HBO will soon make its first move into the superhero realm with Watchmen. That’s a puzzling move, even though Alan Moore’s graphic novel is not only widely considered to be one of the best comic books but landed on TIME‘s list of the best novels of all-time. Even in the hands of showrunner Damon Lindelof, there’s the question of how Watchmen, which Moore himself has called “unfilmable,” will translate on the small screen, especially after Zack Snyder’s 2009 film that left audiences (and critics) divided. Well, HBO has been playing details of the adaptation close to its sleeve, as has Lindelof. Other than dropping a respectful F-bomb in Moore’s direction, the Lost and The Leftovers creator has remained secretive, until now.
Lindelof recently sat down with Entertainment Weekly for an in-depth interview, in which he revealed a lot more about the upcoming series. We already heard that Watchmen would jump three decades from the mid-1980s New York City setting to take place in Tulsa, Oklahoma (while heavily drawing upon the area’s 1921 Race Massacre). However, Lindelof was willing to spill much more, including how there are no actual super-powered beings in the series other than Dr. Manhattan, who’s not hanging around (he’s apparently still on Mars). Oh, and Robert Redford is, uh, U.S. president and has been for decades, but Redford himself does not appear in Watchmen.
Let’s let Lindelof explain his decision to not have Redford, whose leadership did not prevent a totalitarian society in the series, actually appear on the TV show:
I don’t think any of the choices were made without reservations and conversations and ultimately a decision. I’m not entirely sure I’ll be able to defend every decision I made, but I’ll be able to explain why I made it. We had that conversation you’re suggesting. But the world of Watchmen is so heightened and so clearly it’s an alternate history that it will be clear to everyone we’re not talking about the real Robert Redford.
More importantly, the way we handle this story, you can’t blame Robert Redford for everything that’s happened in the world. The show says Redford has a liberal ideology, much like the actual Robert Redford, and he was incredibly well-intentioned in terms of the legislation he passed and the America that he wanted to create. But that doesn’t mean it worked out the way he wanted it to. And that’s not on him, that’s on us.
The showrunner also added — and this is significant — that he’s treating the original 12 issues of Moore’s Watchmen comic “as canon,” and this series will effectively be a “sequel” to Moore’s work, not a “reboot.” That will help explain why Dr. Manhattan’s work has led to fossil fuels no longer being a source of fuel. Also, cell phones and the internet are enterily banned in the series (let’s face it, none of us would survive that fate), as are costumed heroes, although Lindelof has maintained that he’s not attempting to deconstruct the superhero genre, since that’s been done so much lately already.
HBO’s Watchmen (starring Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Jean Smart, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Tom Mison, Tim Blake Nelson, Louis Gossett Jr., Lily Rose Smith, Adelynn Spoon, and more) will premiere on October 20.