Comic Book Classics #24
Arguably the greatest living comic-book writer, Alan Moore (1953 – ) is certainly one of the best known. And funnily enough he lives just down the road in Northampton (where he was born) which is what, 25 miles from Leicester? So very much a local boy done good. I first became aware of him in the 1990s through his graphic novels V for Vendetta and Watchmen, although I’d read his stuff without realizing it in 2000 AD. The Ballad of Halo Jones and DR and Quinch somehow stuck with me, even as I (rightly) dismissed most US and British ‘graphic novels’ as inferior shadows of European ones.
One aspect of his work that stands out (perhaps the most important for me) is the way his comics are grounded in real world issues and are not afraid to tackle politics. V for Vendetta is a diatribe against Margaret Thatcher, Watchmen too is constructed around a critique of repressive impulses among the powerful (Superheroes being nothing more than fascist vigilante fantasies). In his less familiar works this tendency is also clear; ‘Brought To Light’ about conspiracy theories and 9/11, Aargh (an acronym for Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia), tackled the introduction of clause 28 and latterly Moore has become involved with Occupy Comics – a project by comic book artists to support the UK’s Occupy movement.
Issues of gender are also of particular interest to him. In a medium saturated with unfeasibly endowed superheroines, Alan Moore has collaborated with women artists (most notably Melinda Gebbie, his partner) to tackle the blatant sexism in the medium. Their most notable collaboration; Lost Girls, is an exploration of sexual fantasies from a woman’s perspective. An incredibly beautiful book, it references a great number of images, artists and styles.
Alan Moore is a writer who really understands the peculiarities of the comic book medium; its advantages and drawbacks. His writing is lyrical, literate and evocative, but when required it can be sparse, dense or spartan. In his dealings with big business comics he has specialized in turning round ailing franchises like ‘Swamp Thing’ and the bafflingly popular ‘Batman’. He no longer deals with either Marvel or DC, having fallen out over the adaptation of his work to film and their shabby treatment of artists and writers. A remarkable number of his comics have been adapted; From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Watchmen, V for Vendetta. Moore, however has disassociated himself from all of them.
Apart from comics, Alan Moore is a published novelist, has written widely on magic (he’s an occultist and a ‘neo-pagan’) and has a long-standing interest in music. His main legacy, however, will be a body of work that showed what comics as a medium could do and what they could be. Sadly, apart from the ubiquitous Guy Fawkes mask (bowdlerized to the extent that it is now used by Tea Party activists), it might just be the film manglings of his work that will endure. It will be a great pity if that happens.