Warner Brothers is looking at producing an animated adaptation of the classic Alan Moore – Dave Gibbons graphic novel Watchmen. And it appears as if this made-for-video project could be the first in a series if more mature animated films from Warner Animation based on various properties from corporate sibling DC Comics.
The news comes via an online marketing survey a reader forwarded to us in which the studio is looking to gauge interest in an animated Watchmen direct-to-video feature. In the screengrab on the right (click to enlarge), note that the top line of the survey question describes an animated Watchmen film as “upcoming.” While not conclusive that Warners is knee-deep in production, it does suggest that such a project is in consideration at the studio. Back in 2014, we reported on a similar marketing survey by Warner Brothers over the title of the Tom Cruise science-fiction film Edge Of Tomorrow being done just weeks after the film’s release. The alternate title being tested – Live. Die. Repeat. – wound up being featured prominently as a tag line in the film’s home video release.
This is the first news about any sort of potential Watchmen adaptation since 2015 when filmmaker Zack Snyder, who directed the 2009 live action version of the comic, stated that he had met with executives at HBO about a possible Watchmen TV series for the pay cable channel.
And Warners’ ambitions just don’t begin and end with an animated Watchmen, either. The second part of the forwarded questionnaire asked respondents which of several titles from DC Comics and its Vertigo imprint they owned or were familiar with. Among the titles asked about were Moore’s classic 1980s run on the horror series Swamp Thing and his seminal Batman graphic novel, The Killing Joke. Additional titles include the Batman story arc “A Death In The Family,” the graphic novel Batman: The Long Halloween and the series Gotham Academy, the Superman ElseWorlds story Red Sun, the video game-inspired Injustice and their Scooby-Doo science-fiction horror genre mashup Scooby Apocalypse. DC’s Vertigo line was represented on the survey with Fables, Lucifer, iZombie, Hellblazer, Preacher and Sandman.
While there are currently live action versions of some of these properties either in production – Lucifer, iZombie and Preacher – or in active development – Sandman – that doesn’t necessarily preclude the possibility of the studio moving forward with an animated version of them as well. At worse, some titles could be part of the survey just to get an idea of the tone of books that the survey taker enjoys.
But all the titles asked about in the survey either are or could very easily lend themselves to potentially R-rated animated fare based on such things as violence or more adult thematic material. Last summer’s R-rated adaptation of The Killing Joke may have been met with some mixed critical reviews but it did good business for the studio. The more recent Justice League Dark – which sees Batman teaming up with some of DC Comics’ darker magic-using characters, did better with critics. And no doubt the studio is seeing that there is money to be made in
(Interestingly, there was one non-DC Comics property listed in the survey – the Riverdale-during-a-zombie-apocalypse horror title Afterlife With Archie which resets the classic Archie characters in a horror setting. I would surmise that this Archie title was thrown in to perhaps gauge if people are open to classic characters being reinterpreted in potentially radically different ways. Though if someone from Archie Comics wants to get an Afterlife With Archie animated project going, I would certainly not object.)
Warners Animation has been hitting it out of the park for two and a half decades now, starting with the original Batman: The Animated Series. Over time they have turned out a number of great comic-based TV series and, more recently, direct-to-video projects. But I think an animated Watchmen may be biting off more than they can chew. Most of the animated Warner Brothers fare runs about an hour and a quarter in length and even if they split the graphic novel into two parts the way that they adapted The Dark Knight Returns in 2012, they would still be a few minutes short of the running time of Snyder’s live action attempt. Snyder was not able to fully translate the nuances of Moore and Gibbons’ work in his film’s two hour and forty minute run time and I am concerned that an animated version might not be able to overcome the problems that Snyder was incapable of surmounting.
But if Warners Animation was to go ahead with a Watchmen animated film, we can at least be pretty sure that it won’t look like this –