Comics On TV

5 Alan Moore Comics Ready for the Watchmen Treatment

The HBO series' dazzling treatment of its source material suggests the world might be ready for fresh takes on From Hell, Top 10, and more.

by | November 18, 2019 | Comments

Let’s commit comic book sacrilege. For most of the 21st Century, Watchmen writer Alan Moore has shown a unique distaste for Hollywood adaptations of his work. From a legacy of ownership disputes stemming back to Watchmen‘s original publication to the ugly lawsuit against The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which painted him as a stooge for 20th Century Fox, his experiences with the studios have not been great.

For a time, he was willing to cash checks from the projects and stay hands off. But after V for Vendetta producer Joel Silver claimed Moore was “excited” about the adaptation, Moore severed ties with Hollywood, and transferred money owed to him (and onscreen credit) to the artists of the books being adapted. This is why Dave Gibbons is the only person credited with creating the Watchmen comic book in both its film and television versions.

When pressed by journalists about adaptations, Moore is cantankerous – mainly because he is tired of answering the question. And his distaste has left some of his fans believing his work should never be adapted to other mediums. Granted, Moore himself said as much at one point, indicating the medium of comics was an intrinsic part of the Watchmen experience.

Nonetheless, HBO’s Watchmen has proved it is possible to take ideas from Moore’s work and create something new and compelling, much the same way he took the Charlton Comics characters and made them the Minutemen or took literary characters for his own in works like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or Lost Girls. Which is the long way of saying Moore is the greatest fanfic writer to ever live and it is time to consider how others can produce amazing fanfic from his contributions to the discourse. Here are five examples of the sort of television shows which could emerge from the sacrilegious act of adapting Moore’s comic books.

Top 10… As a Police Procedural

Top 10

(Photo by DC Comics)

The Premise: A look at the day-to-day lives of the Neopolis Police Department’s 10th Precinct. In many ways, it resembles the venerable 1980s cop drama Hill Street Blues – except for the fact all the cops are superheroes in a world where almost everyone has a power and a costumed identity. Across the 12 issues and one hardcover special written by Moore, the series heavily featured detective Jeff Smax and his new partner Toybox. Of course, stories of other police officers and cases filtered throughout, even as it culminated in an overarching tale of government corruption.

The Approach: If one chose to ignore the larger story developed across Moore’s 12-issue run, it is very easy to see the program as its initial pitch: Hill Street Blues in a world of superheroes. Unlike, say, Sony’s adaptation of Powers, Top 10 would need the prestige budget to pull off the world as designed by artists Gene Ha and Zander Cannon; it’s stuffed to the margins with amazing-looking superheroes who flutter by for only an instant. Then there are the major characters like Smax, Dust Devil, and Sergeant Hyperdog to consider. They would be expensive to translate to live-action.

But a point of departure from the comics could come from leaning even further in to the Hill Street Blues format, which burned its ongoing dramas slowly while favoring cases of the week. The format has served Law & Order: Special Victims Unit well for 20 years and would give Top 10 enough of an engine to run five or so seasons as a prestige drama on a streaming service.

From Hell… As A Gritty and Complex Limited Series

The Premise: Inspector Frederick Abberline and charlatan psychic Robert James Lee investigate the vicious murders of sex workers in the Whitechapel district of London. The sensational details of the murders grab the attention of the Fleet Street papers, which leads the killer to write in and to the introduction of his legendary sobriquet: Jack the Ripper. Meanwhile, Royal Physician and Freemason Sir William Gull accepts an assignment from Queen Victoria to end the threat of an illegitimate heir via her grandson Albert marrying a commoner girl from the East End. He is also ordered to silence a group of sex workers who know the truth and attempt to blackmail one of the conspirators. The mission gives Gull the chance perform an obscure rite that will both solidify male dominance over women and, as he sees it, birth the 20th century.

The Approach: Honestly, a direct adaptation would serve From Hell the best. The film version, directed by Albert and Allen Hughes, abandoned Moore’s compelling “why-dunit” narrative almost entirely in favor of the traditional “whodunit” seen in most Jack the Ripper movies. The text of From Hell (brilliantly realized by the great Eddie Campbell) leads readers down more sinister allies of government conspiracies, into the mysticism hidden in the layout of London, and even gives us a bit of time travel. It also features some striking characters in the form of Marie Kelly, Abberline, and Lee – to say nothing of Gull himself, who Moore and Campbell bring to such vivid life.

Unlike some of the other Moore comics on this list, though, From Hell could only arrive on television as an eight-episode limited series. Both the story and its construction require the tight confines of the TV format, just like the original comics themselves.

