Alan Moore (b. 1953) is an English writer primarily known for his work in comic books including ‘Watchmen,’ ‘V for Vendetta,’ and ‘From Hell.’ Frequently described as the best graphic novel writer in history (though he prefers the term ‘comic’ to ‘graphic novel’), he has been called ‘one of the most important British writers of the last fifty years.’ He has occasionally used such pseudonyms as Curt Vile, Jill de Ray, and Translucia Baboon.
Moore is an occultist, ceremonial magician, and anarchist, and features such themes in his fiction, as well as performing avant-garde spoken word occult ‘workings’ with ‘The Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels,’ some of which have been released on CD. Despite his own personal objections, his books have provided the basis for a number of Hollywood films. He has stated that much of his work is designed to be ‘unfilmable’ to expose difference in the two mediums.
Moore started writing for British underground and alternative fanzines in the late 1970s before achieving success publishing comic strips in such magazines as ‘2000 AD’ and ‘Warrior.’ He was subsequently picked up by DC Comics in the US to work on on major characters such as Batman (‘Batman: The Killing Joke’) and Superman (‘Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?’). He also substantially developed the character Swamp Thing, and penned original titles such as ‘Watchmen’ for DC. During that decade, Moore helped to bring about greater social respectability for comics. In the late 1980s and early 1990s he left the comic industry mainstream and went independent for a while, working on experimental work such as the epic ‘From Hell,’ the sexually explicit ‘Lost Girls,’ and the prose novel ‘Voice of the Fire.’ In the 1990s he worked for Image Comics, before developing America’s Best Comics, an imprint through which he published works such as ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ and the occult-based ‘Promethea.’
Moore grew up in a part of Northampton known as The Boroughs, a poverty-stricken area with a lack of facilities and high levels of illiteracy, but he nonetheless ‘loved it. I loved the people. I loved the community and … I didn’t know that there was anything else.’ He later passed his eleven plus exam, and was therefore eligible to go to Northampton Grammar School, where he first came into contact with people who were middle class and better educated, and he was shocked at how he went from being one of the top pupils at his primary school to one of the lowest in the class at secondary. Subsequently disliking school and having ‘no interest in academic study,’ he believed that there was a ‘covert curriculum’ being taught that was designed to indoctrinate children with ‘punctuality, obedience and the acceptance of monotony.’
In the late 1960s Moore began publishing his own poetry and essays, eventually setting up his own fanzine, ‘Embryo.’ Around this time he first experimented with LSD, later saying of the experience, ‘LSD was an incredible experience. Not that I’m recommending it for anybody else; but for me it kind of – it hammered home to me that reality was not a fixed thing. That the reality that we saw about us every day was one reality, and a valid one – but that there were others, different perspectives where different things have meaning that were just as valid. That had a profound effect on me.’ He began selling LSD at school, being expelled for doing so in 1970 – he later described himself as ‘one of the world’s most inept LSD dealers.’ The headmaster of the school subsequently ‘got in touch with various other academic establishments that I’d applied to and told them not to accept me because I was a danger to the moral well-being of the rest of the students there, which was possibly true.’
He spent the next few years moving through various jobs, including cleaning toilets and working in a tannery. Often getting fired for smoking marijuana while at work. Around 1971, he met and married a Northampton-born girl named Phyllis. He got a job in an office for a sub-contractor of the local gas board but felt that he was not being fulfilled and decided to make a dangerous leap into a career in the arts. He took up writing and illustrating his own comics full time. He had already produced a couple of strips for several alternative fanzines and magazines, such as ‘Anon E. Mouse’ for the local paper ‘Anon,’ and ‘St. Pancras Panda,’ a parody of Paddington Bear, for the Oxford-based ‘Back Street Bugle.’ His first paid work was for a few drawings that were printed in ‘NME’ music magazine, and not long after he succeeded in getting a series about a private detective known as ‘Roscoe Moscow’ published using the pseudonym of Curt Vile (a pun on the name of composer Kurt Weill) in the weekly music magazine ‘Sounds,’ for £35 a week.
In 1979 he also began publishing a new comic strip known as ‘Maxwell the Magic Cat’ in the ‘Northants Post,’ under the pseudonym of Jill de Ray (a pun on the Medieval child-murderer Gilles de Rais, something he found to be a ‘sardonic joke’). Earning a further £10 a week from this, he would continue writing the strip until 1986. Moore has stated that he would have been happy to continue Maxwell’s adventures almost indefinitely, but ended the strip after the newspaper ran a negative editorial on the place of homosexuals in the community. Meanwhile, he decided to focus more fully on writing comics rather than both writing and drawing them, stating, ‘After I’d been doing [it] for a couple of years, I realised that I would never be able to draw well enough and/or quickly enough to actually make any kind of decent living as an artist.’
