Before They Were 'Watchmen': The Characters That Inspired Nite Owl & Rorschach

'Watchmen'Long ago, there was a small company called Charlton Comics with a strange assortment of characters. DC Comics bought them in the 1980s and superstar writer Alan Moore intended to write their swan song in a story called “Who Killed the Peacemaker?” DC told Moore they had plans for the characters, so Moore created new heroes based on the old and wrote the story he planned from the start -- a 12-issue series called "Watchmen" that broke a lot of rules and provided the source material for Zack Snyder's blockbuster adaptation.

Previously, we introduced you to the characters who inspired "Watchmen" characters Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias, as well as the characters The Comedian and Silk Spectre were based upon. Now, to finish our three-part article, let’s talk about the last two members of the cast, Nite Owl and Rorschach.

FROM “BLUE BEETLE” TO “NITE-OWL”: Introduced in 1939 by Fox Comics, the original Blue Beetle was a fairly generic hero: Dan Garrett, a cop who wore a bullet-proof costume, took a strength-enhancing vitamin and fought crime. Despite a comic and a radio series, he never got the popularity of Superman or Batman.

Blue Beetle and Nite Owl

Charlton bought the character and revamped him in 1964. Now, Dan Garrett was an archeologist who found a mystical blue scarab which granted him magic armor. When this didn’t interest fans, Garrett was killed in 1966 and his student and friend Ted Kord became the second Blue Beetle. Unable to use the scarab, Ted relied on wits, athletic prowess, gadgets and his aircraft, “The Bug.” Ted had an occasional partnership with the vigilante called "The Question" and later they joined with Nightshade and Captain Atom as "The Sentinels of Justice."

When DC re-introduced Ted, they left him and his history mostly unchanged, but quickly said the scarab was an alien artifact, not magic. Ted then joined the Justice League for many years, working with heroes such as Batman and Superman. In 2005, Ted was killed and teenager Jaime Reyes has become the third Blue Beetle, thanks to the blue scarab.

FROM “THE QUESTION” TO “RORSCHACH”: In 1967, readers met The Question. Vic Sage was a television journalist who went out at night to fight crime and expose corruption. Aside from his faceless mask, he had no costume and simply wore a suit and trench coat. The Question was a harsh man with genius-level detective skills who believed in moral absolutes and did not accept compromises. He had an occasional partnership with the second Blue Beetle and later the two of them joined with Captain Atom and Nightshade in the Sentinels of Justice.

When he was integrated into DC Comics, the Question was given more backstory and it was said he’d grown up an orphan named Charles Victor Szasz before adopting a stage name. Though he began as a vigilante who saw things only in black and white, this changed after an encounter with Batman, a near-death experience, and the mentorship of martial artist Richard Dragon.

The Question and Rorschach

The Question became a philosopher warrior, focused on stopping social corruption even as he wrestled with his own morality and darker impulses. A few years ago, when he learned he had cancer, Vic began mentoring Renee Montoya, an ally of Batman’s and a former Gotham City police detective. Following Vic’s death, Renee became the new Question.

And that wraps it all up, folks. Now you know the secret history of "Watchmen" and the characters that inspired the groundbreaking series -- which should make for some interesting conversation while you're in line for the film!

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