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Nexus Graphica
by Rick Klaw

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Other Nexus Graphica Columns
For more information, you can try the following:
Alan Moore
A Blazing World
Jess Nevins
The Return of Swamp Thing
From Hell (comic)
From Hell (movie)
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (comics)
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (movie)
John Constantine
Constantine
Alan Moore's disputes with Marvel and DC
V for Vendetta (comic)
V for Vendetta (movie)
Watchmen (comic)
Watchmen (movie)
The Wolverton Bible
All Star Superman Volume 2
Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic
Recent Books of Interest

The Wolverton Bible by Basil Wolverton (Fantagraphics) The Wolverton Bible
Basil Wolverton's outrageous, fantastically gross creations shocked and entertained readers throughout the 40s, 50s, and 60s. His influential cartoons appeared in numerous golden age comics and later most famously in Mad and Life. Oddly, while Wolverton rendered these seemingly heretical and, at times perverse, images, from 1953-1974, he also produced an illustrated rendition of the Old Testament for radio evangelist Herbert Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God. Fantagraphics collects in one volume for the first time all 550 images plus Wolverton's graphic interpretations inspired by the Book of Revelation and 170 additional cartoons from various other church publications. Monte Wolverton's insights into his father's art rounds out this amazing collection of this groundbreaking creator's forgotten works.

All Star Superman Volume 2 by Grant Morrison (script) and Frank Quietly (art) (DC) All Star Superman Volume 2
Volume 1 of Morrison's and Quitely's brilliant work ranked among my top ten graphic novels of 2008, and this volume may earn the same distinction this year. Morrison concludes his imaginative, early 21st century updating of the goofy circa 50s Superman science fiction tales as the dying hero journeys to the Bizarro Universe and discovers other Kryptonians bent on conquest. After seventy years of Man of Steel stories, Morrison and Quitely have created quite possibly the finest Superman tale of all time.

Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic (Warner Premiere) Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic
Overseen by artist and co-creator Dave Gibbons and voiced by Tom Stechschulte, this two-disc oddity offers the limited motion digital version of the classic graphic novel. Though the packaging claims "the entire Watchmen graphic novel comes to life," the set includes only the graphic narrative. It lacks the essential prose sections from the original book. Only for the hardcore fan, the 325 minute adaption adds some niceties such as Rorschach's ever-changing mask and light effects associated with Dr. Manhattan. As with other adaptations of Alan Moore's work, his name does not appear.

To Hell With Alan Moore

I think films are dumb.... That's not to say that there haven't been some wonderful films made, but they are very, very much the exceptions that prove the rule.
—Alan Moore, "The Alan Moore Interview," A Blazing World by Jess Nevins.
From Hell
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Constantine
The Return of Swamp Thing 2
V for Vendetta
Alan Moore (along with Sin City creator Frank Miller) injected relevancy into mainstream comics in the 80s. Previously, comic books lagged some five to six years behind current trends. Moore's skills moved mainstream superhero comics ahead of popular culture and established new trends, the punk to the old guard's rock 'n' roll. His success paved the way for artists such as Moore protégé Neil Gaiman and Mike Mignola (Hellboy creator), as well as the re-tooling of superheroes that lead to this century's spate of successful films such as the Spider-Man franchise, the X-Men series, Iron Man, and even The Incredibles.

Moore's unique vision combined the inherent nostalgic elements of a forty-year-old medium -- essentially comprised of male adolescent fantasies -- and the nihilism of the liberal-minded, disenfranchised youth of Thatcher's Britain and Reagan's America. He successfully tackled contemporary issues while exciting fan-boys by incorporating superheroes, literary references, and obscure pop culture into his works. While Moore's comics read more like literature than typical comic books, they remained approachable and engaging to readers.

Initially far better known in his native England where he crafted Marvelman (Miracleman in the U.S.) and the opening chapters of V for Vendetta, Moore first attracted the attention of American critics and fans when he began scripting fan-favorite Swamp Thing (DC) in 1983. The comic book series originally premiered in 1971 and has enjoyed several incarnations, including a 1982 relaunch to coincide with Wes Craven's cult film. Along with artists Stephen Bissette and John Totleben, Moore revitalized the tale by wielding inventive storytelling techniques to usher in a new era of horror comics that reached its pinnacle with Neil Gaiman's Sandman.

1989's The Return of Swamp Thing, borrowed heavily from Moore's works. Lacking Moore's deft hand, director Jim Wynorski butchered several scenes clearly lifted directly from the comic pages. The consummation of Abagail Arcane and Swamp Thing's love forms a beautiful and poignant moment in the comic book, that comes across as cheap and tawdry in the movie. Save for the absence of nudity and moaning, the scene could be mistaken for porn. Neither Moore nor any of the other contributing artists received credit, and the film failed critically and financially, earning just $192,816 in box office receipts. Even after such a dismal showing, a Swamp Thing live action series ran for three seasons on the USA Network beginning in 1990.

The next Moore-related feature premiered in 2001. Directed by the Hughes Brothers and starring Johnny Depp, Heather Graham and Ian Holm, From Hell, at its best, presents a shallow adaptation of Moore's complex graphic novel (1999) and at worst a unrealistic interpretation of Jack the Ripper. The source material offered solutions to the legendary murders from the viewpoints of both the victims and the suspects. Critic Chris Roberson referred to this massive book (originally serialized over ten years beginning in 1989) as the "Citizen Kane" of comics due to its ambitious scope and groundbreaking storytelling.1 Using a method new to comics, Moore's endnotes not only cite sources but also relate essential anecdotes and asides. In From Hell, Moore and illustrator Eddie Campbell established a new standard for nonfiction graphic novels.