Interested in writing for ‘2000AD,’ one of Britain’s most prominent comic magazines, he submitted a script for their long running and successful series ‘Judge Dredd.’ Even though he didn’t need another writer at the time, 2000AD’s editor Alan Grant saw promise in Moore’s work – later remarking that “‘this guy’s a really fucking good writer’ – and instead asked him to write some short stories for the publication’s ‘Future Shocks’ series. While the first few were rejected, Grant advised Moore on improvements, and eventually accepted the first of many. Meanwhile, Moore had also begun writing minor stories for ‘Doctor Who Weekly,’ and later commented that ‘I really, really wanted a regular strip. I didn’t want to do short stories … But that wasn’t what was being offered. I was being offered short four or five-page stories where everything had to be done in those five pages. And, looking back, it was the best possible education that I could have had in how to construct a story.”‘
From 1980 through to 1984, Moore maintained his status as a freelance writer, and was offered a spate of work by a variety of comic book companies in Britain, later remarking, ‘I remember that what was generally happening was that everybody wanted to give me work, for fear that I would just be given other work by their rivals.’ It was an era when comic books were increasing in popularity in Britain, and according to Lance Parkin, ‘the British comics scene was cohering as never before, and it was clear that the audience was sticking with the title as they grew up. Comics were no longer just for very small boys: teenagers – even A-level and university students – were reading them now.’ During this period, ‘2000AD’ would accept and publish over fifty of Moore’s one-off stories for their ‘Future Shocks’ and ‘Time Twisters’ science fiction series.
The editors at the magazine were impressed by Moore’s work and decided to offer him a more permanent strip, starting with a story that they wanted to be vaguely based upon the hit film ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.’ The result, ‘Skizz,’ told the story of the titular alien who crashes to Earth and is cared for by a woman named Roxy. Moore has called it one his lesser works. Another series he produced for ‘2000AD’ was ‘D.R. and Quinch,’ which he described as ‘continuing the tradition of Dennis the Menace, but giving him a thermonuclear capacity.’ It revolved around two delinquent aliens, and was a science-fiction take on National Lampoon’s characters O.C. and Stiggs. It is widely considered to be the highlight of his ‘2000AD’ career. The strip that he himself described as ‘the one that worked best for me’ was ‘The Ballad of Halo Jones,’ set in the 50th century.
During this time he also worked for a new monthly magazine known as Warrior, founded by Dez Skinn, a former editor of both IPC (publishers of ‘2000 AD’) and Marvel UK, that was designed to offer writers a greater degree of freedom over their artistic creations. It was at ‘Warrior’ that Moore ‘would start to reach his potential.’ He was initially given two ongoing strips ‘Marvelman’ and ‘V for Vendetta,’ both of which debuted in Warrior’s first issue in March 1982. ‘V for Vendetta’ was a dystopian thriller set in a future 1997 where a fascist government controlled Britain, opposed only by a lone anarchist dressed in a Guy Fawkes costume who turns to terrorism to topple the government. Illustrated by David Lloyd, Moore was influenced by his pessimistic feelings about the Thatcherite Conservative government, which he projected forward as a fascist state in which all ethnic and sexual minorities had been eliminated. It has maintained a cult following throughout subsequent decades.
‘Marvelman’ (later retitled ‘Miracleman’ for legal reasons) was a series that originally had been published in Britain from 1954 through to 1963, based largely upon the American comic ‘Captain Marvel.’ Upon resurrecting the character, Moore ‘took a kitsch children’s character and placed him within the real world of 1982.’ The third series that he produced for ‘Warrior’ was ‘The Bojeffries Saga,’ a comedy about a working-class English family of vampires and werewolves. ‘Warrior’ closed before these stories were completed, but under new publishers both ‘Miracleman’ and ‘V for Vendetta’ were resumed by Moore, who finished both stories by 1989. Moore’s biographer Lance Parkin remarked that ‘reading them through together throws up some interesting contrasts – in one the hero fights a fascist dictatorship based in London, in the other an Aryan superman imposes one.’
Although his work was among the most popular to appear in ‘2000 AD,’ Moore himself became increasingly concerned at the lack of creator’s rights in British comics. In 1985, he talked to fanzine ‘Arkensword,’ noting that he had stopped working for all British publishers bar IPC, ‘purely for the reason that IPC so far have avoided lying to me, cheating me or generally treating me like shit.’ He did join other creators in decrying the wholesale relinquishing of all rights, and in 1986 stopped writing for ‘2000 AD,’ leaving mooted future volumes of the Halo Jones story unstarted. His outspoken opinions and principles, particularly on the subject of creator’s rights and ownership, would see him burn bridges with a number of other publishers over the course of his career. During this period he also formed his a band, The Sinister Ducks, under the alias Translucia Baboon along with David J (of goth band Bauhaus) and Alex Green, and in 1983 released a single, ‘March of the Sinister Ducks,’ with sleeve art by illustrator Kevin O’Neill. In 1984, Moore and David J released a 12-inch single featuring a recording of ‘This Vicious Cabaret,’ a song featured in ‘V for Vendetta,’ which was released on the Glass Records label.
