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Watch-men
Who will watch the watchmen themselves? (Who watches the watchmen?)
Juvenal, Satires


It's Film Noir. It's Raygun Gothic. It's a Golden Age superhero story. It's a Silver Age superhero story. It's a Dark Age superhero story[1]. It's Sci Fi. It's Cyberpunk. It's The Pirate Jenny. It's Alternate History. It's Political. It's a Deconstruction of superheroes. It's a lot of things. It's Watchmen, and it's one of the most influential pieces of literature ever.

In 1983, DC Comics acquired the rights to the character lineup of the defunct Charlton Comics. In an effort to reintroduce these characters in a big way, DC approached veteran Swamp Thing scribe Alan Moore and asked him to write a story around these characters that was set in The DCU. Upon reading his initial outline, however, DC higher-ups changed their minds and asked Moore to either create new characters (and a new 'verse) or write a story that wouldn't render all of the characters completely unusable going forward. Moore chose to create new characters, and in 1986, the classic Deconstruction of the superhero genre made its debut.

Watchmen, Alan Moore's Magnum Opus, is a twelve-issue Miniseries (September, 1986-October, 1987) about an alternate reality where incognito vigilantes -- inspired by a number of successful pulp style mystery-men -- became a real event until the government outlawed it (the Keene Act); one actual superhero with real powers actually exists, due to a Freak Lab Accident, and helped the US win the Vietnam War. One of the "masks" -- Edward "The Comedian" Blake, also a former American Black Ops technician -- has just been murdered, and the mystery behind his death (who killed him, and for what purpose) drives the series from murder mystery to Superhero Deconstruction to the revelation of a one-man Government Conspiracy.

Watchmen isn't just considered to be one of the greatest comic books ever created, but also one of the greatest novels. It made Time Magazine's list of the 100 greatest novels since the magazine's first publication in 1923.

See also Watchmen (film).

There's also a prequel game, Watchmen: The End is Nigh, and a prequel series titled "Before Watchmen" that is currently in the works (and will not involve Alan Moore or Dave Gibbons).

Warning: Watchmen came out nearly three decades ago, so there will be untagged spoilers from this point forward.


Tropes used in Watchmen (comics) include:


  • The Alcoholic: Mothman (aka Byron Lewis) was eventually committed to a sanitarium due to his alcoholism.
  • Alliterative Name: Daniel "Nite Owl" Dreiberg. The Silk Spectre(s). Also the new presidential candidate, film star Robert Redford.
  • Allohistorical Allusion: Hell, if you look hard enough, just about everything in the whole book is a Historical In-Joke in one form or another. How about: "This is still America! People don't want a cowboy actor for president!" (Of course, the cowboy actor running for president in this particular universe is Robert Redford; in the movie, it was changed to a direct Ronald Reagan reference, probably because Redford hasn't been in a movie in a long time, but everyone knows Reagan.)
    • How about those two Washington Post reporters found dead in a garage?
    • Most of the original superheroes die, retire, or go nuts after WWII, with a new generation popping up in the late fifties, mirroring the real life postwar decline of comics and the rise of the Silver Age.
    • A lot of other ones too. Nite Owl calls his Batman style gadget collection from the '60s "campy". In the real '70s, comics (arguably) entered the Bronze Age as Super Hero comics started to deal with political issues; in the Watchmenverse's Seventies, they are the issue
  • All There in the Manual: Lots of background information (supplied by Moore and Gibbons themselves) about the characters and their equipment can be found in the Watchmen Modules and Sourcebook for the now-defunct DC Heroes RPG.
  • Alternate History: Doctor Manhattan greatly changed the world, since he can synthesize normally rare elements and win wars single-handedly. Oh, and vigilante groups played their part (as mundane as their members may have been -- The Comedian certainly made a mark or two on history).
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Rorschach exhibits weird eating habits, unusual syntax, dislike of physical contact, and obsessive focus.
  • Ambiguously Gay:
    • Rorschach suspects as much of Veidt.
    • The "holding a handshake too long" scene that demonstrates Dan's sexual tension for Laurie is mirrored later with confirmed bachelor Rorschach doing the exact same thing to Dan.
    • Excessive use of purple pyramid imagery (easily confused with a pink triangle in the comic) is a purposeful visual reinforcement of Veidt's homosexuality. Because Moore and Gibbons chose their visual aspects very carefully, this is a subtle hint that really takes the "ambiguous" out of this trope, at least for Veidt.
  • Ambiguously Jewish:
    • Dr. Manhattan. On the one hand, his father's speech patterns. On the other, his apparent foreskin.
    • Nite Owl II, but Word of God says he's a lapsed Calvinist of Dutch extraction, not Jewish.
  • Anachronic Order: Dr. Manhattan's backstory uses Non Linear Storytelling.
  • Analogy Backfire:
    • The lock company "Gordian Knot," which is famous precisely for being cut.
    • The name Ozymandias. In spite of the "look on my works, ye mighty and despair" line, the source poem is actually about the fleeting nature of power. Ozymandias's great strategy for peace on Earth will fail... eventually.
  • And the Adventure Continues...: Ends with Nite Owl and Silk Spectre coming out of retirement to fight crime together. Then there's The Stinger, implying that they may have to deal with the fallout from Rorschach exposing Ozymandias' crimes...
  • Animal-Themed Superbeing: The two Nite Owls and the minor character Mothman.
  • Animated Adaptation: Parodied with Harry Partridge's Saturday Morning Watchmen Played with by the Watchmen "motion comic" DVD.
  • Animation Age Ghetto: In-universe, for pirate comics. Those written by Max Shea as described and shown as extremely dark and disturbing, and his horror-inducing skills are even a plot point, but a newspaper story about his disappearance refers to them as "children's pirate comics".
  • Antagonist in Mourning: Moloch
  • Anti-Hero: Probably all of the main characters, to a greater or lesser degree. Some of them try, though.
  • Anti-Villain: Ozymandias is trying to stop a nuclear apocalypse and create a lasting peace, but do his brutal methods justify the means?
  • Anyone Can Die: Outside the second-generation hero group, the only named characters to survive are Silk Spectre I, Mothman (although he is in a sanitarium), the editor and assistant at the New Frontiersman office, and maybe Rorschach's landlady and her kids - depending on where they lived. Often, the deaths are right at their subjective moments of triumph, particularly at the newspaper stand at the end. And that doesn't even count the deaths of The Comedian, Rorschach, and arguably Dr. Manhattan (when he's vaporized).
  • Arc Words: "Who Watches the Watchmen?" There are also a few visual motifs.
  • Art Shift: The Black Freighter comic.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Dr. Manhattan leaves the galaxy to create life somewhere else, effectively fitting the definition of God.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Deconstructed to some degree with Dan Dreiberg, who describes his crimefighting career as "Some schoolkid's fantasy that got out of hand"
  • Asexuality: Rorschach appears to be disgusted by sexuality. Dr. Manhattan is a questionable case, given that he ditches his previous girlfriend for the younger and more attractive Silk Spectre.
  • Asian Baby Mama: Almost; The Comedian killed her.
  • A Storm Is Coming: chapter ten's usage of the last lines of All Along The Watchtower by Bob Dylan.
  • Atomic Hate: The "nuclear football" carried around by President Nixon, in an unusual subversion of the Big Red Button.
  • Badass: Rorschach, The Comedian, Nite Owl, and Ozymandias
  • Bad Guy Bar: Rorschach prefers to get his information from these.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: If you consider Ozymandias the bad guy after all.
  • Battle Couple: Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre II.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty: invoked in-story (or at least In The Manual). Professor Milton Glass says he is misquoted as having said, "The Superman exists, and he's American." about Dr. Manhattan. What he actually said was, "God exists, and he's American."
  • The Berserker: Hooded Justice.
  • Beware the Superman

