'Watchmen' on HBO Timeline: Why the Show Is Set 30 Years After the Comics

HBO viewers on Sunday tuning in to Watchmen hoping to watch a straight adaptation of the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons comic books may be disappointed, as executive producer Damon Lindelof has decided to set his show 30 years after the events depicted in the graphic novel. This has led to some huge changes between the world of the HBO series and the comics/2009 movie version, with some characters now dead or changed by the passage of time.

Why is the Watchmen TV show set 30 years after the comics?

As Entertainment Weekly reported, Lindelof told an audience at the New York Comic-Con that he did not see a way to make Watchmen work properly for a 2019 audience. He said: "I have such reverence for the original material, and the idea of just doing that again was not something I necessarily wanted to see as a fan.

"So I started to think about how Watchmen was written in the mid-'80s and it was about the mid-'80s, it was very much of its time. If you were reading Watchmen when it came out, you would put it down and feel like, 'okay, it's an alternate history but I still feel a lot of the things that are happening in this comic book.' So I asked myself, what happened 30 years later? What happened to Adrian Veidt after he saved the world? What was the world like after this giant squid on it? Robert Redford was running for president, so what if he won and was president for almost 30 years? I started to get captivated by those ideas."

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"Watchmen" on HBO is set 30 years after the comic books, meaning characters like Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons) are much older in the series. HBO

In an Esquire profile, the new Watchmen is described as a "remix" of the original comics, but one where, as Lindelof puts it: "We're married to certain things that the canon put out, like Vietnam is a state, or that Robert Redford was running for president against Nixon, or that Adrian Veidt dropped an enormous fake alien being in the middle of Manhattan that killed three million people...You can't just do that in passing reference."

Those ideas have led to the HBO version of Watchmen, set in a world where Redford has been president for decades, which should have led to America becoming more liberal. However, the left-leaning politics of Redford and his Supreme Court has led to a backlash personified by the 7th Kalvary, a white supremacist group that has emerged and has co-opted the image of original Watchmen character Rorschach and his black-marked ski mask.

Gizmodo reports that Lindelof said of this at Comic-Con: "Rorschach is a very interesting character, you know? Obviously, Alan [Moore] very much came up with Rorschach and wrote all the words that came from his mouth, and I think there's a dreadful appeal to characters like Rorschach in that you can't possibly agree with them. But they're so definite, and so consistent, and so hypnotically sure of what they're doing that they're quite arresting. And I can quite see that Rorschach would be a kind of role model for people with unpleasant views in this future."

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"Watchmen" on HBO features new characters played by Regina King and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Mark Hill/HBO

Though Rorschach himself is not expected to return, some characters from the original comic are set to be back according to Esquire, with Doctor Manhattan and Daniel Dreiberg to be played by as-yet-unnamed actors⁠—though some have speculated that the character Don Johnson is playing is Dreiberg in hiding, Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias will be portrayed by Jeremy Irons and Laurie Juspeczyk/Blake is played by Jean Smart.

They will be joined by a roster of new stars, including Tulsa Police Force detective Angela Abar (Regina King), her husband Cal (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and characters named Mr. Phillips (Tom Mison), Jane Crawford (Frances Fisher) and Ms. Crookshanks (Sara Vickers).

Watchmen airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO