Brow Beat

Damon Lindelof Promises “New Faces … New Masks” in Five-Page Letter About HBO’s Watchmen

Cover of The Watchmen, Damon Lindelof.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images.

Damon Lindelof has had a contentious relationship with social media, but the Leftovers and Lost creator has hopped back on to offer fans of Watchmen an inkling of what they can expect from the upcoming HBO adaptation.

In a five-page letter posted to Instagram, Lindelof details his history with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ landmark 1980s comic miniseries, as he also recounts the several times he turned down the job of adapting it for TV before finally saying yes. He describes how he wrestled with the notion of taking on the work knowing that Moore, who wrote it, has repeatedly said that it should never exist in any medium but comics, and though Gibbons, who drew it, has given his “blessing,” the presumption that it’s OK to adapt Watchmen just because he can still sticks. If you don’t buy that, or even if you do, Lindelof has a simple message: “I am sorry.”

Some fans of the original will hate Lindelof’s version before they even see it. Lindelof admits he once argued that if you were a “true fan” of something you “weren’t allowed to hate it,” but he admits he lost that argument, which a “prominent writer” (aka the New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum) forcefully rebutted. “That writer went on to win a Pulitzer for television criticism,” Lindelof writes. “I went on to get snubbed by the Razzies for Prometheus.”

So hate if you will, Watchmen fans. But Lindelof is a Watchmen fan too, and one who knows that merely trying to equal the original is folly. “We have no desire to ‘adapt’” Watchmen, he explains. Those issues are sacred ground and they will not be retread nor recreated nor reproduced nor rebooted. … They will, however, be remixed.”

What this means, Lindelof explains after a brief evocation of the Bible—because when you’re channeling Doctor Manhattan, why not?—is that the new series, while not precisely a sequel to Watchmen, will be “set in the world its creators painstakingly built. … Some of the characters will be unknown. New faces. New masks to cover them. We also intend to revisit the past century of Costumed Adventuring through a surprising, yet familiar set of eyes … and it is here we’ll be taking our greatest risks.” Given that DC’s Geoff Johns is also part of Watchmen’s creative team, this could mean the show plans to exhume a classic but currently unused comic-book character, the way DC’s TV properties on the CW have so successfully done, but we’ll have to wait for clarification on that point.

The most heartening aspect of Lindelof’s letter is that it seems to augur a Watchmen that looks forward as well as back, from a writers’ room and crew in which “Hetero White Men” are outnumbered by “women, people of color and the LGBTQ community” to its acknowledgment that the world of 2018 is a very different place from the original’s mid-1980s, not least because the dark and gritty reimaginings that once pushed comics forward have become tiresome and even pernicious. “I’ve always loved its humor—worshipping at the altar of the genre whilst simultaneously trolling it,” Lindelof writes. He knows that with a property like Watchmen, there’s no pleasing fans, but you can mess with their heads in a way they might just end up enjoying.

Watchmen is scheduled to shoot later this year. No premiere date has been announced.