Moore’s work in ‘2000 AD’ brought him to the attention of DC Comics editor Len Wein, who hired him in 1983 to write ‘The Saga of the Swamp Thing,’ then a formulaic and poor-selling monster comic. Moore, along with artists Stephen R. Bissette, Rick Veitch, and John Totleben, deconstructed and reimagined the character, writing a series of formally experimental stories that addressed environmental and social issues alongside the horror and fantasy, bolstered by research into the culture of Louisiana, where the series was set. For ‘Swamp Thing’ he revived many of DC’s neglected magical and supernatural characters, including the Spectre, the Demon, the Phantom Stranger, Deadman, and others, and introduced John Constantine, an English working-class magician based visually on musician Sting, which later became the protagonist of the series ‘Hellblazer,’ which became Vertigo’s longest running series at 300 issues. Moore would continue writing ‘Swamp Thing’ for about three years, finding both critical and commercial success, and inspired DC to recruit European and particularly British writers such as Grant Morrison, Jamie Delano, Peter Milligan, and Neil Gaiman to write comics in a similar vein, often involving radical revamps of obscure characters. These titles laid the foundation of what became the Vertigo line, DC’s more adult oriented imprint.
Moore began producing further stories for DC Comics, including a two-part story for ‘Vigilante,’ which dealt with domestic abuse. He was eventually given the chance to write a story for one of DC’s best-known superheroes, Superman, entitled ‘For the Man Who Has Everything,’ which was illustrated by Dave Gibbons and released in 1985. In the story, Wonder Woman, Batman, and Robin visit Superman on his birthday, only to find that he has been overcome by an alien organism and is hallucinating about his heart’s desire. He followed this with another Superman story, ‘Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?,’ which was published in 1986. It told the final story of the Silver Age Superman which was being rebooted. Moore wanted his plot to honor the long history of the character and to serve as a complete conclusion to his mythology. The story is a frame story set ten years after Superman was last seen, where Lois Lane recounts the tale of the end of Superman’s career to a reporter from the Daily Planet. Her story includes numerous violent attacks against Superman by his enemies, the public revelation of his secret identity of Clark Kent and a number of deaths of those closest to him.
1988 saw the publication of a Batman story written by Moore. Entitled ‘The Killing Joke,’ it revolved around The Joker, who had escaped Arkham Asylum and gone on a killing spree, and Batman’s effort to stop him. Despite being a key work in helping to redefine Batman as a character, along with Frank Miller’s ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ and ‘Batman: Year One,’ critic Lance Parkin believed that ‘the theme isn’t developed enough’ and ‘it’s a rare example of a Moore story where the art is better than the writing,’ something Moore himself acknowledges.
The limited series ‘Watchmen,’ begun in 1986 and collected as a trade paperback in 1987, cemented Moore’s reputation. Imagining what the world would be like if costumed heroes had really existed since the 1940s, Moore and artist Dave Gibbons created a Cold War mystery in which the shadow of nuclear war threatens the world. The heroes who are caught up in this escalating crisis either work for the US government or are outlawed, and are motivated to heroism by their various psychological hang-ups. ‘Watchmen’ is non-linear and told from multiple points of view, and includes formal experiments such as the symmetrical design of issue 5, ‘Fearful Symmetry,’ where the last page is a near mirror-image of the first, the second-last of the second, and so on, and in this manner is an early example of Moore’s interest in the human perception of time and its implications for free will. Alongside roughly contemporary works such as Frank Miller’s ‘Batman: The Dark Knight Returns,’ Art Spiegelman’s ‘Maus,’ and Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez’s ‘Love and Rockets,’ ‘Watchmen’ was part of a late 1980s trend in American comics towards more adult sensibilities. Comics historian Les Daniels noted that ‘Watchmen’ ‘called into question the basic assumptions on which the superhero genre is formulated.’ DC Comics writer and executive Paul Levitz observed in 2010 that ‘As with ‘The Dark Knight Returns,’ ‘Watchmen’ set off a chain reaction of rethinking the nature of super heroes and heroism itself, and pushed the genre darker for more than a decade. The series won acclaim … and would continue to be regarded as one of the most important literary works the field ever produced.’ Moore briefly became a media celebrity, and the resulting attention led to him withdrawing from fandom and no longer attending comics conventions.
In 1987 Moore submitted a proposal for a miniseries called ‘Twilight of the Superheroes,’ the title a twist on Richard Wagner’s opera ‘Götterdämmerung’ (‘Twilight of the Gods’). The series was set in the future of the DC Universe, where the world is ruled by superheroic dynasties, including the House of Steel (presided over by Superman and Wonder Woman) and the House of Thunder (led by the Captain Marvel family). These two houses are about to unite through a dynastic marriage, their combined power potentially threatening freedom, and several characters, including John Constantine, attempt to stop it and free humanity from the rule of superheroes. The series was never commissioned, but copies of Moore’s detailed notes have appeared on the Internet and in print despite the efforts of DC, who consider the proposal their property. The 1996 miniseries ‘Kingdom Come’ by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, was also set amid a superheroic conflict in the future of the DC Universe, and also features a showdown between Superman and Captain Marvel. Waid and Ross have stated that they had read the ‘Twilight’ proposal before starting work on their series, but that any similarities are both minor and unintended.
