Madefire Interviews Dave Gibbons
In our last blog post, we heard from Robbie Morrison, who worked with Dave Gibbons on “Treatment.” This time, Madefire interviews Dave himself. In addition to being a comic book legend known widely as the creator of “Watchmen,” he is also one of Madefire’s original creators, including “Treatment”—a new title developed exclusively for our app.
If you’re going to be at Comic-Con San Diego this week, check out Madefire’s signing schedule and stop by our booths (4902/4904) to meet Dave and our other guest creators who will be signing throughout the event.
MF: As a founding father of Madefire, what is it that made the Motion Book platform special for you? Is there anything in particular about it that really blew you away?
DG: I suppose it was a question of things happening at the same time. I’d long been aware of the kind of possibilities and untapped potential of handheld devices for telling graphic narrative—the kind of thing you could do in film or, more personally, in comics. I was aware that there was a kind of new medium beginning to emerge, in the overlap of two things that I’ve always been interested in: graphic storytelling and gadgetry. It’s something that I wanted to pursue.
When Liam Sharp introduced me to the Madefire concept, I thought “This sounds really good,” and like just the kind of avenue that we needed to follow in order to arrive at a new hybrid or, perhaps, newly-bred form of storytelling. I’ve known Liam for a long time and followed his career with interest and seen his persistence with trying to evolve new forms of presenting comic strip stories. So his involvement made me take the idea of Motion Books quite seriously. And also when I was introduced to Ben Wolstenholme and the rest of the guys I could see that they were people who had a really good understanding of the digital marketplace, and had huge experience in branding and in bringing products to market.
So it seemed to me that this was probably the best possible horse to be riding in this race. I think also when I first saw what the platform could do, I was hugely impressed by the fact that whilst it still remained a reading experience, it allowed the reader to take control of lots of elements, to move through the story at their own pace, and being able to affect what was in the field of view by actually manipulating the device. The fact that the app made full use of the iPad’s directional sensitivity and its location awareness, I thought, was wonderful. It actually used the capabilities of the platform to enhance what was being read.
Of course there is also the authoring tool—the Motion Book Tool—which is a very clever and very slick piece of software. I think it’s a master stroke to make that available, to invoke the sense of community involvement in the whole world of Madefire.
MF: You’ve said before that you enjoy writing as much as drawing. Do you already have a long-term story arc planned for “Treatment?”
DG: Well, I just love to tell stories in words and pictures. I’ve spent a large part of my career translating other people’s scripts into graphic narrative but I’ve done a fair amount of writing of my own, mainly for other people, and I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the real luminaries of the comic book world. However, I’ve actually written and drawn very few things on my own. Perhaps the best known is the graphic novel “The Originals,” which was a very heartfelt autobiographical piece, albeit with science fiction and dramatic elements added on to it.
The way that “Treatment” actually came about was that Mike Richardson, the publisher of Dark Horse, was reviving his “Dark Horse presents” anthology comic and wanted a contribution from me to feature in there. I’ve got a very long-standing relationship with Dark Horse and with Mike, and it was something I wanted to be a part of. And I’d had the idea for “Treatment” for quite a while. I had the name and a few notions as to what it might mean. And Mike’s invitation actually made me crystallize everything into a fragmentary portion of a story which put the reader bang in the middle of things without much explanation, and gave the reader an idea of what “Treatment” might be about, and the kind of feeling that world had.
Obviously, being a brief fragment I didn’t have an opportunity to explore any of the subtleties or the off-beat humorous things that I had planned. There were more stories to tell, much more to say about the world of “Treatment” than I’d managed to achieve in that short taster and having set that much down, I felt it had some legs on it.
So again it was a matter of timing, and I was speaking with Liam and Ben and they were talking about developing properties with Madefire. And it seemed to me, as it seemed to them, that “Treatment” was probably an ideal property to investigate. The fact that it could be episodic, the fact that it could be quite spectacularly action-packed, the fact that it had a science-fiction aspect to it and a global setting—all of these things made it attractive.
Unfortunately because of my other commitments, I wasn’t able to do much more than lay out possible ideas for “Treatment” and do a couple of story experiments, and of course let them have full use of the fragment I’d already written and drawn. So we came to the realization that we’d have to draft other people onto the project, and I suggested Robbie Morrison. Robbie had written some really memorable stuff for 2000 AD and had written Judge Dread, which I saw in kind of a similar way to “Treatment.” Not that I’d aspire to do anything as wonderful as the writer John Wagner has done over the years, but in the kind of tone and setting it seemed to me that this was something Robbie could make a really good job of.
