×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

All the HBO Watchmen rumors and spoilers leaked so far

Comic book writer Alan Moore's critically acclaimed work has been adapted for the screen multiple times — the list includes WatchmenV for VendettaFrom HellLeague of Extraordinary GentlemenBatman: The Killing Joke, and the story "For the Man Who Has Everything" from 1985's Superman Annual #11 that was used for an episode of the animated series Justice League Unlimited. In 2019, the streaming service DC Universe premiered its original Swamp Thing series, and considering the mark Moore left on that character's mythology it'd have been bizarre if his influence wasn't felt in the show. One common thread between all the TV and film adaptations is that Moore hates them, won't watch them, and wants nothing to do with them. 

But while we're not holding our breath for Moore to break his embargo, it would be interesting to learn what he thought about what little we know of HBO's upcoming Watchmen series. Developed by Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof, HBO's Watchmen does not appear to attempt a direct adaptation of Moore and artist Dave Gibbons' classic comic book series. While little is confirmed about the story so far, we know it will be set in the present day and that it will be a brand new story.

Regardless of what we learn, we'll post it here as soon as we learn it, so we can all have fun speculating during the ticking and tocking countdown to Fall 2019's Watchmen.

Watchmen greenlit

In August 2018, Variety reported that HBO had officially greenlighted Watchmen. Rumors about Damon Lindelof wanting to develop the series brewed as early as 2014. The potential series made the rounds of entertainment websites again in June 2017, when Variety claimed Lindelof was targeting HBO for Watchmen's home. 

Before HBO ordered Watchmen to series, Lindelof spoke about his vision and how powerful an influence it had been on his work. In anticipation of the release of the Watchmen movie, Comic Book Resources talked to Lindelof in March 2009, and he said some of the storytelling techniques he used in Lost were first learned in his reading of Watchmen — particularly Moore's "flashbacks and non-linear storytelling." In November 2017 at the Vulture Festival L.A., he talked to The Good Place creator Mike Schur about his motivations for developing the series, saying "Watchmen — it was dangerous… the reason that I'm doing this is these are dangerous times, and we need dangerous shows." 

In May 2018, Lindelof posted a five-page letter on Instagram addressed to Watchmen fans, starting his missive by retelling pieces of his own life story in the same non-linear style in which we learn the story of Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen #4. He went on to describe his vision as not so much an adaptation as a "remix" of the original story and went so far as to compare Watchmen to the Bible, likening the comic book series to the Old Testament and his series to the New Testament. Which seems… ambitious?

Not the Watchmen you remember

In July 2017, over a year before the series got the green light, HBO president Casey Bloys told IGN to not expect a traditional adaptation of Watchmen. Bloys confirmed this would mean more than just changing certain events, but creating new stories that weren't in the source material. 

With Damon Lindelof's words on the subject as well as the photos and videos that have been released, it seems clear that most — if not all — of the series takes place in the world of Watchmen, but long after the events of the comic book series. So far the only confirmed major character from the comics to appear in the series is Ozymandias (Jeremy Irons), and he's clearly much older than he was in the original story. There's also the cult of Rorschach, but it seems doubtful the original is among them. The other masked characters we've seen all appear brand new.

Though the question still remains: If the events of the HBO Watchmen series take place after the events of the comic book series, then did things unfold as they did in the comic book series? For example, did Ozymandias' plan conclude with the appearance of the artificial alien like in the comics, or with the faked Dr. Manhattan assault on New York City from Zack Snyder's film? Not to mention the questions of the fates of characters like Dr. Manhattan, Silk Spectre, and Nite Owl.

Who watches?

In May 2018, The Hollywood Reporter broke the first major casting news for HBO's Watchmen, revealing that Regina King, Louis Gossett Jr., Don Johnson, Adelaide Clemens, Tim Blake Nelson, and Andrew Howard had been cast in the series pilot. The report also said King would be the series lead. There was no information about who the actors would be playing, but between since-released images, a leaked character breakdownthe trailer, and the series' IMDb page, we can make some educated guesses. 

King's character is Angela Abraham, and from the Watchmen teaser trailer we know she will also appear as one of the series' masked vigilantes, though there's no indication of her codename. Nelson is listed on IMDb with the name Looking Glass, making it seem likely he's playing the vigilante in the trailer with the reflective mask. Most of the others are listed with what appear to be vigilante codenames: Clemens is Pirate Jenny, Howard is Red Scare, and Gossett is Old Man. 

