The 12-issue maxiseries Watchmen is nothing short of a miracle in storytelling within the graphic medium. Over the course of the 30 years since its initial release, comic fans have been graced with series of prequel comics and more recently a follow up series that ties these characters into the DC Multiverse (somehow). And while the seemingly self-contained story by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons did plenty in exploring the relationships, history, and powers of the titular team and the teams that preceded them, some of the ancillary work has given readers more to sink their teeth in even if some creators are none too appreciative of it.
But feeling regarding who these character belong to aside, with 30 years to marinate on the characters from the initial maxiseries, some fascinating origins of minor characters have been expound upon and new characters who are just as damaged and complex have been brought into the fold. To be fair, how all these characters stack up against one another in regards to power level and fighting ability is certainly debatable. The age old of question of “would this character be able to beat up that character?” is as old as comic book fandom itself. But when it comes to the more narrow scope of Watchmen the results of who is the most powerful character is somewhat obvious, but characters who would not seem like a match for some of the more outlandish heroes and villains might have a few tricks up their sleeves.
19 DOLLAR BILL
Dollar Bill might be the most hilariously unfortunate member of The Minutemen. Most of William Brady’s career was fueled by undeserved confidence, luck, and bureaucracy. As Dollar Bill, Brady was basically a corporate funded superhero as the Notional Bank Co. designed the character to get in on the masked man fad that was sweeping the nation.
Despite the shallow origin of the hero, Dollar Bill joined the Minutemen and actually did some good during his tenure on the team. And while the advertisements Dollar Bill spawned would live on, the hero himself met his end at the hand of armed robbers… and getting his cape stuck in a revolving door. It wasn’t the most noble of ends, but his legacy lived on for what it’s worth.
Byron Lewis, better known as the masked vigilante Mothman, was one of the first costumed superheroes to appear in the history of Watchmen. Lewis, a brilliant inventor who made a ton on patenting aviation equipment, hungered for adventure and eventually found more than he could handle as one of the original members of The Minutemen.
Armed with nothing but his wits and a glider suit, Mothman was often utilized to provide cover for his teammates. But through a series of botched missions and loss of friends, Byron Lewis soon spiraled down a drain of addiction. Before his eventual institutionalization in the '60s, Mothman did have one last hurray in thwarting an attack on the Statue of Liberty, but it might have been too little too late.
17 TWILIGHT LADY/SIN QUEEN
There isn’t much in the original Watchmen lore to really expand upon when it comes to the Nite Owl II adversary Twilight Lady. She is only seen in an autographed photo in a dream sequence in the 1986 original maxiseries by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, and John Higgins.
The Twilight Lady would later be expanded on in the prequel event Before Watchmen decades later, in which she is portrayed as somewhat of a temporary partner and lover of Daniel Dreiberg after taking up the moniker Sin Queen. After a nasty run in with a crazed minister that almost cost her life, the former villain tapped out of the superhero game for good.
Moloch the Mystic was somewhat of a villain out of necessity... sort of. Born with physical deformities, Edgar Jacobi took up his famous moniker as a vaudevillian performer in the late '30s. Eventually, he would go on to rob banks as his magic career was not exactly providing what he wanted. After several years as a successful foe to The Minutemen and The Crimebusters, Moloch finally saw long term incarceration after realizing that Doctor Manhattan was the one force he could never escape.
During Moloch’s storied career as a villain, he did some serious damage (including bombing the stock exchange), but his role as a pawn in Ozymandias’ long-term con to end The Cold War is one of the most notable moments for Moloch.
15 RORSCHACH II (REGGIE LONG)
Brining back a character like Rorschach in the Watchmen sequel Doomsday Clock was a dicey decision by writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank. Walter Kovacs' demise at the end of the original series has a lot of weight and the iconography from that character was meant to be buried with him or at the very least, used to haunt the landscape moving forward.
The introduction of Rorschach II (who is actually Reggie Long the son of Kovacs’ therapist), could have gone off the rails. But for the most part, Reggie Long is a tough character who has a background mired in intrigue, even if it is a little too by the numbers.
14 THE SILHOUETTE
Ursula Zandt did not exactly have the most charmed life. She spent her youth under the predatory jurisdiction of oppression in her home country, Austria, being forced into slavery after most of her family was killed during the takeover. Zandt survived and eventually made it to the United States, where she took the moniker The Silhouette.
