On Tuesday the 9th of April I interviewed Alan Moore. This is the fifth time I’ve interviewed him, but I still get nervous every time, so if you could hear it, my voice would be a bit more high-pitched than usual, there at the start. In the first half of the interview we talk about The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, his forthcoming twelve-part series Providence, to be published by Avatar Press, his recklessly enormous novel Jerusalem, how he writes stuff, and then The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen again. Here goes…

PÓM: I’ll tell you what I want to do, is I want to start with… The League.


PÓM: Now, Nemo just came out.

AM: Right.

PÓM: And Nemo is… am I right, there’s going to be a few of these little mini-episodes?

AM: I’m about sixteen pages away from having finished the second one in the series, which is called The Roses of Berlin, and Kevin [Kevin O’Neill] is about twelve pages into the artwork, so I shall be hopefully getting on next week and finishing that off. As for the third one, I’ve got no idea what we’re going to do for that, but that’s part of the charm of them, that it keeps it fresh. We weren’t sure if we were going to do three Janni Nemo stories when we commenced Heart of Ice, but we were so pleased with that, that that seems to be the way that our thoughts are going. It’ll probably be three individual 48-page volumes of the further exploits of Janni Nemo.

PÓM: OK, great. And do any of the rest of them turn up, or is it – does she meet any of the rest of the League?

AM: Not in the second volume, although she does meet with some of the League’s adversaries – only ones that have been mentioned in the Black Dossier and the [New Traveller’s] Almanac. So, in the third one, I don’t know. I mean, we’re having quite a lot of fun being able to do something away from the strict continuity of the League – that’s not to say that we don’t still enjoy the League, and we’ve got a blockbuster Volume Four lined up for when we finally finish these little… intermissions. But, at the same time, it is very refreshing, and I know that Kevin feels the same, to do a book without Mina in it, and without the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen brand upon it, and especially with the way that it’s been received. Me and Kevin are both very cheerful. From what I was hearing from Tony [Tony Bennett, of Knockabout], it had gone to number one in the graphic novel charts, and then had gone to number sixteen in The Bookseller fiction chart.

PÓM: Yeah, I know it went to number one in the graphic novel – I don’t keep up with this, but I saw on the Internet…

AM: Yeah, that’s the first time a comic book, as we used to call them, has actually been in The Bookseller top twenty.

PÓM: Is it? OK, good, good.

AM: So we must be doing something right. I mean, me and Kevin are very proud of the story, but it might be more the format that is drawing in readers, or even conceivably the fact that for the first time we’ve got at least a part of the story which is set in the United States, which might be attracting some of the American readers. I don’t know.

PÓM: The Lovecraft thing probably always pulls in a few as well.

AM: Well, yes, it’s never a bad thing. I mean, on the screen in front of me at the moment I’ve just got page fifteen of Providence number four.

PÓM: I’m going to come back to Providence actually…

AM: At the moment I am swamped in Lovecraft books about – I’ve got nearly every book of criticism that’s been written, that I’ve accumulated over these last six months, so I’m living and breathing Lovecraft. It’s a different take on it to the take that we had in Heart of Ice, which was more of the grand Antarctic adventure.

PÓM: OK, seeing as we’re talking about Providence… Is it a biography of Lovecraft, or what is it? Or a fantasised biography, or what is it exactly?

AM: I don’t want to talk too much about it, because, well, sometimes I have had problems in the past with – I’ll talk enthusiastically about whatever project I’m on, which won’t be coming out for at least another year, and the next thing, I’ll see some projects that are perhaps similar, and get out there. But what Providence is, is an attempt to write – at least, my attempt to write what I would consider to be a piece of ultimate Lovecraft fiction, in that it will be fiction, it will be a continuation of Neonomicon, it will in a sense be a prequel to that book, but it will also – slightly – be a sequel as well. It will be dealing with the world of Lovecraft’s American-based fiction, which tends to sort of rule out stories like The Mountains of Madness which, although, yes, it does have a strong Miskatonic element in it, is largely based in Antarctica.

But we’re going more for Lovecraft’s New England fiction, and a couple of the New York stories. We are kind of connecting these up intro what I think is an ingenious whole, even though I say so myself as shouldn’t, and it’s – and what we’re also doing, as well as answering all the problems, all the questions raised by Neonomicon – even if the readers hadn’t noticed that those questions had been raised – we’re going to be detailing this hopefully fresh view of Lovecraft’s universe, or at least its American component, and we’re also going to be working not only from Lovecraft’s published fiction, and his poems, and his letters, but also from his biography. I think that there’s a way that there could be a sort of parallel world biographical strand in this, that is never the less researched so thoroughly that it could have happened. It could have happened. I mean, the research on this has been – this is the most demanding research I’ve done easily since From Hell.

