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YMMV / Watchmen

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  • Adorkable: Dan's based on Ted Kord, and therefore also fits. It doesn't hurt that he and his Love Interest Laurie are, despite the uber-deconstructive nature of the story, the only two heroes in it that would fit in in a "normal" comic just as well. Dan's got some baggage, but it's normal, sane baggage.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Are the masks just self-gratifying vigilantes, or misunderstood heroes who were then prosecuted for keeping the population safe? Or some of each?
    • Ozymandias. Interpretations of him vary from as a Well-Intentioned Extremist man of principle to another self-deluding super-villain with a God complex. Adrian Veidt claims that he would be a benevolent Shadow Dictator but given the appendix and subsidiary material that details his preemptive post-Squid business plans, one wonders how much self-interest and capitalist wealth accumulation factored in his plan, since he stands to benefit materially and politically from his own plot at the expense of millions of people and several of his employees.
    • Rorschach. A psychopathic, alienated, paranoid vigilante with a Madonna-Whore Complex? An intelligent, uncompromising man, who is The Last DJ in a world of sell-outs and compromised heroes? A bit of both? Or simply a damaged man whose mental growth was stunted by a bad childhood and led him to prefer the black-and-white worldview of a vigilante to the more gray world of adult responsibilities that ex-supers like Dan Dreiberg and Laurie Juspeczyck have to deal with, as well as the surviving Minutemen and ex-villains like Moloch who he repeatedly insults and talks down to?
    • Eddie Blake/The Comedian. When he found out about Adrian's plan, he has such a breakdown he asked for forgiveness in front of his old enemy, Moloch, in tears and tried to justify what horrible things he did. But every other time we see him in the comic, he's cheerfully committing atrocities and keeping on going — murdering a woman carrying his child, attempting to rape Sally Jupiter (the first Silk Spectre) and possibly later murdering another of his teammates. We never see him do anything remotely heroic, despite having been on a superhero team. Is he a really dark Anti-Hero or simply an awful person with some capacity of good who in his later years came to regret the terrible things he did out of a fear of Dying Alone but believes he's beyond redemption?
    • Is Doctor Manhattan truly unable to alter the future or is he just so much of a fatalist that he won't even make the effort? Is his claim about his powers making human problems too trivial for him fair, or is it simply an excuse for his own asocial nature? Given Jon Osterman's awkward and lonely childhood and his shy demeanor as an adult, as well as his confession to Laurie that humans are the ultimate thermodynamic miracle, it's possible that he finds quantum mechanics and the world of particle physics, despite its remoteness from human comprehension, preferable to the emotional and moral demands of being in a relationship and being a superhero.
    • Why is Rorschach defensive about President Truman's use of atomic bombs while abhorring Ozymandias' justifications for his attack on New York, even if it is grounded on similar logic? Some argue that it's because Rorschach believes that Ozymandias as a private citizen has no right to make such a decision as compared to the POTUS who acts on the basis of law, counsel, support, and The Chains of Commanding. Others argue, given Rorschach's Eagleland right-wing politics (exemplified by his support for The New Frontiersman), his indifference to Dr. Manhattan and The Comedian's conduct in the Vietnam War, that he is able to more easily justify American violence on foreign peoples for the greater good than violence done at home, and as heroic and moral as his stance against Ozymandias is, it's still undermined by his own Hypocrisy and Double Standard. Finally, there's the argument that Veidt and New York are real to him in a way Hiroshima and Truman aren't, and that in the end, his nihilism is simply a facade when it comes to people and places he knows.
    • There's debate in some circles over whether or not Rorschach counts as being asexual or not, with many believing he's merely experiencing an extreme case of sex-repulsion due to his awful childhood and thus wouldn't ever act on any sexual impulses as a result. (This kind of reaction isn't uncommon for people who've had similar experiences to ones he had regarding his mother, nor is it uncommon for those who've been sexually assaulted, regardless of sexuality).
  • Angst Aversion: The series is well-known for its consistently bleak, horrific imagery and morally complex characters. It's a sobering read, to say the least.
  • Awesome Art: All of the panels and characters are incredibly well drawn and impressively detailed.
  • Base-Breaking Character: The Comedian is either a Jerkass Woobie or just a sick Jerkass that deserved to die for all the rotten things he's done.
  • Broken Base:
    • The prequel comics, being made without Moore or even Gibbons's involvement, have been the point of division with many fans. Is this just a pale attempt at making Watchmen a Franchise Zombie, or a good way to reinterpret the story?
