On the Moore / Morrison Feud, Literary Borrowings, and the Anxiety of Influence

It’s long been no secret, to those who paid attention, that Alan Moore and Grant Morrison — arguably the medium’s two most influential writers — don’t get along. But it’s been a slow simmer of a feud, known mostly to scholars and die-hard fans but rarely exploding the way it has recently.

It began with Pádraig Ó Méalóid writing a rather important and well-written series of three articles for Heidi MacDonald’s The Beat. Pádraig was mostly focused on trying to sort out, once and for all, the longstanding issue of whether Moore had in fact borrowed from Superfolks, the 1977 novel by Robert Mayer that prefigures revisionism. After examining the evidence, Pádraig exonerates Moore of everything but perhaps borrowing a single plot element for his “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”

In his third installment, Pádraig turns to Grant Morrison, who seems to have been the source of the Superfolks allegation against Moore. Pádraig briefly gets into their feud, including the famous story of Moore rejecting Morrison’s script for Marvelman. Pádraig offers some sensible and fair thoughts there, based on the evidence he presents.

Lots of people read these articles, including Grant Morrison — who himself responded. To their credit, the Beat allowed him to do so, with Pádraig’s consent. The result is a lengthy piece, in which Morrison corrects several matters and comes off, I think, rather well. To his credit, Morrison says he likes Moore’s work, though not Moore’s attitude towards other creators. But Morrison is quite insistent on a couple points: (1) his own career parallels Moore’s, not comes after it, so he (a) was never some Moore clone and (b) doesn’t owe his career to Moore’s stated largess at suggesting Morrison to DC’s Karen Berger. Morrison also insists that (2) while he might have shown his diversity, early in his career, by fulfilling what he thought was publisher’s expectation of a Moore-esque style, he’s never plagiarized Moore or anyone else. And if you want to make simplistic cases for plagiarism, based on a few elements or plot devices, Morrison’s presents his own tongue-in-cheek alternate history of borrowings, in which Moore’s the one following Morrison’s ideas.

Now, I’m glad all of this is on the record, and I think The Beat (including Pádraig and Laura Sneddon, who posted Morrison’s response) as well as Morrison have done comics scholarship a real service here. Kudos all around.

However, seeing as how Sequart’s documentary Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods was quoted in the piece, I feel compelled to respond. And I can’t help but feel, as a literary historian and not a comics creator or reporter, like a little bit of cold water could be thrown on the whole matter if we apply a bit of literary criticism.

Both the Superfolks issue and the whole Moore / Morrison feud, beyond the personality issues, revolve around the concept of borrowing or plagiarism. Moore’s said that Vertigo, and the mature-readers comics that preceded it, seem to be based on his work. He’s taken a lot of the credit — or the blame — for the whole “dark realism” of revisionism. And Pádraig quotes Moore saying that Morrison’s work seems to be more than a little influenced by Moore’s own work — and that of Michael Moorcock.

(Incidentally, it’s not only Morrison who’s made the Superfolks charge against Moore. Its author, Robert Mayer, has happily repeated it, including on Amazon.com, presumably to sell more books.)

Here, we must understand that, in literature and all of art, there’s nothing wrong with borrowing ideas. All the great writers did it, but they go off in different directions, making the resulting work their own. Anyone who’s spent any time seriously studying Shakespeare or Milton knows how they borrowed from and transformed the work of their predecessors.

Verily, didst thou readest John Milton's Paradise Lost? Methinks I likest it better when it bore the title Inferno!

This is all rather old hat. Harold Bloom’s famous 1973 The Anxiety of Influence spelled the process out for everyone who followed, but the basic concept of such artistic borrowings has been known since prehistory. Even religions have been cobbled together from other sources. Virgil responds to Homer, Dante to Virgil, Milton to Dante, and Gaiman to Milton. Look at how many times ancient Greek stories have been rewritten, always reflecting their current author’s own concerns and own era. There’s nothing new or controversial about any of this.

What’s really odd about people in comics not getting this is that corporate super-hero comics do this all the time. New writers pick up ideas or plots or characters from past ones, and they transform them, or see new implications in them, or even just retell the same stories in updated form. No one thinks Ultimate Spider-Man “ripped off” Lee and Ditko’s original work. Or that killing off any super-hero’s love interest is a “rip off” of Gwen Stacy’s death. American super-hero comics are based on borrowing. But really, all stories are, in all genres. Music and fine art too.

