Other Nexus Graphica Columns
For more information, you can try the following:
A Blazing World
The Return of Swamp Thing
From Hell (comic)
From Hell (movie)
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (comics)
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (movie)
Alan Moore's disputes with Marvel and DC
V for Vendetta (comic)
V for Vendetta (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)
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)
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)
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 (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.
—Alan Moore, "The Alan Moore Interview," A Blazing World by Jess Nevins.
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
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.
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.
(Portions of this article originally appeared in
Pictures, Feb/Mar 2006.)
—Alan Moore, interview by author,
Complex" by Geoff Boucher, Los Angeles Times
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
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.