PÓM: Yeah, because a lot of your work isn’t, let’s say, heavily research-based, I mean, it’s coming out of your head…

AM: Obviously, if I’m doing something like Heart of Ice, I’m going to be checking out things like The Mountains of Madness, and a few old stories, and bits of stuff about Frank Reade Jr and Jack Wright Jr, and Antarctic fiction of the 1920s, of which there was quite a lot, because we didn’t know much about Antarctica then, and it was possible to say all sorts of things back then. With Providence, what tends to be happening is, it’s reminding me of an awful lot of my early work. In some ways, because it is the first extended horror narrative that I’ve done in an awful long while, it’s reminding me of Swamp Thing, particularly of the American Gothic narrative. Not that I thought that the American Gothic narrative was entirely successful, but the intentions of it were, in a rather callow and young fashion, to try and connect up American horror icons with American morality, American politics, American society. Like I say, I don’t think I did a really good job of that, but the intention was there…

PÓM: I – respectfully, I disagree…

AM: Well, thank you.

PÓM: I regularly take them down off the shelf, and to me they represent a point at which things changed, American comics changed. I know you have a difficult relationship with your old work…

AM: My old work, yeah, I do.

PÓM: … but, for me, I have a wonderful relationship with your old work.

AM: Well, I’m glad that somebody does, Pádraig, you know, and it’s good that it’s you.

PÓM: [Laughter] Thanks, Alan!

AM: It’s the thing that – with Providence, what I am doing is, I’m looking as much at American society in 1919 as I am looking at Lovecraft, in terms of my research, and I am connecting up Lovecraft’s themes, and Lovecraft’s personality, to a certain degree, with the tensions that were then incredibly evident in American society. So, there’s that element of it, but the amount of research that I’m doing into America 1919, into the gay culture of America 1919, into the way that American society was just beginning to cohere around that point, and the research upon the actual places, because this is set in a real America – there’s no Arkham in it, there’s no Innsmouth, but there are real locations which I believe are coherent sites for the Lovecraft stories that I’ve connected them to. Which means that, for example with issue four, I’ve been accumulating a huge wedge of reference material relating to the town of Athol in Massachusetts. I know more about Athol than probably people living there do. We’ve got the entire history of the town, its current situation, maps from different periods – I am doing my best to make this absolutely authentic.

Having run on at the mouth relatively recently about the appalling standards of research that exist throughout the rest of the comic book industry… I’ve said some very scornful things about some of the other writers in the industry and how – in my opinion – they are completely lazy, that they obviously do not have the respect for their own work that would lead them to actually put a bit of effort into it, and research some things, you know. Don’t just copy everything from an episode of Deadwood that you’ve seen, actually research the American West, find out how people talked. So, having been incredibly nasty and high-handed about many of the other professionals in the industry, I have kind of left myself wide open. If I don’t get every detail of this completely right, then I deserve to get a taste of my own medicine. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. We have been devilishly thorough in researching this. In the first issue there’s a brief glimpse of a gramophone record, and we’ve got the actual label to paste in, with the record’s serial number on it. I think we briefly see somebody reading a New York Times in the first issue, and it actually is the New York Times for June the 19th, 1919. I’m even – I’ve not actually done this yet, but I’m even trying to check out what the weather was like, which is difficult to establish other than in broad generalities, but I can at least sort out what the sky looked like, and what the phases of the moon were – which is something that Lovecraft used to take pains to do, so I feel that I should as well.

PÓM: Find out if the moon was gibbous, or something like that?

AM: Yes, that was it, he used to – yeah, gibbous, the gibbous moon, which is nearly, what, three-quarters full, waxing or waning?

PÓM: Yeah, three-quarters full. It’s a wonderfully Lovecraftian word.

AM: In one of his stories he changed all the dates in it because he found out that a gibbous moon hadn’t happened on the day that he said it had. He said, ‘this is a lesson for all aspiring writers of fiction.’ And I’ve taken that to heart.


AM: Yeah, it’s a very different proposition to Heart of Ice, but – yeah, it’s very much like Swamp Thing, it’s very very much like From Hell, in the creation of a authentically realised historical period. It’s actually a little bit like Watchmen in that it – the basic premise of Watchmen was, if these ridiculous characters, superheroes, actually existed in a real world, then what kind of characters would they be, and what kind of real world would it be to accommodate them. And it was also commenting upon superhero fiction and various other things while it was doing that.

Very similar things are happening with Providence. It’s obviously a completely different animal to anything like Watchmen, but there is that point of similarity. It’s starting from – if Lovecraft’s characters, if Lovecraft’s monsters, if Lovecraft’s locales actually existed in A Real World, then what would they really be like, and what would the world be like? So it’s the same premise, but it’s taken me into some very interesting new directions. So, yeah, Providence is taking up a lot of me time at the moment, as is – when I’ve finished typing – I think I’ll probably do up to page sixteen tonight – that’s very close now. And then, when I’ve had a bit of tea later on, I’ll probably be fed up of typing ‘cause I’ve been doing it since nine o’clock this morning, so I shall probably do a few more stanzas of the latest chapter of Jerusalem, which I’m doing, for some unknown reason, I’m doing it entirely in verse. It’s going to be ninety stanzas of six lines each in totality, and I’ve just finished stanza fifty the other night, so I’ll probably do another couple of them, just to keep that ticking over while I’m doing Providence.

PÓM: Actually, no, I’ll come back to Jerusalem in a minute – no, I’ll tell you what, tell me now! How is Jerusalem getting on? Howe close are we… How close am I to getting a copy in my hands?

