Comics Creators

Alan Moore retiring from creating comics


Sorry to harp back to Jerusalem (I’m really not), but there is a page of the Weekend Review of the Irish Times devoted to an interview with Alan Moore.

He says a couple of things that stand out for me.

“I assumed that having done Watchmen, it would suggest there were different possibilities for comics, genuinely new ways of conducting a comic story, that people would respond to and start doing brilliant, exciting stories of their own. But throughout the mainstream industry, it seems what publishers took from a work like Watchmen was that comics sell better if they’re difficult to understand, and violent and grim and more sexually explicit.”


“It seems to me, that after skipping hurriedly through the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, with our automotive tail fins that looked like rocket ships, with our science fiction, we were hurrying through those decades trying to get to this promised Jetsons future. And around 1990-95, when the internet was starting to become a reality, we realised the future had arrived and we had no idea what culture would be appropriate to this new era.
“Culturally, we decided to mark time. We marched on the spot. We recycled the culture of the previous eras that we were most comfortable with. I’d say that in cultural terms, the 21st century hasn’t started yet.”


Moore has said this repeatedly in the decades since Watchmen and I’ve always thought it was some high-horse BS.

I do find it amusing that Alan Moore thinks he is the person who discovered that sex and violence sells, however.


But that’s not what he’s saying at all in that quote.


I find it’s both arrogant and somewhat true.


He’s been saying it for decades and he’s right. And it’s not a high horse. It’s genuine disappointment that the medium he loves didn’t evolve.

I think, when he got the positive reception for Watchmen, he thought he was a part of something really grand, that he was part of a movement that would transform the medium. Not into a bunch of copies of Watchmen, but into something more thoughtful and intentional than most of what came before, and that the industry would become creator focused.

The reality is that it DID transform, but the transformation was slow, and often in underground comics.

I do think Moore would like a lot of the comics being published today – he’s endlessly positive about the work of Gillen, Spurrier, and BKV who are all great but certainly not alone in their class.

But nevertheless, I think he’s right.

Just came in here to say my Jerusalem is coming in the post today. I cannot wait, especially after that amuse bouche of Dave’s review.

split this topic #65

2 posts were merged into an existing topic: What non-comics are you reading these days?


As you say, he did transform the medium. Not on his own, but with a litany of creators from that time that pushed the boundaries like Milligan, Morrison, Miller, Gaiman, Ennis, Ellis and so on. It was 30 years ago - that’s ancient history in comic terms. A decade after Watchmen Image had formed and the rights and roles of creators had changed forever. Lines like Vertigo continued the work Watchmen started. Every damn comic at one point was deconstructing superheroes.

I think Moore comes off like a dick as he’s ignoring everything that happened since, and he’s both taking too much credit for the revolution he was part of and ignoring the hard work of every creator who followed. It’s like he wants to be a curmudgeon who thinks his work was ignored but it’s not the reality. Just how much dick sucking do fans have to do the make him happy?

Plus he can’t really shit on violence and sex selling when he had hits like LXG and From Hell and Lost Girls.

Maybe he’s just shitting on Marvel and DC, but they’re billion dollar companies. And more importantly their characters are children’s characters. Spider Man isn’t transforming into whatever Alan Moore would consider interesting anytime soon.


Moore has spoken about the value of DC/Marvel superheroes as children’s characters, saying he regrets his work that made them into something they’re not, like The Killing Joke.

And I don’t read his comments as shitting on sex and violence but on superficial uses of sex and violence. From Hell cannot be classified as a work cheaply shilling violence. Whereas LOEG is totally cheap exploitation but wears it on its sleeve, doesn’t take itself too seriously, and does it artfully.

I haven’t read Lost Girls, but everything I’ve read about it suggests there’s a lot of thought behind the sex.


Lost Girls is a very thoughtful work, with a lot more to it than its self-styled ‘pornography’.


I don’t think that’s disputed. It could have been just as thoughtful without all the tits and fucking though.


I don’t think Moore wants Spider-Man to be suddenly appealing to him. I think he’d like a greater amount of thought and craft and diversity in the mainstream of the medium. And I think he’s right to want that.

