Special thanks to my good friend Tom Powers for this week’s post!
In the light of this spring’s “Watchmen-mania,” when chain bookstores marketed the perennial DC trade graphic novel Watchmen as top-selling, real “literature” and Hot Topic peddled stickers, tees, and posters that heralded the filmic adaptation’s March release, the name of writer Alan Moore was once more illuminated with the oft-used noun “brilliant.” Moore, despite the mediocre box office performance of the visionary yet flawed film’s version of Watchmen, from which he long distanced himself, remains unscathed as one of those rare specimens in the entertainment industry – an author with high standards, both personally and professionally.
But who is this long-bearded man, who, by the way, truly epitomizes creative brilliance, in his own words?
For a satisfying answer to this question, one must seek out The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore Indispensible Edition (TwoMorrows 2008), in which George Khoury conducts an extensive, career-spanning interview with Mr. Moore.
The book starts with Khoury asking Moore about his early childhood and educational experiences until the age of seventeen. One may wonder if these questions are significant in relation to Moore’s later life as a writer, but the reality is that these early chapters are perhaps the most fascinating in the book as Moore relays his opinion on the influence of class and social environment upon his development as a person. The location for his struggle is Northampton, England, but the experiences that shape Moore will be easily recognizable for any reader who did not have the easiest time growing up.
Khoury then prompts Moore about his early career as an underground cartoonist and his later professional strips for Sounds magazine, offering a glimpse into Moore’s creative oeuvre that is rarely covered. From this point, the two men discuss Moore writing stories for 2000 AD and simultaneously co-creating V for Vendetta with David Lloyd and radically revamping Marvelman for the ill-fated Warrior magazine.
The fertile period of Moore’ time as a DC writer on his psychedelically reimagined Swamp Thing, along with his several classic Superman tales and the groundbreaking Batman-Joker story The Killing Joke, is then given strong coverage. Watchman fans will be especially pleased with Moore’s comments regarding the twelve-issue series and the idea of it being adapted as a film. Moore also talks about his 90s experiences with independent publishers and self-publishing and his eventual return to mainstream comics in the 2000s as the mastermind of the ABC comics line.
In addition to the intelligent conversation that Khoury and Moore present, the book is filled with tributes to Moore from such creators as Neil Gaiman and Watchman artist Dave Gibbons. There are also several full comic strips and unpublished scripts, including the wonderful “Lust,” in which Moore writes about how a prostitute angel is affected by her mortal “customers.” The strip likewise works as a guidepost to any budding writer, for comics or otherwise, in that it offers a glimpse into Moore’s famous storytelling process as an auteur of many intelligent words that build character and setting.
If one takes into further consideration Moore’s intriguing remarks on his other roles as a novelist, musician and magician in The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore Indispensible Edition, then one has a book that delineates Moore as an inspirational renaissance person indeed!
–Review by Tom Powers