 Wally Weaver: ''At the time, I was misquoted. I never said the Superman exists and he's American. What I said was God exists and he's American. Now if your starting to feel a crushing sense of religious terror at the concept, don't be alarmed. It indicates only that you are still sane"

  • Big Applesauce
  • Big Damn Heroes: Subverted. They're thirty-five minutes too late to make any difference.
  • Black and White Insanity: Rorschach claims that Black and White Morality is his moral outlook on life, symbolized by his mask which contains both black and white fluids that never mix into gray. His last words to Dan are "Never compromise. Even in the face of Armageddon, never compromise."
  • Black Comedy:
    • When reminiscing about their crimefighting days, Laurie and Dan wind up talking about a guy who pretended to be a villain because he was a masochist who wanted costumed heroes to beat him up. Laurie asks what finally happened to him.

 "Uh, well he pulled it on Rorschach and Rorschach dropped him down an elevator shaft."

    • The elevator man's announcement "Ground floor coming up" is juxtaposed with a picture of Edward Blake being thrown out the window.
  • Blade of Grass Cut: Tons of Associational Montage and assorted symbolism. Used mostly for match cuts.
  • Break the Badass: The Comedian's reaction to the plan of Ozymandias.
  • Brick Joke: Nite Owl's robotic armor, which he never used more than once after he broke his arm trying to use it. When the police storm Nite Owl's hideout, the suit is the only thing that he left behind!
  • Book Ends: Red-stained smiley, doomsday clock.
  • Burning Building Rescue: The highlight of Nite-Owl and Silk Spectre's first night out in costume in ten years.
  • The Can Kicked Him:
    • Rorschach uses a toilet to kill a goon by smashing it on his head and filling the cell with water, causing the goon's arc welder to electrocute him.
    • It's heavily implied that he does it again later, killing the Big Figure in a toilet.
  • The Cape:
    • Captain Metropolis, a Golden Age hero apparently opposed to the civil rights movement -- his secret homosexual relationship with Hooded Justice notwithstanding. He really isn't a bad guy, though both Dollar Bill and Nite Owl are probably more intrinsically heroic.
    • Also Dollar Bill, where both the attitude implied by and the actual cape in his costume got him killed.
  • Captain Ersatz:
    • The entire lead cast, since DC wouldn't let Moore use the Charlton Comics characters he originally wrote the story for. The full list: Nite Owl is Blue Beetle, Rorschach is The Question, Ozymandias is Thunderbolt, Silk Spectre is Nightshade, The Comedian is Peacemaker, and Doctor Manhattan is Captain Atom. Moore would later admit that it was probably better this way.
    • Dr. Manhattan is also a Captain Ersatz for Gold Key's Doctor Solar. Compare Manhattan's original costume in the novel to Solar's; also, both are passive research scientists working on a remote nuclear research base who end up as tools of the government. Note also that Solar spent his first few issues in a new frontier style suit, tie, and Raybans; very sartorial and possibly lampshaded in references to how Manhattan made the double breasted suit a major fashion look.
    • Some of Minutemen are also Captain Ersatzes for non-Charlton superheroes. Mothman, Comedian and Hooded Justice were MLJ/Archie Comics' the Fly, Black Hood and Hangman, respectively (a carryover from one of Moore's earlier ideas for a superhero murder mystery). The Comedian's status as a patriotic hero is a holdover from this, inspired by Archie's Shield - evidently there was some combining of characters going on. And, as Moore admitted, the original Silk Spectre was based on the Fox Feature Syndicate version of the Phantom Lady.
  • Cardboard Prison: Averted. Hollis made a point of mentioning in his memoirs that the supervillains thwarted by the Minutemen tended to stay thwarted.
  • Celibate Hero: Rorschach, who is asexual apparently due to trauma received from seeing his prostitute mother at work.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Both dealt with and averted. DC Comics apparently did exist in the Watchmen 'verse, but the complications caused by real costumed vigilantes has led to superhero comics falling out of popularity. Superheroes that are cultural icons in our world have long since fallen into obscurity by the events of the story, which is why nobody notices the similarities between Nite Owl and Batman or between Rorschach and The Question. Since DC's superhero books have presumably been out of circulation for decades, this also conveniently avoids questions about who wrote For the Man Who Has Everything and Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?.
  • Character Development: Most of the major characters change or are revealed to be different from how they initially appeared at the beginning.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: All the heroes and ex-heroes, except Dr. Manhattan.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Rorschach's journal, which sets up the plot twist in the final frame.
    • Silk Spectre finding a gun on a dead New Yorker with which she later shoots Ozymandias.
    • Rorschach turns out to be that guy we've seen holding the The End Is Nigh sign and buying New Frontiersman.
    • The missing artists and writers, obliquely referred to throughout, are responsible for Veidt's squid monster.
    • And the 'Institute For Extra-Spatial Studies'.
    • The excerpts of the Black Freighter comic we've been reading were written by the same man who wrote the Squid's psychically telegraphed fake Backstory. Said Comic Within A Comic also becomes more clearly understood as a metaphor for Ozymandias and his plan when we reach the end of the comic. Really, people can probably go on nearly forever here.
    • In Chapter 11, Dan expresses disbelief that Veidt could have actually planned his own assassination attempt, citing the unpredictability of the shooter as his evidence. Veidt responds by saying that he would have had to just catch the bullet. Guess what he does in the next chapter.
    • The names of several companies sound like slightly florid names common to comic books. They're all owned by Veidt through dummy corporations.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Silk Spectre II tried to light one of these on Mars. Dr. Manhattan extended her air supply so she could light it.
  • Civvie Spandex / Coat, Hat, Mask: Rorschach's "costume" consists of his mask, plus a hat, trenchcoat, a purple pinstriped suit, and leather gloves. Silk Spectre 1's costume is essentially just lingerie, and Silk Spectre 2 is a bathing suit with a chiffon cover, a belt, and heels.
  • Cliff Hanger: Will New Frontiersman publish Rorschach's journal, implicating Ozymandias for the New York City monster attack?
  • Coitus Uninterruptus: "Are you working in there?"
  • Compromising Memoirs: Some see "Under the Hood" as this.
  • Corporate-Sponsored Superhero: Dollar Bill, a hero briefly mentioned in the side book chapters, is one of these.
  • Corrupt Politician: Nixon is on his fourth term, Woodward and Bernstein were murdered in a garage, and the Comedian is saying nothing.
  • Costumed Nonsuper Hero: Thoroughly explored as a concept through the different characters, their reasons for becoming one and the consequences for them and the society. Dr. Manhattan, of course, isn't an example.
  • Cowboy Bebop at His Computer: 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.
  • Crapsack World: Where do we start? Alternate History!1985 on the brink of a nuclear war with an apathetic quantum physics god on the side of America who doesn't care about humanity anymore? America winning the Vietnam War and making Vietnam an American state? Richard Nixon still the president of America in 1985? New York filled with crime and falling apart, with an Ax Crazy Sociopathic Hero roamig the streets? Ozymandias attempted to fix this at the end of the series with the squid monster, which eased tensions between the Soviets and Americans, but it is implied that the peace might not last for very long.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Send a giant squid to attack New York to prevent the world's superpowers from nuking everybody? Heh, why not?
  • Creator Backlash: Alan Moore hates all adaptations of his work, refuses to watch them anymore, and donates all his royalties to his creative partners.
  • Critical Psychoanalysis Failure: Played with; Dr. Malcolm Long is certainly affected, when he analyzes Rorschach in prison. But it seems to be for the better, in the long run... not that it matters.
  • Cyanide Pill: Plays a part in the attempt on Adrian Veidt's life and his conspiracy.
  • Darker and Edgier: One of the main progenitors of the trope, though not strictly adhering to it itself. While it does take place in a Crapsack World and some of the chapters (especially Chapter 6) express a very negative outlook on life, this is balanced by the fact that the characters still manage to find hope in their circumstances and ultimately emerge from the experience having benefited from it. Moore actually regretted that the comic helped to popularize Darker and Edgier.
  • Dating Catwoman: A villain named Twilight Lady had a crush on Nite Owl II. Dan accuses her of having had a "fixation" and having been "sick", but there are clear suggestions it's something of a hypocritical excuse, what with his own moderate costume fetish and the fact that he kept her picture and has a dream about her before the it turns into one about Laurie. Still a bit of a Deconstruction.
  • Death-Activated Superpower: Dr. Manhattan is created after his human self is blown apart atom by atom. The "Squid" was engineered with the ability to broadcast telepathic Paranoia Fuel directly into humanity's brain after its death.
  • Death by Disfigurement - Rorschach throws boiling oil into a fellow prisoner's face after he announces his intention to stab Rorschach.
  • Deconstruction Crossover: The original script, which used various Charlton Comics heroes instead of original characters.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: For basically the entire Superhero genre.
  • Defied Trope: The Big Damn Heroes.
  • Determinator: Rorschach who gets blown up for it, and to a point, Nite Owl.
  • Deus Ex Machina: Lampshaded, referenced by name, and eventually Subverted when Dr. Manhattan appears following his Deus Exit Machina so that Laurie can "Try to convince [him] to save the world."

