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Tuesday, November 01, 2022 

Alan Moore disowns some of his past work, and is disillusioned with Hollywood's adaptations

Veteran Moore, largely retired from comics writing today, gave another rare interview to Gentleman's Quarterly, where he talks about his new fiction novels, and the frustration he feels at how his past comics work was handled as movie adaptations:
Moore will likely always be best remembered for these works, but he has since abandoned comics. Long before superhero stories became the bread and butter of Hollywood, studio executives were exploiting Moore’s writing. The 2001 film of From Hell, starring Johnny Depp, was especially derided, but Moore purists would argue all adaptations of his work—including the critically acclaimed, Emmy-winning Watchmen limited series from HBO, which diverges rather boldly from its source material—are at best reductive misinterpretations and at worst offensively awful. Not only has Moore had nothing to do with these adaptations—he famously hasn’t watched any of them. It’s no wonder, then, that Moore has been a tireless advocate for creators’ rights. After failing to maintain ownership of the characters and stories he created for mainstream comics publishers (predominantly DC) he’s disowned much of his most beloved material.
Interesting somebody who's as ultra-leftist as Moore is today would become a creators rights advocate, since his fellow leftists in the USA have become some of the most greedy for hogging material they didn't create, so they can exploit it for their own gain. If he won't admit this has become a serious issue, how does he expect to solve anything?
The times Moore has talked to the press, he has been outspoken, railing against the absurdities of superhero fandom and the rapaciousness of the comics industry. “When I first protested having my intellectual properties stolen,” Moore says, “the reaction from a lot of the fans was, ‘He’s a crazy, angry guy.’ He’s just inexplicably angry about absolutely everything. He wakes up in the morning, angry with his pillow. He eats his breakfast cereal while being angry with it. He’s angry about everything, so, therefore, nothing that he seems to be upset about is of any consequence. This is just an angry person. Alan Moore says, ‘Get off my lawn.’”
The industry may be rapacious, but what's so absurd about fandom for superheroes? Only when certain alleged members become apologists for an increasingly corporate-run structure of business that's now adhering to social justice propaganda that makes even the most questionable stories with political issues up to the turn of the century look tame by comparison. A huge irony has got to be that, once there was a time when leftists didn't like corporatism. Now, that's changed, apparently because nowadays, corporations are advocating all sorts of harmful ideologies at the expense of society.

Moore went on to tell the following about how he got into comics reading, and also cites some repellent-sounding magazine material that was on sale at one of the stores he was familiar with:
I had British children’s comics, which I was reading, I now realize, during their golden age. British comics were about America, which was a land as exotic to me as Narnia. They were just something that all working-class homes had. We had a local market called Sid’s Market Stall. It sold magazines—men’s magazines, ones with sweating GIs being whipped by Nazi women wearing swastika armbands in their underwear, which made me think the American experience of the war seemed to have been very different from what my dad told me about. They’d have those hanging on bulldog clips beyond the reach of children. And then they’d have this array of American comics that had been brought over as ballast. By the age of eight I had graduated to Mad Magazine, so I knew who John F. Kennedy was, and Adlai Stevenson. Nikita Khrushchev. I found out an awful lot about America.

There are worse ways to learn about America.