AM: Well, it’s really really close. I’m on chapter 33 out of 35. I am more than halfway through chapter 33. I’ll tell you what, man, I deliberated and dithered for a long time on chapter 33. I have this final third of Jerusalem – it’s divided roughly into three sections – well, it’s divided precisely into three sections – but this final third, when I started it, I thought, I am already completely exhausted with this book. I’ve been doing it for years, I am exhausted. The most terrible thing that could happen is that that exhaustion shows in the finished book, because then it’s there for all time, marring the work, so I thought that the best way to avoid that would be to make this third section of the book really really really difficult for meself, by adopting a different style, a different voice, a whole different form, for each chapter, if necessary. So, I’ve been doing my, I’ve done me Lucia Joyce chapter, I’ve done me… I mean, that was years ago I did that. I’ve done my…

PÓM: Samuel Beckett?

AM: Yeah, the Samuel Beckett play. I’ve done a chapter that’s like a mid-sixties New Wave, New Worlds Michael Moorcock-era science fiction story. There’s one that’s like a piece of noir fiction. It’s all these different styles, so I was getting to chapter 33, I know what I’m going to be doing in chapter 34 and chapter 35, but chapter 33, I thought, how shall I handle this? And I was thinking of all these different ways that I could do it, and none of them really worked. People were suggesting things – they were saying ‘well, could you do it in an epistolatory form?’, you know, as letters. I was saying, nah, that for one thing this third book is all in the present tense, and it wouldn’t really work with the plot that I’ve got for this chapter, and then finally, when I was talking to Steve, I said – when I first thought about this chapter, and was wondering what kind of approach to take to it, the first thing that I thought, and immediately dismissed, was I could do it in verse. And I said, I think the reason I said that I immediately dismissed is because it would far too fucking difficult.

So, as I was talking to Steve I said, ‘Ah shit, I said, that’s what I’ve got to do, isn’t it?’ And Steve said ‘Yes, I fear so.’ That’s the most difficult thing to do, so that’s what I’ve got to do. So, yeah, like I say, I’m over halfway through with that, and it’s coming along nicely. I chose an unusual verse form, ABCCBA, which I don’t think anybody’s used before, and I’m starting to understand why, you know? But it has its charms, it has its charms. So, once I’ve got this out of the way, then I shall be getting on with chapter 34, which is actually the final chapter of the book. Chapter 35 is a epilogue that mirrors the prologue, but it’s coming together – the plot is actually all starting to come together in these final chapters, which is what I’d planned, but it’s still quite satisfying to see all the little threads starting to pay off. I’ve still got no idea how long it’ll be, Pádraig, I know I keep saying ‘Next year,’ although those words taste like ashes in my mouth, but when it’s done it will be quite a little barnstormer, I think. [Actually, he always said it was two years away from being finished, every time I asked him – PÓM]

PÓM: I’m looking forward to the day I have an actual copy in my actual hand, you know?

AM: I’m looking forward to hearing what you think of it. You’ll be probably one of the few people who actually gets all the way through it. I was thinking of having a blurb on the back saying ‘If you only read one book in your life, make it this one, and if you make it this one, you will only read one book in your life.’ No, that’s coming along very very well. I’m really pleased with the way that it’s turning out. Once I’d decided, once I made the tough decision to do it in verse, and decided that was the way to do it, and started to apply myself, I found that it was actually a lot of fun. Kind of brain-twisting fun, but fun none the less.

PÓM: Seeing as we’re talking about that, and you were talking about Providence – when you’re writing, when you start something, do you know basically what’s going to happen all the way through, and how it’s all going to end, or what?

AM: Well, with Providence the answer is, yeah, I kind of know, I know how it’s all going to end, down to some very very fine tiny details. I know the order of the stories that I’m going to be approaching in the course of this twelve issue series. I know roughly the themes that I’m going to be exploring in those issues, like for example in issue three it deals with stories that have got a kind of – it’s a storyline that has got a relationship to Lovecraft’s Shadow over Innsmouth, and I knew that one of the themes of that story would be the fear of miscegenation, fear of interbreeding, the fear of American culture being swamped by the massive wave of immigrants that America had had between 1890 and 1910, bigger than any before or since, and so a lot of the white middle class – well, certainly the New Englanders – were very uneasy about all that. They were frightened of, that instead of being assimilated into American culture, these new immigrant groups would instead assimilate American culture into their cultures, their mongrel cultures, as HP Lovecraft used to charmingly refer to them. So, I knew that that was going to be a big part of the story.

I hadn’t really got the substance of the story in place because, if I’d got everything in place, there’d be no point in writing it – well, there’d be no fun in writing it. So, with all of these stories, yes, I knew this fourth one was going to related to The Dunwich Horror, but I haven’t got more than the vaguest idea of what the plot details will be like. I know what kind of information I had to impart in this story, and I thought it’d be fun to mess around with Wilbur Whateley, or something like that. But, no, I haven’t got the shape in place until I actually started writing the story. I’ve got an overall pattern very well worked out, but I like to leave room for the spontaneous ideas and some space to let them play out properly. So it’s a mixture of the two, Pádraig.

