It seems fittingly ironic that Alan Moore announces his exit from the public eye with a 16,000-word harrumph.
This interview was a roller coaster of emotions for me – all negative. When I finally finished – after picking my jaw up off the floor several times, after moaning audibly and alarming those near me – I could merely sigh. Sigh and think “oh good God.”
Largely, the interview is in response to an event that popped up on Twitter. It dredged up all kinds of classic questions about Moore, mainly issues of race and sexual violence. Largely, Moore’s responses to these issues are fairly well reasoned, but problematic. Moore’s response reminded me of that old, unattributed saying: “If I had more time, I would’ve written you a shorter letter.” For a great writer, Moore rambles, especially when his actual points are hugely condensable. The biggest problem is the tone.
Even while he’s making honest-to-God decent arguments, the way he says them is just colossally dickish:
The idea that it is not the place of two white men to ‘reclaim’ (although I’m not certain that’s exactly what we were doing) or otherwise utilise a contentious black character, unless I am to understand that this principle only applies to white men using black characters, would appear to be predicated upon an assumption that no author or artist should presume to use characters who are of a different race to themselves. Since I can think of no obvious reason why this principle should only relate to the issue of race – and specifically to black people and white people – then I assume it must be extended to characters of different ethnicities, genders, sexualities, religions, political persuasions and, possibly most uncomfortably of all for many people considering these issues, social classes. I cannot assume, of course, that my perception of such a prohibition as self-evidently ridiculous and unworkable is one that will be shared unanimously, and indeed this would appear not to be the case.
See? Good point, but incredibly aggressive. In every statement Moore makes, there’s an unspoken assumption that you are very, very dumb, and Moore is very, very right. In fact, Moore seems to always be very, very right. But more on that later. Moore may be making a good point, or at least raising good questions (I don’t really want to address whether or not I agree with him), but he is hugely pedantic and patronizing about it. He clearly believes he’s being clever, and seemingly lacks the self-awareness it would take to recognize the actual tone of his writing.
But at this point in the interview, Moore hadn’t said anything ruinous.
He then moved away from the issues of race and onto the frequent appearance of rape in his work. Again, his 1,300-word response could easily be boiled down to a paragraph, and a far more convincing paragraph at that. Of course, this is only true if you ignore a spectacularly large portion of this response. Because Moore very deliberately steers this response violently off-topic. It’s painfully clear he’s using the pretext of this Q&A to check off a list of things he feels need to be brought up before his departure from the interview circuit. This is where Moore starts to retroactively colour the rest of the interview with a tinge of crazy.
The blow-up on Twitter was largely caused by one dude questioning the sexual content in Moore’s work – especially a short film he showed at a book signing. Apparently this Twitter user, like so many other Twitter users, refers to himself as a “Batman scholar”, and Moore refuses to let this go. I don’t particularly disagree with some of Moore’s take on the super-hero industry. However, writing off every comic with tights in it is to ignore frequently excellent work. Hell, there’s a lot to learn about comics even when it comes to popular crap. There’s always something to learn. Compare this mantra to Moore’s and tell me which one seems healthier and more conducive to self-improvement. But Moore has an axe to grind, and so at every conceivable moment he mentions and mocks the fact that this guy likes Batman. Whether or not Moore has a point here is completely irrelevant – that’s just not a good way to conduct yourself when you’re trying to make a point. When you end up sounding like a condescending dick, it’s pretty hard to take your point seriously. Moore doesn’t sound like an intelligent creator here; he sounds like a bitter old man raging at some perceived wrong-doing.
It all reminds me of a quote from The Big Lebowski: “God damn you, Walter! You fuckin’ asshole! Everything’s a fuckin’ travesty with you, man! And what was all that shit about Vietnam? What the fuck does anything got do with Vietnam?” So I ask Alan Moore, exactly what the fuck does anything got to do with Batman? How in any way does this guy liking Batman have anything to do with his perception of your short film? It completely neuters what actually seems like an apt and needed defence.