There probably are. I suppose the comics were a very big thing in my life until the age of about 14, 15. I had absorbed an awful lot of completely pointless and unnecessary lore about superheroes, all of these excessive, insane, meaningless details of continuity. I have a very sticky memory. Not so much these days, but back in my pomp, I remembered everything. It was very embarrassing when, at a comics convention that I attended after becoming a professional, they had a trivia quiz that they persuaded me to take part in. And, horrifyingly, I knew the secret identity of Chameleon Boy [a minor member of DC’s Legion of Superheroes]. That was when I realized that, no, you gotta back away from this. It’s sort of an illness.
Seriously, since he brought up that part about GIs being flogged by Nazi women, that's honestly disgusting whoever published that magazine junk played these issues for cheap sensationalism, mixing fascist and violent imagery into sex-based material. All that aside, it's a shame Moore continues to deride the superhero themes, and consider even the Big Two weren't exclusively about superheroes, if we take Nick Fury as one example who isn't. What really makes Moore's putdown problematic is that he was somebody whose most significant writings were centered around darkness and pessimism, and he didn't think that was an unhealthy influence? Okay, I know, he may have partly changed his MO years later, and to his credit, he did once say he was glad DC didn't permit him to take a much more grisly approach to handling Barbara Gordon in the Killing Joke, but he's still got to consider that an obsession with pessimism isn't healthy if it ends up becoming a belief for what's appropriate in real life. There's only too many examples today where mediocrity is seen as acceptable. They go on to discuss a chapter in Moore's new book, Illuminations, which appears to be a mirror to what went wrong with the comics industry:
In Illuminations, you have a funny moment at the beginning of the story “What We Can Know About Thunderman,” where a group of comics writers are having this pained argument in a diner about the stakes of rewriting a character’s origin story and messing with the continuity. Did you actually have arguments like that?

“What We Can Know About Thunderman,” I think that is probably my concluding statement on the comics industry. A lot of it is delirious invention, but an awful lot of it is pretty much what happened. I’ve exaggerated much less than you’d think.

The comics industry was quite a shock. I think I was suffering from the illusion that: I’m really good and if they put me on a book, it will start to increase in sales, quite rapidly. I assume that they are at least decent enough business people to understand that they will be making much more profit out of me and my work if they treat me fairly than if they surrender to their basic impulses and steal all of my shit. And that of course turned out to be a hopeless romantic fantasy. Almost as soon as I was in the door, I was on my way out again. That period of comics that most people remember me for was actually, what, a five-year period? Between 1982 and 1987. Something like that. And 35 years ago. All of that stuff, all of that material that is owned by the various comic companies, I have personally disowned. It’s just too painful.
That's an interesting way of looking at things. The stuff he was most known for was what he scripted in the 80s, and what came afterwards less so, even as there were still at least 3 more film adaptations, though largely unsuccessful. And he later soured on employment by Image and Rob Liefeld. That Moore would build on his experiences in comicdom certainly does illuminate what went wrong by the turn of the century - continuity, and consistency for characterization, was being thrown away, and the MSM didn't give a damn, nor did the industry apologists who brought us to this situation.
Is it painful artistically or are you just frustrated by the business side of things?

You can’t separate them from each other. Artistically, it’s painful because of the immense amount of work—and I hope, vision—that I put into those early works. I was trying as best I could to remake the comics industry and to a certain, lesser extent, the comics medium, into the thing that I wanted it to be. I was introducing the ideas that I thought might be beneficial to the medium and take it into new areas. Artistically, to have those works taken away from me and perhaps largely misunderstood?

It seemed to me that what people were taking away from works like Watchmen or V For Vendetta wasn’t the storytelling techniques, which to me seemed to be the most important part of it. It was instead this greater leeway with violence and with sexual references. Tits and innards.

When I did things like Marvelman [now known, for a variety of legal issues, as Miracleman] and Watchmen, they were critiques of the superhero genre. They were trying to show that any attempt to realize these figures in any kind of realistic context will always be grotesque and nightmarish. But that doesn’t seem to be the message that people took from this. They seemed to think, uh, yeah, dark, depressing superheroes are, like, cool.

The creation of Rorschach [a masked vigilante who is one of Watchmen’s main characters]—I was thinking, well, everybody will understand that this is satirical. I’m making this guy a mumbling psychopath who clearly smells, who lives on cold baked beans, who has no friends because of his abhorrent personality. I hadn’t realized that so many people in the audience would find such a figure admirable. I was told—this was probably 5 or 10 years ago—that apparently Watchmen has quite a following amongst the right wing in America. In fact, do you know the far-right website, Stormfront?

Sure. [Editor's note: Stormfront is a neo-Nazi internet forum that the Souther Poverty Law Center has described as “the first major hate site on the internet.”]