Moore’s relationship with DC Comics had gradually deteriorated over the issues of creator’s rights and merchandising. Meanwhile, a group of creators including Moore, Frank Miller, Marv Wolfman, and Howard Chaykin, fell out with DC over a proposed age-rating system similar to those used for films. After completing ‘V for Vendetta,’ which DC had already begun publishing, thus enabling him to finish the final few episodes, in 1989, Moore stopped working for DC. Abandoning the mainstream, he his wife Phyllis and their mutual lover Deborah Delano, set up their own comics publishing company, which they named Mad Love. The works that they published turned away from the science fiction and superhero genres that Moore was used to writing, instead focusing on realism, ordinary people, and political causes. Mad Love’s first publication, ‘AARGH,’ was an anthology of work by a number of writers (including Moore) that challenged the Thatcher government’s recently introduced ‘Clause 28,’ a law designed to prevent councils and schools ‘promoting homosexuality.’ Sales from the book went towards the ‘Organisation of Lesbian and Gay Action,’ and Moore was ‘very pleased with’ it, stating that ‘we hadn’t prevented this bill from becoming law, but we had joined in the general uproar against it, which prevented it from ever becoming as viciously effective as its designers might have hoped.’ Moore followed this with a second political work, ‘Shadowplay: The Secret Team,’ for Eclipse Comics and commissioned by the Christic Institute, a public interest law firm, which was included as a part of the anthology ‘Brought to Light,’ a description of the CIA’s covert drug smuggling and arms dealing.
In 1991 Victor Gollancz Ltd published Moore’s ‘A Small Killing,’ a full length story about a once idealistic advertising executive haunted by his boyhood self. According to Lance Parkin, it is ‘quite possibly Moore’s most underrated work.’ Soon after, Mad Love itself was disbanded as Phyllis and Deborah ended their relationship with Moore, taking with them much of the money that he had earned from his work in the 1980s. Meanwhile, Moore began producing work for Taboo, a small independent comic anthology edited by his former collaborator Stephen R. Bissette. The first of these was ‘From Hell,’ a fictionalized account of the Jack the Ripper murders of the 1880s. Inspired by Douglas Adams’ novel ‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency,’ Moore reasoned that to solve a crime holistically, one would need to solve the entire society it occurred in, and depicts the murders as a consequence of the politics and economics of the time. Just about every notable figure of the period is connected with the events in some way, including ‘Elephant Man’ Joseph Merrick, Oscar Wilde, Native American writer Black Elk, William Morris, artist Walter Sickert, and occultist Aleister Crowley, who makes a brief appearance as a young boy. Illustrated in a sooty pen and ink style by Eddie Campbell, ‘From Hell’ took nearly ten years to complete, outlasting Taboo and going through two more publishers before being collected as a trade paperback by Eddie Campbell Comics. It was widely praised, with comics author Warren Ellis calling it ‘my all-time favorite graphic novel.’
The other series that Moore began for Taboo was ‘Lost Girls,’ which he described as a work of intelligent ‘pornography.’ Illustrated by Melinda Gebbie, whom Moore subsequently entered into a relationship with, it was set in 1913, where Alice from ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ Dorothy from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and Wendy from ‘Peter Pan’ – who are each of a different age and class – all meet in a European hotel and regale each other with tales of their sexual encounters. With the work, Moore wanted to attempt something innovative in comics, and believed that creating comics pornography was a way of achieving this. He remarked that ‘I had a lot of different ideas as to how it might be possible to do an up-front sexual comic strip and to do it in a way that would remove a lot of what I saw were the problems with pornography in general. That it’s mostly ugly, it’s mostly boring, it’s not inventive – it has no standards.’ Like ‘From Hell,’ ‘Lost Girls’ outlasted Taboo, and a few subsequent instalments were published erratically until the work was finished and a complete edition published in 2006.
In 1993 Moore declared himself to be a ceremonial magician. The same year marked his move back to the mainstream comics industry and back to writing superhero comics. He did so through Image Comics, widely known at the time for its flashy artistic style, graphic violence, and scantily clad large-breasted women, something that horrified many of his fans. His first work published by Image, an issue of the series ‘Spawn,’ was soon followed by the creation of his own mini-series, ‘1963,’ which was ‘a pastiche of Jack Kirby stories drawn for Marvel in the sixties, with their rather overblown style, colorful characters and cosmic style.’ According to Moore, ‘after I’d done the ‘1963’ stuff I’d become aware of how much the comic audience had changed while I’d been away [since 1988]. That all of a sudden it seemed that the bulk of the audience really wanted things that had almost no story, just lots of big, full-page pin-up sort of pieces of artwork. And I was genuinely interested to see if I could write a decent story for that market.’
