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HBO’s ‘Watchmen’ revisits the past to capture this moment

In one of the bonus features on the new “Watchmen” DVD set, writer Damon Lindelof refers to this nine-part HBO series as “fan fiction.”

He was a boy when his father thrust the first two issues of the now legendary DC series “Watchmen” into his hands. His father didn’t think he was ready for the groundbreaking story. He had no idea how much it would change the course of Damon’s life and influence his writings.

His HBO series revisits a few of the familiar “Watchmen” characters more than 30 years after the events of that comic book series. It opens on a true historical event: the Greenwood massacre in Tulsa, Okla., in 1921. There, white residents turned on the neighborhood known as Black Wall Street and razed it to the ground, killing hundreds and displacing thousands in a single day.

For many viewers, alas, this is their introduction to this sorrowful chapter in American history. Many thought it had to be fiction.

But Lindelof’s “Watchmen” continues a conversation in the source material: Why would vigilantes wear masks? What do masks hide? And what do they reveal?

In present-day Tulsa, Angela Abar (Emmy winner Regina King) is a Tulsa detective who fights crime as Sister Night. All local police wear masks since the Seventh Kavalry, once known as the KKK, wiped out much of the Tulsa police force some years earlier.

Angela learns her grandfather Will Reeves (Jovan Adepo in the 1940s, Louis Gossett Jr. in the present) once fought crime as the Hooded Justice, the first of the masked vigilantes who inspired the rest of the Minutemen. Will donned a mask to do what he couldn’t do as a police officer – fight his racist colleagues.

In its story of a far-reaching conspiracy, “Watchmen” illustrates how many racists found a home in law enforcement and how police actions continue to devastate communities of color. It almost predicts this moment of turmoil in our streets today.

Much like the graphic novel, this “Watchmen” revisits scenes and ideas for twists you won’t see coming.

Extras on the three-disc DVD set include character trailers, interviews, a Rorschach featurette, and “Anatomy of a Fight Scene,” spotlighting how cast and crew filmed that epic battle between Hooded Justice and the Klan.

Lindelof did himself a disservice when he referred to his series as fan fiction. This is a worthy continuation of the story, one that takes it further and deeper into our past so that we may know ourselves today.

If there is any justice, when the Emmy nominations are announced July 28, everyone involved in “Watchmen” will receive some recognition for this extraordinary saga. Tick-tock.

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