It’s a good thing that artists have influences. They feed an artist’s work and keep it from stagnation. It’s only when an artist seems to be aping someone else, especially over protracted periods, that there’s room for legitimate criticism.

The terms we use for borrowings matter. For example, plagiarism is one of the most serious terms and applies to taking another’s text, artwork, or ideas with little adaptation — and importantly, without attribution.

Plagiarism is theft, but it’s different than the legal standard of copyright infringement. Copyright applies only to particular expressions, not ideas for a story. Plagiarism is more broad, in this respect, and professors have been dismissed for simply rephrasing someone else’s paragraph without acknowledgement.

On the other hand, this acknowledgement is key in plagiarism, but it doesn’t really apply to copyright infringement. If you take someone else’s writing and put your name on it, that’s both copyright infringement and plagiarism. But if you publish it with the author’s name, you’re actually not plagiarizing – you never claimed it was yours. You are potentially violating the author’s copyright, however.

Copyright infringement also has lots of exceptions, such as using extracts for satirical or critical purposes. You can’t put someone’s face on your billboard, as if they’re endorsing your product, but you can make a caricature of it for a political cartoon. And you can’t stick some lines of a novel into yours, but you can for the purposes of a review or an analytic text.

It’s best to think of the two as operating in two completely different worlds. Plagiarism is part of a code of intellectual honesty; it’s the stuff of internal university hearings. Copyright infringement is part of a legal code; it’s the stuff of court cases. The two are similar, but they belong to different realms.

Now, to my knowledge, no one’s talking about plagiarism or copyright infringement in this case, outside of perhaps a few fans. But that’s not the point. The point is that anything that fails to meet these bar is simply a borrowing.

No, ideas like “a hero’s behind it all!” isn’t an idea, for the purposes of plagiarism. Nor is “a super-hero utopia” or “a metafictional detective story.” Those are elements that can be legitimately borrowed. Naturally, one hopes an author credits his or her influences. But if not, even if the source of that borrowed element is conclusively proven, it doesn’t amount to anything but bad form — and potentially catching an author in a lie. Shame may result, but it’s not really theft. It’s perfectly legitimate borrowing, and if it weren’t, no one would write anything for fear someone, somewhere, may have had the idea first.

Of course, especially in the West, we have this rather odd cult of artistic originality, in which we usually praise whoever did something first — even when we don’t like it, or the people who came after perfected the idea and did it better. That’s a little strange, when you think about it.

Just look at the words we use to describe artists: words like “new,” “different,” “original,” and “unique.” Those are good qualities, to be sure; any form of art dies if it’s stagnant. But none of those words necessarily indicates quality. A Green Lantern comic in which all of the characters speak ancient Greek for no reason might be “different” and “unique” too — but it’s a pretty crappy story. Surely, if we’re honest with ourselves, we also want stories to be well-crafted, to be balanced in pacing and structure, to foreshadow well but without being obvious, and to follow through on their implications, rather than throwing out a clever idea without having the courage or intelligence to explore it. These are all criteria at least as important as any simplistic understanding of “originality.” Put another way, exploring an idea someone else originated, in a new context or in a fuller and more considered way, is just as original as coming up with that idea in the first place.

This is why, for example, an off-hand remark by a character with fascinating implications isn’t a story. The later writer who explores those implications, weaving a careful and moving tale around them — he’s the one we end up celebrating and rereading.

A lot of times we get preoccupied with who’s borrowed a plot element, as if that’s a quest that, pursued fully, wouldn’t ultimately lead back to prehistory and evolutionary circumstances. It’s not a useless quest, by any means, and it’s good to chart and to think about. But using it as a “gotcha” game, to denigrate one creator or another, is a silly — and actually rather anti-literary — business.

That’s not to say originality doesn’t matter. No one is in favor of actual rip offs, and all of us — including me — place a high value on originality. But those who do so responsibly have, since at least Bloom’s 1973 book, understood that originality isn’t an avoidance of influence or of elements that anyone has used before. That would be impossible, and we probably wouldn’t like the artistic results! Rather, the goal is to recast what’s been done before in a strong and unique way — to take things in a different direction or simply further, and to do so in a way that is artistically coherent and says new things, despite its Frankenstein-like origins of borrowed parts.

