Archaeologizing Watchmen: An Interview With Dave Gibbons

When acclaimed artist Dave Gibbons sat down to create epochal comic book series Watchmen with writer Alan Moore, neither had any idea what was to come.

“I don’t think we ever thought that we were going to produce the Citizen Kane of comics,” Gibbons confessed in a lengthy interview.

The painstaking process of creating Watchmen — a transformative title that remains as vital today as when first published in the mid-’80s — is recounted in Watching the Watchmen, Gibbons’ behind-the-scenes art book that offers a deep peek into the making of one of speculative fiction’s finest releases.

Recently released to coincide with the mounting buzz surrounding Zack Snyder’s cinematic adaptation of Watchmen, which is due in 2009, the big, beautiful book collects Gibbons’ exhaustive notes, sketches and other material into one of our choice stocking-stuffers of the holiday season.

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Watching the Watchmen also carves out a well-deserved corner of comics fandom for Gibbons’ artistry, which has often been overshadowed by Alan Moore’s outspoken genius.

“People unacquainted with graphic novels, including journalists, tend to think of Watchmen as a book by Alan Moore that happens to have some illustrations,” says Gibbons. “And that does a disservice to the entire form.”

Unlike Moore, whose distaste for Hollywood and cinematic versions of his work is legend, Gibbons has gotten behind Snyder’s movie with gusto. He’s impressed by what he has seen already and hungers for more, but it’s no wonder: His artwork is directly quoted at length by the film. In fact, Snyder once showed me his sketchbook for Watchmen, which in some sections was a panel-for-panel lift from the original. That kind of homage could keep Watchmen loyalists, especially the cynics, at bay when the film finally drops.

Whatever the fan reaction, Gibbons’ own legend is secure. From his acclaimed work on Watchmen, 2000 AD and Doctor Who to DC Comics’ crown jewels like Batman, Superman, Green Lantern and more, he has proven to be one of comics’ greatest artists. Wired.com landed some lucky minutes with Gibbons to talk about his new book and the upcoming film, and why sucking on a sugar-coated chili is better than sucking on a sweetie.

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