    • Similarly, because of Watchmen's status as a Sacred Cow, The Reveal in DC Rebirth that Dr. Manhattan is the true cause of the New 52 has split the fandom, with some thinking it's a good idea and a good way to incorporate the series into DC canon and others thinking it's a horrible idea, and a middle finger to Alan Moore and/or even the series itself, and in any case, since it's happening nearly three decades after Watchmen, is way too late for it to have meaning.
  • Captain Obvious Reveal: Rorschach's chin is rather distinctive, and we are shown 2 characters with similar facial structure — the redheaded man carrying a sign and the detective investigating Blake's death — before we see Rorschach himself. Since one of them is very much against vigilantism, it's possible to accurately guess his real identity within the first 11 pages.
  • "Common Knowledge":
    • It is common knowledge that Watchmen only exists because Moore couldn't do the story with Charlton Comics creations. In fact, as Moore pointed out, his original plan involved MLJ Heroes published by Archie Comics, with The Shield slated to be the murder victim that brings the heroes together. Moore turned to Charlton when DC Comics didn't have the rights for the MLJ heroes, and the only reason Moore wanted to adapt previously existing characters was for similar reasons as Miracleman (namely that he wanted the characters, however obscure, to have a history and legacy that would make his treatment of them really tragic). Moore noted that once he started work on Watchmen, he rapidly stepped away from the Charlton-MLJ-related concept.
    • Likewise, it is common to assume that Watchmen killed off the goofier, more idealistic Silver Age type stories for some time, nevermind that the Silver Age was over for nearly ten years by that point. As critic Lance Parkin notes, it's actually closer in visual style to the Silver Age era than the Grimdark books that would follow. Furthermore, as successful as Watchmen was, it was not by any means the great blockbuster that people imagine it. It was outsold by John Byrne's The Man of Steel and not nearly as successful as Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Something like A Death in the Family and especially The Death of Superman probably had a bigger cultural and editorial impact on the darkening of comics than Watchmen did.
  • Crazy Is Cool: Rorschach's charm stems from his utter insanity as a character. Some highlights include hiding in, and then jumping out of, Moloch's fridge, going into random bars and beating the snot out of thugs until he gets answers, and in general being the only superhero with the balls to keep being a superhero when the practice was outlawed.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: Rorschach's entries are darkly over the top and provide some badly-needed laughs.
    Rorschach's journal, October 12th, 1985: "Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach. This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout, "Save us!" And I'll look down and whisper, "No"."
    • How Rorschach dealt with Captain Carnage, a man who pretended to be a supervillain because he was a masochist.
      Laurie: Whatever happened to him?
      Dan: Oh ... Well, he pulled that on Rorschach, and he dropped him down an elevator shaft.
      [Both laugh]
      Laurie: [still laughing] Oh God, that's not even funny.
      Dan: Well, it's a little funny.
  • Crossover Ship:
    • Ozymandias plus Oscar Wilde. Wouldn't they be perfect for each other?
    • Ozymandias/Alexander the Great/Hephaestion threesome. Enjoy.
  • Diagnosed by the Audience: Rorschach has No Social Skills (and, apparently, incredibly poor hygiene), is extremely rigid in his thinking and prone to fixation on narrow interests, and has an extreme dislike of physical contact and bizarre monotone syntax. In the comic, it's more heavily implied that he Used to Be a Sweet Kid, and the various traumas he endured as the years rolled on transformed him into what he is today.
  • Draco in Leather Pants:
    • Rorschach is a sympathetic character but not a role model. We are supposed to appreciate him as a human being, Warts and All, but not see him as a superhero since he's not very restrained at his job.
    • The Comedian is also subject to this. It's only in his last few days of living that he starts to feel some regret for what he did, if only because of how much worse Adrian's plan is by comparison. His fans tend to think of him as a very, very dark anti-hero, glossing over the fact that he enjoyed every moment of what he did.
    • Ozymandias is subject to both this and Ron the Death Eater because he's one of the most morally ambiguous characters in fiction. Fans tend either to regard him as a Card-Carrying Villain with no remorse for his misdeeds, or a Necessarily Evil hero who is treated as unambiguously right.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: The comic has a flock of these in the form of the Minutemen. Also a good deal of the villains that are mentioned offhandedly, most notably the Twilight Lady. The popularity is likely a factor in why they play a bigger role in the Before Watchmen comics.
  • Evil Is Cool:
  • Fan Myopia: Around the time the movie came out, fans of the comic were openly discussing the ending and other plot points without spoiler tags, assuming anyone interested in the franchise had to have read the comic.
