The Draftsman: A Birthday Tribute To Dave Gibbons
Dave Gibbons, born on this day in 1949, has spent over forty-five years in the comics industry and crafted a career without equal. Known for his masterful layouts and exceptional character acting, Gibbons has been an ambassador for the UK comics scene around the world, and is truly a living legend in the industry.
Gibbons made his comics debut in the early '70s, and contributed to the very first issue (or Prog) of 2000 AD. He was an integral part of the publication's DNA even before the creation of Judge Dredd. Along with Pat Mills, Gibbons helped created Harlem Heroes, a 2000 AD strip about the sci-fi sport of Aeroball, played with jet-packs in the year 2050.
After a stint on Dan Dare, a childhood favourite of Gibbons’, he returned to 2000 AD to co-create the iconic Rogue Trooper with Gerry Finley-Day. Arguably 2000 AD’s second-most well-known character next to Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper follows a genetically engineered soldier who carries the consciousness’ of his fallen comrades as biochips implanted in his gear.
The mid-'80s saw the so-called “British Invasion” of the American comic industry, as Marvel and DC looked across the pond for talent and swept up creators such as Alan Davis, Philip Bond, and Gibbon’s friend and collaborator Brian Bolland. Gibbons’ first work for DC Comics was on back-up strips for titles such as Green Lantern and The Flash before taking the reins on the feature stories in both titles.
It was Gibbons and Len Wein who took John Stewart from supporting character to a starring role within the pages of Green Lantern, and the back-up story “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize” would see his first collaboration with Alan Moore. Gibbons and Moore would later work together on the classic Superman story “For The Man Who Has Everything,” which saw the Man of Steel trapped in a fantasy where Krypton never exploded, but their most high profile work would be the twelve-part maxi-series Watchmen.
Watchmen is cited (often along with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns) as revolutionizing comics in the mid-'80s, not just because of Moore’s themes and character work, but because of Gibbons’ storytelling and effective use of a nine-panel grid. Gibbons’ masterpiece is Watchmen #5, titled “Fearful Symmetry,” in which Gibbons draws the entire story somewhat symmetrically; the last panel on the last page echoes the first panel on the first page, and that runs through the entire issue.
The '90s saw Gibbons concentrate more on writing his own comics as well as drawing, with the highlight being a three-issue World’s Finest series drawn by Steve Rude. The '90s also saw frequent collaborations with Frank Miller, on their dystopian Martha Washington series, first with Give Me Liberty and later Martha Washington Goes To War.
In the mid-2000s, Gibbons returned to the Green Lantern franchise with Green Lantern Corps: Recharge, a follow-up to Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver’s Green Lantern: Rebirth, which was followed up with a Green Lantern Corps ongoing series written by Gibbons. He also contributed to Wednesday Comics, working on Kamandi along with artist Ryan Sook.
In 2012 he co-created The Secret Service with Mark Millar which was later adapted into the film Kingsman, starring Colin Firth and Taron Egerton, and in 2014, Dave Gibbons was named the first Comics Laureate of the United Kingdom, a role that made him an ambassador for the medium and their ability to improve literacy among children.
Throughout his career, Dave Gibbons has worked on an impressive range of comics from Aliens to Superman to Star Wars, all with the same professionalism and accomplished draftsmanship. With no sign of slowing down anytime soon, today we wish him a very happy birthday!