If you are a fan of comic books, chances are you have heard the name of Alan Moore. His graphic novel Watchmen (drawn by artist David Gibbons) is widely hailed as one of the greatest comic stories ever written, and is credited along with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns for reinventing comic books in the 1980’s.
If you are an avid moviegoer, many of Moore’s works will be familiar to you, even if you do not realize it. In recent years a number of Moore’s works have been adapted to the big screen, most recently V for Vendetta. Prior to that movies such as Constantine, From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen have all been inspired by Moore’s comics.
Moore himself has been less than pleased with film adaptations of his work. After The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell came out, Alan Moore declared that he no longer wished to have his name associated with films based on his writing. No work copyrighted solely to him would be available for film adaptations. Works in which copyright was shared (primarily with the artists), Moore would take neither credit nor payment for the work. This arrangement was used successfully with Constantine, although there was some legal difficulty with the most recent picture, V for Vendetta.
Moore’s Early Life and Work
Alan Moore was born to a working class family in Northhampton, England, on November 18, 1953. His father, Ernest Moore was a brewery worker and his mother, Sylvia Doreen was a printer. Moore continues to live in Northhampton to this day.
In 1971 Moore was expelled from a conservative secondary school. Unaccepted by any other school, he suddenly found himself alone, unemployed with an incomplete education and little to no job qualifications.
Moore began working on a magazine called Embryo with some of his friends. In 1974 he married his wife, Phyllis Moore. The couple have two children, Amber and Leah. Leah and her husband, John Reppion, are currently working with Moore on a comic series known as Albion.
By 1979 Moore found himself working as a cartoonist for a music magazine called Sounds. Although he would try drawing for a few years, Moore ultimately decided that he lacked great artistic ability and the rest of his career would concentrate solely on the writing of comic books.
In the early 1980’s Moore worked on a number of titles, including Doctor Who Weekly, 2000 A.D., and the British magazine Warrior. It was for Warrior that Moore began two of his most important early works, Marvelman (also known as Miracleman) and V for Vendetta.
Alan Moore and American Comic Books
Moore’s work for Warrior caught the attention of American comic book publishers, particularly DC Comics. They invited him to write for their lackluster title The Saga of the Swamp Thing. Moore reinvented the character and made Swamp Thing one of DC’s most popular characters. This increased popularity would ultimately lead Swamp Thing to appear in his own set of comic book movies later in the 1980’s.
Besides Moore’s work on Saga of the Swamp Thing, he wrote one other exceedingly important work for the company. This was Watchmen, his grim and gritty tale of superheroes overcome by the effects of politics in a McCarthyist Cold War era America. Along with Frank Miller’s similarly dark and realistic The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen is credited with completely remaking the world of comic books.
Unlike Saga of the Swamp Thing, the characters in Watchmen were Moore’s own. Moore became upset over the fact that copyright of the work and the characters belonged to DC Comics and not himself. Copyright of Watchmen remains in the hands of DC Comics until the day that it goes out of print, at which time ownership will pass to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, the artist. In over 20 years Watchmen has not once gone out of print. It is one of the most popular comic titles of all time.
By the end of the 80’s, Moore was tired of DC Comics and their rights over his work. He was also upset that he was not receiving the royalties he thought he deserved for the work, and decided to leave both DC and mainstream comics.
He began working on his own line of independent comic books. Eventually he began working with Image Comics. Image was started by a number of artists at Marvel Comics, who like Moore were upset by their lack of artistic ownership of their work. While the founders of Image were some of the best artists of the day, many of them lacked in the writing field. The most popular titles to come from Image were Spawn and Savage Dragon, the only two of the original Image titles to remain in print to this day.
Alan Moore wrote a number of stories for Spawn. He also took the reins of Supreme, created by artist Rob Liefield. Moore completely recreated the character, and used the Superman knockoff to give his own nostalgic vision of superheroes in their glory days.
America’s Best Comics
Alan Moore’s most recent work has been published under his own line of comics known as America’s Best Comics (ABC). Begun in the late 1990’s the line brought Moore back into the limelight with some of his most popular and critically hailed work.
Titles in the America’s Best Comics line included Tom Strong, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (turned into the failed film of the same name), Top 10,Tomorrow Stories and Promethea. Promethea in particular has been widely praised by critics and has won numerous Eisner awards.
Although originally penned solely by himself, Moore has brought other writers into the ABC line. Steve Moore (no relation to Alan and a friend of Alan’s in his early years as writer and artist) writes for the anthology series Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales. Alan Moore’s daughter, Leah Moore writes for Albion, a work plotted by Alan Moore.
Alan Moore and Film
To this day Moore refuses to have anything to do with any film based on his works. Recently he was engaged in a legal battle over promotion for the film version of V for Vendetta. Producer Joel Silver stated that Moore had talked with the director of the film and said he was very excited about the project, Moore claims he said nothing of the sort and told the director that he wanted nothing to do with the film. Moore asked for a retraction of the statement, which he never received.
To date the majority of films based on Moore’s work have not proven to be blockbusters, although some have had their own popularity. The most infamous Moore film is the movie adaptation of Watchmen, which is yet to be made. Talks of creating a movie version have been in the works for years, however no one has ever yet succeeded in bringing the work to the big screen.