Alan Moore (born Northampton, England, 18 November 1953) is a writer most famous for his work in comics, including the graphic novels Watchmen, V for Vendetta and From Hell. He has also written a novel, Voice of the Fire, and performs "workings" (one-off performance art/spoken word pieces) with The Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels, some of which have been released on CD.
As a comics writer, Moore is notable for applying literary and formalist sensibilities to the medium, and in the 1980s was part of a movement to create comics for an adult audience. He brings a wide range of influences to his work, such as William S. Burroughs, Thomas Pynchon, Robert Anton Wilson and Iain Sinclair, New Wave science fiction writers like Michael Moorcock and horror writers like Clive Barker. Influences within comics include Will Eisner, Steve Ditko, Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Kirby and Bryan Talbot.
Early life and work
Moore was born in a poor, working class part of Northampton. After passing the Eleven plus exam, he attended Northampton Grammar School, but in 1970, at the age of 17, he was expelled for dealing LSD. He spent several years in menial jobs after being expelled from school, before embarking on a career as a cartoonist in the late 1970s. He wrote and drew underground-style strips for music magazines, including Sounds and the NME, under the pseudonym Curt Vile (a pun on the name of composer Kurt Weill), sometimes in collaboration with his friend Steve Moore (no relation). Under the pseudonym Jill de Ray (referring to the serial killer Gilles de Rais), he began a weekly strip, Maxwell the Magic Cat, for the Northants Post newspaper, which continued until 1986, when he ended it in protest at a negative editorial on the place of homosexuals in the community.
Deciding he could not make a living as an artist, he concentrated on writing, providing scripts for Marvel UK, 2000 AD and Warrior. He first wrote short strips for Doctor Who Magazine and Star Wars Weekly before beginning a run on Captain Britain with artist Alan Davis, running in a variety of Marvel UK publications. He began his association with 2000 AD in early 1980, when he submitted a spec script that impressed sub-editor Alan Grant. Over the next three years Moore sold one-off scripts to 2000 AD with increasing regularity, writing over fifty short "Future Shocks" and "Time Twisters" stories.
Longer series followed. 1983 saw the debut of "Skizz", a British take on E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, influenced by television writer Alan Bleasdale, with artist Jim Baikie. A one-off drawn by Alan Davis, starring alien juvenile delinquents "D.R. and Quinch", a sci-fi take on National Lampoon's characters O.C. and Stiggs, was expanded into a series. The most highly-regarded of his work for 2000 AD was "The Ballad of Halo Jones", the story of an everywoman character in a future world ridden with unemployment and war, with artist Ian Gibson.
Of his work during this period, it was the work he produced for Warrior that attracted the greatest critical acclaim: "Marvelman", a radical re-imagining of a forgotten 1950s superhero drawn primarily by Garry Leach and Alan Davis; "V for Vendetta", a dystopian pulp adventure about a flamboyant anarchist who dresses as Guy Fawkes and fights a future British fascist government, illustrated by David Lloyd; and "The Bojeffries Saga", a comedy about a working-class English family of vampires and werewolves, drawn by Steve Parkhouse. Warrior closed before these stories were completed, but he was able to continue them with other publishers.
American mainstream work
Moore's British work brought him to the attention of DC Comics editor Len Wein, who hired him in 1983 to write Swamp Thing, then a formulaic and poor-selling monster comic. Moore, along with artists Stephen R. Bissette, Rick Veitch and John Totleben, deconstructed and reimagined the character, writing a series of formally experimental stories that addressed environmental and social issues alongside the horror and fantasy, bolstered by research into the culture of Louisiana, where the series was set. He revived many of DC's neglected magical and supernatural characters, including the Spectre, the Demon, the Phantom Stranger, Deadman and others, and introduced John Constantine, an English working-class magician based visually on Sting, who later got his own series, Hellblazer, currently the longest continuously published comic of DC's Vertigo imprint.
Moore's run on Swamp Thing was successful both critically and commercially, and inspired DC to recruit European and particularly British writers such as Grant Morrison, Jamie Delano, Peter Milligan and Neil Gaiman to write comics in a similar vein, often involving radical revamps of obscure characters. The titles that followed laid the foundation of what became the Vertigo line. Moore himself wrote further high-profile comics for DC, a Superman Annual in 1985 ("For the Man Who Has Everything"), the final two-part Superman story ("Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?") before John Byrne's revamp in 1986, and the short Batman graphic novel The Killing Joke with artist Brian Bolland.