Of course, Moore veers off topic again to bring up a reporter who he feels wronged him. The kicker is that he seems right! Assuming there’s no embellishment, Moore is completely right in being pissed off. But the comments are unprompted, and Moore’s tone is aggressive. It transforms the whole interview from defense to hit-list. Now as we move on, please keep in mind Moore is ostensibly still answering the question about rape in his comics.
Then Moore takes the interview on another sudden turn. Because if Moore’s writing a hit-list, there’s one person who needs to be on it. There’s only one person Moore would want to spill some 4,000 words insulting. And that person is… well Moore puts it best:
“This, I think, leaves us only with the herpes-like persistence of Grant Morrison himself.”
This is also where the interview takes a sudden turn from bitter-and-jaded-grouchy-old-man to crying-in-the-shower-crazy-old-man. And it’s pretty clear who Moore is crying over.
Moore is just wrong about Grant Morrison. They are both interested in very similar things, but they use those shared interests to create wildly different works with wildly different goals. They may have both written treatises on chaos magic, but one is Promethea and the other is The Invisibles. They may have both written serious, real-world imaginings of super-heroes, but one of those is Zenith and the other is Miracleman. The weird thing is that Moore’s perception of the situation seems to have been completely altered by some things Morrison wrote once upon a time about Moore’s books. Please leave me a comment; I would love to know how many people read the issue Morrison wrote these things in, just to put it in perspective. Because without those, it all seems rather… minor. Moore was at the height of his career. It’s not like these comments would have changed many minds. So then the only way to interpret Moore’s reaction is rather depressing. It seems like Moore’s ego was so fragile, so delicately inflated, that he still can’t let go of comments Morrison made many, many years ago as an attention-seeking tactic. Comments Morrison readily admits were all wrapped up in his silly attempt at cultivating a punk persona. These comments apparently devastated Moore. Enough so that he could never, ever look at Morrison’s work impartially. Enough so that he can’t even accept that everything Morrison has ever done might not be aimed at Moore. Because, of course, Moore is always, always right. This is where things start to get weird: “It became difficult not to see this decades-long campaign of trying to attract my attention as some kind of grotesquely protracted schoolboy crush, or as a form of thwarted and entirely unwanted love.”
This is the moment my jaw hit the floor. I did manage to compose myself, but just enough to mutter a hollow “what the fuck” before plowing forward. The claim continues. Moore even reveals that Morrison actually tried to smooth things out between them, and Moore turned him down. Moore didn’t want “to whisk him off to my Bat-cave so that we could solve mysteries together, perhaps in todger-revealing tights.” What the fuck does anything got do with Batman, Alan Moore? It’s hard to wrap my head around just how insane Moore’s claims are. Even if Grant Morrison was clearly and inarguably derivative of Moore, this would be nuts. Imagine if Kim Deal had accused Kurt Cobain of loving him. Moore is not only saying that Morrison’s entire career has been devoted to either slagging Moore off or ripping him off; he’s saying that all of that is just because Morrison wants to get Moore’s attention. I can’t be the only one who’s wondering what Moore falls asleep thinking about?
And the comments about fans or interviewers? Does Moore understand how interviews work? Just because you’re interviewing a guy doesn’t mean you’ve taken a blood oath to stand behind him. It doesn’t even mean you’re a fan. And asking me to throw out my Moore comics because I also own Grant Morrison comics? Fuck that. I don’t feel like I really need to explain the idiocy there.
All in all, it’s a remarkably terrible exit speech. Moore sat down, wrote this all out, read it over, and hit send. He didn’t consider cutting out “bromance,” or condensing his points, or maybe not making insane allegations. And all the crazy completely distorts even the most lucid of Moore’s points. Thank God this will be one of his last interviews, because I’m already worried it’ll be hard to separate Moore’s persona from his works. It’s probably far easier to imagine the Moore here, sitting down to write Lost Girls, perhaps with spittle on his lips and a crazed look in his eyes, than it is to picture him writing Watchmen. Despite Moore’s desperate encouragement, I’m not going to throw away the books of his I own. I still admire and respect the man and his work. But thank God he’s going to shut up for a while.