Unlike his counterpart, writer Alan Moore, "Watchmen" artist Dave Gibbons has enjoyed a pleasurable Hollywood experience. Never seeing his name taken in vein or asked for a deposition, Gibbons has been able to be the book's representative to a group of filmmakers and actors anxious to bring the material to life with reverence and verisimilitude. CBR News talked with Gibbons about the film version of his classic DC Comics graphic novel, about Alan Moore, and about some of the ancillary items connected with the "Watchmen" juggernaut.
His experience has been so free of pain, Dave Gibbons questions his ability to appraise the film's adaptation. "I'm the worst person in the world to ask in a way," he told CBR. Being the illustrator of the story, Gibbons thinks contribution has been faithfully replicated. "I sit in the dark and watch the movie and it's a bit like what I saw when I closed my eyes when I was drawing the comic books and you see it happening ... there are frames in there that are just bang on. I must say I was slightly worried. I love the movie. I've been enthusiastic. And I have the odd moment where I wonder, am I just flattered that they bothered to make a movie of it?"
Opening this week, "Watchmen" is finally being seen by people outside of the production. The response has reassured Gibbons. "Last weekend, we showed some footage, the first eighteen minutes, to two and a half thousand people at New York Comic Con and they loved it. They stamped. They cheered. They gasped. They were shouting, 'Again!' And that was a tremendous relief to me," the artist confessed.
Gibbons does wish Alan Moore could participate and share in his excitement. "I am really sad that he has had a bad experience with Hollywood and that he can't see his way to be a part of this because I do think, finally, that Hollywood has done right by him," Gibbons said.
Moore attempted to write a screenplay with ex-Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren called "Fashion Beast" in the late 1980s. That experience soured him on screenwriting. The subsequent adaptations of "From Hell" and "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" further cemented his feelings about the filmmaking process. Litigation regarding a screenplay similar to "League" resulted in Moore giving a deposition; an experience he did not enjoy. While such suits are common in Hollywood, they were totally unnatural for the British author. Following a misunderstanding with producers of "V for Vendetta," Moore swore off Hollywood, the money, and even his writing credit.
In the case of "Watchmen," Gibbons thinks this unfortunate. "Everybody that I've met that's got anything to do with this movie wants to do right by Alan and by me and certainly used all their powers to make it something that we would be happy with," he said. On screen, Gibbons is credited as "co-creator," a title he finds odd. "It does seem very strange to see my name up there alone because it looks unbalanced and you do ask the question, so who's the other co-creator or it?" he posits. There is one benefit. "The best thing about it, and it has [already] happened, is that many people are aware of 'Watchmen' and will go buy the graphic novel and will read Alan's work in the way that it was meant to be experienced. And will hopefully read other work by Alan."
As previously reported, Moore read an earlier version of the "Watchmen" screenplay by David Hayter. Moore was complimentary of that draft and to Hayter. While this was before the "League" deposition, Gibbons indicated this is keeping with Moore's true nature. "Alan isn't a moody, nasty, difficult, awkward guy. He's a really nice guy. He's a very friendly guy. He's creatively very encouraging. It's really business and financial and legal things which have pissed him off, not what anybody's done creatively."
Asked if Moore might eventually watch the film, something the author has categorically said will never happen, Gibbons responded, "It's hard to say. Alan is a man of principle. Obviously, the scoop picture would be to get him creeping out of Blockbuster one night with it under his arm. If he says he isn't going to see it, then he isn't going to see it."
While Gibbons will never attempt to convince Moore to watch film, he says Moore is probably inundated with the film's advertising back in his home of Northampton, England. "Even where I live," Gibbons said, "in the rural depths of England, I can't walk into my little corner store without seeing movie mags with 'Watchmen' in that black and yellow and pictures of Doctor Manhattan. I don't know if curiosity would eventually get the better of [Alan]. I really couldn't predict."
Besides movie magazines, billboards and posters, the film has a great deal of ancillary items coming to market. Gibbons said he had some involvement in that area. "I've some licensing out to DC. It's a slightly different thing than doing the comic. It's a commercial art job, but at least it kind of has my look to it."
While some might think merchandising is a betrayal of the material, it is an aspect of the book. Adrian Veidt makes toys and games based on his fellow crimebusters. Gibbons has an understanding that the products make sense. "I'm realistic enough to know that people want this stuff. There is a market for it and people are thrilled to have [it]," he explained.
The artist is particularly please with the action figure line. "They're [like] sculptures," Gibbons said. There is also one item he is excited to receive. "I can't wait to get my Owlship!"
The vast array of "Watchmen" products ranges from action figures to Rorschach ski masks to the more esoteric. "The condoms are extremely amusing," Gibbons remarked.
Asked about the film's few deviations from the original story, Gibbons says, like the merchandise, they are an acceptable reality of the movie making process. "If they're going to make a movie, there will be some compromises. I think they are all compromises I can live with."