Emmy-winning Lost and The Leftovers creator Damon Lindelof is feeling the pressure, as he’s been tasked with adapting arguably one of the most beloved graphic novels of all time for the small screen: Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, a landmark of the medium. The writer and producer took to Instagram on Tuesday afternoon to share a five-page open letter addressed directly to Watchmen fans the world over, baring his soul, offering a mea culpa and detailing how his HBO pilot will relate to Moore and Gibbons’ towering source material.
Lindelof aims for honesty and self-deprecation in his letter, introducing himself as “the unscrupulous bastard currently defiling something that you love” before recounting how he himself came to fall in love with Watchmen as a boy (in the style of Doctor Manhattan’s “Watchmaker” narration, naturally), also recalling previous opportunities he had to adapt the story for television—he turned those down, he writes, on one occasion citing Moore’s insistence that the story of Watchmen remain restricted to its intended medium, but admits that by relenting, he became “a hypocrite.” Lindelof concludes the moving series of memories by reliving the death of his father, who introduced him to Moore and Gibbons’ creation in the first place.
The writer then addresses the fans directly, and “with sincerity and respect,” saying, “if you are angry that I’m working on Watchmen, I am sorry.” He explains that he wrote a letter to Moore as well, the response to which he does not reveal, and concedes that regardless of Gibbons’ consenting to the project and Moore’s own history of “[cutting] his … teeth on the creations of others,” his adapting the story is both “hubris” and “unethical.” He offers only his compulsion to do so, telling fans, “The point is, you love Watchmen. That gives you the right to hate it, too.”
One of the letter’s most important passages comes soon after, in which Lindelof describes his and his team’s “creative intentions.” He explains:
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.
To be clear. Watchmen is canon.
Lindelof goes on to describe his vision as “not … a ‘sequel,’ either,” stressing the need for an “original” and “contemporary” story that nonetheless maintains “the tradition of the work that inspired it.” He name-checks Donald Trump and explains that the original Watchmen’s “End of the World is off the table,” with the new iteration’s characters “playing for different stakes entirely.” He promises both a “fresh and nasty and electric and absurd” tone, and new characters (“New faces. New masks to cover them”), as well as looks back into the history of Watchmen’s costumed adventurers through “a surprising, yet familiar set of eyes.”
Click through Lindelof’s Instagram post below to read his open letter in full.
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