Game of Thrones, arguably HBO’s most successful and critically acclaimed original series of all time, is is about to give us its eighth and final season. But HBO is hoping to once more catch lightning in a bottle with another popular adaptation for the small screen. Enter the Watchmen series.
First, some backstory of the Watchmen comic book run
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 has 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.
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.
Watchmen was adapted into a 2009 feature film
In 2009, Zach Snyder helmed the movie adaptation that people claimed couldn’t (and shouldn’t) be done. The reaction of critics and fans is 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 that Warner Bros. Pictures was hoping for, and is widely considered a flop.
But enough backstory, let’s get back to HBO.
The backstory of the upcoming HBO Watchmen series
Damon Lindelof of Lost and The Leftovers has been developing a Watchmen series for HBO for a while. (He’s the creator as well as a writer and executive producer.) The cast list on IMDB is as long as your arm, including such notables as Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Regina King, Louis Gossett Jr., Jean Smart and Frances Fisher.
In May 2018, Lindelof posted a five-page open letter to the fans of Watchmen on Instagram. Even way back then he provided a few clues as to what we might expect from the Watchmen series.
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.
So HBO’s new Watchmen 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.
Unlike the 2009 film, which took place in New York City, the upcoming TV series is rumored to be set in — of all places — Tulsa, Oklahoma. Footage of the series that has been released by HBO features quite a few law enforcement officers in Tulsa Police uniforms.
And cementing the source material’s moody vibe, Lindelof has tapped Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails fame) and Atticus Ross to score the Watchmen series. The duo previously did the same for The Social Network, Gone Girl and Jonah Hill’s Mid90s.