 Dr. Manhattan: Now, I believe we have a conversation scheduled.

Laurie: God, Yes. Yes, I was just thinking... But Jon, how did you know? I need to see you, you appear... I mean, it's all so Deus Ex Machina...

Dr. Manhattan: "The God out of the machine." Yes. Yes, I suppose it is...

  • Did You Actually Believe?
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Dr. Manhattan: "I am dissappointed, Veidt. VERY disappointed."
  • Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?: Ozymandias infects everyone who was close with Dr. Manhattan so the general public would suspect he's radioactive, driving him to leave earth.
  • Did You Think I Can't Feel?: Only Ozzy realized Dr. Manhattan still had emotions.
  • Different World, Different Movies: The existence of superheroes led to superhero comics not being popular, so most of the comics known from our world don't exist. Instead comics about pirates are very popular.
  • Disposable Superhero Maker: Dr. Manhattan's accident.
  • Dissimile: Moloch says this about his illness: "You know that kind of cancer you eventually get better from? That's not the type of cancer I have."
  • Doing It for the Art: The endless subtle hints and foreshadowing, or minor connections within the Chekhov's Army that one can find during the second read through can not be a coincidence. There are also the very detailed instructions Moore gave to the artist.
    • Chapter 5 is palindromic both in shape, dominant colors and focus characters [2]. It's just about impossible to notice until someone mentions it. And then you realize the significance of the final words of the chapter: "Everything balances."
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: A Cape who dresses in primary colors and has a letter on his chest ("M" for Metropolis) and a grim, violent avenger of the night are on the same team together. Also, they're lovers-er I mean, "good friends".
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Alan Moore wasn't quite intending for Rorschach to have as big a fanbase as he does.
  • Double Entendre: Hollis Mason's trophy has the words "IN GRATITUDE" written on the base. After it's used to beat him to death, the blood covers the space.
  • Double Standard: Silhouette is kicked out of the Minutemen after being exposed as a lesbian. Two of the male members of the team were also homosexual (and in a relationship with each other) but did not ever get called out for this.
    • To be fair, Captain Metropolis and Hooded Justice's relationship was never confirmed at the time and only speculated on after the fact, whereas Silhouette was genuinely outed.
  • Driving Question: Who killed the Comedian and why?
  • Dye or Die: The Silk Spectre II and Night Owl II, at the end of the comic.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Nite Owl has retreated into study, Dr. Manhattan is amoral to the point of being inhuman, and many other ex-heroes are wracked with neuroses -- being mentally unbalanced is apparently a prerequisite to being a superhero. Which would make some sense.
    • Rorschach, of all people, comments on how almost all the heroes he knows have severe mental issues, although he naturally doesn't realize the irony.

 Why are so few of us left active, healthy, and without personality disorders?

