Dave Gibbons Speaks On Watchmen (Parts 2 & 3)


Lawrence Rocha: We follow the Comedian’s descent from happy-go-lucky Edward Blake to a sort of sympathetic psychopath. All of this is accompanied by the changes in his facial features. Why did you and Alan Moore choose to showcase his inner state through the violence which causes his face to change as his story goes by?

Dave Gibbons: I think it’s almost inevitable that people change as they age...One of the challenges of drawing the Comedian and a lot of the other Watchmen characters is we do see them change with time...With the Comedian...Because he’s rather a vain’s like “No, no, not the face!” So we see him getting scratched by Sally Jupiter when he attempts to rape her and then he gets his face cut open by the pregnant Vietnamese woman in the bar with the broken bottle. Then of course, the blood ends up across his symbol, which is the smiley face. And so that was a recurring motif, which I think gave the character an extra dimension.

I suppose another thing that occurs to me is that it’s said that peoples’ characters are shown in their faces...I think that’s an effect that you’ve identified there...So, good call. I think what you’re talking about there is a good example of that.

Sean B.: Amongst the more intense fans, there is much debate over the specifics of The Comedian’s murder. Some people seem to think that he fought back, while others feel he just gave up...Is there a definitive answer, or is the reader supposed to draw their own conclusion?

Dave Gibbons: I think what you’ve got to remember is that the Comedian, when we see him at the time of his murder, is quite a lot older...not as strong as he once was...I think he puts up a fight...I don’t think he willingly dies. But I think he reaches the point where he’s seen it coming. I think he says as much to Moloch and I think he knows his day has come.

There’s an Arabic saying that “Until my day comes, nothing can harm me and when my day comes, nothing can save me..."

Christian Cogan: There’s a question I have always wondered about...why is Dr. Manhattan’s skin blue? Was it just a stylistic choice or was there some deliberate story-related reason why you chose that color?

Dave Gibbons: Actually, Dr. Manhattan is not the only blue character that I’ve created the look of. I co-created a character called “Rogue Trooper,” who appeared in the British weekly comic 2000 AD, and he had blue skin. Rather reptilian skin.

I like blue because it kind of reads the same kind of tone as skin...but looks completely different from it in its hue. I think it also relates to the way you might visualize electrical energy or atomic energy. That it’s a kind of blue, pure energy. A cold energy, unlike fire or flame, which is what a red color would make you think of.

That was really why I chose blue. I think I just came up with the color and Alan incorporated it in the story... blue was the right color for him. And it worked very well with the colors of the costumes of the other characters...So I think for that reason, it worked.

Steve H.: In the scene where Rorschach is holding Nite Owl’s hand on the Owlship for just a little too long, were you and Moore commenting on the character’s sexuality, just trying to show that he’s lonely, or something else?

Dave Gibbons: What it was really about was like an embarrassing moment. It was like Rorschach, not really being very much of a social animal, didn’t know quite how long to hold on when he shook somebody’s hand. It was actually holding on too long.

I’m sure we’ve all met people like that, who maybe stand too close to you, or speak too loudly or too softly, or who touch you inappropriately — not in a sexual way at all — but there’s just something about how you deal with people in a social or an intimate situation, that if you’re not practiced at it, you can easily just go wrong.

AYBGerrardo: We’ve all heard that you have seen Zack Snyder’s rough cut of the movie. How long was it? Were you pleased with what you saw? Was there anything that you weren’t particularly thrilled about?

Dave Gibbons: I’ll try and answer this comprehensively and clearly because I know that people have been very concerned about reports that have come back about the movie...

I have seen the rough cut of the movie. I saw it the Tuesday after the San Diego Comic-Con, in Burbank in California. I was at the same screening as Kevin Smith and his buddy...Zack was there with his wife Debbie...It was what they call a “friends and family screening,”...[long pause] What can I tell you...Many, many of what I think are the best scenes that we did are in there.

Some scenes aren’t. The cut that I saw didn’t have the “Black Freighter” material in it. Although...this is being produced and, for all I know, one time will be integrated with the rest of the material.

[pause] There are scenes in the movie that weren’t in the graphic novel. And when you think about it, this is inevitable as well...sometimes you have to amalgamate stuff. This, I think, has been done very successfully in the Watchmen movie...I don’t want to give any spoilers. I don’t want to say anything that’s going to be misleading. Not that anybody at the studio or anybody connected with this has told me anything I must or mustn’t say.

