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Dave Gibbons on HBO's Watchmen Pilot Script: "Really Refreshing and Exciting and Unexpected"
With production on Damon Lindelof's authorized adaptation "remix" of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' classic 1986 limited comic book series Watchmen from DC Comics currently underway at HBO, we're finally getting some feedback on the project – and spoiler? It's not from Moore…
As he awaits his induction into the Harvey Fall of Fame during next month's Harvey Awards ceremony at New York Comic Con, Gibbons sat down with Entertainment Weekly to discuss Watchmen's 30+ years of societal influence (which we covered earlier today on Bleeding Cool) – and to let everyone know he's impressed by what he's read and knows about Lindelof's project so far. Set in an alternate history where 'superheroes' are treated as outlaws, Watchmen embraces the nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel while attempting to break new ground all its own – and it appears Lindelof might be doing just that:
"I do know a little about it. I've had conversations with Damon, and I've read the screenplay for the pilot. I don't think it's my place to say too much about it, other than I found Damon's approach to be really refreshing and exciting and unexpected. I don't think it's gonna be what people think it's going to be. It certainly wasn't what I imagined it to be. I think it's extremely fresh. I'm really looking forward to seeing it on the screen."
So is it a sequel, a prequel, an adaptation, or a reimagining? Yes – and no:
"I've been resistant to the comic book prequels and sequels, but what Damon's doing is not that at all, it's very far away from that. While it's very reverential and true to the source material (by which I mean the Watchmen graphic novel that Alan and I did), it's not retreading the same ground, it's not a reinterpretation of it. It approaches it in a completely unexpected way."
Gibbons placed the HBO project in some very good company when describing Lindelof's thematic storytelling approach to the script:
"That's what we tried to do with Watchmen itself. Other people have done it with some success, coming to the basic material with a fresh approach. I feel like the comic prequels and sequels don't really do that. They're done by very talented people, but they don't expand the scope of it at all. Grant Morrison did a thing with Multiversity, where he came up with some very fresh approaches to comic stories, and in one of them (Pax Americana, with Frank Quitely) they did something similar to Watchmen, but in a new way. I heartily applauded that. My feeling is that what Damon's doing is like that, it's not a retreading of something we already know, but it's a fresh and unusual approach."
Gibbons' words appear to confirm Lindelof's vision for the series, which he shared with fans in a series of Instagram posts in May meant to update progress on the pilot (directed by Westworld and Castle Rock's Nicole Kassell, and starring an ensemble cast that includes Jeremy Irons, Regina King, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson and Louis Gossett Jr.). Lindelof had emphasized from the very beginning that his vision was not a direct adaptation of the original graphic novel, but rather a "remix" that's a completely new story yet utilizes important elements from the original story – and much more:
"We have no desire to 'adapt' the twelve issues Mr. Moore and Mr. Gibbons created thirty years ago. Those issues are sacred ground and 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. Creation. The Garden of Eden. Abraham and Isaac. The Flood. It all happened. And so it will be with 'Watchmen.' The Comedian died. Dan and Laurie fell in love. Ozymandias saved the world and Dr. Manhattan left it just after blowing Rorschach to pieces in the bitter cold of Antarctica."
"This story will be set in the world its creators painstakingly built…but in the tradition of the work that inspired it, this new story must be original. It has to vibrate with the seismic unpredictability of its own tectonic plates. It must ask new questions and explore the world through a fresh lens. Most importantly, it must be contemporary. The Old Testament was specific to the Eighties of Reagan and Thatcher and Gorbachev. Ours needs to resonate with the frequency of Trump and May and Putin and the horse that he rides around on, shirtless. And speaking of Horsemen, The End of the World is off the table…which means the heroes and villains–as if the two are distinguishable–are playing for different stakes entirely."
"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 will be taking our greatest risks…"