    • In Nite Owl 1's account of the Minutemen, they were, in his words, a bunch of screwed up people who ran about in costumes for kicks and possibly sexual pleasure.
    • It's played pretty quietly for Laurie's whole background. As a minor, she dates a man over twice her age, and resents authority figures trying to control her life, despite living with an omnipotent man who couldn't care less about her. Some would say that she has daddy issues.
  • Easter Egg
    • The AOXOMOXOA poster, "RR" (Rum Runner - think Pirates) neon sign, Rorschach's napkin blots and monogram, and other mirror images in the artwork are the key clue tipping you off about the 5th chapter being a palindrome.
    • keep an eye out for the round yellow bloodstained electrical outlet in the same scene, mirroring the identical looking smiley in the first chapter.
    • Watch very carefully the trash can in the background outside Gunga Diner in the 5th chapter, and you will find out the identity of both Rorschach (who you follow around in first person without his mask in the same chapter) and the company that handled the frame-up (Pyramid). Extra points if you did it on first read and had a moment of Fridge Brilliance!
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: It's hard to say whether or not their apparent happiness will last, but Dan and Laurie seem to have pulled off a surprisingly happy ending for themselves.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Given a distinctly 'meta' spin -- this is a "fake" Eldritch Horror, and yet one with a pretty impressive body-count. Otherwise pretty true to what's supposed to happen when a Great Old One wakes.
  • Encyclopedia Exposita: Hollis Mason's book, Under the Hood. Along with excerpts from other clippings.
  • Epigraph: The clippings and other associated material at the end of each issue/chapter; the quotes used at the beginning and end of each issue/chapter (from which the chapter names are taken).
  • Excuse Me While I Multitask:
    • Veidt starts explaining his motives to Dan, while he effortlessly repels Rorschach's attack.
    • Dr. Manhattan is able to work on a lab experiment while two copies of himself have a menage a trois with Laurie. She's very offended.
  • Eye Scream: Rorschach shoving a burning cigarette into some kid's eye in his backstory.
  • Fictional Document: "Tales of The Black Freighter", a pirate comic used as counterpoint to many scenes. Also, most issues of the original had a back-up piece consisting of excerpts from other fictional works, most notably Under The Hood, Hollis Mason's tell-all book about the original Minutemen, and Super Powers and the Superpowers, a criticism of US military policy during the age of Dr. Manhattan.
  • Filler: One of the weirdest examples of filler in the history of the term. According to That Other Wiki Moore and Gibbons were contracted for a 12-issue run of the comic, but the plot that Moore had envisioned would take up, at most, six. He decided to get around by this by devoting several chapters to closely examining the characters and the world in which they live. However, as Moore began to write the series, he realized that "the plot itself is of no great consequence ... it just really isn't the most interesting thing about Watchmen."
  • Four Humor Ensemble: Rorschach (melancholic); Osterman (phlegmatic); Ozymandias (sanguine); Comedian (choleric). (Laurie and Dan are "supine").
  • Freudian Excuse: Rorschach's bad childhood.
  • Fridge Brilliance: Patron saint of this trope - you can read it five times and still have something left to discover.
  • Fridge Logic: Chapter 11 actually manages to lampshade this, qualifying as an in-universe use of the trope. When Veidt reveals that he hired his own assassin in order to cast suspicion away from him, Dan expresses disbelief, and asks what would happen if the assassin shot at him instead. Veidt replies that he would have just had to catch the bullet. Dan's reaction is priceless, and the look on Veidt's face is just awesome. The fact that he actually does catch a bullet in the next chapter, in spite of his own doubt, makes it even better. Also, it's worth noting that he managed to block the bullet with a heavy lamp when the assassin did shoot at him.
  • Friendly Enemy: The Comedian and Moloch.
  • Gambit Roulette: Plays straight, lampshades, and then almost immediately subverts this trope.
  • Generic Graffiti: "Who Watches The Watchmen?" though this is never truly shown in full; we just have to assume it's always the same.
    • This has become an Ascended Meme in its own right, where it's almost a rarity to find a comic book graffiti page without it.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: They cloned a psychic and engineered the squid for Mind Nuking half of New York City.
  • Genre Busting: It's a Film Noir Raygun Gothic Golden Age / Silver Age / Dark Age Sci Fi Cyberpunk Political Alternate History Deconstruction of superheroes that invented half the tropes used by modern comics, and quite a few others besides. Phew.
  • Genre Killer: It is perceived as killing off the goofier, more idealistic Silver Age type stories for some time.
  • Get It Over With: Rorschach's last lines.
  • "Glad to Be Alive" Sex: Laurie and Dan engage in this in the last chapter.
  • A God I Am Not: Doctor Manhattan, despite what the Vietnamese and many others think.
  • Good Cop, Bad Cop: Nite Owl and Rorschach, respectively. However, this gets reversed when Nite Owl, angered over the death of Hollis Mason, goes overboard during an interrogation and Rorschach has to reign him in.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Savagely averted in the movie. Played straight in the comic more often than you might remember.
    • Used to great effect in Tales of the Black Freighter, as the protagonist strangles the woman on the beach. All we see throughout the scene are the horses, watching.
  • Grave Clouds: At Edward Blake's funeral.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: Rorschach kills criminals who could just as easily be arrested, but he also saves a woman from potentially being raped or mugged. Ozymandias destroys half of New York in an elaborate ruse to save the world. It's not as simple as saying that some of the characters are perfectly good or evil.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Rorschach's revelation of the origin of his odd philosophy ends up convincing his shrink to see the world his way (...or to relate a little, at least).
  • Hauled Before a Senate Subcommittee: Several of the original Minutemen were dragged in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Hooded Justice refused to participate and vanished without trace. To the story's modern day (1985) nobody knows who he was.
  • "Have a Nice Day" Smile

 Somebody explain. Somebody explain it to me.

