America used to be described as a “melting pot,” supposedly as a metaphor for a place where all races, colors and creeds could mix and flow together in order to create something far greater (and stronger? tastier?) than they could separately.

YMMV on how well that’s panned out. Let’s talk about the idea of a mixing pot instead, like the kind you might use (appropriately enough in this case) for paint or ink.

This past weekend Dawn and I were once again hawking our wares at the Long Beach Comic Con, and since LBCC is not nearly the sort of wall-to-wall hustle that SDCC is, we made time for ourselves to switch off for periods of what we like to call “walkabout.” Which is just what it sounds like: one of us gets out from behind the booth and goes walking about — looking at stuff, saying hi to people, etc.

So it was that I found Dave Gibbons all alone at his table at the Hero Initiative booth, with no line, and got to talk his ear off for several minutes. Yes, that Dave Gibbons. One-half of the creative team that brought us the greatest superhero graphic novel of all time. Well, technically a trade paperback since it was first serialized in individual issues, but you get the idea.

As far as I know Gibbons still lives in England, so I’ve got no idea how Long Beach got him out as a guest, but after a quick double-take I thought, “Self, yes, you’ve seen him before and that is Dave f’ing Gibbons right before you. Go get you some quality time.” After he didn’t immediately run me off, I eventually got around to asking him just how detailed Alan Moore’s script for Watchmen was. How much was already there, how controlled was the imagery and symbolism… I think he got the gist of my blathering because he interrupted to say that it was really a combined effort. “Do you know I came up with the happy face idea?” he asked.

No, I replied, I did not. He explained how at first Alan was picturing the character of The Comedian in military fatigues, but that seemed just sort of boring, so Dave switched it up to black leather and then threw in the happy face button as a contrast. Moore loved the little seemingly incongruous touch, and then had the brainstorm that they could start out the first panel with a close-up on it, and before you know it the two of them had excitedly figured out, together, that it represented a main theme and the whole series could revolve around it and the blood spatter marring its image.

The rest is history, but it just goes to show how collaborative an art form comics can be and how the mixing of writer and artist can produce something greater than either might dream up on their own. Out of that mixture can come magic.