  • Fandom-Specific Plot: Rorschach being sent to the future or an Alternate Universe. On some of those occasions, he (reluctantly) teams up with Deadpool.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: The default attitude by fans to the comics and any part of the lore not written by Alan Moore and/or drawn by Dave Gibbons.
    • This includes the prequel comics and DC Rebirth where Watchmen is set to be folded over into the main continuity. Moore himself has severe Creator Backlash to how he was treated by DC and promises to "spit venom" on any followups, and while Dave Gibbons is respectful and cordial to the staff and creative team, he has stated that the only canon for the stories is what was written by Moore and drawn by him:
      Dave Gibbons: I didn’t have a lot of input in it. To me anything to do with the movies – as far as I’m concerned, what Alan and I did was the Watchmen graphic novel and a couple of illustrations that came out at the same time. Everything else – the movie, the game, the [laugh] prequels – are really not canon. They’re subsidiary. They’re not really Watchmen. They’re just something different.
    • In many ways, DC themselves have much to blame since after the publication and end of the series, DC's editors and its president, Paul Levitz, refused to let Watchmen spin-off into other parts of the DC continuity, and this continued until the Zack Snyder film. Many note that if DC had done this earlier, it would have still provoked controversy, but since this was still pre-Internet it wouldn't have had a backlash. In that time, Watchmen has become a canonical work of comics and culture, inspiring other works like Bioshock Infinite and Lost as well as general Pop-Cultural Osmosis, which means that there's an entire generation (not quite old) for whom Watchmen is and always has been a standalone work, a classic on the same merit as Gravity's Rainbow or Taxi Driver and The Godfather, and a sequel without the original creative team is about as acceptable as a sequel to any classic without the original team would be.
  • Franchise Original Sin: This book, along with V for Vendetta and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns kickstarted The Dark Age of Comic Books, showing flawed superheroes and bad guys that actually won. However, many writers seem to lose themselves in trying to copy this book's success by tossing lighthearted characters into Darker and Edgier scenarios and losing them there. It got so bad that DC Rebirth essentially blamed this book for its changes. Literally.
  • Genius Bonus: Several. "At play between strangeness and charm", seen in the lab where Osterman worked, is a pun on quantum mechanics, just to say one.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Rorschach is one of the few western comic characters you can find stuff of on Pixiv.
  • Hard-to-Adapt Work: For decades, Watchmen was considered impossible to adapt due to its highly visual-oriented nature and the large amount of supplemental material that was connected to the plot. Zack Snyder eventually managed to create a film adaptation in 2009 that covered most of the plot points and adhered as closely to the comic as possible within the limitations of live-action film (right down to copying the broad majority of the comic's panels verbatim, similarly to his earlier adaptation of 300), but neither author Alan Moore nor the book's devoted fans were happy with it. An eventual Watchmen series came to HBO in 2019, though this one was a loosely-connected sequel rather than a straight adaptation of Moore's work.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • When the telepathic squid attacks NY, an airship can be seen crashed into the side of a building that looks startling like the WTC.
    • In a meta-sense, Alan Moore originally pitched this story using the Charlton Superheroes. With this story killing off a number of them by the end, editor Dick Giordan suggested that Original Generation characters would likely be a better fit for the tone of the story. Moore agreed and reworked the story to now be a self-contained story rather than one sit in the DC Universe. Fast forward years later after DC has infamously reneged on their original publishing agreement with the story, due to its influence on the medium DC eventually rolled the story over into becoming canon with the DC Universe itself. So Alan Moore's "original" idea did come to pass, just not under the circumstances he would've agreed with.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • So, a US-USSR nuclear war is inevitable, Adrian. Admittedly the world of Watchmen had Dr. Manhattan in addition to nukes and greatly escalated the Cold War without any of the trauma of the Vietnam War to spur on detente and other treaties that de-escalated the conflict.
    • In the shadow of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the idea of simply having Dr. Manhattan there to explode enemy combatants would bring a quick and decisive US victory in Vietnam seems almost quaint and naive today.
    • In one of the text supplements, Ozymandias talks about making a Saturday morning cartoon show.
    • Dollar Bill, 1947 -- revolving door. No capes!
    • The line mocking Robert Redford's candidacy. Let's just say he comes damned close in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
    • Part of Moore's inspiration for the series was criticizing Ronald Reagan (although he ultimately used Nixon instead, so some of his readers wouldn't get offended). Yet in September 1987, right around the time the series was wrapping up, Ronald Reagan himself gave a speech to the UN about how global unity could be achieved if the US and the USSR combined to fight against an invading alien force.
