The original Watchmen comic is famous for dumping world-building exposition into text-based excerpts and documents at the end of each issue. Turns out HBO’s Watchmen, a sequel to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ original story, is doing exactly the same thing.
Welcome to Peteypedia.
[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for Watchmen. Like, all of them.]
Peteypedia, found at hbo.com/peteypedia, appears as the personal files of agent Dale Petey (a character original to the Watchmen TV series, played by Dustin Ingram), who also serves the FBI’s brand new role of Information Technology Administrator. Peteypedia here is presumably derived from “encyclopedia,” not “Wikipedia,” as it seems likely that Wikipedia does not exist in the Watchmen TV series.
Peteypedia currently contains links to four PDF documents, each of which is full of backstory-shaping tidbits. They explain a lot about how the state of Watchmen’s already divergent American history continued from the events of the comic in 1985 to the events of the series in 2019. We’ve read all of them, and here’s the vital information.
The squid monster
The events at the end of the Watchmen comic — when a psychic “space” squid killed half of Manhattan and gave the rest of the world years of nightmares — is referred to as the DIE by the FBI, for Dimensional Incursion Event. The FBI calls the creature itself the EDBE, though none of the documents explain what that stands for. The term seems so ubiquitous as to not need an explanation.
The EDBE dissolved into a watery substance before it could be properly studied, just like the sporadic rains of fetal squid all over the globe, which science cannot explain despite the fact that they have been going on since the DIE.
What happened after Watchmen
The four documents offer clues as to the post-DIE lives of the comic’s leads in the show’s continuity. As hinted at in the conclusion of Watchmen, Nite Owl/Dan Dreiberg and Silk Spectre/Laurie Juspeczyk went back to a life of costumed vigilantism. Laurie took on a new name as the Comedienne, in honor of the Comedian, who she had recently realized was her father. And though she and Dan were arrested in 1995 for violating the anti-vigilante Keene Act, she is now an FBI agent.
But what Peteypedia really spends the most time on is the later life of Adrian “Ozymandias” Veidt and the fallout from the publication of Rorschach’s journal detailing his conspiratorial actions.
Veidt got his world peace, but not much else
After the DIE, Adrian Veidt financed democratic causes, helping to put Robert Redford in the Oval Office, and he donated to hospitals treating post-DIE PTSD. In the world of HBO’s Watchmen, his plan to create world peace through a massive hoax worked.
But it also destroyed his fortune, or nearly so.
Documents towards the end of the Watchmen graphic novel hinted that Veidt was throwing all of his resources behind the assumption that after the DIE, humanity would embrace a new hope for a technology-assisted future. He planned to capitalize on that with an all-encompassing line of products and services, marketed under the name “Millennium by Veidt.”
According to Peteypedia, one of the lasting consequences of the DIE was a widespread and deep fear of technology. Something called the Tech Recall and Reintroduction Act of 1993 created a 30-year, five stage plan that, presumably after a massive recall, gave the president “authority to draft federal employees into the work of reintroducing technologies once deemed unsafe or illegal back into the public space.”
And the FBI appears to only be starting to reintroduce computers to its operation in August of 2019 — hence Dale Petey’s new role as IT admin.
This luddite wave lead to the destruction of phones, communications towers, and many other technological advancements out of fear of cancer risk from materials altered by Doctor Manhattan (a fear that itself was a false flag secretly created by Veidt). For example, the US government had used Manhattan’s matter manipulation abilities to synthesize large quantities of lithium, which made possible the widespread use of electric cars by the 1980s.
The recall and destruction of those technologies until scientists could definitively state that they were safe tanked the asset that had built Adrian Veidt’s fortune: a patent on automobile charging ports. The world did not turn towards his expected utopia, his Millennium campaign tanked, and his companies suffered major losses, only climbing back to relevance in the late 1990s by licensing previously proprietary technology.
Veidt himself was last seen in public in 2007. In 2012, international conglomerate Trieu Industries — run by the mysterious Lady Trieu, played by Hong Chau — acquired Veidt’s holdings and became administrator of his estate. Veidt Industries’ board of directors discovered that they couldn’t actually find the reclusive billionaire in order to get his blessing on the sale, and he was subsequently declared missing.
Almost no one believes Rorschach’s journal
In September 2019, with no evidence of either his demise or continued existence, Veidt was declared dead. This seems to have raised the ire of agent Dale Petey, who believes that such a declaration will rile up extremist groups in the US — namely, the Rorschach-worshipping Seventh Kavalry.
Rorschach’s journal, as the Watchmen graphic novel showed, accused Adrian Veidt of a vast conspiracy, clearly pointing to the cause of the DIE and the falsification of the EDBE. But it contained no actual proof, as it was written just before Rorschach and Nite Owl left for Antarctica, where Ozymandias finally revealed the full details of his plan. Nevertheless, the final image of Watchmen — of the journal in the slush pile of far-right newspaper The New Frontiersman — is often seen as a hint that Veidt’s new peace will come crumbling down.
According to a memo written by Dale Petey himself, that’s not what happened. Rorschach’s journal was neither proven to be true, nor conclusively proven to be a hoax. It has remained a notorious example of a conspiracy theory, but not one that almost anyone believes. Except, of course, for the white supremacist group known as the Seventh Kavalry, who not only believe that the journal is true, but also that Adrian Veidt killed Rorschach in order to cover up his crimes.
Petey passionately argues that declaring Veidt’s death, even though there’s no more evidence of it now than when he was last seen, will smell like further cover-up to the extremist group, and cause them to lash out at authorities. Which is exactly what they do, in the first episode of Watchmen.
A bit on Bass Reeves and ‘Trust in the Law’
One of the four documents on Peteypedia is less integrated with the others, but still interesting. It includes some background on “Trust in the Law!” the Bass Reeves biopic (he was a real guy who may have inspired the creation of the Lone Ranger) shown at the Dreamland theater in Tulsa, OK.
“Trust in the Law!” is a fictional film, but the document establishes it as a lost work of the real African-American film director Oscar Micheaux. He wrote, directed, or produced 44 movies between 1919 and 1948, for black audiences, often with largely black casts about the black experience in America.
Another fun tidbit: Petey makes liberal use of something called “the Wertham Spectrum” to classify costumed vigilantes, a nod to psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, whose work had, let’s say, a significant effect on the history of America’s comics industry. This would seem to imply that in a setting where comic book superheroes never caught on because there were real superheroes, Wertham’s focus also shifted from the psychology and effects of fictional superheroes to real ones.