Tuesday 30 March 2010

My 2009 Article About Dave Gibbons

More than 20 years have passed since the comics maxi-series Watchmencame to its conclusion, and, March 6, a long-awaited and anticipated film adaptation will open in movie theaters around the world.

Hype for the film has been steadily building since its trailer was first shown in the summer of 2008. As expected, the film’s hype has spilled onto other Watchmen products that are simultaneously cross-promoted. DC has released a new hardcover edition of the collected series and, in December, began reprinting the entire story as it was originally presented: a monthly comic series.

TITAN watching watchmen hc cvr.jpgMeanwhile, Titan Books has released Watchmenillustrator Dave GibbonsWatching The Watchmen, a “behind-the-scenes” book focusing on the series he co-created with Alan Moore. Despite being a professional involved in the comics industry for more than 30 years, one of Gibbons’ best-known projects remainsWatchmen. As expected, it’s a double-edged sword, he said. “I’ve worked in comics for a long, long time and I’ve had all kinds of prophecies. Some of which have been very successful; some of which haven’t been very successful; some of which I’ve really enjoyed doing and others I haven’t enjoyed doing so much, you know? It’s always been my ambition to work in comics, so as long as I’m doing something in comics, I sort of take the ups and the downs and the rough and the smooth. Certainly, I mean, I think that many people would love to have something that’s as successful as Watchmen that they could talk about. I’m sure that when … in the very far day when my obituary is written, the word ‘Watchmen’ is bound to be in at least the first three lines of it, and I’m quite resigned to that fact.”

The current interest in Watchmen from the mainstream press, along with perpetual attention from those focused on the comics industry, might annoy many artists who have a stand-out piece of work in their repertoire but who have produced many other meritorious projects. Gibbons is not like many artists. He said, “As long as people are interested in it, I’m quite happy to talk about it, I think. I have done so much press, but people seem to keep coming up with new and interesting questions that I can give new and interesting answers to. Watchmen’s always been very good to me, and I’m really pleased that I had a hand in something that’s just become such a successful thing and that so many people had pleasure out of.”

According to Gibbons, a Bob Dylan song may have inspired the whole Watchmen story. “The kind of spark of the first issue of Watchmen — and, arguably, the whole thing — was a track called ‘Desolation Row,’ which I first heard when I was very, very young. I can vividly remember going to a friend’s house and borrowing the vinyl album [Highway 61 Revisited] from his older brother and taking it home and playing ‘Desolation Row’ over and over again and being, you know, intrigued and thrilled by the verse which says, ‘At midnight all the agents and the superhuman crew.’

Watchmen page.jpg

“Alan and I talked quite a lot about music when we were doing it. We had these well-rounded conversations and talked about everything from comics to, you know, vague childhood memories to pieces of music to what we were watching on TV or whatever, and sometimes a song would come up and seem absolutely appropriate as a chapter title. The pieces of music inWatchmen were really just used as the inspiration for chapter titles.”

The songwriters of the lyrics used within the series were paid for the use of their work, as documented on the credits page of the collected editions. Gibbons added, “We did get clearances from them. DC wouldn’t have been happy using the credits otherwise. I think some of them asked for rather more money than others, and, interestingly enough, the more well-known ones were not the ones who asked for the most money. I don’t know the precise details but I know that, quite surprisingly as it might seem, Bob Dylan’s people were very happy to have his lyrics used, and his track ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’ ’ actually features very strongly at the beginning of the Watchmen movie. My understanding is that ‘his Bobness’ is pleased to have it in there because he’s a big fan of, I think, comics in general andWatchmen in particular — which is something that gives me an incredible thrill, because I’m an incredibly huge fan of his.”

The more “mature” feel of modern mainstream super-hero comics is generally traced to Watchmen and similar titles from the ’80s. Gibbons said that creating such an impact through influence was not the goal of the project. “I think all comics are influenced by what’s come before. Watchmenitself is heavily influenced by Harvey Kurtzman and Will Eisner and Steve Ditko. The real downside of what happened post-Watchmen was that we were showing another flavor of super-hero comic books, not ‘the only flavor’ or ‘the future of super-hero comic books.’ I mean, it’s tedious that lots of people jumped on that bandwagon and came up with these, you know,Watchmen-type examinations of super-heroes or tried to make them seem real in the way we had. I mean, certainly, if we had done another super-hero title, it would not have been a grim and dirty thing; it would probably have been a light and fluffy thing, you know? I think maybe if what we did had a bad influence there, it wasn’t anything we ever intended. I suppose we like the idea of variety in comics. I think it’s good that there are ‘mature readers’ comics and I think it’s good there are comics for less mature readers. I just think there should be, in any mature medium, work that appeals to a wide spectrum of people and deals with a wide spectrum of subject matter.”

