This year sees both Watchmen and The Incredibles gain long-awaited sequels, highlighting the similarities between the two works.
While that comparison may seem odd, both have roughly similar plots: in a world where superheroes are now outlawed, some retired heroes get tangled in a plot where someone wants to fake a disaster for their own purposes. The villain of Watchmen killed the Comedian, gaining Rorschach’s attention; the villain of The Incredibles has murdered dozens of heroes and draws Bob in as his next victim. The capture of said protagonist brings his teammates, or family, to the rescue.
Of course, the differences are also profound. Watchmen is a straight-up deconstruction of the superhero genre, arguing that heroes, in the end, can do little; in The Incredibles, of course, the moral is that the superheroes should be allowed to help people, and the Parrs actually succeed in stopping Syndrome. Beyond that is the fact that all of the Minutemen are extremely messed up, barely able to maintain stable relationships; the Parrs are a family being tested by circumstances, but emerge stronger as a result.
It looks like the theme of superheroes’ necessity will continue in Incredibles 2, as it will put Helen (Holly Hunter) as the face of a movement to relegalize them. In that vein, it is interesting to think about Doomsday Clock, set in a world where superheroes have already been proven as more harm than good. That series, of course, is part of a crossover that brings the characters of Watchmen to the mainstream DC Universe, as if to confirm that the only way they can become effective heroes is to leave their series for another.
That said, as both The Incredibles and Watchmen ended with the ban on heroes still being in place, both sequels are, in a way, about bringing heroes back—Incredibles 2 directly, but Doomsday Clock in an almost meta way, as the whole story exists as part of the DC Rebirth’s attempt to fix the deconstructionist take of the New 52. But for the Parrs, heroism just needs to be legalized; for the characters of Watchmen, however, it will involve internal work, and whether it will succeed is up in the air.