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A Festival of Delights
An Interview with Dave Gibbons

conducted by Sandy Auden

© Dave Gibbons
Dave Gibbons
Dave Gibbons
Dave Gibbons was born 1949. He began his comics career in 1973, when he started to contribute to the magazine 2000. Since then he has drawn and written for all the major publishers in North America and his home country Great Britain. He has depicted the adventures of Superman, Batman, Dr. Who, Dan Dare and Green Lantern, amongst many many others. Major success came when he collaborated with Alan Moore on the famous Watchmen for D.C. Comics in 1986/87, for which he received a Hugo award. He currently lives in Britain with his wife and son.

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With a flourish of yellow spandex and an excess of sexy cleavage, one of the biggest comics events in Britain takes place over the Jubilee weekend. The UK Comics Festival welcomes around 250 professional guests, including top people from Marvel and DC Comics. There are three days of talks, sketches and parties, and it gives everyone the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the industry's best loved legends.

Dave Gibbons, the artist on Watchmen -- one of the most influential stories to ever hit the comics world -- is a regular guest at the Festival. Gibbon's career spans many titles, including Superman, Batman, Dr. Who and Dan Dare, as well as his own titles of Martha Washington and Rogue Trooper. The Comics Festival is a chance for him to meet up with all his friends in the business and hear some feedback from the readers.

'These events certainly reinforce everyone's enthusiasm, including the writers and artists,' Gibbons says. 'And I quite like the re-branding of the Bristol event as a Festival, rather than a Convention too. It's more along the European line and connotes a degree of cultural significance to the medium, which I feel is appropriate.'

Gibbons is very popular with the attendees and there's always a queue in front of his table where people come to talk about Watchmen or request a sketch. 'I probably do about fifty sketches per event,' he says, 'but I never attempt to do a "drawing," more an illustrated signature. I'd rather send a lot of people away with something, than send a few away with something only a little better. I've got this Rorschach drawing that I must have done a few thousand times. It takes about twenty seconds and I could probably do it just as well in a blackout. Everyone seems happy with it though. Especially me!'

While the Festival is always popular, the comics industry itself is in a state of transition, as other forms of media -- PC games, interactive websites, and computer generated cartoons -- take their own slice of the market. 'The industry is mutating to survive,' Gibbons explains. 'The move is away from monthly periodicals to more bookshelf items. The immediate returns are less for the writers and artists, but the long term rewards are greater. Toys and merchandizing are also becoming more important in providing steady income to the companies.' Have the changes impacted his own career? 'I've done quite well out of the collections of my major works. The accumulation of material on bookshelves which continue to sell for years and years, even in small numbers, has a liberating financial effect. And others have done far, far better than me!'

Gibbons also has his own double-edged sword to keep new work coming in -- he's talented enough to turn his hand to writing and to art. 'They're both equally important to me. I enjoy telling stories and, as long as I'm doing that, I'm happy.' His art and writing tasks interleave on some of his projects and he's comfortable dealing with both mindsets at the same time. 'I tend to want to get the script right before I start drawing, but I'm thinking of both as I write. I might modify the script a little as I draw it. The bit I really enjoy is the visual storytelling and that overlaps both sides of the boundary, so there's no strict mental divide. Writing is more about ideas while drawing is more about craft. I only like to listen to music when I write, but I can listen to drama when I draw. So I suppose I must be using the complementary parts of my brain.'

These skills are reflected clearly in his current projects. 'At the moment, I'm working on a creator-owned project for Vertigo that I'm both writing and drawing. It'll be a single volume, rather than a periodical, and should be out next summer. The four-issue Captain America story is written, but has been pushed back on the schedule for commercial reasons, and I'll also be doing another short story for The Matrix website. Waiting in the wings is a further collaboration with writer Alan Moore.'

It seems that wherever the industry goes, the artistic and literary skills of people like Dave Gibbons will always be required.

(This interview first appeared on Sci Fi Channel Europe.)

Copyright © 2005 by Sandy Auden

Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; a diligent interviewer/reviewer for The Third Alternative and Interzone magazines and a combination of all the above for The Alien Online. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. Visit her site at The Auden Interviews.

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