Dave Gibbons on Watchmen, The Incredibles and digital art
Dave Gibbons on Watchmen, The Incredibles and digital art - "This file is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License"
Also In The News
England took a much-needed wicket in the second over of Australia's innings on the first day of the fourth Test at Edgbaston.
Monday, 10, Aug 2009 02:07
Though he's worked on the likes of 2000 AD, Superman and The Green Lantern, Dave Gibbons was one half of a team that changed the face of comic book, even literary history.
Gibbons' iconic art work for Alan Moore's masterly Watchmen, an ambitious and complex tale of Cold War paranoia and the only graphic novel to feature on Time magazine's list of the 100 greatest English-language novels ever, revealed the potential of the comic book to tell a multi-layered, sophisticated story for a variety of audiences. So advanced was Moore and Gibbons' novel that the ever-enterprising Terry Gilliam labelled it "unfilmable" and while Darren Aronofsky and Paul Greengrass were both attached and jettisoned, only 300 director Zack Snyder was able to convert Moore and Gibbons' dystopian vision into celluloid.
With the film now out on DVD and Blu-ray - click here to read the inthenews.co.uk review, Lewis Bazley speaks to one of the most influential artists in comic book history as he backs a campaign to find his successor.
Now that it's out on DVD, what's your appraisal of the film?
I've now seen it seven times, on everything from the back of an aircraft seat to an IMAX screen and I absolutely love the movie. After seven times I'm still seeing stuff I hadn't before and just this weekend I brought back the Director's Cut Blu-ray from the States and that is phenomenal. What's great about having it on Blu-ray and DVD is that, as with the graphic novel, you can almost step through every frame and really see what's going on. I think it's going to be a whole new experience for people who've loved the graphic novel and the film.
Is the Director's Cut DVD markedly different to the regular DVD release?
Yeah, there are a couple of extra scenes, most notably one featuring the death of Hollis Mason, the older Nite Owl. But there's also a lot of fleshing out of Silk Spectre and some more psychological Rorschach stuff, but it's generally just got more room to breathe.
What about Tales of the Black Freighter? Is that intercut or does it remain separate?
I have seen a version of the film which does include the Black Freighter stuff - I think that's going to be called the Ultimate Edition, and that's going to be out later in the year. I've done a commentary for it with Zack Snyder - I think there's going to be plenty to keep Watchmen fans entertained for a long time to come.
Could you understand the somewhat reaction to the movie when it was released? People who'd never read the book might have seen the trailer campaign and thought they were about to see a big, action-packed superhero movie and then were faced with an intelligent, dense, dark thriller - were people expecting the wrong film?
Well, I think people didn't really know what to expect and were just intrigued by it. I've spoken to people who thought it was going to be like X-Men and wanted more action and less talking, but my general experience, particularly with non-comic book fans, has been that they've really enjoyed it. I've been to see it with middle-aged friends of mine who'd never read a comic book in their life and they absolutely loved it. I think for everybody that was disappointed, my impression is that a lot more people have been surprised and pleased by what they've seen.
How did you feel Zack Snyder handled the transition of your artwork from page to screen?
From the first time I spoke to Zack, I got this gut feeling that he understood it and had the energy to do it. And also, because his previous film 300 was such a success, he had kind of clout at the studio to make it in his own way. So I was very pleased that what we saw was the product of one man's vision, rather than a committee. Zack has got a very acute visual sense and paid great homage to the images that Alan and I had come up with, even to the extent that, with the changed ending of the film, he got me to draw three pages of the comic book as if it had had that ending so he could see how I'd visualise it and could then base his version on that.
What comes across is that Zack is someone who was determined to remain very, very faithful to the source and was never going to change something significantly - you've said you're a fan of the movie, but Alan Moore's name isn't even on it. Can you understand his decision to distance himself from these films?
I absolutely understand Alan's position on this. He's not had a happy time in Hollywood and I think the movies that have been based on his work haven't been particularly good. And on a personal level, he's not been very well treated and he just made the decision before Watchmen was even finalised, that he didn't want to have anything more to do with Hollywood. I greatly respect his right to do that and also, he doesn't take the moral high ground and say that I shouldn't be involved with it - he just doesn't want anything to do with it at all and that's perfectly understandable.
When the comic was released in the 80s, it had the Cold War storyline to ground it in reality - do you think its message and appeal is as relevant as it was in the 1980s?
I think one of Zack's masterstrokes was to keep it set in the 1980s. I think if he'd tried to update it and make it about the so-called War on Terror, it would have been straining to be relevant about something we don't completely understand. Whereas by setting it 20 years ago and by making it about a very clear-cut difference between two political blocs, it did attain a mythic, universal feeling.
Would you also agree the stunning opening sequence to the film was one of Zack's masterstrokes?
Oh yeah, that was an incredibly effective way of getting all the back history over and also, I think it let the viewer know what they were in for by crediting them with some intelligence and letting them piece together this jigsaw of alternate history.
Another series you worked on was The Green Lantern - what do you think of Ryan Reynolds being cast as the character?
I have to admit to you, I'm largely unfamiliar with the gentleman of whom you speak! (laughs) But I think it sounds like a great premise for a movie. I worked on Green Lantern in the 80s and I've worked on the Green Lantern Corps books more recently, writing it as well, and I think that it's beginning to explore areas which make it extremely entertaining and up there with the best science fiction.
Your artistic style is especially iconic in its sometime adherence to the nine-panel style - were you influenced by the Golden Age artists when you started out?
I tend to try and adapt my art and lay-out for whatever I'm working on - the nine-panel style worked for Watchmen because it was a particularly complex story that we needed to tell in a very straightforward way. With things like Martha Washington, which Frank Miller wrote and we've got coming out soon, that's much more free-form and explosive. But growing up, I liked a lot of American artists - Jack Kirby, the king of comics, a lot of the Mad magazine artists like Wally Wood and Bill Elder and I also liked British artists like Frank Hampson, who created Dan Dare.
Have you seen echoes of your work in films and videogames? It's certainly notable in The Incredibles.
I agree, when I first saw that film I thought 'They won't be able to make a Watchmen film now, they've used all the best bits!' (laughs) There's a very interesting homage to me, I think, in that movie -when the Berlin Wall came down, a publisher in Germany got together a group of comic book artists in Europe and got them to do a few pages each about the wall coming down. And the thing I did had a sort-of Superman character driving into East Germany in one of those tiny little Eastern Bloc Trabant cars. It was this big, exaggerated guy crammed into this miniscule car and the scenes in The Incredibles with Mr Incredible driving home is exactly the same kind of shot! I'm not saying they did steal it from me but that's a very glaring similarity to my art, even more so than the quasi-Watchmen stuff that appeared.
The Pixar artists are using technology and computers in an artistic way - has the gap between technology and art narrowed?
Tremendously. This Digital Artist 2009 awards that Intel and Future Publishing are running will, I hope, show the world what an incredible tool the computer is in the hands of real artists. Computer graphics tended to be developed by techie people - now with the processes being much faster and the interfaces more sympathetic, you can express your artistic vision very, very easily.
Dave Gibbons is the campaign ambassador for the inaugural Digital Artist 2009 awards - launched by Intel.
The awards have been created to celebrate today''s digital art community and recognise the most innovative work across a range of disciplines - from digital art and website design to animation and special effects. In addition to finding the Digital Artist of the Year and the Intel 'Stars of Tomorrow' winner, the awards aim to inspire and reward the highest standards of digital art across a range of 13 categories.
The closing date for entries is 31st August.