Tag Archives: watchmen

HBO’s Watchmen Wants to Dig into the Heart of American Racism…by Making You Like Cops

The first 15 minutes or so of Damon Lindelof’s Watchmen are some of the most agonizing moments of television this year. They squarely focus on the brutalization of multiple black Americans during the infamous Tulsa race riots—a day when mobs of crazed white people descended upon, attacked, and murdered black Oklahomans because they felt empowered to do so.

io9 had the opportunity to view the premiere episode of HBO’s Watchmen at New York Comic Con this past weekend. Here are our first impressions.

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The attack on Black Wall Street is a real event that Watchmen uses to link itself to our reality while also building out the larger fictional universe Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons first created in 1986—a universe that was specifically meant to exist within the vacuum of a finite number of comic books. Of course, DC Comics ended up having different plans for Watchmen, which has gone on to become one of the integral aspects of the publishers’ intellectual multiverse, which the HBO series is part of. Unlike Doomsday Clock, Lindelof’s Watchmen errs on the side of realism and its curious story set some 30 years after the events of the original comic isn’t particularly interested in the usual superheroic trappings that typically come with live-action comic book adaptations.

In this universe, the Watchmen were very much a thing, but the legacies they’ve all built have played out in ways you wouldn’t immediately imagine. Doctor Manhattan, Silk Spectre, Rorschach, and the Comedian are parts of the show, but not exactly as characters. They’re the atmosphere and context that new characters like Angela Abar (Regina King), Judd Crawford (Don Johnson), and Looking Glass (Tim Blake Nelson) exist in.

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Though the events of the original Watchmen comics play a significant role in the shaping of the series’ world—a place where the internet and cell phones don’t exist—they aren’t what the show is really about. Rorschach might have been a misunderstood antihero originally, but here his name and iconography have been co-opted by terror cells of white supremacists known as the Seventh Cavalry, who are coordinating a mysterious attack that’s meant to change the world as the series begins. In the show, Robert Redford has been the president for decades and ushered in an era of American liberalism complete with legislation meant to address the country’s history of anti-black racism and socio-political disenfranchisement. The pejoratively-referred to “Redford-ations” have made it so that the victims and descendants of racially-driven subjugation no longer have to pay taxes. Unsurprisingly, there are more than a few enraged white people—like the Seventh Cavalry—who hate that aspect of their society.

Years after being driven into dormancy by the police, the Seventh Cavalry begins operating once again in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Even though the police officers all wear masks, they quickly learn that the terrorists are more than capable of discerning their secret identities and targeting them in their off-duty lives. While the imagery of masked police officers is certainly arresting, it’s here the show begins to wander into messy and at times potentially irresponsible territory with the way it uses metaphors to explore very real problems plaguing society.

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Like all cops, King’s Abar is a woman who wears multiple hats. To the outside world, she’s a baker and something of a homemaker because the police still have to go to great lengths to ensure they aren’t targeted in their lives as private citizens. But she is one of the world’s watchmen who dresses up in an intimidating costume as part of her job taking on criminals who want nothing more than to hurt innocent people.

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King is captivating as Abar. But her performance can only do so much to distract you from the fact the Watchmen (at least in its first episode) frames white terrorists and cops as being diametrically-opposed groups that have no ideological overlap. Because this is a show that’s meant to explore aspects of American society, that framing just doesn’t work, or rather it doesn’t work if you’re actually trying to think your way through the multitude of things Watchmen is attempting to comment on.

Director Nicole Kassell does a wondrous job of immediately pulling you into this story and bowling you over with imagery that’s both beautiful and utterly devastating, and you can see why genre fans with HBO subscriptions are going to glom onto the show. But there are so many moments when Watchmen’s debut episode falls short of saying anything interesting or insightful about its subject matter, seemingly content to be a mirror of our society, albeit a seriously distorted one.

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There’s the reality—What if cops did drugs while on the job? What if kids of color got into trouble for calling out their racist peers?—and then the fantastical: What if we all lived in a world where squids periodically fell from the sky and we all just dealt with it because that’s how things are? Space squids aside, Watchmen presents numerous real-world scenarios ripe for commentary but it isn’t immediately apparent that the show feels the need to engage with the complexities of those scenarios.

The first episode isn’t going to encapsulate the entire series in a succinct way—that’s understandable—but at the same time, one doesn’t need to really spend much time making a definitive statement about whether morally sound people should feel empowered to fight fascists. We really don’t need more examinations of the police that aren’t honest about the organization’s own history of racially-driven terrorism. Watchmen should be more than that.

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In the end, the series could very well end up doing an excellent job of unpacking all of these things with the kind of care, grace, and honesty that the story (and audiences) deserve, but also, it may not. You can’t really get a definitive sense either way by the first episode’s end, which very much seems to be the creative team’s questionable intention.


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Source: Kotaku.com

Doctor Manhattan Just Redefined Superman in Doomsday Clock

Doctor Manhattan taking out the Justice League.
Image: Gary Frank, Brad Anderson, Rob Leigh (DC Comics)

Geoff Johns’ Doomsday Clock opus has been quietly ticking along at its own pace independent of the rest of DC’s other comics, but a revelation Doctor Manhattan makes in this week’s issue #10 has a significant impact on virtually each and every other character that exists within the publisher’s comics multiverse.

