, telekinesis, teleportation, control over matter at a subatomic level, and near-total clairvoyance. He perceives the past, present and future as happening simultaneously, but states that he cannot act on that knowledge since his own actions and reactions to events (as is reality itself) are predetermined. His ability to see the future can be blocked by a surge of tachyons, such as that released when Ozymandias puts the final step of his plan into action.

In the Watchmen film, Doctor Manhattan is a CGI character modeled after Greg Plitt with voice, motion capture, and facial performance provided by Billy Crudup.

Nite Owl

Nite Owl II (Daniel Dreiberg) is a superhero who uses owl-themed gadgets, in a manner which led Dave Gibbons to consider him "an obsessive hobbyist... a comics fan, a fanboy." Nite Owl was partly based on the Ted Kord version of the Charlton superhero Blue Beetle. Just as Ted Kord had a predecessor, Moore also incorporated an earlier adventurer who used the name "Nite Owl", the retired crime fighter Hollis Mason, into Watchmen. While Moore devised character notes for Gibbons to work from, the artist provided a name and a costume design for Hollis Mason he had created when he was twelve. Richard Reynolds noted in Super Heroes: A Modern Mythology that despite the character's Charlton roots, Nite Owl's modus operandi has more in common with the DC Comics character Batman. According to Geoff Klock, his civilian form "visually suggests an impotent, middle-aged Clark Kent." The second Nite Owl is another Crimebusters vigilante who has not revealed his identity in the post-Keene Act era throughout the novel.

In the Watchmen film he is played by Patrick Wilson, who put on 25 pounds (11 kg) in between the filming of his flashback scenes and the 1985 scenes, showing the physical decline of his character.

Ozymandias

Ozymandias (Adrian Veidt) was a former superhero who is drawing inspiration from his hero Alexander the Great and the Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II, for whom he is named. He inherited a fortune, but gave it away to see if he could be a success by himself. Ozymandias traced Alexander's path himself. At the start of Watchmen he has retired to devote his attention to the running of his own enterprises. Ozymandias was directly based on Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt, whom Moore had admired for using his full brain capacity as well as possessing full physical and mental control. Veidt is believed to be the smartest man on the planet, even capable of outsmarting Dr. Manhattan. His combination of intelligence and highly advanced fighting skills makes him perhaps the most feared and dangerous of the mortal vigilantes. He was even able to catch a bullet fired at him. He is often accompanied by his genetically-engineered lynx, Bubastis. Richard Reynolds noted that by taking initiative to "help the world", Veidt displays a trait normally attributed to villains in superhero stories, and in a sense he is the "villain" of the series. Gibbons noted "One of the worst of his sins kind of looking down on the rest of humanity, scorning the rest of humanity." In 2008, he was ranked number 10 on the Forbes Fictional 15. Wizard magazine also ranked Ozymandias as 25th Greatest Villain of All Time and IGN ranked him as 21st Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.

In the Watchmen film he is played by Matthew Goode. His costume was designed to parody the rubber suits featuring nipples in the film Batman & Robin. This incarnation of Veidt uses a German accent when speaking with friends and an American accent when speaking publicly. Instead of breeding a giant monster and placing it in New York to massacre half the city as in the comics, Veidt destroys New York with a nuclear blast designed to look as though Dr. Manhattan caused it, bringing the world to peace.

Rorschach

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Rorschach is a noir private detective-themed vigilante who wears a white mask with constantly shifting ink blots. Rorschach continues to fight crime in spite of his outlaw status, eventually making the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List. He was born Walter Kovacs, the son of a prostitute by a man whose last name his mother never bothered to learn, and spent much of his childhood in a home for troubled youth, after which he began working in a garment factory. After reading about the murder of Kitty Genovese and the reported complete indifference of the witnesses of the crime, he modified a special fabric that she had ordered, according to him, to create a mask and became a vigilante, eventually forming a productive partnership with Nite Owl II. In 1975, after failing to rescue a young girl, he lost all faith in humanity and began to embrace extremist right-wing ideology.

When the story begins, a man is seen walking around New York carrying a sign that reads "The End Is Nigh," but it is not until several chapters later that the reader learns that this man is Rorschach.

Moore based Rorschach on the Steve Ditko creations The Question and Mr. A. Moore said he was trying to "come up with this quintessential Steve Ditko character — someone who's got a funny name, whose surname begins with a 'K,' who's got an oddly designed mask". As a result, Rorschach's real name is given as Walter Kovacs. Ditko's Charlton character The Question also served as a template for creating Rorschach. Comics historian Bradford W. Wright described the character's world view as "a set of black-and-white values that take many shapes but never mix into shades of gray, similar to the ink blot tests of his namesake". Rorschach sees existence as random and, according to Wright, this viewpoint leaves the character "free to 'scrawl [his] own design' on a 'morally blank world'". Moore said he did not foresee the death of Rorschach until the fourth issue when he realized that his refusal to compromise would result in him not surviving the story.