  • Heroic BSOD: A game the whole cast can play!
    • The Comedian's is the most famous, with his sobbing confession to Moloch.
    • Rorschach gets two, first after the child murder that prompts him to become Rorschach full time, and the second when realizing he could either prevent armageddon or he could serve the truth, but not both, shattering his black-and-white worldview. He chooses the latter, knowing that it would force Manhattan to put him out of his misery.
    • Laurie gets two as well, first when she realizes that the Comedian is her father by way of a willing and loving affair with her mother, whom he once tried to rape; her mother gets one of her own when Laurie says she knows who her father is, and the second when she realizes that everyone she's seen for the series run other than the heroes themselves is likely dead due to Veidt.
    • Manhattan has one when, y'know, he's about to die.
    • Veidt ends with one. Believing he's saved the world, he crows about it to Manhattan, who reminds him that nothing ever ends. The cryptic advice clearly troubles him greatly.
    • Dreiberg gets one when he finds out his idol and friend dies due to Dreiberg coming out of retirement, and people confusing the two Nite Owls. His Berserk Button gets mashed so hard the Ax Crazy Rorschach tells him to calm down.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Nearly everyone, at some point. For example, Manhattan's reputation is ruined by a concocted story accusing him of giving cancer to anyone near him.
  • He's Back: Both Dan and Laurie's can attest to this.
  • Hidden Villain
  • Hide Your Lesbians Gays: Hooded Justice, Capt. Metropolis, and Silhouette.
  • Historical In-Joke:
    • In the movie, Silhouette is shown in kissing the nurse in Times Square on V-J Day (taking the place of a sailor in the original Alfred Eisenstadt photo).
    • JFK's assassination is heavily implied (and downright stated in the movie) to be performed by The Comedian.
    • More obscurely, the movie also shows Neil Armstrong saying, "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky!".
  • Hitler Was A Vegetarian: Though in this case used to refute a logical fallacy rather than commit one; the implication is not "because Hitler was a vegetarian, all vegetarians are evil", but rather "because Hitler was a vegetarian, it's not safe to say that vegetarianism automatically means one is a saint".
    • But considering it was Rorschach who said it, he might have been impling that "because Hitler was a vegetarian, all vegetarians are evil".
  • Holding Out for a Hero
  • Humans Are Special: Dr. Manhattan initially disagrees with this sentiment, and overall considers the existence of life to be an overrated phenomenon. He changes his mind when he learns that the Comedian was Laurie's father, and decides that such an incredibly improbable circumstance not only makes Laurie's life miraculous, but also the lives of every other human being.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Ozymandias' destroying half of New York City to save the world from nuclear armageddon.
  • I Am Not Shazam: The titular "Watchmen". Invoked and enforced in the Watchmen film.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The title of every chapter is part of a quote that appears in full at the very end of the chapter, from sources such as Dylan, the Bible, Einstein and Nietzsche.
  • Impractically Fancy Outfit:
    • Dollar Bill was hired by a bank, who thought having their very own masked man was a great gimmick. They designed his costume to be as attractive to the public as possible. This had tragic consequences when his cape got stuck in the bank's revolving door, and the bank robbers he was chasing shot him.
    • Nite Owl II once tried to use the bathroom while on a stakeout. Taking off and putting on his costume took so long that the drug dealer he was tracking got away. He redesigned the costume the next day.
  • Ink Stain Adaptation: Rorschach's antisocial, conspiracy-theory-indulging nature has found its way into modern characterizations of The Question, of whom he is an Expy. In a Take That scene, a Question comic written shortly after the book's release had him read Watchmen, attempt (unsuccessfully) to emulate Rorschach's methods, and ultimately conclude that Rorschach sucks.
  • Innocent Bystander Series: It's told partly from the perspective of the normal police officers investigating the deeds of so-called (and one actual) superheroes.
  • In Spite of a Nail: The timeline diverges way back in 1938, but Nixon is still elected president in the same year, the break-in at the Watergate Hotel still happens, and Woodward and Bernstein still investigate it, though the Comedian kills them and it's never exposed.
    • Actually, a close look at the details of the comic hints that the timeline might have diverged a lot earlier than in 1938, when the first costumed hero appeared. In the world of Watchmen, the famous Heinz slogan is not "57 Varieties", like in our world, but "58 Varieties". Also, apparently The New York Times doesn't exist at all, it's been replaced by the fictional "New York Gazette". In our world, both the coining of the "57 Varieties" slogan and the founding of The New York Times took place decades before 1938, so the implication is that there were subtle differences between our timeline and the Watchmen timeline long before the costumed heroes entered the scene. With "58 Varieties", it's theoretically possible that the new slogan simply replaced "57 Varieties" sometime after 1938 (perhaps Dr. Manhattan synthesized another variety of ketchup?), but New York Gazette already existed in 1938, as Hollis Mason's autobiography mentions the paper reporting the initial exploits of Hooded Justice.
    • JFK still dies on November 22nd 1963 in Dallas, but it is implied in the book, and actually shown in the movie, that the Comedian kills him. In the book it is further implied that he did it in order to help Nixon's political career.
      • Also, the paper reports imply that Kennedy had a chance of survival -- in the real world, his head was blown open and he had no chance. Either this was a paper acting off bad information, or the assassination went slightly differently in the comic timeline.
    • In Watchmen, superhero comics died off after the 'real thing' started emerging -- instead, horror and drama comics are all the rage, D.C. and E.C. mainly publish stories about pirates, and Timely/Atlas Comics does not appear to have become Marvel Comics, as it did in our world. It is implied in one article that Frederick Wertham's anti-comics campaigns were ignored due to the propaganda value of American costumed heroes being promoted in print; ironically, this prevents the genericisation of the American comics industry that happened after Wertham in real life, and the superhero genre eventually dies a natural death.
    • World history is not altered that much until the appearance of Dr. Manhattan. There is nothing to indicate that World War II is significantly changed, and some of the heroes fight in the war as normal soldiers.
    • The Soviet Union still invades Afghanistan, although six years later than in the real world.
    • Devo is also mentioned to have formed in Ohio in the late 1970s.
  • Internal Retcon: The only way Ozymandias' plan can work.
  • Intimate Psychotherapy: The heroes were too late, millions of New Yorkers have just died, and the first thing Dan and Laurie do is have sex. Laurie justifies it in a way that fits this trope.
  • Irony: Rorschach dismisses Comedian's crimes (including rape and the murder of a pregnant woman) as "moral lapses" of a hero, when the two crimes that drove him to be Rorschach were the rape of a woman and the murder of a child.
    • It's implied that he believes that those accusations are wholly invented or at least significantly exaggerated. He specifically doubts the accuracy of Hollis Mason's Under the Hood.
  • It Always Rains At Funerals:...And it rains on the just and unjust alike... Except in California.
  • It Will Never Catch On: The "cowboy actor" joke listed in Allohistorical Allusion.
  • It's Personal: The brutality of the Comedian's murder is likely fueled by Ozymandius' humiliating defeat when they first met years before. It's also implied that the Comedian murdered Hooded Justice, ostensibly because HJ was a communist agent (in fact he had Nazi sympathies) but actually in revenge for the No-Holds-Barred Beatdown HJ gave the Comedian for trying to rape Silk Spectre.
  • Ivy League for Everyone
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Rorschach tortures criminals to get information, often needlessly.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: It's a murder mystery told in elaborate framed pictures with crosscutting dialogue and crosscutting flashbacks, all leading up to The Reveal.
    • The reason for this is that Veidt was playing to Rorschach's paranoia, letting Rorschach believe there was a maskkiller by making one. Otherwise, Rorschach might have spent more time looking into the Comedian's ramblings to Moloch, and found the real plot in time to stop it.
  • Just Between You and Me: Justified. He did it 35 minutes ago. Also, Dan and Rorschach are his former comrades, and he thinks he can convince them that he did the right thing. He succeeds with Dan.
  • Kick the Dog: Rorschach, on several occasions, and at one point taking this trope to its literal logical extreme. The Comedian has his moments too, particularly nearly raping Sally Jupiter and shooting his own would-be Asian Baby Mama.
  • The Killer Becomes the Killed: After he cracks, Rorschach becomes a vigilante who murders criminals; after the Keene Act, he becomes a fugitive vigilante who murders criminals. Technically this is continued when Manhattan eventually kills Rorschach, although it's not an example of the trope.
  • Knight Templar: Rorschach, and Ozymandias, in a more typical example of the trope.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Done several times. See The Can Kicked Him, Deus Ex Machina, and Fridge Logic above for a few examples.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: At the end, when Laurie and Dan visit Sally in disguise:

 Nurse: Your friends, Mr. and Mrs. Hollis are here to see you.

Sally: What? But I don't know any... I don't know anyone I'd rather see!

