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Alan Moore

Page history last edited by Tracey Berry 8 years, 3 months ago

Born: November 18, 1953 in Northampton, Northamptonshire, England

 

Alan Moore is a critically acclaimed writer of comics, who is thought by many to be a game-changer in the comics medium.  Perhaps most widely known outside of the world of comics for his work on Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (all of which have been the subjects of major Hollywood films),  he has become a true celebrity within the industry as a result of the innovations he has brought to the field, including literary intertextuality, genre-mixing, and the sophisticated exploration of psychological themes.

 

 

Biography

 

 

Alan Moore was born and raised in The Burrows, the poorest working class section of Northampton.  He describes the environment of his youth as “a quite bleak, grim monochrome area.”  He became fascinated with the escapism provided by the literature of mythology, comic books, and heroic fiction at a very early age, but did not encounter his first American superhero comics until the age of seven.  Early on, he was educated in traditional English public schools, but was expelled from grammar school in 1970 at the age of seventeen for selling LSD to fellow students.  After leaving school, Moore briefly worked in a skinning yard/tannery and even tried his hand at janitorial work, but soon decided to attempt a career in the comics field where he has remained since that time.

 

In 1993, Moore declared himself a magician following a belief system more or less based on that of Aleister Crowley's Ceremonial Magick, but he has added other concepts to the practice that are more rooted in his personal beliefs about the consciousness altering capabilities of artistic endeavor.  He also claims to be a follower of the ancient Roman snake deity Glycon.

 

More recently, Moore has branched out of the comics medium into both performance art and prose writing.  His most significant novel to date is The Voice of the Fire.

 

 

Career

 

Moore started publishing his early writing while still at grammar school in Northampton, even starting his own fanzine, Embryo.  In the early and mid seventies he started creating his own comic strips, doing both scripting and drawing, and managed to get some of this work published in various fanzines and local newspapers, but was not paid for the majority of these efforts.  In the late seventies Moore decide to give up drawing and concentrate his efforts on becoming a better writer.  It was around this time that he became a regular contributor to the Doctor Who Weekly magazine and started to earn a living as a writer.

 

In the early eighties, Moore's talent as a comics writer started to be recognized in the British comics industry and his work was published by several of the major publishers of his homeland, the three most prominent of which were 2000AD, MarvelUK, and Warrior.  His best known works from this period are his Captain Britain stories for MarvelUK, his stories for Future Shocks, Time Twisters, D.R. and Quinch, and The Ballad of Halo Jones at 2000AD, as well as Marvelman and the dystopian future themed V for Vendetta series for Warrior.  He won the British Eagle Award for best comics writer in 1982 and 1983 for his work on Marvelman and V for Vendetta, and this brought him to the attention of American comics companies.

 

Moore eventually landed at DC Comics in 1983 and was put at the writing helm of the low-selling horror title, Swamp Thing, which he promptly turned around in terms of both quality and profit.  His success with Swamp Thing earned him assignments working with some of the more traditional and popular DC titles such as Superman.  The publication of the twelve issue deconstructive superhero series Watchmen in 1986 and 1987 launched Moore to comics stardom, where he has remained ever since.  His newly acquired fame gave him the opportunity work with DC's flagship character Batman the following year in a collaboration with artist Brian Bolland in a story entitled Killing Joke.  Moore also revived his V for Vendetta series for DC, but after having a falling out with the company over a comics ratings system, he left DC in 1989 after finishing the series.

 

While he was employed at DC, Moore also returned to his work on Marvelman at Eclipse Comics, which had been reprinting the original series though the name had been changed to Miracleman for trademark reasons.  This book proved to be one of Eclipse's most popular titles, and the writing was eventually taken over by Neil Gaiman after Moore left the series.

 

After he left DC, Moore started his own publication company called Mad Love, which focused on producing comics that were decidedly outside the superhero mainstream and more focused on realistic characters and political issues.  In 1991, he also began to write for the the comics anthology Taboo, where he created two of his best known works: From Hell and Lost Girls.  From Hell is a 1991-96 series based on the Jack the Ripper murders which takes a humanities, or holistic, approach to mystery solving, and it eventually resulted in film adaptation starring Johnny Depp.  Lost Girls is in the erotica genre, and it is a sexually themed series featuring the female leads from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and Peter Pan.  This series was also started in 1991 but some issues were not seen by the public until 2006 when the work came out in a three volume collection.

 

Despite the fact that Moore was self-publishing and producing work for the independent Taboo, in 1993 he began writing for mainstream publisher Image Comics, working on titles such as Spawn and WildC.A.T.S.  He also made a return to the superhero genre while at Image when he created the mini-series 1963.  Though his writing at Image is not considered to be some of his highest quality work, his stint there did allow him to develop a relationship with fellow creator/publisher Jim Lee, which led to Moore starting yet another comics imprint, America's Best Comics, under the banner of Lee's WildStorm Productions. Soon thereafter, Lee sold WildStorm to DC, forcing Moore to again work for the company he had purposely left several years earlier.  Adverse working conditions notwithstanding, Moore stayed with ABC until 2008 and managed to produce some of his most noteworthy works while there, the most important of which was his series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  Yet another Moore product that generated a Hollywood film, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen tells the adventures of a hero team, but instead of superheroes, the team is comprised of characters from Victorian and pulp era literature, including characters from the works of authors such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, H.G. Wells, and Edgar Rice Burroughs, just to name a few.  Other noteworthy titles that Moore produced for ABC include Promethea, which mixes pagan and occult themes with characters based in the modern mundane world, and Tomorrow Stories, a traditional anthology series.  Eventually, Moore again tired of toiling under the DC yoke, broke ties with the company, and left mainstream comics for a second time.

