By Alan Moore
On my fortieth birthday, rather than merely bore my friends by having anything as mundane as a midlife crisis I decided it might be more interesting to actually terrify them by going completely mad and declaring myself to be a magician.
— The Mindscape of Alan Moore
I tend to think that what fame has done is to replace the sea as the element of choice of adventure for young people. If you were a dashing young man in the 19th century you would probably have wanted to run away to sea, just as in the 20th century you might decide that you want to run away and form a pop band. The difference is that in the 19th century, before running away to sea, you would have had at least some understanding of the element that you were dealing with and would have perhaps, say, learned to swim ... The thing is that there is no manual for how to cope with fame. So you'll get some, otherwise likeable young person, who has done one good comic book, one good film, one good record, suddenly told that they are a genius, who believes it and who runs out laughing and splashing into the billows of celebrity, and whose heroin-sodden corpse is washed up a few weeks later in the shallows of the tabloids.
The majority of comics artists – some of the best ones, Harvey Kurtzman, artist-writer, Will Eisner, artist-writer, Frank Miller ... Art Spiegelman, who I believe has been very vocal about – at least in the past – how the mainstream industry, mainstream comics could produce nothing of worth, because it was not the work of one individual, it was a conveyor-belt process, and thus soulless. I've got a great deal of respect for Art Spiegelman as an intellect, but I think he's wrong on that one. I mean, it depends how you use the collaboration process, I'm sure it can be soulless, I'm sure it can be a conveyor belt, but conveyor belt does not begin to describe the collaboration between me, Dave Gibbons and John Higgins on Watchmen, it doesn't really describe the collaboration between me, John Williams, Mick Gray, Jeremy Higgins and Todd Klein on Promethea ... There's nothing soulless about the way that I approach collaboration – the exact opposite, I try to involve everybody so we've got everybody's energies pouring wholeheartedly into the book, because it is what they most want to do. And then you've got all of those energies in one harness, harnessed to one project, and you can take the story to lengths you would not have imagined possible.
I got quite a bit of criticism for that. I know that people were saying after reading the third book, that it was my equivalent of saying,"It were old fields around here once" which it wasn't, that wasn't what I was saying. What I was saying was that I don't think it was unfair to choose [The Threepenny Opera] as representing a big important cultural event of 1910. I don't think it was unfair choosing Donald Cammell's Performance as representing a big important cultural event in 1969 and I don't think it was unfair choosing J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter as representing a big cultural event in the early 21st Century. I would say that it you were to plot those things along the graph — the line isn't going up. I think that it's a fair comment that our approach to culture — in the mainstream — has degenerated ... I wasn't saying that all culture in the late 21st Century was rubbish or I wasn't saying that culture was doomed. I was saying that mainstream culture was becoming repetitive, was not having original ideas, would no longer be capable of coming up with a Performance, leave alone a Threepenny Opera.
Returning to the question, as to whether it is 'permissible' for people of one kind to depict people or another ... I submit that if this restriction were universally adopted, we would have had no authors from middle-class backgrounds who were able to write about the situation of the lower classes, which would have effectively ruled out almost all authors since William Shakespeare (whose rarity as an example of a writer from an apparently working class background is attested by the number of theoreticians from more elevated social groups who would have it that his work could only possibly have been composed by a member of the aristocracy). While I might have winced on many occasions as a middle-class author such as Martin Amis presents his (at least to my mind) lazy and offensive studies of a vulnerable underclass, I would certainly hesitate before proposing any imposition of an ideology that would also exclude the works of Charles Dickens, Gerald Kersh or any of several hundred other fine writers. I understand that it may not be considered good form to suggest that class issues are as important as issues of race, gender or sexuality, despite the fact that from my own perspective they seem perhaps even more fundamental and crucially relevant. After all, while in the West after many years of arduous struggle we are now allowed to elect women, non-white people and even, surely at least in theory, people of openly alternative sexualities, I am relatively certain that we will never be allowed to elect a man or woman of any race or persuasion who is poor.
With the benefit of hindsight and a greater understanding of anthropoid behavior patterns, science fiction author Philip José Farmer was able to demonstrate quite credibly that the young Tarzan would almost certainly have indulged in sexual experimentation with chimpanzees and that he would just surely have had none of the aversion to eating human flesh that Edgar Rice Burroughs attributed to him. As our political and social consciousness continues to evolve, Allan Quartermain stands revealed as just another white imperialist out to exploit the natives and we begin to see that the overriding factor in James Bond's psychological makeup is his utter hatred and contempt for women. Whether most of us would prefer to enjoy the above-mentioned gentlemen's adventures without spoiling things by considering the social implications is beside the point. The fact remains that we have changed, along with our society, and that were such characters created today they would be subject to the most extreme suspicion and criticism.