PÓM: Actually, I’m going to go back to the League, because I still have notes here about the League. What did you think about the reception for Century 2009, there was a lot of hoo-hah about it allegedly being about Harry Potter, for instance, all of that? What did you make of that?

AM: Well, [laughs], there wasn’t really much I could make out of that. It was certainly nothing that bothered anybody outside of a couple of writers for The Independent. We never heard any problems from our end. I think it was a quite legitimate storyline, and it said everything that we wanted it to say. The things that I did hear in a couple of the reviews that I got sent of the League 2009, were a couple of people who were talking about, specifically about the line where I’ve got Mina saying, ‘how did culture fall apart in a hundred years?’ and they were saying, ‘This is easily the most reactionary line Alan Moore has ever written.’ This is the equivalent of saying, ‘It were all fields around here when I were a lad.’ They may have understood me too quickly.

I would say, that if you’re talking about a line of progress, if it can be called progress, that runs from Berthold Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, to Donald Cammell’s Performance, to Harry Potter, I don’t think you can really see that as anything but a decline. I will also point out that if you’ve got, I believe twenty percent of young people polled said that they would be embarrassed if their mates caught them reading. That would seem to me to be a decline, and also I would say that if you’ve got the Avengers movie as one of the most eagerly attended recent movies, and if most of those attendees were adults, which I believe they were, then if you’ve got a huge number of contemporary adults going to watch a film containing characters and storylines that were meant for the entertainment of eleven year old boys fifty years ago, then I’ve got to say, there’s something badly wrong there, isn’t there? This is not actually cultural progress. Anyway, that was my feelings. Yes, I’d stand by the sentiments expressed in League 2009. I think that it was something that possibly needed saying. Me and Kevin were very pleased with it, and like I say, we’ve got an absolutely humongous book four.

PÓM: Yes, I was going to ask you – what are you going to tell me about Volume Four?

AM: I’m not going to tell you much about it. I would say that it would probably continue where volume three left off, time-wise, so it would probably start in 2009, perhaps 2010.

PÓM: 2009, let’s see, what have we got, the Nautilus… am I right in thinking the Nautilus is about to head off into space?

AM: Well, I can’t comment upon that. There’s a nuclear Nautilus mentioned at the end of 2009, and he talks about building a new Nautilus, but the details of that, that’s something that I shall leave for volume four.

PÓM: Fair enough, fair enough. I just kinda thought, it seemed to me that the possibility existed that they might be about to go off into space, but, as you say…

AM: There’s all sorts of possibilities for the League, you know what I mean? We could really take this anywhere.

PÓM: Yeah, of course, of course.

AM: Probably after book four, we would be leaving the present day and the future alone for a little while. We might wanna go back and explore some of the previous eras of the League. Again, we might change our minds.

PÓM: Are we going to see the League travelling in time, for instance?

AM: Probably not. Probably not, because that does raise continuity problems. I know everybody would love to see, oh, I don’t know, the current league meeting the 1890s league, just like the Avengers did once…

PÓM: All the JLAs and JSAs…

AM: It’s a comic book thing, but, nah, it’s not really going to happen. That’s not really where our interests in the League lie. I remember a review of the Black Dossier which was saying ‘oh, this is all so – there’s all this writing in it, and what’s worse is they’ve even written about the French and German groups as a text story, the foreign counterparts of the League, when Alan Moore must have known that all of his fans, they’d much rather see that as a comic strip than read about it in a text piece,’ which is rather missing the point. We included – there’s no point in doing – we’ve done Les Hommes Mystérieux, we know the details of the story as a text piece. Yes, you could have the League against their evil counterparts, which has been done in every superhero team book since Sgt Fury, included. The thing is the League actually isn’t a superhero team book. I know that for some people, old conventions die hard, and it’s difficult for them to see anything beyond that, but that’s not what we’re doing. It’s a much more literary thing than that, a much more cultural thing, and we’ll continue to tell it in the way that we feel that it should be told.

Les Hommes Mysterieux
Les Hommes Mystérieux
PÓM: I’ve been – I keep going back and reading Black Dossier, and the text pieces. I mean, in the Almanac, the bit about Nemo himself going across the Antarctic, it’s almost exactly mirrored by what Janni does.

AM: I was using the Almanac as a source for that story. When I came across that bit in the Almanac, and I thought, oh, this is interesting, this failed journey to Antarctica by Janni’s dad, it would be something that she might feel that she needs to do, and it all came from there. I was particularly pleased – yeah, it’s nice to get in some of those places that are only referred to in the Almanac, like Megapatagonia – did you notice Dogtanian?

PÓM: I did of course, yes!

AM: I thought, if you’re going to have dog-headed humanoids talking backwards French, then Dogtanian probably ought to be in there.

PÓM: Yes, I was – you know, people like Jess Nevins, we all play this annotation game, he compiles them on the Internet and we all do our best to send him in everything we can spot, which is good fun. Jess says hello, by the way.

AM: Do say hello to Jess when you speak to him next. Tell him that book four is coming out I think early next year. That’s what Tony told me last time I spoke to him.

PÓM: Book four of the League?

AM: Oh, sorry, Volume Three, the collection.

