Celebrating Alan Moore’s birthday, let’s talk about one of the favorite themes of this blog, the world of comics and illustration. In fact, it was a few weeks ago, exactly since the story of the life and works of Roy Lichtenstein, the king of comics, that we hadn’t addressed the topic. But, like the best comics, a new episode on the subject is also for us!
Alan Moore is a British comic writer and screenwriter who, having worked for several years with DC Comics before moving to independent publishers, is best known for the comics of Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Men. Nothing special, innit?!
As we like to do, we “illustrate” his story!
The difficult beginning of Alan Moore
Alan Moore was born on November 18, 1953. Living in a small house with precarious comforts with his parents, his younger brother and his maternal grandmother, Moore grew up in one of the poorest parts of England: the boroughs of Northampton.
His parents, however, wanted to give their children a good education and encourage reading. From the age of 5, Alan devoured books, mostly fairy tales and fantastic stories, as well as comics, mainly American. First in his grade in elementary school, he soon became disillusioned in college. His social origins and different level of education with his middle-class peers transformed the good student into an undisciplined dreamer. Disinterested in the lessons, he began to draw and write poetry, even creating a small magazine dedicated to this literary genre with some friends.
As a teenager, he attended artists’ workshops at Northampton Arts Laboratory. But art wasn’t the only escape for the teenager, who uses cannabis and LSD. A budding Lewis Carroll!
At 18, Moore was kicked out of high school and banned at all other institutions in town after being caught smuggling drugs into the school. Without a diploma, he accumulated odd jobs by continuing to attend the Arts Laboratory. This was replaced in 1972 by the Northampton Arts Group, where he met his first wife, Phyllis Dixon.
In the mid-1970s, he decided to leave the administrative post he had managed to get to try his luck as a designer. He then started selling some plates and drawing mini-comics for several newspapers. However, the arrival of their daughter Leah in 1978 complicates the couple’s situation. Ending up getting several more regular comic series projects, Alan realized the drawing was taking up too much time and decided to devote himself entirely to the script.
In 1979 he began working as an illustrator for the musical weekly Sounds, under the pseudonym of Curt Vile, but soon gave up writing. From there, he provided scripts for Doctor Who, Star Wars Weekly and 2000 AD Weekly under which he created several popular series, such as The Ballad of Halo Jones, Skizz and DR & Quinch.
Success as a screenwriter
After writing several short stories for the 2000 AD British science fiction weekly, Alan Moore draws the attention of Marvel UK, who asked him to re-energize the Captain Britain series, as well as work on the creation of Night Raven.
However, several conflicts of interest prompted Alan to stop collaborating with Marvel in 1984. The father of 2 daughters, the screenwriter thankfully has no shortage of projects, having already collaborated with Dez Skinner on the Warrior Anthology for 2 years. It is in this context that he created V for Vendetta, a series designed by David Lloyd.
In 1983 Alan also began working for DC Comics, an American publishing house, which entrusted him with writing scripts for a new creation that struggled to take off: Swamp Thing (1983-1987). The author’s innovative style led to the success of the series, which prompted DC Comics to offer him other projects, including some albums for Batman, the most famous written by Alan is Batman: The Killing Joke (1988). The one that inspired Tim Burton’s first Batman e the Joker with Joaquin Phoenix. It was also at DC Comics that the screenwriter established his reputation by imagining the Watchmen series (1986-1987).
The triumph is such that the author becomes highly publicized. The late 1980s, however, marked Alan’s break with DC Comics and mainstream comics, as well as the end of his marriage to Phyllis.
Lo specchio dell’amore
In 1988 Alan Moore owned a publishing house: Mad Love Publishing. He published a cartoon anthology called AARGH!, An acronym for “Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia”, designed to combat the homophobic proposal put forward in England and called “Law 28”. Those were the years in which gay activists had achieved concrete results, but the AIDS crisis put the results at risk.
The title The Mirror of Love takes up an unpublished title page by Aubrey Beardsley, conceived for a book of poems to be dedicated to his lover, but censored because it represented a hermaphrodite angel. Alan Moore uses this cue to write a poem about the history of homosexuality through the love story between two hermaphrodite angels, mirror images of each other.
In the first edition, Alan Moore’s poems are accompanied by illustrations by Steve Bissette and Rick Veitch, but in the edition that we can still find in bookstores, the drawings have been replaced by a series of poignant photographs by José Villarubbia (Lo Specchio dell’Amore -ediz. illustrata).
