When, back in early 2007, Watchmen director Zack Snyder suggested that any game that tied in to the film would have to be "More than the movie", beardy comic book fans nodded in sage appreciation. After all, the original Watchmen series is the sacred cow of comics - it popularised the term 'graphic novel', and in the process pulled funnybooks kicking and screaming from poly-bagged basement dungeons onto the sun-dappled coffee tables of hipster posers everywhere. So it was a bit of a surprise when the announcement of the Watchmen: The End is Nigh movie tie-in game revealed that 'More than the movie' translated into 'download-only shonky looking beat-'em up' - but there you go.
On the plus side, original Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons has been involved to deodorise the project with a whiff of authenticity. Keen to learn more about his involvement, we grabbed Dave for a few words at the launch for the iTunes-exclusive animated Watchmen comic book at the flagship Apple store in London. Eager to chat and mess about ("That looks a bit suspicious, is that jailbroken?" he quipped as we brought out our iPhone, causing nervous laughter from the nearby Apple representatives) Dave ushered us behind the scenes to the store's eerily white back offices and began...
(Oh, and if you haven't yet read Watchmen and are intending to remain spoiler-free for the film, be warned - there's some chat about the book's ending on the second page).
Eurogamer: So tell us about 'The End is Nigh' then
Dave Gibbons: Well, I don't really know very much about the game. I've been consulting on the look of some of the artwork in it. Basically, it deals with Rorschach and Night Owl in the days before everything went wrong, and it features a few other characters and villains that are hinted at in the graphic novel. It's written by Len Wein who was the original editor of the graphic novel, so it keeps it all in the family, which is nice. And I've been consulting on the cut-scenes which we've tried to retain the atmosphere and flavour of the artwork.
Eurogamer: Were you worried about fleshing out this story without writer Alan Moore's involvement?
Dave Gibbons: Well, we were really, cos Alan and I have always resisted doing any sort of back-story to the Watchmen graphic novel - at various times it's been suggested that we could do the Comedian's Vietnam War Diaries or Rorshach's journal, which we thought would be a bit dopey. But the precedent is, at the time the original comics came out, Mayfair games did a role-playing game that Alan helped write bits of, and it's completely canon, so this game uses a lot of that less-well known material.
Eurogamer: Have you had any contact with Watchmen co-creator Alan Moore at all since this resurgence of interest in Watchmen?
Dave Gibbons: Alan has had a few bad experiences with Hollywood, a few of the adaptations he wasn't very happy with, and it wasn't something he wanted to repeat, so from V for Vendetta, he decided that he didn't want any connection to them and didn't want any money from them. As Hollywood is all about credits and money, he finds it rather amusing, he tells me that he likes picturing the studio executives' faces when they find out he doesn't want any cash - he says you can't buy entertainment like that. He's always happy to talk to me 'cos we're friends, but he doesn't want to talk about Watchmen, so we haven't had any discussion about that at all.
Eurogamer: Has he not shown any curiosity at all?
Dave Gibbons: No. Strange isn't it? But as we were co-creators, he doesn't have a problem with whatever I do. He's not saying, 'I'm taking the moral high ground, I think you should too', it isn't like that. I'm trying to keep an eye on things, but I certainly can't second-guess what Alan would or wouldn't approve of. I've given a pretty enthusiastic 'no' to a few things. But by and large I'm very happy with the movie adaptation and the games look great. I don't think the process of adaptation diminishes the original work, and hopefully the film and game will get more people to check out the graphic novel.
Eurogamer: Being a big Hollywood movie, have there been any inappropriate tie-in deals that you've said no to? Y'know, like Dr. Manhattan bubble baths or Rorschach PEZ dispensers?
Dave Gibbons: What, don't you want one?
Eurogamer: Actually, I kind of do now...
Dave Gibbons: There were a couple of things, there was the idea of putting Watchmen characters on soft drink cans, and I didn't really think that was such a wonderful idea. But DC are very protective over the franchise anyway, and Zack Snyder has a very good handle on what is and isn't appropriate. I'm sure a lot of things were quashed before I even got to hear about them.
Eurogamer: Has Alan ever floated the possibility of going back to the Watchmen world?
Dave Gibbons: At one point we had the idea to do a book about the Minutemen, who were the precursors to the Watchmen, the sort of Golden Age [a comic geek term for comic books released in the 30s and 40s - Ed] version of the group, and we would have made it look like a regular golden age comic book. And the good thing is, because it would have been a prequel, and we all know what happens to those characters, it'd be like waiting to get hit by an express train - you know it's coming, you just don't know when.
Eurogamer: [Sees publicist anxiously tapping at watch] Ah they're watching the watch. Er, man. So, last question. Which super-powered character do you reckon you could have?
Dave Gibbons: In what way?
Eurogamer: In a sexual way.
Dave Gibbons: Hahaha, That's a bit of a handbrake turn! I'm gonna pass on that one.
SPOILER WARNING: If you click through to page two, you're going to find out what happens at the end of the film, so if you're curious and haven't read the comic, don't! Watchmen: The End is Nigh is due out for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC in March. Friend-of-Eurogamer Jon Hamblin is editor of Dads' Space.
Eurogamer: So fans have been up in arms that the film changes the graphic novel's ending. What are your thoughts on that?
Dave Gibbons: Well, the original script I read had the bad guy dying and the good guy riding off into the sunset with the girl in his arms. You know, the sort of Hollywood ending you'd expect. But the first thing that Zack said to me when I met him was 'Don't worry, that character doesn't die' and he knew that was the key to it, that the ending had to be ambiguous. A lot of people seem very attached to the giant squid that turns up at the end of the comic - that isn't a problem for me, as long as the emotional message at the end of the story is the same and it's left open-ended. On the last cut of the movie I saw, that was certainly the case.
Eurogamer: What did you think when you got the original comic book script and it said "Giant Squid attacks" did you think Alan had gone completely mad?
Dave Gibbons: Well, I mean he clearly is off his rocker, this was not news to me. But we just knew we needed to have some big un-earthly thing turn up in the middle of New York, and it sort of looks like a squid, but it sort of isn't, it's meant to be a sort of nightmare-ish multi-dimensional sexual beast. But I can understand why they wouldn't want to put that in the movie, it might be a bit of a leap too far for the audiences. But it was always the way we intended to end it, there are lots of clues all the way through the comic.
Eurogamer: Do you think 9/11 proved that it didn't need to be a huge multi-dimensional monster invasion to bring people together?
Dave Gibbons: Yeah, but the key point is, it doesn't matter if it's an act of terrorism or a giant squid from space, the threat has to come from outside. Apparently when Reagan met Gorbachev to sort out the end of the Cold War, he suggested to Mikhail that an alien invasion might be just the thing to pull everyone together. Of course the irony of 9/11 is that it did pull everyone together - just not for very long. But I'm getting all political now...
And that really is the end. For now. Watchmen: The End is Nigh is due out for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC in March.