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Look out for more coverage of
Watchmen in our magazines

SUBJECT: Watchmen

Dave Gibbons David Gibbons

Best known for his award-winning comic series-turned-graphic novel, Watchmen, which he illustrated and co-created with writer Alan Moore, David Gibbons spoke with Starburst about turning their popular cult classic into a new motion picture.
The story is set in an alternate 1985 America, and follows the masked vigilante Rorschach who, when one of his former colleagues is murder, attempts to gather his crime-fighting legion together again to solve the mystery.

Some people called this graphic novel unfilmable at one time, how do you think it came out?
I think it came out really well, I think to Zack [Snyder, the director] unfilmable is a challenge rather than, ĎOh, letís not bother.í I think to say anything is undoable probably shows a lack of vision. Clearly the movie is a different beast than the comic book. The story in its purist, primal form is the comic book, but I think the movie has a lot of the virtues of the comic book and is an exciting translation of it.

Did you feel it was as incredibly faithful as I did?:
Original Gibbons illustrationI did. In a way Iím the worst person in the world to ask, because when I was drawing the comic book I would sit in my room and close my eyes and see a little movie and then draw that, so to sit there and watch the movie was a bit like seeing that again for real. It would kind of morph along and then it would crystallize into a picture that I would draw, and then move on to another picture Iíd draw. But certainly a lot of my favorite scenes are there, more or less intact. A lot of Alanís wonderful dialogue is more or less intact; many of the compositions that I did are there. I thought it packed an incredible emotional weight as well. So I think on every level the amount of detail, the moral ambiguity of it, I canít imagine being happier.

What did you think about the inkblots moving around on Rorshachís mask?:
Rorschach, graphic novel and film versionsWell, that was chilling, We always had an idea that that would be a really scary thing to see in real life. In the comic book of course we could only approximate by showing it changing. And I have met people at comic conventions masquerades with a static mask, and thatís unsettling enough. Itís like talking to somebody whoís got really dark glasses and you canít see what theyíre thinking, but to have it moving as well is really, really eerie and unsettling. In the comic book all we could really do was have three panels where it was the same shot in each one, but the blot changed. I generated a lot of random Rorschach blots before I drew it, because the most difficult thing to do is randomness, the highest pinnacle of Zen art is to make things look like they just existed. And amazingly theyíve actually stuck to those blots in the movie.

What do you think about Hollywoodís obsession with comic books, now itís a situation where it seems a lot of comic book creators are making comics in the hopes of getting movie deals?
It was never the pinnacle of my ambition, or Alanís ambition, that there be a movie. They are two completely different beasts. There was very early on an interest in Watchmen. I think to make it into some kind of action movie, which would have been horrible. And I think other than in name, a lot of movies that Hollywood has made recently have been superhero movies anyway, the Bruce Willis movies, with a strong central figure with almost supernatural powers. And I think that a lot of comic book properties have really stood the test of time. The fact that Superman or Batman have been around for sixty years, seventy years, shows thereís something at the root of them that really gets a hold on people. I know what youíre saying about people who bring out a comic book series just as a pitch for a movie, I think thatís a bit unfortunate, although itís very hard nowadays not to somewhere in your mind think, ĎOh right, thatís the end of Act 2,í but we never designed Watchmen to be the movie.

Do you have a favorite character?:
Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson)Really it would have to be Nite Owl, because Nite Owl was a character that I came up with the name and the costume of the earlier version of it when I was kid, when I used make up my own comics. When Alan and I were creating Watchmen we knew he had to have kind of a Batman equivalent, and I suggested that, and that seemed to fit. And if I was a superhero, not to preempt your question, Iím probably Nite Owl, Iíd be the guy sat in the basement with all the gadgets rather than the psychopath out stalking the alleyways.

How did you feel about how they changed the ending?
Well, Iím quite relaxed about that. If youíre a rabid fan of something you donít want it changed at all, itís heresy and itís awful, and I can be a rabid fan and I quite understand that. However, I do think in the case of watching the movie verses watching the graphic novel, itís a movie full of special effects. What [the villain] actually does [in the graphic novel] is he just produces this incredible special effect, and so I think it wouldnít, in a way, had the same power, it would just be another amazing thing. And what I particularly like is the way they tied the movieís resolution back into the story, itís not like theyíve chopped one ending off, and instead of a squid theyíd given us an alien in a spaceship, what happens is an integral part of the whole story, so Iím very happy with it and I think it works fine.

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

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Feature © 2009 Visual Imagination.
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