    • The "knot top" haircut worn by the eponymous gang has actually gone into style among certain men in the mid 2010s.
    • It's now a bit hard not to hear "Let It Go" as Dr. Manhattan creates his palace on Mars.
    • Regardless of your feelings on the TV show's canonicity, it's hard not to see Laurie's mistaken suspicion that her father was Hooded Justice as this given the show's revelation that HJ was actually a black man in white face, which would make Laurie's ethnicity pretty unlikely.
    • Before he burns down Grice's house, Rorschach gives him a hacksaw and warns him it won't be able to cut through his chains.
    • Pirate comics becoming the Next Big Thing? Impossib... wait...
    • One of the villains Nite Owl mentions facing back in the day was a guy calling himself "Captain Carnage" who only became a villain because he was a masochist and wanted heroes to beat him up. This is an idea which makes him sound oddly similar to a certain blonde-haired crusader.
  • I Am Not Shazam: It's often thought that the second-generation supergroup is called "The Watchmen". They're not called anything because there isn't really a group. The second-generation group that Captain Metropolis tried to found would have been called "The Crimebusters". It is true in The Film of the Book, though even there the group never actually formed.
  • It Was His Sled: Ozymandias was the mastermind behind the death of the Comedian, sent a giant squid to New York to end the Cold War, which pushed Doctor Manhattan to kill Rorschach.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Rorschach is a nihilistic, murderous psychopath with bigoted views and an unhealthy black and white view of the world. He's also a deeply screwed up man with an abusive upbringing and generally miserable existence that evokes pity as much as disgust. The Comedian could also count if you think his breakdown makes him sympathetic: he's a loathsome man who committed numerous war crimes and did horrible things to women, but he also nearly lost his mind when he discovered Veidt's plan and seemed to truly hate himself near the end of his life.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Adrian Veidt, alias Ozymandias, is a former costumed vigilante, the most brilliant man alive and the architect of every wrong in the plot for a just cause. A self-made millionaire who built his entire fortune from the ground up after giving away his vast inheritance, Veidt uses his vast resources as a cover for an elaborate plot to force peace upon the world in the brink of nuclear war, meticulously silencing every loose end in the way. Veidt discredits the omnipotent Dr. Manhattan and drives him off Earth after framing him for giving people cancer, and assassinates those who find out too much about his plan, from Moloch to the Comedian, all while effortlessly playing the part of a Villain with Good Publicity. Veidt, through research into genetic development and teleportation, creates a monstrous alien creature he drops on New York, killing millions, all to frame it as the attack of alien invaders and thus force the world's leaders to cooperate again an imaginary bigger threat before they can destroy each other. Ultimately, Veidt's plan is a success, executing his master stroke thirty-five minutes before it can ever be intercepted, afterwards proclaiming he'll thrust the world upward into an utopia of his own design. Calculated, unfettered, and ruthless while still remaining human enough to feel remorse over the horrors he's committed, Ozymandias is one of the most intelligent and morally complex characters to have come out of the Dark Age.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "RRAAAARRL"/"Hurm", the written sound effects when Rorschach is feeling contemplative.
    • "I did it thirty-five minutes ago."
    • "Rorschach's journal. Unusual event happened, must investigate further."
      • "Adrian Veidt. Possibly homosexual. Must investigate further."
    • Jokes about Alan Moore hating this "adaptation" of his work as much as all the others.
    • "I'm tired of Earth. These people. I am tired of being caught in the tangle of their lives." Doctor Manhattan's quote became a popular reaction picture for people who, naturally, are done with everyone's shit.
    • The Pagliacci joke, at least in the "We live in a society" ironic crowd became an in-joke due to Pagliacci being a clown.
  • Misaimed Fandom: Some people take Rorschach and The Comedian seriously. Or rather seriously as superheroes. They are supposed to be somewhat relatable, interesting and flawed characters shown Warts and All, but neither they nor anyone else in the comic are intended as role models. They specifically miss the point that neither of them are as infallible as they believe them to be at their job. Rorschach makes Entertainingly Wrong assumptions and it's ultimately Dan Dreiberg's Boring, but Practical basic detective work that even gets them to Ozymandias' Supervillain Lair and Rorschach is not even a match for Ozymandias as a fighter, his street-wise Combat Pragmatist approach no match for Charles Atlas Superpower. Both Rorschach and The Comedian are great characters in the literary sense and are pretty badass but neither are as badass as they want people to think they are, nor are they in a situation where being one is of much help.
