In The Face Of Adaptation: Watchmen

Alan Moore wrote Watchmen to be unadaptable.

This is the common wisdom and it’s probably true, since Alan Moore has notoriously hated every adaptation of his work save the Justice League Unlimited take on Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow? (He’s right, it’s both a fantastic episode and a great adaptation. It’s also my favorite thing he wrote, but I’ve never read Swamp Thing…)

I read Watchmen in college, as a burgeoning closeted comics geek, it was an acceptable starting point. Watchmen wasn’t a comic book, (the horror!) it was literature. 

I didn’t get it. I saw the movie. I liked that fine. But still, didn’t get it.

I read Watchmen again a few years ago, after diving headlong into comics and superhero fandom.

I got it that time.

It’s a brilliant work.

I still don’t quite get the movie.

Also, while recognizing Watchmen’s greatness and even liking the book itself, the way the comics industry learned all the wrong lessons from it continues to piss me off. Not everything needs to be Watchmen. 

Anyway, why revisit this graphic novel that I’ve always appreciated more than I actually liked? Because HBO is airing a TV show based on it obviously!

Rather than adapt that which cannot be adapted (how does one show all of time happening to Doctor Manhattan at once on film? ONE CANNOT!) Damon Lindelof has opted to further explore the deeply interesting world that Moore created.

Watchmen the show, takes place in an alternate 2019, the 2019 of the Watchmen, where a culture shaped by masked vigilantes and accelerated technology and President Robert Redford. Of course bits of our history still happened, so the world is both alien and familiar.

And I was wary. Being not crazy about Watchmen, and even more nervous at attempts to do more with it, I didn’t know what to expect going in.

It’s good. It’s damn good. It’s thoughtful and darkly funny, and opaque, and uses TV the way the novel uses comics.

Also Regina King is the shit.

Anyway, I’m curious how the whole thing ends up, but I’m super intrigued with how things are going. Now that Adrian Veidt and Laurie Blake are in the mix, I’m even more excited for how things are going to progress. Doctor Manhattan’s appearance feels imminent. Or not, an anticlimax of  that sort would be both very in the spirit of Watchmen and Lindelof’s pedigree.

We’ll see.

3 thoughts on “In The Face Of Adaptation: Watchmen

  1. I’m a big fan of the graphic novel plus a huge fan of Damon Lindelof’s writing, so I had high hopes for this show and I haven’t been disappointed yet.

    Love what they’re doing with Laurie so far. In the original novel it felt like Alan Moore was never interested in exploring her character. It felt like Rorschach/Ozymandias/Dr. Manhattan/Night Owl were the core four, and Laurie was only important in regards to her relationships with the others. So it’s nice to see her written like she’s the hero of her own story for once. (Plus I’ve still got her theme song stuck in my head.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Like a lot of brilliant male writers Moore has a blind spot about women. (I’ll never forgive him for Barbara Gordon, frankly) Laurie is at least in control of herself, and isn’t raped or brutalized.

      Agreed that I LOVED what they’re doing with her and the scene where she tries to intimidate Angela and fails miserably was my favorite in the show so far. Also I just love Jean Smart so much.


      • Yeah, I’ve never read The Killing Joke, mainly because I know what happens to Barbara Gordon and I don’t feel like reading that.

        Looking forward to where they go with Angela and Laurie — hope they get on the same team eventually, but at this point who knows

        Liked by 1 person

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