Even as rabid fans and Warner Bros. executives are at long last celebrating the arrival of the Watchmen movie, one of the men most responsible for the Hugo Award-winning tale of fallen superheroes living in an age of impending nuclear war – author Alan Moore – couldn’t care less.
Just ask his partner in creation, artist Dave Gibbons.
Like Moore, Gibbons wasn’t always convinced that Watchmen would find its way to the screen, and he didn’t much care. When Terry Gilliam – just one in a series of big-name directors attached to the project during the past 23 years – concluded that no feature-length film could do justice to their epic fantasy, Moore and Gibbons (who also collaborated on the Superman story “For the Man Who Has Everything”) were inclined to agree. Neither held his breath as blockbuster producer Joel Silver tried repeatedly to revive the project, once even suggesting Arnold Schwarzenegger as its star.
Gibbons, 59, recalls that episode with a laugh, observing that reinventing the brooding Watchmen as a simple action extravaganza would have been seriously misguided. But because his own experiences with Hollywood have been mostly positive, he remained open to the idea, with Moore’s blessing, when this latest incarnation, directed by 300’s Zack Snyder, began to take shape.
Rather understandably, Gibbons admits he’s growing tired of talking about his most beloved creation, having remained prolific in his career as an illustrator and the author of his own comics (including the Albion spin-off Thunderbolt Jaxon) since Watchmen debuted in September 1986. But having recently produced Watching the Watchmen, a behind-the-scenes book about the novel’s creation featuring rarely seen sketches and character prototypes, he’s not about to declare a Moore-style moratorium on the subject quite yet.
On Moore’s refusal to take money or even nominal credit for the Watchmen movie:
“Alan doesn’t want to talk to me or anyone else about Watchmen ever again. I am sad that he’s had such bad experiences with movies, and I wish he could share with me something I consider a good experience. But I would never try to persuade him to relent.
“Alan has been very dissatisfied with productions prior to this one and has decided he doesn’t want to play ball with Hollywood anymore. Most people would leave their name on it and take the money, but Alan is made of sterner stuff. He is a man of principle, and if he says he’s not going to see it and he’s not going to have anything to do with it, that is how it will be.”
On his own willingness to work with Warner Bros. during the filming of Snyder’s movie:
“I myself have no had any bad experiences with Hollywood, at least not yet. As far as this new movie is concerned, the producers and director had no obligation to speak to me, and the fact that they have, and that they’ve listened so much, has been to the benefit of the final thing. I had a gut feeling they’d do right by Alan and I, and that’s proven to be the case.
“You have to accept that if they’re going to make a movie, things are going to be changed. It’s never going to be what the graphic novel was. Certainly, I think the Watchmen movie is great, but it’s quite different from the graphic novel. If you want to see what I drew, then read it. But the good news is that the movie is generating so much interest in Alan’s words and my artwork, and with any luck the people who see it will seek out more of his work and my own in the future. I can’t see that as a bad thing.”
On his reaction to viewing the Watchmen movie:
“Neither Alan nor I ever felt that the ultimate fulfillment of Watchmen was that it be turned into a movie. It is a comic book or graphic novel, whatever you want to call it, and that’s a very respectable medium in its own right. If Watchmen had stood only as that, we would have been perfectly happy.
“But they made a movie, and it’s amazing, a rich, dense lump of cinema that really can’t be absorbed in one sitting. The storyline comes through fine in one sitting, mind you, but you know even as you’re watching it that you’ll want to see it again. So how could I be unhappy with that?”
On the possibility of a big-screen sequel to Watchmen, with or without his and Moore’s approval:
“Over the years, DC Comics has floated the idea of a sequel to the graphic novel, and Alan and I have always treated that with disdain. We have absolutely no interest, and I don’t think there’s anybody of any note working in comics who would entertain the notion of such a thing. I certainly wouldn’t draw it.
"As far as a movie sequel, I would have no interest in that, either. The book stands as a complete story. There’s nothing to stop them from doing it, of course, but I think DC has reaped enough rewards already, and they have always been respectful in their dealings with us. I’ve enjoyed my experience so far. If they want to go beyond the original story, they’re on their own.”