PÓM: Oh, yeah. The collection of…

AM: I was getting a bit ahead of meself there! I think that’s out early next year, so I shall look forward to seeing Jess’s next volume of his annotations then.

PÓM: Yeah, the other thing I was going to say to you was, I’ve been actually using the League as a reading list, I’ve been reading my way through all the stuff, which is… there’s a lot of those Victoria-era adventure novels which are crackingly good.

AM: Oh yeah, absolutely.

PÓM: Anyway, OK, I’m leaving all of that behind…

In part two, we talk about Jimmy’s End, Comedians and Scientists, The Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic, Margaret Thatcher, and the impact of the Fibonacci Sequence on Grandfatherhood. Here. Soon.

Outside Mind image by Gary Spencer Millidge


  1. “I would say, that if you’re talking about a line of progress, if it can be called progress, that runs from Berthold Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, to Donald Cammell’s Performance, to Harry Potter, I don’t think you can really see that as anything but a decline. I will also point out that if you’ve got, I believe twenty percent of young people polled said that they would be embarrassed if their mates caught them reading.”

    I find this an odd observation, for two reasons. First, it’s certainly arguable that this line of progress represents a decline, but why would one want to draw this particular line in the first place. I can think of no reason why these three fictions should be bracketed together or seen as implicated with each other any more than any three random fictions from those periods. Why not, for instance, draw a line of progress from Brecht to Cammell to ‘Spawn: Blood Feud’?

    Second, if 20% of young people are embarrassed to be thought of as readers, why attack a series that has been very visibly successful in encouraging young people to become readers?

  2. I know, Kate, his line is totally arbitrary. As much as I enjoyed 2009, and I did, it was *inspite* of Moore’s message. I wish he’d crack open the internet from time to time so he could see what the arguments really are. It’s not like the view you or I are expressing isn’t absolutely everywhere. And it’s massively frustrating that everyone who ever interviews the Beardy One soft pedals it so much.

    Anyways – I look forward to the next League/Nemo book, but come. on. guy.

  3. I’m sure Moore hears arguments without the internet. I mean, he talks to people in real life. Besides, he’s busy getting writing done. I could take a lesson in discipline from him and stay off the internet. (damn self promotion needs and ADHD) We all probably could. Anyway, mind that does such ingenious work is going to have higher standards than most. Why spend all of your time mentally disagreeing with him, when we can just open up his comics and have a really fun time? He can’t be wrong about everything when his work seems so right.

  4. I don’t agree with his line of reasoning there either, Kate, but that’s one of the things I love about Moore – his work and his interviews make you think and he’s in no way saying any of us has to agree with him or any of his opinions. I wouldn’t enjoy reading his interviews if he were the type that expected the world to agree with him. I’m surprised by the opinions of my own that form while researching something he said I don’t agree with. Sometimes I end up agreeing with him and sometimes I end up with an entirely new opinion I had never before considered that doesn’t agree with him or my old ideas.

    Padraig, I’m a lot like you in that I use the League as a roadmap of new books to read. I’ve read a few just based on your interviews with Moore and from some of the tangents the two of you go off on.

    I’m sad there won’t be a League book about Les Hommes Mysterieux. I’m sad because I really enjoy the Arsene Lupin books, something I never would have come across but for one of the text pieces Moore wrote. (Black Dossier, maybe?)

    I’m going to read every page of Jerusalem! It’s easily my most anticipated book maybe ever.

    I had some other question for you, Paidrig, but it’s totally slipped my mind. I really, really love reading your interviews. You are the best, no doubt. I’m really hoping you get to speak to Eddie Campbell again, too, even though you just interviewed him a month or two ago. Campbell is one of my favorite people to hear or read on the topic of comics and you and he make quite the entertaining pair.

  5. I’m sorry to say that, as much as I enjoy Alan Moore’s work & The League of Gentlemen in particular, I found Nemo: Heart of Ice to be a colossal bore – as I unfortunately find most of Lovecraft’s work to similarly tedious – so it is somewhat bad news (in my opinion) to hear that Moore will be continuing in this vein for some time to come.

    Still, the man does what he wants to do – and he is clearly successful at it – so I’ll just wait patiently for Jerusalem, League Volume Four & anything else he sets his mind to.

  6. Maybe he should have used Twilight instead? What would be the proper work of 2009 to use in the comparison?

  7. I really enjoyed Neonomicon and I am looking forward to Providence. I hope that Jacen Borrows is drawing the sequel.

  8. “Maybe he should have used Twilight instead? What would be the proper work of 2009 to use in the comparison?”

    I think you’ve missed the point of my criticism, which is a) I’m not convinced by Moore’s philosophy of meta-fiction as expressed in ‘Century’ and b) I’m not convinced that the answer he gives above clears him of the accusation that he’s expressing a reactionary viewpoint in ‘2009’.

    It makes sense for me that Moore should use Potter as the antichrist, but the only conclusion he seems to reach is “I don’t think Harry Potter is any good and we’re all suffering for it”, which is the basis for a two-line post on the internet not for a 200+ page graphic novel.