Johnson's character's name is unlisted on IMDb, though his character is one of the most prominently featured in the trailer. From his uniform and his words about masked vigilantes, it seems likely he plays a high-ranking police officer. A leaked character breakdown mentions a female character who is "wife of the police chief, Judd." If the breakdown is to be believed — and most of it lines up with what we know — there's a good chance Judd is Johnson's character.

King of Kings

The month after the first Watchmen cast announcement, Deadline reported that Jeremy Irons had signed on for Watchmen, though we would have to wait a few months to learn who he was playing. Irons recently played Bruce Wayne's butler/confidant Alfred Pennyworth in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, but his Watchmen character won't be making soup for Batman. 

In November 2018, five months after we learned he would appear in the series, /Film reported Irons would be playing the only refugee we know of so far from the original Watchmen story — Adrian Veidt, a.k.a. Ozymandias. In the comics, we eventually learn it's Ozymandias who murders the Comedian and sets everything in motion, ultimately revealing his plan to fake an alien assault on NYC which would kill millions in the hopes the threat of a common enemy would bring lasting peace between the United States and the Soviet Union. The plan seems to have succeeded until the story ends with the revelation that the late, unstable Rorschach mailed his journal — including everything he knew about Veidt's plan — to a right-wing extremist publication.

Black Manta returns in a new role

In June 2018, Deadline reported Yahya Abdul-Mateen II had been added to HBO's Watchmen cast, and it won't be Mateen's first role in a superhero production. While it was six months away from theatrical release when Deadline reported his addition to the Watchmen castaudiences would soon get to know Mateen as the vengeful antagonist Black Manta in the blockbuster hit Aquaman

So far, it looks like Mateen won't be a superhero or villain this time around — at least not at first. While not a lot is known about his role so far, Mateen's character Cal Abraham appears to be the husband of Angela Abraham, Regina King's character. He's listed as her stay-at-home husband in a leaked character breakdown, and a shot in the first Watchmen teaser trailer shows the two embracing. During the shot, we hear Cal asking "Are we safe?" suggesting perhaps Cal knows about his wife's life as a vigilante and finds himself in the traditionally female role of the superhero's worrying spouse. 

Regina, masked

While we don't yet know the codename (assuming one exists) for the vigilante persona of Angela Abraham, between the Watchmen teaser trailer and a video showcasing upcoming HBO original series including Watchmen, we've seen more shots of her than most of the series' other masked characters. 

Judging by the early report that King is playing the series lead and what we see in the video released so far, her vigilante persona is dressed almost completely in black leather clothing, including a hooded jacket. Some kind of greyish-black material covers the bottom half of her face and she wears a white shirt beneath her jacket. There are shots of Abraham dressing in her vigilante outfit in both the trailer and the HBO overview, including two interesting — and possibly revealing — details. In the trailer we see her pin what appears to be a police badge to her outfit. In the HBO original series overview we see her talking to Don Johnson's character, saying "I'm on a mission." The two moments suggest Abraham is working with the police, and may be an officer herself when she's not wearing a mask.

Kassel in the pilot's seat

Seasoned television director Nicole Kassell was confirmed as director of the pilot for HBO's Watchmen in January 2018, as well as executive producer for the series. Kassell has worked with Lindelof before, directing two episodes of Lindelof's The Leftovers, and judging by her experience, the pilot appears to be in good hands. She's had steady directing work since her first TV directorial credit for an episode of CBS' 3 lbs. — a medical drama starring Stanley Tucci — and much of that work includes credits on successful, acclaimed shows such as The CloserCastle Rock, Better Call Saul, The Killing, Westworld, and The Americans, among others. Her time in the director's chair for film projects isn't nearly as extensive: she directed the 2004 Kevin Bacon-led drama The Woodsman, and the only other film she's directed is the 2011 romantic comedy A Little Bit of Heaven

A gallery of teases

Since October 2018, HBO's Watchmen's official Instagram page has been a wealth of cryptic but still interesting reveals. A lot of the images are little more than production photos, featuring things like shots of what appears to be a Rorschach cult meeting or the numerous shots of police officers in their yellow Silk Spectrse cowls

But there are some more intriguing images, including short videos referencing the original Watchmen story in some way or simply showing us a slice of this alternate America. One video shows an alternate American flag flapping in the breeze, one shows some kind of strange blue device running accompanied by the phrase "Reach out and touch Mars," while another shows the same skull-and-bones pirate flag we briefly see in the trailer that reminds any Watchmen reader of the "Tales of the Black Freighter" pirate comic. 