 

Since leaving DC and ABC behind, Moore has started the bi-monthly "underground" magazine Dodgem Logic, made rounds on the lecture circuit, continued with his performance art, and published a short comic series based on the work of the horror author H.P. Lovecraft called Necronomicon.

 

 

Work 

 

Alan Moore is widely known as an innovator in the world of comics, and this reputation began as soon as he made is entrance into the American comics scene.  His work on Swamp Thing in the early eighties mixed traditional horror conventions with what were decidedly more accessible, real world horrors, pitting the Swamp Thing against current sociological issues such as racism and environmental pollution.  Not that other comics had not already in some way addressed such issues, but Moore's writing presented such issues as the villains themselves rather than using a supervillain to represent the concept.  This technique would inform much of his work down to the current day.

 

V for Vendetta, which predates his American work, presented a scathing commentary on what Moore saw as fascist elements in current Western governments, but set his story in dystopian future London.  This technique has long been a feature of traditional science-fiction storytelling, but it was Moore who introduced the concept to comics.  He has a similar approach to stories set in the past, such as that on From Hell, where he takes a look at the Jack the Ripper murders.  Instead of asking, like other works on the subject, exactly who was responsible fro the White Chapel crimes, Moore's writing on the subject focuses on exploring the psychological and sociological issues that may have led to the murders in the first place, issues that persist in society today.  Watchmen is similarly issues-based, albeit in a more directly contemporary setting, exploring themes of the moral requirements for the  application of power and responsibility by normal people and government shown through the actions of superheroes.  But there is another thematic aspect of Watchmen that Moore is perhaps more widely acknowledged for: that of deconstructing the superhero.  Marvel Comics had already done the groundwork to present superheroes as more human characters deserving of the reader's empathy rather than the mere heroic archetypes found in the earlier history of the genre, but Moore took this concept to an entirely new level.  With Watchmen, Moore shows superheroes as more human than super, focusing in on the personalities, psychology, character flaws, and relationships both with one another and with non-heroes, that drive the actions of the people behind the masks.

 

Another aspect of Moore's writing that first surfaces in Watchmen, but is present in the majority of his work, is the non-traditional way he uses time.  Most comics utilize an exclusively linear storytelling progression (with the occasional flashback), but Moore's work usually presents a sense of the synchronicity of events, exploring multiple storylines in different settings simultaneously.  This storytelling technique requires a closer relationship between the writer and artist because the effect is often achieved by playing with the juxtaposition between words and images, with the dialogue in one panel acting as the commentary on the artwork in another panel altogether.  This synchronous approach to comics storytelling developed by Moore and artist Dave Gibbons for Watchmen stemmed from Moore's becoming fed up with the constant comparisons between the comics medium and that of film.  It was a deliberate attempt (in his words) to "concentrate on making comics do what only comics can do."

 

Intertextuality, or the intermingling of texts and concepts from other art into a literary work, has long been used by writers of fiction, and before Alan Moore entered the comics world it was not completely unheard of in comics, but Moore uses intertextuality in almost all of his writing.  Whether it is his constant incorporation of song lyrics and quotes from famous philosophers to introduce or conclude story arcs, or the creation of a fictional comic book to insert into a real-world comic book to comment on the action in an indirect way (such as the Tales of the Black Freighter in Watchmen), or the moving of characters from traditional fiction out of their normal settings into a world created by Moore (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Lost Girls),  intertextuality persists throughout his comics.  This concept of genre mixing and the intermingling of texts and characters from other areas of art is an aspect of Moore's work that have led many people to proclaim his work as more "literary" and accessible to adult readers.

 

 

Bibliography

 

  • Marvelman 
  • V for Vendetta
  • Swamp Thing No. 20-64
  • Watchmen
  • Killing Joke
  • From Hell
  • Lost Girls
  • 1963 
  • League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 
  • Promethea 

 

References 

 

  1.  Alan Moore and the Graphic Novel: Confronting the Fourth Dimension by Mark Bernard and James Bucky Carter
  2.  http://www.alanmoorefansite.com/bio.html
  3. Auteur Criticism--The Visionary Works of Alan Moore by Matthew J. Smith from Critical Approaches to Comics: Theories and Methods by Smith and Duncan 
  4. The Mindscape of Alan Moore--Film (2003)
  5. http://watchmen.tribute.ca/alanMoore.asp 

 

Further Reading

 

 

 

 

 

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