Alan Moore - Rebel with a cause

Patrice Louinet | 17 avril 2006
Patrice Louinet | 17 avril 2006

Alan Moore, one of the most influential comic-book creator of all times, was born November 18, 1953 in Northampton, England. He began his comic-book career as an artist in the late seventies, authoring a strip for the music magazine weekly Sound, soon decided that he was not that good at illustrating stories and switched to writing instead. He subsequently wrote a number of strips for 2000 AD, UK's flagship science-fiction weekly (and incidentally home of Judge Dredd), creating, among others, D.R. and Quinch and The Ballad of Halo Jones.

Moore made his first major breakthrough in 1981 in Warrior, an innovative anthology magazine, creating two important series. The first was Marvelman (later retitled MiracleMan), a super-hero strip ; the other was V for Vendetta, featured in all 26 issues of the magazine. Accompanied by exceptional black and white art by David Lloyd, Moore's story is an exploration of what he considers the two extremes of politics: anarchism and fascism. A few years afterwards, both Moore and Lloyd confirmed the writer of these pages that they had no idea as to who V really was, and couldn't care less. The series won him two prestigious British awards, but remained unfinished following the demise of Warrior.

The American comic-book company DC Comics (publisher of Superman and Batman among countless others) was sufficiently impressed by Moore's abilities to offer him a contract and an ongoing series for him to write : Swamp Thing. Swamp Thing had been created in 1970 by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson, who had left the series after ten memorable issues. Nobody seemed to know quite what to do with the character after that and the title was cancelled. The series was relaunched in 1982 to try to capitalize on the (dreadful) Wes Craven movie adaptation, but when Moore arrived, the title was moribund. His first story opened on the autopsy of the character, supposedly dead. As Moore explored the body - and the history - of the character, it slowly dawned on the reader that the Swamp Thing never was the human that we all thought he was, but a sentient vegetal creature. From these premises, Moore wrote stories unheard of in the world of mainstream - read mostly « juvenile » - comic-book publishing, touching on themes never usually dealt with - or even mentioned - in such publications : sexuality, gun control, ecology, racism and even menstruations. The highly-innovative series won prestigious awards and for the first time in the Comic-Book Price Guide, a writer's name was introduced. In a world dominated by pictures, it was recognized that a writer's contribution could be as important as an artist's to the collectibility of a title.

In 1986, two series from DC Comics changed the world of comic-books forever. The first was Frank Miller's Dark Knight, featuring a Batman in his fifties ; the second was Alan Moore's and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen. With this tale of realistically-portrayed super-heroes, Moore became a star. Translated in numerous countries, Watchmen has been called the best comic-book series ever, and maybe it is, indeed. For DC Comics, Moore completed V for Vendetta, left abandoned years ago. The initial stories from Warrior magazine were reprinted in the States, with Moore and Lloyd bringing the series to its end. Shortly thereafter, Moore teamed up with fellow Britisher Brian Bolland to produced The Killing Joke, probably the best Batman/Joker story ever.

 


Moore and Gibbons had been promised the rights to Watchmen as soon as the series went out of print (at that time, reprints and trade publications were virtually non-existent in the States). But the very publication of Watchmen and Dark Knight changed all that, as both stories continually attracted new readers to the field, people who were not comic-book collectors, but bought the hardcovers or the trade paperbacks. Watchmen has been continually in print since 1987, and thus the rights to Watchmen never reverted to Moore and Gibbons. At the same period, DC tried to implement a ratings system on their comics, which Moore strongly opposed to. As a result of both affairs, Moore left the field of mainstream publishers, vowing that he would never work for DC anymore and turned his attention to alternative publishers.

 

In the following years, Moore kept his promise, but of all his various projects, many were left unfinished or uncollected. Only From Hell, a minute examination of the Jack the Ripper murders met with commercial and critical success. Moore collaborated to Image Comics, a then-new creator-owned imprint that briefly tried to rivalize with Marvel and DC Comics for a while, and later moved to Wildstom Studios, in which he created his own imprint, ABC Comics. Masterminding the entire ABC line, he created several new series, among which The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Promethea, Tomorrow Stories and Tom Strong stand out. The new series for ABC Comics earned him several new awards, including the prestigious Harvey and Eisner ones.

 


Moore's work has of course attracted a lot of attention in Hollywood since the Watchmen days, but so far the results have been far from conclusive : Terry Gilliam's adaptation has never seen the light of day, though an adaptation of the series is only a matter of time, we are repeatedly told. From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen are embarrassing movies when compared to the source material. As to V for Vendetta, Moore has asked the producers to remove his name from the credits and waived all his rights to his illustrator, David Lloyd...

 

When Wildstorm Studios was bought by the corporate giant that is DC Comics, Moore found himself unwillingly working for DC Comics again. Partly as a result of this, tired of comic-books, and wanting to give a new direction to his life (having recently turned 50), Moore stopped working for Wildstorm and left the ABC line in the hands of other creators. Aged 52, Moore still lives in Northampton, England. He has stopped writing comic-books to write books and to become a full-time magician.

Tout savoir sur V pour Vendetta

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