I really enjoyed it as a movie...It was a long movie, I think the cut I saw was about two hours and fifty minutes...And I enjoyed every minute of it. I could have done with more of it. I mean, as you can appreciate, I’m unique in all the world sitting in the dark watching this...So many of the images in there are the essence of what I saw in my head when I came to design scenes based on Alan’s script. So, there was a really, rather dreamlike and surreal quality to it.

The film is very rich. It moves backwards and forwards in time, just as the graphic novel does, so each time period is very clearly delineated and very clearly identifiable, which means there had to be huge attention to set dressing and cars and costumes and hairstyles and music, all those kinds of things. A lot of almost subliminal things that you don’t really realize are necessary to set something in its correct time.

All of the performances, I really enjoyed. I think all of the actors made their characters come very convincingly alive for me. I wouldn’t want to pick out one over anybody else, but I don’t think there’s a weak performance in there...

...It is very violent and it is very sexy...It isn’t a violent sex film, it just happens to have those amongst the other elements, just as the comic book did. In that respect, it’s very, very true to the comic book. It undoubtedly deserves an adult rating, and certainly there are some very brutal scenes in it, and – as you know, from reading the graphic novel — things that you don’t normally expect heroes to be doing.

“Was there anything I wasn’t particularly thrilled about?” Yeah, I started to get an uncomfortable feeling in my bladder about an hour from the end, but I managed to overcome that. Funnily enough, the first time I got the chance to say anything to Zack after I’d seen it was when we were both in the men’s room, having made a run for it. I wanted to shake him by the hand, but it wasn’t really appropriate.

...I did give some extensive feedback...But even in that rough state, I really, really enjoyed it. It was unlike any movie that I’d seen before. It did have that richness, it had that sense of sweep across time and across space as well, going from the forties up to the eighties and from New York City to Antarctica to Mars, and a kaleidoscope of characters major and minor. I really did think that it is an experience and a kind of a movie-going experience that hasn’t been… experienced before [chuckles].

I can’t wait for everybody to see it...I really can’t wait to get feedback on it...

So rest easy. Rest easy...I really don’t think you’re going to be disappointed. I certainly wasn’t.

Nathan: So many other directors have tried to make a Watchmen movie. Have you ever met with any of them? Were you invited by any of them to consult on their films?

Dave Gibbons: I did meet Joel Silver, way back after the graphic novel I think had just been released as a graphic novel. Alan and I met Joel and Jeanette Kahn, who was then publishing DC Comics. We had lunch in London and we talked about the movie. Joel was just… he was like a Hollywood movie guy from central casting. He was loud, enthusiastic, rather brash… not quite talking about the same thing that Alan and I were talking about when we talked about Watchmen. But we had a cordial lunch and we concluded it as friends. He suggested, memorably, that Arnold Schwarzenegger should play Dr. Manhattan...

Anyway, that was the meeting with Joel Silver, and then, the movie got passed around a little bit. Terry Gilliam, at one point, was in the frame to direct it. I know that Alan met with him briefly, I never had the chance to meet him. So really, until Zack came on board, I hadn’t really had a lot to do with the movie adaptations of it. My mum, when she was alive, used to read me snippets from the tabloid newspapers. You know, “Oh, the Monty Python man’s making a film of your comic! Oh, that’ll be funny!”

But once Zack got on board… I actually introduced myself to him at the premiere of 300 in London and immediately hit it off with him. The guy was very enthusiastic. I knew from the very beginning, seemed to me to completely get Watchmen. And since then, I’ve consulted… I suppose quite a lot. I was shown an early draft of the script and asked to comment. I have done a little bit of production storyboard for him in the form of drawing sequences in the style of the comic — and having them colored by John Higgins — that hadn’t actually appeared in the original graphic novel, because he wanted to see how we would have handled them if they had. Which I think shows a commitment.

As you know, I got to go to the set and see a couple of scenes being filmed...Do believe me, everything that I’ve said about attention to detail and everybody’s commitment… I’ve got my hand on my heart, it’s absolutely true. It’s not blowing smoke at all. It was quite staggering to see how much everybody was into it and how much they were using the graphic novel as a shooting script and a bible.


Wow. That is a pretty glowing endorsement. Makes me feel like I can trust that swell of heart and soul I experience every time I watch that latest Watchmen trailer. Will March 6, 2009 just get here already so I can see this flick?

You can read the full versions of part 2 and part 3 of the Dave Gibbons interview over at the official Watchmen Movie Website. BUT BE WARNED, THERE ARE A LOT OF SPOILERS.

When you've read your fill, let us know what you think--do you believe Dave Gibbons' assessment? Or do you remain skeptical that a Watchmen movie can ever rise to the exceptional heights of the graphic novel?


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