are a few of the subtle design elements that someone viewing this comic
likely wouldn’t find on first glance? What similarities will the
audience notice between the comics and the movie?
always tried to make the design of the panels and the design of the
pages very clear and straightforward so that you look at what I want
you to look at and you read the story in the way that we wanted it to
unfold. I did put a lot of background detail in, but I always made
that subservient and secondary to the narrative drive of it. You know,
it’s easy to cram a thing with details and then it becomes confusion
really, rather than any sort of detailed order. I think the same thing
happens in the movie as well. The drama is pretty straight forwardly
expressed, and you can follow the storyline very clearly, but there is
a lot of background detail. I think as with the comic book, there isn’t
anything in there that isn’t in there for a reason. There are a lot of
things I think will only be noticed on a second or third viewing.
said that there was an early treatment for the movie that seemed to
make the good versus evil more black and white. Will the resolution to
the adaptation of Watchmen still provide the moral ambiguity that was present in the graphic novel?
Yes, the ending has been changed and I think it has been changed very
intelligently and it doesn’t in any way change the ambiguity, or the
resolution, or the basic thrust of the ideas behind the story. I’m very
happy with it. There was in an early treatment an ending that was more
along the lines of good guy kills bad guy and gets girl. That isn’t
exactly what we have in the movie now. That was the first thing that
Zack told me when I walked on set. He told me that that ending had been
dispensed and that he’d gotten an ending that was much more sympathetic
to the graphic novel. And it is, and the moral ambiguity is still there
just as it was in the graphic novel.
Paste: How is Watchmen still relevant today as it was in the '80s?
think it’s interesting that Zack Snyder has chosen to set the movie in
the 80s. I think that gives a sort of timeless feel, it makes it a
period piece and we can look back on it and look at it as almost, not a
parable, but some sort of myth. The threat of imminent nuclear
destruction was very, very real in the '80s and the conflict between the
two sides was much more clear-cut than it is say today with the
so-called “War on Terror.” So, I think it has a relevance and a
timelessness to the story, and certainly it deals with concerns that
have always been present in the history of human civilization and human
Paste: It seems that there was a constant pressure over the years while Watchmen
was being worked on. Did you and Alan Moore have the story elements
hashed out before you started or was the script written as you went
the constant pressure was only really while we were doing the book,
which was a span of two years; two years and a couple of months was
the time I spent drawing it. Alan was obviously writing over that
period, but it took him considerably less time to write it than it did
for me to draw it just because drawing is more labor intensive. But in
Alan’s initial outline, which again you can read all of it in the back
of Absolute Watchmen (and there’s a photo of the particular document in Watching the Watchmen), it
was pretty much worked out. All of the main beats of the story were
there. Obviously, as with everything, it evolved as we went along. But
we did have the luxury of seeing the whole story before we started
really developing it, and also having plenty of time to design the
characters and think carefully about the culture of the alternate world
that we were depicting. So, yeah, the script was obviously written as we
went along; it was drawn as we went along but we had the road map
before we started.
mention the extensive, some would say "obsessive," notes that you took for the graphic novel. Did you see any of that translate to the actual
I don’t think it’s obsessive. I think if you want to do a thing
properly you have to take a lot of care. I’ve always found it’s easier
to draw comics if you know clearly in your head what you’re drawing,
rather than if you try and make it up as you go along. I always start
drawing any job by planning out to some degree the locales and trying
to nail the characters. If they’re existing characters, I’ll draw them
several times on rough paper just to get a feeling for them. The ideal
when you’re drawing a comic is to have everything in your head, not to
have to refer to notes. In fact, it’s a bit deceptive because although
there are notes and sketches, by the act of drawing them I’ve actually
internalized them and it means that I can sit there and draw only
having to refer back to the sketches with specific details and not for
the general feeling of a locale, or the body shape, or general head
shape of the things that I‘m drawing. It’s a good idea to plan these
things out beforehand, I’ve found.
Did any of this translate to the
actual movie? Oh, yeah. The movie is very faithful to the locales and
the characters, costumes and the bits and pieces. You know, people say
to me, "Did you do any drawings for the movie?" and I say, "Oh yeah, I’ve
done thousands, but I did them 25 years ago." I think my drawings are
so comprehensively three-dimensional, and I mean that descriptively, not
boastfully, that you could have built the movie sets from the comic
book. My background is in building construction; that’s what I trained
in rather than art. So I do have an understanding of structure in
three-dimensional space. I think I did before I learned about building,
it’s something that’s always been innate. I always liked construction
toys and plastic-model kits and things like that.
Paste: Can you describe the experience of stepping inside the Nite Owl’s ship?
something that I always loved: three-dimensional spaces and models and
everything like that. I took a particular pleasure in designing the Owl
ship. That probably was the most surreal and amazing experience, to
actually go onto the set and actually step inside the Nite Owl’s ship.
Even more so when they took the completed, tricked-out thing to the San
Diego Comic-Con and had it on display in the middle of the convention
floor. I got to sit in the command chair and move the joystick and
press the buttons on the console and that was like a dream come true.
I’m kind of working on them to give me the Owl ship. I don’t think they
will. I’d like to think it’ll go on exhibit somewhere, because it is
an incredible artifact.
Paste: Has there ever been the temptation to revisit the Watchmen characters in another comic? We’ve read that you and Alan Moore were talking about collaborating again.
Gibbons: Very near the time that we finished Watchmen we did kick around the idea of maybe doing Minute Men. You know, who were the precursors of the characters that were concerned in Watchmen.
We sort of considered doing that in a really innocent, kind of crude
sort of Golden Age comics style. Quite innocent and wide-eyed, but of
course with a dramatic twist that we all knew it was going to end very
badly. To be able to foreshadow some of those events might have been
amusing. But in the end we decided we should leave well enough alone.
DC was tempted to have spin-off titles from the comic book, The Comedian's Vietnam War Diary and Rorschach’s Journals
as an on-going series, but we were very frosty with our reception to
that, and I think wiser accounts have prevailed and they decided not to
do it. And that has remained the case to the present day with DC. I
don’t know if there will be a huge temptation to make a sequel to the
movie, but I think any attempt to add to Watchmen would
dilute it rather than enrich it. Alan and I may well collaborate again.
As I say, we are still friends. We’ve always enjoyed collaboration.
Alan is writing a 21st century guide to magic. You know, not conjuring,
not card tricks, but magic. He’s spoken to me about doing some
illustrations for that, which I’d be happy to do; it sounds like a
wonderful book. I don’t think it’d be a comic-strip collaboration, but
certainly to provide some illustration to Alan’s work is something I’d
be happy to do.
heard about bonus materials that are going to go along with the movie
including an animated pirate story. Does that mean the pirate comic
within the Watchmen graphic novel has been excised from the film?
saw the actual release cut last night as it happens, and there is no
pirate material in it, but my understanding—I haven’t heard this
explicitly from Zack or somebody—from what I’ve heard is that the DVD
version of the Watchmen
will include a version that does have all of the pirate comic stuff in
it integrated with the main story. That will obviously run quite a bit
longer than the theatrical release of the movie. I think something had
to go to make the movie of a practical length
to show in the cinema.
The pirate comic is a wonderful parallel thread and a kind of a
metaphor for the kind of psychological pain that Veidt is going
through, but it’s not essential to the narrative so I’m not surprised
that’s been cut. It’ll be real interesting for the real purists to
watch the movie with that intercut with it again and I’m certainly
looking forward to that.