This contains NO spoilers for Watchmen!
After covering Watchmen so heavily for so long, it gets easy to forget that not everybody knows the original comic inside and out the way I do. Or the way that many of the readers of this site do. While there are probably a whole bunch of people reading CHUD today who own an edition of Watchmen, there are probably a bunch more who have just a passing acquaintance with the comic, the world and the characters.
It must be pretty annoying being one of those people, since so much of the coverage of the movie has been steeped in spoilers from the get go. But Warner Bros knows that there are a lot more people who have no clue who that big glowing naked blue guy is or why he’s forty feet tall in one scene in the trailer.
For those folks there’s a new page up at NBC.com, featuring quick character featurettes for the uninitiated. The first one is Dr. Manhattan; I assume the other characters will follow in the days to come, as there are five empty spaces. Here’s the character lowdown they give:
the late 1950s, ordinary man Jon Osterman was ripped into particles in
a science experiment gone horribly wrong. But his consciousness lived
on, and he managed to reassemble himself as a true superhuman, a
glowing blue model of physical perfection, able to see the future and
alter matter all the way down to the subatomic level. His presence
profoundly affects not just his fellow heroes, but also global
scientific and geopolitical affairs. However, his growing detachment
from humanity has frequently left him indifferent to the world and the
people around him.
Click here to see that featurette.
For those really interested in the geeky stuff: Watchmen began life as a series about characters from Charlton Comics. In 1983 DC had acquired the rights to a number of superheroes from failing rival Charlton, and Alan Moore proposed an adult deconstruction of the superhero using these characters. DC balked, realizing that Moore’s story would irrevocably break these newly purchased characters, so Moore and collaborator Dave Gibbons created new characters that resembled and reminded people of the Charlton heroes. Dr. Manhattan was based on the character Captain Atom, a military official who gets ‘atomized’ in a scientific accident. While his body is scattered his mind lives on, and Captain Atom managed to reconstruct himself, complete with a whole set of amazing superpowers.
Dr. Manhattan is interesting because his character feels most like a continuation of the themes Moore was exploring in Miracleman (originally titled Marvelman), a British comic revival of a goofy 1960s Shazam-esque UK character. In fact Watchmen in general is obviously a further exploration of Miracleman; at the end of his run on that series, Moore had an increasingly distant from humanity Miracleman take over the world and run it as a dictatorship with himself as god.
Good luck finding Miracleman (which continued under the writing direction of Neil Gaiman when Moore left) – legal wrangling has made the series perhaps the greatest single eternally out of print comic book. The series doesn’t really pick up steam until right at the end of Moore’s run, but when he gets the book going it is jaw-droppingly good. The rights to Miracleman are so tangled right now that it seems unlikely we’ll ever get the series reprinted – or finished, for that matter.