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Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and other matters

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Post  eddie Tue Jul 26, 2011 5:59 am

Alan Moore: an extraordinary gentleman – Q&A

As the latest instalment of Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Century 1969, is published, he discusses the evolution of modern culture, leaving his characters in the lurch and how tablet computers will transform the language of comics

Subhajit Banerjee, Monday 25 July 2011 13.47 BST

Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and other matters Comic-creator-Alan-Moore-007
Alan Moore ... The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 'seems to be a critique of culture'. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

What is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 1969 all about?

Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and other matters League-of-Extraordinary-Gent
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 1969 by Kevin O'Neill, Alan Moore

Alan Moore: When we started the third volume of League, we got a vague idea of how the plot would progress and would enable us to use characters and situations from respective Leagues – 1910, 1969 and 2009. But as the book has actually progressed as it has been written, the prevailing thing about it seems to be a critique of culture. And the most noticeable thing is the decline if you like – diversification. It's always the most healthy thing for a species and it's probably the same for culture as well.

When we start out in 1910 we have a fairly rich background to draw from – we've got Brecht's Threepenny Opera which was set around that time, we've got all of those wonderful occult characters that were being created around then. By the time we get to 1969 we've got some equally interesting characters but they're a kind of different category. They're more often drawn from popular culture, because of course popular culture has expanded incredibly in the 50 years since 1910 when culture was still largely the preserve of an educated elite. But changes in society over the first 50 years of the century meant that by the middle years culture had changed. Certainly by 1969 where pop culture was predominant and previous culture was perhaps in danger of becoming increasingly marginalised. And by the time we return to the League story in 2009, it's a much bleaker cultural landscape still.

So I suppose inevitably you're going to find in this book that there are contrasts that are going to arise between the different eras. And there's also a marked sense that culture is possibly contracting in certain areas. There is the thing of the richness of the Victorian or the Edwardian era. That the range of characters and ideas to draw upon have nowhere near the same breadth that they seem to back in the day. This is something that has purely emerged from the story. Wasn't anything that we necessarily set out to write. But it seems to be the case.

Each of these eras have got their own particular atmosphere and of course whipping through all three of them – when we finally get the third issue out – in something like 230 pages, I think it will be quite a shock to see how far culture has come in only a hundred years. Which is not a long time.

And I think Kevin would probably agree with me. I know that he was worried about the 2009 book simply because the modern world doesn't really have quite so much to offer visually. But since he has remembered that we are not dealing with the actual modern world – only with the fictional modern world – he's got into his stride. And the artwork on the third book is probably the best of the bunch. In the third book he will rise to the challenge of what is a fairly bleak and barren modern landscape culturally speaking.

Why 1969 particularly?

AM: For plot purposes it gave us access to a number of interesting historical events that happened in the counter culture around that time. It also gave us access to a number of interesting fictions, notably the number of excellent crime films that were being made around that era, including oddities like Donald Cammell's Performance. With Jack Carter and all these various characters that we could refer to. I liked the idea of a turf war between four or five fictional gangsters of the period. All of whom were surrogates for Ronnie Kray. I liked the idea of including Jake Arnott's Harry Starks, Harry Flowers (who was the Ronnie Kray surrogate in Performance) Vic Dakin (the Richard Burton character, also a Ronnie Kray surrogate in Villain) and Doug Piranha (who was one of the Monty Python surrogate Kray brothers). So I thought the idea of having four or five surrogate Ronnie Krays involved in a turf war in east London – that was entertaining.

It was also an interesting period because – as best exemplified by Performance – it was a period in which the underground meant several different things. And there was an overlap between the psychedelic pop underground and the actual underworld in the criminals who were very flattered to have celebrities amongst their retinue. And of course through the pop and hippie connection you've got a connection to occultism. Whether that be Robert Plant and Jimmy Page having their flirtation with Aleister Crowley and occultism or the various occult posturings that a number of pop performers made back then. So 1969 was in a Venn diagram of crime, pop music and occultism. There is a very nice overlap in 1969 that made it a useful period for the purposes of our developing occult plot line that we had commenced in the 1910 volume.

The series is packed with details and references. Do you have fun letting readers discover them?

AM: What I take the most pleasure in is being able to have fun myself and with Kevin to have fun with his equal number if not greater number of contributions on the visual end. It's important that we have fun with that stuff. But I'd hate to think that the references ever overwhelmed the story. So that somebody who didn't catch all the references was missing out. Obviously, if you do see all of the references – and there are some in there that even I have to ask Kevin about – then it will be a richer experience. But you're going to get some of them. And even if you don't, the plot will still be completely comprehensible and lucid. And we also have the excellent Jess Nevins providing his annotations.