The majority of the culture surrounds the nucleus of Marvel and DC. That’s not just the comics, but the fans, the news, the films, the reviews, the attention. It’s very much the focus, still, of american comics. And, I think, he’s not wrong in saying that a lot of them are sort of rubbish, much of the time. And there are a lot of reasons for that, it’s not simply on the creators – there are editors who demand certain things and greater IP owners and there are horrible schedules, and there are fans who respond to stunts, and all of that.

But fundamentally, at any given moment, the two main publishers in the states are putting out a lot of sub-par titles. Many times featuring characters that might appeal to a wide swathe of people.

I think Moore hoped that, if Watchmen/Swamp Thing/V was a call for both quality and for creator rights, the industry would rise to the challenge. That it would be just the beginning. That, 30 years on, we’d have an industry that even in its mainstream was fundamentally about art, rather than commerce, at least at the point of creation.

It can often seem like the ambition is low, to me. And, again, that’s not a knock against any creators – there are a lot of reasons for that, and I’ve heard them first hand. But it isn’t a disease that just affects Marvel/DC comics. I’ve seen it even in creator owned work. And it’s disappointing.

Now, Moore is intentionally not consuming much in the way of comics, so his picture is probably going to be a bit grimmer than the reality. And he’s repeatedly praised the work of contemporary authors, as mentioned.

But he’s talking about a disease of culture, and I don’t think he’s wrong on the whole.


Sex and violence existed in comics way before Alan Moore, and will exist after Alan Moore. His famous quote about “the lessons of Watchmen” strikes me as an axe to grind with certain editors, and a little bit of just having a laugh. Otherwise he’s dismissing the contributions of every creator but him and the intelligence and taste of readers in general.

Knowing his sense of humor, I’ve always thought he was mostly taking the piss with that quote, but not entirely.

I mean he followed Watchmen with The Killing Joke so if he didn’t “learn the lessons of Watchmen” who else was supposed to?


Even there, though, his criticism doesn’t seem to be in the use of sex and violence period. It’s in the use of sex and violence INSTEAD of wit, substance, craft, or truth.

Whatever else, KILLING JOKE remains an exceptionally strong piece of craft. The story is wee, the insight perhaps revolutionary for its time (I’ve been told) but ultimately a thin premise, and ultimately off putting and mean spirited to me personally.

But the craft - the use of the comic book form - is indisputably excellent, I think.


Without the tits and fucking it would have been a completely different book, and one that I don’t think would have been able to accomplish what Moore and Gebbie intended in terms of ‘reclaiming’ pornography.

But the essence of what you say is true, I guess - Moore is able to write (and has written many) equally thoughtful books that are nowhere near as explicit.

In particular, I think some of his more overtly comedic stuff is hugely overlooked - stuff like Skizz, DR & Quinch or the Bojeffries strips are among his most enjoyable work.


I agree about Killing Joke. I think it’s a pretty good comic with some excellent horror bits and I like the Joker flashbacks, and as you say it uses the medium expertly. The way it treats Barbara Gordon is horrible and unnecessary, but I think readers nowadays focus on that to the detriment of things it does well. Which is fair, I suppose, because it’s emblematic of such a pervasive problem in the genre, but I wish there could be a more balanced view of the book.


Yeah, it’d be difficult to explore the erotic with any honesty without showing a lot of sex.


Interestingly that’s one of the few works that he’s disowned for creative/artistic reasons rather than business/personal reasons (as with the likes of Watchmen). He sees it as a mis-step in terms of matching the tone to the character, I think.

I don’t necessarily agree with him about that, but I do think it explains the apparent contradiction in his current thinking that that example suggests.

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Here’s a question I’ve wondered about Alan Moore. When he criticizes superheroes as a genre (not just as a corporate product) nowadays, has he ever commented on his own superhero creations? Does he see Top 10 and Tom Strong as being inherently misguided in their adult take on superheroes?

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I think you should grind your axe with the audiences. Publishers have lost endless dollars chasing the ‘complex’ content fans say they want. And yet you can look at the sales charts every month and see indie books aren’t supported by the vast majority of fans.

This feels as trite as bashing reality TV or the History Channel or blockbuster movies. I get that you might want sophisticated, but you know…creative people want to earn a living.


The line between exploitation and not exploitation isn’t “I think it’s good” or “the creators put a lot of effort into it” though.