  • Legacy Character: Dan Dreiberg succeeded Hollis Mason as the Nite Owl, while Sally Jupiter pushed her daughter Laurie into taking her role as the Silk Spectre.
  • Let No Crisis Go to Waste: Ozymandias's plan.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Referenced and played with, like most Comic Book Tropes in Watchmen. Ozymandias and The Comedian do this when they first meet, but it's revealed that The Comedian recognized Ozy, but attacked him anyway, using the excuse that "For some reason it happens a lot when costumed crimefighters meet for the first time."
  • Levitating Lotus Position: Dr. Manhattan does the levitating version of the Lotus Position while creating his fortress on Mars.
  • Literary Allusion Title: Not only the series title (from Juvenal), but also the chapter titles.
  • Lonely At the Top: discussed by Ozymandias.
  • Living Legend: The comic deconstructs these, among many other tropes. People seek this status, for good or ill. People achieve it, for good or ill. Doctor Manhattan is the extreme...
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: The Comedian and Laurie
  • Luxury Prison Suite: The Big Figure, one of Rorschach's old enemies, who winds up running across him again in prison. He apparently has control over the guards, too.
  • Mage in Manhattan: The giant squid from another dimension. Allegedly.
  • Mars Needs Women: Inverted with Laurie and Dr. Manhattan (while he is shown to reciprocate, she initiated).
  • Match Cut: Pretty much the closest possible equivalent in print. Used mostly during the flashbacks at the Comedian's funeral.
  • Meaningful Background Event: A man holding an "End Is Nigh" sign is frequently seen on the streets. His name is Walter Kovacs a.k.a. "Rorschach".
  • Meaningful Name: Ozymandias, which suggests the final fate of his "better, more loving world". His last name, Veidt, comes from German actor Conrad Veidt, whose appearance in The Man Who Laughs directly inspired the character design of The Joker.
    • Also Jon Osterman: "Oester" is a pagan fertility festival that was replaced by Easter.
    • Rorschach turned out to be one on a meta level, to Moore's chagrin, though plenty of fans do see him for the disturbed sociopath he is.
  • Mind Rape: The effect that the "monster" has on survivors, even halfway around the globe.
  • Motifs: Everywhere. There are some motifs that appear throughout the story (like the bloodstained smiley or the doomsday clock counting towards midnight), and some that appear primarily in one chapter (like "two riders" in various forms during chapter 10).
    • The bloodstain on the smiley vs. the minute hand on the doomsday clock.
    • The butterfly / Rorschach blot / large bloodstain / Hiroshima shadow.
    • In every chapter that involves cross-cutting between two sets of events, the dialogue in every single panel refers back to the dialogue in the previous (cross-cut) panel, and the image usually refers back to the image on the previous page. For chapter 5, "Fearful Symmetry" they made the entire issue a palindrome.
    • Mirrored images, especially in chapter 5 "Fearful Symmetry" (a line from Tyger, Tyger Burning Bright).
    • The two riders / Pale Horse in chapter 10, "Two Riders Were Approaching" (a line from All Along The Watchtower).
      • The names of the events going on nearby -- Pale Horse in concert with Krystallnacht, The Day the Earth Stood Still -- also seem totally innocuous, until the last chapter.
    • The nuclear symbol / ship with black sails (inspiration for the Black Freighter, according to Moore)
    • The Gordian Knot lock company; Egyptian symbols, Pyramid Deliveries and the alien invasion in-jokes.
    • People hugging each other during a nuclear blast (Dan & Laurie, Bernard the news vendor & the black kid)
      • Further mirror motifs implied when it's revealed that the news vendor and the black comic book reader share the same name. Bernard.
  • Motive Rant: A truly epic speech by Ozymandias.
    • Rorschach gives one of his own to his psychiatrist.
  • Monster Modesty: Inverted with Doc Manhatten, who becomes increasingly immodest as he gets further from his humanity.
  • The Movie: see Film/Watchmen. Finally made in 2009 by Zack Snyder.
  • Mugging the Monster: Textbook example with the thugs vs. Dan and Laurie.
  • My Beloved Smother: Laurie feels her mother put a lot of pressure on her to follow in her footsteps. Rorschach... well, yeah.
  • Mythology Gag: Rorschach squirts a ketchup question mark into a napkin and folds it to get a Rorschach blot.
  • Name's the Same: The second season of The Wire also features a company called "Pyramid Delivery". In both works, the company turns out to be a front set up by the Big Bad ( Adrian Veidt and The Greek, respectively).
  • The Napoleon: The Big Figure.
  • Nebulous Evil Organization: Pyramid headed by Ozymandias.
  • Never Was This Universe: See the In Spite of a Nail entry above. Besides the "58 Varieties" and "New York Gazette" examples, there are also other minor differences between our world and the world of Watchmen — such as the existence of a man with actual psychic powers — that seem to be unrelated to the costumed heroes or Dr. Manhattan, therefore suggesting that world of Watchmen was never ours to begin with.
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: Played straight with the Comedian.
    • Some of Rorschach's comments and thought processes seem rather nihilistic, but he actually has a strong Black and White Morality. He likes to think of himself as a nihilist, and tries to convey that image, but really is anything but. A nihilist wouldn't have been the only one who, at the end of the book, decided that Veidt's actions were unjustifiable.
      • Rorschach's comments are not nihilistic, but existentialist. A nihilist believes there are no values; an existentialist believes there are no values other than those that we impose. Essentially, existentialism is a (philosophical) step beyond nihilism. Which makes this a good example of a Nietzsche Wannabe.
  • Nineties Anti-Hero: Rorschach and The Comedian are progenitors of this trope, albeit not strictly embodying it themselves. On record, Moore despises the fad for "Darker and Edgier" heroes whose ultraviolence is justified by some half-assed attempt at Watchmen-style deconstruction; the other big-noted superhero work of 1986, Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns is probably a more representative proto-example of "Nineties Anti-Hero" comics.
    • Notably, Miller's no fan of it, either. Both authors were trying to take superheroics to their logical conclusion, rather than make dark and edgy look cool. Misaimed Fandom didn't quite get it, and it was nearly 20 years before it turned around.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Ozymandias does this to the Comedian.
    • Dan Dreiberg and Laurel Juspeczyk vs. a dozen thugs in an alley. In the movie, the violence is ramped up significantly.
  • Non-Linear Character: Dr. Manhattan. Past, present, and future is going on at the same time and so he cannot do anything.
  • Non Linear Storytelling: The flashbacks (about a third of the work) and Dr. Manhattan's account of his past are told in Anachronic Order, in part to highlight Dr. Manhattan's perspective.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The intrinsic field substractor experiment is actually introduced as having 'new safety features'. Like time locks for the entrance door that close the experiment at a set time (rather than, like most time locks, refusing to open until a fixed time after closing) without any human interference or even presence in the control room, with no checks to see if any personnel is inside the chamber at the time, with no warning given to any personnel in the chamber before closing, with no way whatsoever to open it after closing and with no way to stop the Disintegrator Ray after the door has closed. Pro-tip for any Evil Overlord whose nemesis keeps escaping from their Death Trap: Hire these guys as safety consultants for your evil lair.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: Ozymandias is a misunderstood villain. He single-handedly kills off half of New York City in order to avert a nuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union that would destroy the world. However, Moore makes it clear that both he and Rorschach are extremists in their own ways. The only characters Moore unabashedly show in a positive light are Laurie and Dreiberg, both of whom only wanted to prevent more death. Everyone else ends up dead, exiled, or riddled with guilt and uncertain if they didn't just make things worse.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: Juspeczyk is pronounced "yoo-spe-chik" in Polish; it is not clear how she would pronounce it in America, although Sally's choice of "Jupiter" as a stage name gives a hint. Rorschach provides a half-failed aversion - it's given as "raw shark", which will work for most English people, and Noo Yawkers where the comic is set, but not to most American accents.
  • Nostalgia Filter: Lampshaded by Silk Spectre in both the novel and movie, where she comments on how the future seemed bleaker and the past increasingly blissful despite all the glaring, gritty flaws. Including what happened between her and the Comedian.
  • Not So Omniscient After All: Dr. Manhattan starts out as a omniscient Non Linear Character. During the storyline, something happens that makes him temporarily lose his omniscience while still being a Non Linear Character.
  • Odd Friendship: Dan and Rorschach. They Fight Crime.
  • Old Shame: Alan Moore has come to regret writing the book, given all the later comic writers who tried to capitalize on his Darker and Edgier style.
  • Omniscient Hero: Adrian Veidt. He has everything so well figured out that the morality issue is reduced to whether or not the goals he achieved was worth all the lives he sacrificed. However, two of the last few scenes make the whole thing ambiguous, leaving it to the reader/viewer do decide if the trope is played straight or subverted.
    • In the same story, Dr. Manhattan himself would fit the trope perfectly if it wasn't for a certain loophole that effectively makes him lose his omniscience halfway through the story. Before that point, he is so omniscient that it bores him, but the readers/audience are spared from sharing that boredom since he's a side character rather then the protagonist.