  • Misblamed: A number of comics fans, have blamed Watchmen for the Dark Age of Comics, and DC Rebirth uses as a central conceit that Watchmen ruined the DC Universe and made everyone Darker and Edgier:
    • Dave Gibbons has recently argued against this:
    Dave Gibbons: "Well the way, I mean, the way I understand it is that somehow Watchmen are being blamed for the darkness of the DC Universe, and somehow this latest story thing that DC are doing is a way that the DC Universe breaks free of the lying influence of the Watchmen characters ... It was the fact that American writers adopted a particular take, that Alan and I took on superheroes. It’s the blame there, and certainly, we were never saying that this is how superhero comics should be done. In fact, the next thing we would’ve done after Watchmen would’ve been something like Captain Marvel, you know, something really light and mythical.”
    • Lance Parkin, Alan Moore's biographer also pointed out that in practical terms, Watchmen was not as influential or impactful as people think it was. While the comic sold well and earned much critical acclaim, it was outsold by John Byrne's The Man of Steel series, and The Death of Superman was a bigger cultural event than Watchmen was, and it would be hard to say that Moore inspired either comics. For one thing, Byrne is not a fan of Moore and has stated that he doesn't care for his works, while The Death of Superman was more or less an editorial improvisation as a result of shenanigans over Lois & Clark and not any Watchmen-inspired event (and Moore, as the author of Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? had a vastly different attitude to Superman in any case). In terms of what people think of as the worst part of The Dark Age of Comic Books i.e. Generic Doomsday Villain, Death Is Cheap, more violence and Gorn than usual, The Death of Superman is more representative of the Dark Age and more influential than Watchmen is, considering the number of imitations or Spiritual Successors it has spawned.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Curious example, in that many readers think Big Bad Ozymandias's crossing of the Horizon and the greatest crime he commits are two distinct things. Sure, he depopulated New York, but he had a damn good reason for doing that (preventing the Cold War from going hot and depopulating the entire planet). But when he gives a dozen innocent people cancer to discredit Dr. Manhattan, cold-bloodedly murders his absolutely loyal refugee servants to prevent them being loose ends, and pulls a You Have Outlived Your Usefulness on his loving pet Bubastis in an attempt to kill Dr. Manhattan, which turns out not to work, it becomes a whole lot harder to sympathize with him. There's pragmatism, then there's being cruel just to prove a point. It's implied that Veidt thinks of the murder of the manservants in particular as his own personal Horizon crossing, since it's the only thing he lies about during his Motive Rant.
    • If The Comedian didn't cross it when he tried to rape the first Silk Spectre, he definitely did when he murdered his pregnant lover because she gave him a scar. Dr. Manhattan's sheer apathy at witnessing said murder is arguably a Moral Event Horizon crossing for him, as well; The Comedian at least has this opinion. He is also implied to have killed Kennedy and been behind the murders of the Watergate scandal journalists. A lot else is also implied about him.
    • Derf and his Knot Tops pals obliterated the line when they assaulted Hollis Mason and after hitting him, Derf crushed his head with his own trophy all because they mistook him for the new Nite Owl.
    • Many of the things that Kovacs lived through were brutal and unforgivable enough to madden him into misanthropy. His mother Sylvia, was a prostitute who abused him verbally and physically so badly that he considered it an improvement when he was sent to the orphanage. Also he went there because he attacked two bullies who physically threatened and perhaps even planned to rape him (based on the comments of one of them that they wanted to examine his ass). He didn't meet her again and only learned about her murder at the hands of her pimp, Paterson, who no longer needing Sylvia, forced her to drink Drano cleaning fluid and simply dumped her body in the third example of crossing in his backstory.
    • Gerald Anthony Grice butchered a little girl and fed her to his German shepherds. This crime was so horrific that it had the distinction of being what drove Rorschach over the edge and into murderous vigilantism. After that night there was a good chance that Rorschach's victims were people who crossed the Horizon like Harvey Charles Furniss (a serial rapist) and crime bosses like...
    • Big Figure who wanted revenge against Rorschach for imprisoning him and in order to get him he didn't hesitate to threaten a guard's family and butcher his own goon when he accidentally got in the way. One could argue that getting flushed in the toilet was his rightful place.
  • Narm Charm: That giant telepathic squid. As much as Ozymandias denies it, that is a very Republic serial villain move, and he would probably agree. Ozymandias himself described the plot as the "greatest practical joke in human history". The fact that something as fundamentally absurd as that has the effect it does is why the ending is so powerful. No wonder that it disturbed The Comedian. The fact that its appearance is surrounded by millions of dead, mutilated and bloodied bodies also makes it a more sober image than people would expect.