Why don't you do your own notes for League like you did for From Hell?

AM: Because I'm much much too busy. With From Hell I thought that it was important to write the notes and explain which bits were invented and which bits were actually taken from supposed evidence in the case. With the League it would be like explaining the joke. It would to some degree spoil the experience. It would certainly be a lot less enjoyable for me because the only reason for doing it with something like the League would be to explain how clever me and Kevin were being. Whereas, since we've got Jess Nevins who can explain how clever we're being then we can get that over without appearing conceited. So it's a much better arrangement. Also, Jess is very thorough and he sometimes picks up wonderful connections that were not actually there but which I really wish that I had thought of.

Do you think the League books could offer the reader a richer experience online through hyperlinks, or on a tablet device?

AM: I'm certainly thinking along lines like that and certainly the League would be ideal to have links in the text. I have nothing against putting it on one of those devices per se except that it would require a complete rethink of that actual medium. The way the comics companies I believe are producing online comics is that they are old comics uploaded online and made available. That I don't think is the way to do it, because comics storytelling is entirely predicated upon the print technologies of the late 1930s. We have six panels of page on average because that was the optimum numbers of panels to put on a page in a periodical of something like 32 pages. This is what has formed the very language of the comic book. The fact that you turn over the pages. And you can time it so that turning over a page will be the moment of some big revelation. Which you wouldn't want your reader to have spotted on page 24 just because it's opposite page 23. And subtler things that really affected the way that a comic story should be told.

So what I'm saying is that I don't think these devices are quite there yet but they have some very interesting possibilities. But before we would be thinking about putting something like the League into that format, I would want to think long and hard about the possible advantages of that new medium and the ways in which my storytelling craft would have to be adapted to best effect from this new medium. Much the same as when comics were just a 24-page thing that you drew on pieces of paper. I was always trying to find what the medium was capable of and to push it as far as possible. Like I said I've been having some thoughts about this. People shouldn't be too surprised if they were to hear something about me working in this kind of area.

Where does the series go after the final part of League volume three?

AM: There are a couple of possibilities. We have a little story that would jump back a few years to 1964. There are a couple of little hints in 1969 as to how that story might unfold. I have also got a book four in mind. Which is something that occurred to me at a particular point writing the last part of book three. I got myself and the characters into bit of a fix. And I didn't know how they were going to get out of it and I was going to get out of it. And I thought of quite a radical measure which worked beautifully with the plot. And then I thought of the ramifications of that radical solution. It won't be the last League story. But if it was, it would be a really good one. It would be set in 2011. There might be a miniseries which would jump back to 1964 and fill in a little bit of backstory. And it would actually resolve a number of hanging questions and unresolved loose ends that were raised, notably in the Black Dossier where there was a subtext in the fake William Shakespeare play and couple of the other pieces that related to the original formation of the League. And material about Prospero. And I thought how this could come together in a surprising and explosive way and enable us to take the League into the future in the way that we've always wanted to.

Because of course there are, as well as the fictional histories of periods like the Victorian era, there are also enormous quantities of stories written about the future. So the fictional universe reaches back in time but it extends forward. And it would be nice to be able to explore the basic concept of the League in that kind of territories as well. That would definitely be volume four. Whether it will be the next adventure of the League to be made available, I don't know. Me and Kevin are still deciding. And of course in the future, we've got the whole of time to play with – to still do stories based around the Prospero group or the Gulliver group. We could do stories potentially with Orlando that go back to ancient Thebes 3,000 years ago. So we have hopefully charted our connected world of fictions and we've got it so thoroughly mapped that we do really have the entire universe of fiction to play with. So there's no reason other than me and Kevin getting increasingly old and feeble why League should ever end.

How was it working with Kevin O'Neill and Todd Klein?

AM: It is an absolute pleasure to work with Kevin. He is one of the finest and most distinctive comic book artists this country has ever turned out. Also, he is the only one of my mainstream collaborators who is from a similar background to myself and who has ever taken my side in any of my bust-ups with the comic companies. This is why Kevin is the only person that I'm still working with. During the unpleasantness with DC, he was taking the brunt of it. Because I'd walked off and he still had to finish the book. They were very angry that we got sick of them and were taking it to another publisher. He is as good an individual as he is an artist.

As for Todd Klein, if you want a letterer then it's Todd Klein. There is nobody as good as him. The ideas he comes up with himself, for instance the colouring on the psychedelic bubbles during the trip sequence, they almost hurt the eyes but they were beautiful. And the way that he is so sensitive to sometimes drop part of what somebody is saying to lower case which gives a slightly different feel to the rest of the sentence. And it's always where it should be.

