Watchmen's Dave Gibbons

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Dave Gibbons' Watching the Watchmen.

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What surprises you when you look back through your notes for Watchmen?

There's lots of things that you look back at and think, what was I thinking of? Did I really need to map out that bottle, going against the stars, with the position of every star fixed? I must have been mad! But on the other hand, I wasn't mad. We were so into it that it was important. And even though people might not be specifically aware of that kind of detailed thinking, you can sense it in the finished product. This didn't just happen, it wasn't just thrown down, it was conceived and contrived to be exactly what it is.

I'm thinking also of the things that we stubbornly stuck to even though they obviously, now, didn't work. Like the full-body Rorschach blob. Which was a terrible idea. Why?! All you ever really want to see is his face—if every time he does his stuff he's got to open his coat, you know, stand there with his coat open...I just can't see it. And a nightmare to draw as well, because it would have shadows falling on it...agh, it would be awful. But we were obviously very very fond of that.

Zack Snyder treated 300, the graphic novel, very reverently when he made 300 the movie. Is he giving Watchmen the same treatment?

Absolutely. If you've seen the trailer, there are a couple of images in there that are exactly the composition I drew on the page. And to actually see the movie—and I've seen a rough cut— is bizarre, because it's like seeing the movie that I was running in my head.

Has Snyder tried to involve you in the production of the movie?

They showed me a very early draft of the movie and solicited my notes on that. There was one sequence that's in the movie that isn't in the comic book, and Zack wanted me to visualize it and draw it as if it were in the comic, and I did, and I got John Higgins to color it. So it' s like lost Watchmen pages! When we saw the rough screening of it in August this year they were almost begging me, the producers: please tell us if there's anything wrong, if there's anything you don't like, please, even if you think we've already filmed it, we can still change it!

When you and Alan were making Watchmen, how important was it that you guys were English, and working in the UK, far away from the watchful eye of the mother ship in New York?

Actually it was a big deal. I think the whole thing of Brits working for American comics was a big deal. Because America was like this fabled foreign land. When I first came to New York City, what I was thrilled about was not the Empire State Building, or the Statue of Liberty, it was the fireplugs in the street. These things that Jack Kirby had drawn. Or these cylindrical water towers on top of buildings that Steve Ditko's Spider-Man fights used to happen in and around. So it's always been this kind of exotic babylon. And that's so for Alan as well. We used to get the American comics imported, and it wasn't just the stories, it was the whole thing of Tootsie Rolls and Schwinn bicycles. This is the kind of thing we'd talk about for hours on the phone. All this stuff that to you Americans is everyday stuff, as boring to you as our everyday stuff is to us.

So I think that we were able to stand back from American culture, stand back from comic books, although we'd read them all our lives. I can't imagine that we could have done Watchmen if we hadn't had that detachment. You know? Love for the subject matter, love for the culture, but a detachment. And perhaps a slight British cynicism? Impressed, but not impressed.

Putting together Watching the Watchmen must have been quite weird for you—revisiting that period of your life, which is now, what, 25 years ago?

It was a long time ago, but when we were doing Watchmen—and not to sound too pollyanna about it—we enjoyed it so much. I mean, Alan and I had got to know each other quite well, and John who did the colors, John Higgins, was a mutual friend as well. It was this wonderful feeling of just sort of, as we would say in England, having a laugh.

When I look back at these notes, that was what came back to me—the fun that we'd had doing it. Before all the backbiting, before all the falling out, before all the commercial repercussions of what we'd done. It was just a memoir of a really good time. And I sent Alan a copy of the book a couple of weeks ago. Haven't heard back from him. But I actually signed it "To Alan, with fond memories, best wishes, Dave." 'Cause that's how I feel about it.

See pictures of cover art by Watching the Watchmen book jacket designer Chip Kidd.

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