The series was created by a British collaboration consisting of writer Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons, and colorist John Higgins. Watchmen originated from a story proposal Moore submitted to DC featuring superhero characters that the company had acquired from Charlton Comics. As Moore’s proposed story would have left many of the characters unusable for future stories, managing editor Dick Giordano convinced Moore to create original characters instead.
Moore used the story as a means to reflect contemporary anxieties and to deconstruct and parody the superhero concept. Watchmen depicts an alternate history where superheroes emerged in the 1940s and 1960s and their presence changed history so that the United States won the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal was never exposed. In 1985, the country is edging toward World War III with the Soviet Union, freelance costumed vigilantes have been outlawed and most former superheroes are in retirement or working for the government. The story focuses on the personal development and moral struggles of the protagonists as an investigation into the murder of a government-sponsored superhero pulls them out of retirement.