Less than 10 years after Zack Snyder's Watchmen hit theaters and Damon Lindelof is already working toward making the award-winning graphic novel of the same name into a TV show for HBO. The comic's themes of science fiction and human nature seem perfect matches for the Lost and Leftovers co-creator, but he's more about the risks involved with tackling the beloved artistic child of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
“Watchmen — it was dangerous,” said Lindelof at Vulture Festival in Los Angeles. “And you can’t be dangerous for dangerous’s sake, but the reason that I’m doing this is these are dangerous times, and we need dangerous shows.”
He cited his father, a lifelong comic book fan, as his original influence for getting into the series. Lindelof Sr. would take young Damon to comic-cons and even gave his 12-year-old son the first issue of Watchmen, despite its mature content.
“It dealt with the psychological realism in the superhero genre that I had fallen in love with," he said. "When we were growing up in the ’80s, our generation, we all tell these stories of ‘Oh, I saw Poltergeist; I saw Jaws; I saw Porky’s; I saw things on HBO that were too inappropriate for me. And one way of looking at it is that scarred us and it was completely and totally bad for us, but we talk about it in this very romantic way, that we were sort of looking above our pay grade, in terms of the material.”
Watchmen was a subsersive satire of the super hero genre. No one (other than Dr. Manhattan, of course) has super powers and they're all very flawed individuals. Even Manhattan, for all of his perfection, begins to fall out of touch with his own humanity during the course of the story, causing him to make mistakes.
Then there's the rest of the crew: The Comedian is a sadistic rapist, Nite Owl is a sad man gone to seed, Rorschach is living in the past and taking his vigilantism too far, the second Silk Spectre is emotionally damaged by living in her mother's shadow, and Ozymandius is a narcissistic super villain. They're just normal people and when you give normal people a blank check to go around the city fighting crime, you don't get the all-American, virtuous heroes you hoped for. To put it more simply, J. Jonah Jameson isn't entirely wrong when he brands Spider-Man as a menace.
Lindelof touched on all of this when he said, “What we think about superheroes is wrong,” he said. “I love the Marvel movies and we saw Justice League this morning and I’m all for Wonder Woman and Batman and I grew up on these characters, but we should not trust people who put on masks and say that they are looking out for us. If you hide your face, you are up to no good.”
He actually called Moore, but the writer is famous for disowning any live-action projects adapted from his books, just as he's famous for rocking a large beard and eccentric jewlery. “The greatest writer in the history of comics, maybe one of the greatest writers of all time — and he most certainly doesn’t want us to be doing this and we’re trying to find a way to do it that honors him," continued Lindelof. "That comic was written in the mid-’80s. It is more timely now, in 2018, 2019, whenever the show airs, if it airs, that it needs to be told. For a superhero junkie, I’ve never done a superhero movie or a superhero TV show, and now is the time."
Now, if we could just get a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen show off the ground...