He subsequently set about writing what he saw as ‘better than average stories for 13- to 15-year olds,’ including three mini-series based upon the ‘Spawn’ series: ‘Violator,’ ‘Violator/Badrock,’ and ‘Spawn: Blood Feud.’ In 1995, he was also given control of a regular monthly comic, Jim Lee’s ‘Wild C.A.T.S.,’ which he would continue to write for fourteen issues. The series followed two groups of superheroes, those on spaceship heading back to their home planet, and others remaining on Earth. Moore’s biographer Lance Parkin remarked critically of the series, feeling that it was one of Moore’s worst, and that ‘you feel Moore should be better than this. It’s not special.’ Moore himself, who remarked that he took on the series – his only regular monthly comic series since ‘Swamp Thing’ – largely because he liked Jim Lee, admitted that he was not entirely happy with the work, believing that he had catered too much to his conceptions of what the fans wanted rather than being innovative.’
Next he took over Rob Liefeld’s ‘Supreme,’ about a character with many similarities to Superman. Instead of emphasising increased realism as he had done with earlier superhero comics he had taken over, Moore did the opposite, and began basing the series on the Silver Age Superman comics of the 1960s, introducing a female superhero Suprema, a super-dog Radar, and a Kryptonite-like material known as Supremium, in doing so harking back to the original ‘mythic’ figure of the American superhero. Under Moore, ‘Supreme’ would prove to be a critical and commercial success, announcing that he was back in the mainstream after several years of self-imposed exile.
When Rob Liefeld, one of Image’s co-founders, split from the publisher and formed his own company Awesome Entertainment, he hired Moore to create a new universe for the characters he had brought with him from Image. Moore’s ‘solution was breathtaking and cocky – he created a long and distinguished history for these new characters, retrofitting a fake silver and gold age for them.’ Moore began writing comics for many of these characters, such as Glory and Youngblood, as well as a three-part mini-series known as ‘Judgment Day’ to provide a basis for the Awesome Universe. Moore was not satisfied with Liefeld, saying ‘I just got fed up with the unreliability of information that I get from him, that I didn’t trust him. I didn’t think that he was respecting the work and I found it hard to respect him. And also by then I was probably feeling that with the exception of Jim Lee, Jim Valentino – people like that – that a couple of the Image partners were seeming, to my eyes, to be less than gentlemen. They were seeming to be not necessarily the people I wanted to deal with.’
Image partner Jim Lee offered to provide Moore with his own imprint, which would be under Lee’s company WildStorm Productions. Moore named this imprint America’s Best Comics, lining up a series of artists and writers to assist him in this venture. Lee soon sold WildStorm – including America’s Best Comics – to DC Comics, and ‘Moore found himself back with a company he’d vowed to never work with again.’ Lee and editor Scott Dunbier flew to England personally to reassure Moore that he would not be affected by the sale, and would not have to deal with DC directly. Moore decided that there were too many people involved to back out from the project, and so ABC was launched in early 1999. The first series published was ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,’ which featured a variety of characters from Victorian adventure novels, such as H. Rider Haggard’s Allan Quatermain, H. G. Wells’ Invisible Man, Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Wilhelmina Murray from Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula.’ The first volume of the series pitted the League against Professor Moriarty from the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ books; the second, against the Martians from ‘The War of the Worlds.’ A third volume entitled ‘The Black Dossier’ was set in the 1950s. The series was well received, and Moore was pleased that an American audience was enjoying something he considered ‘perversely English,’ and that it was inspiring some readers to get interested in Victorian literature.
Another of Moore’s ABC works was ‘Tom Strong,’ a postmodern superhero series, featuring a hero inspired by characters pre-dating Superman, such as Doc Savage and Tarzan. The character’s drug-induced longevity allowed Moore to include flashbacks to Strong’s adventures throughout the 20th century, written and drawn in period styles, as a comment on the history of comics and pulp fiction. It bore many similarities to Moore’s earlier work on ‘Supreme,’ but according to Lance Parkin, was ‘more subtle,’ and was ‘ABC’s most accessible comic.’ Moore’s ‘Top 10,’ a deadpan police procedural drama set in a city called Neopolis where everyone, including the police, criminals, and civilians has super-powers, costumes, and secret identities, was drawn by Gene Ha and Zander Cannon. The series ended after twelve issues, but has spawned four spin-offs. Moore’s series ‘Promethea,’ which told the story of a teenage girl, Sophie Bangs, who is possessed by an ancient pagan goddess, the titular Promethea, explored many occult themes, particularly the Qabalah and the concept of magic, with Moore stating that ‘I wanted to be able to do an occult comic that didn’t portray the occult as a dark, scary place, because that’s not my experience of it … [‘Promethea’ was] more psychedelic … more sophisticated, more experimental, more ecstatic and exuberant.’ It has been described as ‘a personal statement’ from Moore, encompassing ‘a belief system, a personal cosmology.’