Consider Superfolks — a great novel, in my estimation, although it’s certainly uncontrolled, precisely as Pádraig points out. But it’s satirical, an utterly different beast form Moore’s Marvelman. MAD magazine’s “Superduperman” (which Moore has always pointed to, as a source for Marvelman) was satirical too. What Marvelman (which I’ve written a lot about) did was take these observations, about how these super-heroes didn’t make sense or could just as easily go in other directions, and take them out of the realm of satire, using them instead as fuel for a rather gripping drama.

Whether Moore knew Superfolks, or to what extent, is important to document if we can. Pádraig Ó Méalóid has done comics a service in looking at this. We may well be writing academic dissertations on the subject for centuries. But the two works are completely different beasts, and this would be the case even if the superficial similarities were striking — and they’re not.

Hypothetically, even if every single element of Marvelman could be tracked back to one satirical super-hero piece or another, this still wouldn’t constitute theft by any meaningful definition of the term. To remix and fuse all those elements into a whole with a new tone of stark realism would itself be original. And it’s this tone, more than any single element or idea, that was Marvelman‘s great innovation.

Just to be fair, consider The Matrix, which Morrison has alleged was borrowed heavily from The Invisibles. There, the similarities are much clearer — especially with Morrison’s fashion-obsessed killer King Mob and the action-oriented Invisibles, Volume Two. But The Invisibles isn’t a Hollywood action flick in tone. King Mob is balanced by a team of different personalities, whose very different histories and viewpoints are explored. In The Matrix, all the heroes are King Mobs. Even the cool-looking, fashion-obsessed element works very differently: King Mob and Neo might both wear shades indoors, but King Mob wears many outfits and stands out, whereas all the heroes of The Matrix were the same outfits, thus representing a cooler-looking form of conformity.

Both works share the idea that the universe is an illusion, and both have characters use who can switch bodies (although both these ideas have long literary roots). But The Matrix uses the illusory nature of reality to tell a Terminator-esque story about machines taking over humanity. In The Invisibles, illusion is just as “real” as anything, but The Matrix staunchly prefers reality — even though that reality completely sucks. In The Invisibles, switching bodies and personalities is about the malleability of identity, which is supposed to be inspiring, encouraging readers to be whatever they want to be. In The Matrix, this idea means anyone but the protagonists can get taken over by an evil machine at any moment. The Invisibles is all about deconstructing the false dichotomy of “us vs. them,” showing us how faceless goons are human too, and King Mob repents his killing ways. The Matrix is totally “us vs. them” — so much so that it justifies killing civilians because they could be possessed. It’s not too much so that The Invisibles offers a kind of inoculation against this exact kind of thinking.

So The Matrix might borrow some elements from The Invisibles, but it’s a totally different thing. And to his credit, Morrison’s said (including in our documentary Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods) that he’s overcome his negative feelings about the matter, and he doesn’t seem to press the issue much in interviews anymore.

(In this comparison of The Invisibles and The Matrix, I owe a debt to our forthcoming book by Tom Shapira, which might not agree with my conclusion that The Matrix isn’t plagiarized, but whose analysis of The Matrix and Morrison’s work is the best I’ve ever read.)

With this framework of how literary borrowings work, let’s turn to Grant Morrison’s work.

Morrison acknowledges, in his response to The Beat, that he adopted the style of others, earlier in his career:

Doing my own approximation of the “in” style to get gigs on Marvel UK books was, I thought, a demonstration of my range, versatility and adaptability to trends, not the declaration of some singular influence it has subsequently been distorted into over four decades.

That’s all entirely reasonable. When a writer joins the writing staff of a TV show, they’re expected to make their work jibe with everyone else’s. It’s a good writer who knows a magazine or a website’s audience and adapts accordingly. That’s a sign of intelligence and versatility, not any lack of originality.

Tim Callahan’s Grant Morrison: The Early Years (the first book ever published about Morrison, also published by Sequart) addresses this very point. It acknowledges that Morrison’s first four issues of Animal Man feel influenced by Moore, and it points out that this was probably due to DC wanting material in a similar vein. But Animal Man #5 (“The Coyote Gospel”) comes across as a revelation, and afterward no one could confuse it for the writing of Alan Moore. It’s quintessentially Grant Morrison.

