For our final project in my Adaptation Studies class, we were tasked with creating our own adaptation of one of the pieces of media we had consumed throughout the course. As an English major with a creative writing concentration, I, of course, gravitated towards writing something, though the question became… what? What piece of media did I care strongly enough about that it would inspire work of my own?
The answer ended up being Watchmen, the popular graphic novel that spurred a film, a television show, and even a tabletop RPG adaptation, the latter of which I didn’t discover until I began my research. The only adaptation approved by Alan Moore, the tabletop RPG gave more insight into some of the more glossed-over characters, one of which being Ursula Zandt, or Silhouette. She was one of the only characters in the LGBTQ+ community present in the graphic novel, and her story ended in tragedy – she and her lover were murdered in a hotel room by a villain looking for vengeance. The words “lesbian whores” were written above their bed. This tragic ending was referenced perhaps once or twice in the original graphic novel, and Silhouette’s character was never expanded beyond it. She was an outcast of the group, ostracized for her sexuality and, eventually, brutally slain.
I couldn’t let her story end like that. Or, at the very least, I couldn’t let her only legacy be the tragic ending common to many lesbians in fiction. For so long, LGBTQ+ characters have been relegated to villainous roles, or tragic roles, or side characters existing only to be the butt of a joke. Especially common in the era of lesbian pulp fiction were the endings where the women would be married off to men, killed, or stuck in an insane asylum. It was the way of the media during the pulp era of the 1950s and the only opportunity for characters in the community to even be included in a piece of media. They had to die, repent, or go insane because of their “immorality.”
It was time to flesh out Zandt as a character instead of just casting her as the dead lesbian. I wanted to give her a personality, a past, a partner. I wanted her story to be more. So I wrote it.
Moore, Alan and David Gibbons. Watchmen. DC Comics. 2014
“Ursula Zandt.” Watchmen Wiki, Fandom, Inc., watchmen.fandom.com/wiki/Ursula_Zandt