It's rare to get such a close look inside the creative process behind any work as Gibbons grants us here. And oftentimes, when you do get to see all the rough drafts, outtakes and stoned bull sessions, the work ends up cheapened a bit. You realize quite how much of it was luck, or good editing, or cherry-picking. (I'm looking at you, Complete Poems Of Sylvia Plath.) But the unused art in Watching The Watchmen, just out from Titan Books, is just as compelling as the stuff that made it in in the end. And it's especially great to get a glimpse inside the tangled briar patch that is the mind of Alan Moore. The book includes a bit of his memo to Gibbons about what the world would be like, from a geopolitical perspective, if Captain Atom and other superheroes were real. There's also a piece of paper that both Gibbons and Moore doodled on, during a Sunday morning chat about the project. One side of the paper is Gibbons' super primitive designs for the Watchmen characters, and the other side is Moore's own loopy ideas. You can just imagine being inside that cloud of invention, on the sofa next to them. Somehow, I'd always imagined Watchmen being the typical project where Moore sent script pages and notes to Gibbons, but it seems like they worked more closely together than that. Gibbons also reveals which Watchmen easter eggs he came up with, like the repeated references to the Gordian Knot, which provide a bit of a hint as to how Ozymandias plans to "solve" the problem of the Cold War nuclear standoff. (By cutting the Gordian Knot, essentially.) Even more amazingly, Gibbons includes pages and pages of unfinished sketches and layouts, and shows how some pages changed, and then changed back, from his original layouts. Check out these panels, in an early and then finished form:
And finally, the book goes into the project's afterlife, and Gibbons talks about the early response to the book, including a jealous piece of shopping-bag fanmail from Marvel Comics' Archie Goodwin. In those days, comics were still a fairly disposable medium, and usually weren't even collected into trade paperbacks, so Gibbons talks about the realization that the comic was going to become something more lasting. But he also tells about mailing off the pages for the last issue, and feeling elated - until he went into his favorite comic store and told the owner the good news. The owner replied, "That's great. What are you working on next?"