We don't get a lot of clear shots of the series stars, though there are some. One video shows what appears to be Regina King's vigilante character walking toward a police officer and one briefly shows her unmasked, looking distressed. A clip begins with two armed police officers and cuts to Jeremy Irons as Ozymandias saying "It's only just begun," while another shows the aging superhero blowing out a single candle on a birthday cake. For anyone at all interested in the upcoming series, the page is worth exploring and following for updates.

The trailer

HBO released the first teaser trailer for Watchmen in early May 2019. Clocking in at one minute and 20 seconds, the teaser begins with what appears to be some kind of militant cult wearing masks meant to emulate the masked vigilante Rorschach — played by Jackie Earle Haley in the 2009 film. One of the Roschach copycats says "We are no one. We are everyone. And we are invisible." The men begin chanting "Tick, tock, tick, tock," a chant which increases in speed and volume as the trailer continues. 

We learn few hard facts about the series in the trailer, but we see Angela Abraham both unmasked and in her vigilante persona. There are brief shots of Jeremy Irons as Ozymandias, Yahyu Abdul-Mateen II as Cal Abraham, and presumably Tim Blake Nelson (we don't see his face unmasked so can't know for sure) as the vigilante Looking Glass. 

The one actor we see quite a bit of in the teaser — who we haven't seen much of at all anywhere else yet — is Don Johnson as a high-ranking police official; possibly the chief of police. At one point he's addressing other police officers, saying "We convinced ourselves that they were gone, but they were just hibernating." Between this, the shots of a police funeral, and those of the Rorschach copycats armed implies not only a conflict between the police and the masked characters, but perhaps an extremely bloody one. 

A pack of Rorschachs

The appearance of the Rorschach cult/militia/whatever answers some questions about the outcome of the comic book series' events, though it raises new questions as well.

The first Watchmen character to call himself Rorschach is a mentally unstable vigilante who expresses extremist right-wing beliefs. He's murdered toward the end of Watchmen by Dr. Manhattan, but we soon learn he's arranged for his journal to be mailed to a right-wing publication, the New Frontiersman, in the hopes that Ozymandias' plot would be revealed. The story's final page takes place in the Frontiersman office, where an exhausted editor tells his assistant to pick a piece of reader mail from an overflowing pile and to run a story based on it. Rorschach's journal is in the mail, and the story ends with the assistant reaching for the pile, though we never see if he chooses the journal. 

The fact that what seems to be some kind of fanatical group based on Rorschach exists decades later strongly implies the vigilante's journal and its revelations did see the light of day — though this doesn't mean Ozymandias' plan was unsuccessful. New Frontiersman is portrayed as a small fringe publication, so there's no guarantee any story it runs would be received as anything more than an insane conspiracy theory by those who weren't already Frontiersman readers. This new pack of Rorschachs may very well be culled from Frontiersman readers and likeminded men who take every one of Rorschach's written words as gospel.

The vast knowledge of Agent Petey

Good Trouble's Dustin Ingram was announced as being cast in a recurring role in HBO's Watchmen in January 2019, but at the time nothing was released publicly about his character. Luckily, Bleeding Cool's Ray Flook spotted a briefly mentioned reveal about Ingram's Watchmen character buried in a story about Ingram and Felisha Terrell being cast in Amazon's upcoming UtopiaDeadline's story on Utopia points out that in Watchmen Ingram will play "Agent Petey, a junior FBI agent, with a vast knowledge of the vigilantes (the Watchmen)."

Flook points out this raises the question of exactly which vigilantes Agent Petey boasts a "vast knowledge" of. Is Petey an expert on the new vigilantes like Looking Glass and Regina Park's masked character? Or does his expertise revolve around the heroes from the comic like Rorschach and Nite Owl? The Deadline story's parenthetical mention of "the Watchmen" doesn't help much because, unlike Zack Snyder's 2009 adaptation of the comic, in the comic book series "Watchmen" is not a team name. None of the heroes refer to themselves as Watchmen in the same way, for example, a character in a Marvel movie might refer to themselves as an Avenger. The title comes from the work of the Roman poet Juvenal whose line "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes" can be translated to "Who watches the watchmen?"