A ''Watchmen'' primer -- A beginner's guide to the film's characters including The Comedian, Rorschach, Dr. Manhattan, and more

It’s illegal to dress funny and fight crime, so the Watchmen have become outlaws. They’re peers, but not exactly team players. A beginners’ guide to who’s who.

The Comedian
Jeffrey Dean Morgan
A coarse, quippy adventurer, the Comedian is Captain America without the idealism. ”He reveals that realistically, superheroes must be kinda psycho,” says Morgan (TV’s Supernatural). ”You’ve got to like beating the s— out of people to do this kind of thing. Only too late does he realize there might be more to life than that.”

Jackie Earle Haley
He’s an extreme vigilante whose pitiless morality was forged by an abusive upbringing and investigating a horrific child murder. Haley (Little Children) found playing the character ”unsettling,” and says he can’t do Rorschach’s trademark grumble (”Hurm”), without donning that morphing inkblot mask.

Matthew Goode
Dubbed ”the smartest man in the world,” brainy billionaire Adrian Veidt shrewdly quit do-gooding and went public with his true identity before the masses soured on superheroes. He then leveraged his celebrity to amass a fortune. ”You think he’s a sellout,” says Goode (Match Point). ”But then you realize his terrifying integrity.”

Dr. Manhattan
Billy Crudup
After a lab accident ripped him asunder, physicist Jon Osterman returned as an omniscient superman. He’s America’s ultimate weapon — he won the Vietnam War! — but it’s increasingly hard for him to care. ”Why bother with human beings when you can peer into a star?” says Crudup (Jesus’ Son). ”It’s a thrilling thought experiment.”

Silk Spectre
Malin Akerman
Forced into the spandex life by her superhero mother, Laurie Juspeczyk is now stuck in a bad relationship with an emotionally remote Dr. Manhattan. ”She has to go through that journey of finding herself,” says Akerman (The Comeback). Her costume, she says, was ”like wearing a wet bathing suit with a cinched corset.”

Nite Owl
Patrick Wilson
For Dan Dreiberg, being a superhero was a noble, gee-whiz hobby. Gadgets and costumes, adventures and helping people. But now, outlawed, he just mopes around in an impotent, nostalgic funk. ”He’s a big man who’s gotten soft,” says Wilson (Angels in America). A romance with Silk Spectre gets his freak flag flying again.

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