In the Watchmen film he is played by Jackie Earle Haley.

Silk Spectre

Laurie Juspeczyk (Silk Spectre II) is the daughter of Sally Jupiter, the first Silk Spectre. Laurie's mother apparently wanted her to follow in her footsteps and so she fought crime for ten years before the Keene Act banned vigilantes. Unlike the other protagonists, Silk Spectre was not based on a particular Charlton character, although her relationship with Dr. Manhattan is similar to that between Captain Atom and the heroine Nightshade. Moore felt he needed a female hero in the cast and drew inspiration from comic book heroines such as Black Canary and Phantom Lady.

Laurie is kept on retainer by the government because of her relationship with Doctor Manhattan and lives on a government base at the beginning of the comic. When Doctor Manhattan leaves Earth, the government has her removed from the base and suspends her expense account, forcing her to move in with Dan, with whom she starts a romantic relationship. At the end of the eighth issue, Doctor Manhattan appears and takes her to Mars because he knows she wants to convince him to save the world. On Mars, she realizes that The Comedian was her biological father. After the final encounter with Veidt at the end of the series, she assumes the identity of Sandra Hollis and continues her relationship with Dan.

In the Watchmen film she is played by Malin Åkerman. In a 2003 draft script by David Hayter, which was reviewed by IGN, Laurie uses the name, Jupiter, and the alter ego name "Slingshot". The former detail seems to have been retained in the final version of the film (though the Nite Owl's goggles gave her last name as her mother's maiden name, Juspeczyk). The film gives her date of birth as December 2, 1949. Silk Spectre was ranked 24th in Comics Buyer's Guide's 100 Sexiest Women in Comics list.

Minor characters

Key to the success of Watchmen is the wide range of characters it features beyond the 'main' stars. Moore stated in 1988 that, in Watchmen, "we spend a good deal of time with the people on the street. We wanted to spend as much time detailing these characters and making them believable as we did the main characters." Moore and Gibbons deliberately wanted all their characters "to have a place in this vast organic mechanism that we call the world." The fleshing-out of the world was, in Moore's words, to demonstrate that "all the way through the entire series human life is going on with all of its petty entanglements and minor difficulties and all the rest of it." Moore adds that it is possible to see the story as being as much about the supporting as the main characters:

What Nixon does and what Dr. Manhattan does and what Veidt does — it affects the people on the street corner but only peripherally, indirectly... And yet, in some ways, those people on the street corner, it's their story. They're the people we're concerned about.
  • Hollis Mason: The first Nite Owl who is retired in 1962 and author of the autobiography "Under The Hood" which appears in excerpts throughout the story. Hollis was the only member of the Minutemen who did not have any social problems and mainly enjoyed being a costumed adventurer. On Halloween, the Knot-Tops, led by Derf, assault Hollis in retaliation for the release of Rorschach, which was caused by Nite Owl II (Daniel Dreiberg) and Silk Spectre II (Laurie Juspeczyk); Derf hits Hollis on the head with Hollis' Nite Owl trophy, killing the former superhero (this event is only depicted in the director's cut version of the film). In the film, he is played by Stephen McHattie, while his younger self is played by Clint Carleton.
  • Sally Jupiter (Sally Juspeczyk): The first Silk Spectre and founding member of the Minutemen who is now retired. She is later the domineering "stage mom" of Laurie Juspeczyk (Silk Spectre II). Sally married her manager, Laurence Schexnayder, shortly after retiring. She narrowly avoided being raped by the Comedian, although she later forgave him, and ultimately bore his child. Sally adores the attention she receives from fans of "The Silk Spectre." In the film, she is played by Carla Gugino.
  • Captain Metropolis (Nelson Gardner): A former Marine Lieutenant. He was one of the more active members of the Minutemen, which he had a part in creating. In the 1960s, he also unsuccessfully attempted to recruit the second generation of superheroes into a new group called the Crimebusters. He is briefly mentioned as having been decapitated in a car accident in 1974, later revealed to have been a suicide. He was played by Darryl Scheelar.
  • Hooded Justice: The first masked vigilante. His real identity is never conclusively revealed but is strongly suggested to be circus strongman Rolf Müller. Hooded Justice disappeared under mysterious circumstances in the early 1950s; presumably murdered by the Comedian in retaliation for the severe beating he gave the Comedian for attempting to rape Sally Jupiter years earlier. He was played by Glenn Ennis in the film.

