WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for the latest episode of Watchmen, "This Extraordinary Being," which aired Sunday on HBO.
The first episode of HBO's Watchmen television series, "It's Summer and We're Running Out of Ice," began with a flashback that took place during the 1921 Tulsa race riot. In city overcome with death and destruction, a young Will Reeves was shepherded to safety by his parents. As the riot erupted all around them, Will's parents took him to a man who would help him escape aboard his truck. Although the scene took place in an all too real and frightening event, it closely mirrored the origin story of Superman. As a baby, Kal-El was sent to safety aboard a rocket to evade planet Krypton's destruction.
At the time, it was unclear what the purpose of this similarity truly was. Was it simply meant as an homage to the origin of the world's first and most famous superhero, or was it simply a mirror of the super-heroic in the horrific? While both of those udeas are true in some aspect, the show's parallels between that riveting scene and Superman's origin were more deliberate than that. In the series' latest episode, "This Extraordinary Being," Superman's origin actually comes into the fold as part of Hooded Justice's beginnings, as it confirms that Hooded Justice is the HBO series' version of Superman -- not Doctor Manhattan.
As "This Extraordinary Being" begins, a scene from the in-universe American Hero Story television show sees Hooded Justice being confronted by two government agents. They bring forth the notion that he was the one who started it all -- the first superhero who inspired all that would follow, from the Minutemen to the Watchmen. And while American Hero Story is filled with inaccuracies, the agents' statement is true. Hooded Justice started his vigilante career in 1938. His heroic actions would inspire others to put on costumes, and take to the streets to fight crime. He was, for all intents and purposes, the first superhero of the Watchmen universe, both in the comic books and in the television series.
And, as comic book readers know, Superman was also the first superhero of the DC Universe. After his first appearance in 1938's Action Comics #1, more characters such as Batman, Robin, the Flash and Wonder Woman would follow, until the DC Universe as we know it would come to be. Therefore, both Hooded Justice and Superman were the original superheroes in their respective universes who inspired everyone that came after, to some extent.
The scene, however, is just a prelude to the revelations that come about Hooded Justice in "This Extraordinary Being." Thanks to her grandfather's Nostalgia pills, Angela Abar is able to see his memories. It's there that we learn Will Reeves was actually the one hiding under the Hooded Justice mask. Will started out as police officer in New York, but he was quickly undermined because of his race. One night, while out on patrol, Will comes across a friendly magazine street vendor who is reading Action Comics #1. The vendor tells Will all about Superman, how he was a baby who was sent away by his parents to avoid his planet's destruction. Upon hearing the story, Will sees flashes of his parents, and his own escape from the Tulsa race riot.
Will clearly recognizes the parallels between the fictional superhero and himself, and it's evident this is something that helps fuel his Hooded Justice persona, and his quest for justice and equality. Moreover, even his wife is a reporter, much like Lois Lane. He even takes on the Ku Klux Klan in the same way that Superman did in the real and fictional world.
In the Watchmen universe, it was easy to see the all-powerful Doctor Manhattan as the answer to Superman. After all, he is a god-like being with immense power who makes a difference on the worldwide stage. The character himself is seen as the "supreme superhero," and the Super-Man. He may sound like the Man of Steel, but HBO's television series subverts that expectation by highlighting Hooded Justice. Even though Superman and Hooded Justice have plenty of differences, the Last Son of Krypton and the last son of Tulsa have more than a little in common too.
Developed by Damon Lindelof, HBO's Watchmen stars Jeremy Irons, Regina King, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson, Jean Smart, Louis Gossett Jr., Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Tom Mison, James Wolk, Adelaide Clemens, Andrew Howard, Frances Fisher, Jacob Ming-Trent, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, Lily Rose Smith and Adelynn Spoon. The series airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.