  • Parody Displacement: With the possible exceptions of The Question, Captain Atom & Blue Beetle, hardly anybody remembers the old Charlton characters the cast of Watchmen were based on. Adding to the problem is that Watchmen ended up inspiring their subsequent portrayals. For instance Captain Atom was originally humanoid looking but later acquired a blue palette inspired by Dr. Manhattan. Ditko's The Question was used as a Rorschach stand-in in Justice League for its conspiracy-centric Cadmus Story Arc, which ended up making him more famous than he was before. In fact, until J.M. DeMatteis debunked it, it was erroneously believed Ted Kord's weight gain during Justice League International was a similar homage to Dan Dreiberg.
  • Sacred Cow: Watchmen is so beloved by many that merely criticizing it is Fandom Heresy in the eyes of some. Doing anything else with the story and its world is seen as blasphemous to many people as a few fans condemned the movie even before its release and a main sticking point afterward being replacing the genetically-engineered squid and "its" destruction of New York City with a plot to frame Dr. Manhattan for the destruction of several cities as the keystone of Veidt's plan to stop the Cold War; Before Watchmen got criticized by a lot of people before its release simply because it revisited the world; as noted under "Broken Base", many people aren't fond of DC trying to tie Watchmen into DC canon with DC Rebirth; and the HBO series was criticized for even doing a story that takes place after the events of the comic.
  • Squick: Rorschach's backstory. Also, there's just something odd about giving a "Tijuana Bible" of yourself to your daughter's husband.
    • Regardless of whether he exists outside of time now, the fact that the 30-year-old-looking Manhattan goes after 16-year-old Laurie is hella creepy.
  • Signature Scene:
    • The opening pages of the comic, with the panels showing the smiley badge in the red puddle and the panels scaling up to a top-angle view.
    • Rorschach's interrogation in the bar where he breaks one of the customer's fingers.
    • The "Crimebusters" meeting, which is told and retold in flashback from multiple perspectives throughout the comic.
    • Doctor Manhattan sitting alone in a Levitating Lotus Position on the desolate plains of Mars, and building a castle of glass with his powers.
    • Adrian Veidt announcing that his plan was launched "35 minutes ago" and later his success at stopping a bullet.
    • The Scenery Gorn in Manhattan of the streets full of bloodied and mutilated corpses before the Giant Squid in the final issue of the comic.
  • Too Cool to Live: Rorschach, literally, when Alan Moore realized the character's unflinching determination meant there was no way he could survive the story. Also, Hollis Mason.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • Sally entering a relationship with the Comedian and having a daughter with him after he sexually assaulted her would be much more controversial today. That said, their relationship is hardly portrayed in the best light to begin with (seeing as Sally refused to let Blake near Laurie).
    • A case that actually works well toward Moore's goals, as the word "retarded" wasn't considered very offensive at the time. Thus, Rorschach describing the sounds of New York as "an abattoir of retarded children" is now likely to quickly turn a lot of readers off and avoid the notorious Misaimed Fandom he was subjected to.
    • As pointed out under Squick, the fact that Manhattan started a relationship with Laurie when she was only sixteen becomes far more uncomfortable now. Even when ignoring that he no longer ages, he gained his abilities when he was thirty and the age difference makes their relationship more than a little problematic.

     2009 Film 
  • Audience-Alienating Premise: When most moviegoers think about superheroes or comic book films, they don't necessarily think about deconstruction of the genre, which Watchmen unabashedly is, which might explain its lack of success in theaters.
  • Awesome Music:
    • The dramatic organ buildup and epic choir of Philip Glass' "Prophecies/Pruit Igoe" from Koyaanisqatsi fits the scene of Jon Osterman's transformation into Doctor Manhattan like a glove.
    • Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are a-Changin'" in the opening is highly memorable.
  • Better on DVD: The film held up well in theaters, but the extended DVD release weaves the "Tales of the Black Freighter" plot back into the narrative. Alas, many of the other subplots aren't returned because they simply weren't filmed.
  • Broken Base:
    • Fans are split on how the film's quality as both an adaptation and on its own merits. The only thing anyone can agree on is that the casting was excellent, particularly Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach.
    • While not as serious, "which cut of the film is the best?" is also debated occasionally. The general consensus seems to be that it's either the original releasenote  or Director's Cutnote , from which it boils down to personal preference. The Ultimate Cut is not disliked by any means, but the Tales of the Black Freighter scenes are considered to have been poorly implemented to the narrative and thus drag down the pacing and make the film too long, a sentiment shared by Snyder himself.