Since big-budget science-fiction action movies usually generate enough profit to justify the existence of a sequel, logic signals that a second Watchmenmovie might be made. Gibbons does not support the idea: “I’m not interested in a sequel at all, in comic-book terms or in movie terms. Watchmen is not just an ‘adventure’ of a bunch of characters. It is a story. Yeah, I guess you could do a sequel to anything. They eventually made a sequel to Gone with the Wind, which seemed pretty complete as it was. I don’t know how it did commercially, but, artistically, it seemed like a slightly dubious enterprise. I certainly would look upon any attempt to do that with Watchmen as being, artistically, very dubious and I certainly wouldn’t have any interest at all in taking part in that.

“And I think it goes without saying that Alan definitely wouldn’t.”

Bernard C. Cormier is a broadcaster and member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada. Visit his webpage atwww.myspace.com/bernardccormier or e-mail him at Bernardccormier-gncb@hotmail.com.

Gary Fjellgaard Visits Metro

Juno Award-winner and Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame member Gary Fjellgaard's takes the stage at the Riverview Arts Centre this Saturday.

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Times & Transcript
Country musician Gary Fjellgaard takes the Riverview Arts Centre stage Saturday night.

As a veteran musician with a music career spanning four decades, he has extensively toured most regions of Canada, including southeastern New Brunswick.

"I've travelled through (New Brunswick) before in different configurations," the British Columbia native says. "I remember years ago, I came through with, I think it was Ronnie Prophet and also, I toured once with Ian Tyson. I've been back for different festivals and whatnot, too. Last year, I was back for the Maritime Acoustic Music Festival. I'm actually coming back again this summer for that same festival."

In recent years, his tours include the musical team of Darrel Delaronde and Saskia as the regular opening act, and they will join him for the Riverview show.

"(Saskia and Darrel) are leaving Saskatchewan right now (March 8th) and I'll fly out on the 16th to Halifax and then we'll do a series of dates. We'll actually end up in Ottawa. I'll fly home from there," he said in a recent interview. "We've got some dates in Alberta and Saskatchewan, then we're off to Europe for a month. So, we're getting around."

The inclusion of his opening act is no coincidence.

"(Our association) started out when Saskia took a Christmas project for food banks in a certain section, area of British Columbia," Gary says. "She got (musician) Valdy and I involved. So, we contributed some songs for a Christmas CD and then, slowly, one thing led to another. Then we did a couple of concerts together. I thought (it worked out pretty good). So, the deal was (that) she started booking me and they would book themselves as an opening act.

"That's the trade-off sort of thing. It makes my life a lot easier in that they do all of the legwork. So, it works really well. It sort of evolved, too, because I'd be backstage (while) they'd be onstage doing their thing. I learned a few of their songs just sitting backstage and then (I'd) wander out with a mandolin or something. Pretty soon we'd do these songs together. Now they join me in some of my sets and I join them in some of theirs."

As he put it, "It works out pretty good."

As anyone would expect, life as a touring musician has changed over the years.

"I think that we travel around now in a little bit more style, I guess," Gary says before being temporarily overcome by laughter.

"Instead of travelling in the old Chevy van, now we're out in the motor home. (We) fly to a lot of dates now, too. It's very interesting ... immediately backtracking, I just did Yellowknife with my friend Valdy. How often do I get a chance to go up to Yellowknife? Not very often.

So, I got up there and now I get a chance to do the Maritimes and, last year, (to) Europe and travel all over. It's very exciting, especially after 40 years in the business. (It's) still exciting."

While in New Brunswick, Gary will be sure to make time for a few old friends.

"We got to know (Ivan and Vivian Hicks) last year," he says. "We actually did two house concerts at their place as we were travelling through. We got to know them really well. It's always nice to visit people like that, and I know a lot of people, a lot of people from the Maritimes, a lot of entertainers."

As for Gary's last name, "My father was from Norway. He died when I was just a baby. He was the only one in the family that ever came over (to Canada)."

Over time, Gary discovered that he had numerous things in common with his father, including his love for music.

"I didn't really know anyone in my family on my father's side and, 45 years later, went (to Norway) for a visit. So, I saw all these people. I looked like them and they looked like me. It was really weird! I didn't know, of course, but (my father) played classical music on violin. He conducted choirs."

Like father, like son.

* Bernard C. Cormier is, among other things, a freelance writer and broadcaster.www.myspace.com/bernardccormier. www.twitter.com/bernardccormier. He can be reached at: Bernardccormier-gncb@hotmail.com