  9. “It makes sense for me that Moore should use Potter as the antichrist, but the only conclusion he seems to reach is “I don’t think Harry Potter is any good and we’re all suffering for it”, ”

    I think you are wrong in this. I understood this from a rather different viewpoint. I think he is saying: “Not so long ago artists created works which inspired discussions and had to say something about our life and our society, like the Brecht, nowadays all there is is a juvenile fantasy. If there would be a counterpart to Harry Potter (or Twilight or what it will be next year, these things are interchangable) , this wouldn’t qualify as a topic. But this doesn’t happen. Insofar this is a worthwhile topic.

    And he is right about American Gothic. This is a story which fell apart at the end :-) Badly.

    Eagerly anticipating Providence, though.

  10. I think the point with Harry Potter is that possibly the most popular and widely read work of fiction in the modern age is a book for children.
    I mean, I can’t complain that children are reading, but if children are reading children’s fiction and growing up as adolescents to read children’s fiction and then, as adults, reading children’s fiction, it is a bit of a worry.

  11. “I would say that if you’ve got the Avengers movie as one of the most eagerly attended recent movies… you’ve got a huge number of contemporary adults going to watch a film containing characters and storylines that were meant for the entertainment of eleven year old boys fifty years ago, then I’ve got to say, there’s something badly wrong there, isn’t there? This is not actually cultural progress.”

    God forbid anyone should go see a fun, entertaining movie, right?

  12. I gave the bit about Harry Potter and the Avengers quite a bit of thought and had some great discussions with family and friends about it. I think Pól Rua has said the majority of what we came to the conclusion of.

    There’s nothing wrong with enjoying Harry Potter or the Avengers in context of knowing they’re well-crafted children’s stories. I think the issue is more the people that have never read a novel except for Harry Potter or Twilight. There are a LOT of adults like that and yes, it is a huge decline in that context.

  13. of course theres nothing wrong with harry potter or the avengers. of course there is quality stuff being produced these days, just as their was plenty of schlock in the days of berthold brecht. alan moore is just putting on his grumpy old man pants and doing his “kids these days” bit. except when he does that bit with kevin o’neil, what is produced is the wildly entertaining (imho) LoeXG Century series.

    i’ll happily read read alan moore’s thots on modern culture if what is distilled results in harry potter as the antichrist, replete with a lighting bolt spouting phallus.

    i’m sure i dont agree with every opinion of most people that produce breathtaking works of art, which i’m sure is no coincidence.

    tl:dr i agree with everyone and alan moore is still totally rad.

  14. “I think you are wrong in this. I understood this from a rather different viewpoint. I think he is saying: “Not so long ago artists created works which inspired discussions and had to say something about our life and our society, like the Brecht, nowadays all there is is a juvenile fantasy.”

    Which is where we come back to category error. In what possible sense has Harry Potter displaced Brecht?! If this is Moore’s point its not merely banal it’s also absurd. It’s also hypocritical, given that I’m reading the message in one of those airheaded illiterate funnybooks whose audience is already halfway down the road to liquor, crime and bolshevism.

    I would like Moore to persuade me that he has something more to say in ‘Century’ than grumbly granddad neophobia and Silver Age nostalgia – that he actually had something to say about our collective imagination – and in this interview he hasn’t done that.

  15. You could call the Greek myths & Sinbad stories children’s tales as well. Better to respect the medium in its own right. . The 30’s & 40’s stories were read by adults too, sometimes on the battlefield. The 50’s crackdown forced it into this children’s fairytale world embodied by DC because they were freaked out by the horror and vampire comics enough to actually impose rules on an entire medium, nothing happened to movies and books,…

    Superheroes seem to work. Just how its done thats all. Sure, you could Chris Ware tales of shmoes in front of the fridge with ornate, retro graphics behind them and get indie cred but no reason to think thats better than the validity of a fantastic tales with fantastic people. Very empowered individuals have long been the bane of human civilization so maybe comics are a good forum to explore that.

    Its seems a reflex to belittle comics by calling them children’s fare. There is an element to that in its ancestory but pictures on a page seem infantile in our part of Western Culture because they can’t accept superheroes on a page.. Other places, its just another form of storytelling. An self-satisfied TV interviewer tried to do that to Alan Moore himself and he defended the medium in great form

  16. Its seems a reflex to belittle comics by calling them children’s fare. There is an element to that in its ancestory but pictures on a page seem infantile in our part of Western Culture because they can’t accept superheroes on a page..

    Moore was talking specifically about superhero comics and, presumably, superhero stories as morality plays. Reading such a story is no worse than, say, watching a Friends rerun, but what does the reader get out of it when he reads that type of story more than once? If the story has more of a point to it than “Good shall triumph over evil, at least temporarily,” is it more meaningful than, e.g., “Bigotry is hateful”?

    There’s a school of thought which holds that fiction, if it’s not read to relieve stress, should be intellectually stimulating and involving, and that surprises are desirable, even things to be treasured. If a story only affects the reader emotionally, then he’s being manipulated. Self-manipulation is no better than being manipulated by someone else.