You see what those bloody corporations do? They take your ideas and they suck them! Suck them like leeches until they've gotten every last drop of marrow from your bones!
Back in the 1960s (and yes, this worldview may have been caused by drugs or listening to ridiculous psychedelic lyrics or what have you), there was the feeling among young people that—particularly after the Beatles-— a lot of things changed in British culture because here was a bunch of working-class youngsters from Liverpool who were nonetheless regarded as high culture. That changed everything. It made it seem as if there were potentially no limits, regardless of the heights, to which you might ascend. It seemed like there weren't these things holding you back anymore. If the Beatles could do it, then I'm sure a lot of other working-class creators thought, "Maybe I could do it?" There was that sense of there being no ceiling to the world back then. You could climb as high as you wanted on your own efforts. These days I get more of the impression that the ceiling is very evident and, instead, the impression I get is that there is no floor. There are no depths to which you might not descend that creates a kind of anxiety, a state of fear. How bad is this going to get? Is Donald Trump going to get elected? Oh my God, surely we haven't just exited Europe? All of these things. We have no idea how bad these things can get.
I do have a feeling, particularly in this last decade, that some of the appeal of superheroes that originated in America — who has done them better, with a few exceptions, than the rest of the world — has become symbolic of American impunity. You have to start wondering how brave somebody who comes from Krypton and is invulnerable to all harm, or someone who has an adamantium skeleton, can actually be. I know ordinary people who put far more than that on the line every day, and don’t expect to be called heroes. [Laughs] So is it heroes that we’re really talking about? Or is it invulnerable bullies from a culture of impunity, which also shows signs of being on the wane? That was a very big part of the first decade of the 21st century, from which I think we’re only just emerging and getting perspective on what it meant for us.
About Alan Moore
"He is a vegetarian, an anarchist, a practicing magician and occultist, and he worships a Roman snake-deity named Glycon."
— Wikipedia's article on Alan Moore
Bart Simpson: Alan Moore! You wrote my favorite issues of Radioactive Man!
Alan Moore: Oh really? So you like that I made your favorite superhero a heroin-addicted jazz critic who's not radioactive?
Bart: I don't read the words. I just like when he punches people. How do you make his costume stick so close to his muscles?
"He once called us up to tell us that he had just been in the dream realm and talking to Socrates and Shakespeare, and to Moses, dead serious, and that they talked for what seemed to be months, but when he woke up, only an evening had passed, and he came up with these great ideas. And I'm tellin' ya, I think it's shtick, dude. I think it's all shtick. I'm gonna start saying that stuff. Cuz you know what? It makes you instantly interesting. Like "O yeah, last night I was hanging out with Socrates. Came to me in a dream. We played poker. We dropped acid." That's the kinda stuff Alan would say all the time."
— Rob Liefeld (a.k.a. the Straight Man in this anecdote) [http://blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing/ill-lyteracy/rob-liefeld-shoots-on-alan-moo/]
"Alan Moore is simply stating a fact when he says that today's popular superheroes were not created for today's audiences. Virtually all the mainstay DC heroes were created around 75 years ago, Marvel's are 50 years old. The DC characters we'd think of as 'newer', like Lobo, Nightwing, and John Constantine are pushing thirty. Even Image and Dark Horse's are over 20 years old at this point. You can see the glass half-full or half-empty here: at one level, it's impressive that characters like Batman have endured. And this isn't something unique to comics: Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, and Doctor Who were all created for previous generations. We're also seeing confirmation bias at play: these are the characters who survived, and plenty of their contemporaries who were once household names have all but vanished."
— Lance Parkin, Superhero Accessories.
"It is a strange irony that for all the inevitability of Watchmen and all its meticulous symbolism, Alan Moore himself clearly had no idea what he was doing...He was, after all, nothing more than a con man with a scheme to make himself and his friend Dave a quick buck by making some stuff up about superheroes."
—Dr. Phil Sandifer, The Last War in Albion
"I'm a bloody genius."
— Linkara from Atop the Fourth Wall, imitating Moore in his Comics in Five Panels segment
"Alan Moore knows the score."
— Pop Will Eat Itself, "Can U Dig It?"
"One day the good burghers and honest townsfolk of Northampton will burn Alan as a warlock, and it will be a great loss to the world."
— Neil Gaiman, afterword in Smoke and Mirrors
"I love his work but I'm scared shitless of him. It'll take something more than mere death to take that man."