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Who Sketches the Watchmen? (It's This Guy)

Dave Gibbons, co-creator of the original Watchmen comic (stop calling it a graphic novel, exo-nerds), usually has things to draw. This time, he’s got things to say. About the movie, about reluctant co-creator Alan Moore, and curiously nothing about how we accosted him while he was in an Apple store in Lower Manhattan.

gibbons_main.jpgDoes Alan Moore’s reluctance to involve himself in the movie cause any friction between you two?
No. Alan and I always have been friends; we’re still friends. He doesn’t take the moral high ground on this. The fact of the matter is, he hasn’t had a very good experience with Hollywood, and he came to the point where he thought, “I really don’t want to do this again.” Now you or I might say, “OK, well, I won’t talk to them, but I’ll take the money and I’ll have my name on the movie, just in case it’s good.” Alan is made of sterner stuff. Alan said, “I don’t want my name on it. I don’t want the money. Let Dave have the money.” And that’s it.

I still talk to Alan, who has said to me, “Dave, always a pleasure to talk to you, I just don’t want to talk about Watchmen.” So, as long as Watchmen doesn’t come into the fray, we’re fine.

So it’s a sore subject?
It isn’t a sore subject, I just think he doesn’t want to think about it. And if, as a friend, he doesn’t want me to mention it, I won’t mention it.

Well, how has your Hollywood experience been so far?
My Hollywood experience has been very, very good. The fact is, they don’t have to involve me with any of this, because we sold most of the rights to DC Comics.

You do lend credibility to the production among Watchmen fans, though.
I do realize that. But, from the very beginning, when I first met (director) Zack (Snyder), I had a really strong gut feeling that it was going to be a good movie; that Zack got it, he understood it, and he had the chops to do it right. I met him at the premiere of 300, and I had just seen what he’d done to Frank Miller’s movie, and it was just perfect. And everything I’ve seen, every conversation I’ve had, everybody that I’ve met concerned with it has only made me feel better about it. I just spoke to somebody who’s seen the final cut of it, and they said It. Is. Awesome. So, I’ve had a very good experience, and I’ve got every reason to believe it’ll be a very good movie.

The key to 300, and I’ve read this in an interview with Frank, is that 300 is a tall tale told around a campfire by an old soldier. So, he's saying, “The Battle of Thermopylae—the Persians were eight feet tall. They had huge beasts in armor." A lot of things Frank does are like that—they’re larger than life. They’re a caricature. They’re done with a lot of humor, as well—and Zack has seemed to completely capture that. That wasn’t the treatment for Watchmen, but it did show me that Zack could analyze a piece of comic book work and exploit it in the best way. 

We read a quote from Alan Moore that he thought 300 was shite...
That’s Alan’s opinion. Alan and I are friends, but our opinion on everything isn’t the same. I can see why, but I enjoyed it.

How do you feel about the shape the comic book industry has taken since you introduced Watchmen?
We used to get a bit despondent about that, because all Watchmen really was as a comic book was another view of superheroes, a dark view. And at the same time, there was The Dark Knight, which, again, was a dark view. And all of a sudden, the comic book industry seemed to think that, because they’d been successful, “This is the way to do it! Make comics dark! Make them really depressing!” They even made Captain Marvel—Shazaam—dark and gritty and tortured. Now, if there was one thing Alan and I talked about that we’d ever be interested in doing after Watchmen would be to look at the innocent side of comic books. To do Captain Marvel as he should be done, which is a very innocent fantasy character. And have fun with that.

Will that happen?
Nah, it’ll never happen.

Alan did something with a character called Supreme, which was his take on the Silver-Age Superman. We did Watchmen because we love superheroes, not because we wanted to pull them to pieces. It was just another view, and it’s a bit depressing that other people didn’t take the book and think, “Let’s see how we can treat them differently.” They made everything grim and gritty.

What challenges do you think you would face today if you were to introduce Watchmen?
It’s hard to say, because the comic book industry nowadays is a post-Watchmen, post-Dark Knight comic book industry. So many comics are looking at similar ground. I don’t think it would seem like anything as novel as it was at the time. So, I think if you wanted to have the same kind of effect today that you did with the Watchmen, you wouldn’t do Watchmen. You would perhaps do something that was very innocent, or do something that in some other way hadn’t been seen before. There’s a thing they say: you shouldn’t give your audience what they want, you should give them what they need.