How long will HBO’s Watchmen be?
A while ago, Neil Gaiman revealed the Starz series American Gods would adapt his novel of the same name over five seasons of television. It was a stark contrast to how A Game of Thrones was covered by the first season of its eponymous TV show, despite being considerably longer than American Gods (for comparison’s sake, the audiobook of American Gods is 20 hours long, while the one for A Game of Thrones is 34 hours).
Partly the reason is Starz wants American Gods to be the next Game of Thrones. Everyone wants to be Game of Thrones: why else is Hulu adapting the 300-page The Handmaid’s Tale indefinitely? Even HBO is looking for the next Game of Thrones: that’s why it’s hired five writers to draft spin-offs, on the eve of the original series’ penultimate season. Meanwhile, they have hired Damon Lindelof to oversee its adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s seminal 1986 comic book Watchmen.
It’s not a new idea to adapt Watchmen for television: Terry Gilliam, who was once attached to direct the film version, said in 2000 he’d prefer it as a five-hour miniseries. Yet in pursuit of profit, it seems every miniseries must have a sequel or be considered part of an anthology, and Lindelof’s hiring indicates long-term plans for the series, as he was the showrunner on HBO’s adaptation of The Leftovers, which expanded beyond the events of Tom Perrotta’s novel.
The comic itself was an exercise in expanded storytelling, as Moore explained in 2005:
I only had enough plot for six issues. We were contracted for 12! The solution was to alternate issues of plot with “origin story” issues about the characters.
Since then, DC has published eight Before Watchmen limited series, providing additional source material for HBO and Lindelof to draw on if they wanted to: Minutemen (by Darwyn Cooke) and Silk Spectre (by Cooke and Amanda Conner) were particularly well received and would provide additional depth and back-story. There’s also the possibility of going beyond the final panel, which would be disconcerting to even the most open-minded fan of Watchmen.
Only time will tell if HBO’s Watchmen will be a worthy adaptation or expansion of the comic, or like that other superhero series Heroes, it becomes another show that should’ve stayed one season.