History of the Watchmen

Scott Viau

While filmgoers were mostly rejoicing this past weekend with the long-awaited release of “Watchmen,” the actual history of the story itself goes back over 20 years to when its creator, Alan Moore, first had the idea for a groundbreaking graphic novel.

Originating from a proposal Moore had submitted to DC comics, the story would contain characters that had been acquired from failed publishing company Charlton Comics. This idea did not flow, though, since a lot of the characters would not be able to be used in future issues, as they would be either dead or dysfunctional. To get around this, Moore simply created his own characters.

If the motion picture ran into difficulties being produced, the graphic novel was no different. After receiving the go-ahead to write the story, Moore soon realized he only had enough content for six issues, not the 12 issues that were agreed upon. The solution Moore came up with was to separate the content of the issues between story and character origin.

“Watchmen” eventually debuted to rave reviews in September of 1986, with an issue being released every month of the next year.

The creation of the movie though, has an even longer and variegated history. The first attempt at making the film happened in August of 1986. When Moore turned down the offer to write the screenplay, 20th Century Fox, the studio producing the film, hired Sam Hamm to write it. Due to the complex nature of the ending, Hamm rewrote it to involve an assassination and a time paradox. But these changes were scrapped and the project never came to fruition.

In the early ’90s, the project moved to Warner Bros. and fell under the direction of Terry Gilliam, but because he was unable to raise $25 million, a quarter of the budget Gilliam felt was necessary, he decided to leave the project.

In June of 2004, Paramount Pictures announced that it would be making “Watchmen” with Darren Aronofsky directing a script written by David Hayter. Due to scheduling conflicts, Aronofsky dropped out to direct “The Fountain.” Paul Greengrass was then approached, and while early conceptual work had begun, Paramount suddenly decided to shelve the project for a bit, which led to Greengrass leaving to make “United 93.”

Still wanting to make the movie, Warner Bros., impressed with Zack Snyder’s work on “300,” approached him to do the film. With everything finally falling into place, Snyder was able to make a fully realized version of the film.

More “Watchmen”

Scott Viau’s review of the “Watchmen” graphic novel: “Watchmen” a timeless classic

Josh Snyder’s review of the “Watchmen” movie: Long awaited adaptation delivers

Also check out Adam Dompierre’s list of the top five comic book movies of all time.