I feel like the idea that you must rebel, the diktat that came from the left wing and the long-haired of the nineteen sixties, is a dog that might have had it’s day. Today’s youth are interested in what technology can do for them. They might hug a tree if Greta tells them to, but they don’t want to go “back to nature”. They might have several lovers, but it’s not done under the pretext of husbands emancipating their frigid wives from domestic slavery, which let’s face it was always a bullshit narrative, fellas. If people have many partners nowadays, it’s probably more along the lines of serial monogamy, which isn’t that far from just admitting that what works best, for most people, is monogamy. Today’s kids (Generation Z??) are as likely to support Donald Trump as they are to be “orange man bad” acolytes, so long as the economy is working for them, so long as the man doesn’t start any pointless wars. The amount of hate the President receives from the Twitter brigades borders on a kind of derangement, as though the job description for the role of President of the United States is literally just as human dartboard for anyone and everyone with an axe to grind – even if you’ve never been to the United States of America.
Speaking of which, I want to talk about the news that broke late last year: Alan Moore has quit comic books.
I admire Alan Moore as the original anarchist repurposer of modern mythology through his creations in Watchmen, V, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, and Miracle Man (which he did not create, but did update). I always, as a young man, agreed with his take on many things, including his stated wish that the Orwellian surveillance society should become fiction again, and his belief that Harry Potter is in fact the Antichrist. I thought the “ecological” message of his Swamp Thing books was both timely and necessary. It might be time to admit, however, that his shtick of simply taking existing things and making them “dark” has become tired, and been imitated (poorly) by any number of uncreatives in Hollywood to the point where it has become Really Fucking Annoying. It might be time to admit that social justice messages in comic books probably don’t make any fucking difference to most people, except those who hold those kind of views already.
In 2016 Mr Moore announced that he would retire after his epic League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series came to an end, which finally happened in July of 2019.
I was recently re-reading some of the “League” comics and found them to be well written, tightly paced, full to the brim with ideas, in other words prime Alan Moore. What really stands out is how the man sets up a villain and ramps up the stakes in a story, as well as the background details and world building that makes reading a Moore series seem relatively “deep”. You can see why Hollywood loves Moore so much, because there is zero nuance to any of the characters in the story, and Hollywood doesn’t understand nuance. Look, Alan Moore is an old-school comics writer. Good guys are good. Bad guys are bad. As much as Moore might claim to have changed the industry, that is the way superhero books have always been.
All Moore’s books are basically superhero stories. League of Gentlemen 2009 is, in fact, a repurposing of the author’s own earlier work on Miracle Man, in this case Johnny Bates’ superhero-gone-haywire attempting to murder everyone in London in that series’ infamous issue 15, a comic book so nasty retailers allegedly refused to stock it. The L. of E. Gentlemen thankfully includes a lot more humour and indeed sex to add some levity to the ultra-violence. He clearly internalised Stan Lee’s motto that “with great power comes great responsibility” and extrapolated the conclusion that “with great insanity comes zero responsibility”.
Alan Moore isn’t nasty for the sake of it, however. As a young man, he worked slaughtering animals in an abattoir in Northampton, a town where he still lives to the present day. It’s my conjecture that Alan, obviously a sensitive young man with good intelligence, never recovered from the experience and that the comics he loved as a child have been a form of therapy for him ever since. Perhaps he described his work best himself when he called it “stitching all of the (western) world’s culture into a quilt”. Comics are a comfort blanket of sorts, and thus Moore has always been very protective of his own work, often resenting it being “repurposed” into films and attacking the comics industry on many occasions, calling it “a bunch of gangsters” (source).
And whilst that might have been technically true in the past, it’s probably time to let it go and move on, as there have been plenty of innovations in the comics industry since the days of bootlegging.
And so it is with all due respect, and somewhat late (as usual), that I am saying farewell to Alan Moore and all his comic creations, most of which he didn’t infact create (although let’s face it, it’s not unusual amongst comic book professionals to get famous for something they never thought up in the first place). As with so many things, he probably stayed around slightly too long, but he will be fondly remembered by anyone who didn’t have to endure his constant whining. As (also apparently not unusual with comic pros), he seems to have been a complete curmugeon who never progressed past the mental age of seventeen all of his adult life. Ironically, perhaps this is what made him such a hit, since being able to write something that strikes a chord with seventeen year old boys is the key quality all comic book professionals strive for. Moore’s ornery, quasi-rebellious literary pretention is the kind of stuff that every seventeen year old boy and girl could relate to.
His influence will live on in the culture for a long time, for better or worse.