Damon Lindelof posted the following letter to his Instagram account the day of the Watchmen Premiere. Enjoy!
Dear Fans of Watchmen,
Hello there. My name is Damon Lindelof and I am a writer. I am also the unscrupulous bastard currently defiling something that you love.
But that’s not all that I am.
I am a twelve-year old boy being handed the first two issues by my father. “You’re not ready for this,” he growls with a glint of mischief in his eye. My parents have recently divorced and he has gone rogue, so there I am in my bed, flashlight beam illuminating pages, watching the Comedian fall again and again and again. The old man was wrong. I am ready for this. Because this was written just for me.
I am thirty-eight. A man offers me the opportunity to adapt Watchmen for television. The filmed adaptation came out less than a year ago, but that doesn’t matter. I tell him I am not interested and that perhaps he should let sleeping dogs lie with hopes they will eventually be run over by a car tire, bursting their stomachs. He does not get the reference.
I am watching my father haggle with a man in a wheelchair. I am fifteen years old and we are at a comic book convention in New York City, long before attending a comic book convention was something anyone wanting to ever have sex with another person would admit to. I definitely want to have sex with another person. My father finally harangues the merchant down to thirty dollars for a guaranteed authentic screenplay of Watchmen, soon to be a major motion picture! Now, he reads aloud from the script as “The Watchmen” battle terrorists at The Statue of Liberty. Something is wrong. The old man’s brow furrows, scanning the text in a mixture of disappointment and rage, a child who has just been told that Santa didn’t bring him presents this year, then robbed the house and beat up his parents. “What the fuck is this?” my father mutters. It is the first time he swears in front of me.
Another man offers me the opportunity to adapt Watchmen for television. I am forty now. I tell him someone else asked me to do this a year ago and I declined. He inquires as to why I said no. I tell him that Alan Moore has been consistently explicit in stating that Watchmen was written for a very specific medium and that medium is comics, comics that would be ruined should they be translated into moving images. The Another Man pauses for a moment, then responds – “Who’s Alan Moore?”
I am twenty-three and living in Los Angeles. My father flies out from New Jersey for my birthday and gives me a present, a new edition of the “graphic novel” that is Watchmen. He explains to me that this is the publisher’s way of retaining the rights to the characters. He tells me that Dan and Adrian and Jon and Walter and Laurie are all serfs, working the land for a Feudal Lord that will never grant them freedom. Myfather is more than a little drunk.. More so, he is a hypocrite for buying me the new edition. “I know, I know…” he says, that same mischievous glint from years ago obscured by now thicker lenses, “But it’s so goddamned good.”
Yet Another Man offers me the opportunity to adapt Watchmen for television. “Just a• pilot,” he says, “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.” I am forty-three now and I am thinking about something I read about Orthodox Judaism. While most religions are cultivated by evangelizing and conversion, Orthodox Judaism doesn’t solicit. If someone from another faith wishes to become an Orthodox Jew, they are rejected. If they are stubborn enough to ask again, they are denied even more harshly. But should they have the audacity to ask a third time? The door cracks open. And if they’re willing to invest an immense amount of time and effort and sacrifice and faith, they are embraced into the fold. Why am I thinking about this? I have said no to Watchmen twice now. This makes me Orthodox Judaism. I crack the door. And now I’m a hypocrite too.
I am standing over my father’s hospital bed. I am twenty-nine, the last age at which I will consider myself “young.” The breathing tube was removed two hours ago and they said he wouldn’t last longer than fifteen minutes. It’s a cliché. I’m living a trope. He is unconscious and unable to impart final wisdom nor tell me he was proud all along, even though he never said it out loud. There is no beeping machine showing his weakening heartrate. My father is beyond machines. I hold his cool hand and try not to pray to God because he detested the very idea of God so instead I pray to his gods. I pray to Cthulhu. I pray to 42, the Eternal Cosmic Number. I pray to Dr. Manhattan, far away in a galaxy less complicated than this one. The television is on and the Lakers win the championship. My father never cared about basketball. He didn’t even know the rules. When he dies, I finally understand that I don’t know the rules either. No one does.
I am forty-five and I am writing a letter to the fans. The fans of Watchmen. It’s unnecessarily wordy and an exercise in oversharing, but nothing gets people on your side more than telling them about the moment your father died. Sharing such intimate details with strangers feels needy and pathetic and exploitative and yucky and necessary and freeing. I am also looking for an elegant way to escape from this device of quantum observance, a device appropriated from Mr. Moore so that I can speak to those fans from the bottom of my cold, thieving heart. Perhaps I could switch from referring to them in the third person and shift into the second, thus bringing them closer to the first?
Would that be amenable to you?
