"Life isn't divided into genres. It's a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical, science-fiction cowboy detective novel. You know, with a bit of pornography if you're lucky."
— Alan Moore
Probably the most widely recognised (and insane
, although in that nifty-creative Howard Hughes and Orson Welles
way) Comic Book
writer of all time, Alan Moore was born in Northampton, England in 1953, and got his start writing and drawing cartoon strips for magazines such as Doctor Who Magazine
and The NME
. He moved on to get regular work at Marvel UK, where he wrote the Captain Britain
comic, and 2000 AD
, where he wrote a series of acclaimed stories, including DR And Quinch
and The Ballad Of Halo Jones
. This period included V for Vendetta
, about an anarchist planning to take down a fascist UK Government, and Miracleman
, a reinvention of a 1950s British superhero.
Moore was then encouraged by DC Comics
editor Len Wein to start work on Swamp Thing
, Wein's classic horror comic. Originally about a scientist, Alec Holland, who had been transformed into a living plant monster after an explosion in his lab, Moore proposed a radical revision that revealed that Alec had in fact died in the explosion, and that the swamp creature had been created by plant elementals using Holland's memories as a basis for its character. Swamp Thing was not a man turned into a monster; he was never a man at all! Moore then took the Swamp Thing through a number of unusual adventures, including an entire issue dedicated to psychic, psychedelic sex between Swampy and his human girlfriend, Abby.
Moore also created the character of John Constantine
for the comic. Along the way, he wrote a tiny handful of Superman
stories which are now considered some of the very greatest ever written for the character (one was even adapted into an episode of Justice League Unlimited
) and set the groundwork for a more extensive examination of Superman later in his career, through the pastiche character Supreme
. Not to mention a tiny handful of Green Lantern
stories that have become integral to its
history ("Mogo Doesn't Socialize" and "Tygers").Swamp Thing
proved to be a massive success, and in the last years of Moore's run on the title, he was also handed another gaggle of existing characters to play with. DC had recently acquired the properties of Charlton Comics
and Moore was asked to come up with a proposal for them. He came back with a dark tale that drew heavily on the mid-80s Cold War
angst, in which the Charlton heroes discover that one of their number has been killed and that his death is connected to something that could lead to nuclear armageddon. DC was impressed by the pitch but was worried that Moore's pitch would render a number of the characters unusable by the end of the story. Instead, they advised him to create an entirely new series, and so Watchmen
was born. Mature beyond anything that mainstream comics had published up to that point and with a level of complexity that rivaled the most highbrow books of the time (and continues to rival the best that many writers can come up with), Watchmen
proved to be a massive sensation, and with Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
, effectively launched The Dark Age of Comic Books
. (Moore's Batman
one-shot The Killing Joke
in 1988 was another big success in this regard — its approach to the Joker became the Trope Namer
for Multiple Choice Past
.) It also contributed heavily to the growing realisation in the mainstream media that comics are an art form, along with other comics such as Art Spiegelman's Maus
and Gilbert and Jamie Hernandez's Love And Rockets
Ironically, the popularity of Watchmen
was the first nail in Moore's relationship with DC; the contract that he and artist David Gibbons had signed promised them that full rights to the comic would be returned to them if the book fell out of print for more than two years. At this point in time, paperback collections of comic books were virtually unheard of and the idea that Watchmen
would remain in print that long was absurd. However, the book's popularity kept it in print from 1987 through to the present day, and neither Moore nor Gibbons ever received the rights. Moore's relationship with Marvel Comics
was also strained, and for similar reasons.
