If They Hadn't Always Been

Disclaimer: All recognizable characters belong to Alan Moore, DC Comics, etc. and so on.

Author Note: These drabbles were written soon after the release of the 2009 movies and contain references to both the movies and the original comics. At the time I was taking a course on the history of comics, and I tried to work in some references to the way American changed and was changed by comics during the 20th c.

In one of the many worlds and alternate realities that Everett dreamed and Dr. Manhattan confirmed, there are no shredded bodies splattered across Manhattan, hanging from windows and splayed across the asphalt. Instead there is no blood at all, only atoms scattered and confused as a form indistinguishable from Dr. Manhattan wreaked its vengeance against the nations of the world, ending their childish squabbles with godlike suddenness and fury.

In another world, a pickpocket starving from the ravages of the Depression hesitates in front of a cheap stage prop store not far from Vaudeville, hesitates, and passes on. He does not put on a mask for his heist and is gunned down within minutes of entering the door. No copycats are born; no vigilantes take up the hood to combat anonymous villains. Pirate comics fall out of vogue, Superman transforms from a strongman vigilante into an unstoppable defender of truth, justice, and the American Way. Just as comics enter their most patriotic, they are hobbled by the Red Scare, the seduction of the innocent.

Superheroes become ridiculous, if they hadn't always been.

Young Daniel Dreiburg prepares for college, hides his comics in a box at the back of his closet. He's growing up, and superheroes are for little kids. His parents call to him, tell him its time to go.

Little Laurie is told she cannot have dolls. Her mother says they are part of a society bent on enslaving her to a feminine code. She is given comics instead, The Black Cat, and she dutifully pretends to read it.

Walter is never given comics, and as a budding teenager struggles his way through a chaos of right and wrong, whores and Madonnas. He can find no straight line and feels himself drowning in a sea of filth that he cannot escape and cannot refuse. He is disgusted and fascinated and he shudders even as heat gathers in his groin the first time a ragged prostitute, only a few years older than himself, grabs his arm and asks him if he wants to become a man. He freezes, feels his gorge and his cock rise. He runs.

World War II is over; there are no more heroes. There is nowhere to turn and nothing to strive for. Dr. Manhattan is an aging scientist, a professor at Harvard. His marriage is calm and placid, the fire gone out years before. He is a student favorite. They love the story of how close he came to nuclear de-atomization. He does not tell them about the nightmares, the ones where he is a god hovering above the surface of a red planet and he can feel nothing. The horror of that silence.

One of those students is a young man named Veidt, who is scared by his own fascination with power. He is struggling with his studies, too brilliant, too directionless. What is a modern Alexander to do, when his father is the Phillip of a crumbling financial Macedon and Olympia struggles through the day in a Prozac-induced haze? Where does power lie? He has not yet decided if it is more worthwhile to kill or save. Are the deaths of millions the price for one man's immortality? He has not yet decided if it is worth it. He has not yet decided if he will survive the week.

Author Note: I'm on a bit of a Watchmen kick right now and I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment if you find these drabbles in any way pleasing :)