Interview with Alan Moore

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AM (continued):  Yeah, I know that people think I've been terribly mean to the poor little American comics industry.  It's so unfair when you think about it, isn't it, that you've got a barely-educated thug from the English midlands picking upon this huge multinational corporation.  You know, I ought to be ashamed of myself.


With regard to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, what I'm doing with that is a kind of literary game that has been going on as long as books have been around.


I mean, it probably started with whoever came up with Jason and the Argonauts, who thought, "Hey wouldn't it be great if we had a sort of Justice League of ancient Greece.  And we got Hercules and Jason and all of these other characters and you know..."


More recently, you have authors like Edgar Allan Poe.  He writes The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.  Jules Verne thinks it's great, so he writes a sequel to it.  H.P. Lovecraft--he likes the same story, so he writes his conclusion to it in At the Mountains of Madness.


I don't think any of these people would have minded because they were all good writers who were all bringing something new to the mix.  They weren't exploiting the original works.  Jules Verne called his novella, The Ice Sphinx or Le Sphinx Des Glaces.  He didn't call it The Return of Arthur Gordon Pym.


So, what we're doing is taking these characters that are mostly in the public domain.   If they're not in the public domain, they are only referred to glancingly, as a bit of a cultural joke.


It's a bit different to bringing out a comic called Rorschach.


I don't mind people referencing my characters.  It happens quite a bit.  I don't even mind, like I say, with characters like John Constantine--who I've got no interest in anymore.  I expected him to be handled by other writers.


But there's no real comparison.  In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I am not adapting characters.  I am flat out stealing them in what I think is an honorable way.


I think it was one of the French Surrealists who said, "Whenever I steal something, I leave my knife."  Nobody said, "Would you like to do an Alan Quatermain miniseries?"  I didn't have some company suggest that to me and, because I was under contract, I had to say "All right."  I took this character that, frankly, at the time when we brought out The League was almost entirely forgotten except by the perhaps half-a-dozen people who actually belonged to Rider Haggard Society.  I mean, the way that I look these days, me and Kevin, we both feel that we probably ought to be members!  What we were doing was taking these often obscure literary characters and, when they were in the public domain, yes, we could use them and we could hopefully bring new ideas to them.


There wasn't any point in simply recycling these characters.  I think that our interpretations of them have put them into new contexts, and have probably been truer to the originals than any of the official adaptations.  We've had several probably decades of people who probably thought that Captain Nemo looked like James Mason.  No, he was an Indian Prince.


KA:  Right, right.  Verne didn't explicitly state that until the sequel, The Mysterious Island.

“So, what we're doing is taking these characters that are mostly in the public domain.   If they're not in the public domain, they are only referred to glancingly, as a bit of a cultural joke.  It's a bit different to bringing out a comic called Rorschach.”

AM:  Right.  So, it is done with respect for the material, apart from our satirical touches--in which it is sometimes done with contempt for the material.  But, this is a bit different to actually, one would have thought, breeching copyright and also breeching a lot of moral obligations.


KA:  And, nobody is saying that The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is the official sequel to Dracula or any of the other works in question.


AM:  Yes, of course.  The League is not an adaptation.  It is not me adapting The Invisible Man.  I'm not taking those peoples' original stories.  I'm against adaptation in general--and this is perhaps a different subject--but generally, and there are exceptions, I don't think it works when you adapt one story to another medium.  However, there is a tradition of what we did in The League in literature.  I got a great academic book some months ago and I've forgotten the name of the author but it's called The Afterlife of Character [ed. note - Written by David A. Brewer, 1726 - 1825].  And, you can tell it's an academic book because they didn't put an "S" after "character."  You know, if they had called it "The Afterlife of Characters" that would have sounded a bit less academic!  It was a very good book, and it was talking about the incredible afterlife a lot of these characters have had.  I mean, Gulliver from Gulliver's Travels.  There were so many books that were written about sons of Gulliver, further adventures of Gulliver, books  inspired or about characters that were very similar to Gulliver.  The same is true with Robinson Crusoe.  That spun things like The Swiss Family Robinson.  You know, obviously, they were a Swiss family, but it's not likely that their name was Robinson.  That was a reference to Robinson Crusoe.


KA:  Sure.


AM:  This has gone on for centuries.  And also, funnily enough, and this is one literary source from which I didn't steal, from but my friend, the writer Steve Aylett, sent me a book the other day.  He'd read Hermann Hesse's Journey to the East which was one of the few Hermann Hesse novels that I didn't read during the hippie days when it was practically compulsory to read everything that he'd ever done.  But, I had never read Journey to the East.  It turns out it's about a group of mythological fictional characters including Tristram Shandy and Puss in Boots, who travel around the world adventuring and are known as The League.  We're going to work that in somewhere.  I can't work out how, but this is a kind of tradition.  It's nothing to do with comics.  It has to do with grown-up books, and I'm quite happy to defend it as such.


KA:  You don't see the prequels as just an extension of other writers playing in the worlds you created, in a similar fashion at all?


AM:  It's not like taking the ideas wholesale.  We did The League of Extraordinary Gentlmen, because it was a story that we wanted to tell.  We thought it was a good idea. We thought it would be exciting to have this huge literary and cultural mash-up.  We didn't do it because we were told by our publishers to do it.


KA:  Right, understood.

“...the writer Steve Aylett, sent me a book the other day.  He'd read Hermann Hesse's Journey to the East...It turns out it's about a group of mythological fictional characters including Tristram Shandy and Puss in Boots, who travel around the world adventuring and are known as The League.

We're going to work that in somewhere. “