Also, Ben Dimagmaliw as a colourist. He's masterful at giving a distinctive feel to the colour of each era. We're so lucky to have had these guys as part of the team practically from the outset.

Do you find it liberating to work with independent publishers?

AM: This is the way that I always wanted to work as a creator. The book will be ready when it's ready. When Kevin was finishing the Black Dossier, [DC Comics] imposed a ridiculous arbitrary deadline and told Kevin you've got to do a page a day even if it isn't any good. And Kevin said I'm not going to do that because there is absolutely no reason for me to meet your deadlines and it's how the book will look in 10 years time when people aren't concerned about whether we were working on time. That's the important thing. So the book that came out was the book that we wanted to do. This is such a pleasure – to give the work the time and attention is deserves.

The same thing goes for my novel Jerusalem. Which I don't have a publisher for, I don't have an editor for. Except for Steve Moore, who is one of the best editors in the business and is going through it and making corrections.

Do you miss anything about not working with a DC or a Marvel?

AM: Believe me, there is nothing that I miss about it at all. I only wish that I had been able to make this jump earlier in my career. I wish I hadn't wasted so much time working for those people. I'm very distanced from the comics industry. I love the comics medium but I have no time for the industry.

It has abused and mistreated creative people for decades. It has never treated people fairly. And there is something a bit odd about people who spend their every working hour depicting the exploits of superheroes – of people who always stand up for the underdog and fight against the oppressor, the tyrant, the supervillain – and who have never once when the artists and writers that they professed to admire are taken out and put to the wall. This is an industry where if you mention the idea of, say, forming a union, you'll just get shrill nervous laughter in reply.

You're not a big fan of superheroes, but have you got any plans to do them in your own way?

AM: The superhero is not high on my list of priorities at the moment but there are possibilities. If I should get the time then I'll perhaps be exploring them. But my main thing at the moment is Jerusalem. Then there is this film project that's unfolding into all sorts of interesting areas.

What is the film project?

AM: In the second issue of Dodgem Logic (the Northampton-based magazine Moore was publishing), we had a wonderful photo feature upon some burlesque ladies. These are burlesque performers we know and are friends with. Mick Jenkins, who I've known for years and is one of the world's most in-demand photographers, had suggested doing this burlesque shoot. It went down really well and Mick was nominated for a national documentary photography award for that feature. He called around to say he was planning to put together a 10-minute film as a show reel. I asked him if he'd like me to write a screenplay and I wrote this thing called Jimmy's End. Which is shot in the St James's end or Jimmy's End of Northampton. It's a 10-minute strange little drama. But it will probably be followed by a feature film and a spin-off TV series. We are starting shooting in three or four weeks and imagine it will be out in October.

What else are you working on? Have you finished Neonomicon?

AM: I finished Neonomicon five years ago. The artist (Jacen Burrows) did a very good job but it took him a long time. That was something I did when I was in a very bad mood, just after having parted company with the mainstream comics industry. And finding that due to the lateness of payments I was badly in need of a few thousand pounds to settle a tax shortfall. Having said that I don't do anything just for the money. I really did give it everything that I got.

They asked me for a horror story. They had gone out of their way to say that I could go as far as I wanted. And I thought I'll do exactly that, I'll do a horror story that is really horrible which has got sexual elements in it but perhaps not in a titillating way. It's one of the most genuinely unpleasant things that I've ever written, but I stand by it. It's a good horror story that touches on some very unpleasant things. As a horror story should do.

The Moon and Serpent Bumper Book on Magic is also progressing slowly but me and Steve Moore are halfway through it.

And I'm working on chapter 30 of 35 of Jerusalem. I had an 18-month break from writing it while I was producing Dodgem Logic. Which was just as well because I had finished writing a chapter in a simulated Joycean language. I needed an 18-month lie down after concluding that. I'm expecting to get this finished by early next year. When Jerusalem passed the two-thirds mark it was over half a million words, which is actually longer than the Bible. I'm really proud of that. I'm hoping everybody will confuse quantity with quality. Jerusalem might one day be known as the really Good Book.

Why is Dodgem Logic on hold?

AM: Our initial plan on it was to do everything backwards and see what happens. Let's insist upon really high production values, really low cover costs, let's pay all the contributors a decent page rate, let's not have any advertising. And so consequently we never broke even and made an enormous loss. Which is OK. I was prepared for that. I wanted to the magazine the way I wanted to do it. But you can't carry on making losses like that. So we put it on hold and moved it to the web. But we are trying to get it back on track as a bigger magazine on slightly cheaper paper, slightly higher price and a much lower print run. We were selling around 15,000 copies, which is more than what a lot of magazines sell. Dodgem Logic volume 2, with a bit of luck, should be appearing early next year.

