Some months ago, we got a teaser trailer offering the first look at Damon Lindelof’s adaptation, or continuation, of Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore’s genre-changing graphic novel. Now, HBO’s Watchmen Comic-Con trailer, dropped for the gathering despite no panel on the schedule, provides us some real concrete details about the world of this series. Where the Watchmen teaser left us with only questions, the Comic-Con trailer provides some answers or, at least, details about the story the series will try to tell. HBO’s Watchmen series, from what’s revealed in the Comic-Con trailer, will not be the typical superhero story. In fact, this story seems like it will touch on themes very relevant to the real-world’s problems with civil outrage and the accountability of people who work for public institutions.
“Who Doesn’t Want a Secret Identity?”
Don Johnson plays a character whose name we don’t yet know, but his role is a little clearer after seeing the Watchmen Comic-Con trailer. We hear his monologue over scenes of a masked vigilante group breaking into Angela Abraham’s (played by the inimitable Regina King) home. This appears to be a speech given at the funeral we see briefly in this trailer and HBO’s teaser trailer. This finally explains the yellow facemasks the police seem to wear in the show. The masked vigilante group, obviously inspired by the late Rorshach’s journal published at the end of the original Watchmen story, targeted police. So, in order to protect police officers, they now get to hide their identity. This parallels the increasing problem civil liberties groups encounter in the real-world when trying to hold peace officers accountable for suspected wrongdoing.
Silk Spectre, Agent of the FBI
Another huge revelation in HBO’s Watchmen Comic-Con trailer is the reveal of a familiar character to fans of the graphic novel. Jean Smart introduces herself to The Abrahams after the funeral as an agent of the FBI named Laurie Blake. In the graphic novel, the second Silk Spectre is Laurie Juspeczyk who learns that her father was actually Eddie Blake, the Comedian. It appears in the HBO series she’s ditched her costume and adopted her father’s last name. She also makes a sly comment about not being able to tell the difference between a masked vigilante and a masked police officer. We see her working with Abraham, dressed in her costume, as well as other masked figures, like Tim Blake Nelson’s Looking Glass and Andrew Howard’s Red Scare. But she also appears to take a shot at a masked vigilante in a bank, who we guess is Damon Vance’s Mothman.
Inside Archimedes, the Owlship
In HBO’s first Watchmen trailer, there were few signs of connectivity between the original story and the new series. One thing we all recognized, however, was the familiar Owlship used by Nite Owl flying around a battle happening near what we think is Don Johnson’s farm. The Watchmen Comic-Con trailer shows us what’s happening inside of it, and it appears that the cowboy-hat-wearing Johnson is piloting. This makes us wonder if Johnson isn’t playing Dan Dreiberg, though his southern accent wouldn’t seem to fit with that character. Perhaps, he’s just a Nite Owl enthusiast, who got his hands on the ship. We also see the ship use its signature flame-thrower to take out a drone, to which Abraham’s replies enthusiastically, “Oh shit!”
OG Watchmen Back in Action Including Doctor Manhattan!
Laurie Blake is not the only original characters from the graphic novel back in action. We already knew that Jeremy Irons would play an older Adrian Veidt, Ozymandias, living in exile after his attack on New York that ended the graphic novel. (This ending is different from the film, and Lindelof said he envisions this series as a sequel to the graphic novel.) Yet, thanks to the publication of Rorshach’s journal, it appears that Veidt is wanted (at least for questioning) and inspired the masked vigilante gang known as “The Kavalry.” We see a headline saying Veidt is presumed dead, but we also see him celebrating a birthday and, presumably, blowing up some buildings from the comfort of his living room. Yet, he’s not the only one. We meet Lou Gossett Jr.’s mysterious character who warns of a “vast, insidious conspiracy” and then jokes he’s Doctor Manhattan.
Doctor Manhattan is the only technically “super” character in the Watchmen universe, the rest are just regular humans in costumes. Abrahams replies to Gossett that Manhattan lives on Mars, which we see a far-off shot of in the trailer. Yet, the structure the glowing-blue Manhattan stand next to, crumbles into dust. But, at the end of the trailer, we see a man in a suit walking through a veritable sea of destruction. He then picks up a blue Doctor Manhattan mask and his skin is the same color. It’s definitely Doctor Manhattan, but is he coming to Earth? We first thought this might a flashback to the “psychic attack” that ended the original story. This could still be part of a flashback, but the inclusion of Doctor Manhattan in the series would be fantastic.
HBO’s Watchmen Comic-Con Trailer Shows This Series Could Be GREAT
Throughout the history of the Watchmen, fans are very protective of this story. So much so that Lindelof took to Instagram with a lengthy open letter to fans basically promising not to screw it up. While we live in an age of angry fandom, some backlash will be inevitable. Yet, from what we see in HBO’s Watchmen Comic-Con trailer, this series has the potential to do exactly what the graphic novel did, at least in terms of theme. Most of us remember that The Watchmen served as the first deconstructionist look at superheroes. Yet, Moore and Gibbons also made it about the politics of the Silver and Bronze Ages as well. Nixon, the Cold War, and growing authoritarian action all underscored the superhero critique. This series seems poised to do the same thing with modern-day politics and deconstruct popular genres in today’s entertainment.
There is the “inspired by true events” show American Hero Story which we see in the Watchmen Comic-Con trailer opening, featuring Hooded Justice. Fans know the real story, so it will be interesting to see the story the citizens of the Watchmen world are getting. Also, police dramas are huge on both network and cable television, where things like civil rights are often presented as impediments to the hero’s work. Knowing Lindelof and from what we see in the trailer, it seems this is a theme under examination as well. HBO’s series are known to push limits, and Lindelof’s last project The Leftovers showed he could blend high-concept sci-fi with deeply personal themes. Can literary lightning strike twice?
Featured image via screengrab
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.