They did a reproduction of the fascist hymn that I wrote for V for Vendetta. And they said that, “Yeah, this person is supposed to be the exact opposite of us politically, but having read these beautiful words, I think that he must secretly be one of us, inside.” I think I understand fascism, and I know what kind of hymns people like that would probably like. But if this stuff can be so fundamentally misunderstood, it does make you wonder what the point of doing it was.
This is peculiar he'd be led to believe right-wingers actually consider Watchmen and V for Vendetta, and I can't help but wonder if he's making it all up on purpose, just to show how continually devoted he is to left-wing politics, as his US counterpart Frank Miller sadly turned out to be. But while Stormfront is definitely one of the most repugnant websites around, the SPLC is just as reprehensible a business, and was even accused of some of engaging in much of the same offensive behavior as the right-wingers they've been going after in the past decade. By the way, do they know "nazi" was really an acronym for "national socialism" in Germany? Sometimes, it seems like that fact's long been obscured because otherwise, it'd be more obvious the party was built on leftist ideology, and capitalism's been considered more of a rightist platform. Why else does he think the awful Stormfront might've exploited ingredients from V for Vendetta?

As for his argument Miracleman and Watchmen were critiques intended to make clear that realism's not a good way to render the superhero genre, there is validity in that. And if people back in the day were getting the wrong ideas from those writings, obviously, it's a terrible shame, because that's exactly what's led to the sorry state of affairs we're witnessing now in Hollywood, where a dark angle is considered superior in almost every way to a bright angle, and the horror genre's become too prevalent. But surely this isn't why maybe Moore should've considered making more of an effort throughout his comics career to put more emphasis on optimism than pessimism? Sadly, we're way past the point where something could've been done that might've improved the situation as we know it now.
Was doing something like Neonomicon or Providence in any way a reaction to some of the things you’re talking about? A reaction against superheroes?

With the “Lovecraft” books, that was strange. They grew almost like a culture in a Petri dish. I was trying to divorce Lovecraft and his ideas from the archaic setting that they usually present it in. Lovecraft was kind of anti-modern and certain stories weren’t really designed for the modern world. Certainly not this modern world. [Editor’s note: Lovecraft, who set many of his stories in imaginary towns across New England, is known for both his influential contributions to the horror and fantasy genres and the racism that taints his work.] Neonomicon was probably one of the nastiest things that I’ve ever done.

I think it’s the most disturbing.

Thank you. Because that was what I wanted. Let’s do something that is not just a horror comic. Let’s do something that is genuinely horrific. Not “This is a cool horror story,” but, “I’m horrified.” With Providence, I made the central character gay and Jewish, just to problematize the relationship with Lovecraft, who was notoriously antisemitic and possibly a conflicted homophobe.
If, as they say a little further down the interview, Lovecraft had "discomfort" with women, why would he be a homophobe? In any case, this is not amusing Moore would make a Jewish character gay. I suppose that's an excuse for not putting such a character in a relationship with a non-Jewish woman? Utterly stupid. It's just more PC in motion. And why say "possibly" if it's never been definitively confirmed he was homophobic? It sounds like Moore just added that in for PC's sake.

As for Lovecraft's racism, sure, it's definitely appalling, but the whole notion modern writers are throughly incapable of the same or worse is insulting, and practically the reason why we're still seeing more of it, and not just anti-white racism that's sadly become acceptable to some on the left, and sexism is still prevalent, and not just in selective situations involving transsexuality. Moore goes on to give his viewpoint of USA politics:
When was the first time you visited America?

I’ve visited America twice. I didn’t find myself very comfortable. Possibly I don’t feel comfortable anywhere. I always used to warn people against making the mistake of trying to map a country that you’re unfamiliar with onto a country that you are familiar with, because that is something we all tend to do, and it generally leads to tremendous errors. I myself fell prey to that because when I went over to America the first time, I was thinking, “Okay, so the Republicans, they’re probably more like the conservatives, which means that the Democrats are probably more like the Labor Party.” So, Republicans right-wing, Democrats left-wing. That was the construction I had in my head. This was despite the fact that an awful lot of the Americans that I spoke to considered themselves to be left-wing. They sounded, to my ears, and to the ears of some of my English friends, to be essentially center-right. Since 2016, specifically, it has struck me that probably the Democrats are more the conservatives, and the Republicans would seem to be closer to actual fascists. I think there’s a worrying fascist undercurrent in America. I myself have stopped traveling. I’ve not been out of the country since 1989, something like that.