Despite the assurances that DC Comics would not interfere with Moore and his work, in ‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ No. 5, an authentic vintage advertisement for a ‘Marvel’-brand douche caused DC executive Paul Levitz to order the entire print run destroyed and reprinted with the advertisement amended to ‘Amaze,’ to avoid friction with DC’s competitor Marvel Comics. Additionally, a Cobweb story Moore wrote for ‘Tomorrow Stories’ No. 8 featuring references to L. Ron Hubbard, American occultist Jack Parsons, and the ‘Babalon Working,’ was blocked by due to the subject matter. DC had already published a version of the same event in their ‘Paradox Press’ volume ‘The Big Book of Conspiracies.’ With many of the stories he had planned for America’s Best Comics brought to an end, and with his increasing dissatisfaction with how DC Comics were interfering with his work, he decided to once more pull out of the comics mainstream. In 2005, he remarked that ‘I love the comics medium. I pretty much detest the comics industry. Give it another 15 months, I’ll probably be pulling out of mainstream, commercial comics.’ The only ABC title continued by Moore was ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’; after cutting ties with DC he launched the new League saga, ‘Volume III: Century,’ in a co-publishing partnership of Top Shelf Productions and Knockabout Comics, the first part released in 2009, the second in 2011 and the third released in 2012.
In 2006, the complete edition of ‘Lost Girls’ was published, as a slipcased set of three hardcover volumes. The same year Moore published an eight-page article tracing out the history of pornography in which he argued that a society’s vibrancy and success are related to its permissiveness in sexual matters. Decrying that the consumption of contemporary ubiquitous pornography was still widely considered shameful, he called for a new and more artistic pornography that could be openly discussed and would have a beneficial impact on society. He expanded on this for a 2009 book-length essay entitled 25,000 years of ‘Erotic Freedom,’ which was described by a reviewer as ‘a tremendously witty history lecture – a sort of ‘Horrible Histories’ for grownups.’
In a number of his comics, where he was taking over from earlier writers, including ‘Marvelman,’ ‘Swamp Thing,’ and ‘Supreme,’ he used the ‘familiar tactic of wiping out what had gone before, giving the hero amnesia and revealing that everything we’d learned to that point was a lie.’ In this manner he was largely able to start afresh with the character and their series and was not constrained by earlier canon. While commenting on the artistic restrictiveness of serialized comic books, artist Joe Rubinstein gave the example that a comics creator would be limited in what he could do with ‘Spider-Man,’ and added, ‘unless you’re Alan Moore, who would probably kill him and bring him back as a real spider or something.’ As a comics writer, Moore applies literary sensibilities to the mainstream of the medium as well as including challenging subject matter and adult themes. He brings a wide range of influences to his work, such as William S. Burroughs, Thomas Pynchon, Robert Anton Wilson, and Iain Sinclair, New Wave science fiction writers including Michael Moorcock, and horror writers such as Clive Barker. Influences within comics include Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Kirby, and Bryan Talbot.
Moore’s work in the comic book medium has been widely recognised by his peers and by critics. Comics historian George Khoury asserted that ‘to call this free spirit the best writer in the history of comic books is an understatement’ whilst interviewer Steve Rose referred to him as ‘the Orson Welles of comics’ who is ‘the undisputed high priest of the medium, whose every word is seized upon like a message from the ether.’ Douglas Wolk observed: ‘Moore has undisputably made it into the Hall of Fame: he’s one of the pillars of English language comics, alongside Jack Kirby and Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman and not many others. He’s also the grand exception in that hall, since the other pillars are artists – and more often than not, writer/artists. Moore is a writer almost exclusively, though his hyper detailed scripts always play to the strengths of the artists he works with. That makes him the chief monkey wrench in comics author theory. The main reason that almost nobody’s willing to say that a single cartoonist is categorically superior to a writer/artist team is that such a rule would run smack into Moore’s bibliography. In fact, a handful of cartoonists who almost always write the stories they draw have made exceptions for Moore – Jaime Hernandez, Mark Beyer and most memorably Eddie Campbell.’
Due to the success of his comics, a number of filmmakers have expressed a desire to make film adaptations over the years. Moore himself has consistently opposed such ventures, stating that ‘I wanted to give comics a special place when I was writing things like ‘Watchmen.’ I wanted to show off just what the possibilities of the comic book medium were, and films are completely different.’ Expressing similar sentiments, he also remarked that ‘If we only see comics in relation to movies then the best that they will ever be is films that do not move. I found it, in the mid 80s, preferable to concentrate on those things that only comics could achieve. The way in which a tremendous amount of information could be included visually in every panel, the juxtapositions between what a character was saying, and what the image that the reader was looking at would be. So in a sense … most of my work from the 80s onwards was designed to be un-filmable.’