  • Can't Un-Hear It: Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach, Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan, Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian, to name a few.
  • Continuity Lockout: One of the major critical complaints about the film was that it was impenetrable to people who hadn't read the comics.
  • Cult Classic: Despite initially mixed reviews and an underwhelming box office performance, the film is continuing to gain a solid fanbase, specially after Zack Snyder started working on then left the DC Extended Universe, which brought a Newbie Boom to his previous works including Watchmen.
  • Diagnosed by the Audience: Rorshach has No Social Skills, an extreme dislike of physical contact and bizarre monotone syntax. In the comic, it's more heavily implied that he Used to Be a Sweet Kid, and the various traumas he endured as the years rolled on transformed him into what he is today. In the film, it's more ambiguous.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Rorschach, Ozymandias. And how.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Due to being played by the handsome Niall Matter, Mothman has seen a surprising level of attention in the fandom recently, in spite of not really being all that important.
  • Fetish Retardant: The sex scene with Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" playing in the background. Zack Snyder claimed that it was deliberate, since the big-wigs wanted a steamy sex scene — they decided to placate them, while turning up the cheese factor up to eleven.
  • Fridge Brilliance:
    • During the opening credits, it has Neil Armstrong on the moon and says "Good Luck Mr. Gorsky." There's an Urban Legend that his neighbor said the day the neighbor kid went to space is the day his wife would give him oral sex. Since this film takes place in an alternate timeline, it goes from confusing to clever.
    • Veidt's fairly obvious computer makes a lot of sense — if he wanted Dan and Rorschach to be able to crack it. The computer even prompts Dan for another word.
  • Friendly Fandoms: Unsurprisingly, given the director and shared cast members, fans of this film tend to get on very well and overlap with fans of the DC Extended Universe.
  • Genius Bonus:
    • The symbol Jon draws on his forehead is a representation of a Hydrogen atom. Hydrogen was the first element to be created and is the single element from which everything else in the universe comes. Which is why it's "something [he] can respect" versus something "the marketing boys" think up. The comic gives a brief explanation; the film puts the scene in but never explains it.
    • In Veidt's office, the Narmer Palette can be seen on the wall in his Egyptian artifact alcove. It is a significant piece of archeology and it is propaganda about a ruler's unification of Upper and Lower Egypt with scholars still unsure if it is an actual record of what happened or just a mythologized version.
  • He Really Can Act: Even people who dislike the rest of the movie love Jackie Earle Haley's performance as Rorschach. He's still held up to this day as one of the examples of comic book casting that they got exactly right. While in the comics Rorschach was a borderline emotionless sociopath, Haley makes Rorschach into a snarling, ranting, rabid dog and oh boy, does it work.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • The businessman's line "'Free' is another word for 'Socialist'" in regards for energy. Right around the time the film was made, people were calling Barack Obama's energy policies such as support for cap and trade just that.
    • Wally Weaver's statements on Doctor Manhattan ("What I said was 'God Exists, and he's American'. If that statement starts to chill you after a couple of moments' consideration, then don't be alarmed. A feeling of intense and crushing religious terror at the concept indicates only that you're still sane.") could also count as this, as they later got vindicated on how Ozymandias implements his forced peace.
    • A reference to Robert Redford in the comic was altered in the film because it was believed people wouldn't know who that was. Redford would see a resurgence in recognizability 5 years later following a major role in another superhero movie.
    • The film's use of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence" can be this considering the song's use years later in a meme involving Ben Affleck's sad, defeated expression around the time Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, another Zack Snyder superhero comic book film, was released. Not to mention its status as a running joke in the fourth season of Arrested Development.
    • No less than four of the movie's superhero actors have gone on to join the DC Extended Universe note . What's arguably even funnier is that Jackie Earle Haley is currently appearing in a show whose tone is the exact opposite of both Watchmen and the early DCEU.
  • Ho Yay:
    • Dan and Rorschach get more scenes that can be interpreted as this in the film.
    • Veidt around everyone but Rorschach.
  • It's the Same, Now It Sucks!: While criticized by some for its few changes, others like the film for staying true to the comic, while still others criticize it for being too reverential to the source material. Many professional critics felt that Snyder's adaptation was incomprehensible to anyone unfamiliar with the original comic, especially in the theatrical release, mostly because he tries to literally translate the plot structure and pacing of a very visually and narratively dense comic (12 issues, no ads, and multiple panels in a single page) into a lengthy film without accounting for the different mediums.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • Adrian Veidt and his "Boys" folder seems to be getting a certain measure of notoriety, too.
