Alan Moore is a straight-talker. A lot of artists don’t like being pigeonholed because it is somewhat demeaning to what they do. Alan Moore doesn’t give a shit.
He works in the medium of the graphic novel - a term that really reflects the content of a comic. If it has literary and artistic value, it’s elevated to a ‘graphic novel’. The thing is, they are comics, no matter how you dress them up. The title of comic doesn’t mean they can’t be important though. Moore is completely comfortable with the title of ‘comic book writer’. With nothing to prove, he doesn’t require a title to denote that his pursuit is of the highest artistic merit – his work does all the talking.
Watchmen (1986), is probably Moore's most famous work. It's not only famous, but highly ground-breaking. It found itself listed in Time Magazine’s best 100 novels published since 1923 (and up to 2005). The only ‘graphic novel’ featured. Not bad for the self-taught artist that was once expelled from school for selling LSD.
Contemporary culture has been defined by many movements. Two of the most prominent, although maybe not the most obvious, are hacker group Anonymous and the Occupy protest movement. Their defining feature, visually anyway, is their adoption of the Guy Fawkes mask. For this symbol, they don't really have Guy Fawkes to thanks - this one's on Moore.
Before it was a film, V for Vendetta (1988) was another of Moore’s creations. The comic followed the exploits of ‘V’, as he looked to get revenge on his former captors, take down the fascist state and inspire a grassroots revolution. The look of ‘V’, illustrated by David Lloyd, became a popular culture icon and, like The Watchmen, went on to be adapted for the big screen.
Moore isn’t keen on film adaptations of comics, stating that, “If we only see comics in relation to movies then the best that they will ever be is films that do not move. I found it, in the mid 80s, preferable to concentrate on those things that only comics could achieve.” His love for the medium is clear. He is a purist of the form - a true pioneer that brought the inaccessible to the mainstream. Despite his bold attitude, Hollywood bigwigs would still try to coax him into being a part of their adaptations.
Big money doesn’t seem to be something that particularly influences Moore’s decisions though. A maverick on the page, he’s also a maverick off of it. His dedication to the integrity of his work is unfaltering. In a consumerist society, it’s extra-shifts, one-upmanship and unashamed endorsements that give you the upper-hand. For Moore it’s his solid middle-English resolve.
Refusing to have anything to do with Watchmen’s Hollywood adaptation, he allowed the film to go ahead so that the illustrator Dave Gibbons could earn an attractive pay-check from it, but was adamant that his name was removed from anything to do with the film.
In his low, gravelly Northampton accent he plays the part perfectly of the weathered old raconteur. Moore is a man built for telling stories. Just like in his comics, he has a way of talking that makes the subject sound simple, masking the undercurrent of complex themes that permeate his work. His monotone voice and no-nonsense attitude gives him a sense of deserved self-awareness – he knows where he stands and what he stands against.
This has, of course, gained him legions of loyal fans. After all, he is in many ways a version of what most people would one day like to be – an authentic artist working for themselves in their chosen vocation.
His interest in the occult bleeds into his work, especially in his character John Constantine, a streetwise detective with one foot here and one in another realm. The comics that the character has featured in, much like all of Moore’s other work, offers a cynical yet biting social commentary that is up there with the most intelligent satire of our times.
The threads that link all of his characters - their sense of being human, their fallibility and their progressive and critical attitudes makes it hard to see them as any less than characters in film and fiction. The characters that Moore creates all seem to have a part of him in them. They exist thanks to Moore, but Moore also seems to understand himself through them. By researching characters and allowing his imagination and creativity to take them to new places, it seems that Moore is making sense of the world around him. His articulate interpretations are playing out in real-time.
Characters aside - we can be sure that without Moore, the form of 'graphic novel' mightn't even exist, instead being misunderstood as the perceived lesser younger brother - the comic book. Paradoxically, it's this label that Moore seems to find most comfort in. It's as if this is his most enduring form of protest. Graphic novel is a label applied externally to his craft - one that relegates the comic. His biggest challenge is still there - for us to begin to see the graphic novel as the comic once more.
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