On one hand, superhero TV is burgeoning, of course. Given such shows as “Gotham,” “The Flash,” “Arrow and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” — and such titles on the near-horizon as “Supergirl” and “Legends of Tomorrow” — we nearly have a full complement of Monday-through-Friday prime-time superheroes. (And we not even including Netflix’s binge-friendly Marvel haul.)
But it’s worth considering that “Watchmen” isn’t really broadcast-network fare. In this case, the distinction is important that it’s HBO (and not “TV”), because any adaptation of this project needs free rein to get gritty and graphic — regardless of whether Doctor Manhattan’s nether blue regions are pixelated or diapered.
The 2009 “Watchmen” movie directed by Snyder earned its “R” rating (and then there was an even more graphic director’s cut released on Blu-Ray/DVD). The superheroes, sex and violence were hyper-stylized — fittingly. And consider that “Watchmen” is a far cry from a starter comic for the pre-teen set; it helped emphasize the difference between kids’ comic and adult literary fare. Exhibit A: When Time magazine a decade ago named “Watchmen” to its list of Top-100 novels published since the Jazz Age — right alongside “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Catcher in the Rye” — juror Lev Grossman called the comic “a work of ruthless psychological realism.”
Then there’s another key factor: If you’ve read the graphic novel and/or seen the movie, you surely realize this tale isn’t exactly sequel-friendly (a fact that had to be disappointing to any Warner Bros. suits looking to capitalize on the comic-to-film franchise boom in the Aughts.)
So what, exactly, is there to adapt?
Well, you might recall those controversial Before Watchmen comics that DC Comics published to serve as prequels to Watchmen. The prequel coimcs got some fans all giddy; others thought a classic shouldn’t be touched. (See: “To Kill a Mockingbird.) So the books were published and the world didn’t end — though wouldn’t that have been ironic?
Plus, peeks into “Watchmen” universes past were some of the best parts of the “Watchmen” movie. An expansion of that look into the past could fuel an HBO series.
And perhaps the Before Watchmen books won’t be adapted for TV, but you’d have to think they’d at least provide fodder for a potential HBO series. DC Comics recruited some of the industry’s top creative talent for Before Watchmen (including Darwyn Cooke, Brian Azzarello and Amanda Conner), and — amid the polarizing debate over even the mere act of such adaptation — the drafted cartoonists crafted some great tales.
And what of Snyder? He’s involved in talks, but can we expect him to work behind the camera for a “Watchmen”/HBO project given how much time and energy he’s devoting to DC Comics on the big screen? The Justice League franchise alone will keep him busy for years. Perhaps he’ll just be a producer and a guiding voice for HBO (as he plans to do for Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman film future). But if you are looking to adapt “Watchmen,” Snyder is a requisite stop, whether he’s heavily involved or not.
At this stage, perhaps Ozymandias could figure out whether talks ever morph into a series realized. But this is one thing we’re already confident about regarding such a idea:
Alan Moore surely hates it.