Interview with Alan Moore

Page 7 of 8

 

AM:  Yes, I have taken jobs writing franchise characters in the past.  Of course, I did Swamp Thing and loads of stuff, including Superman and Batman.  But, I don't do that anymore.  All that stuff was my first four or five years in the comics industry, and I hadn't really examined my thinking.  But, there were things that I knew were wrong and that I didn't want to do.  For example, if I had known when I'd gone into comics, that Mick Anglo's Marvelman character had not been owned by the publisher and that the publisher had not gone bankrupt as we were told--and that the Marvelman character was not in the limbo of the official receivership--then I would never have done that character.  I would never have dreamed of it.


My position on all of this has hardened over the years.  And, to say this is just what happens in comics--that this is just the tradition in comics--characters get passed from one creator to another and that's just how it is--why is it like that?  And, where did these characters come from in the first place?  Did they all spring from the brow of Zeus, fully-formed?  Or, was there somebody who created them at some point?  Was there a sort of Jerry Robinson or Bill Finger?  Or, was there a Siegel and Schuster?  Or a Martin Nodell or a Gardener Fox who got robbed?  And then, of course the attitude--and I probably shared in this when I first started working for American comics--the attitude now is that it's just toys in the toy box, isn't it?  You get to play with your favorite toys from the DC or Marvel toy box.  Yeah, I don't want to do that anymore.  Those toys were pried out of the fingers of dead men, and were pried from their families and their children.  That's just wrong.


Everybody in the industry knows it's wrong and for some reason, nobody says anything about it.


It looks to me like spinelessness.  It looks to me like all of these superhero comics are cowardice compensators.  You've got an industry that has never stood up for itself, and where the people who did try and stand up for themselves got fired--like all of DC's competent writers during the '60s like John Broome and Gardener Fox.  They suggested forming a union and at the mere suggestion of it, they were all fired.  And, a generation of fan artists and writers were brought in as kind of scab labor because they would have paid to write Batman.  That has pretty much delivered the kind of comic market that we have today.  Like I say, it's a good industry to be out of.


KA:  The reality is that there's just too much money riding on the whole thing.  That's what is all comes down to.  It's the creators getting the check to play with the toys, it's the companies that get to cash the checks for the licensing, and so on.


AM:  Absolutely.  It is nothing but commerce.  I mean, these characters were created for the ten year old of the 1940s.  The only possible reason why they should still appeal to the 40-and-50-year-olds of the early 21st century is nostalgia in its original sense--an illness.  It kind of smacks of arrested development.  It smacks of people who are unable to leave these icons that connect them to their childhood behind.  And, you also suspect that it's the vicarious courage that is at the root of a lot of it.  Battles or struggles that they do not have the courage to confront in their own lives can be neatly channeled into these fictional characters, who always stand up against injustice and who always support the underdog.  They always rail against tyrants.  But, don't do that in the real world because that's just a superhero comic! 


If you do that in the real world then the company might not like it.


I remember when Jonathan Ross was doing his TV piece about Steve Ditko and he was interviewing lots of people from the American scene.  He interviewed one artist who had been around the Marvel at that time.  And, he said, "Oh yeah I've got lots of stories that I could tell you about Marvel comics and what they did, but I've still got loved ones working in the industry and they might do something to them."  It's not a very good picture.  These icons are supposed to stand for something.  In Superman's case, it's "Truth, justice, and the American way."


There's no truth involved in this.  There's no justice involved in this.  And if that's the American way, then it's not the American way that a lot of the Americans that I know and love would accept or appreciate.  That's my two pennies anyway.

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“You've got an industry that has never stood up for itself, and where the people who did try and stand up for themselves got fired--like all of DC's competent writers during the '60s like John Broome and Gardener Fox.  They suggested forming a union and at the mere suggestion of it, they were all fired.”

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AM:  Book three of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century will be coming out in a couple of months.  It's all finished.  It's just going into reproduction now and being printed up.  It could be out in a month, six weeks, or something like that.  Me and Kevin immediately launched into this little refresher between main courses.  We've done this 48-page book which I just finished typing today called Nemo: Heart of Ice.  It's set in the 1920s.  Yeah, I think you'll enjoy it.  It involves Captain Nemo's daughter on a trip to the Antarctic.  Kevin is quite excited about it.  He's starting to draw it at the moment.  So, we're hoping to have that out before the end of the year, when there'll also be the collection of Century coming out as well.


Other than that, there are various little bits and pieces that I'm doing.  I'm doing a musical track for the Occupy movement.  Occupy got a record label together to generate funds.  I'm going to be writing something for the Occupy Comics piece that will be coming out later in the year.  I should be starting that soon.  I'm still banging away at Jerusalem.  I have the last five chapters of that.  The Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic, which I should be going down to work on with Steve Moore tomorrow.


All these other things, they all progress.  I was recently asked to do a piece about the hacker group Anonymous and the Occupy movement for the BBC website.  Things like that seem to come up all the time.  Yeah, I'm leading a full and busy life, Kurt.


KA:  You know, as someone who hopes to be involved in American comics, despite my trepidations, I'm sorry this Before Watchmen business has happened because I think it is classless on DC's part.


AM:  The thing is, it's not the comics medium that's the problem.  The comics medium is blameless.  It's the comics industry.  They've been given plenty of chances.  When Watchmen first came out they could have thought that this could be a different kind of industry, if we just don't screw these people.  I loved the comics industry.  I would have been prepared to carry on working with them happily.  In a way, I'm glad that this has happened because I never would have gotten to do things like Jerusalem or Voice of the Fire if it hadn't.


In the world that could have been, I could have carried on working happily with the American comics industry.


I know a way that they could have sorted out their continuity.  I could have gotten rid of all of their problems for them.  It would have been really simple.  But, like I say, they unfortunately alienated me.  But, they've done that everybody who has been a heavy-hitter creatively.  Jack Kirby and all the people who genuinely created stuff all got screwed.  It was only the company employees who kind of created stuff that wasn't really that original in the first place that didn't.  It was the Len Weins who kind of did all right out of it because they always did what the company told them.


KA:  Sure.


AM:  Anyway, lovely talking to you as ever, Kurt.


KA:  Absolutely.


KA:  Is it safe to say that this is the last word from you on Before Watchmen?


AM:  It probably is.  There's not a lot of point in saying anything else.  I'll just let nature take its course.

“We've done this 48-page book which I just finished typing today called Nemo: Heart of Ice.  It's set in the 1920s.  Yeah, I think you'll enjoy it.  It involves Captain Nemo's daughter on a trip to the Antarctic.”