Why The Watchmen TV Show Won't Be An Exact Adaptation Of The Comic

doctor manhattan watchmen

As the world waits anxiously for comic book cinema's grandest effort yet, Avengers: Infinity War, another super-powered ensemble is being set up to make its first big splash on the small screen, with The Leftovers and Lost vet Damon Lindelof developing his take on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen for HBO. It's a daunting task, considering Watchmen is lauded as a hallmark of the medium, and Lindelof has revealed his take on the material may not be the strictest version of an adaptation out there. In his words:

[Adapting] may be the right word, at the end of the day. Do you watch Fargo at all? I wouldn't call Noah Hawley's version of Fargo an adaptation because the movie exists inside of his world, and so everything that happened in the movie Fargo, it does precede the television show Fargo. So they find a bag of money in the first season, and you go, 'Oh, that came from the movie.' But it's also, Noah is pulling from other areas of the Coen brothers' canon, so it evokes like Lebowski, but it's also his own thing. I think it's widely known that Alan Moore does not want Watchmen to be adapted, so I'm playing a bit of a game of semantics here in saying, 'I'm not adapting Watchmen!'

To say that Alan Moore is disinterested in seeing another live-action Watchmen project is like saying a vampire is disinterested in getting a suntan, and the comic's fans are not lacking in protective opinions about it either. So Damon Lindelof knows that the pressure is on him almost as much as it was when Lost was still on the air, and it's perhaps even more palpable in a world where Zack Snyder's mega-sized feature already exists as an overly faithful adaptation. So at this point, Lindelof apparently thinks it would be a better move to open the story up a bit wider, possibly to hit the major plot points without hitting it all beat for beat.

Personally, I love that Damon LIndelof specifically mentioned Fargo as the comparative work here, since Noah Hawley's darkly comedic and flinchingly violent expansion of the Coen brothers' quaint universe has been a powerhouse of storytelling and performances. We don't necessarily need to expect for Watchmen to be an anthology series that hits upon various eras and areas within the comic's many different settings, but that would indeed be an interesting way to stretch things out and give all of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' endlessly fascinating details their due attention. I definitely don't need more than a single episode of Tales of the Black Freighter, if even that, but Dr. Manhattan's story itself could easily span an entire season.

During his appearance on the podcast Bookish with Sonya Walger, Damon Lindelof talked a bit more about Alan Moore and how Watchmen's own origins were birthed by adaptation.

That's the spirit of what he did with Watchmen in the first place. It's not to take [anything from him]. He created this -- it's an original -- but the basis for that world is on these other characters that DC had just bought from this comics company called Charlton. And he did rips on those characters. But all of his other work that I love, whether it be Swamp Thing or an amazing Superman story called 'Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?,' and a great Batman story. It's sort of like, the idea that he came in and told iconic stories with characters that he didn't create, and has now turned around and said, 'You're not allowed to do that with the characters that I created.' So I feel like his own hypocrisy has allowed me to defy all his. [laughs]

For anyone who loves fiery Hollywood feuds, it's arguably amusing to hear Damon Lindelof chuckle about Alan Moore's hypocrisy, since there aren't many people out there readily stoking the flames of Moore's ire. But Lindelof now needs to deliver the goods with Watchmen more than ever, so that his words can be justified. Of course, it's still in the pilot stage right now, so if HBO passes on it, we can assume it wasn't the right story to ruffle anyone's feathers with.

We don't really know much else about where this new take on Watchmen would go, or which narrative elements would definitely get used. We do know Patrick Wilson would return in some capacity if possible, but that's about it.

While we're waiting to hear more from HBO and Damon Lindelof about the new Watchmen project, check out which of the film's stars told us they would return for another big screen iteration. And then head to our summer premiere schedule to see what new and returning shows are popping up soon.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.