    • As is Matthew Goode's profanity-laden OOC statement how people who hated the film can all "line up and suck [his] dick", because he "[doesn't] give a fuck".
    • "Human bean juice", while a line from the comic, gets a lot of buzz from fans of the film due to Jackie Earle Haley's delivery.
    • "Never erect, though." Explanation 
    • "It's so sad that Steve Jobs died of ligma." Explanation 
  • Never Live It Down: Immature viewers seem more focused on Dr. Manhattan's nudity than anything else about the film.
  • Obvious Judas: Ozymandias appears as a Hope Bringer for most of the comic. In the film, it's much more obvious he's going to be the villain.
  • Sacred Cow: Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach is considered one of the best comic book castings ever and even those who dislike the idea of the graphic novel getting any adaptation agree he was great in the role.
  • Signature Scene: The opening montage set to "The Times, They Are A-Changin'". Even people who otherwise can't stand this adaptation admit that it's a brilliant sequence.
  • Special Effects Failure: The Mars sequences with Dr. Manhattan generally don't look very convincing, lacking the vistas of the comics, with its CGI and special effects being too cartoon-y compared to the rest of the movie.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!:
    • Fans of the comics feel this way about the loss of the Giant Squid ending as removing it led to the loss of an iconic moment of the original comics, namely the full splash pages of the Gorn which had a more visceral impact than the Bloodless Carnage of the film.
    • While accounting for Pragmatic Adaptation and the need to focus on the central figures of Watchmen, others feel that the film removing the subplots and side-characters leaves out crucial elements and dialogue from the book. Dr. Malcolm Long, who had the richest character arc of any of the supporting characters in the comic, is reduced to a one-note caricature in the film, when in the comic, he ends up becoming The Anti-Nihilist and pulls a Big Damn Heroes before the end. The fact that Dr. Long was the major significant African-American character in the comic and is short-changed in the film, only makes the film's change to the story more upsetting.
    • While divisive, many of the differences between the comic and the film can at least be justified by their pragmatic intent, but one change even those who don't mind either of the above often find disappointing is the increased amount of violence in the alleyway fight scene. In the comic, the difference in how Dan & Laurie dealt with criminals non-lethally was a direct contrast to Rorschach — whose Start of Darkness (even in the film) was all about realizing how Murder Is the Best Solution. Dan and Laurie using lethal force downplays their differences.
  • Vindicated by History: Bombed theatrically when released in 2009 and received a very polarizing reaction from audiences and critics. Fans of the source material were unhappy with the creative liberties taken, especially in regard to the ending. Conversely, general audiences were turned off by the fidelity to the comic and were disappointed how the film wasn't as action-packed as promised by the trailers. However, it earned a reappraisal in later years following the release of a director's cut that added more action and character drama. Furthermore, the movie's alt-history noir style made it stand out from other superhero films. Subsequently, the movie gained a significant cult following with even its haters coming to respect Snyder for his ambition and audacity in adapting the unfilmable comic. Most notably, Doctor Strange (2016) director Scott Derrickson considers it to be his favorite comic book movie and the "Blade Runner of superhero movies".
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: Snyder mentioned in interviews that they used the book as storyboards for the film, and it shows. In addition, quite a few people who hated the movie still admit that they liked the opening credits sequence.

    Unproduced Sam Hamm film script 
  • Magnificent Bastard: Adrian Veidt is the World's Smartest Man and was once the technical genius behind the Watchmen. After the government outlawed all superheroes, Veidt left to pursue more humanitarian efforts and used his vast knowledge to create Veidt Industries. When he began to fear that the presence of Dr. Manhattan was hastening the onset of World War III, Veidt decided to save the future by any means necessary. He secretly recruited former military scientists to create a tachyon-chamber that allowed him to look into the past and planned to assassinate Jon before he ever became Dr. Manhattan. Veidt infected Jon's loved ones with cancer to force him to abandon the Earth and murdered the Comedian when he uncovered his plans. He distracted his former teammates by framing Rorschach for the murder of his informant Moloch, and fended off him and Nite Owl when they broke into his Antarctic base. While Veidt was eventually killed by Dr. Manhattan, he realized that Veidt was right and changed the timeline by preventing himself from gaining superpowers in the first place.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: "Christ Almighty, it's the Goddamned Watchmen!" 16 years before the Goddamned Batman.
  • Memetic Mutation: "Christ Almighty, it's the Goddamned Watchmen!"
  • What the Hell, Casting Agency?: Robin Williams was considered for Rorschach when the film was considered in the late '80s.

    DLC Video Game 

    2019 Series