In the appendix to Callahan’s book, he addresses some of Morrison’s earlier work, where Morrison’s influences may be more strongly felt. But even there, Callahan finds that the work reflects themes and concerns that would occupy Morrison’s later work. In other words, they’re still Grant Morrison.

Morrison ably defends that later work from Moore’s assertions. He shouldn’t need to. There’s nothing substantial of Moore in any of it. The absurdity of Doom Patrol is almost utterly foreign to Moore’s oeuvre, as Callahan points out. The Invisibles doesn’t show a trace of Moore. Morrison’s bright JLA was almost the opposite of Moore’s celebrated super-hero work. There’s no Moore in New X-Men either, nor The Filth. If there’s anything of Moore in All Star Superman or Batman, it’s only because everything in the entire history of those characters feels like it’s in there somewhere. And I defy you to explain how Seaguy or Happy! is in any meaningful way derivative of Alan Moore.

As Morrison points out, it’s not fair to generalize about an entire career based on, say, four issues of Animal Man. That’s a rather silly business, and it really doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously.

In his interviews and his writings, Moore makes a great many points about a great many things, which continue to inspire me personally. Maybe his statements about Morrison are meant to be taken half-seriously, or as in-kind retaliation for what a young Morrison once said, tongue in cheek, about Moore and Superfolks. Moore certainly brought up those charges, before making his comments about Morrison. I don’t know. I do know that neither claim of plagiarism has any real merit. They’re both as silly as the other.

If anything, I’d argue that Moore has most influenced Morrison in opposition. Morrison’s said many times that his response to Watchmen was negative, and it helped him go in the opposite direction. Instead of gritty realism, Animal Man ended with hope and metafiction. Doom Patrol went deep into the absurdity of super-heroes. JLA is about as opposed to Watchmen as anything could get. If there’s a case to be made for Moore’s continued influence on Morrison, it’s for pushing Morrison to define himself on his own terms, to refuse to labor in Alan Moore’s shadow.

Even in his self-styling as a bald-headed rock star, Morrison couldn’t be more different than Moore.

There’s one final irony in all of this. Moore’s often said that he didn’t want people to copy Watchmen by writing more grim-and-gritty super-hero stories. He wanted people instead to innovate, the way Watchmen had innovated. Morrison’s done that.

That’s how the anxiety of influence is supposed to work — to spur others to do better and to beat the influential works preceding theirs. Whether you think Morrison’s accomplished that, or you personally prefer Moore’s work, there’s no question that Morrison refuses to be in anyone’s shadow.

Next time, with this silliness out of the way, I’ll look at how the real issue is a battle over comics history. And how Karen Berger gets marginalized in that history.

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In 1996, while still an undergraduate, Dr. Julian Darius founded what would become Sequart Organization. After graduating magna cum laude from Lawrence University (Appleton, Wisconsin), he obtained his M.A. in English, authoring a thesis on John Milton and utopianism. In 2002, he moved to Waikiki, teaching college while obtaining an M.A. in French (high honors) and a Ph.D. in English. In 2011, he founded Martian Lit, which publishes creative work, including his comic book Martian Comics. He currently lives in Illinois.

See more, including free online content, on .

Also by Julian Darius:

This Lightning, This Madness: Understanding Alan Moore\'s Miracleman, Book One


Stories out of Time and Space, Vol. 1


The Citybot\'s Library: Essays on the Transformers


Because We are Compelled: How Watchmen Interrogates the Comics Tradition


Judging Dredd: Examining the World of Judge Dredd


Somewhere Beyond the Heavens: Exploring Battlestar Galactica


The Cyberpunk Nexus: Exploring the Blade Runner Universe



A Long Time Ago: Exploring the Star Wars Cinematic Universe


Classics on Infinite Earths: The Justice League and DC Crossover Canon


executive producer

New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics



executive producer

When Manga Came to America: Super-Hero Revisionism in Mai, the Psychic Girl


a short documentary on Chris Claremont's historic run and its influence

executive producer

Warren Ellis: The Captured Ghosts Interviews


Voyage in Noise: Warren Ellis and the Demise of Western Civilization


Shot in the Face: A Savage Journey to the Heart of Transmetropolitan


The Weirdest Sci-Fi Comic Ever Made: Understanding Jack Kirby\'s 2001: A Space Odyssey


