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Genre Deconstruction / Alan Moore

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Alan Moore practically made a career out of Genre Deconstruction, particularly with superheroes.

  • Watchmen deconstructs the entire Silver Age superhero genre. The premise of the comic is exactly like any other Super Hero comic; some people put on strange costumes in order to fight crime. However, it didn't start with an alien child coming to earth, but rather, with a bunch of off-duty cops wearing masks to counter mask-wearing criminals. Along the way, every trope associated with Super Hero comics of the time is deconstructed: Impossibly Cool Clothes turn out to be fatally impractical, politicians get involved and deputize and weaponize superheroes, these superheroes end up changing the course of history (arguably for the worse), and the main cast of Super Hero characters are all rather screwed up. Specifically...
    • Rorschach embodies morally absolutist vigilante Super Hero characters like the original The Question. He is so morally absolutist that he will stop at nothing to enforce his view of justice and will commit heinous acts as a means to an end; ultimately it turns out he is a Straw Nihilist with a Woobie-worthy past.
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    • The Comedian is the Unbuilt Trope of the '90s Anti-Hero. Big guns, wisecracks, big muscles, and badass mannerisms abound... as do attempted rape, misogyny, murder of innocents, and moral nihilism. All these are merely his emotional shields. He has a breakdown when he discovers Adrian Veidt's plot because it was so horrifying even to him and Crazy Enough to Work. He also doubles as a critique of the Captain Patriotic and Military Superhero – as a superhero working for the authoritarian US government, he's bound to get involved in political assassinations and international destabilization.
    • Doctor Manhattan is a true superhuman with control over matter, the ability to teleport, see the future, see subatomic particles, and is so detached from the human condition that he is indifferent to human life, out and out saying "A dead body and a living body have the same number of particles, there's no difference". He also deconstructs the Omniscient Morality License. One of his superpowers is his capacity of living in the past, the present, and the future at the same time. Instead of having more freedom of choice than the average human, knowing that everything he will do will turn okay, he has none. He knows what will he do in the future and cannot change it, becoming True Neutral. He is still a puppet, like everyone else, but (only) a puppet who can see the strings.
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    • Ozymandias, the "smartest man alive," and a Marvel-style super-genius in the mold of Reed Richards and Professor X taken to the trope's logical conclusions. He becomes a superhuman athlete through sheer force of will and a training program he designed himself, and is also the world's wealthiest self-made businessman. He's driven by such ruthless consequentialism that certain actions of his can be... morally debated. He feels right with himself being alone, but has rage about the whole world being so stupid to be engaged in a Cold War that only will end in Mutually Assured Destruction. How would you feel if you were the smartest man alive and Richard Nixon sent you his enforcer, the Comedian, to tell you not to mess in his business? How much of Ozymandias' actions are trying to save the world, and how much are nothing more than petty revenge?
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    • Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre II, the most healthy individuals in the team, are driven not by moral ideals but by, respectively, fanboyism and a desire to follow in one's mother's footsteps.
    • And the rest of the superheroes are shown to have great flaws and the common prejudices of their time, many being racist, sexist, homophobic (and hypocritical homosexuals themselves) and equally riddled with issues and neuroses.
    • It also showed that there would be far fewer 'costumed criminals' since they would either be in jail, killed, or even find redemption. Many criminals would go into more profitable and yet less showy pursuits, like drug trafficking.
    • The idea of the Nebulous Evil Organisation was also targeted for deconstruction. Who has the resources to kill The Comedian, engineer Dr. Manhattan's exile, frame Rorschach for murder, and engineer the destruction of New York other than Ozymandias, the world's smartest man?
  • Youngblood: Judgment Day is a pretty brutal evisceration of '90s superhero comics (including Youngblood itself!), as well as concepts like the Author Avatar and the invoked Mary Sue.
  • Moore's earlier work, Marvelman (Miracleman in the United States) deconstructs many aspects of the Captain Marvel mythos and superheroes in general. In one particularly memorable instance, it deconstructed superhero battles by showing just how bloody and devastating they would be in a more realistic setting.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen starts out with slightly-darker takes on Victorian heroes, but the second volume shows them sinking really low under pressure (and the ugly sides of Victorian culture that they each represent). Black Dossiere and the third volume reconstructs them during their own deconstruction of 20th and 21st century heroes.
    • Mina Harker is the heroine of Dracula, a work where she is the Damsel in Distress, here she is a divorced ex-Music Teacher, a depiction in contrast to the loving marriage we see in the narrative of the book.
    • Likewise, Allan Quatermain, rather than the stereotypical Great White Hunter, is initially The Load of the League because of his crippling opium addiction, rather than the sure hero of popular imagination and he constantly relapses into his old behavior.
    • Perhaps the biggest stretch is Captain Nemo, or Prince Dakkar of Bundelkhand, working with The British Empire, when in Jules Verne's stories he is a N.G.O. Superpower anti-colonialist rebel. Though the idea of an old imperialist and an anti-colonialist rebel on the same team is a nice touch.
    • Hyde is essentially The Hulk, which Moore notes is the literary origin of the Marvel character. This is partially justified since it is noted that Hyde did grow through Stevenson's original story and he could conceivably have achieved Hulk proportions if he and Jekyll lived long enough. Even Hyde being able to see and smell Griffin could be justified, because Jekyll's account in Stevenson's book speaks of new sensations and how the world seemed different when he changed into Hyde. That Mina finds Hyde terrifying but far from the worst she has seen is also justified. Stevenson points out that Hyde is natural, though representing the very worst in nature. Bram Stoker points out that his Dracula is utterly unnatural. There is, though, no hint in Stevenson's book that Hyde was particularly xenophobic, like Moore's version. Also, while Jekyll says the sins which embarrassed him terribly were no worse than what some men might have boasted about, it was probably a little bit more than not returning a borrowed book and occasionally masturbating over homosexual fantasies, as Moore's Hyde claims.
    • A running theme in the first two books is that "The British Empire has always had difficulty separating its monsters from its heroes." Blurring the lines between hero and villain, with M revealed to be James Moriarty, and his, and Sherlock Holmes' death, used to extend his cover. Later Ms include morally ambiguous characters like Mycroft Holmes and subsequently, Harry Lime of The Third Man.
    • The idea of long running stories with open endings for sequels to make a franchise get torn a new one in ''2009''. The heroes realise how awful fighting forever can be and are physically and mentally exhausted of fighting and just want their stories to end
    "I could have just been a traveller. You could have taught music. But no. We always have to be the heroes, don’t we?"
  • Providence deconstructs the works and life of H. P. Lovecraft, placing them in the context of their time and Lovecraft's extremely uncomfortable politics.


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