Miracleman… As Prestige Drama With Big Names


(Photo by Marvel)

The Premise: By saying the word “Kimota!”, Michael Moran transforms into Miracleman – a character not unlike Shazam. Losing about a decade to a perceived amnesia, Moran eventually learns his time as Miracleman was a simulation orchestrated by the British government. It leads to conflict with fellow test subject Johnny Bates, who destroys the center of London and kills some 40,000 people. In the wake of their devastating battle, Miracleman is revealed to the world and decides to do the only sensible thing left to him: take over the planet and run it himself.

The Approach: Mircaleman – also known as Marvelman in the U.K. – may lend itself the most to a Watchmen-style reinvention. In fact, writer Neil Gaiman and artist Mark Buckingham already did a lot of the development of the concept when they took over Miracleman from Moore and his collaborators. In their “Golden Age” storyline, Gaiman and Buckingham revealed a world under stress from the utopia built by Miracleman. The individual issues told tales of regular people chaffing against that fantastic world, removing Moran from the center of the action to a seemingly distant force. That concept would allow for a prestige drama about real people coping with an unwanted occupation. And like Watchmen, it would leave the text of the Moore stories as its history. Such a series could also find a way to finish up Gaiman and Buckingham’s abandoned “Silver Age” story, which was to see the return of Bates and reveal larger cracks in Miracleman’s brave new world.

Like the other Moore comics we’ve discussed so far, the idea fits snugly into the realm of prestige dramas on streaming services, meaning it would need a low episode count and a cadre of impressive actors to breathe life into its world.

Tom Strong… As High-End Animated Series

Tom Strong

(Photo by DC Comics)

The Premise: Science hero Tom Strong – a spin on pulp adventurers like Doc Savage – his wife Dhalua, and their daughter Tesla, explore the world and battle science villains with the aid of steam-powered robot Pneuman and super-smart gorilla King Solomon. Along the way, luxurious flashbacks told in the style of older comics reveal Strong’s origins and other adventures from his long life.

The Approach: The whimsical and good-hearted nature of the original Tom Strong series by Moore and artist Chris Sprouse lends itself best to an animated series. Of course, a high-end series with great animation and an absurd attention to details. The format allows the potential series to keep Sprouse’s design aesthetic while also seamlessly switching to other art or animation styles as the story dictates. It also means the program could keep the decidedly un-Watchmen feel of the comic. Designed in many respects to pull away from Moore’s tendency to deconstruct genre, Tom Strong is a character whose seeming simplicity calls for the sort of complexity one can find in the best animated tales.

Captain Britain… As A Disney+ Original

(Photo by Marvel Comics)

The Premise: A member of the lower aristocracy, Brian Braddock comes upon his powers when Merlyn (who claims to be the wizard of the Arthur legend) and his daughter Roma save him from a bad bike accident. Accepting the Amulet of Might, Brian is suffused with energy and becomes the Captain Britain of Earth-616, the main Earth of the Marvel Multiverse. Facing a gaggle of homegrown threats and inter-dimensional crises, Brian also attempts to keep up with his studies at university. When Moore and artist Alan Davis took over the character, they introduced characters like the time-traveling mercs known as the Special Executive and a superhero-slaying monster called The Fury. He and Davis also introduced the notion of the Marvel Multi-verse itself and even the Earth-616 designation.

The Approach: Clearly, this is a Disney+ series waiting to happen. With its close ties to the multi-verse, it could serve as a way to explore those ideas – to say nothing of introducing different Marvel Earths – while also telling a very localized story about a British hero with deep roots in the country’s own mythology and history. Merlyn’s participation also gives such a show a mystical element not seen in the other Disney+ projects announced thus far. Also, with Captain Britain’s ties to the X-Men (his sister is the telepathic mutant formerly known as Psylocke), the series could also slyly introduce those characters into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

All that said, this may be the one concept so removed from Moore’s spirit that it may not be much of a sacrilege to bring it to the screen. Also, since we were fans of the Excalibur comic by Chris Claremont and Davis, we just want the character to make his MCU debut.

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Watchmen is currently airing on HBO. 

