When you think of ‘Graphic Novels’, we’re willing to bet that even if you only have a passing knowledge of what that term means, the first name you think of is Alan Moore.
There are few writers whose names are so synonymous with a medium, especially one that’s generally always thought of as purely pop-culture mass entertainment the way comics have been. Perhaps more than any other writer, he has helped advance comics as a storytelling platform, helping them achieve the status they now have as part of our cultural identity. Moore has been working toward this since his earliest days on 2000 A.D. and Warrior. His stories have always had a socio-political bent. Fiction with a conscience rather than mass-appeal, hollywood style storytelling that is so evident in comics today and that Moore himself despises. Not that he’s above populist works. Lest we forget that Moore wrote arguably the most popular Batman story of all time in The Killing Joke and Watchmen sits on Time Magazine’s list of the best novels of all time. They are still among the best-selling comic works and remain so every year. Surely marks of both popularity and longevity?
What Moore does well is taking the core conceits and signatures of both comic-book characters and the medium itself and break them, reshaping them them into something new and adult. Using themes and coded messages that were always present in the stories to force them to accept the more unseemly sides of themselves and thus forcing us to as well. His books are an A-Bomb to popular entertainment, wiping the slate clean allowing new ideas and directions to blossom.
Moore has himself given organisations like Anonymous a face and is always happy to incite a little anarchy, whether it’s with his comics or in the press. He is described often as some sort of hermit / wizard, casting spells from his house in Northampton. He has described himself as a magician and treats the written word and most forms of art as a type of magic (sentiment that long-term comic readers will doubtless agree with!) Wherever you stand on the matter, his works truly have cast a spell over readers for decades now. And they seem no less potent for their age.
Moore’s bibliography reads like greatest hits list. Watchmen, (created with artist Dave Gibbons) Miracleman (art by Gary Leach and John Totleben), The Killing Joke (with art by Brian Bolland), V For Vendetta (with art by David Lloyd and my personal favourite), League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (with Kevin O’Neill)… We could go on. But in each of those works, Moore tackles huge subjects. The need (or not) for the state when faced with otherworldly, overwhelming power in Miracleman. Governmental oppression and the need for revolution in V For Vendetta. Oh and the entire superhero genre in Watchmen.
Moore has had an overwhelming influence on comics, one that will be felt for all time. He (and of course, many others) have helped bring a depth to characters that may have been absent before. He’s given breath to the inner life of characters, taking them from two dimensions to three, making sure that no matter what happens to them, they have truly lived.
Never one who had a comfortable time with his chosen medium and the corporations that run it, Moore has now stated that he’ll be leaving comics behind for good. This of course hasn’t prevented him from creating art. His long gestating, million-word novel Jerusalem has finally hit shelves recently and we still have the end of Providence from Avatar Comics to come as well as one last League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen volume promised.
Whether he turns his back on comics for good or this just a temporary retirement remains to seen. Moore’s magic won’t be fading from the world anytime soon.
Alan Moore’s Jerusalem is available from Orbital in two formats: A single, hardcover volume or a three-volume slipcased edition. Watchmen, V For Vendetta, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Promethea, Top 10, Swamp Thing and From Hell are all currently available in-store.