The Mad Monk of Comics: The Life of Alan Moore


alanmooreWith the Killing Joke movie selling like proverbial hot cakes, DC has managed to prove that what might be too risky for big screen adaption is a welcome addition to adult animation. Almost 28 years after the initial release of the graphic novel, the storyline is still considered one of the most pivotal stories in Batman history and has not only redefined the Caped Crusader but launched (with other notable works) the career of Alan Moore. But who is Alan Moore? What motivates the author to get up in the morning and what secrets does his beard keep? While we probably won’t know the answer to a lot of questions thanks in part to his propensity for being mysterious, we can at least look back at his history and make some educated guesses.

Alan Moore was born in 1953 in England and was, by all respects, a pretty normal child. He enjoyed reading, especially comics, and though raised in a tough area known as The Burroughs, had a pretty happy outlook. He started his first forays in creative writing while still in high school, working for various fanzines before starting his own titled Embryo. As he turned into a proper adult, he began to expand his repertoire through more local works, even illustrating some of his strips for several fanzines and magazines around the country. Despite his success with newspaper favorite “Maxwell the Magic Cat” that ran from 1979-1986, his morals trumped artistic endeavors when the paper he was working for ran a negative piece on homosexuals, and he left. Luckily, he was smart not to put all his eggs in a one cat basket.

swampthingFrom 1980 to 1984, Moore also sold himself as a freelance author, managing to pick up work for Marvel UK, Warrior, and 2000 AD. The three year period proved to be incredibly successful, with 2000 AD publishing dozens of his one-shot stories while also having him work on longer series such as Skizz and The Ballad of Halo Jones, though it was his work with Warrior that he credited with helping him find his creative voice. With Warrior, he created two of his biggest early works, Marvelman (later reprinted as Miracleman) and the start of V for Vendetta, which he later finished for DC/Vertigo. In 1985, he stopped writing for almost all British publishers sans Warrior, stating that British comic creators had very little control over their own properties.

Thanks to his large success in his home country, his talent was spotted by DC editor Len Wein, who offered him a chance to work on a little-known monster named Swamp Thing. Originally created as a throw-away horror character during the horror comics revival of the early ’70s, Moore took the thick-vined elemental monster and used him as a catalyst for exploring topics such as environmentalism, magic and humanity, while reviving other old horror characters to help the creature on his journey through the Green. Through Swamp Thing he also created the fan-favorite arcane detective John Constantine, who himself would go on to star in the three-hundred-issue run of Hellblazer. Moore’s eye for social issues and bizarre world view gave Swamp Thing a real-life edge not yet truly explored in mainstream comics and would soon establish the standard by which modern bizarre comics would be judged by.

Over the next several years, up to 1989, Moore went on to pen several more works for DC and its imprint, Vertigo, including original works such as Watchmen (his most noted and well-respected works to date) and the completion of V for Vendetta, along with work in established character universes such as Superman and Batman. Regardless of the success, he left the company in 1989 and spent the next couple decades going from independent work to company work and back again. Though V for Vendetta, Watchmen and Swamp Thing would come to be considered some of his best work, he would go on to prove that the 1980s were merely the launching pad for the rest of his work.

During his independent years, he established his own comic company titled Mad Love which focused less on fantasy and more on real-world issues. He also began working for a small publisher named Taboo and create the crime-thriller From Hell, a fictional account of Jack the Ripper which, like many of his works, was adapted into a movie. Moore cherry-picked work from Image and Avatar Press, the latter allowing him to create his own original stories, while still working on smaller-press works such as Lost Girls. He even got his own imprint for a bit titled America’s Best Comics, but backed out when its parent company, Wildstorm, got sold to DC. He is currently still with Avatar Press, penning Providence with cinema2artist Jacen Burroughs and contributing to their collective horror work, Cinema Purgatorio.

So what is it about Alan Moore that keeps him relevant after forty years of writing? Why does his name send chills down the spine of comic readers? The truth is, because there is still no one really like him. His view of the world, his grasp on the metaphysical and esoteric concepts of the universe and life is par none. Moore truly lives up to the “Mad Monk” title, and by exploring those ideas through the visual medium of comics, he not only has elevated the comic form to a new, more serious level, but has made those ideas more easily attainable. Sure, there’s a bit of a learning curve, and readers will find themselves scratching their heads every once in a while and wondering what he’s on about, but it’s nice to be challenged. He was one of the first people to bring about the modern age of comics and, by setting the bar as high as he did, we can appreciate where comics are now. They are not just kiddie literature, but are fun for adults, scholars, and even taught in college. Moore’s contribution, along with others such as Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison, created a brand-new world of comics, proving that you don’t ever have to age out of reading about your favorite superhero.

As Alan Moore continues to spin new stories, the world continues to read comics, and thanks to him, neither of us have to quit our day jobs.

Svetlana Fedotov is a freelance journalist who has worked with Fangoria, Brutal as Hell, Shock Til You Drop, and Delirium Magazine. She is also an aspiring author who vows to get “some of that Harry Potter money!” with her yet-to-be-published junior novel. Svetlana loves comics, horror, art, bread, dogs, and vinyl toys. She’s Level 24 on Pokemon Go…for now.

Leave a Reply