[11 September 2008]
Chicago Tribune (MCT)
Who watches the Watchmen?
Soon, we will.
At least, that’s what Warner Bros. and DC Comics are counting on when their next comic book adaptation, “Watchmen,” hits theaters in March. Many moviegoers got a sneak peek of the film before seeing “The Dark Knight.”
Plainly defined, “Watchmen” is a 1986 graphic novel written by British writer Alan Moore (“From Hell,” “V for Vendetta”) and illustrated by Dave Gibbons. It is perhaps the most celebrated title in comicdom and has been showered with accolades including a Hugo Award, science fiction’s highest honor. Time listed it as one of its top 100 English-language novels.
“Watchmen” touched on many Reagan-era themes, including the Cold War and the nuclear arms race. But, ultimately, it moved comic books away from the kitschy, kids-only image of the ‘60s and ‘70s and proved the genre could handle more complex, adult drama.
Originally released as a 12-issue limited series, “Watchmen” focuses on a group of retired heroes living in an alternative version of 1985 New York. When one of them, The Comedian, is murdered, the rest uncover a plot that could spark a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Here’s what you need to know to enter the “Watchmen” world.
Dr. Manhattan (aka Jon Osterman)
Played by: Billy Crudup
(“Almost Famous,” “Big Fish”)
Trapped inside an intrinsic field generator during a test run, scientist Jon Osterman was ripped apart by the ensuing explosion. Somehow his consciousness survived, and he rebuilt himself as a glowing, blue-skinned being with a dislike for pants. The only super-powered hero in the Watchmen universe, Dr. Manhattan can do just about anything, from rearranging any kind of matter to teleportation.
Interesting fact: Crudup will star in the upcoming film, “Public Enemies,” which was filmed around the Chicago area. He’ll play J. Edgar Hoover, who allegedly also had issues with clothing.
Rorschach (aka Walter Kovacs)
Played by: Jackie Earle Haley (“Little Children”)
Wearing a black-and-white mask that resembles a Rorschach test, this vigilante patrols the streets of New York. Spewing conspiracy theories and smelling like a trash bin, Rorschach is considered more of a brutal nuisance than a help. But he’s the first to realize that The Comedian’s death is more than just a run-of-the-mill homicide.
Interesting fact: As in the graphic novel, the inkblot pattern on Rorschach’s mask will change in the movie, thanks to motion-capture technology and visual effects.
The Comedian (aka Edward Blake)
Played by: Jeffrey Dean Morgan (“P.S. I Love You”)
Amoral, misogynistic and a borderline sadist, The Comedian took pride in doling out punishment, which he served not only to criminals, but to protesters, women and some of his colleagues. It was all part of his little joke with the world. You know, the one about the heroes being as bad as the villains.
Interesting fact: Morgan has made a career of playing characters who don’t last through the third act, including transplant patient Denny Duquette on “Grey’s Anatomy,” demon-fighter John Winchester on “Supernatural,” and Nancy Botwin’s husband Judah on “Weeds.”
Nite Owl I & II (aka Hollis Mason and Dan Dreiberg)
Played by: Stephen McHattie (“A History of Violence”) and Patrick Wilson (“Little Children,” “The Alamo”)
The first man to wear the Nite Owl mantle was Hollis Mason, a police officer who led the “Minuteman,” a team of costumed heroes in the 1940s. After a successful career of crime-fighting, Mason retired and wrote an autobiography called “Under The Hood.” Soon, Dan Dreiberg, an aeronautics engineer and lifelong Nite Owl fan, contacted Mason and asked to carry on the name.
Interesting fact: In the book, Mason and Dreiberg meet up every Saturday night to drink beer, listen to jazz albums and swap crime-fighting stories.
Ozymandias (aka Adrian Veidt)
Played by: Matthew Goode (“The Lookout,” “Stealing Liberty”)
After spending years busting up crime syndicates, the self-proclaimed “smartest man in the world” hung up the tights, made his identity public and started a company that sold self-help books, diet drinks and Ozymandias action figures.
Interesting fact: “Watchmen” director Zack Snyder drastically altered Ozymandias’ costume for the movie, replacing the character’s tunic and gold unitard with one that parodies the outfits in Joel Schumaker’s much-maligned “Batman & Robin.”
Silk Spectre I & II (aka Sally Jupiter and Laurel Jane “Laurie” Juspeczyk)
Played by: Carla Gugino (“Sin City,” “Spy Kids”) and Malin Akerman (“The Comeback”)
For the first Silk Spectre, becoming a hero was about money and fame, both of which quickly followed her debut in 1939. But after a vicious assault and the death of teammate Dollar Bill, Sally Jupiter retired and faded back into private life. But the Silk Spectre eventually returned: Laurie Juspeczyk, Jupiter’s daughter.
Interesting fact: In the book, Sally Jupiter keeps a collection of Silk Spectre memorabilia in her California home.