From the Boston Phoenix archives: the watchmaker speaks.
This article originally appeared in the November 27, 1987 issue of The Boston PhoenixAlan Moore sports the shoulder-length hair of an unreconstructed hippie and an affable British air. The winner of several "Best Comics Writer" awards on both sides of the Atlantic, he's best known in America as the author of the DC Comics series Swamp Thing and, of course, Watchmen. We met in New York to discuss the Warner Books edition of Watchmen, a volume clearly intended to put Warner in the forefront of the "graphic novel" business. (DC has published its own softcover version, which is identical in content and price but has a different cover.) We began by talking about just where the series fits into categories of comic books and "art."
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Let's explore how you and Dave Gibbons came up with the concept for Watchmen, and how you realized it.
I'd like to say that we had it all planned from the very beginning, but that isn't strictly true. I think what we had originally planned was a quite complex and advanced superhero story. Nothing more. And I think it was around about issue number three that we started to get an inkling of what we actually had. We started to realize that there were things that were becoming apparent in the way we were telling the story, in the way we were using motifs to create an almost abstract level of narrative – a semiotic level, if you want, where everything is down to symbols and you have images recurring and echoing through the novel with different shades of meaning to them. And we began to realize that what we could perhaps do with Watchmen would be to actually establish some territory that was unique to comics alone.
Now, we were talking about the cinematic effects in Watchmen. I think there's a danger in making that obvious comparison, because, at the end of the day, if you concentrate on the similarities between comics and cinema, what you're left with is films that don't move. You're left with something that is always doomed to be a poor relation to the cinema. What we wanted to establish with Watchmen, once we got into the swing of it, was territory that was unique to comics – the things that comics can do which no other medium can. For example, with comics you can give a density and complexity that films cannot aspire to. Purely because with a film you're locked into a two-hour running time. You're sitting there in the cinema. You're dragged through the film at the viewing time that's established by the people who produce it. You haven't got the freedom to, say, check back four or five pages to see if this line of dialogue really does echo that line of dialogue. You can do that with a novel, you can get that sort of density and complexity into a novel, but it doesn't translate well to film.
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