Tag Cloud

Bravo BBC space VICE slashers Amazon Prime Video independent Dark Horse Comics robots canceled 72 Emmy Awards biography VOD technology ITV criterion crime drama HBO free movies dark BBC America ABC Family Family Creative Arts Emmys zero dark thirty halloween television Funimation screen actors guild war Amazon Prime documentary Britbox Set visit Winners El Rey Opinion TCA dc transformers Podcast Hallmark Christmas movies Paramount Network Best and Worst Thanksgiving doctor who Year in Review critics Box Office medical drama Sundance TV franchise Martial Arts Netflix social media dragons Western directors Discovery Channel BET 20th Century Fox foreign Classic Film RT21 Spectrum Originals hist green book Acorn TV crime The Walking Dead Amazon Studios Universal Endgame disaster Ovation spy thriller USA Network Cartoon Network chucky Heroines twilight 24 frames movies Binge Guide Grammys MSNBC cops Summer Reality Competition children's TV Sony Pictures American Society of Cinematographers Amazon Nickelodeon facebook Emmys National Geographic Oscars CBS All Access natural history boxoffice laika Epix supernatural TruTV discovery YA superhero latino video stoner See It Skip It Country toronto romantic comedy diversity CMT Ellie Kemper spider-man Fall TV Academy Awards Certified Fresh Disney streaming service period drama serial killer First Look comedies psycho Turner Classic Movies MTV LGBT Peacock blaxploitation Spike Netflix Christmas movies Logo IFC Films stop motion Christmas streaming based on movie First Reviews Toys rotten adaptation Travel Channel comiccon DC streaming service sequels nbcuniversal cancelled TV series Animation SundanceTV witnail films Sundance Starz Tarantino game show ratings Fantasy TIFF Mudbound a nightmare on elm street cinemax Photos series TCA Awards 2018 Paramount crime thriller DGA rotten movies we love Video Games singing competition Infographic sequel Mary poppins Apple festival spinoff 2015 SXSW unscripted Lifetime Christmas movies Showtime mockumentary Super Bowl Awards Tour President Teen FXX Comedy Central 2020 2016 historical drama zombie Ghostbusters BBC One PaleyFest Awards TV all-time Countdown Pop politics VH1 Sundance Now Tubi crossover ABC universal monsters stand-up comedy Cannes E3 Extras Biopics breaking bad Nat Geo Food Network Television Critics Association renewed TV shows NBC composers science fiction Anna Paquin richard e. Grant Disney+ Disney Plus child's play satire NYCC X-Men golden globes YouTube Premium Television Academy History APB cartoon mission: impossible Black History Month Trivia sitcom Mary Tyler Moore name the review Pixar werewolf quibi Brie Larson CNN sports anime A&E theme song MCU anthology christmas movies Avengers Nominations comics Trophy Talk scorecard Winter TV romance Freeform Arrowverse jamie lee curtis Marvel talk show Comedy Writers Guild of America The Arrangement cults Syfy best Lucasfilm video on demand Turner 007 Action concert TBS Pirates classics RT History blockbuster YouTube spanish language Quiz Marathons DirecTV GoT elevated horror adventure Disney Plus Apple TV+ worst Polls and Games LGBTQ Music Trailer Premiere Dates TV renewals justice league emmy awards TNT news Columbia Pictures Elton John obituary finale indiana jones Rom-Com Tomatazos cars PlayStation Pet Sematary sag awards nature dramedy Marvel Television Disney Crackle IFC Hear Us Out Crunchyroll Election CW Seed spain worst movies 21st Century Fox DC Comics Shondaland football mutant Star Trek Calendar joker hispanic kids Disney Channel book what to watch teaser screenings Fox News Pride Month Rocketman CBS cancelled TV shows game of thrones toy story Tumblr GIFs Film Festival comic scary movies ghosts reviews HBO Max Lifetime parents 71st Emmy Awards Pop TV documentaries travel indie Horror Adult Swim binge Star Wars Warner Bros. AMC New York Comic Con docudrama dceu TCA 2017 vampires police drama cooking San Diego Comic-Con Interview 2017 Musical cancelled television Rock Musicals Cosplay TLC TV Land Superheroe ESPN Rocky Mindy Kaling Mary Poppins Returns south america HBO Go TCA Winter 2020 Captain marvel canceled TV shows Red Carpet Masterpiece political drama Sneak Peek 45 Walt Disney Pictures A24 Schedule Hulu Baby Yoda Valentine's Day tv talk Spring TV YouTube Red Comic Book festivals revenge psychological thriller The CW cats animated WarnerMedia Esquire award winner Mystery harry potter BAFTA Vudu Film true crime FX Hallmark hollywood Emmy Nominations OneApp fast and furious dogs FOX Chilling Adventures of Sabrina die hard OWN Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt DC Universe Sci-Fi FX on Hulu batman Reality E! BET Awards Kids & Family GLAAD venice Holidays SDCC Character Guide aliens movie miniseries cancelled Holiday Black Mirror strong female leads PBS 2019 Shudder thriller reboot WGN asian-american USA The Witch Comics on TV Marvel Studios Song of Ice and Fire remakes nfl Chernobyl The Purge versus 4/20 casting Women's History Month Apple TV Plus TCM Watching Series Drama Superheroes Stephen King Lionsgate zombies