You have some of the most dedicated fans. How do you react to them?

AM: I genuinely like the people I meet at signings or the bits of public talking that I do. I don't go to conventions because I didn't like the relationship. I don't like being the object of adoration because it distances you from people. I believe I've got some genuinely intelligent fans. It's nice when people come up in the street and want to shake your hand or tell you your work's affected them. Of course. My only problem with fans is when they turn pro. For example, when all the professional writers were fired by DC in the 60s, they brought in a generation of comic book fans who would have paid to have written these stories. When I started out I was writing for 9-13-year-olds with maybe a few 18-year-olds. These days, the majority of the comic book audience is 40-somethings who are not necessarily interested in comic books as a medium or panel progression or sequential narrative. They are probably interested in Wolverine. There is a large nostalgic component in there and there's nothing wrong with it. But if those people then begin to influence the books themselves or increasingly the movies or the television series then they will want their story to refer to stories that they remember. It becomes very incestuous and over a few decades you get a very limited dwindling gene pool. And you get stories that have become weak through inbreeding.

I saw footage of you recently campaigning against the closure of your local library. What are your thoughts on the cuts and the situation we're in?

AM: I think it's completely indefensible. I think I understand what has been happening economically, pretty much since the collapse of the Berlin Wall. It's the bankers and financial institutions who have knowingly got us into this mess. Either they did knowingly or they were unbelievably stupid and incompetent. This is not even capitalism any more. Capitalism employs a rough and ready Darwinian survival of the fittest. The banks have become like monarchies. They are too big to fail, too big to punish. They are above parliament. Banks are treating themselves as if they were a new class of fiscal royalty. The kind of royalty they most resemble is Charles I. He was above parliament and not accountable for his lavishness. He put the pinch upon the country to the point where the poor people simply starved.

No, this cannot be tolerated. You cannot have libraries, schools and things that people need for a basic standard of living taken away while George Osborne is making deals with companies to allow them to make better use of tax havens because they are threatening to take their business elsewhere. There are alternatives. We are not all in this together.

I'm all in favour of anti-cuts demonstrations. And it's always very pleasing to see so many V for Vendetta masks in the crowd. I'm very proud of those boys and girls.

• The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 1969 is published 25 July 2011
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Post  eddie Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:37 am

Alan Moore attacks Frank Miller in comic book war of words

Moore condemns Miller's work as misogynistic, homophobic and misguided after Sin City creator's attack on Occupy movement

Alison Flood, Tuesday 6 December 2011 18.37 GMT

Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and other matters Alan-Moore-and-Frank-Mill-006
Alan Moore (left) and Frank Miller. Photograph: Murdo Macleod/AP

Alan Moore, one of the most influential comic book creators of the past few decades, has launched an attack on fellow industry stalwart Frank Miller, condemning his work as misogynistic, homophobic and "just completely misguided".

Moore, who is English, created critically acclaimed comics including V for Vendetta and Watchmen while the American Miller is responsible for Sin City and the seminal Batman comic Dark Knight Returns. Both have helped to reshape the comic book industry, with much of their work adapted for film.

Moore spoke after Miller launched an attack on the Occupy movement, describing it as "nothing but a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists, an unruly mob, fed by Woodstock-era nostalgia and putrid false righteousness" on his blog last month.

Asked by British independent publisher Honest Publishing for his thoughts, Moore said that he and Miller "have diametrically opposing views upon all sorts of things, but certainly upon the Occupy movement".

Moore described the worldwide anti-capitalism protests as "a completely justified howl of moral outrage" and said they had been "handled in a very intelligent, nonviolent way, which is probably another reason why Frank Miller would be less than pleased with it".

Moore predicted that "if it had been a bunch of young, sociopathic vigilantes with Batman makeup on their faces, [Miller would] be more in favour of it".

Miller sparked anger when he wrote that Occupy "is nothing short of a clumsy, poorly expressed attempt at anarchy" from "a bunch of iPhone, iPad-wielding spoiled brats who should stop getting in the way of working people and find jobs for themselves" because "America is at war against a ruthless enemy [al-Qaida and Islamism]".

Moore said the comments were "about what I'd expect from him". He added: "Frank Miller is someone whose work I've barely looked at for the past 20 years. I thought the Sin City stuff was unreconstructed misogyny; 300 [a 1998 comic book series] appeared to be wildly ahistoric, homophobic and just completely misguided. I think that there has probably been a rather unpleasant sensibility apparent in Frank Miller's work for quite a long time."

