The Batman Easter Egg In Watchmen That Stayed Hidden For Years

There was a time, long before "Justice League" when Zack Snyder's big ensemble comic book movie was "Watchmen," his 2009 film based on the classic graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. A gritty deconstruction of the superhero genre, "Watchmen" tears apart what it means to be an all-American superhero. And in its famous title sequence, there's a nod towards one of DC's most iconic heroes — Batman.

The title sequence has become something of a specialty for Zack Snyder. "Watchmen" is one of his greatest examples, depicting snapshots of an alternate American history from the 1940s to the late 80s. We see the rise of the Minutemen, the precursors to the Watchmen, as well as their downfall. We're even treated to some cute twists on real-life events, with Doctor Manhattan appearing alongside Neil Armstrong during the Apollo moon landing in 1969. But it's the very first shot that has had DC fans talking since the film's release.

The montage opens with Nite Owl, one of the original Minutemen, socking an armed robber right in the jaw, in an alleyway outside a movie theatre. If that seems familiar, it's because the Batman-like hero has just saved Thomas and Martha Wayne.

The Not-Quite-Origin of Batman

Comic book fans will be all too familiar with this iconic scene — one of the most important crimes in DC history. In fact, Zack Snyder depicted it again during his "Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice" title montage. But the "Watchmen" version isn't quite the same.

For one thing, the brutal killing of Thomas and Martha Wayne has been foiled by the 1940s era superhero, Nite Owl (aka Hollis Mason). This clearly throws a spanner in the works when it comes to the Dark Knight's origins. Without the bloody killing of his parents, there's just no reason for Bruce Wayne to become Batman. Although the scene openly establishes a link between "Watchmen" and the DC universe, as well as placing one of our heroes directly into Gotham City, it's a bit more complicated than that.

After all, without the murder of his parents, there is no Batman. Once again, like the rest of the title scene montage, this is an alternate history. Except that this time, it's an alternate comic book universe.

Zack Snyder Confirms the Theory – it's Batman

Ever since "Watchmen" was released in 2009, DC fans have been convinced that this Batman Easter egg ties the movie into the wider DC universe. Then the director himself confirmed it.

During an episode of Netflix Film School, director Zack Snyder stated in no uncertain terms that this scene depicts "[the] origin of Batman."

"The concept is that Nite Owl is sort of saving the Waynes from dying after an opera," he revealed. "And so, there's no Batman."

This neat twist on Batman's iconic origin story works well alongside the alternate history of the movie's title montage. It also establishes "Watchmen" as part of the wider DC universe – even if it is an alternate one. It certainly makes you think – what would happen to Bruce if he doesn't become Batman? Will he simply turn out to be the billionaire playboy he always pretended to be? More importantly, if "Watchmen" is set within the DC universe, where are all the other superheroes? Why hasn't Clark Kent become Superman? What happened to Wonder Woman, The Flash and Cyborg?

The Nite Owl Takes Bruce's Place

It's no secret that "Watchmen" hero, the Nite Owl, takes Bruce's place as Batman. His owl-themed costume and wide range of gadgets mirror the Caped Crusader. Not to mention his successor Nite Owl II's airship (also known as the Owlship) is reminiscent of the Batmobile. Having this particular hero step in and stop the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne feels like a symbolic gesture — a tip of the hat to the fans who will know what it's all about.

If that wasn't poetic enough, Snyder goes one step further. Plastered all over the walls of crime alley, you'll see a load of Batman posters. As subtle as a sledgehammer, Snyder has chosen a very specific issue to appear behind the Nite Owl — Batman #1. This issue was Batman's crucial 1940 solo debut after his appearance in Detective Comics. It also retells the story of Batman's origins... including the death of his parents.

Subtext may not be Snyder's strong suit, but these not-so-subtle nods towards Batman's origins cement the Nite Owl as his spiritual successor. Anchoring "Watchmen" as part of the DC universe also lays the foundations for Snyder's eventual career path, bringing Batman, Superman, and the rest of the Justice League to the big screen.

You just have to wonder whether Nite Owl's mom was called Martha, too.