It’s So Much Easier to Write Someone Off Than to Try to Understand Their Perspective.
Felix Quiñonez Jr.
You’d be hard-pressed to find many writers whose work is more influential to the comic book medium than Alan Moore. Even if you only credited him for his most famous contribution, Watchmen, his indelible mark on the industry and pop culture at large is impossible to ignore. But that’s not even close to all he wrote. Some of his most iconic works include V For Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, From Hell, Lost Girls, among many others. He co-created John Constantine, Tom Strong, and wrote a couple of the most beloved and influential Superman stories. Honestly, that’s just barely scratching the surface of what he’s contributed.
But for some reason, that’s not really what people talk about when they talk about Alan Moore these days. Somewhere along the line, it’s become fashionable to dump on him and call him crazy. And I think it’s time we stop to consider why we talk about that instead of focusing on how much he did for the medium that so many of us love.
People love to dismiss him as “crazy” or an “angry old man.” Of course, the people who say that don’t talk about the reason he’s angry, to begin with. But let’s take a second to see how that anger started and why he remains mad after all these years. Believe it or not, there was a time when Alan Moore had a relatively fruitful working relationship with DC Comics. His critically acclaimed run on Swamp Thing was beloved by fans and has become highly influential.
But the problems began with Watchmen, or more accurately, they started once Watchmen became an unprecedented smash hit. Under the original agreement, DC would retain ownership while publishing the series. The contract’s reversion clause meant that after the series went out of print for a year, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons would own their creation. However, because DC never intended to let the publications go out of print, it essentially made the reversion clause meaningless. It’s hard to refer to that as anything other than deception. Even when the offense is relatively minor, no one likes to be deceived. However, Watchmen is not “minor.” It is one of the most famous and beloved works of fiction. Anyone can see that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons worked incredibly hard on it, and they were fooled into thinking that they would eventually get to own the fruits of their labor. So, when Alan Moore found out that was never going to be the case, he was angry. And is that really surprising? Things could have turned out better if DC had been honest about their intentions from the beginning.
In 2000, as DC was planning to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Watchmen, Alan Moore, distanced himself from the company, because of how they were treating his ABC comics imprint. ABC Comics launched under the Jim Lee owned imprint, Wildstorm. But when Lee sold the company to DC Comics, Alan Moore’s imprint was included. DC assured Moore that they wouldn’t interfere, but that didn’t prove to be the case. Alan Moore said, “As far as I’m concerned, the 15th anniversary of Watchmen is purely a 15th Anniversary of when DC managed to take the Watchmen property from me and Dave.”
In 2010, DC comics offered Alan Moore the rights to Watchmen back as long he would agree to write a prequel and a sequel. This was after more than two decades of screwing him over, and it was because they wanted more out of him. Alan Moore explained that “if they said that ten years ago, when I asked them for that, then yeah it might have worked […] But these days I don’t want Watchmen back. Certainly, I don’t want it back under those kinds of terms.” And can you blame him?
People also like to point to his anger over the movie adaptations of his work as further proof that he is crazy. His biggest problem with the adaptations seems to be how unfaithful to the source material they tend to be. Anyone who has spent a substantial amount of time crafting a story knows how important it becomes. You feel like you know the characters and genuinely care about them. And if he feels his creations are not being represented well on the screen, he is entitled to his anger.
After the awful The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen film, Alan Moore decided that he no longer wanted his name attached to any adaptation of his work. He also refused any of the royalties. He decided they should go to the artists who co-created the comics with him.
But the straw that finally broke the camel’s back came in 2005 when V for Vendetta producer Joel Silver stated in an interview that Alan Moore was excited about the movie. Feeling that quote made him appear like a hypocrite, Alan Moore was angered and demanded a retraction that predictably never came. So, he was screwed over with his comic books, had to watch his work get bastardized on the big screen, and they lied to turn him into a cheerleader for the movie he never asked for.
It doesn’t seem so unreasonable that he would be angry about it. But unfortunately, people choose to see his anger in a vacuum and ignore the cause of it. Another symptom of his alleged craziness is that Alan Moore doesn’t let the studios print his name on the adaptations and refuses to accept royalties. The fact that Alan Moore is willing to reject two things we are told to covet; fame and money lead people to label him crazy.
But instead, let us commend him for standing up to a corporation and telling them that they can’t fix everything with money. It’s so much easier to write someone off as crazy than to try to understand their perspective. Another argument that people love to make is that he should just get over it. But the fact is that even decades after he wrote the stories, DC is still profiting from his work.
In 2016, they adapted The Killing Joke into an animated movie. In 2019, Watchmen was brought to the screen again, this time as a sort of sequel on HBO. In 2019, his iconic run on Swamp Thing was a big inspiration for the criminally overlooked Swamp Thing adaptation from the DC Universe streaming service. In 2017, another character he co-created, Tom Strong, was folded into the DC Universe. From 2017–2019, DC Comics published a Watchmen comic book sequel that brought the characters into their central universe.
So even after all these years, DC’s deception is still being rubbed in his face. So, how exactly is he supposed to get over it? We often have a habit of supporting the oppressor and turning on the oppressed who decide to speak up or refuse to fall in line.
At the end of the day, Alan Moore co-created Watchmen, among other groundbreaking and influential comic books. He has entertained and inspired readers of all ages, some who eventually grew up to create comics. He helped elevate the medium, and gotten people to take comics more seriously. People who don’t read comics will still read Alan Moore’s work because he’s just that good. Through his writing, he’s left an undeniable mark on not only comics but popular culture.
What did DC do? They screwed him over like they have screwed over countless creators before him and since. In fact, DC is still trying to profit off Alan Moore’s writing. They recently announced that they would release his proposal for an unpublished superhero crossover event, Twilight of the Superheroes. That’s right; even his proposal is worthy enough to publish. It’s just too bad that DC, like so many companies, values the work but not the people who create it.