In the 2009 live-action version of Watchmen, the intro shows - among other things - the original Nite Owl saving Thomas & Martha Wayne from the mugger on that fateful night. In the background, you can clearly see posters advertising what appears to be Batman No. 1, which was published in 1940. There is also a flyer on the opera house playbill called "Die Fledermaus", which is an actual opera by Johann Strauss dating back to 1874, and the opera house is named "Gotham Opera House".

Are these simply easter eggs to Batman, or does the DC character actually exist somewhere in the timeline of Watchmen?

Note: I am not too familiar with the comics version of Watchmen - I've only read it once and that was years ago. I've read that the Watchmen universe was recently brought into the mainstream DC one with 'Rebirth', but I'm looking for an answer that addresses the timeline before that.

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    Using a comment because I don't read the comics, but, from what I've heard, they are different universes, but may be merging based on what's going on in the current comics. – trlkly Jul 6 '17 at 11:11
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    Well Bruce Wayne does, but he's not Batman and thus inconsequential. That's the point of the scene. – OrangeDog Jul 6 '17 at 12:44
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    For those who may not know, Die Fledermas is German for "The Bat". – RBarryYoung Jul 6 '17 at 12:48
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    It is heavily implied that the two opera visitors in the left of your picture are Thomas and Martha Wayne. Two rich people exiting the Gotham Opera House into an alley, where a criminal is waiting for them (the male opera visitor seems to have been punched by the criminal before this picture was taken). The criminal that Nite Owl is punching, would have killed them, therefore leaving Bruce as an orphan and causing him to become Batman later on. Watchmen is an alternate turn of events of the same (base) universe. – Flater Jul 6 '17 at 13:48
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    @trlkly Indeed. i.stack.imgur.com/z9iLl.jpg – JAB Jul 6 '17 at 16:38
up vote 44 down vote accepted

Batman is never mentioned by name in the novel, but it is extremely likely that he and all other "famous" comic book characters are comic book characters in-universe, if they exist at all.

From the in-universe memoir "Under The Hood", Hollis Mason says the following about his decision to become the first masked hero:

For me it all started in 1938, the year when they invented the super-hero. I was too old for comic books when the first issue of ACTION COMICS came out, or at least too old to read them in public without souring my promotion chances, but I noticed a lot of the little kids on my beat reading it and couldn't resist asking one of them if I could glance through it. I figured if anybody saw me I could put it all down to keeping a good relationship with the youth of the community.

There was a lot of stuff in that first issue. There were detective yarns and stories about magicians whose names I can't remember, but from the moment I set eyes on it I only had eyes for the Superman story. Here was something that presented the basic morality of the pulps without all their darkness and ambiguity. The atmosphere of the horrific and faintly sinister that hung around the Shadow was nowhere to be seen in the bright primary colors of Superman's world, and there was no hint of the repressed sex-urge which had sometimes been apparent in the pulps, to my discomfort and embarrassment.

If Batman existed at all, he would have been a pulp character at best.

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    He'd also have stayed a pulp character, as within the story the popularity of superhero comics waned drastically when the vigilantes started, and everyone got into reading pirate comics instead. – Jon Hanna Jul 6 '17 at 11:23
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    Nothing like good detective "yams and stones" ;) (I'm assuming some scanning tool misread "yarns and stories") – sirjonsnow Jul 6 '17 at 13:40
  • @sirjonsnow Bleh, lazy on my part. Edited to fix, feel free to edit any other typos I pulled in. – GGMG Jul 6 '17 at 14:32

It's an easter egg and also confirming that Batman does not exist since the Waynes haven't been murdered (as you see a Watchman prevents the first shot).

The movie's whole intro sequence is used to show all those little differences to the real world (and other comic continuities) that established the movie's alternative timeline.

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    Well, there's nothing to say that in THAT reality, Batman wasn't someone other than Bruce Wayne at an earlier time, and that's what the in-universe comic was based on. I mean, I don't know one way or the other - that's what I'm trying to find out. – Omegacron Jul 6 '17 at 9:39
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    @Omegacron: Thomas and Martha Wayne being saved by Nite Owl is a fact (in universe), though it is not directly related to the plot of the movie. The Batman poster you see in the same shot, however, is an easter egg, as it is a tongue-in-cheek reference intended for viewers to see (as Batman could not possible exist yet, as Bruce is still a child, and won't lose his parents). If you argue that THAT universe could be wildly different, then why stop there? Maybe THAT Gotham is a skycity staying afloat on unicorn farts. In reality, it is better to assume similarities unless specifically addressed. – Flater Jul 6 '17 at 13:52

In 2009 Watchmen were Watchmen as solo comic. Like "Elseworlds" once. Moore wanted to create a story using characters from old comics. He wanted to use some from Archie's and later from a company bought by DC. Because he didn't have right to them he made his own. He did that because he wanted to kill some of them and back then Moore wanted them to stay dead. So, although published by DC, Watchmen were not a part of DC Universe.
Until Rebirth-52 when Watchmen and (I think) John Constantine were included in the same universe and timeline.
The main difference was that in both the "earth" was our earth. So the city in W. is New York and London in Constantine.

So back to your question, In the time of making the movie Batman existed as a comic in the Watchmen world. The Gotham Opera, Waynes and Die Fledermaus are easter eggs and the cover in the background is timestamp of the event. As you mentioned it's 1940.

To make things short. When the movie was made the Watchmen was our universe different timeline. After Rebirth Watchmen are DC Universe.

  • Constantine has been in the main universe from the beginning, assuming Swamp Thing was. If not he was definitely there by Sandman. – Joel Roberts Jul 7 '17 at 4:20
  • Don't Swamp Thing and Constantine were in the Vertigo line? – SZCZERZO KŁY Jul 7 '17 at 7:43
  • Swampy thing's history in the DCU is fluid. Constantine regularly appeared in Swamp thing, and Swamp thing appeared often in the DC Universe before Moore took over the book, and to a lessening degree once he took over. As the book got more mature, they pulled back on the appearances in the DCU proper, for fear that Little Jimmy reads about Swamp Thing in a Batman comic, and goes to buy his own book, only to find out it's a mature title. Sandman stays separate for much the same reasons. Swamp Thing is now a regular in the DCU again. – VBartilucci Aug 10 '17 at 20:03

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