This is the twentieth in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous nineteen.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The characters in Watchmen were originally meant to be based on a defunct line of superheroes.
When Alan Moore first came up with the idea that became the comic series, Watchmen, he thought that what would work perfectly would be a line of superhero comics that was not being used at the time. The comic company that Moore initially considered?
The MLJ/Archie Superhero line!
Says Moore, in Comic Book Artist #9:
That was the initial idea of Watchmen-and this is nothing like what Watchmen turned out to be-was it was very simple: Wouldn't it be nice if I had an entire line, a universe, a continuity, a world full of super-heroes-preferably from some line that has been discontinued and no longer publishing-whom I could then just treat in a different way. You have to remember this was very soon after I'd done some similar stuff, if you like, with Marvelman, where I'd used a pre-existing character, and applied a grimmer, perhaps more realistic kind of world view to that character and the milieu he existed in. So I'd just started thinking about using the MLJ characters-the Archie super-heroes-just because they weren't being published at that time, and for all I knew, they might've been up for grabs. The initial concept would've had the 1960s-'70s rather lame version of the Shield being found dead in the harbor, and then you'd probably have various other characters, including Jack Kirby's Private Strong, being drafted back in, and a murder mystery unfolding. I suppose I was just thinking, "That'd be a good way to start a comic book: have a famous super-hero found dead." As the mystery unraveled, we would be lead deeper and deeper into the real heart of this super-hero's world, and show a reality that was very different to the general public image of the super-hero. So, that was the idea.
As luck would have it, DC happened to purchase a DIFFERENT defunct line of superheroes, the Charlton heroes, and Moore took this idea that he had based on the MLJ/Archie heroes, and applied it to the Charlton heroes. This was what led to the original proposal for Watchmen, which later, due to the fact that Moore pretty much made the characters unusable after the series was over, changed to being ORIGINAL characters based on the Charlton heroes.
However, even after the changes, a remnant of the MLJ/Archie influence remained in Watchmen, as Hooded Justice is very likely based upon the Archie superhero, Hangman.