Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen is one of the most seminal comics of our time. Along with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (and you could say Neil Gaiman’s Sandman), it was the catalyst for pushing comic books out of the realm of just kids entertainment in the public consciousness, and instead being accepted as an adult storytelling medium. For a long time, a screen adaptation of the 1985 graphic novel was considered impossible by Hollywood, but in 2009 Zack Snyder gave us a feature film adaptation that actually wasn’t bad (the director’s cut is even better).
To get it to work on the big screen though, Snyder excised a bunch of material and took some liberties with the story. For fans who weren’t down with that approach, well it looks like Hollywood is getting a second chance to get it right. This time around though we’re headed to the small screen as Damon Lindelof will be developing a TV series adaptation for US cable network HBO.
Yes, that Damon Lindelof. The one who famously flubbed the finale of Lost, leaving millions of fans bitter, and who also penned the script for Prometheus with all its dumbness. To be fair though, Lindelof is coming off the series finale of The Leftovers, which received tonnes of critical acclaim, proving that he can actually stick the landings of his, despite past evidence to the contrary. As for Watchmen, HBO had already been trying to get a TV series made since 2014, however that project had seemingly stalled out. Variety reports that Lindelof will not be working off any of the material of that attempt, nor will it have any ties to Snyder’s film, but will instead be starting from scratch.
This, along with the extended narrative real estate of a TV series, will probably mean that Lindelof will be able to delve much further, and a lot more faithfully into the story of Watchmen. Which for the uninitiated is set in an alternate timeline America in which the emergence of super powered individuals altered the course of history, with the US President Nixon using these costumed heroes to win the Vietnam war and help stretch his term into the 1980s. The famous of these heroes are the Watchmen, most of whom have retired at this stage. However, when one of them, the US government sponsored Comedian, is killed by an unknown assailant, they get pulled back into an investigation that unearths all their personal issues.
What made Watchmen so revolutionary, was in the way Moore deconstructed the entire notion of the “costumed hero”. Before then they were mainly portrayed in comics as swashbuckling, do-gooder crimefighters, but here they were revealed to be emotionally and psychologically damaged individuals who got off on the thrill of violence and power. While the public lauded them as heroes, their own vices and actions were morally murky. Moore and Gibbons also used the story to draw parallels with fears of nuclear war and weapons of mass destruction as well as the manipulation of the public consciousness by mass media – all things that would definitely find an allegorical hold in today’s world.
At this point in time, nothing further is known about what Lindelof and HBO’s plans are for the adaptation, as they have declined to comment to any queries made to them thus far. DC Comics have recently done a series of comics titled Before Watchmen, which offered prequels of sorts for the various characters. These were definitely not as well received as Moore and Gibbons’ original, but I would suspect that Lindelof and co may dip into these for some further material if they show is going to have big episode count. Whatever the approach, this will more than likely be a massive production, and I doubt they would rush into anything.
Last Updated: June 22, 2017