02 March 2010

Batman's Role In Alan Moore's WATCHMEN

 Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl II
Alan Moore extrapolated the six main characters of his twelve-issue comic book limited series Watchmen from the superhero properties DC Comics purchased from Charlton Comics in the early 1980's. Each of the six - including Dan Dreiberg, The Nite Owl II - was created to present a world-view radically different from the others, so that the reader - and not Moore as writer - would determine which point of view might, or should, morally prevail. [source]

Dan Dreiberg /Nite Owl II - and his flying owl-like ship Archimedes - drew, at least superficially, from Charlton's Blue Beetle and the character's alter-ego, wealthy inventor and small-time industrialist Ted Kord. Kord used a variety of gizmos and gadgets in his war against crime, including the flying vehicle, Bug,  a hovering blue beetle-shaped craft  complete with two big yellow eye bubbles that doubled as the Bug's front windows.  Like Dreiberg, who donned his costume to carry on the fight of Hollis Mason, his progenitor, Kord's Beetle was also a second-generation superhero, a modernized namesake of an earlier Beetle from the World War II era.
Even though Moore ostensibly borrowed his concepts from Charlton's stable of heroes, Charlton - like most competitive comics  publishers and creators turning out superhero fare anytime after 1940 or so - had taken its inspirations from the most popular and best-selling superhero characters on the market - DC Comics' Superman / Clark Kent, and Batman / Bruce Wayne

And there's plenty of both DC's characters noticeable in Watchmen's later-day Nite Owl. The visually-impotent, mild-mannered, and often-times awkward Dreiberg seems a long-lost brother to Clark Kent, while his late-night vigilante alias, named after a flying nighttime creature using toys he both could buy and invent, could be a Dark Knight in disguise - minus the tragic origin.

Watchmen's Night Owl is by no means a knock-off; Moore created a bona-fide character in its own right.  The familiar characteristics he imbued his Owl with only strengthen Watchmen's overall allegory to -- and commentary on -- on superheroes, and open up his story to a broader understanding. As one of the most influential and effective comics works of the last thirty years, Moore clearly succeeded in doing just that.  But ultimately, he'd never have been able to do so without The Batman.

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