Original Watchmen author Alan Moore seems to famously dislike every project that adapts his work. I’m certain that he must dislike Damon Lindelof’s Lube Man if he dislikes the HBO series in general. Yet I’m still mystified about how, even though Alan Moore is notoriously critical of modern adaptations (like Joker) that also take inspiration from his work, he couldn’t at least appreciate the messaging behind Lindelof’s continuation of Moore’s groundbreaking graphic novel.
The series didn’t even attempt to literally translate the source material because Zack Snyder had already been there and done that. Instead, Lindelof recontextualized the story by launching with an onscreen depiction 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and kept on running with a skewering of racial injustice by adding texture to the Hooded Justice and Doctor Manhattan characters. This was a transcendent approach that piggybacked upon Moore’s own before-its-time deconstruction of superheroes. And also, the giant squid! That was fun, even as it highlighted a modern character’s trauma alongside other characters’ generational trauma.
Lindelof’s angle of continuation on the original source material makes it an extra head-scratching affair to reconsider that Moore disliked HBO’s Watchmen but has now directed DC to send his royalties to Black Lives Matter.
The Telegraph asked Moore if reports were true about him taking all of the money he makes from film and TV series and dividing it among the writers and other creatives, to which the writer answered: “I no longer wish it to even be shared with them. I don’t really feel, with the recent films, that they have stood by what I assumed were their original principles. So I asked for DC Comics to send all of the money from any future TV series or films to Black Lives Matter.”
He doesn’t really specify which DC-based films currently upset him, but Joker is probably high on that list. And again, only Alan Moore really knows why he hated HBO’s Watchmen, but he previously told GQ that he “had disowned the work in question” and told Lindelof as much before filming began. He further found the idea of another adaptation to be “embarrassing,” and then he was appalled when the show won awards:
When I saw the television industry awards that the Watchmen television show had apparently won, I thought, “Oh, god, perhaps a large part of the public, this is what they think Watchmen was?” They think that it was a dark, gritty, dystopian superhero franchise that was something to do with white supremacism. Did they not understand Watchmen? Watchmen was nearly 40 years ago and was relatively simple in comparison with a lot of my later work. What are the chances that they broadly understood anything since? This tends to make me feel less than fond of those works. They mean a bit less in my heart.
Well, Alan Moore has the right to be upset, of course, but he seems to have thought that people were taking the project as a literal adaptation when it very obviously was not one. Lindelof simply harnessed part of the political spirit of the original graphic novel, and he concluded that “the equivalent of the nuclear standoff between Russia and the U.S.” was “undeniably race and policing in America.” The bigger takeaway here, though, is that Moore wants Black Lives Matter to receive all monies going forward, so perhaps he is more in agreement with Lindelof’s thematic take than he would ever publicly admit.