Who Watches the Watchmen? A New HBO Adaptation of the Cult Classic Comic is Coming Soon

Game of Thrones, arguably HBO’s most successful original series of all time, is is about to give us its eighth and final season. HBO is hoping to again catch lightning in a bottle again with another popular adaptation for the small screen. Enter Watchmen.

Just in case you’ve lived under a rock for the last 32 years, Watchmen is a 12-issue comic book mini series (later collected into a single volume). Published by DC Comics and created by comics legends Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons in 1986, Watchmen took the comics world by storm. It’s sold over 1 million copies and is the only graphic novel to win a Hugo Award. It was also listed in Time Magazine’s list of “100 Best English-Language Novels from 1923 to the Present.”  Combining a murder mystery with conventional superhero tropes, politics and heavy symbolism, Watchmen is a milestone in comic book history.

watchmen first issue cover
The cover of the first issue of ‘Watchmen’

In a nutshell, Watchmen is set in an alternative 1985 where the very existence of superheroes has altered the course of history. The country, under the leadership of Richard Nixon (during his fourth term) is edging closer to a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. With this backdrop, a group of superheroes try to solve the mystery of who murdered their colleague, The Comedian.

In 2009, Zach Snyder helmed the movie adaptation that people claimed couldn’t (and shouldn’t) be done. The reaction of the critics and the fans was split with a 64% critic rating and a 71% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. (Well, I thought it was cool.) One of the first superhero movies with a R rating, it failed to pull in the numbers the Warner Bros. Pictures was hoping for, and is widely considered a flop.

Enough backstory, let’s get back to HBO. Damon Lindelof, creator of The Leftovers, has been developing a Watchmen series for HBO for a while. The cast list on IMDB is as long as your arm, including such notables as Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Regina King and Frances Fisher — though we don’t know who they’ll be playing quite yet.

In fact, very little information about the new series is available. But this May, Lindelof posted a 5 page open letter to the Fans of Watchmen on Instagram on May 22 which provides a few clues as to what we might expect.

Day 140.

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The letter is wordy, heartfelt and deeply personal — but on top of all that, it provides some insight as to what to expect from the series. In particular, how Lindelof’s Watchmen will differ from the original.

“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.

“Those original twelve issues are our Old Testament. When the New Testament came along it did not erase what came before it… it all happened. And so it will be with Watchmen. … To be clear, Watchmen is canon. Just the way Mr. Moore wrote it, the way Mr. Gibbons drew it and the way the brilliant John Higgins colored it.”

watchmen teaser
The teaser image for the new ‘Watchmen’ series

It sounds like the new series will stay in the Watchmen universe, but be updated to the current day. Between that and the cast list, we’ll likely see older versions of the characters who survived the comic. Finally, the non-linear nature of Lindelof’s open letter seems like a wink that we’ll be able to expect the same thing from the show, combining new and established characters.

I, for one, can’t wait.

What would you want to see in a new Watchmen adaptation?

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