  • Out-Gambitted: Everyone seems to forget that, despite his death, Rorschach left his journal full of sensitive information to the press. Determining that this was probably the safest course of action to keep to his principles. The future was uncertain anyway.
    • They didn't forget because they never knew in the first place. Dreiberg through Rorschach was checking for incoming mail, and didn't realize he was actually sending a package out.
  • Painting the Fourth Wall: Rorschach's speech bubbles are drawn differently from other characters when he has his mask on. This could be taken to signify his distinctive speech style, which in the book is described as a Creepy Monotone (and in the movie is a harsh growl), but that would imply that in the comic he speaks more normally without the mask, which doesn't seem likely given his blank stare and elliptic sentences. The bubble is also drawn normally in the flashback to the Crimebuster's meeting, as it took place before Rorschach really went off the deep end.
  • The Password Is Always Swordfish: It's suspiciously easy for Nite Owl and Rorschach to break into Ozymandias's computer, although this was probably deliberately arranged by Veidt to lure his colleagues to Antarctica and spare them from his scheme.
  • Personal Effects Reveal
  • Physical God: Discussed.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: The Comedian.
  • Politically-Correct History: Very much averted.
  • Posthumous Character: Several, but especially The Comedian, since his death starts the story.
  • Power From Destruction: Doctor Manhattan gains power from being disintegrated.
  • Primal Scene: Young Walter Kovacs walks in on his mother with one of her "clients", which leads to child abuse and just one of the many events that psychologically damaged him.
  • Purple Prose: The narration caps in Tales Of The Black Freighter, the Comic Within A Comic.
  • Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner: See Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?.
  • Prophet Eyes: Doctor Manhattan has completely white eyes with no visible pupils, and it's hard to tell where the iris starts.
  • Psychic Powers: Plays an indirect but key role in the plot.
  • Rape as Drama: Part of Silk Spectre I's backstory.
  • Rape Is Love: Discussed in the case of Silk Spectre. It's suggested in the comic she loved Eddie despite his attempt to rape her -- this is part of what reawakens Manhattan to the marvel of human unpredictability.
    • It's implied she conceived her daughter with the Comedian with her consent. It's all but outright stated in the movie. It's also pretty much outright stated that her marriage at the time was just plain loveless and crappy, and when Eddie dropped by that time, he was amazingly kind, especially after how he'd acted that first time. But still. Sociopath is a turn-on, apparently.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: In-universe. Movie critic mistakes real footage of Silk Spectre I fighting crime for very bad stunt work.
  • Red Herring: Plenty. For example, Dan's prototype exo-skeleton, which comes across as a sure-fire Chekhov's Gun, never gets used, and is left behind when Dan evacuates his basement. That he leaves it, and only it, is actually the payoff: it's a joke on how utterly stupid and useless the exoskeleton was in reality.
    • Hollis wears the exact same brown sweater as the killer does in the opening sequence, and he's often drawn with only his arms showing. Moore and Gibbons are sadists.
    • An in-universe example: Veidt, upon hearing Rorschach's "Mask Killer" theory, secretly orders a hit on himself as supposed proof to Rorschach of his theory, in order to distract him from his real plan.
  • Redundant Rescue: When Nite Owl and Silk Spectre go to free Rorschach from prison. When they find him, he has already broken out of his cell, killed some of the people in his way, and is on the way out.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Averted utterly, as the Vietnam War was won because of the influence of supers, and technology made by supers has changed the world's economy and outlook.
  • Refrigerator Ambush: Rorschach pulls one off.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The ending. The world is at the very cusp of nuclear war, with each side waiting for the other to goad them into mutually assured destruction. Then, a squid teleports into New York and blows up, leaving everyone on Earth asking what the hell just happened.
  • Reluctant Mad Scientist: Dr. Manhattan, increasingly disconnected, allows both the US Government and Ozymandias to use his technological powers For Science!. Oh, and Ozymandias surely qualifies, if the reader sympathizes with him...
  • Restored My Faith in Humanity: Laurie does this for Jon/Dr. Manhattan, although it's more along the lines of unpredictable / predictable than good / bad.
  • The Reveal: Usually minor ones spaced throughout, but highly concentrated in chapter 11.
  • Rich Idiot With No Day Job: Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl II, with the twist that as Dan Dreiberg, he doesn't fake idiocy but instead pretends to be a harmless intellectual. After he retires, it's not so much an act...
    • Averted by Ozymandias, who gave away his inherited wealth as a teenager to prove that he could succeed alone.
    • Depending on when he started his plan, the above about Ozzy may have been as much part of the plan as anything else. After all, giving away all your money makes you quite the philanthropist and making your own fortune makes you quite the rags-to-riches story people love.
  • Scenery Censor: Generally averted with Doctor Manhattan's nudity, but not always. There are a couple of pages in chapter three that look like something out of Austin Powers.
  • Scenery Porn: Dave Gibbons' drawings of Mars surface are simply gorgeous.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Laurie and Dan.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Not for the main characters and plot, just all the supporting characters. The prison therapist's personal life ends when the squid comes, just like all other customers of the newspaper vendor. The missing artist was killed by Ozymandias, or on his orders, and no one noticed. The Comedian was killed as part of a coverup, but the reason was discovered too late to prevent anything.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Includes explicit mention of an episode of the original Outer Limits with a similar basic plot.
    • Wylie's Gladiator is visible on Hollis Mason's bookshelf.
    • The entire "Tales of the Black Freighter" comic-within-a-comic is inspired by The Threepenny Opera and the song "Pirat Jenny" (a.k.a. "The Black Freighter") in particular.
    • Dreiberg's owlship is named Archie in reference to the owl in The Sword in the Stone.
    • The child kidnapper murdered by Rorschach named his dogs Fred and Barney.
  • The Shrink: Dr. Malcolm Long, who starts out convinced he can help Rorschach...
  • Sliding Scale of Unavoidable Versus Unforgivable: Was Ozymandias' gambit acceptable or not? Your Mileage May Vary - actually, more like will.
  • Soaperizing
  • Something Else Also Rises: ...that flamethrower...
    • Though at least it wasn't the air-to-air missiles.
  • Spanner in the Works: Appears to be the case, but, of course, is all part of Ozzie's plan.
    • The ending has hints of a really major case maybe about to happen. See Cliff Hanger, above.
  • Stealth Pun: Fits in nicely with Fridge Brilliance: Jon, an aspiring watchmaker who was told to forgo the business due to the atomic bomb, has the accident that leads to his Physical God status because his first girlfriend's watch was stepped on by a fat man.
  • Stop Worshipping Me!: Dr. Manhattan is powerful enough to be considered divine, but resents being perceived this way. He says something like "I don't think there is a god, and if there is he's probably nothing like me".
  • Story Within a Story: Tales of the Black Freighter.
  • Stripperiffic: An odd Lampshade Hanging, in which a character uses it as a warped justification for Attempted Rape. It's also noticeable that the costume was only very Stripperiffic by 1940 standards, as it's basically a very short backless gown with stockings.
    • Further lampshade hanging when her daughter/successor complains about how ridiculous her own costume was. Unlampshaded when she puts the costume on for her new boyfriend and doesn't stop wearing it for the rest of the series (though there wasn't time to get a new one).
    • And let's not forget Dr. Manhattan, whose progressively-diminished costume provides a Stripperific clue as to how far back in his personal timeline each of his flashback appearances lies. The fact that he's first seen buck-naked, and is only later seen in skin-tight bodysuits or Speedos, may be a bit of a joke on this trope.
  • Superheroes Wear Capes: Deconstructed (like everything else) with the character of Dollar Bill. He was a former football player hired by a bank when they realized that having their own personal superhero on payroll was a great way to cash in on the masked vigilante craze. The costume was designed by the marketing department, who were going for style over practicality and thought that the cape added visual appeal. It ended up getting caught in a revolving door while he was trying to stop a robbery, at which point one of the robbers shot him point-blank in the chest. Aside from Captain Metropolis and the second-generation Nite Owl, none of the other superheroes wear capes.
    • Nite Owl I's original costume had a cape, but when he failed to master the art of walking around his own house with it on without the cape catching on things, he got rid of it.
    • This deconstruction was carried over into the CGI animated film The Incredibles with heavy nods to Watchmen.
  • Super Registration Act: The Keene Act, with all that followed. Only a few refused to sign it, but it appears there's not a lot of superheroes around anymore.
  • Sure Why Not: The fate of Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis has been a source of speculation owing to a couple resembling the two appearing on panel (and in focus) after their supposed demises. Dave Gibbons stated it wasn't intentional, but was far too good of a theory to refute.
  • Teleportation Sickness: Others besides Dr. Manhattan tend to find his teleporting them unpleasant, some rioters even suffering heart attacks when he puts them back home.
    • Though Manhattan's narration points out that this was due at least partly to the shock of suddenly finding themselves back home.
  • That Wasn't a Request:

