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A Meet and Greet With Dave Gibbons

Just yesterday, one of our earliest and most prolific forum members AYBGerrardo (a.k.a. David Smart) got to meet with and interview Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons.

It was part of an online contest run by PR firm Shine where only three lucky fans would get to meet Dave. The contest closed in only twenty minutes, but he got his entry through in time and happened to get picked.

The following is David's account, in his own words, of his memorable meeting with the iconic illustrator who was apparently just as excited to meet him!

An Afternoon With Dave Gibbons

Through sheer chance I was lucky enough to win a competition: a meet and greet with your hero and mine, Dave Gibbons, who would draw my favourite Watchmen character and better yet, spend five minutes with me!

The event surrounding it was going to be pretty special too. Acclaimed graffiti artist CHU, under Gibbons’s guidance, would create a huge mural of the Comedian’s death in a skate park under the Southbank in London, to promote the release of the Watchmen DVD in the UK.

Dave wasn’t there when I arrived, but I got a very welcome surprise — a Watchmen goodie bag, comprising a Rorschach hoodie, Owlship watch, Comedian badges and even the Graphic Novel itself! CHU was well under way on his mural by now, having been working since midnight the night before.

CHU's Watchmen mural

Soon enough, Dave arrived. What made the conversation so amazing for me was less the information Dave shared — of which there was plenty, and all really interesting — but more his manner. Not only was he extremely polite, he was genuinely really enthusiastic.

Let me explain. See, it’s no secret that Mr. Gibbons is familiar with this site. With only five minutes to spend with my hero, what else could I do but namedrop it straight after introductions? Curious, he asked me my forum alias. Upon hearing it he almost jumped out of his seat! “AYBGerrardo! Wow! I know you! I enjoy your posts… but I always imagined… well, I never thought you'd be a young English guy!” This was, of course, a dream scenario for any Watchmen fan. He was also full of praise for the site, and said that he visits it almost daily! Not only that, but he let me know a secret…

“I won't tell you the name, but I actually have an account [on the forum].” He’s even posted a few times, though he tries to resist the temptation. “But,” he says, “and here's something you can put on the site, you were discussing the Superman-style logo at Rockefeller…” The panel in question was reproduced in the film, as Rorschach sneakily enters Dr Manhattan’s residence. He explains the reason he and Alan put it in there: “in that world, unlike ours, the Superman logo isn't widely recognised. It was just some comic that died off decades ago that people aren't really aware of. So it's part of establishing that different attitude towards superheroes.”

Dave Gibbons and AYB shoot the breeze

At one point he asks me if I got a goodie bag, and I tell him about the items inside it. The idea of an Owlship watch particularly excited him (“Wow! I want one of those!”). He looks around both shoulders behind us, where CHU is busily working, then in what can only be described as a Clark Kent motion opens his jacket to reveal his T-shirt: “HURM”. I tell him it’s awesome and he reveals that he’s keeping it secret from the graffiti artist, also a big fan.

In between fantastic moments like that, he also answered all the questions I asked. On the significance of the Gunga Diner balloon: “It was a useful prop. Together with the airships it sets up Watchmen’s world — it makes it noticeably different from ours.” On a theory from forum member Vynson — where a bird’s eye view of Rorschach’s remains combined with the Vivarium might create a smiley face: "Yes, I can almost see it… but I'll tell you what I said when I was asked about that panel from Chapter 1, you know with the old men who might have been Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis… I didn't intend it, but it's a great observation and I take all the credit!”

On top of that he revealed juicy information without even being prompted (he was enjoying himself!). He recently recorded the Black Freighter cut’s audio commentary with Zack Snyder, where he was surprised to see some scenes for the first time, and Jackie Earle Haley’s vocal inspiration for Rorschach was none other than Alan Moore, from a video he had seen and one which many of us have seen on YouTube

Bernie in AYB's Watchmen Book

Now at this point you’ve probably guessed we had gone way past five minutes. With the other competition winners waiting, a PR lady asked us to wrap it up. He signs my paperback copy of the Graphic Novel, and my (already signed!) copy of Watching the Watchmen and I ask for the drawing in my Absolute Edition. “So, the usual Rorschach then?” I remind him that he’s revealed to this site that it’s as easy as drawing a hat, asking for a fifth-dimensional Cephalopod instead. His reaction is priceless: “How am I supposed to draw that in the time we’ve got?!” I ask for Bernie instead — I get a great drawing and I say goodbye. But it wasn’t over yet!

We hung around for a while longer, and after Dave had spent a comparatively small amount of time with the next competition winner, he came up to me and asked his son to take our photo! A Paramount representative was on hand to take it as well, and she emailed me it.

We left for lunch and returned later so we could see the mural finished. It was nearly there. Notice the Gunga Diner balloon to the left of the smiley. Meanwhile, CHU was asking Dave something. To my surprise, Dave turns to me and calls “Hey AYB! Where’s the panel with the Gunga Diner elephant above Rorschach?” I find it in seconds. What my impressed hero didn’t know was that I knew exactly where it was because I had spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to find it earlier in the day! Dave says to CHU, “See, there we are”, as if he had bet that I’d find it quickly. A similar moment came later when Dave was talking to the whole PR team and all of a sudden they all turn to look at me — I’m hoping he had said something nice!

AYB and Dave

Finally, Dave came over and took my email address — to send me the photo his son took, I presume, though frankly I wouldn’t even mind if he sent me Viagra-advertising SPAM — I’m gonna get an email from Dave frikkin’ Gibbons!

CHU finished at 5 PM. He hadn’t had time to paint the Hiroshima Lovers, as had been planned, but to applause he finished with “CHU WATCHES THE WATCHMEN.” I could imagine the Comedian shouting “Drop that can, you little freak!”

So what I think the experience with Dave Gibbons boils down to is this: a thoroughly interesting man who adores observing us fans discuss the comic. He told me it was great talking to a big fan. And unnecessarily trying to avoid sounding immodest, he exclaimed in that first conversation: “it’s almost as exciting to meet you as it [must be] for you to meet me!” Was he just being polite? “If he’s pretending,” to quote Dan Dreiberg, “it means he cares.”

Either way, should you have the chance to meet this legend, namedrop the hell out the site and you might get your reward. Be seein’ you.

CHU's finished Watchmen mural

7.29.09 Source:

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