Among fans of graphic novels and comics, Alan Moore has become a household name. He has written such notable works as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, V for Vendetta, and Watchmen (often called “the greatest piece of popular fiction ever produced”), and has contributed to comics including Batman and Swamp Thing. Mostly everything he’s penned has been adapted by Hollywood, always to his displeasure. He talked about the vapidity of big films today, including why they have opted to bring in the big money, rather than deliver art to their audiences. He also discussed the Occupy movement, calling it another aspect of people taking matters back into their own hands.
Moore, 59, lives a quiet life in Northamptonshire, England. He is considered to be one of the most influential comic writers in history, often credited for giving philosophical and sociopolitical depth to an art form that had previously been regarded as literary fodder for teens and young adults. But as a wider audience took to his works, he grew highly critical of mainstream entertainment and its increasing corporatization. And though blockbuster films were made of his stories, he was dissatisfied with them to the extent that he asked for his name to be removed from their credits, and declined large payments offered by Hollywood studios.
Greed will be the medium’s demise
Of his most recent experiences with the U.S. film industry, Moore noted that it’s “on many levels, repulsive to me. Every film is a remake of a previous film, or a remake of a television series that everyone hated in the 1960s.” He suggested that the profit-driven push behind films today has resulted in stunted creativity, and that greed will ultimately be the medium’s demise. “I’ve developed a theory that there’s an inverse relationship between money and imagination. That if you’ve got lots of imagination then you don’t really need much money, and if you’ve got lots of money then you won’t bother with much imagination. I am horrified by the budgets of these films, almost as much as I am by the films themselves.”
It doesn’t take much effort for one to see things from Moore’s perspective. A quick retrospective will do the trick: the last few years have seen a slew of sequels, prequels, remakes, and efforts as painful and far-reaching as adapting board games to the big screen (i.e. Battleship – and there are also talks of a Monopoly movie). One can also look at the recent trends, like 3-D films and the superhero genre (attempting to profit – again and again – off the success of The Dark Knight), and Moore’s assessment has become rather clear: money has triumphed over originality.
Moore equated his opposition to Hollywood with his working class upbringing, which encouraged him to fight against Big Money and preserve his artistic integrity. “It was my class: the only thing you could pride yourself on was to be decent people; to stand up to bullies. That was very heavily imprinted on me as a kid, and it’s not a bad way to conduct your life.”
Forsaking art in favor of capitalism?
But it is not, he said, merely the film industry alone that is guilty of forsaking art in favor of capitalism. The comic industry also favors the bottom dollar, as was proven when DC Comics published a prequel mini-series to Alan Moore’s famous Watchmen; called Before Watchmen, it was done without Moore’s approval, as a way to cash in on the success of his earlier work. But fans of the original piece reacted negatively toward the prequels.
“You see, part of the problem with all this,” he said, “and the reason why Watchmen was such an extraordinary book, was that it was constructed upon literary lines. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. It wasn’t constructed as an endless soap opera that would run until somebody ran out of interest in it. It was something that stood on its own and had the integrity of a literary work. But that was never what [DC Comics] was concerned with. It was always purely to do with commerce.
“The comic industry has abused and mistreated creative people for decades. It has never treated people fairly. This is an industry where, if you even mention the idea of, say, forming a union, you’ll just get shrill nervous laughter in reply.”
Moore also noted, however, the increasing desperation of companies like DC Comics to make a profit in a society where less and less people are reading. A hard example of that came when Moore’s local library closed down. “I think that’s completely indefensible. You cannot have libraries – something that people need for a basic standard of living – taken away while the banks become like monarchies.”
A howl of moral outrage
But recent political movements, he said, show that there is a reaction against the notion that things shouldn’t be about what the people want. “The Arab Spring and Occupy movements are just the beginning of a way that more and more people are going to see the world.”
The Occupy movement in particular, he said, “is a completely justified howl of moral outrage. It’s ordinary people reclaiming rights that ought to have been theirs in the first place. I can’t think of any reason why as a population we should be expected to stand by and see a gross reduction in the living standards of ourselves and of our kids, while the people who got us into this are rewarded for it.” He added, “I believe power should be given to the people,” and clearly, that means not only in the world of politics, but even in the film and comic industries.
We’re also “facing the possibility of an environmental apocalypse,” he said, referencing climate change, “and we don’t have infinite time. Our leaders are not addressing any of these problems. Something has to be done about [those currently in power]. I would suggest beheading the bankers, but while it would be very satisfying and cheer us up, it probably wouldn’t be practical.”