  17. It used to be that our artistic heroes took on figures from the, well, establishment, as a matter of course. I’m thinking of Bob Dylan or the Beatles here, but there are many other examples. Now, Alan Moore takes a swipe at Harry Potter or The Avengers, and fans are shocked and dismayed. Comments such as “He’s a crazy old geezer!” are plentiful, even though he’s not sixty yet. Bertolt Brecht to Performance to Harry Potter? That’s a gleefully weird progression, or decline, and I bet John Lennon would’ve loved it.

  18. “I would say, that if you’re talking about a line of progress, if it can be called progress, that runs from Berthold Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, to Donald Cammell’s Performance, to Harry Potter, I don’t think you can really see that as anything but a decline.”

    I want to believe this is one of those famous instances where Moore’s humour fails to make itself clear in the written interview. Please, Padraig, tell me he was chuckling on the phone as he said this.

    So culture has fallen apart because we’ve gone from an intellectual playwright who, at the height of his fame and success, was probably never as successful as Gilbert and Sullivan or Noel Coward, to a filmmaker who’s made a movie most people never saw, to a children’s book bestseller.

    I’m calling bullshit on that.

    We’ve gone from Gilbert and Sullivan to the Carry On movies to Against The Day.

    Or we’ve gone from Fantomas to Lawrence of Arabia to The Tree of Life

    Or we’ve gone from Ulysses to 2001: A Space Odyssey to The Sopranos.

    Or we’ve gone from Five Children and It to Portnoy’s Complaint to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

    Or any other totally random and ridiculous line of cultural decay made up from thin air.

    Is this really the brilliant writer of Watchmen, Marvelman, V for Vendetta, Swamp Thing, Promethea, From Hell and Supreme? What the hell happened to his amazing skills to analyse and comment on modern culture?

    I’ve given up reading interviews by Grant Morrison exactly because of his insufferable and obtuse online persona, I’ll be sad if I have to do the same to Alan Moore.

  19. “In what possible sense has Harry Potter displaced Brecht?! If this is Moore’s point its not merely banal it’s also absurd”

    It has replaced Brecht in the sense that the arts havn’t produced something comparable and universally recognized in the last 30 years. (Or if it has nobody has embraced it.) Where is the Catcher in the Rye for these generations, where the new Brecht, the new Beckett, all artists which had at least something to say. Harry Potter is per definition mixed together genre-tropes, nothing more, nothing less. There is nothing wrong about that, but it would be nice if there were some counterbalance. You don’t have to be a “grumpy old man” to see this as a decline in culture.

  20. AndyD:

    “It has replaced Brecht in the sense that the arts havn’t produced something comparable and universally recognized in the last 30 years.”

    There are a few figures that can be said to be truly universal – Robin Hood, or Sherlock Holmes, or Superman. Brech and Weil’s The Threepenny Opera was never on this level of universal recognition. It was an avant-garde play performed at some of the most hoity-toity theatres in the world (in England, it ran in the West End, far away from the filthy streets it purports to depict on stage). Today no one will have a problem knowing Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes and Superman, but I doubt the common man in the street knows Brecht or Weil or The Threepenny Opera.

    And that’s the problem with Moore’s line of decay. He’s mixing high art with an experimental movie with a bestseller, three totally different worlds. There’s still high art, there are still experimental movies, and probably better known that Performance, and there will always be bestsellers. They existed in Brecht’s time, they’ll continue to exist. Popular culture is not made of Brecht, it’s made of Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, Superman, and yes, Harry Potter, Tony Soprano, Dr. House, Malcom Tucker, Horatio Cane, and Lisbeth Salander.

    The Threepenny Opera belongs to the world of high art, with John Barth, Edward Albee, Paula Rego, and other great artists only a few have heard of. It’s always been like this.

  21. Today no one will have a problem knowing Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes and Superman, but I doubt the common man in the street knows Brecht or Weil or The Threepenny Opera.

    The Superman so many people recognize is an intellectual property, not a character in a story. The James Bond that millions of people see on cinema screens is a cinematic hero, not Ian Fleming’s character. Likewise, the Avengers that entertained millions of people were more cinematic heroes and Joss Whedon’s creations than they were comic book characters. The cinematic Avengers have more in common with the cinematic James Bond than they do with the comics Avengers.

    Moore was decrying the emptiness of modern entertainment and cited THE AVENGERS as an example, while his WATCHMEN can be cited as an example of comics fiction that is entertaining without being empty. Perhaps Moore was overreacting to commercialization of “least common denominator” material–it’s not that he fails to see the differences between literary fiction and commercial fiction–but he’s correct that fiction can be entertaining without being intellectually empty.


  22. I wouldn’t know, I never watched The Avengers and I haven’t watched a 007 movie since Bond was played by Pierce Brosnan. I never read an Ian Fleming novel either, but from all I’ve heard they’re awful. So I wouldn’t know, I wouldn’t care to know.

    All I know is that there has never been a glorious era of great pop entertainment. The original Sherlock Holmes is hardly intellectually riveting material, and that’s what survived into our times; I shudder to imagine what the majority of pop entertainment from the 1920s that simply disappeared into irrelevance was like. Have you ever read a Fantomas novel? It’s shit. Shit! It’s not better than Twilight, it’s not pop entertainment’s equivalent of The Name of the Rose. It’s simply hack shit.

