Nobody involved in creating “Watchmen” leading up to its debut in 2019 could underestimate just how massive and pressure-packed an undertaking this was — least of all Damon Lindelof. Despite being a huge fan of the original material, the writer/creator/executive producer had already been rebuffed by the notoriously grumpy Alan Moore after seeking his blessing on the sequel series. Unsurprisingly, practically everyone holds the original “Watchmen” in high regard, and another writer stepping in to interpret such material in their own unique way was bound to result in a certain amount of controversy.
That’s exactly what happened when Lindelof first broached the possibility of unmasking Hooded Justice, one of the first influential superheroes (called “Minutemen”) from the original “Watchmen” and whose superhero outfit of choice strongly evoked a hangman’s noose — loaded imagery, to say the least, that wildly changes context depending on the skin color of who is wearing such garb. Moore never revealed the character’s identity, notably, which freed Lindelof to propose in his follow-up show that the character had actually been a Black man all along. While speaking at the Austin Film Festival panel, the writer explained:
“[‘Watchmen’ writer] Cord [Jefferson] expresses this much better than I could, so I wish that he was sitting next to me right now, but he was one of the first people that I talked to about this idea. And he essentially said, ‘There’s no reason for a white man to be a vigilante in 1939, because the law is for the white man. The only justification to be a vigilante is if the law isn’t for you. And that’s why I think your idea works.'”
This reinterpretation waded into tricky territory, obviously, and HBO execs knew it.