Watchmen is one of the most beloved comic books of all time and perhaps the most famous standalone story among people who don’t normally read comics. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ 1986 miniseries offered a serious, deconstructed take on superhero archetypes and has been at the forefront of the “comics aren’t just for kids anymore” bookselling market ever since. For good reason: It’s a masterpiece.
The comic has already been adapted to live-action thanks to Zack Snyder’s ambitious feature film version in 2009, but the story’s enduring status as an essential superhero work means that new looks at the world and its characters are still coming. A new crossover series titled Doomsday Clock is coming from DC Comics later this year. Now it seems Warner Bros. Television is looking to bring Watchmen to the small screen.
Damon Lindelof, fresh off a triumphant final season of The Leftovers, is “in talks” to develop a new TV adaptation of the comic for HBO, according to Variety. HBO and Warner Bros. (where Lindelof has an overall deal) have both declined to comment on the news but Lindelof is a lifelong fan of the material and he’s likely in the market for new projects right now.
That’s all we know about the project, which means it could be years before anything really tangible emerges on this front. For now, though, you have to wonder if a Watchmen TV series is really a worthwhile thing. Sure, it’s marketable, because Watchmen has remained marketable for 31 years. The source material is also probably better served, with its vast backstory and layered plotting, by a longform medium like television. There’s an argument to be made, though, that Watchmen is best served by experiencing it as it was originally intended: as a comic book. Even three decades after its publication it still holds up and its devotees – like The Wicked + The Divine writer Kieron Gillen – continue to argue that you get something new from it with each new reading because it is a story very specifically tailored to the storytelling tools of its medium. And of course, Alan Moore himself would be perfectly happy if no one ever touched his creation again. HBO, flush with genre success thanks to Game of Thrones, The Leftovers and its reimagining of Westworld, has other plans. If there’s any network that can pull this off, they’re it. We’ll have to wait and see.