I had a chance to sit down with Dave Gibbons, the man who drew Watchmen. The interview isn’t here, it’s here.
Before I talked to him I didn’t realize how important it was for the genesis of Watchmen that Gibbons and Alan Moore were English. Apparently at that time superhero comics came from America, and that was it. New York City was just where the action was at, and if you weren’t there you were an outsider. As Englishmen Gibbons and Moore felt like they were operating the fringe of the known universe. Which must have been sort of disempowering. But as it turned out it also gave them a certain extra freedom and insight.
Here’s Gibbons on what it was like to come to America:
When I first came to New York City, what I was thrilled about was not the Empire State Building, or the Statue of Liberty, it was the fireplugs in the street. These things that Jack Kirby had drawn. Or these cylindrical water towers on top of buildings that Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man fights used to happen in and around. So it’s always been this kind of exotic babylon. And that’s so for Alan as well. We used to get the American comics imported, and it wasn’t just the stories, it was the whole thing of Tootsie Rolls and Schwinn bicycles. This is the kind of thing we’d talk about for hours on the phone. All this stuff that to you Americans is everyday stuff, as boring to you as our everyday stuff is to us.
Hard to picture Alan Moore talking about Tootsie Rolls. I bet he was pretty disappointed when he actually tried one.
If you read this far, here’s your reward. I have a copy of Watching the Watchmen: The Definitive Companion to the Ultimate Graphic Novel, signed by Gibbons, to give away. I’ll have it shipped to the first person who e-mails me with, oh, I don’t know, the name of Ozymandias’s pet lynx. I’m at lev underscore grossman at timemagazine dot com.
(Update: the prize has been claimed. It went at 2:26 yesterday afternoon. It is now on its way to Kansas City, MO.)