It’s been three decades since Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons released Watchmen. Their dark and nihilistic tale of over-the-hill superheroes elevated the comic book medium, and the book, from its panels to its storytelling structure, has been cited countless times as an inspiration to writers and creators across the world.
For almost as long, Hollywood has attempted to adapt the un-adaptable. Writers have attempted to bring Watchmen’s essence to screenplays for almost as long as the book has been on shelves, but Moore’s writing was nearly impossible to translate to what would be a traditional superhero movie, and 2009’s big-screen version fell flat with many.
Now Damon Lindelof, writer of LOST and The Leftovers, is tasked with creating a TV show about a book he has loved since childhood. A book his father gave him and loved just as dearly. This has led to Lindelof writing a five-page manifesto on his Instagram, addressing concerned fans and explaining that he will not be going back to The Comedian, Night Owl, and Rorschach. This will be a new story, for these times.
“We have no desire to ‘adapt’ the twelve issues Mr. Moore and Mr. 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. Because the bass lines in those familiar tracks are just too good and we’d be fools not to sample them.
This new story must be original. It has to vibrate with the seismic unpredictability of its own tectonic plates. It must ask new questions and explore the world through a fresh lens.”
Lindelof’s decision to not tread on Moore’s story is wise, considering the guy supposedly practices black magic and has a beard and eyes that prove it, but there’s also no reason to rewrite perfection. As Lindelof says: “The Old Testament was was specific to the Eighties and Reagan and Thatcher and Gorbechav… Ours needs to resonate with the frequency of Trump and May and Putin.”
In addition to the “interesting times” that the new story will echo off the original is the domination of superhero films and movies, much like the golden age of comics Moore and Gibbons were satirizing and debasing to a degree with the original book. It seems like Lindelof gets that you can’t recreate a classic, but you can add to it in meaningful ways.