We also got some fantastic artists, and so now there are the “Treatment” stories which you can read in the Madefire App, and plenty more to come. I also realized that my “Treatment” fragment could be developed into the length of a movie—and that doing so might be enjoyable and perhaps profitable. So using my original fragment I’ve started developing a screenplay, and I’m two-thirds to three-quarters of the way through that and it’s all hanging together very well.
My idea at the moment is that when I get the time to return to “Treatment” I will complete that story, and it may well be that it is serialized on the Madefire platform as a major piece of storytelling. And who knows, maybe translated into a movie as well. I also happen to think, in my arrogance, that “Treatment” would make an excellent video game. In fact, at a fairly early stage, I involved my son Dan—who is a great games player—to give me some input along those lines. So it may be that the story of “Treatment” is only just beginning.
MF: There’s something familiar about Treatment that harkens back to your 2000 AD work–is that intentional?
DG: Probably not intentional but we are what we are, and I think all my work has a kind of “Dave Gibbons” feel about it—almost inevitably the mark of the maker is left. And I’m perfectly happy about that because I think 2000 AD is one of the best comics ever published, and certainly produced some wonderful characters, fantastic stories and artwork, and world-class creators who started with 2000 AD. I’ve always liked the combination of adventure and humor that 2000 AD has, and I hope to have some more fun with “Treatment” in ways that haven’t been seen yet, which might make you think even more of 2000 AD.
MF: Are there other new story worlds in your head that you would like bring to Madefire?
DG: I do have a notebook with a few notions in it. It’s really a question of finding the time to develop the various stories and developing them with an eye to how they might be used. I think for the moment, outside of “Treatment” and one other personal project—that may find its way onto the Madefire platform—I haven’t got any concrete plans, but we’ll have to wait and see. Certainly, with any new ideas that do come up, Madefire would be at the forefront of where I’d want to present them because I do believe that this digital handheld presentation of work is very much the future of graphic storytelling.
MF: Which creators have influenced you the most, and who would you like to see develop original content for Madefire?
DG: This is one of those really difficult questions because you always end up leaving somebody off. I’ve often spoken of the people whose work I looked at growing up: Frank Hampson, Frank Bellamy, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Will Eisner, Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino. They harken even back further to people like Alex Raymond, Hal Foster, Noel Sickles, Milton Caniff… the list just goes on and on… Moebius, Jean-Claude Mezieres, Manara, Gino D’Antonio. I could list names for some time and still leave out people I’d meant to mention.
As for who I would like to see develop original content, well, I’d like to see all the good guys. I think we started with a pretty impressive roster. I’d like to see what Frank Miller would do or Howard Chaykin or Mike Mignola or Alex Ross. I just feel that the flexibility and the possibilities of this new medium are such that once you start to think of creators’ work appearing, it’s very easy to get highly enthusiastic. I think it’s important to get a variety of work appearing. Everything from the traditional kind of line and color look, to more adventurous painted or collage-based stuff and I think that’s what so wonderful about the medium—it’s not print and if you can see it, you can have it on-screen.
Our last question was submitted to Madefire by a fan of yours: Is there any chance that The Dome: Ground Zero book from Gibbons and Angus McKie (via the lamentedly short-lived Helix imprint) might get a Madefire revival?
DG: That’s an interesting question and I hadn’t really thought about it before. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it was a rather unusual project. For a long time Angus and I had been using computers to do traditional comic-style artwork and we wondered what it would be like to do the whole thing in a computer-generated way. And of course what we found was that all the work was at the front end, meaning you had to build models of everything; create textures, light, environments and then you could move your puppets around in your scenery to match your story.
I think it came out quite well, all things considered. It got better by the end as Angus bought more and more software and got more experience. I think the whole thing hangs together quite well. What it would look like today on a hand-held device? I’m not sure.
There is another thing I worked on, that I mentioned before, “The Originals,” which was an autobiographical project and appeared in as a black and white graphic novel. It referenced youth culture, and we produced some music for it, with the idea of using it promotionally. We never actually exploited that and I have been musing lately that “The Originals” could be something that would look very fine and dandy on a handheld platform with the addition of sound and music to it. Whether that would fit exactly into the Madefire plan I don’t know, but that certainly would be my first port of call if it ever came to it.
Thanks Dave—see you at SDCC!