, Moore moved into independent comics, writing Brought To Light
, a history of the CIA; Lost Girls
, a piece of highbrow erotica; and A Small Killing
, the story of a graphic designer who finds himself stalked by a strange little boy. In the mid-90s, he also began doing more work-for-hire writing for companies such as Wildstorm Comics
and Image Comics
. Through Wildstorm, he published his own imprint, America's Best Comics (ABC), which included Promethea
, a 32-issue treatise on magic (Moore has been a practicing magus since his 40th birthday); Top 10
, a pastiche of Police Procedural
TV series set in a superhero-populated city; and Tom Strong
, a call back to a more innocent era of comic writing. Perhaps the best-known ABC comic, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
, is a Victorian-era superhero story set in a universe in which all stories exist alongside one another. Thus, the titular team comprises Mina Murray (Mina Harker of Dracula
, reverting back to her maiden name), Allen Quatermain (King Solomon's Mines
), Captain Nemo (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
), Hawley Griffin (The Invisible Man
) and Dr. Jekyll/Mister Hyde (duh
However, Wildstorm was bought out by DC Comics
and Moore subsequently parted from America's Best Comics. As of 2008, the only title he plans to write with any regularity is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
, which after The Black Dossier
, will be published through Top Shelf Productions. He is also currently working on his second prose novel, tentatively titled Jerusalem
, his amazing talent comes from Satan. Not by selling his soul for it
, mind you, but because he used to beat Satan up for his lunch money until the Devil bribed Moore with genius to leave him alone. Additionally, Death is afraid of him
He is known, with a particularly vivid description of From Hell
, to have driven Neil "Scary Trousers" Gaiman
to leave a restaurant to go outside and get some fresh air so he wouldn't vomit.
Twice. Gaiman also wrote this
short comic about him, which pretty much sums up how many people view him.
Did we mention he's also a polyamorous
, vegetarian anarchist
and an accomplished ceremonial magician?
Sometimes goes by the name of Translucia Baboon to warn us all about ducks
. Is the quintessential modern Mad Artist
Common themes and elements:
- Appeal To Audacity: Whether done deliberately by Moore is open to debate, this is one of the cornerstones of his works by his fans.
- Arc Welding: A big believer in this. When revisioning characters like Swamp Thing and Miracleman he took pains to make sure the earlier stories were referred to and fitted in the overall fabric while allowing him room to write freely. He believes that fans of earlier stories would otherwise feel that the stories they followed had no value. For an extreme example, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen does this for all of recorded literature and popular culture throughout the ages.
- Author Appeal:
- Makes Just as Much Sense in Context: Vary from work to work but more than one fan can describe him like this.
- Magic, especially as a supernatural expression of information.
- Anarchy as a positive force. He's actually quite proud of the Guy Fawkes mask becoming a symbol.
- Wordplay (and imageplay).
- Making heavy use of the Match Cut technique to present a united narrative.
- The effect of the presence of superheroes or the supernatural on "real world" culture and society. This involves averting Reed Richards Is Useless and Cut Lex Luthor a Check - the latter of which Moore's Swamp Thing run is the Trope Namer for.
- Reinvention of existing characters.
- Mixing fiction and historical fact.
- Drugs are great! His works often feature characters using hallucinogens to positive effect, such as Ozymandias in Watchmen and the cop in V for Vendetta. Also, when Miracleman changes the world, he legalises all drugs.
- Lots of sex. Lost Girls and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier stand out.
- He also has a thing for Rape as Drama. However, it is almost always done tactfully. But some scenes in his current Neonomicon project take explicit rape to Nausea Fuel lengths.
- Black Comedy and Kafka Komedy: A lot of his work from his early days at 2000 AD is overflowing with this (especially DR & Quinch and his collection of Tharg's Future Shocks). These themes remain in his later works, but they are not nearly as prevalent as they are in some of his oldest stories.
- Darker and Edgier: Along with Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Moore's earlier works - notably The Killing Joke and Watchmen - have been credited with leading the trend. Note that his works, while often dark, are almost always idealistic, and his later works were often lighter (while always retaining an edge). He also very much regrets his role in driving the industry to such a dark place.
- Deconstruction, especially in the form of Deconstruction Crossover. Actually, Moore probably codified the latter trope with his graphic novel series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
- From Hell was an ambitious work which deconstructed Victorian London and human sexuality on the whole, in addition to the pop culture mythology of Jack the Ripper.
- Deconstructive Parody: Some of his works fall into this. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen taking on such pop culture sacred cows as James Bond and Harry Potter, painting them in a decidedly less attractive light.
- Humans Are Flawed / Crapsack World: Every major character in his stories will always be guaranteed to have some kind of obvious flaw or otherwise unlikable trait, a variant of Humans Are Bastards and Humans Are Morons perhaps being the two most common (but certainly not the only ones), while the city/world/universe his stories take place in are very grim and despairing places; no one ever really has much hope for anything in Moore's stories, let alone hope for their own personal ambitions or goals in the story (even if the story concludes with a genuinely happy ending).