Oh, really?

I don’t have a passport anymore. Everything is here, as far as I’m concerned.
So he's content these days to be confined to the UK, is he? That's okay, based on where and how the USA is going now. But how sad he sticks to a viewpoint that seems awfully common among leftists of his sort, that right-wingers are all fascists with no redeeming values, and leftists are virtually incapable of making similar mistakes. This kind of view is divisive, and has served to cause society to fall apart.

Later, who would comment on Moore's interview but propagandist Graeme McMillan at Wired, and he really insults the intellect when he addresses Moore's conclusion readers think dark, depressing heroes are "cool":
In this, Moore stands correct. And in those readers’ defense, dark superheroes are cool. But Moore’s point goes beyond that; he wants people to realize that wishing for saviors is a fool’s errand and anyone who attempts heroism on that level is bound to be torn asunder. Moore just wanted to illustrate how ridiculous it would look if someone actually tried.

Perhaps that’s where he went wrong, trying to criticize superheroes in the very medium that practically invented them. Maybe fans’ refusal to hear what Moore tried to say reflects their appetite for the status quo in storytelling, with fights and melodrama often replacing true emotional arcs or personal growth of any kind. Steve Rogers and Tony Stark would rather punch each other than go to therapy; the Joker dances on some stairs and becomes a poster child for disaffected men, rather than a disquisition on how they channel their anger.
It's just like somebody of McMillan's standing to take the side of darkness, and not make an argument in favor of brightness, despite any suggestions to the contrary. The only good argument here is that Moore did make the error of conducting his critique inside comics proper; that easily became the norm years later, or worse, the whole genre/theme's been torn down in comics proper ever since. And that's where McMillan fails to realize he's being awfully ambiguous regarding the fight between Capt. America and Iron Man in Civil War back in 2006, and the Joker's since been elevated to a cause celebre in an era where darkness is considered a masterpiece, at the expense of heroism. Worst, by making the Joker the star of his own movie, one could argue WB did the same thing Netflix recently did with Jeffrey Dahmer, romanticizing murderous villains at the expense of heroic and law-abiding figures.

But is this really the "appetite" of fandom, let alone a status quo many believe in? Judging by how the Big Two have lost many audience over the past 2 decades, and so many of their books now sell very low, it could be argued that's anything but the case. It's certainly terrible though, that there's a situation where anybody's willing to buy into these PC-laden products devoid of merit-based judgement.

On the subject of Moore giving up tons in residuals, Giant Freakin' Robot says:
Although he demanded his name be removed from almost all of his work, Alan Moore is still well-known as the creator of these properties. In fact, this is arguably his most famous act of protest, since he gave up the rights to millions of dollars in royalties from three hit movies and a powerful Watchmen follow-up mini-series on HBO. He is famously an anti-capitalist anarchist and stripped his name from these works because he felt they were becoming too commercialized.
While it's true they've become far too commercialized, it's a shame he despises capitalism, though I don't think he's ever been considered an "anarchist", and that's an awfully embarrassing way to describe him. Capitalism alone isn't the problem, but profiteering most certainly is. A shame Moore won't consider that. And yet, that's got to be a leading reason why Hollywood's circled the artistic drain of recent, in an era where special effects have become way too influential, minimizing merit in the process.

Good luck to Moore in selling his novels. But a terrible shame he remains so fixated on some absurd political cliches that've only served to create a divisive atmosphere that's long taken it's toll. At least today, he disowns some of his early Big Two work, and as a result, I can actually appreciate it more, since as the artist, he parted from the art, something you'd usually expect the consumer to do.

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