The art of coherence: an interview with Dave Gibbons, part1.
Dave Gibbons is one of the most important British comic book authors of all time. Among various works, he was the artist of Watchmen, the 12-part series written by Alan Moore, which many readers consider the best graphic novel ever created. In this 3-part exclusive interview done by e-mail and MP3, Mr. Gibbons talks about some of his early works, the creation of the masterpiece Watchmen, what he thinks of the movie adaptation, his new book, future projects and more.
Wellington Srbek: It is an honor to be talking to you, Mr. Gibbons.
Dave Gibbons: Thank you! Honor to be talking to you.
WS: Please tell your fans when and where you were born, and how comics entered your life?
DG: Ahn… I was born in London. I was born in 1949, long, long time ago now -- longer than I really like to think about. And how comics entered my life? Well, I guess as a little kid I used to get kind of nursery comics, you know, familiar animals, and rabbits, and bears, and all that kind of stuff. And I also got a British comic called The Beano which is still go in need today, it’s been on since the 1930s -- is the one comic that all British people think about if you say the word “comics”. Ahn… I also got a very clear memory been about seven years old and been bought my first Superman comics by my granddad… ahn… and I think from the minute I saw that I was lost to comics.
WS: You began your carrier working on horror and action strips, but it was on the science-fiction magazines 2000 AD and Doctor Who that you could develop your artwork. The first American comics you drew -- the Green Lantern Corps stories -- also had something to do with SF. So, do you have a special fondness for that specific genre?
DG: Well, I do. I’ve always been the science-fiction reader most of my life. I’ve not read lots of science-fiction lately -- I think you can only read the words hyperdrive or teleportation so many times. I moved on to crime and non-fiction, and everything. I still have got love for science-fiction, and I think with comics it works particularly well. You can do anything in the comics, so why do something that is complete everyday? It’s important to be able to draw things so they look believable. So to be browned in during the everyday actually is a really good thing. Ah… But I think when you wanna to explore the possibilities of the medium a bit more, you almost inevitably journey towards things which are larger than life. And science-fiction, you know, is certainly that.
WS: You’ve become internationally famous working on American superhero comics, but you had previously worked on an African superhero strip: Powerman. It was kind of a black Superman, published in Nigeria, right? Give us an idea of what that strip was.
DG: I used to work through an art agent in London. He was approached by a Nigerian advertising agency, with the idea of producing some comics for the Nigerian market. Up to then, Nigeria tads of British and American comics most of which featured, you know, blonde white people, and they just thought it was a good idea -- I imagine from the merchandising and advertising point of view it was really a good idea -- to give black people their own heroes. We were amazed that they didn’t have people in Nigeria who could draw and write comics, but they said, you know, possibly for we took the lead and eventually, you know, indigenous creators would take over. Ahn… So, there were a couple of comics: one called Powerman, one called Pop. Powerman featured Powerman, and also a sheriff, a black sheriff, a fried slave in the Wild West, and an alien invasion story where the aliens invaded Africa, rather than North-America. There was another one called Pop, which was featured a black nurse, and a couple of other ideas which a really can’t remember that. They were written by standard British comic writers and drawn by myself, Brian Bolland, Carlos Ezquerra -- who went on to draw Judge Dredd -- and it was a biweekly comic, black and white with one color added -- red. Brian Bolland and I did alternate issues with I once in a while had to help Brian out when he fell behind deadline. They were latterly printed in South-Africa with the rather unfortunate fact that there appear to be “Apartheid comics", you know, white people had their comics, and black people had their comics. But that was never the idea with the originals, and it felt that any white person that we ever featured was an awful Arian blonde property developed crew post-Blitzer who Powerman dispatched in short order.
WS: You were part of the “British invasion” that changed American comics in the 80s, following Alan Moore’s work on Swamp Thing. At that moment, did you feel that you were bringing a revolution to American comics, and producing works that would become classics?
DG: I suppose there was a kind of British invasion, it really started with Barry Smith back in the early 70s. He was the first British guy that I’m aware of to have worked for American comics. From Barry Smith I think Brian Bolland was the next Briti to be published, he did some Green Lantern covers back in the late 70s. Ahn… I actually started to work with DC before Alan, and we were trying to get things going for DC when I was phoned up one night… ahn… by Len Wein, he asked me if I had Alan Moore’s phone number, because he thought he could, you know, make a good attempt writing Swamp Thing, and as we all know Alan made not a “good attempt”, he completely revolutionize it until indeed come up with a classic. Ahn… I suppose, you know, it was an ambition of us Britis who have grown up reading American comics to one day work in American comics, and giving that that business were much better -- they paid more, they gave all the work back, they even gave the board to draw on -- it wasn’t surprising that we were very happy to be working for them. And I think, you know, we understood their characters well enough that we could draw in a similar style, but we have a slightly detached… ah… British view of them. And British kind of attitude is always to be slightly doubtful of people who are superior, maybe we brought a little bit of that to the superheroes. Although, it must be said unless we really loved the characters I don’t think we could have done what we did with them.