How Neil Gaiman helped Alan Moore finish Watchmen

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Feb 4, 2014, 5:35 PM EST

Before he was the beloved writer of Sandman, Neil Gaiman was lending a hand on one of the greatest comic-book masterpieces ever.

In the mid-1980s, Gaiman had not yet broken through to American comics and was still working as a journalist and publishing comics stories in British titles like 2000 A.D. He was also already friends with Alan Moore, who was in the midst of working with artist Dave Gibbons on their landmark comic Watchmen. Today, as the first glimpse of IDW Publishing's very intriguing Watchmen Artifact Edition arrived via 13th Dimension, we were reminded that Gaiman was not only Moore's friend, but also briefly his research assistant on Watchmen

As you may remember, each of Watchmen's 12 chapters features a title quote pulled from somewhere in literature. Many of these quotes came from Moore's own reading, but for some, he turned to Gaiman for help, as Gaiman recalled a few years back on his blog.

"I remember Alan ringing me up when he was writing Watchmen #3, and said, 'Neil, you're an educated bloke. Where does the quote 'Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?' come from? I think someone said it when they were dying, but I don't know when,'" Gaiman said. "I went out, and found it for him, rang him back, and said, 'No. It's Genesis. God threatening to nuke Sodom and Gomorrah.' He said, 'Thanks,' then went off. He rang me back a few months later and said, 'Neil, I haven't any quotes for the titles of #7 and #8. This is what happens in them, go find me a quote.' So I went off and got him 'Brother to dragons, and companion to owls...' from Job for #7, and the poem for #8, Eleanor Farjeon's 'Hallowe'en'. 'On Hallowe'en the old ghosts come.'"

In the end, though, Gaiman did a little more than just come up with title quotes for Moore. He found one additional quote that Moore was intrigued enough by that he actually included it in the dialogue of Watchmen #12.

"Also, while I was researching the Old Testament stuff, I was working my way through a huge Biblical concordance, getting various details. It fell open to a page on obscure history, and the name Rameses jumped out at me. I discovered this quote that said, roughly, 'I've killed all these places, and left the widows weeping there. Everything is at peace, and everything is great in the world.' So I rang up Alan, and said, 'What do you think of this?' He said 'Great! I'll stick it in #12' So you've got Ozymandias quoting Rameses in Watchmen. (ED: #12, Pg. 20)"

The full quote is in the panels below, in a key moment of the series' final issue.

So Gaiman was able to make some rather significant contributions to the comic, and as a thank you, Moore and Gibbons gave him a signed page of original art from the book: The spectacular Nite Owl dream sequence page. 

So, the next time you pick up Watchmen for that all-important reread, remember that while one legendary British comics writer was behind most of it, another legendary British comics writer had a small hand in it, too.

(Via Bleeding Cool)