Despite the subject line, Alan Moore doesn’t need anyone to defend him. Moore speaks his own ideas and opinions clearly. Unlike Andy Warhol or Salvador Dali, there’s little need to spend your time interpreting what he’s all about. Moore is fairly what-you-see-is-what-you-get. However, last Friday, Paul Milligan and I got into a friendly debate/discussion/bar fight over recent statements made by Alan Moore. The argument could be broken down into basic point/counter point. Paul: “Alan Moore is a genius, but he’s a douchebag.” Me: “Alan Moore is a genius. He is not a douchebag.”
The douchebag camp presents two bits of evidence (1) Alan Moore makes anti-American statements even though the American comic book industry helped launch his career. (2) Alan Moore willingly accepts Hollywood’s money, then he continually complains about Hollywood.
The non-douchebag camp (me) offers this in response: (1) From interviews on Fanboy Radio, Indie Spinner Rack, and various ones throughout YouTube, he comes across as a kind-hearted, even fatherly, individual. (2) I really want to believe he’s not a douchebag.
I’ll admit the friendly debate did not go my way. It ended with me plugging my ears and saying, “La, la, la, I’m not listening. La, la, la” until Paul gave up. Now that I’ve had a few days to think on it, I’d like to elaborate.
Concerning the anti-American statement:
“And I wonder—perhaps this is being too simplistic, I don’t know, but I wonder if the root of the emergence of the superhero in American culture might have something to do with a kind of an ingrained American reluctance to engage in confrontation without massive tactical superiority. I mean—does the term 7/7 mean anything to you at all?
During the 7/7 bombings over here, it was announced a couple days later that as soon as the first two trains had gone up, all of the American forces that were in London were recalled to safe distance outside the M24 orbital motorway. After a few days, when they realized that it was safe to go back into London, they realized also that it looked kind of bad, sort of rushing out of the capital at the first sign of any trouble when the main reason for the bombing was England’s support of America in the Iraq war.
It does seem to me that massive tactical superiority might be a key to the superhero phenomenon. That, if it’s a military situation, then you’ve got carpet bombing from altitude, which is kind of the equivalent of having come from Krypton as a baby and to have gained unusual strength and the ability to fly because of Earth’s lesser gravity. I don’t know, that may be a simplistic interpretation, but that’s the way I tend to see superheroes today.”
In another interview (cited here), he says…
“America has an inordinate fondness for the unfair fight. That’s why I believe guns are so popular in America – because you can ambush people, you can shoot them in the back, you can behave in a very cowardly fashion. Friendly fire, or as we call it everywhere else in the world, American fire.”
Alan Moore admits his own understanding may be too simplistic, and he does have a legitimate complaint about the 7/7 bombings.
I’d be the first to point out that if we’re digging through America’s culture and history, we could just as easily point a finger at our paternal origins, the British Empire. Massive tactical superiority? (ahem) We learned it from watching you.
But this isn’t really the point, I don’t want to debate the cultural impact of our military history. The issue is Alan Moore’s critique of America. But why focus on the statement he made to WIRED? What about the statement he made with Watchmen itself? Watchmen is one huge frickin’ critique of America. Why should the interview make him a douchebag, but the comic book make him a genius? While we’re at it, Huckleberry Finn is a critique of America, so is Grapes of Wrath, Crucible, and the Great Gatsby.
A critique doesn’t automatically make him anti-American or a douchebag. It makes him a writer with an opinion. To dub him “anti-American” is too broad a stroke. Unless we can quote him as saying something a little more hostile, I see his statements as pretty standard from any politically-minded European.
What about his apparent hatred of American-based publisher DC? Is he showing douchebag levels of ingratitude? I’d say it’s okay for him to hold a grudge. From always reliable Wikipedia:
Moore says he left DC in 1989 due to the language in his contracts for Watchmen and his V for Vendetta series with artist David Lloyd. Moore felt the reversion clauses were ultimately meaningless, because DC did not intend to let the publications go out of print. He told The New York Times in 2006, “I said, ‘Fair enough,’ [...] ‘You have managed to successfully swindle me, and so I will never work for you again.’”
Of course, when Jim Lee sold Wildstorm to DC, Alan Moore was working for DC again whether he liked it or not.
To his credit, he loves Top Shelf.
I guess whenever someone achieves his level of acclaim we expect them to be so gosh darn grateful. All the time. Isn’t that why people love the Oscars? To see successful people gush their humble appreciation for every single person who ever helped them along.
The Hollywood issue. The argument goes like this: if you directly or indirectly benefit from Hollywood, you have little room to complain. It’s hypocritical. Here’s a quote from Alan Moore:
“Originally I was content to just simply accept the money, that was offered when people had adapted my comic books into films. Eventually I decided to refuse to accept any of the money for the films, and to ask if my name could be taken off of them, so that I no longer had to endure the embarrasment of seeing my work travested in this manner. The first film that they made of my work was ‘From Hell’ Which was an adaptation of my ‘Jack the Ripper’ narrative… In which they replaced my gruff Dorset police constable with Johhny Depp’s Absinthe-swigging dandy. The next film to be made from one of my books was the regrettable ‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’… Where the only resemblance it had to my book was a similar title. The most recent film that they have made of mine is apparently this new ‘V for Vendetta’ movie which was probably the final straw between me and Hollywood. They were written to be impossible to reproduce in terms of cinema, and so why not leave them simply as a comic in the way that they were intended to be. And if you are going to make them into films, please try to make them into better ones, than the ones I have been cursed with thus far.” – From the BBC2 show The Culture Show (9 March 2006)
I don’t know. I can sympathize with Moore. I have little interest in Hollywood. If I wanted to be part of the movie industry, I’d write a screenplay, but instead I write comic book scripts. Still, if a producer offered me money, I’d probably take it. From one standpoint, it can’t take away from what I’ve done with the comic — but then again, if it’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, it might feel like a slap in the face to have them ignore so much of the source material. These Hollywood types are always convinced they know how to best adapt a comic book or novel. In the case of a comic book writer, it’s not just you turning down or accepting the option check from Hollywood. You have a publisher, and you have an artist — both with gaping mouths, wanting to be fed. The pressure to say “yes” must be tremendous. He got his money. He requested his name be removed from the credits. If he wants to complain about a movie, why not? Just because you vote a guy into office, doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything he does.
Is Alan Moore a douchebag? Maybe this blog did more to prove Paul’s point than mine? (“La, la, la, not listening…”) I call it THE LENNON FACTOR. John Lennon was a genius. He was quirky and outspoken. He had an awesome beard. He’s also been accused of being a douchebag. However, in my heart of hearts, I think it’s too easy to label him as such.
Paul, we may have to agree to disagree on this one, especially if you’re right.