Dave Gibbons Speaks On Watchmen (Parts 2 & 3)

A couple of weeks ago we posted the first part of an extended interview with comic book artist and Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons. (You can read Screen Rant's SPOILER-FREE version of part 1 of the Dave Gibbons interview here.)

And now, for your reading pleasure, Screen Rant presents the abridged, SPOILER-FREE versions of parts 2 and 3 of the Dave Gibbons interview, in which he answers fan-submitted questions about the process of first creating Watchmen, and the mysteries still surrounding the Watchmen lore. It's quite an interesting read, check it out:


Tiffany Ngo: It is often noted that you and Alan Moore were among the first few interested in pursuing serious careers in the American comic book industry. What do you find attractive about the American comics industry...and have you experienced conflicts and controversies within the industry similar to those Alan Moore has had?

Dave Gibbons: When I was growing up, I loved American comics...The first ones of those that I saw just...blew me away...there was a real magical quality, this sense of being an artifact from a fabulous alien civilization that attracted me to them. I know that was so for...Alan Moore as we were really exposed to quite a wide cross-section of comic art.

In the early seventies, 1973, I went to New York to one of the early comic book conventions and took my samples up to DC and Marvel...Then I worked in British comics for ten years or so...And then amazingly, America came calling. Dick Giordano and Joe Orlando from DC came over here and invited various others whose work they’d seen...and they offered us jobs freelancing for DC...and I’ve worked for DC on and off probably ever since. More than 25 years now. So it’s funny how things happen. They came for me, rather than me coming for them...

As far as Alan was concerned, he and I actually tried to do stuff with DC, after I’d been working for them...I actually got a call from [Watchmen editor] Len Wein asking me for Alan’s phone number because they thought he might be able to do something with Swamp Thing. So that was how Alan ended up working for DC. Again, they came looking for him.

“Have I experienced conflicts and controversies within the industry similar to those Alan Moore has had?” Well, probably not similar to those Alan has had. I think you have to respect the fact that Alan, Frank Miller and possibly very few other people are in possibly a different league than most of us who work in the comic book industry...I think the pressures on him and the conflicts that he’s been put in have been in a slightly different league than a lot of the rest of us.

Having said that, to me, it’s just like another day at the office...I try not to take things personally, I try to always communicate if I’m unhappy with something. I have had discussions with DC. Always polite, always to-the-point...But then, it’s to say that I haven’t the pressures put on me that I know Alan has from time to time.

Craig Baillie: Watchmen presents an extremely layered approach in the way it is illustrated. There were many hidden smiley faces, clocks approaching midnight, and other visual puns in the background of many of the comic’s panels. Was all of that preplanned, or did you go back to make adjustments to previous panels in order to get those things in there?

Dave Gibbons: There is a lot of layering and again, that’s great fun to do. If you can strike a chord or hit a rhythm, that’s quite a nice thing to do in a piece like Watchmen.

The similarity of the clock face and the smiley face became evident quite early on and indeed, the exact angle of the blood splash does relate to the clock ticking up to midnight. And then, various things would occur to me, where I think “Why not just make that into a smiley face motif? Why not have something hidden that the readers can get a kick out of when they see it?”

...There’s one actual appearance of the smiley which until it was pointed out to me, at the very end of drawing the whole series, I didn’t even realize was there! That’s the plug on the spark hydrant, the electric hydrant, where if you look at it, the two slots where the plug goes into and the thickness of the thing at the bottom, the thickness of the recess actually makes itself into a smiley face as well. So, there’s stuff in there that even I didn’t plan that the Powers That Be put in there.

As for going back to make adjustments to previous panels, I’m afraid we didn’t have the luxury of doing that...When we came to do the Absolute Edition, I did make one adjustment to the artwork. There are also some continuity errors in there which not many people have noticed, but things that I’m aware of that were tempting to be changed, but I’ve resisted that temptation because once you start changing things, you’ll be doing it for the rest of your life.

Will: How much Christian symbolism in the comic series was intentional? Is the back of Adrian’s chair at Karnak a Star of David, or just a stylized Masonic square and compass?

Dave Gibbons: I’m not really aware of there being any Christian symbolism in there. Certainly, I didn’t attempt to put any in there. I don’t think that Alan suggested any...As far as the back of Adrian’s chair...yes, it is reminiscent of a Masonic symbol...

Jeff Davidson: Which character from Watchmen was your favorite to draw and which was your least favorite? Have you ever redesigned or redrawn any of the characters or costumes in your private time?

Dave Gibbons: Wow. Well, I tried to design the characters so that they were all fun to draw. I’ve worked on some stuff where the characters are being designed by other people and I really haven’t liked the design. And it’s a real pain, day in and day out, to have to live with a character who you really detest the look of.

...If I had a favorite character to draw, anybody out there who’s ever gotten me to sign their Watchmen trade paperback or whatever knows that...the one that I’ll draw is Rorschach...“Have I ever redesigned or redrawn any of them in my private time?” Well, I’ve sort of drawn them enough that I have done odd little doodles where I’ve done funny versions of them, just to keep myself going...But no, I’m very happy with the designs that I spent time coming up with in the first place and I’m happy to stick with them.

Tony: Were there any panels or pages in Watchmen that were particularly tricky to draw?

Dave Gibbons: Many of them. Many of them were tricky to draw. I mean, if it’s not tricky, in a way, where’s the fun in it?

I certainly had to know what I was doing as far as composition was concerned, because there were a lot of elements in some of the pictures to put in a very small space...So I would say it was all tricky to draw, but I enjoyed doing it.

(Part III on the next page.)

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