The 12-issue series Watchmen, with artist Dave Gibbons, begun in 1986 and collected as a graphic novel in 1987, became Moore's most high-profile work. Imagining what the world would be like if costumed heroes had really existed since the 1940s, Moore and Gibbons created a Cold War mystery in which nuclear war is imminent, and the heroes caught up in the escalating crisis are motivated to heroism by their various psychological hang-ups. Watchmen is non-linear and told from multiple points of view, and includes formal experiments such as the symmetrical design of issue 5, "Fearful Symmetry", where the last page is a near mirror-image of the first, the second-last of the second, and so on. It is an early example of Moore's interest in the human perception of time and its implications for free will. It is the only comic to win the Hugo Award, in the one-off category "Best Other Form".
Alongside roughly contemporary works such as Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Art Spiegelman's Maus, and Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez's Love and Rockets, Watchmen was part of a late 1980s trend in American comics towards more adult sensibilities. Moore briefly became a media celebrity, and the resulting attention led to him withdrawing from fandom and no longer attending comics conventions. At one convention in London he is said to have been followed into the toilet by eager autograph hunters.
The Warrior series "Marvelman" was reprinted and continued for the American market as Miracleman, with independent publisher Eclipse Comics, the change of name prompted by Marvel Comics' complaints of possible trademark infringement. As with Watchmen, Moore explored the possible ways the world might be changed by the presence of superheroes: after a super-powered battle that devastates London, Miracleman deposes the world's governments an imposes an uneasy utopia. His story completed, Moore then handed the character to writer Neil Gaiman to continue. "V for Vendetta" was reprinted and completed in full colour at DC, before being collected as a graphic novel. However, Moore's relationship with DC had gradually deteriorated over creator's rights and a proposed age-rating system similar to those used for films. After completing V for Vendetta in 1989, Moore stopped working for DC.
A variety of projects followed with independent publishers, including Brought to Light, a history of CIA covert operations with illustrator Bill Sienkiewicz for Eclipse Comics, and an anthology, AARGH (Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia) campaigning against anti-homosexual legislation, which Moore, his wife Phyllis and their lover Deborah Delano published through their newly formed publishing company, Mad Love Publishing, with all profits donated to the Organisation For Lesbian And Gay Action. After prompting by cartoonist and self-publishing advocate Dave Sim, Moore then used Mad Love to publish his next project, Big Numbers, a prospective 12-issue series set in contemporary Northampton and inspired by chaos theory and the mathematical ideas of Benoît Mandelbrot. After two issues were published, Sienkiewicz left the series. It was announced that his assistant, Al Columbia, would replace him, but no further issues appeared. Moore's marriage broke down, and Mad Love was dissolved as a publishing company, although its logo would appear on some of Moore's comics published by other companies.
Moore contributed two serials to the horror anthology Taboo, edited by Stephen R. Bissette. From Hell examined the Jack the Ripper murders as a microcosm of the 1880s, and the 1880s as the root of the 20th century. Inspired by the title of Douglas Adams' novel Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, Moore reasoned that to solve a crime holistically, one would need to solve the entire society it occurred in. From Hell takes as its starting point the theory that the murders were committed by royal surgeon Sir William Withey Gull, as part of a conspiracy to conceal the birth of an illegitimate royal baby fathered by Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence. Using that to expose the misogyny, class and racial conflict and other political trends of the time and speculating on the nature of time, it examines the 1880s as the root of many of the conflicts of the 20th century. The Ripper carries out his killings as an occult ritual, designed to enforce the hegemony of the rational and the masculine over the unconscious and feminine. The book also explores Moore's ideas about the perception of time, previously touched upon in Watchmen. Illustrated in an appropriately sooty pen and ink style by Eddie Campbell, From Hell took nearly ten years to complete, outlasting Taboo and going through two more publishers before being collected as a graphic novel by Eddie Campbell Comics.
With artist Melinda Gebbie, Moore began Lost Girls, an erotic story exploring possible sexual meanings in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Peter Pan and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The work was finished and a collected edition published in August 2006 in the United States, but a dispute with Great Ormond Street Hospital, which held the copyright to characters from Peter and Wendy in the European Union until 2008, prevented publication in the UK before that time.
He also wrote a comic book for Victor Gollancz Ltd in 1988, A Small Killing, illustrated by Oscar Zarate, about a once idealistic advertising executive haunted by his boyhood self.
Return to the mainstream
After several years out of the mainstream, Moore worked his way back into superhero comics by writing several series for Image Comics and the companies that broke away from it. Feeling that, partly as a result of his own success, superhero comics had become excessively violent and grim, Moore and artists Stephen R. Bissette, Rick Veitch and John Totleben conceived 1963, a pastiche of 1960s Marvel comics. The series was to have concluded with an annual in which the heroes travel to the 1990s to meet the ultra-violent Image Comics characters, but this never appeared due to disputes within Image and the creative team.