The Devil is in the Details: Examining Matt Murdock and Daredevil


Everything and a Mini-Series for the Kitchen Sink: Understanding Infinite Crisis


Revisionism, Radical Experimentation, and Dystopia in Keith Giffen\'s Legion of Super-Heroes


And the Universe so Big: Understanding Batman: The Killing Joke


a feature-length documentary film on celebrated comics writer Warren Ellis

executive producer

Keeping the World Strange: A Planetary Guide


Minutes to Midnight: Twelve Essays on Watchmen


a documentary on the life and work of celebrated comics writer Grant Morrison

executive producer

Teenagers from the Future: Essays on the Legion of Super-Heroes


Improving the Foundations: Batman Begins from Comics to Screen


Not pictured:


  1. Julian,

    I was expecting a Monday morning editorial after reading Pádraig’s work–which I am full agreement with you about its value–and once again, you came through! Just a few thoughts I’ve had about this subject matter from over the weekend:

    When Greg Carpenter posted his response in the comments section on The Beat, I have to say it gave me a moment of pause–does continued conflict benefit those directly and indirectly involved? Given the examples he provided, I have to think there’s a good possibility he (and you) are on to something. The conclusion you make about Moore’s greatest influence on Morrison being one of opposition and motivation to create in a different way is one well worth considering… though I think this means Morrison too is unable to avoid the influence of Moore, even if it takes him in a different direction. I wonder, then, how much influence Moore has experienced from Morrison? Is this a sort of friction-laded symbiotic relationship? Or is it more one-way?

    My dissertation is all about tracing the influences of the past on the comics of the present, and this issue in particular is fascinating as we’re seeing two major creators “have at it” right in front of our eyes. It’s really intriguing to find out what they feel influenced them… but on the other hand, I can’t help but think to myself “Sure, Moore and Morrison can tell us their influences, but why do we need to necessarily believe them? Isn’t it possible they fail to see other cultural influences working into their writings?” Heck! Most writing teachers know that students can more readily identify the errors in other students’ writing before their own; why then is it any different when it comes to the influences upon one’s writing? Isn’t it likely others, who are more removed from the work than the author, can more readily make these connections? So I don’t think this constitutes a charge of plagiarism on the part of the author if s/he does not fully recognize the extent of the influence; however, a certain level of humility might go a long way in being open to the possibility one is not as original as s/he would like to believe.

    • Forest, I like the questions you’re raising and the points you’re making. One of the things I see coming out of this discussion is the need to clarify terms a bit. Julian has done that quite well here with “plagiarism” and “copyright infringement.” The other word that I and everyone else is using is “influence,” but there are lots of different meanings to that word. As Bloom pointed out long ago, a lot of artists are wary about ‘fessing up to any forms of influence. For example, my dissertation focused, in part, on the playwright August Wilson, and he claimed not to have read any of the canon of American drama–no Eugene O’Neill, no Tennessee Williams, no Arthur Miller, etc.

      Moore’s attitude is similar to Wilson’s in this respect. He tends to distance himself from the medium and often suggests that he’s not read . . . much of anything that’s been published in the last 20 years. I see no reason to doubt the general truth of the fact that he hasn’t kept up with a lot of the comics industry, and I don’t think anyone is under the delusion that he runs to a local shop every Wednesday afternoon to find out what happened to the Teen Titans. On the other hand, based on things both Moore and others have said, it’s not particularly plausible that he’s read nothing from the medium over the years. Yet, Moore, like Wilson and countless other writers, seems to be taking great pains to remove himself from any charges of “influence”–at least in terms of his fellow comic book writers.

      But influence comes in many shapes. One form of “influence” is simply “motivation.” When the relationship between writers is peachy, we sometimes call it “inspiration.” I might be “inspired” to write something because I read something Forest or Julian wrote. On the other hand, I might be “driven” to write something more polemical because some other critic elsewhere said something I thought was wrong-headed or offensive. In other words, I want to undo the damage unleashed by that other writer.

