Friday, January 21, 2011

On Alan Moore

So, a few weeks ago, Jason Aaron utilized his CBR soapbox in order to rebutt remarks made by Alan Moore in an interview with Bleeding Cool a while back. Aaron took umbrage with Moore's denunciation of the comic medium (to which, Moore means the major corporate publishers, Marvel and DC) and its talent (by stating he didn't believe they even had "bottom-flight" talent, Moore was trying to make a point that creators are hampered in the corporate system, not allowed to create while having to maintain a decades-old status quo in which nothing - or very little - or meaning can be related through these stale narratives; a bit harsh, yes, but not meant to be taken literally).

Here's a link to Jason Aaron's full column

Here's the full Bleeding Cool interview with Moore

This column by Aaron - a creator whom I respect, and whose work I've enjoyed - spurred a lot of dialogue on the CGS forums, and I thought I would share some of my half-formed thoughts now. Someday, I might write a more refined piece on Moore, but for now, here you go:



First, neither man in this instance is completely right, and neither one is totally wrong. That may sound like I’m straddling the fence, but it’s just a statement of fact.

If Aaron feels the need to speak out against Alan Moore’s statements, that is totally his prerogative. But, I feel he is missing the larger point, which Moore has stated for many years, that the “mainstream” comic industry is stuck on a treadmill, churning out derivative pap while not allowing the creators they’ve hired to really develop new and challenging narratives within the medium. (Ironically, Aaron is one of those distinct voices who has brought new and exciting projects to the medium). And, by saying “fuck you” to Alan Moore, he is squandering an opportunity to further this important discussion.

Moore, for his part, is right in his assertion that Marvel and DC should be looking ahead rather than back (though, as consumers, it is fair to say that, IN GENERAL, readers prefer comics that are, essentially, telling the same stories over and over again. Neil Gaiman has written to the point that he has fans clamoring for his next work, but when that next work is not THE SAME as the last work, e.g. Sandman, there is always a vocal minority disappointed.). But, Moore uses broad generalizations to make his argument, which – particularly if one is new to his work and knows nothing of Moore’s history – can certainly be taken as an attack on all creators within the medium. Again, ironically, with works like The Other Side and Scalped, Jason Aaron is one of those writers creating new works with a distinct voice unbeholden to the “industry,” which in Moore’s mind would be the primary superhero universes of DC and Marvel.

In the end, I back Moore in this debate. The fact that superheroes dominates this tiny medium is disappointing. Sure, they’re fun, and I enjoy them. But if the medium is to remain vital, we need the wealth of diverse works that have been emerging for years (decades) now. This is the crux of Moore’s argument – which, I feel, is obvious when one chooses to see this larger picture rather than parse the details of the text – and one that I feel is often missed by those who want to rant against the “crazy old man.”

THERE WAS A LOT OF BACK AND FORTH IN THE FORUM THREAD, AND EVENTUALLY I CHIMED BACK IN TO THE DISCUSSION, REMARKING ON TWO SPECIFIC POINTS:

With regard to Watchmen, this is spot on.

View PostDG_Now, on 07 January 2011 - 02:10 AM, said:

Yes, he intended to use the Charlton characters, but the very fact that he couldn't proves (to me) that it doesn't matter. Watchmen wasn't only about the characters included in the story. Nominally so, yes, but the graphic novel was far more (again, to me) about the craft of creating a comic book. They told a story -- as the movie proved -- that was most effectively told in sequential art with word balloons. The true genius of Watchmen isn't that it's an interesting alt-world story about man's role in the nuclear age (although that is pretty good), but that it's essentially a murder mystery presented and solved on the very first page of the comic yet explored for several more.



The brilliance of the book is not in the plot or the characterizations - although they are very good - but in the way Moore & Gibbons crafted the book. They use symbolism, foreshadowing, thematic parallels, and other "literary" devices throughout the narrative. And Moore's words when juxtaposed with Gibbon's art offer up multiple meanings/levels of meaning within the entirety of the book. Single comic panels offer us triple meanings. Decisions or comments made early on have very different connotations and/or produce significant ramifications later on. The level of craft within Watchmen is the highest we've seen in the medium - especially with regard to what can uniquely be done with the comic medium.

View Posttorchsong, on 07 January 2011 - 09:43 AM, said:

Here's my take on the "But Moore Uses Old Characters In His Stories" discussion:
It's true that he's used everyone from the Charlton heroes to Lewis Caroll's Alice in his storytelling, and on the surface you'd think he's crazy to call out others for doing the same.
What I think we miss is HOW he uses existing characters compared to how the Top-Flighters are using them:
Moore: Takes a pre-existing character, and our pre-existing expectations of them, and crafts something wholly different out of them. The Invisible Man's a prick, Superheroes are pretty damned evil sometimes, Alice, Wendy and Dorthy are really...REALLY horny, etc. Moore's not beholden to us to give us what we clamor for. He owes us a story, and we owe him the decision to read it or not.



And I agree with this wholeheartedly, and this is the crux of this entire "Moore uses old characters too" argument. Moore takes these characters we know and reinvents them in order to tell a completely new story. He is innovating. And he is utilizing the thematic elements from these characters to give us a totally new perspective on their stories. Swamp Thing before Alan Moore and after Alan Moore are two very different characters (and yet, he did not circumvent any of the prior continuity). Miracleman/Marvelman before Alan Moore and after Alan Moore are, again, two completely different characters. The Invisible Man. Mina Harker. These are different characters before and after Moore as well. And the list goes on.

Moore is railing against editorial not encouraging innovation, not encouraging stories that will have "meaning" because they are freed from the constraints of the corporate mindset. He just wants honest stories - and, tangentially, honest negotiation between creators and companies - from writers and artists who are allowed to create something new rather than rehash worn concepts.

1 comment:

Dan Fleming said...

Great comments Chris. I'm not taking a side on this one because it's way more fun to watch the back and forth.