COMIC CREATORS: An Open Letter to Alan Moore: A Token of Appreciation
Alan Moore is quite frankly an enigma, a man who has been described as many things: poet, bard, wizard, madman, yet, many of the greatest artists are known as madmen. Moore has also been described as cold, cynical, misanthropic, and ruthless in his explorations of human decadence. He certainly may have been some of those things at one time or another, but Alan Moore is an artist who shows the way that he views the world so vividly, so lucidly that few artists could be comparable: Stanley Kubrick, William Blake, Jean "Moebius" Giraud.
I remember the first time I discovered Moore. Being a rather precocious kid, I would often read or watch things that the average parent might cock an eyebrow towards. There are times when I look back and think to myself that I shouldn't have seen something like Reservoir Dogs or read something such as Watchmen when I was 9 or 10. But it was in 2009, and I had discovered that my parents had received a copy of Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Watchmen. I recall that I was rather intrigued by the design of the characters, particularly the one with the moving blotted mask, whom I would come to know as a guy called Rorschach. I remember vividly thinking that Rorschach was the villain of the piece, considering that to the average 9 year old, Rorschach looked rather sinister. How ironic it is that Rorschach has become the most popular character of the series, and my personal favorite character of the series. Moore had intended Rorschach as a satire of the superhero code, where you're justified in beating a man to death simply because he was 'evil.'
Admittedly, I was a pretty shitty comics fan when I was growing up, not seriously getting into them until I was in my early teens. I remember that I had a slight obsession with a particular comic book character (and still do in many ways): Batman. I consumed a lot of things about Batman when I was younger, whether it be the superb animated series from the '90s to Nolan’s more down to earth, realistic approach in The Dark Knight, another film which I wonder if I should have seen at the tender age of 9 or 10. But I had stumbled upon a small little comic that was called The Killing Joke. I hadn’t believed that I had heard of Alan Moore before that point, but once I opened the book I remembered feeling a sense of awe, that I had read something completely unique. At first, it was due to my interest in the fact that The Joker, yet another enigma in the world of comics, was given a full-on backstory, as well as realizing that perhaps The Joker and Batman aren’t as different as we once thought. It is still my favorite work of Moore's, much more strange and personal than some of his other works, and one that he has decried over the years as ‘not a good story.’ If this work of art were something Moore wrote on an off day, then this is an entirely different type of genius, and never one that I’d ever be worthy to experience. I would go on to read Watchmen, V For Vendetta, and his initial run of Swamp Thing that had earned him renown in the States in the first place, all great works in their own right.
Time after time, I’ll see an article of Moore discussing his opinions on the comics industry, which will sometimes cause him to become a hot rod on the internet. The pretentious hipsters saying that he’s right, and the rest of us yokels are too dense to understand him, and the wingbat reactionaries, such as Razorfist, decrying him as ‘pretentious’, an oft insult of the shortsighted. Razorfist has never been a man who has shown any issue with wearing such shortsighted ideologies on his sleeve. At times, I grow uneasy at Moore’s assertions, yet I also wonder why he can’t let go of his anger and resentment towards the comics industry, and accept the love that his work has received over the years. But I then read a repost of something that Moore’s daughter Leah (herself a comics writer) had written in response to some of the criticism that Moore has received over the years. As someone who has found joy in Moore’s work for so many years, I was left rather crestfallen. She had given us the story of how Moore, ever the passionate artist, gave all that he had to his chosen medium, repudiating fame and fortune, and never asking for our thanks in the process. It was rather heart-wrenching to read.
I am usually hesitant to disagree with one of my idols, but I'm afraid that in this case, I am forced to. It's rather amazing how Alan Moore seems to underestimate his impact on the comics industry, for better or for worse. While we were bombarded with the angst-ridden mainstream comics of the '90s by the writers and artists who were excited by the opportunity that Moore gave them—yet didn't seem to grasp what made Moore so profound—but we also got a renaissance in mainstream comics., with Vertigo and the voices who came with it: Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, Peter Milligan, Grant Morrison, Brian Azzerello, and Brian K. Vaughn. They, along with others, would bring a new sense of quality to mainstream comics that hadn't been seen before, until Image Comics would come and sap Vertigo's influence over mainstream independent comics as the years went by. Most of what has happened to mainstream comics in the last several decades has been due to the combined efforts of Alan Moore and Frank Miller, with some help from more under-appreciated voices such as Steve Gerber and Dennis 'Denny' O'Neill. It is rather saddening to see Moore be relegated to an internet punchline of being comics' angry, bitter old man.
I highly doubt that Moore will ever read this, considering his aversion to the internet and all, but I would like to let him know that his hard work and the sacrifices that he’s made have meant something over the years. I’ve encountered many emotions while reading his work, whether it be dread, sadness, anger, wonder, and most of all, joy. It was Moore who first showed me what this medium that I loved could be capable of, that it could be important. Most important, it was a medium where you could do anything, and never be bound by anything except your imagination. It is this Moore that I know, the one who speaks and writes eloquently on why this medium matters, and the one that I see every time that I sit down to read another of his works that I hadn’t the chance to get through yet. I wish that he would see that there are so many of us out there who admire his work, and love it for what it is.
Yet I suppose it makes perfect sense: Moore has always been one to allow his work to speak for itself, and one who’s never asked for our thanks. But I would like to let him know that I, as well as so many others, do offer our thanks and our utmost appreciation for what he’s done for us, for the medium that we all love, and that his work does matter.