As far as plot developments go, what this week’s comic introduces is rather significant for the Doomsday Clock series itself, but for Doctor Manhattan—a being imbued with a godlike ability to manipulate reality—it’s the sort of strange turn of events that isn’t exactly all that surprising.

For the past few issues of Doomsday Clock, Doctor Manhattan has become obsessed with the last vision he is able to see in the future before his multidimensional sight is no longer able to perceive anything past a specific point. Manhattan sees that after facing off against Superman—a person who embodies the crystalized power of hope throughout his entire home universe—he is fated to fade away along with the rest of all things in existence.

After his fight with Superman, there’s nothing in the future at all except at yawning blackness, the absence of all things. Either Manhattan’s vision is failing, which can sometimes happen, or, he realizes, there’s simply nothing there to see. Never really one to be alarmed by such things, Manhattan sees it as a puzzle to reason his way through because he genuinely cannot fathom why he and an enraged Superman would ever come to blows. The even larger questions on Manhattan’s mind, though, have centered on whether it’s him or Superman who are ultimately responsible for the destruction of the multiverse. The answers, of course, are complicated.

Doctor Manhattan thinking.
Image: Gary Frank, Brad Anderson, Rob Leigh (DC Comics)

Doctor Manhattan’s jump over into the prime DC universe is a continuation of the role he played in DC’s Flashpoint event which resulted in the creation of Prime Earth, an amalgam of the previous main Earth, the Wildstorm Universe, and pieces of the Vertigo brand traditionally kept separate from DC’s more mainstream books. Having found no point in staying in his native reality, Manhattan journeyed to Prime Earth in the hopes that he would be able to start a new life for himself, but he found that the new reality’s connection to a grand multiverse made it strangely difficult for him to maintain his perception of time and space.

While Doctor Manhattan has been struggling to understand the strange, new multiverse by gazing at multiple important points in time, the rest of the world had become fixated on the “Superman Theory”—the idea that the reason so many of the world’s metahumans originate in the United States is that the government is actually responsible for their creation. As the theory grows in popularity, various governments from the world over respond by forming their own teams of metahumans as a show of hard power, and an even larger amount of scrutiny is paid to Superman, who enjoys an uneasy startup as an internationally-supported hero.

During a tense incident between Firestorm and the Russian hero Pozhar, everything blows up in Superman’s face both literally and metaphorically when the two energy-wielding heroes’ fight accidentally transmutes a crowd of bystanders into glass. Understandably, Firestorm is horrified and distraught at what he’s done, but Superman’s confident that he can help his ally reverse the process and diffuse the situation. But before the American heroes have a chance to explain themselves, Vladimir Putin declares war on America, soldiers fire Superman and Firestorm, and many of the still-glass civilians are shattered in the process.

The conflict culminates in an even larger explosion that knocks both Superman and Firestorm out, causing the bonded hero to unfuse. While most of the world believes that Superman was attempting to protect Firestorm, who was responsible for the accident, Batman and the remaining members of the Justice League quickly deduce that the energy that caused the explosion shares traits with Doctor Manhattan’s, and the heroes set out for the surface of Mars to take him on.

It does not go well for them.

Doctor Manhattan experimenting with magic.
Image: Gary Frank, Brad Anderson, Rob Leigh (DC Comics)

This week’s issue #10 takes places in the past, present, and future, and closely follows just what Doctor Manhattan’s been learning about himself and Superman during his time in Prime Earth’s reality. If his oncoming fight with Superman is the event in the future that ends all things, Manhattan uses his reality-altering abilities to poke and prod at the events of history to see how his changing things about Superman’s existence could have a cascading effect on the entire universe.

As Doctor Manhattan shifts details about Superman’s exact origins (all nods to DC’s various reboots over the decades), he soon realizes the universe he currently exists in is not truly part of the proper multiverse, but rather a metaverse which exists, hierarchically-speaking, above others. Superman is but one person who exists within the metaverse, but he’s also the metaverse’s linchpin, the being around which all of its most significant events revolve.

Doctor Manhattan realizing that Superman is the center of the Metaverse.
Image: Gary Frank, Brad Anderson, Rob Leigh (DC Comics)

From the outside looking in, Manhattan’s realization about who and what Superman is provides a very nifty way of acknowledging how central a character Superman is to DC’s brand. But within the comic itself, it leads the blue thinker to a conclusion that’s been rather evident for a while now.

Doctor Manhattan thinks back on how the Earth’s heroes—the Flash in particular—fought to resist his machinations during Flashpoint, and he comes to the conclusion that the metaverse is a living, reacting thing that uses its heroes as a means of correcting anomalies that should not be. Anomalies like him, who find pleasure in putting things where they aren’t meant to exist simply because he’s grown weary of reality. Manhattan finally sees that he’s one of Doomsday Clock’s main villains and honestly, it’s about damn time.


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Source: Kotaku.com