This past New York Comic Con 2017, ComicsVerse sat down with artist and writer Dave Gibbons to discuss his work for Dark Horse and DC Comics. Dave Gibbons’ list of work includes WATCHMEN with Alan Moore and ORIGINALS.

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ComicsVerse: Hey I’m Brandon Bloxdorf, here at New York Comic-Con 2017. Sitting here with Mr. Dave Gibbons, and you’re watching ComicsVerse. So, Dave, you’ve been with Dark Horse for a good long time now! You’ve done their ORIGINALS, which is a spectacular book, what can you tell me about that?

Dave Gibbons: Well I was nagged into doing THE ORIGINALS by Karen Berger when she worked at DC, and she was the editor of Vertigo books there, and she said to me “Dave, you’ve drawn so many comics, you’ve written a load of comics, you should write and draw your own.”

It wasn’t until I had the inspiration of going back to my youth, when I was a mod, to kinda recapture the excitement and the feeling of those days. So we ended up doing the book at DC, in a smaller format, but now we’re at Dark Horse and we’re gonna do it in a big album format with the new cover and with extra material at the back, notes and sketches and designs and things like that. And it’s great- not only to be sort of here at Dark Horse but also to be with Karen as well, who I’ve known for thirty years or more.

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ComicsVerse: You worked with her in Vertigo too, correct? Or…

Dave Gibbons: Well I first worked with Karen on a LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES ANNUAL. It was shortly after I started working for DC, and she’s a fantastic editor. They put her in charge of looking after most of the English talent, which was a really good idea. Cause you know what boys are like when they butt head. Karen’s a great editor and knows how to get the best out of people without any threats.

ComicsVerse: Nice! So you were a part of that big British invasion with comics when they first came in the 80s and everything. What was it like for you, coming from England into America, bringing this whole new wave of style and everything?

Dave Gibbons: Well, you know, I was of a generation that grew up in England that had read American comics. They started to import them in the late 50s, and I loved American comics particularly DC comics. I loved FLASH, GREEN LANTERN, JUSTICE LEAGUE, and I came to the states in the 70s to try and get work. I got the “thanks but no thanks” treatment. And then, amazingly, DC came to England to recruit writers and artists, and I was part of that recruitment and I very quickly ended up working on GREEN LANTERN, which was one of my boyhood favorites. And I probably worked for them longer than I worked in Britain, you know. So really, although I’m British, my life has been spent in the American comic book industry.

ComicsVerse: What attracted you to comics as a child?

Dave Gibbons: Well, I always loved to draw and I suspect what it is, you know, like you do a drawing and you show it to your mom or your dad, and they go “oh yeah great.” Well, I discovered, with a story, they had to look at it for longer than just “great” you know? And I had always just loved that notion of telling a story, making a thing seem real. Just through words in pictures. And of course, as a kid, if you want to do comics all you need is a piece of paper and a pencil. If you wanna make movies you need cameras, you need lights. So it was an easy route into it, and I just kept drawing my own amateur comics, copying professional comics until I was good enough to do it professionally.

ComicsVerse: Who were some of your starting inspirations when you became an artist?

Dave: Well, there were several British artists. A guy called Frank Hampson, who created a character called Dan Dare, who’s probably one of the most successful and popular British characters. I love Jack Kirby, I love Steve Ditko. I love Joe Kubert, Will Eisner. Really, I love the MAD guys; Wally Wood, Will Elder. That whole thing. I also liked- I mean, I love Superman as a character, so I love that whole school of art as well. And mainly it was the artists who worked for DC. And I, you know, really always have been a DC guy.

I always thought their comics always looked- there was just something about them that looked special. And so it was a huge thrill to eventually get to know these people. To get to know an editor called Julius Schwartz, who edited THE FLASH, the GREEN LANTERN, JUSTICE LEAGUE. And to become friends with these people, it’s like you have to pinch yourself sometimes to think that, you know, “how did I get from the middle of England in the English countryside to working for a comic company in New York?” It’s been an amazing journey.

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ComicsVerse: That’s awesome! So when writing, say THE ORIGINALS, and you’re now doing writing duties and art duties, how is your mindset different when you’re approaching this?

