Dave Gibbons talks digital comics and 'very exciting' new platforms

When most fans think of Dave Gibbons, his seminal work with Alan Moore on Watchmen is likely the first thing that comes to mind. However, the acclaimed artist and writer prefers to look toward the future, even brushing aside a question about Before Watchmen, the sprawling DC Comics miniseries that’s been the topic of so many recent conversations, with a terse, “I have no comment on that.”

During Kapow! Comic Convention, Robot 6 spoke briefly with the legendary creator about his views on digital comics, DC’s New 52 and the state of the industry.

Robot 6: You’re seen as a huge influence, but who excites you in the field these days?

Dave Gibbons: Asking an open ended-question like that is very dangerous, ‘cause invariably I’ll think of people who I greatly admire when you’re not here. I can say in general what I find interesting at the moment are the creator-owned books. I’m really pleased with all the things like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, where people can get finance to do their own comics. The Internet allows people to very quickly build up a large audience. It allows publishing without huge overheads, which is very positive. I love the fact that in today’s comic world, classic work is readily available in brand-new formats, such as the IDW Artist’s Edition series.

So you think things are in a healthy state?

Well, I think the big companies are in trouble. It’s the conundrum of comics: Companies know they can sell people the sorts of stories they know people already want, or they can try and break new ground. But when things get back, the tendency is to go with what you know people respond to.

What are your thoughts on the new measures to hook in new readers -- reboots and the like?

Well, what DC is doing with the New 52 isn’t exactly for me, but I’m on good terms with my local comic shop and it’s interesting to discuss it with a retailer. His reaction to the relaunch was really positive. It generated a lot of publicity, and got a lot of people in.

The regime within DC has changed, and while before they had more of a separate stance they are very much just a component in the larger Warner Bros. company now, and obviously it is incumbent on them to want to make money here. It’s a business decision and wouldn’t what I would do, given the choices. But then I’m a writer and artist and not a businessman. I wouldn’t begrudge them trying things.

You’ve mentioned an appreciation for digital comics and the use of tablet devices for comics. Do you wish to move your work more into that arena?

Well, I’m involved with a company called Madefire who are about to launch what I think is a very interesting iPad app. There’s rather more to it than that, but I think they should launch it instead of me preempting it. But, yes, they’re using one of my properties on this new platform, and it’s all very exciting. It’s like how your eyes became open to what was possible in the comic medium, the same thing is happening with digital. And I’m not talking about things like straightforward “motion comics” or bad animation. I mean new ways of juxtaposing words and pictures.

I’m attracted to things which are a reading experience rather than a viewing experience. In other words, interactive things which rely on you setting the pace, engaging you as a reader.

For my money, I will always want a book, something about the physical object, but I can see people buying episodic comics by digital means before getting the collected editions as a nice, well-produced book.

It’s a shame. The Internet never gets dusty.

(laughs) It’s very true.

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