First and foremost, if you are angry that I’m working on Watchmen, I am sorry. You may be thinking I can’t be that sorry or I wouldn’t be doing it. I concede the point, but I hope it doesn’t invalidate the apology, which I offer with sincerity and respect
Respect. That’s second and twicemost. I have an immense amount of respect for Alan Moore. He is an extraordinary talent of mythic proportion. l wrote him a letter, parts of which are not dissimilar to this one, because I owed him an explanation as to why I’m defying his wishes and to humbly ask him not to place a curse on me because he knows magic and apparently, he can do that. His response, or whether he responded at all, is between he and I. Suffice to say, even before I sent it, Mr. Moore had made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t want anyone to “adapt” his work. To do so is hubris. Worse yet, it’s unethical.
There are a million ways to rationalize unethical behavior – I could argue that Mr. Moore’s partner, the brilliant artist, Dave Gibbons, is equally entitled to authorize access to his masterwork and that he has been kind enough to offer us his blessing to do so. Or I could offer that Mr. Moore cut his veined teeth on the creations of others; Batman, Superman, Captain Britain, Marvelman (he’ll never be “Miracleman” to me), Swamp Thing and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, not to mention The Charlton characters upon whom his Watchmen characters are based… So am I not allowed to do the same?
No. I am not. I am not allowed. And yet … I am compelled.
I am compelled despite the inevitable pushback and hatred I will understandably receive for taking on this particular project. This ire will be maximally painful because of its source. That source being you.
The true fans.
I once said that if one were a true fan of something, they weren’t allowed to hate it. A prominent writer took me to task for such heresy, arguing that just because one was the creator of a show, this did not permit them to pick and choose who was and wasn’t a fan of it.
The writer went on to win a Pulitzer for television criticism. I went on to get snubbed by the Razzies for Prometheus.
As such, I concede this point, too. After all, even the most fervent lifelong fan of, oh, let’s say the New York Jets, is allowed to shout at the top of his lungs, “YOU SUCK OH MY GOD YOU SUUUUUUUUUCK!!!!!!” and do so while wearing a replica Namath Jersey he purchased for an ungodly sum of money that may or may not have constituted his entire first paycheck on Nash Bridges. But the point.
The point is, you love Watchmen. That gives you the right to hate it, too. Because no matter what…
You’re still true fans.
But to quote the immortal P.W. Herman…
“I know you are… But what am ff’
What am I?
I’m a true fan, too. And I’m not the only one.
What I love most about television is that the finished product is a result not of singular vision, but the collective experience of many brilliant minds. I have the pleasure of sitting in a Writers Room each and every day that is as diverse and combative as any I’ve ever been a part of. In that room, Hetero White Men like myself are in the minority and as Watchmen is (incorrectly) assumed to be solely our domain, understanding its potential through the perspectives of women, people of color and the LGBTQ community has been as eye-opening as it has been exhilarating. We’ve committed to doing the same in front of and behind the camera. And every single person involved with this show absolutely adores Watchmen. But in the spirit of complete honesty, we also sorta want to… uh…
Except I hate that word because now it’s not disruptive anymore. And how can I present as punk rock when I’m now cozy in bed, spooning with Warner Brothers, HBO and DC? Truth be told, everyone there, particularly Geoff Johns (who is as true fan as it gets) has been extraordinarily supportive. Sure, it’s fun to kick around the comic corporate overlords for exploiting writers and artists, but we all know what happened to Jack Kirby and we’re still first in line for every Marvel film. So… how do we answer the challenge of when it is appropriate to appropriate?
Which brings us to the most important part. Maybe the only part that really matters. Our creative intentions.
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. 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.
To be clear. Watchmen is canon.
Just the way Mr. Moore wrote it, the way Mr. Gibbons drew it and the way the brilliant John Higgins colored it
But we are not making a “sequel” either. 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 (THE LEFTOVERS! NOW STREAMING ON HBO GO!) which means the heroes and villains — as if the two are distinguishable – are playing for different stakes entirely. The tone will be fresh and nasty and electric and absurd. Many describe Watchmen as “dark,” but I’ve always loved its humor – worshipping at the altar of the genre whilst simultaneously trolling it. As such…
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 where we’ll be taking our greatest risks. Risk is imperative. I need the feeling in my stomach before I leap from a great height without knowing the depth of the water below. If my body should shatter upon impact, at least it was in pursuit of glory. And let’s be honest… Isn’t there a small part of you that wants to see me explode like a fleshy watermelon?
But hopefully, there’s also a part that wants to experience something sort of amazing. As for what/ want? I want your validation. 1 also want not to want it. I’ve given up the opioid highs of Twitter, but continue to score my methadone in the threads of Reddit and the hot takes of morning-after recappers. I’ll be reading and watching and listening to what you have to say because even though I wish I didn’t…
I deeply care about what you think.
Which brings us, Thank God, to the end of the missive. Endings. I’m GREAT at them. A wise, blue man once said that nothing ever ends.
But maybe he wasn’t wise. Maybe he was just scared and alone and sad that he would outlive everything and everyone he ever loved. So I hope this isn’t the last time we correspond, fellow fans… after all, it’s just a pilot and we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. But maybe… if everything works out the way I hope it does… and if you’re willing to give me a chance, it’s not the end at all…
It’s the beginning?
With Respectful Hubris,