    Of course commercial fiction can be intellectually stimulating, I’d be surprised if Moore didn’t know that, him being a fan of shows like The Sopranos and The Wire. But anyone who looks at the numbers knows that pop entertainment has been, in its majority, bad, and always will be. And Moore isn’t saying anything new or bold when he says that our modern entertainment is bad. People have been saying that for centuries.

  23. @Miguel. One could make a number of comments about the choice of Threepenny Opera as an example, but misrepresenting its success doesn’t help your argument. When it was first produced it wasn’t an art-house hit but a popular one both in Berlin and Paris. There were concurrent regional productions in Germany, it’s songs were popular successes, multiple versions being released on record, and within two years it had been made the basis of a successful film. Two decades later it ran off-Broadway from 1955 to 1961 (at the time a record run albeit in a small theatre). It’s best known song was a hit for both Louis Armstrong and Bobby Darrin. The fact that it is most commonly performed today as elite entertainment in opera houses hardly undermines Moore’s point.

  24. I have been SO annoyed by this piece since stumbling across it! Jesus & Loki in a camper van! :/

    Know this: I have always thought that Alan Moore was a charlatan in general: & possibly something of a psychopath! I would furthermore be very happy to see his piece of sneaky comic-book superhero/supervillain torture/rape porn, namely The Killing Joke, banned/removed from every children’s/young adult library section on the planet! As they recently tried to do in Nebraska or somewhere! I think that HIS crap as FAR more worthy of the negative attention that J K Rowling got, from “offended parents”, than anything the above lady had to put up with! UNFORTUATELY, this only seems to have recently come to their attention: probably because US Christian folk do not know how to “fight the real enemy”! Or maybe it’s just because they’re so unfeminist they’d rather burn a thousand “witch” books than one much more graphic one featuring a costumed rapist!

    Other than that, I think this interview is a long & tiresome case of..

  25. ..Alan pot calling J K kettle black! HE writes kids’ stories in comic-book form: about kids’ characters if you wanna call them that: at best abt “adventure story” characters of 19th century fiction, which maybe people’s parents didn’t approve them reading then &told them to go &read Greek & Latin classics instead of Jules Verne!

    The main problem with most of today’s popular and high culture, besides its spinelessness politically speaking, before the 1% (go and read wsws.org’s arts/movie coverage on this!) is, in my view, the endless *recycling* and copycatting that goes on: plus lack of originality and the spine to say/make anything new!

    Alan Moore does this too: only he has the cheek to call it “metafiction” or some shite! Gah!

    *As for the assault on Potter: it’s perfectly simple. Egotistical male author sour-graping at higher-earning female in same sort of industry!*


  26. Only the thing with Alan Moore-bid is, *that when he does his copycatting, he makes sure to twist and pervert, &stick in plenty of rotten rancid stuff! &when HIS stories come out of the recycler.. well, I wouldn’t want to swallow them!

    &THIS he thinks is “original fiction”??

    & another thing: *IF he thinks superheroes are so ridiculous, WHY does he keep writing them?* Or stories which are the next thing to it: ie sci-fi characters like Captain Nemo, The Invisible Man, etc?!

    This guy is just stupid and hypocritical!

    Actually: in a way he reminds me of.. I’ll tell you lot who, but really this is bigging him up too much, albeit in a negative way! He reminds me partially of Melkur/Morgoth in Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, who could not create, but only pervert what the High god and the other gods made! Orcs out of Elves and so on! That’s YOU, Alan!

    You can see I don’t like the guy!


    I think a lot of today’s “reimagining” is like making orcs out of elves! Which isn’t to say there aren’t a lot of good writers.

  27. So very exciting!! We are in this exact same stage in life and completely understand the internal struggle. Best of luck on your new adventure! Can’t wait to see the beautiful home you guys.pick out… Know you will style it just perfectly

  28. The existance of people like Liz, who clearly do not have the excuse of being dumb at all, is what scares me and tires me the most. Emotion gets over reasoning and Ethics with such intensity that is capable of saying such totalitarian shit, proper of any stupid repulsive and psychology igorant bigot dictator, as that The Killing Joke should not be available for adults. For adults!!!!
    The Killing Joke should be burnt Nazi style because it depicts a sadistic criminal. That implies we should burn like hundreds of novels, series, movies, … Hannibal and all its derivatives, almost any recent horror movie, Deliverance, Pulp Fiction, Game of Thrones, Reservoir Dogs, Mysery, Hitchcock’s Psycho, The Orange Clockwork, The Shining, …

    So no artist should ever again reflect the horrors of this world? We should be condemned forever to ridiculous naive “villains” and criminals? We’ll all create old-style Disney stories? That doesn’t sound like freedom nor allowing to depict and reflect on these real matters.

    And as life itself is much worse than anything happening in Moore’s works I imagine we should burn lots of History books, as there were always tortures, horrible executions, sadistic kings and such (Vlad the Empaler, the supposed crimes of Bathory, that are beyond imaginable cruelty as are registered, …), International Amnisty reports about war zones, telling about violence on men, women and kids, including torture, rape, …
    Yes, the Joker was so mean, that damn fictional character, we should do something about it and punish Moore for knowing what happens in the world and what a criminal psycho does (irony mode on, in case someone doubts).

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