As The Silhouette, Zandt waged war against human traffickers. She would go on to join the Minutemen and continue her vigilantism. Unfortunately, her career (and her life) would be cut short when she was kicked off the team and found by an old enemy who finally caught up to her. A brief as it was, she had great run as a hero and was tough as nails.
13 CAPTAIN METROPOLIS
Captain Metropolis’ legacy has quite a long tail in the world of Watchmen. He was the shining example for superheroes in this realm. After overcoming childhood ailments, Nelson Gardner went on to become a tough as nails athlete and military serviceman. Taking on the cape and cowl, as Captain Metropolis, Nelson waged war against organized crime in urban areas and was the founding member of The Minutemen.
To be fair, Nelson was also the member who formally disbanded the team, but by that point things were tough all over for masked heroes. Captain Metropolis would go on to face a lot of personal turmoil (specifically in trying to keep his relationship with Hooded Justice under wraps), but his ultimate fate is undetermined.
12 NITE OWL (HOLLIS MASON)
Hollis Mason might be the best poster boy we have for The Minutemen. His Cheshire cat grin and his charming personality, make him a likeable figure (even if those briefs are a bit much). As a New York City policeman, Mason has plenty of resources to train in hand-to-hand combat and weaponry in order to prepare himself in becoming a masked hero.
As Nite Owl, Mason would be one of the most noble (especially morally) and tough-on-crime members of The Minutemen. The popularity of his persona would even continue on has his successor took over. Hollis Mason was a true hero in the world of Watchmen and the history in that world remembers him as much.
11 SILK SPECTRE II (LAURIE JUSPECZYK)
Living in the shadow on your parents isn’t easy. But when one of your parents is a superhero, it’s pretty much impossible. Daughter of the original Silk Spectre, Sally Jupiter (nee Juspeczyk), Laurie had some pretty big shoes to fill when she took up her mother’s moniker. As a member of The Watchmen, Laurie found herself at odds with some of her teammates.
While it’s easy to see Laurie as a love interest in one of the weirdest love triangles in comics, she is actually a pretty tough superhero. She spent her childhood working out in a gym and she was the first hero to disobey the Keene Act, which banned all masked vigilantes. She can also handle herself in a street fight just fine.
10 RORSCHACH (WALTER KOVACS)
Crazy can go a long way in a fight. Walter Kovacs, better known as Rorschach, proves this time and time again. While he may not be the most physically tough member of The Watchmen, he is certainly the most daring and ostentatious when it comes to getting the job done.
Unfortunately, that job usually requires someone getting put in traction or worse. Rorschach is a person of conviction (almost to a fault), who has been driven to the brink of madness due to his troubled past and seeing the nasty truth behind the justice system. He sees crime as a sickness, one that needs to be eradicated… with punching. Lots and lots of punching.
9 NITE OWL II (DAN DREIBERG)
Taking up the mantel of Nite Owl, a role once held by the beloved Minuteman Hollis Mason, Daniel Dreiberg had some big boots to fill. Fortunately, Dan filled them perfectly, bringing with him a series of gadgets, an iconic aircraft known as Archimedes, and impressive fight prowess. Dreiberg was so suited for the roll that he got the original Nite Owl’s blessing in adopting his superhero name.
It’s hard to pinpoint who goes through the most transition in Watchmen on a moral level. Perhaps Silk Spectre II takes the title, but Nite Owl II is a close second. Watching an overweight, retired superhero embrace his own predilections for busting criminals’ skulls is as harrowing as it is horrifying… probably more so for the aforementioned criminals, though.
8 SILK SPECTRE (SALLY JUPITER)
Sally Jupiter (nee Juspeczyk) was the face of The Minutemen. She was classic bombshell beauty who transcended the role of superhero fandom into being a cultural icon. Of all the members of The Minuteman, the original Silk Spectre might have the most storied and sordid history, which is saying quite a bit considering her the lives of many of her teammates.
As the longest living member of The Minutemen (as far as we can tell), Jupiter had seen and done it all. From capturing bank robbers and taking out hideous murderers to have a questionable relationship with one of her closest friends and teammates, Silk Spectre is a character who has lived a full life, even if some of that life was filled with turmoil.