Following 1963, Moore worked on Jim Lee's WildC.A.T.s and a number of Rob Liefeld's titles, including Supreme, Youngblood and Glory, retooling rudimentary and derivative characters and settings into more viable series. In Moore's hands, Supreme became an inventive post-modern homage to superhero comics from the 1940s on, and the Superman comics of the Mort Weisinger era in particular.
America's Best Comics
After working on Jim Lee's comic WildC.A.T.s, Moore created the America's Best Comics line, a new group of characters to be published by Lee's company Wildstorm. However, before publication, Lee sold Wildstorm to DC, and Moore found himself in the uncomfortable position of working for DC again.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a team-up book featuring characters from Victorian adventure novels, H. Rider Haggard's Allan Quatermain, H. G. Wells' Invisible Man, Jules Verne's Captain Nemo, Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Wilhelmina Murray from Bram Stoker's Dracula, was the first series launched. Illustrated by Kevin O'Neill, the first volume of the series pitted the League against Professor Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes books; the second, against the Martians from The War of the Worlds. A third volume entitled "The Black Dossier", set in the 1950s, was released in 2007.
Top 10, a deadpan police procedural comedy set in a city where everyone, from the police and criminals to the civilians and even pets, has super-powers, costumes and secret identities, was drawn by Gene Ha and Zander Cannon. The series lasted twelve issues, and Moore wrote two spin-offs: Smax, drawn by Cannon, a parodic fantasy series in which one of the characters, Officer Jeff Smax, returns to his home dimension for a family funeral and has to confront his destiny, and a prequel, "The Forty-Niners", drawn by Ha, set in the post-war years when the series' city was founded.
Tom Strong was a post-modern superhero series featuring a hero inspired by characters pre-dating Superman, like Doc Savage and Tarzan. The character's drug-induced longevity allowed Moore to include flashbacks to Strong's adventures throughout the twentieth century, written and drawn in period styles, as a comment on the history of comics and pulp fiction. The primary artist was Chris Sprouse. Promethea, a superheroine from the realms of the imagination drawn by J.H. Williams III, explored Moore's ideas about consciousness, magic, écriture féminine and the Kabbalah. Tomorrow Stories was an anthology series featuring a number of recurring characters.
However, Moore became unhappy with editorial interference from DC, and once the majority of the ABC series were completed, he again stopped working for the publisher, taking The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the only series he retained the copyright on, to independent publisher Top Shelf. A new series, "Century", was launched in 2009 with its first installment, "1910", inspired by the operettas of Brecht and Weill.
Several of Moore's works have been adapted to film, much to the writer's vocal dissatisfaction. From Hell (2001), directed by Allen and Albert Hughes and starring Ian Holm, Johnny Depp and Heather Graham, reduced the complexities of the comic to a straightforward whodunnit. Moore distanced himself from the film, but was happy to see it as a separate work. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), directed by Stephen Norrington and starring Sean Connery, also made considerable changes to the source's story, and was the subject of a lawsuit alleging plagiarism of an unproduced screenplay called Cast of Characters, during which Moore gave testimony, and was unhappy at the way he was treated in court.
Moore lost his patience with film adaptations when the producers of V for Vendetta (2005) told the press that the writer was an enthusiastic supporter of their production, when in fact he was following his usual policy of keeping his distance. Moore demanded an apology, and when none was forthcoming, refused to allow his name to be used, and insisted that his share of the proceeds be given to his collaborator on the book, a stance he also took over the film adaptation of Watchmen (2009). The dispute over V for Vendetta also contributed to Moore's second falling-out with DC Comics, who are owned by Warner Bros, the studio behind the film.
Work in other media
Moore has written a novel, Voice of the Fire (1996), comprising a set of short stories about linked events in his home-town of Northampton through the centuries, from the Bronze Age to the present day, which combine to tell a larger story. He is working on a second novel, Jerusalem, which will also be set in Northampton.
He is a practicing magician, and worships a Roman snake deity named Glycon, which he acknowledges to be a "complete hoax". He describes his understanding of "magic" as fundamentally synonymous with "art": the use of words, images, and actions to affect people and the way they think. He performs one-off "workings" as part of a performance art/spoken word group, The Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels. Several of their pieces have been released on CD, and two, The Birth Caul and Snakes and Ladders, have been adapted to comics by Eddie Campbell.
Moore has two daughters, Amber and Leah by his first wife, Phyllis. In 2007 he married Melinda Gebbie, his collaborator on Lost Girls and other comics. He lives in Northampton, and is a vegetarian and an anarchist.