      But I think there’s even another, more subtle form of “motivational influence” that is much less direct than the two examples above. Sometimes an artist can be influenced by the sheer existence of a peer or a rival. The simple knowledge that there is someone out there of similar stature (or perhaps even someone with the perception of a superior stature) can push a writer to produce better work. That’s what I was getting at in my comment on The Beat. Artists tend to be sharper and more on point when they know, in the back of their minds, that they have peers doing similar work. It’s been true for years and it’s certainly true of these guys. (That’s one part of what I’m writing about in my manuscript, so I’ll hush about that for now.)

      But there’s also another form of “influence” that is being bandied about in this debate, and that’s the difference between being “influenced” and being “derivative.” Moore once dismissed Morrison’s early writing as “derivative” and that was clearly an insult, implying that Morrison’s work was merely a pale copy or that Morrison was little more than a “poor man’s Alan Moore.” I sometimes think that when Morrison sees the word “influence” attached to his work, he still hears that word “derivative” clanging around in his head. That would explain his repeated desire to separate himself from Moore. So I think both of them sometimes appear a little wary about this notion of “influence.”

      But as Julian suggests, Morrison’s work is not even close to being derivative. Even Zenith, which was openly influenced by Marvelman and Captain Britain is in no way “derivative”–it’s as fresh and unique an approach to the genre as anything in the late ’80s.

      But writers often get jumpy because “influence” is such a broad term. And the fact that so much of the Internet is filled with anonymous, snarky put-down artists who play the “gotcha” game, as Julian put it, and who sidle over to “Team Moore” or “Team Morrison” as Julian also put it, no doubt makes writers even more jumpy.

      I would just like to see more folks chill, as my students might say. They’re both great writers, and they clearly aren’t buddies. But if all of us can take a deep breath and appreciate the fact that they’re both wonderful writers and that their continued presence probably makes each of them a little sharper, then maybe we can continue to enjoy a few more decades of magic.

      • I agree with everything you’ve written here, Greg. It’s well-written too, and I with to associate myself with it, as they’d say in Congress.

        The points about Moore not following closely but still following, and about how him not wanting to admit prominent influence fits into the literary tradition, are especially well-said. Wish I’d written it! There’s your influence, dammit!

        This influence of motivation is certainly true in my own life. Sequart’s great for this. Seeing everyone else produce makes me produce. I’m a solitary writer — I don’t like distractions, once I get going, nor do I often care what anyone thinks (I’m almost always my own toughest critic). But when I’m not blazing through something, even just seeing other people do things and being busy spurs me to do more. The best thing in the world for a writer is to think “I wish I’d written that” — because then you go out and write something of your own, sometimes taking aspects you liked from what spurred you but inevitably making it your own.

        I think that, in this postmodern world of appropriation, it’s a bit odd for writers to still hold onto this seeking-to-hide-one’s-influences idea. I’ll freely admit to stealing ideas, where I have, as well as to more general influences. We’re living in an age in which the remix is as important as the original, in which an autotuned Antoine Dodson is as vital as anything else in music. I suspect the younger generation will be better at all of this — after all, when you went to high school in a world where who you had sex last night tweeted about exactly what you did, shame is dead, and “Sure, I borrowed that idea, but I transformed it” isn’t diminishing of anything. Nor should it be.

        The Beatles helped spur the Beach Boys do Pet Sounds, which didn’t sound anything like the Beatles. And it in turn stimulated the Beatles.

        I don’t even think the literary world does this kind of hiding-influences game anymore. It’s really just comics. And that’s more a side effect of how it’s not covered by The New Yorker or The Atlantic, where people with literary training perhaps don’t treat borrowings or influence in quite the same paranoid way — I hope they don’t, anyway. So perhaps the solution is a literary culture in comics, in which these issues are a lot more settled and a lot less Wild West.

        But I would say that.

    • Forrest, I really appreciated Greg’s reply on the Beat. And I too found myself wondering about whether this works the other way too — whether Moore’s been influenced more than he’d like to admit.