Erika Manson was a villain active in the mid-'80s who had a nasty run-in with Rorschach, a hero almost as vicious as she was. Under the name Marionette, Manson spent some time in prison until she was freed by Rorschach’s successor, Reggie Long. Now it would be easy to simply see Marionette as some crazy lady in clown makeup (we have that in the DC Universe already), but one would be remiss.
She is nothing short of dangerous. So much so that she is led around in handcuffs by Rorschach II and Ozymandias in the pages of Doomsday Clock. And when she actually gets those hands free and on one of The Joker’s thugs, it’s easy to see why.
6 HOODED JUSTICE
The origin of the vigilante hero Hooded Justice is a bit foggy. Fellow Minuteman teammate, Hollis Mason believed the identity of this musclebound superhero was Rolf Müller, a circus strongman. This would certainly make sense based on the sheer power Hooded Justice displayed when turning armed criminals into black and blue messes of swollen flesh.
Hooded Justice’s career ended rather abruptly when he mysteriously disappeared. Neither his teammates nor his one-time lover, Captain Metropolis knew of his whereabouts. His body was later found, washed up the coast Boston. He had been executed. It’s often speculated if The Comedian was the man behind his offing. We wouldn’t put it past Blake, especially considering the beat down Hooded Justice gave The Comedian when he assaulted Silk Spectre.
5 THE COMEDIAN
If the word volatile had a face, it would the world-weary visage of Eddie Blake, The Comedian. From his early days as a member of The Minutemen, Blake was a bit of an odd duck. He was far more violent than his teammates, and reveled in inflicting pain on others.
The Comedian eventually became the most morally ambiguous and seemingly villainous member of The Watchmen. This lifelong superhero never hung up his cape (so to speak), not really anyhow. His combat ability and tactical prowess were so impressive, he was used as a one-man hit squad during the Vietnam Conflict. That thirst was never satiated.
Marco Maez (or simply known as Mime) is absolutely terrifying. His wild eyes and savagery in hand-to-hand combat feel not of this world, as if he’s some alien, animalistic rage, which makes him one of the toughest villains in the Watchmen pantheon. His powers to seemingly manifest events out of thin air gives him an edge not many characters in this world possess.
Willing to do anything to protect his wife Erika Manson (The Marionette), Maez will end, punish, and destroy anyone or anything he thinks may get between them. Mime also has a tragic streak like all characters in this universe, and the tragedy of losing a child fuels his pain, which in turn fuels his madness.
Unmatched by most humans in terms of genius level intellect and athletic prowess, Adrian Veidt is one of the most powerful members of Watchmen. With a massive fortune at his disposal, he’s been the mastermind behind taking down opium rings, criminal syndicates, and, most importantly tapping into the impending doomsday scenario implied by The Cold War to save humanity… sort of.
Veidt intellect is only matched by his own twisted rationality that, when observed in a vacuum, makes sense to some degree. But the lengths to which Ozymandias will go to make his master plan come to fruition are sacrificial on an unfathomable level, as far as the world knows, they worked.
2 THE SQUID
The horror know by fans as “the Squid” that destroyed a massive chunk of New York City and ended millions of people was engineered by Ozymandias. And while this monster may not be sentient as the rest of the characters on this list, it is by no means any less powerful. Quite the contrary, in fact.
The sheer destructive power of this monstrosity is nothing to sneeze at. While some characters in the Watchmen Universe could cause the downfall of nations through assassinations and political meddling, “the Squid” is simply a force of nature that only knows cataclysmic impact that changed the world forever and forged a nightmarish memory for generations to come.
1 DR. MANHATTAN
Comic book have no shortage of god-like superheroes, or literal gods from mythology. Characters like Superman and Thor have powers that are nearly immeasurable. But one superhero eclipses them in all in terms of power, ability, and knowledge. The being once known as the brilliant atomic physicist, Jon Osterman became the most powerful being in the Watchmen pantheon, and arguably, the most powerful in all of comic book.
The limits of Doctor Manhattan’s power don’t seem to exist. With the abilities to alter matter on a molecular level, separating particles with the wave of a hand, and traversing great distances in the blink of an eye seem to be just the tip of the iceberg.