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Watchmen Secrets Revealed

In Part I of our exclusive interview with Watchmen co-creator and illustrator Dave Gibbons, Dave discussed Alan Moore, the FOX lawsuit, and his opinion on the story’s morally ambiguous ending.

In Part II, Dave answered fan submitted questions on planning and creating the Watchmen comic series and even showed us an exclusive piece of early Watchmen concept art.

This week, in Part III, Dave answers fan submitted questions relating to some of the most talked about Watchmen mysteries and secrets. We would like to thank the fans for submitting such great questions, and of course Dave Gibbons for answering them. Now on to the interview…

Lawrence Rocha: We follow the Comedian’s descent from happy-go-lucky Edward Blake to a sort of sympathetic psychopath. All of this is accompanied by the changes in his facial features. Why did you and Alan Moore choose to showcase his inner state through the violence which causes his face to change as his story goes by?

Dave Gibbons: I think it’s almost inevitable that people change as they age. I know I have and I don’t know how old you are, but possibly you have as well. One of the challenges of drawing the Comedian and a lot of the other Watchmen characters is we do see them change with time. Superman has always stayed exactly the same. Frankly, sometimes he got younger. But it was very important to know exactly how old these characters were each time. Again, as in my answer to the previous question, I had model sheets which had them aging.

With the Comedian as well, there was this motif of injury to his face. Because he’s rather a vain man, and it’s like “No, no, not the face!” So we see him getting scratched by Sally Jupiter when he attempts to rape her and then he gets his face cut open by the pregnant Vietnamese woman in the bar with the broken bottle. Then of course, the blood ends up across his symbol, which is the smiley face. And so that was a recurring motif, which I think gave the character an extra dimension.

I suppose another thing that occurs to me is that it’s said that peoples’ characters are shown in their faces, and I think that’s probably true. Given that comics now are a marriage of words and pictures, I think that it’s very important to use the pictures to get over whatever effect is appropriate. I think that’s an effect that you’ve identified there, and I must admit it hadn’t occurred to me quite that way before. So, good call. I think what you’re talking about there is a good example of that.

Sean B.: Amongst the more intense fans, there is much debate over the specifics of The Comedian’s murder. Some people seem to think that he fought back, while others feel he just gave up. Even those who share the same opinions on the matter have different reasons for thinking so; some think Blake didn’t fight back because he was drunk and overwhelmed while others think he just accepted his defeat. Is there a definitive answer, or is the reader supposed to draw their own conclusion?

Dave Gibbons: I think what you’ve got to remember is that the Comedian, when we see him at the time of his murder, is quite a lot older. Although he’s still a hefty guy and he’s obviously kept in shape, he’s not as quick as he once was, probably, and not as strong as he once was. Realizing that he’s up against Adrian Veidt – although we don’t realize it at that time – who is the fittest man in the world, the best-trained athlete, he’s probably thinking “You know, realistically speaking, I’m not going to win this.” I think he puts up a fight, I don’t think he’s drunk, I don’t think he willingly dies. But I think he reaches the point where he’s seen it coming. I think he says as much to Moloch and I think he knows his day has come.

There’s an Arabic saying that “Until my day comes, nothing can harm me and when my day comes, nothing can save me.” I think possibly he’s in that frame of mind. It’s like seeing Adrian Veidt crash through his door and he thinks to himself “Well, this is it.”

Christian Cogan: There’s a question I have always wondered about – to which I was never able to find a definitive answer about in the graphic novel. The question is, why is Dr. Manhattan’s skin blue? Was it just a stylistic choice or was there some deliberate story-related reason why you chose that color?

Dave Gibbons: Actually, Dr. Manhattan is not the only blue character that I’ve created the look of. I co-created a character called “Rogue Trooper,” who appeared in the British weekly comic 2000 AD, and he had blue skin. Rather reptilian skin.

I like blue because it kind of reads the same kind of tone as skin, or as Jon Osterman’s skin would’ve read. But it’s obviously not real human skin. Green makes you think of bug-eyed monsters like aliens, yellow is too strong a color, red looks artificial. A light blue kind of looks like skin tonally, but looks completely different from it in its hue. I think it also relates to the way you might visualize electrical energy or atomic energy. That it’s a kind of blue, pure energy. A cold energy, unlike fire or flame, which is what a red color would make you think of.

That was really why I chose blue. I think I just came up with the color and Alan incorporated it in the story. It didn’t make a lot of difference in the story which color he was, but I think visually, that blue was the right color for him. And it worked very well with the colors of the costumes of the other characters, and also the fact that John Higgins and his color palette didn’t use a lot of blue as a background color. So I think for that reason, it worked.