Allusions were made to a relationship with Captain Metropolis, which Moore tacitly confirmed in 1988, saying "I wanted to approximate real life as much as possible and that meant giving each of the characters a sexual identity." Their relationship was far from ideal. In the DC Heroes Roleplaying Game Watchmen supplement it is mentioned that Hooded Justice abused Captain Metropolis. He was also known to frequently have sex outside their relationship with rent boys and runaways, whom he also severely beat and abused (costing Schexnayder a fortune in bribes to hush it all up). Metropolis is described as unable and unwilling to break away from Hooded Justice.

  • Dollar Bill (real name Bill Brady as stated in the role-playing sourcebook): A bank-sponsored member of the Minutemen who was created for publicity purposes. He died during a bank robbery in 1947 when his cloak was caught in the bank's revolving doors, allowing the robbers to shoot him at point-blank range. In the film, he is portrayed by Dan Payne.
  • Mothman (Byron Lewis): A former member of the Minutemen who suffered from alcoholism and mental illness later in life. Lewis had a privileged upbringing and sought to help the less fortunate and fight oppression and corruption as a crimefighter. To this end Lewis created a costume with special wings that helped him glide, dubbing himself "Mothman". Lewis became an alcoholic during the pressures of the HUAC trials. He was forcibly brought to a mental asylum in Maine, but was briefly released for the Minutemen's reunion. In the film, he is portrayed by Niall Matter.
  • The Silhouette (Ursula Zandt): A former member of the Minutemen. She was forced into retirement in 1946 after being outed as a lesbian. She and her lover were murdered six weeks thereafter by a former archvillain who learned of her identity from the Minutemen's press release of her dismissal. She is portrayed by Apollonia Vanova in the film.
  • Moloch the Mystic (Edgar William Jacobi): A former supervillain. Moloch was jailed for a time during the 1970s. He is dying of cancer, received from Adrian Veidt, who later murders him, and frames Rorschach. In the film, he is played by Matt Frewer.
  • Big Figure: A jailed dwarfish crime boss and former adversary of Nite Owl and Rorschach. He tries to get revenge when Rorschach is imprisoned in the same jail as he is. In the film, he is played by Danny Woodburn.
  • Detective Steven Fine: The policeman that investigates Edward Blake's murder, and captures Rorschach. He deduces that Dan Dreiberg is Nite Owl II, and hints at this to Dreiberg in an effort to warn him away from further activity. Fine dies when Veidt's monster appears in New York. He is portrayed by Jerry Wasserman in the film.
  • Detective Joe Bourquin: The partner to Detective Steven Fine. Bourquin dies when Veidt's monster appears in New York. In the film, he is Detective Gallagher and is portrayed by Don Thompson.
  • Doug Roth: A reporter for Nova Express. He is present at Dr. Manhattan's interview with Ted Koppel and reveals that several of his coworkers died of cancer, presumably from Manhattan. This leads to Manhattan's self-imposed exile on Mars. Roth was played by John Shaw in the film.
  • Janey Slater: The first girlfriend of Dr. Jon Osterman. She leaves him in 1966 after she perceives a relationship building between Osterman and Laurie. Veidt gives Janey cancer as part of his scheme to exile Dr. Manhattan; Janey erroneously believes that Jon Osterman gave it to her. In the film she is played by Laura Mennell.
  • Bernard: A news vendor who appears periodically on the central New York street corner. Bernard is amongst the many characters who dies when Veidt's monster appears in New York, and he dies trying to protect his young namesake. Moore has stated that he "is in some ways every man, because he's a complete pratt [sic] and doesn't know what's going on... [h]e is like a lot of people, he is a function of the news... [regurgitating news headlines] think[ing] that's an opinion."
  • Dr. Malcolm Long: The psychiatrist who is assigned to evaluate Rorschach after he is apprehended. He is initially very hopeful of curing Rorschach, even though his utter lack of emotion makes Long's psychiatric evaluation techniques useless. Rorschach's unveiling of events that shaped his uncompromising mindset greatly affects Dr. Long's own outlook and marriage. Malcolm dies when Veidt's monster appears in New York.
  • Seymour: A junior worker at the New Frontiersman magazine offices, designed by Moore to be "the ordinary common slob". He is the final character in Watchmen, playing a pivotal role in the final pages, whom Moore describes as "the most low-life, worthless, nerdy sort of character in the entire book who finally has the fate of the world resting in his pudging fingers". In the film, Seymour is played by Chris Gauthier.

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