Late last spring I was approached by DC Comics on behalf of the artist Dave Gibbons to design a coffee table book of his preparatory artwork for the seminal 1986 comic book series Watchmen. My initial response was “I can’t,” not because I didn’t want to (I am a HUGE fan, surprise surprise) but because the production schedule was lethal and completely coincided/met-head-on with that of Bat-Manga!, which I was assembling pretty much on my own and still up to my neck in. I was also curious as to what exactly would fill such a book, seeing as the ‘Absolute’ edition of WM, published the previous year, had so many ‘extras’ in it I’d assumed that that was all there was. But DC editors Steve Korté and John Morgan persisted, assuring me that Dave had saved EVERYTHING from twenty-some years ago, and was intent on having me put it together (which was/is very, VERY flattering—I so greatly admire his work).
Anyway, the solution to doing this was none other than my friend and colleague Mike Essl, the head of the Graphic Design department at the Cooper Union School of Art, who’d overseen my retrospective show at the Lubalin gallery there in 2005. We’d since become great pals, especially since we’re both such hopeless fan-boy geeks, and Mike had cut his book-designing teeth overseeing The Art of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight shooting script. Mike was game for taking on the considerable task to design what’s become Watching the Watchmen, while I acted as Art Director (which involved sitting next to him for all of about six hours while we got the general sequencing off to a start).
There’s been some speculation on the fanboy sites about what this book actually is, which I can sort of understand, but trust me: if you’re a WM fan, you’ll love it. Dave kept all sorts of interesting stuff that hasn’t been printed anywhere before—chiefly all his roughs for the page layouts, which are wonderfully loose and yet almost entirely un-deviated from on the final (extremely tight) art.
This book drops pretty much at the same time as Bat-Manga!, at the end of this month (Oct ’08). My greatest thanks to Mike for doing such an incredible job, and to Mr. Gibbons for sticking with me/us on it. I think it’s going to be a very pleasant surprise to a lot of people, and will only further fan the flames of anticipation for what promises to be one of the most amazing comic book movies ever made.