 Dr. Manhattan: Pay attention. You will all return to your homes.

Protester: Oh yeah? And what if we don't, ya big blue fruit?

Dr. Manhattan: You misunderstand me. It was not a request.

  • The Tokyo Fireball: Only in New York, and it's more of a human-brain Logic Bomb.
  • They Should Have Sent a Poet: Pretty much every part of the Mars scene.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: The Silhouette and Silk Spectre I.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The prisoners in the jail Rorschach was sent to. No matter WHAT he does to any of them, they are determined to get at him.
  • Totalitarian Utilitarian: Adrian Veidt.
  • Twin Threesome Fantasy: Subverted, as Laurie is disturbed by Manhattan cloning himself in the bedroom -- and eventually enraged when she sees another duplicate still working in the lab.
  • Twisted Echo Cut: Used repeatedly, especially at scene changes between Tales of the Black Freighter and the main plot. For example, it cuts from the newsstand owner talking about how newsvendors are tough survivors, to a shipwreck survivor standing on a beach crying. Or from Nite Owl saying "It'll be like coming home," to the shipwrecked man finally arriving on the mainland. "I could be no more than twenty miles from Davidstown. I was home."
  • Two for One Show: The pirate comic-within-a-comic tells a full story from beginning to end, and mirrors many turning points in the overall story.
  • Two Scenes, One Dialogue: Background conversations, or banter coming from a nearby TV, which are also relevant to the main scene. The Black Freighter also sometimes mirrors some of the smaller events happening around the newsstand where it is being read. This is a trademark of Watchmen.
  • The Unfettered: The Comedian, Dr. Manhattan and Rorschach. Ozymandias.
  • Unstuck in Time: Dr. Manhattan becomes briefly disoriented because of tachyons. "Excuse me, Rorschach. I'm informing Laurie ninety seconds ago... I-I'm sorry. It's these tachyons."
    • If you flip the two pages of the graphic novel back & forth when he says this, Manhattan is in the same position on both pages, in the same pose, saying the same thing, highlighting his non-linear perception of time.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Turns out to be the whole plot.
  • We Didn't Start the Billy Joel Parodies: It's got one.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Rorschach and Veidt.
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: Inverted. Typically, one of the Five-Man Band has mediocre abilities, yet everyone from the Minutemen and Crimebusters apply to this trope when you consider that Dr. Manhattan is pretty much a God by comparison.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Everybody, but most pronounced in the scene where The Comedian calls out Dr. Manhattan for not doing anything to save his (the Comedian's) Asian Baby Mama despite knowing exactly what would happen. Ironically, it cements Dr. Manhattan's view that they're essentially the same. But for the biggest example, see the YMMV page.
    • This is essentially Rorschach's entire mode of operation.
  • Who Watches the Watchmen?
  • Who Shot JFK?: As it turns out, it was The Comedian.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Beats up, shoots and stabs this trope.
  • World of Badass: Both played straight and deconstructed. The heroes are seriously screwed up people, yet surprisingly capable of kicking ass when needed.
  • Written Sound Effect: Half averted: fight scenes are silent, but there is a wide and surprising variety of onomatopoeia for dialogue.
    • Such as The Comedian drinking: "nk nk nk".
    • Rorschach eating: "Ronch ronch ronch/Cronch cronch cronch" (sugar cubes) or "Schlorp... chlorp... lep..." (raw baked beans).
    • Rorschach thinking: "Hurm..."
    • Rorschach yelling!: RRAAAARRL
      • Both of those straddle the line between this and actual dialogue, being vocalized.
  • You Are Too Late: Thirty-five minutes late, to be exact.
  • You Bastard: If you believe Ozymandias was right, you're okay with killing several million people and lying to the entire world to trick it into peace. If you believe Rorschach was right, you believe that Ozymandias's scheme should be revealed to the world in the name of justice, even if it means sending the world back to the brink of nuclear holocaust.
  • You Cannot Change the Future: Extensively discussed by Dr. Manhattan, see Character page for details. Excuse us, troper, you're already reading that entry 90 seconds ago...
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Ozymandias poisons his assistants, and congratulates them for helping create a new utopia (as they are either dead or dying), then lets their bodies be hidden by snow cover. Later, he tells the others that his assistants accidentally killed themselves. He also blows up the artists who helped create the monster.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Airships are far more common, because Dr. Manhattan can synthesize enough helium to make them cost-effective (and safer than hydrogen-filled airships would have been).

  Nothing ends, Troper. Nothing ever ends.

Notes

  1. Some say it launched the Dark Age.
  2. Rorschach/Detectives/News Stand/Black Freighter/Dan and Laurie/Ozymandias/Dan and Laurie/Black Freighter/News Stand/Detectives/Rorschach

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