Wednesday, February 25, 2009

WW: Watching the Watchmen Dave Gibbons (design by Chip Kidd and Mike Essl)

With Alan Moore severing all ties with DC due to various reasons, it looks like we're not going to get a discussion by him of how the story of Watchmen came about or how he plotted the series, page-by-page and panel-by-panel. However, what we get here is Dave Gibbons' take on things, though primarily concentrating on the glorious artwork that he created over 20 years ago.

And my! What a lot of artwork there is. Firstly, this thick, oversized book is a lot bigger than I'd thought it'd be. It feels like it weighs half a ton. It also seems that Mr Gibbons has saved 95% of all his notes, doodles, rough drafts, and layouts (though none of the actual artwork used in the series) that he produced for Watchmen in the mid eighties. Does this guy throw nothing away!? Of course, nowadays he could sell this stuff for a lot of money - even the rather scribbly bits. In fact, in part of the book Gibbons laments the fact that he sold all his original artwork for the comic book series for a very reasonable sum during the early days.

Together with the treasure trove of art from Gibbons' Watchmen box, a number of other pieces of related artwork and photos of memorabilia are collected. Shown are the various posters used to promote the original series, lead minatures of the main characters, artistic material from the role-playing game and even a picture of a smiley face carrier-bag. I must admit that I quite like the Marvel version mock-up of the Watchmen. Very Kirby-ish.

Most of the book is taken up with Gibbons' roughs showing the layouts for each individual panel. Nearly all pages from all issues are shown in these little sketches. To begin with, it was quite fascinating to see these. But then, after a couple of issues, you realise that they're just rough versions of the art you've already seen and so start to skip over them. Still, it's certainly comprehensive.

Running through the book are words by Gibbons' describing his memories of the time planning, producing and promoting this landmark series. To me, this is the most fascinating part of the book. Obviously, the actual events are over 20 years ago so things are somewhat sketchy, but what is discussed is almost exclusively positive and steers well away from the Moore/DC debacle. John Higgins also chips in a few pages discussing the colouring on Watchmen, including some words about, and examples of, the new colouring job for the Absolute edition.

Overall, the book is a quality piece of work. It's size is large enough to show off the beautiful artwork on good quality, glossy paper. Chip Kidd's design works well and doesn't detract. And there's plenty in there to keep a Watchmen fan flicking through the images for weeks. Still, it's only for those who are real fans of the original comic book series - there's no shots or discussion of the new movie.

Grade: Very Fine.

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