Crave worships technology, but we also reserve a little space in our shiny hearts for cake and cats and traditional British public houses -- and comics. So when the opportunity came up to chat to Dave Gibbons about Watchmen and how technology has changed comics, we were out of the door before our slice of Victoria sponge had hit the floor. Over the course of his more than 30-year career, Gibbons has wielded the pen and ink on countless comics, including Judge Dredd and Green Lantern. He co-created 2000AD classic Rogue Trooper, and the most lauded comic book series of all time: Watchmen.
We caught up with this British comics legend at the launch of the Digital Artist 2009 Awards. Intel has partnered with Computer Arts, Computer Arts Projects, 3D World and ImagineFX magazines to reward digital artists in 13 categories. These range from graphic design, animation and illustration to character design, concept and videogame art and architectural visualisation. There's also an award for ethical design, and five Intel Rising Stars awards for whippersnappers aged under 25.
Who watches the Watchmen
The conversation inevitably began with the movie adaptation of the book described as possibly the greatest comic of all time. Gibbons is "very pleased" with Zack Snyder's take on Watchmen: "I feel so flattered that they stuck so closely to what Alan Moore and I did. The first time I saw it I'm sure it would have been the experience of people much less close to it than me. It's just 'Oh my God -- it's really happening! It's Rorschach! He's gonna say that, this is the bit where this happens...'"
"It's interesting," he says, "people seem quite divided on the movie: there are some true fans who like it, some who don't like it. Some people had never heard of it and really, really like it. Some don't get it. But it's those ones who weren't aware of it and had seen it not knowing and got absolutely hooked on it, they're the real victories."
Recolouring the Watchmen
Recently, Gibbons was involved with the recolouring of the original artwork for the Watchmen: Absolute Edition, something he describes as being like "a digital remastering of a favourite song, where you don't correct the bum notes but you take the hiss and the scratch off it. You restore it to what it was always meant to be."
It's a task that may not have been possible before the digital age. "The way that the colour separation was done on Watchmen originally is almost like something out of the Victorian age. You had to do watercolour colour guides with every single area annotated, and it would be something like R2B2 -- which isn't a Star Wars reference, it's 25 per cent red, 25 per cent blue: it's a light purple. Every single area had to be coloured like that. It would then go to these ladies who would sit at their kitchen tables with sheets of acetate and they'd paint out all the areas. It was so inefficient... Three tones of every colour, three tones of red, yellow, blue, so there's nine sheets of acetate for every page in a 30-page comic. That's nearly 300 sheets of acetate."
From ink to Cintiq
Although his art has a classic, timeless look, Gibbons embraced the possibilities of digital art early. "I invested in some serious stuff very early in the 90s. Originally I would do typographic sort of things. Mechanical elements. Then I started to do colouring myself, for which it was wonderful. And now I use it in all kind of ways: I write my scripts on the computer, I do a lot of my rough drawing on the computer because you can be so loose and free on it -- you can re-size stuff and move stuff round. I've recently got on to a Wacom Cintiq graphics tablet, which is one of these wonderful things where you literally draw on the screen, and that's just... that's magic."