The first film to be based upon Moore’s work was ‘From Hell’ in 2001, which was directed by the Hughes Brothers. The film made a number of radical differences from the original comic, altering the main character from an older, conservative detective to a young character played by Johnny Depp. This was followed in 2003 with ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,’ a film that departed radically from the books, changing the ending from a mob war over the skies of London to the infiltration of a secret base in Tibet. For these two works, Moore was content to allow the filmmakers to do whatever they wished and removed himself from the process entirely. ‘As long as I could distance myself by not seeing them,’ he said, he could profit from the films while leaving the original comics untouched, ‘assured no one would confuse the two. This was probably naïve on my part.’
His attitude changed after producer Martin Poll and screenwriter Larry Cohen filed a lawsuit against 20th Century Fox, alleging that the film ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ plagiarized an unproduced script they had written entitled ‘Cast of Characters.’ Although the two scripts bear many similarities, most of them are elements that were added for the film and do not originate in Moore’s comics. According to Moore, ‘They seemed to believe that the head of 20th Century Fox called me up and persuaded me to steal this screenplay, turning it into a comic book they could then adapt back into a movie, to camouflage petty larceny.’ Moore testified in a deposition, a process he found so unpleasant that he surmised he would have been better treated had he ‘molested and murdered a busload of retarded children after giving them heroin.’ Fox’s settlement of the case insulted Moore, who interpreted it as an admission of guilt. In 2012, Moore claimed that he had sold the rights to these two works simply for the money; he did not expect the films ever to be made. He was simply ‘getting money for old rope.’ To date, Moore has seen neither film.
In 2005, a film adaptation of Moore’s ‘V for Vendetta’ was released, produced by The Wachowskis and directed by James McTeigue. Producer Joel Silver that fellow producer Lana Wachowski had talked with Moore, and that ‘[Moore] was very excited about what [Lana] had to say.’ Moore disputed this, reporting that he told Wachowski ‘I didn’t want anything to do with films … I wasn’t interested in Hollywood,’ and demanded that DC Comics force Warner Bros to issue a public retraction and apology for Silver’s ‘blatant lies.’ Although Silver called Moore directly to apologizse, no public retraction appeared. Moore was quoted as saying that the comic book had been ‘specifically about things like fascism and anarchy. Those words, ‘fascism’ and ‘anarchy,’ occur nowhere in the film. It’s been turned into a Bush-era parable by people too timid to set a political satire in their own country.’ This conflict between Moore and DC Comics was the subject of an article in ‘The New York Times,’ five days before the US release. The article interviewed David Lloyd about Moore’s reaction to the film’s production, stating, ‘Mr. Lloyd, the illustrator of ‘V for Vendetta,’ also found it difficult to sympathize with Mr. Moore’s protests. When he and Mr. Moore sold their film rights to the comic book, Mr. Lloyd said: ‘We didn’t do it innocently. Neither myself nor Alan thought we were signing it over to a board of trustees who would look after it like it was the Dead Sea Scrolls.’
Moore has subsequently stated that he wishes his name to be removed from all comic work that he does not own, including ‘Watchmen’ and ‘V for Vendetta,’ much as unhappy film directors often choose to have their names removed and be credited as ‘Alan Smithee.’ He also announced that he would not allow his name to be used in any future film adaptations of works he does not own, nor would he accept any money from such adaptations. This request was respected by the producers of the subsequent adaptations of his work ‘Constantine’ (2005) and Watchmen (2009), and his name was removed from the ‘V for Vendetta’ credits. In a 2012, interview he was asked to put a figure on how much money he had turned down by refusing to be associated with these film adaptations. He estimated it to be ‘at least a few million dollars’ and said: ‘You can’t buy that kind of empowerment. To just know that as far as you are aware, you have not got a price; that there is not an amount of money large enough to make you compromise even a tiny bit of principle that, as it turned out, would make no practical difference anyway. I’d advise everyone to do it, otherwise you’re going to end up mastered by money and that’s not a thing you want ruling your life.’
Since his teenage years Moore has had long hair, and since early adulthood has also worn a beard. He has taken to wearing a number of large rings on his hands, leading him to be described as a ‘cross between Hagrid and Danny from Withnail And I’ who could be easily mistaken for ‘the village eccentric.’ Born and raised in Northampton, he continues to live in the town, and used its history as a basis for his novel ‘Voice of the Fire.’ His ‘unassuming terraced’ Northampton home was described by an interviewer in 2001 as ‘something like an occult bookshop under permanent renovation, with records, videos, magical artefacts and comic-book figurines strewn among shelves of mystical tomes and piles of paper. The bathroom, with blue-and-gold décor and a generous sunken tub, is palatial; the rest of the house has possibly never seen a vacuum cleaner. This is clearly a man who spends little time on the material plane.’ He likes to live in his hometown, feeling that it affords him a level of obscurity that he enjoys, remarking that ‘I never signed up to be a celebrity.’ He is also a vegetarian.
