Why Watchmen Writer Alan Moore Isn't A Fan Of The HBO Sequel Series

Alan Moore is one of the greatest, genre-defining writers to have ever graced comic books, but he's also one of the medium's most cynical critics. Moore found his start writing for DC Comics in the '80s, quickly climbing the ladder from "Swamp-Thing" and "Miracleman" into writing his very own acclaimed original series and novels. "V for Vendetta," "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," "From Hell," and his 1986 magnum opus "Watchmen" have all been adapted for the screen at some point, much to the chagrin of Moore.

Long before comic book movies became the dominating pop culture monolith they are now, both Hollywood and the comics industry have butchered and exploited Moore's body of work, from creating adaptations that grossly misunderstood the nuances of his stories, to depriving Moore of ownership over his own works to create cash-in sequels and spin-off comics. It's the classic story of an artist being screwed over by big business; so it is completely understandable why Moore has famously shunned Hollywood and turned his back on writing comics forever.

In 2019, ten years after Zack Snyder's infamous film adaptation of the same name, the "Watchmen" HBO series was released. The original "Watchmen" graphic novel was a nightmarish satire depicting the harsh realities of vigilantism. The nine-episode HBO series serves as a sequel, evolving Moore's thesis from a dynamic, modern lens.

It might be praised by critics and fans alike as one of the more successful Moore adaptations, but in a profile for GQ, Moore revealed his thoughts on the miniseries. Predictably, he wasn't very impressed.

Damon Lindelof sent a letter to Alan Moore during pre-production

Equally predictable, Moore hasn't even seen the show.

In fact, Moore wasn't even aware the series was in development until creator Damon Lindelof sent him a letter about it during pre-production. "I think it opened with, 'Dear Mr. Moore, I am one of the bastards currently destroying Watchmen.' That wasn't the best opener," Moore said. "It went on through a lot of, what seemed to me to be, neurotic rambling. 'Can you at least tell us how to pronounce 'Ozymandias'?'"

Like other creatives adapting Moore's comics, Lindelof claims to truly want to do right by him. He claimed that he lost sleep and felt miserable during production of his sequel series, joking that Moore has put a curse on him.

The real venomous curse, however, has to be the hostile response Moore had to Lindelof's letter. Moore went on to re-emphasize that nobody associated with Warner Bros. is allowed to contact him for any reason and that he had fully disowned "Watchmen" due to Hollywood's perversions of it that have nothing to do with his own voice. Moore wrote, "Look, this is embarrassing to me. I don't want anything to do with you or your show. Please don't bother me again."

HBO's "Watchmen" went on to be a critical success, winning 11 awards out of 26 Emmy nominations. Although the show doesn't rely on the prior knowledge of reading the original graphic novel, it thrives in its expansion of the novel's thematic scope, specifically its "outside the margins" attitude towards America and its history of racial abuse.

HBO's Watchmen was radical and sharp, but still not enough for Moore

At the center of HBO's "Watchmen" is not the legacy characters of the comics, but instead Angela Abar (Regina King), a teacher turned vigilante living in the 34-year aftermath of the original graphic novel. Set in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the series blends historical events (like the opening recreation of the Tulsa massacre) with the alternate history established by Moore to interrogate American power structures and how they've boiled over into a festering void of generational, racial trauma.

It's a series that updates the original thematic question of Moore's novel, "who watches the Watchmen?" to make deeper statements about the inherent corruptive force of authority, and in the middle of a comic book monoculture, asks its audience to unpack why we associate these themes with safety and heroism.

The HBO series is arguably the most ideologically consistent riff off of Moore's original texts, and yet, why isn't he satisfied? When Moore saw all the praise for the show pour in, he 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." Moore begrudges, "Did they not understand 'Watchmen?'"

Give Alan Moore space to continue his grudge against Hollywood

We can go back and forth on his criticisms of HBO's "Watchmen," but in the end, Moore is simply a man that's rightfully been hypercritical and protective of his vision. He's also willfully misinformed here. Too many times has "Watchmen" been misinterpreted, and in his shoes, maybe the HBO show looked a little too glamorous for his tastes from the previews alone. On moral principle (and pride), he was never going to engage with this show.

In some ways, it's a shame, because HBO's "Watchmen" is one of the more radical takes on Moore's work yet. But it's always healthy as an admirer to respect a creator's boundaries and be able to appreciate both works from a respectful distance.

Alan Moore is one of pop culture's biggest haters, and we love that about him. In fact, his cynical quality is what makes his work continually relevant and everlasting.