Steve H.: In the scene where Rorschach is holding Nite Owl’s hand on the Owlship for just a little too long, were you and Moore commenting on the character’s sexuality, just trying to show that he’s lonely, or something else?

Dave Gibbons: What it was really about was like an embarrassing moment. It was like Rorschach, not really being very much of a social animal, didn’t know quite how long to hold on when he shook somebody’s hand. It was actually holding on too long.

I’m sure we’ve all met people like that, who maybe stand too close to you, or speak too loudly or too softly, or who touch you inappropriately — not in a sexual way at all — but there’s just something about how you deal with people in a social or an intimate situation, that if you’re not practiced at it, you can easily just go wrong.

I think this would particularly affect Dan, because Dan is very aware of that kind of thing. He’s very embarrassed when he’s around Laurie and very aware of the proprieties and politeness of everything. I think Rorschach is just uncertain about holding onto his hand for too long. You know, Dan was his friend, he wanted to like Rorschach, but he just felt uncomfortable. So I guess it’s something to do with Rorschach being lonely and unpracticed in dealing with human beings.

AYBGerrardo: We’ve all heard that you have seen Zack Snyder’s rough cut of the movie. How long was it? Were you pleased with what you saw? Was there anything that you weren’t particularly thrilled about?

Dave Gibbons: I’ll try and answer this comprehensively and clearly because I know that people have been very concerned about reports that have come back about the movie. There is a tendency, naturally, when you’re anxious about something that you’re going to read patterns and read stuff that isn’t really there. So I’ll try and be unambiguous.

I have seen the rough cut of the movie. I saw it the Tuesday after the San Diego Comic-Con, in Burbank in California. I was at the same screening as Kevin Smith and his buddy, and also David Hayter and Alex Tse, who are the screenwriters for it. Zack was there with his wife Debbie, and Wesley Collier with his wife, and the producers of the movie, Lloyd Levin and Larry Gordon. It was what they call a “friends and family screening,” so we were all there to see it and to give feedback on it.

[long pause] What can I tell you? Obviously, I’m not going to say anything that’s going to give away specific questions about what’s in or what’s out, because I don’t really think that’s helpful to anybody. And I don’t really think you want to know. But a lot of my favorite scenes are in there. Many, many of what I think are the best scenes that we did are in there.

Some scenes aren’t. The cut that I saw didn’t have the “Black Freighter” material in it. Although, as you probably know in the same way that I do — in other words, by reading on the Internet — this is being produced and, for all I know, one time will be integrated with the rest of the material.

[pause] There are scenes in the movie that weren’t in the graphic novel. And when you think about it, this is inevitable as well. In the graphic novel, we had a huge luxury of space. We had hundreds and hundreds of pages, the equivalent of hours and hours of film. Anybody who deals with story knows that sometimes you have to amalgamate stuff. This, I think, has been done very successfully in the Watchmen movie.

[long pause, chuckles] I’m only pausing because I’m just trying to be quite clear about what I should say and what I shouldn’t say, and I only mean that from the point of view of I don’t want to give any spoilers. I don’t want to say anything that’s going to be misleading. Not that anybody at the studio or anybody connected with this has told me anything I must or mustn’t say.

I really enjoyed it as a movie. I thought it was a great movie. It was a long movie, I think the cut I saw was about two hours and fifty minutes. I’m not sure about that, because I wasn’t timing it. I was just enjoying it. And I enjoyed every minute of it. I could have done with more of it. I mean, as you can appreciate, I’m unique in all the world sitting in the dark watching this, because it could easily be confused with me lying in the dark with my eyes shut, dreaming up the images in the first place. So many of the images in there are the essence of what I saw in my head when I came to design scenes based on Alan’s script. So, there was a really, rather dreamlike and surreal quality to it.

The film is very rich. It moves backwards and forwards in time, just as the graphic novel does, so each time period is very clearly delineated and very clearly identifiable, which means there had to be huge attention to set dressing and cars and costumes and hairstyles and music, all those kinds of things. A lot of almost subliminal things that you don’t really realize are necessary to set something in its correct time.

All of the performances, I really enjoyed. I think all of the actors made their characters come very convincingly alive for me. I wouldn’t want to pick out one over anybody else, but I don’t think there’s a weak performance in there. And they certainly came vividly alive to me in both their identities. It’s strange to play Dan Dreiberg and then play Nite Owl. And it’s a lot more subtle than, you know, “This is a case for… Superman!” It’s quite a difficult trick, I imagine.

