The Comics Reporter does a lovely dissection/defense of professional Gimli impersonator Alan Moore and his recent interview with Bleeding Cool. Having read the interview and the various reactions to it (which seem to find an average assertion of “OMG ALAN MOORE IS SO CRAZY, HE SHOULD STOP BEING SUCH A CRAZY BEARDMAN”), I present to you my thoughts on the matter:
- A lot of what Moore says about DC going back to the well in terms of Watchmen and other older properties has some merit, especially given the sorry creative state of modern comics. Of course Moore has worked with older properties and had success, but he’s largely taken it upon himself to distance himself from non-creator owned work. He’s been one of the most outspoken critics of the assumed need to basically reinterpret the same handful of characters endlessly. When Moore is finished with a piece, he’s done with it, usually for good. A part of me understands this, even his hyperbolic need to distance himself from his prior work. I think every true artist likes to believe every thing they create is better than the thing before it, no matter how much it may mean to others. It’s tough having people pretty much non-stop trying to probe you about something you did a quarter century ago, and probably even worse having people who you considered your friends and collaborators pissing in your ear about what a great deal they’re going to offer you if they can just own everything related to it.
- I suspect Moore isn’t far off-base in terms of the scare-tactics and strong-arming that DC has done against him. Perhaps I’m just innately distrustful of authority, but it seems like a pretty simple proposition: he has something they want (the rights to his intellectual properties), and he’s too much of a market force to just ignore. They really can’t do anything to him to incentivize his selling out his share on these properties (since he’s a crazy old man who lives in the woods and does weird sex/snake magik), so the most they can do is punish his friends and make his life difficult. I’m not signing on for the conspiracy against Alan Moore pleasure cruise, but honestly, he’s worth too much to them for them to just ignore.
- Moore can be a problematic figure in modern comics because, on some level, his genius casts such a immense shadow over what comics have become, a shadow larger than the man. Watchmen IS a seminal work, as with Swamp Thing, Promethia, and countless other books he’s done. On the other hand, he’s not exactly Syd Barret, producing a few really brilliant pieces of work and then disappearing to the bughouse. He maintains a pretty active in comics and media, giving interviews, and is willfully dismissive and ignorant to the every day goings on of mainstream comics, specifically the big two. This puts him in an awkward position: he couldn’t give two shits about the modern comic book industry, but it cares deeply about him.
- A lot of what he says is hyperbolic, whether he would want to admit it or not. Yeah yeah, no top, middle or lower tier talent. Lets get Grant Morrison and Moore in the same room to do a sex magik-off.
- I don’t think anyone is really upset about the prospect of Watchmen sequels, prequels, spin-offs, etc. I further doubt any reasonable person is exactly excited for it, but I guess I take a bit of exception to the idea of it innately “prostituting” the original work. One could easily swing the accusing finger at Moore in terms of bastardizing (or at least profiting off) someone else’s work, if not with his mainstream comics work on properties not his own (Swamp Thing, Miracle Man, Supreme) than with the hundreds of public domain characters in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Perhaps there is a bit of moral rectitude related to at least waiting until the respective authors are long dead before you use their characters, but it still feels like Moore sort of playing to the fanboy crowd when he talks about this. Fiction is of a universal piece, belonging to the viewer moreso than the creator, and is self-regenerating. Whether something is “public domain” or a specific person’s (or corporation’s) “intellectual property,” one cannot control the way it is absorbed, interpreted, and reinterpreted into something new or of a different sensibility. I’d point out to Mr. Moore that all artists make their living doing just that, and that the value of subsequent reinterpretations of their work are not for them to say. Of course it seems crass for DC to zealously strive to bottle the lightning of Watchmen through spin-offs, but I’d argue that it serves the same function as fan-ficion which has existed since before time began. Still, I’d agree that Moore has a right to say whether or not someone (namely, the executives at DC) get to profit off his work through subsequent spin-offs etc. Perhaps they should have the good sense and decency to wait 115 years after you die.
- C’mon Alan. People want to read Miracleman because, frankly, its been a generation since it’s been in print. I’ve NEVER read it and am sick to death of old timers telling me how awesome it is. You can’t accuse people of going back to the well if it’s been dry for 20 years.