In 1993, on his fortieth birthday, Moore openly declared his dedication to being a ceremonial magician, something he saw as ‘a logical end step to my career as a writer.’ According to a 2001 interview, his inspiration for doing this came when he was writing ‘From Hell’ in the early 1990s, a book containing much Freemasonic and occult symbolism: ‘One word balloon in ‘From Hell’ completely hijacked my life … A character says something like, ‘The one place gods inarguably exist is in the human mind.’ After I wrote that, I realized I’d accidentally made a true statement, and now I’d have to rearrange my entire life around it. The only thing that seemed to really be appropriate was to become a magician.’ Moore associates magic very much with writing; ‘I believe that magic is art, and that art, whether that be music, writing, sculpture, or any other form, is literally magic. Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words or images, to achieve changes in consciousness … Indeed to cast a spell is simply to spell, to manipulate words, to change people’s consciousness, and this is why I believe that an artist or writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world to a shaman.’
Connecting his esoteric beliefs with his career in writing, he conceptualized a hypothetical area known as the ‘Idea Space,’ describing it as ‘… a space in which mental events can be said to occur, an idea space which is perhaps universal. Our individual consciousnesses have access to this vast universal space, just as we have individual houses, but the street outside the front door belongs to everybody. It’s almost as if ideas are pre-existing forms within this space … The landmasses that might exist in this mind space would be composed entirely of ideas, of concepts, that instead of continents and islands you might have large belief systems, philosophies, Marxism might be one, Judeo-Christian religions might make up another.’ He subsequently believed that to navigate this space, magical systems like the tarot and the Qabalah would have to be used. Taking up the study of the Qabalah and the writings of the notorious early 20th-century occultist Aleister Crowley, Moore accepted ideas from Crowley’s religion, ‘Thelema,’ about ‘True Will’ being connected to the will of the pantheistic universe. In some of his earlier magical rituals, he used mind-altering psychedelic drugs but later gave this up, believing that they were unnecessary, and stated, ‘It’s frightening. You call out the names in this strange incomprehensible language, and you’re looking into the glass and there appears to be this little man talking to you. It just works.’ Moore took as his primary deity the ancient Roman snake god Glycon, who was the center of a cult founded by a prophet known as Alexander of Abonoteichus, and according to Alexander’s critic Lucian, the god itself was merely a puppet, something Moore accepts, considering him to be a ‘complete hoax,’ but dismisses as irrelevant. According to Pagan Studies scholar Ethan Doyle-White, ‘The very fact that Glycon was probably one big hoax was enough to convince Moore to devote himself to the scaly lord, for, as Moore maintains, the imagination is just as real as reality.’
Moore politically identifies as an anarchist, and outlined his interpretation of anarchist philosophy, and its application to fiction writing in an interview with Margaret Killjoy, collected in the 2009 book, ‘Mythmakers and Lawbreakers’: ‘I believe that all other political states are in fact variations or outgrowths of a basic state of anarchy; after all, when you mention the idea of anarchy to most people they will tell you what a bad idea it is because the biggest gang would just take over. Which is pretty much how I see contemporary society. We live in a badly developed anarchist situation in which the biggest gang has taken over and have declared that it is not an anarchist situation – that it is a capitalist or a communist situation. But I tend to think that anarchy is the most natural form of politics for a human being to actually practice’
In 2011, Moore responded to Frank Miller’s attack on the Occupy movement, calling his more recent work misogynistic, homophobic and misguided. Worldwide, Occupy protesters have adopted the Guy Fawkes mask from ‘V for Vendetta.’ The mask has also been adopted by Anonymous, WikiLeaks, Egyptian revolutionaries, and anti-globalization demonstrators. Moore described Occupy as ‘ordinary people reclaiming rights which should always have been theirs’ and added: ‘I can’t think of any reason why as a population we should be expected to stand by and see a gross reduction in the living standards of ourselves and our kids, possibly for generations, when the people who have got us into this have been rewarded for it – they’ve certainly not been punished in any way because they’re too big to fail. I think that the Occupy movement is, in one sense, the public saying that they should be the ones to decide who’s too big to fail. As an anarchist, I believe that power should be given to the people whose lives this is actually affecting.’
Doing research into conspiracy theories for his work on ‘Brought to Light,’ Moore came to develop his own opinions on the subject of a global conspiracy, stating that ‘Yes, there is a conspiracy, indeed there are a great number of conspiracies, all tripping each other up … the main thing that I learned about conspiracy theories is that conspiracy theorists actually believe in the conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is chaotic. The truth is, that it is not the Jewish banking conspiracy, or the grey aliens, or the twelve-foot reptiloids from another dimension that are in control, the truth is far more frightening; no-one is in control, the world is rudderless.’