Even if you don’t know much about Watchmen, you are probably familiar with its logo. The critically acclaimed comic is known by the symbol of a bright smiley face with blood dripping down its side. There are few images - if any - which can represent Watchmen in just a frame, but the button does it with ease. However, according to Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons, the series almost moved forward without the image.
Recently, Gibbons spoke with Entertainment Weekly about his tenure on the DC Comic, and he details just how the Comedian’s button came to be. Gibbons confessed he sketched up an early draft of the character which put him in all camouflage. The first look was meant to reflect the Comedian’s military background, but the design made him fade into the comic’s background.
“My first attempt at designing him was to give him a military uniform, like a khaki-green-brown military uniform, camouflage uniform. But of course, that looked kind of dull because camouflage by definition syncs into the background,” Gibbons explained. “So I thought, “How about if he was dressed in black? If he wore this really dark kind of costume and it was very functional with lots of ammunition belts and straps and pouches and things like that with just a hint of the stars and stripes?” So I drew this black character and he had a star on one shoulder and red and white stripes on the other.”
However, after Gibbons created Comedian’s next design, the violent antihero still looked a bit gothic to Gibbons, so he tacked on Watchmen’s smiley face button on a whim.
“He looked very serious so I thought, “I wonder what would lighten it up a bit?” So on the sketch that I did, I drew a tiny little yellow smiley faced badge, almost as a throwaway, because I thought that’s a really interesting contrast. This big hulking dark character, with this little splash of bright, silly color,” Gibbons revealed.
Gibbons then completed his design for the Comedian, and writer Alan Moore found the dichotomous button intriguing. In fact, Moore liked the design enough to feature the button throughout the story, and it became a fan-favorite piece of Watchmen. Still, Gibbons finds its crazy that his most recognizable contribution to Watchmen was nearly overlooked.
“When I came up with that I had no idea what Alan would do with it. So he turned it into what it was. But if it hadn’t been for the symbol in the first place that just popped up in my head, then we wouldn’t have gone that route. It’s like all things in the creative process. You just throw as much stuff out as you can and sometimes something just fits.”
The Watchmen live-action film hit theaters back in March 6, 2009 and earned $185 million worldwide. You can read its synopsis below:
"In an alternate 1985 America, costumed superheroes are part of everyday life. When one of his former comrades is murdered, masked vigilante Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) uncovers a plot to kill and discredit all past and present superheroes. As he reconnects with his retired associates, only one of which has true powers, Rorschach glimpses a far-reaching conspiracy involving their shared past and catastrophic consequences for the world's future."
In 2012, DC Comics revived the Watchmen property in a series of miniseries titled Before Watchmen and set in the world of the original series but before the apocalyptic events of Watchmen. There have been persistent rumors that Warner Bros. may try to develop those comics into a film as well, but none of those rumors have proven credible.