      Personally, I see that mostly coming out, with Moore, in his return to super-heroes, around 1963 and Supreme. I don’t know that Moore’s admitted reading Marvels or Astro City, but he did admit to liking Big Bang Comics, which was a retro series not unlike 1963. Morrison’s joking, of course, when he suggests that this turn in Moore was influenced by Morrison’s Kirby issue of Doom Patrol. But as much as Moore may wish to say that this turn in his career was the spontaneous result of him realizing he liked super-heroes and wanted to celebrate them, the tone of his work in this period is so close to other reconstructionist works that I can’t help but believe he’d read them.

      Nothing wrong with that — it helped put Moore in the early stages of the most important movement in super-hero history, after revisionism (in my opinion).

      What’s funny about this, if you do want to chart it, is that Morrison was kinda there first. Yeah, JLA is his first fully revisionist comic — but that anti-response to Moore wound up taking over comics… just not quite in the absurdist way of Doom Patrol, for example.


      • Adam David says:

        “But as much as Moore may wish to say that this turn in his career was the spontaneous result of him realizing he liked super-heroes and wanted to celebrate them, the tone of his work in this period is so close to other reconstructionist works that I can’t help but believe he’d read them.”

        I never read Moore rationalising ABC or SUPREME or 1963 as spontaneous results of him realising he liked super-heroes and he wanted to celebrate them – what he had always said was a motivation similar if not the same as Morrison’s: he didn’t like WATCHMEN’s influence on super-hero comic books in general, and thought it was time for a reconstruction. He wrote a very articulate breakdown of this in all the first issues of his ABC stuff using alchemy as imagery, if I remember correctly.

        Also: great essay, great conversation in the comments!

      • I agree with what you’ve said here, about Alan Moore not claiming his reconstructionist work was spontaneous. Good point — I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise.

        Thanks for your comment! I’m glad you liked the article.

      • Adam, would you happen to have a reference for where Moore states he felt the need to reconstruct the superhero after deconstructing him? I’d love to read that article / interview.


  2. Adam David says:

    It has to be said: Alan Moore is quite possibly the greatest, most successful comic book forum troll ever.

  3. Nick Marino says:

    Great piece. Fantastic distillation of the history involved and underlying problems with the ongoing discourse. I’m looking forward to the next one.

  4. Horaz SC says:


    When talking about individuals and their work, this is worth noting,
    considering it also includes ALL of the paragraphed references,
    and can shed more light about what certain readers (such as myself)
    think about people like Grant Morrison and their casual promoters.


    On the comics’ scholarship debate…
    I believe some wording about ethics should be brought upon the table.
    Specially, when certain topics allow certain persons to twist events
    in favor of promoting their own works and also include a partial, incomplete,
    and watered-down version of certain dilemmas pertaining racism, sexism,
    and all of those -isms the 140-losophers love so much to sell themselves
    as warriors of a cause, which to the nourished reader, comes off as simply ridiculous.

    Yes, many on that “blacklist” of *that final interview*, save for a particular exception,
    I believe to be perfectly and properly dubbed.
    Yes, I believe that certain people want to show some questionable authors
    as avatars of just causes (hardly I think, a separatist -ism is a just cause).
    Yes, many people took the hit they deserved if they ruined a meticulously crafted story with idiotic spoilers in lieu of promoting themselves -and, to summarise that, use Twitter and other social media on an assumed one-handed discussion as their only backup. No matter how many retweets you get, a journalist spoiling a work based on careful planning is an idiot.
    And good thing about idiocy is that it IS unisex.

    I won’t consider myself as a scholar of any sort, but I believe the world is BIG.
    I’ve spent 30 or so years (starting at age 4) reading some American comics, many Argentinian historietas, several Spanish tebeos, a few European graphic novels and LOTS of manga.

    I also think that the published books about certain questionable comic authors
    have their own value and offer a greater insight into the medium, and I respect that (the amount of books I’ve found here about the matters are astounding in its sheer number and a very, very welcome addition to any library).

    But someone has to expose these people as they are, by their own recorded words, rather than their edited, subjective and right out unfair positions they 140-losophize about.

    Then, let people, and not the authors, decide how to take their works.
    For some people like me (and I know for certain I’m not the only one),
    things are just that simple.

    I deeply respect your work, Julian. And your assertive, warm and educated manners.
    I’m really glad to have discovered Sequart (once again, thanks to LoEG).

    Best of wishes,
    and Saludos desde Argentina.

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