- Earn Your Happy Ending: A more common refrain in his works, is that humanity can endure whatever tragedies and world-historical social changes that technology and new social values will create, with the breakdown of the old order giving momentum for radical change. However, this is still carefully qualified and not entirely definite.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Chapter titles in his individual works occasionally follow a common theme. For example, V for Vendetta and words that begin with the letter V, Watchmen and its Literary Allusion Titles, DR & Quinch and titling each separate story "DR & Quinch _______" and so forth..
- Insistent Terminology: When discussing his feelings towards Before Watchmen and why it was different from his own adaptations of pre-existing characters like Swamp Thing, Miracleman, League of Extraordinary Gentleman Moore feels that in the case of League, there is a great deal of difference between adapting works by pre-existing authors and outright stealing them which is what he does. He notes that his later works merely take existing characters into entirely new contexts and situations outside their original stories and are not continuations or add-ons to a work belonging to the author under the same title.
- In the case of his adaptations, Moore stated that he had permissions and support from the original creators note and tried as much as possible to respect their vision even Arc Welding their stories into his new vision and in the case of Whatever Happened to The Man of Tomorrow? giving Superman a Fully Absorbed Finale by collaboration with the original Superman team.
- Man of the City: How he feels towards his hometown Northampton. He is actively involved in all kinds of local issues there and his later works, especially his literary fiction, map out the history of Northampton and its importance.
- Muggle Power : In his introduction to the special edition of Watchmen and in later interviews he noted that his interest gradually shifted from explorations of superheroes towards this. He stated that the development of technology effectively gave normal people some of the abilities and capacities that we ascribe to superheroes. This led to Top Ten a city where everyone has powers and nobody's special.
- Orphaned Series: A number of Moore works were never completed due to publishers failing, or Moore falling out with his publishers or collaborators. The most notorious example is Big Numbers, a hugely-ambitious literary graphic novel that only made it to two of the proposed twelve serial installments because Moore's self-publishing venture failed and two successive artists suffered Creator Breakdown. Others include The Ballad Of Halo Jones (which did reach a fairly satisfying ending point, but was intended to be three times as long), 1963, and Supreme (which was revived much later with other writers continuing on from Moore's final issue).
- Promoted Fanboy / Running the Asylum: Alan Moore criticizes the fact that contemporary comics seem to be written more by fans who long for their childhood comics heroes rather than professional writers with craft and skill.
- He admits that he himself was this. The young Alan Moore was a serious comics collector who affirms that Superman was his favorite character growing up. His love for the latter character and identification with its creators struggle, led to his famous, poignant story Whatever Happened to The Man of Tomorrow? which Neil Gaiman noted was a farewell to the Superman that existed in Moore's heart and who he believed would fade away with the Cosmic Retcon that followed afterwords.
- Reconstruction, especially considering how some of his more famous deconstructive works ushered in the Dark Age. His works such as 1963, his runs on Supreme and Youngblood as well as Tom Strong are clear examples.
- Lost Girls was an attempt at reconstructing pornography, treating it as a valid form for exploring sexuality and trying to correct some of the stigma associated with it.
- Sophisticated as Hell: Sometimes literally. His works mix and match low culture and high culture with incredible aplomb. He's as deeply influenced by the likes of James Joyce, Bertolt Brecht and Thomas Pynchon as he is by Jack Kirby and pulp fiction. He grew up as a working class autodidact and absorbed information all throughout his life and is nearly a Renaissance Man in his wide knowledge of physics, biology, chemistry, mathematics, history, art and all kinds of minutiae that he peppers his works with. He generally believes that writers should avoid Small Reference Pools and incorporate ideas from different mediums and fields of interest.
- Surreal Horror: Several of his later works contain heavy doses of this.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: A real believer and practitioner of this, though never to True Art Is Incomprehensible levels but a lot of the references in works like Promethea and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen will fly over people's heads providing readers with a Fetch Quest to unearth all the meanings and quotations themselves in the hopes that audiences have an Unconventional Learning Experience.
- Experimentation with form: symmetrical and chiastic story structures (e.g. the pirate comics in Watchmen), playing with the chronological order of events (the fourth chapter of Watchmen, which jumps back and forth between the past, present, and future), as well as layouts enabling dialogue to be read in different orders (e.g. the Mobius strip segment in Promethea).
- Disinterest in movie adaptations of his work and Hollywood in general.
- Freemasonry, often with ominous undertones.
- And, of course, Doing It for the Art. He never does it for anything else.
- Alternate Company Equivalent and Expy characters abound in many of his works.