[long pause] What can I tell you? [another long pause] It’s very fast-moving. It is very violent and it is very sexy and I made some remarks at the BFI show in London and those two phrases were quoted and I know they caused some people some dismay. It isn’t a violent sex film, it just happens to have those amongst the other elements, just as the comic book did. In that respect, it’s very, very true to the comic book. It undoubtedly deserves an adult rating, and certainly there are some very brutal scenes in it, and – as you know, from reading the graphic novel — things that you don’t normally expect heroes to be doing.

“Was there anything I wasn’t particularly thrilled about?” Yeah, I started to get an uncomfortable feeling in my bladder about an hour from the end, but I managed to overcome that. Funnily enough, the first time I got the chance to say anything to Zack after I’d seen it was when we were both in the men’s room, having made a run for it. I wanted to shake him by the hand, but it wasn’t really appropriate.

As I said, feedback was very much solicited from everybody that had been there, and I did give some extensive feedback. Very much a work in progress, things that clearly were unfinished, a lot of the computer graphics were unfinished, characters had wires on them and things that obviously were going to be removed at the post-production stages hadn’t yet been done. But even in that rough state, I really, really enjoyed it. It was unlike any movie that I’d seen before. It did have that richness, it had that sense of sweep across time and across space as well, going from the forties up to the eighties and from New York City to Antarctica to Mars, and a kaleidoscope of characters major and minor. I really did think that it is an experience and a kind of a movie-going experience that hasn’t been… experienced before [chuckles].

I can’t wait for everybody to see it. That’s the feeling I got from everybody involved with it, as well. I really can’t wait to get feedback on it. And certainly, having seen the screening at San Diego — though I only saw that on a monitor, which was a little bit frustrating, because of where I was sitting up on the stage — but when it was shown again at the BFI event in London, I got the chance to sit in the audience and see it twice on the big screen. Just an amazing experience, and I think I speak for everybody else in the audience there as well, you can feel the crowd just absolutely lapping it up.

So rest easy. Rest easy, people, I really don’t think you’re going to be disappointed. I certainly wasn’t.

Nathan: So many other directors have tried to make a Watchmen movie. Have you ever met with any of them? Were you invited by any of them to consult on their films?

Dave Gibbons: I did meet Joel Silver, way back after the graphic novel I think had just been released as a graphic novel. Alan and I met Joel and Jeanette Kahn, who was then publishing DC Comics. We had lunch in London and we talked about the movie. Joel was just… he was like a Hollywood movie guy from central casting. He was loud, enthusiastic, rather brash… not quite talking about the same thing that Alan and I were talking about when we talked about Watchmen. But we had a cordial lunch and we concluded it as friends. He suggested, memorably, that Arnold Schwarzenegger should play Dr. Manhattan, which we let past because he also said that he thought Arnold Schwarzenegger should play Sgt. Rock, which felt like a bit of a stretch to me. But apparently, the plot was that now Rock was an immigrant – or his father was an immigrant — to the USA, and had always been suspected because of his German-ness and him now commanding a platoon against the Nazis was his chance to redeem himself and prove that he was a true blue American.

Anyway, that was the meeting with Joel Silver, and then, the movie got passed around a little bit. Terry Gilliam, at one point, was in the frame to direct it. I know that Alan met with him briefly, I never had the chance to meet him. So really, until Zack came on board, I hadn’t really had a lot to do with the movie adaptations of it. My mum, when she was alive, used to read me snippets from the tabloid newspapers. You know, “Oh, the Monty Python man’s making a film of your comic! Oh, that’ll be funny!”

But once Zack got on board… I actually introduced myself to him at the premiere of 300 in London and immediately hit it off with him. The guy was very enthusiastic. I knew from the very beginning, seemed to me to completely get Watchmen. And since then, I’ve consulted… I suppose quite a lot. I was shown an early draft of the script and asked to comment. I have done a little bit of production storyboard for him in the form of drawing sequences in the style of the comic — and having them colored by John Higgins — that hadn’t actually appeared in the original graphic novel, because he wanted to see how we would have handled them if they had. Which I think shows a commitment.

As you know, I got to go to the set and see a couple of scenes being filmed. The scene that I really saw at great length was the Crimebusters meeting, which was amazing to see everybody in costume and just amazing to hear those words spoken and smell the cigar smoke and actually being in the presence of all these people. And again, the great sense of commitment came over. Do believe me, everything that I’ve said about attention to detail and everybody’s commitment… I’ve got my hand on my heart, it’s absolutely true. It’s not blowing smoke at all. It was quite staggering to see how much everybody was into it and how much they were using the graphic novel as a shooting script and a bible.

11.3.08 Source:

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