In the new edition, the photographs retrace the ideas and characters cited by Alan Moore: Homer, Sappho, William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Mata Hari, Oscar Wilde, Colette, up to Judy Garland, Allen Ginsberg and the Stonewall protests.
Alan Moore since the ’90
Then we see the comic From Hell (1991-1996), which he created in collaboration with the designer Eddie Campbell, then Lost Girls (1991-1992, 2006), an erotic comic created with the designer Melinda Gebbie, whom he married in 2007.
However, Moore returned to the world of superheroes in the early 2000s, creating for Jim Lee’s Wildstorm publishing house America’s Best Comics, which includes, among others, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2001-2015), designed by Kevin O ‘ Neill, Tom Strong (1999-2006), illustrated by Chris Sprouse, or even Promethea (1999-2005), illustrated by JH Williams III.
Since 2003, Alan Moore has devoted himself to more experimental projects and other art forms. A few years ago he published his second graphic novel, Jerusalem (2017) which, like his first novel, The Voice of Fire (1996), is dedicated to his hometown, Northampton.
One of the main references for Jerusalem is the homonymous work by William Blake. In fact we had met Alan just talking about this visionary artist. After all, in William Blake illustration and word come together almost magically: a perfect marriage that Alan Moore has pursued throughout his career.
In 2017-2018 there is the work on Providence, whose inspiration is to be found in H.P Lovecraft, of which the Northampton magician is a fervent admirer.
In 2018, Moore contributed to the comic anthology 24 Panels. The publication was edited by Kieron Gillen and aimed to raise money for those affected by the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire.
With the end of the fourth volume of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the conclusion of his Lovecraft sequence and some short stories that appeared in Cinema Purgatorio, Moore retired from comics in mid-2019.
So far films based on the works of Alan Moore have been Hollywood adaptations that ultimately have little to do with the original, to the point that Moore has even refused to collect the rights for films based on his works. He gives little credit to cinema which does not seem to grant him the same freedom of expression as writing.
Here are some examples taken from the works of our protagonist today.
Released in 2001 , From Hell is adapted by the Hughes brothers and played by Johnny Depp, Heather Graham and Ian Holm.
In 2006, James McTeigue directed the adaptation of V for Vendetta, from a script by the Wachowski sisters.
In 2009, Watchmen was adapted for film by director Zack Snyder. A first adaptation project of “Watchmen” by Terry Gilliam had been abandoned by producer Joel Silver.
In 2005 Alan Moore said of From Hell and another Fox production:
These are stupid films, without the slightest quality, an insult to all directors who have made cinema what it is, wizards who did not need special effects and computerized images to suggest the invisible … to allow adolescents with reading difficulties to spend two hours of their tired life. Most of the production is bad, whatever the medium. There are bad movies, bad records and bad comics. The only difference is, if I make bad comics, they don’t cost a hundred million dollars.”
Rather strong words, which hint at magic. Let’s not forget that Moore, a vegetarian and known for his anarchist views, also presents himself as a wizard and worshiper of Glycon, a Roman serpent deity. Alan Moore has been presenting himself as a magician since 1993: the contemporary Aleister Crowley. For him, in fact, there can be no art without magic and writing is a magical act.
Alan Moore and his many achievements
While he hasn’t wanted to receive any awards since 2017, Alan Moore can boast of having an incredible collection of trophies.
His collaboration with Warrior Magazine for Marvelman and V for Vendetta earned him the British Eagle Award for Best Comic Writer in 1982 and 1983.
He received the Inkpot Award in 1985 and 3 Jack Kirby Awards for Best Series and Best Writer for Swamp Thing in 1985 and 1986. Then for Watchmen in 1987. In total, he has collected around 40 awards. His record includes 3 Sproing awards, 12 Eisner awards, and 10 Harvey awards, including Best Writer for all of his works in 1999.
His most awarded books are Watchmen, From Hell, V for Vendetta and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, all made for the cinema. He has also been recognized multiple times for Lifetime Achievement, including the Outstanding Max and Moritz Award in 2008, the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2014 and the Bram Stoker Grandmaster Award in 2016.
For someone who does not want to receive awards, it is clear that the most awarded Alan Moore has left an indelible mark on the world of comics. And who knows he won’t think about resuming his career,. His “return on the stage” could be a rock and roll move that well suits him!