More than 30 years after the comic book series was first published, we might finally get the first successful adaptation of Watchmen. Alan Moore’s 1986 work redefined the idea of the superhero—re-writing history and capturing American-Soviet anxieties as humanity inched closer to WWIII. It’s considered one of the greatest graphic novels of all time, yet, there’s never been a successful film or television adaptation of Watchmen. The version people know best is Zack Snyder’s cheesy, dumbed-down, and slo-mo-filled 2009 movie.
HBO has officially given the series order for Damon Lindelof’s (Lost and The Leftovers) new series within the Watchmen universe. Here’s everything we know so far.
What will the new Watchmen be about?
In a lengthy Instagram post, Lindelof outlined that his new HBO Watchmen series will not be a straight adaptation of the comic. “We have no desire to ‘adapt’ the twelve issues [Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons] created thirty years ago. Those issues are sacred ground and they will not be retread nor recreated nor reproduced nor rebooted …they will, however, be remixed,” he wrote on Instagram. “Some of the characters will be unknown. New faces. New masks to cover them. We also intend to revisit the past century of Costumed Adventuring through a surprising, yet familiar set of eyes… and it is here where we’ll be taking our greatest risk.”
This is an interesting take on the source material. Certainly, it will be very different from Zack Snyder’s mostly faithful 2009 movie. Instead, as Lindelof later explained in July of 2019, the series will take place in 2019, a few decades after the comics. His show, he clearly established, is not going to mess with the original comics. “That’s canon,” he said at a TCA panel.
What else do we know about the plot?
In July, Lindelof went more in depth at a panel at TCA about what to expect from the series. And anyone looking for a mindless comic book show should look elsewhere. This is going to be some heavy stuff.
The show will take place in an alternate version of our timeline decades after the comics, where Robert Redford is president. Yep, the same Robert Redford who was considering a presidential run in the original comics. But, he’s been president since the early ’90s after abolishing term limits. “One of the things we’re exploring is, what would happen if a very well-intentioned white man, a liberal, was president for way too long?” Lindelof said.
As fans noticed in the new Comic Con trailer, white supremacists are attacking the cops in this alternate universe. “What in 2019 is the equivalent of the nuclear standoff of the Russians in the United States?” Lindelof said he asked himself when writing the show. “And it just felt like it was undeniably race and policing in America.”
But, just because police are being attacked, Lindelof said the show doesn’t portray police in a sympathetic light. There are no heroes or villains, rather Watchmen “is an examination of institutions and culture and politics and things that inform our society.”
“There are no easy answers. There are no grandiose solutions. In a traditional superhero movie, the bad guys are fighting aliens and when they beat the aliens, the aliens go back to their planet and everybody wins. There’s no defeating white supremacy. It’s not going anywhere, so it felt like it was a pretty formidable foe.”
What does Alan Moore think about the new series?
This is a complicated one. There’s a long history of TV and film adaptations of Alan Moore graphic novels being pretty bad. He famously doesn’t approve of really any of his work that’s adapted to the screen. And this Watchmen series is no different. And Lindelof isn’t going to let that stop him. As he said at TCA:
I do feel like the spirit of Alan Moore is a punk rock spirit, a rebellious spirit, and that if you would tell Alan Moore, a teenage Moore in 85 or 86, ‘You’re not allowed to do this because Superman’s creator or Swamp Thing’s creator doesn’t want you to do it,’ he would say, ‘F**k you, I’m doing it anyway.’
Who is in the new Watchmen series?
Most recently, HBO has announced that Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson, Louis Gossett Jr., Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Adelaide Clemens, Andrew Howard, Tom Mison, Frances Fisher, Jacob Ming-Trent, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, Lily Rose Smith and Adelynn Spoon will star in the upcoming Watchmen series. While we don’t know what roles the actors are playing, we do know that King, who appeared in The Leftovers, will star in the upcoming show.
What happened to Zack Snyder?
Three years ago, there were reports that Snyder was working on a Watchmen series for HBO. Instead, it seems, he got preoccupied with ruining the DC Cinematic Universe with his abysmal Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. Considering he’d already directed the critically abhorred 2009 film Watchmen, it makes sense that HBO wouldn’t put him in charge of the material for a second time.
Who’s making this new one?
With Snyder out of the way, HBO has passed the Watchmen series to the very capable hands of Damon Lindelof. From Lost to The Leftovers, Lindelof has more than proven himself capable of handling work as beloved as Watchmen. We also know he has the ability to adapt work to television. The Leftovers was originally a 2011 novel by Tom Perrotta, which Lindelof expanded on with his three stunning seasons of the HBO show. This also means that we can trust someone like Lindelof to work outside the confines of Alan Moore’s original vision, something that will be necessary to sustain multiple hours of the show. Most importantly: He’s a fan. “From the flashbacks to the nonlinear storytelling to the deeply flawed heroes, these are all elements that I try to put into everything I write,” he told Comic Book Resources in 2009.
When will this new Watchmen on HBO air?
Lindelof began working on the show in September of 2017, and it’s due to air on HBO in October 2019.