Dave Gibbons: Well, you know, to begin with, I had no idea when I was a kid you would have a separate writer and artist. Particularly a separate writer, artist, inker, letterist. So I always wanted to do the whole thing. When it came to breaking into comics, it was much easier to get work based on my art samples, cause you can immediately look at a piece of art and think “oh the guy can draw or not.” It’s a bit harder to evaluate someone’s writing skills, but I always wanted to write as well. I’m a very story-oriented artist. Some artists aren’t orientated towards story. They’re more about spectacle and the drama of the picture. But to me it’s always been about story, so I’m in that kinda middle ground between writing and drawing anyway.

ComicsVerse: And WATCHMEN was one of your biggest successes in your career. What is it like for you seeing the success that still carries over today, like still seeing your work so strong and profound in the comic book industry?

Dave Gibbons: Well, I mean, it’s great. You know, I mean, we obviously had no idea when we were doing WATCHMEN that it would have this longevity. We thought it would be as series of comic books, it would sell, then it would end. You’d find it in the back issue bin, and we’d move on and do something else. So it took us completely by surprise. And it is amazing that twenty-five years after we did it there was a movie, and then obviously the book being continuously print, and there are all sorts of different versions.

Color versions, oversized versions, and it still seems to be a lot of people’s initial step into graphic novels. You know, if you go into a comic book store and say “where do I start?” They’ll say “WATCHMEN.” So, yeah, I mean it’s just wonderful. As somebody who loves comics to have kinda made a mark like that and have a place in the history of it is a wonderful thing.

ComicsVerse: You were mentioning that the Flash and Green Lantern were some of your favorite characters growing up. Who would be your favorite character to be drawing- or who’s someone you haven’t gotten to do that you would love to do?

Dave: Well, you know, I like drawing the WATCHMEN characters, mainly because they are my designs. So I made the characters that I like to draw, you know? So they’re always fun to do. I like a really well-designed superhero costume. Like the kinda Green Lantern costume is a real classic.

Of course, the granddaddy of them all is Superman. He was the one I first grew up on. He’s the one who I’d draw my own adventures and I’d make my own Superman posters. And even before I could draw figures properly I could draw that Superman S. I’d figured out how to make that work. So yeah, it’d be Superman, I guess.

ComicsVerse: Would you ever consider writing your own story with these characters? Write and draw?

Dave Gibbons: Well, I am- I did get a job writing SUPERMAN/BATMAN at DC, on the strength of a story that I wrote and drew for a small magazine that wasn’t specifically about Superman but you could tell that that was who it was meant to be. So I have, in a sense, I have written and drawn SUPERMAN. And of course, I did write THE GREEN LANTERN CORP for several issues, and I drew a few of those episodes. It’s a funny thing though, I love to collaborate. That’s one of the wonderful things about comics. You know, there’s an expression that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. If you’ve got a good collaboration, stuff comes up that you never would’ve thought on your own, you know? So I really love that collaborative side of it.

ComicsVerse: Nice! And when it came down to you drawing the WATCHMEN characters and creating them, what was your mindset? Who were you taking it after and what made you create the definitive image of these people?

Dave Gibbons: Well, I don’t know that I was designing them after anybody. I wanted to make sure that all the costumes and all the characters, their shapes, were all very different. One to another. Not like the standard American comic book where all the characters are kinda the same but one of them has a mustache or another one has long hair or something. So I wanted to make them very distinctive characters, and so there is a variety- when you draw WATCHMEN, there is a variety of things to draw.

You’re not just drawing spandex all the time. And I suppose I wanted them to have a kind of, almost a theatrical/operatic kind of look. Sort of a slightly dirty, slightly creased, slightly grubby kind of feel to them. You know, just like- you know, you see the cosplay people walking around here, and each costume gets grubby pretty quickly and dirty and stretched, and I wanted them to have that kind of feel.

ComicsVerse: Cool! Well, thank you so much! Thank you for taking your time sit down with us and everything. It was good seeing you.

Dave Gibbons: You’re welcome. Thanks for the questions!

ComicsVerse: Thanks for tuning in! 

Thanks to Dave Gibbons and New York Comic Con for the amazing interview!

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