In Miller's latest work, Holy Terror, a new superhero, the Fixer, battles al-Qaida.

Moore, who calls himself an anarchist – in his graphic novel V for Vendetta the revolutionary V, wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, works to bring down the government – believes the Occupy protests are "just ordinary people reclaiming rights which should always have been theirs".

He added: "I can't think of any reason why as a population we should be expected to stand by and see a gross reduction in the living standards of ourselves and our kids, possibly for generations, when the people who have got us into this have been rewarded for it – they've certainly not been punished in any way because they're too big to fail. I think that the Occupy movement is, in one sense, the public saying that they should be the ones to decide who's too big to fail.

"As an anarchist, I believe that power should be given to the people whose lives this is actually affecting. It's no longer good enough to have a group of people who are controlling our destinies. The only reason they have the power is because they control the currency. They have no moral authority and, indeed, they show the opposite of moral authority."
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Post  eddie Thu Dec 08, 2011 5:56 am

'Watchmen 2' prequel rumours divide readers

Reports of further Watchmen books, written without creator Alan Moore's involvement, are rousing strong feelings among fans

Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and other matters Alan-Moore-007
Watchmen creator Alan Moore, who is not involved in the rumoured new books. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

For a medium that deals largely with the fantastic, mainstream superhero comics have often been hidebound by a number of "rules".

For years, certain tenets at both Marvel and DC seemed etched in stone. Captain America's young sidekick, Bucky, was killed in the closing days of the second world war and "only Bucky stays dead" was almost a mantra at Marvel. Superman, that great exemplar of truth, justice and the American Way, doesn't kill. Ever. And the X-Men's Wolverine always had his origin shrouded in mystery, so much so that it was taken as read that it was a story that would never be told.

But Bucky came back, as the Winter Soldier (and now looks like he's being killed again), Superman caused much philosophical debate when he did, in fact, kill an invading Parademon (raising the question of whether Superman's "life is sacrosanct" pledge only applies to humans) and Wolverine's origin was indeed revealed … Hugh Jackman would have been a few quid lighter of pocket had it not.

As those old sacred cows have all been turned into beefburgers, it's the turn of the absolutely unthinkable to happen in comics: a new series featuring the characters from the groundbreaking 1986 series Watchmen – and not written by Alan Moore.

Watchmen – Moore's and artist Dave Gibbons' vision of an alternate America populated by deeply-flawed superheroes as the world edges towards nuclear destruction – has always been a thing out there on its own. Moore even refused to have his name on Zack Snyder's big-screen adaptation. Despite most comic-book characters passing through the hands of creative teams faster than a pass-the-parcel game at a children's party, the Watchmen – Nite-Owl, the Comedian, Silk Spectre, Rorschach, Ozymandias – have been Moore's and Gibbons' alone.

Until now.

The news that DC comics – which owns the characters – is planning a series of Watchmen "prequels" was broken by Rich Johnston at his regular gossip-and-news column on the website

Back in October, Johnston wrote: "I was told before New York Comic Con that it might be back on and that DC were drawing up a wishlist of creators for a series of Watchmen prequel comics."

Johnston followed up with several more revelations, attaching names to the project including Andy Kubert, Darwyn Cooke, John Higgins and even original artist Dave Gibbons. He says the prequels are likely to be in the form of mini-series focusing on the individual characters, before the events of Moore's Watchmen. DC Comics has, as yet, not commented on Johnston's stories.

But the fan community certainly has. For a while, "Watchmen 2" was a highly trending topic on Twitter in both the US and the UK, and the thought of a Watchmen prequel has divided readers.

On's forums, each of Johnston's posts has been greeted with a slew of comments typified by responses from "I honestly think the negative press, outrage and etc. would outweigh the potential sales" to "Well Darwyn Cooke is awesome, so I can't see why this shouldn't be".

Alan Moore, certainly, still enjoys the kind of god-like worship that would have a huge number of comics fans coming out for "Team Moore" should the bearded one decide to take on DC over the rumours. Despite not having a very weighty body of work in recent years, Moore still commands attention when he speaks out – witness the coverage of his recent riposte to fellow comics creator Frank Miller's outburst against the Occupy Wall Street protesters.

But whether that would affect sales of any proposed Watchmen prequels remains to be seen - and is doubtful. Comics fans might have long memories and be fiercely loyal, but could further adventures of the Watchmen – whether genius or car-crash – be ignored?
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