The same cannot be said of the movie, which lacks scope and ambition. The Hughes Brothers barely touched on Moore's numerous esoteric references and combined two of the main characters into one. All this could be overlooked if not for the unforgivable sin of a contrived, tacked-on happy ending, original to the movie. The film achieved a modest box office ($31,602,566).

As problematic as The Return of Swamp Thing and From Hell films were, neither assaulted the intellectual like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003). Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2001 with artist Kevin O'Neill) brought together five Victorian literary characters under the aegis of the British Empire. The team, comprised of Mina Murray (the divorced Mrs. Jonathan Harker from Dracula), Allan Quatermain (the reluctant pacifistic hero of King Solomon's Mines), Captain Nemo (legendary submarine commander and eco-terrorist from Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), Griffin (H.G. Wells' Invisible Man), and Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, defend the crown against the machinations of Fu Manchu, Professor Moriarty, and each other. Moore successfully weaves these individuals into a complex and engaging plot. Staying true to the original versions of these classic characters, he managed to create a truly Victorian novel, technological limitations and mannerisms intact. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has since achieved a cult status with three sequels, multiple critical analyses, and numerous websites devoted to the work.

Moore's vision makes Stephen Norrington's film version that much more disappointing. This League features Allan Quatermain (portrayed by the very un-Quatermain-like Sean Connery), Mina Harker (née Murray, now a vampire), Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, Rodney Skinner (a new invisible man who uses Griffin's original formula), Dorian Gray, and an adult Tom Sawyer. None of the characters behave anything like their original literary counterparts. The convoluted plot telegraphs its twists. Though claiming to be set in 1899, the film discards Victoriana in favor of the contrived tropes of a 20th century Hollywood action thriller. Even the charismatic Connery failed to salvage this clunker. Oddly, respected comic book writer James Robinson wrote the screenplay, and Norrington, whose previous comic project was the surprisingly good Blade, directed it. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen shockingly accumulated over $66 million in domestic box office and over $112 million internationally.

While writing Swamp Thing, Moore (along with artists Stephen Bissette and John Totleben) created the character John Constantine, a British mage with a bad attitude and a mysterious past. Constantine hunts demons, seduces women, chain-smokes and drinks. A lot. Surly and unrepentant, the popular character won his own long-running series, Hellblazer. Staying true to Moore's setting, Jamie Delano and Garth Ennis deftly wove the fabric of contemporary London and its environs into the new series.

Constantine (2005), featuring an inappropriate star (Keanu Reeves), set in the wrong city (Los Angeles), and shot by a former music video director creating his first feature (Francis Lawrence), created a surprisingly good adaptation. With domestic box office over $75 million plus an international take of over $154 million, it remains the most successful Alan Moore-related property. Too bad his name does not appear in relation to the project.

Moore detests the film industry. He has never seen any of his films. He gives all his movie royalties to his co-creators. According to Moore, he even asked for his name to be removed from the credits of Constantine. To be fair, Moore often has problems in his chosen medium. He now refuses to work with the two largest comic book publishers, DC and Marvel.

I hate the movie industry [because] if I make a bad comic, it does not cost a hundred million dollars, which is the budget of an emergent small third world African nation. And this is money that could have gone to alleviating some of the immense suffering in this world but has instead gone to giving bored, apathetic, lazy, indifferent Western teenage boys another way of killing 90 minutes of their interminable and seemingly pointless lives.
—Alan Moore
A movie based on Moore's arguably most nihilistic work, V for Vendetta (1990), premiered in March 2006 starring Natalie Portman. Originally published serially during the height of the Thatcher/Reagan era, V relates the anonymous struggles of an anarchist terrorist in a post-apocalyptic fascist Britain. The movie, from first-time director James McTeigue and a screenplay by the Wachowski Brothers (The Matrix), retained much of the original story's anarchy and political references. The finest big screen Moore adaptation to date managed a respectable $132 million in total worldwide box office. Yet again, Moore asked for his name to be removed from the credits.

Weighed down by heavy promotion and tremendous expectations, the most ambitious Moore translation, Watchmen, hits the big screen on March 6. The third feature from director Zach Snyder (300, Dawn of the Dead) promises a very faithful interpretation of the Moore and artist Dave Gibbons beloved postmodern reinterpretation of the superhero genre. As with previous Moore films, only the artist's name will appear on the credits.

[The modern film industry] spoon-feeds us, which has the effect of watering down our collective cultural imagination. It is as if we are freshly hatched birds looking up with our mouths open waiting for Hollywood to feed us more regurgitated worms. The Watchmen film sounds like more regurgitated worms. I for one am sick of worms. Can't we get something else? Perhaps some takeout? Even Chinese worms would be a nice change.
—Alan Moore, interview by author, "Hero Complex" by Geoff Boucher, Los Angeles Times
(Portions of this article originally appeared in Moving Pictures, Feb/Mar 2006.)

1 Chris Roberson, review of From Hell, RevolutionSF.

Copyright © 2009 Rick Klaw

Rick Klaw produced four years of the popular monthly SF Site column "Geeks With Books", and supplied countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications including The San Antonio Current, The Austin Chronicle, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Moving Pictures RevolutionSF, Conversations With Texas Writers, Electric Velocipede, Cross Plains Universe, and Steampunk. MonkeyBrain Books published the collection of his essays, reviews, and other things Klaw, Geek Confidential: Echoes From the 21st Century.


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