Alan Moore doesn’t read comics but here’s what he thinks are wrong with them

I have to say that I haven’t seen a comic, much less a superhero comic, for a very, very long time now–years, probably almost a decade since I’ve really looked at one closely.

Alan Moore

Does any of this stop him from opining about them, negatively, for paragraph after paragraph? If your answer is “yes” then you haven’t been following Moore’s interviews over the past few years.

His blanket dismissal of superhero comics in this long, fascinating interview with Wired’s Adam Rogers echoes earlier comments he made about his distaste for the Hollywood mode of filmmaking; this time, however, he’s expanded his beef with Tinseltown cinema to include the use of CGI, and indeed the entire medium of film:

One of my big objections to film as a medium is that it’s much too immersive, and I think that it turns us into a population of lazy and unimaginative drones. The absurd lengths that modern cinema and its CGI capabilities will go in order to save the audience the bother of imagining anything themselves is probably having a crippling effect on the mass imagination. You don’t have to do anything. With a comic, you’re having to do quite a lot. Even though you’ve got pictures there for you, you’re having to fill in all the gaps between the panels, you’re having to imagine characters voices. You’re having to do quite a lot of work. Not quite as much work as with a straight unillustrated book, but you’re still going to do quite a lot of work.

I think the amount of work we contribute to our enjoyment of any piece of art is a huge component of that enjoyment. I think that we like the pieces that engage us, that enter into a kind of dialog with us, whereas with film you sit there in your seat and it washes over you. It tells you everything, and you really don’t need to do a great deal of thinking. There are some films that are very, very good and that can engage the viewer in their narrative, in its mysteries, in its kind of misdirections. You can sometimes get films where a lot of it is happening in your head. Those are probably good films, but they’re not made very much anymore.

There seems to be an audience that demands everything be explained to them, that everything be easy. And I don’t think that’s doing us any good as a culture. The ease with which we can accomplish or conjure any possible imaginable scenario through CGI is almost directly proportionate to how uninterested we’re becoming in all of this. I can remember Ray Harryhausen’s animated skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts. I can remember Willis O’Brien’s King Kong. I can remember being awed at the artistry that had made those things possible. Yes, I knew how it was done. But it looked so wonderful. These days I can see half a million Orcs coming over a hill and I am bored. I am not impressed at all. Because, frankly, I could have gotten someone, a passerby on the street, who could have gotten the same effect if you’d given them half a million dollars to do it. It removes artistry and imagination and places money in the driver’s seat, and I think it’s a pretty straight equation—that there is an inverse relationship between money and imagination.

If you haven’t got any money, you’re going to need lots and lots of imagination. Which is why you’ll get brilliant movies by people working upon a shoestring, like the early John Waters movies. People are pushed into innovation by the restrictions of their budget. The opposite is true if they have $100 million, say, pulling a figure out of the air, to spend upon their film, then they somehow don’t see the need for giving it a decent story or decent storytelling. It seems like those values just go completely out the window. There’s an inverse relationship there.

I wish this weren’t so, but those statements are frankly embarrassing. If your dad started talking in this fashion at Thanksgiving dinner you’d get up to use the bathroom. If a fellow commuter started opining in this way on the train, you’d turn your iPod up. Moore has already copped to not watching much of this stuff–including the very adaptations of his comics that tend to set him off on these jeremiads, not that I think he’s missing much–but even if these statements were offered after he was handcuffed to Harry Knowles for a year, they’re still breathtakingly, willfully ignorant of and dismissive and insulting to everything from the skill required to pull off convincing computer effects, to their utility in telling an engaging and provocative story, to the intelligence or engagement level of the audience for film, to the ability of film to challenge and discomfit as well as dazzle and entertain. (As though the latter two are something to be ashamed of!)

This blog has already hosted some lively debate over Moore’s frequently expressed disdain for aspects of culture he admittedly knows little about anymore, from film to television to superheroes and superhero comics to, if what he says above is to be believed, comics in general. Then as now, I want to make it perfectly clear that not only does Moore have every right to be upset about his shoddy treatment at the hands of his publisher, and his work’s shoddy treatment at the hands of the studios and filmmakers who’ve adapted them, he is in fact right to be upset. I don’t begrudge him that at all–hell, I cheer him on! It’s when he uses this bitterness as a springboard for ill-considered write-offs of entire genres and methods and media that he comes across as a crank, even a fool.

That said, there’s a lot of great stuff in that interview about how he’s approaching the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and various other projects, so do read the whole thing.

39 Responses to Alan Moore doesn’t read comics but here’s what he thinks are wrong with them

  1. Sean B says:

    When Smart People Say Dumb Things…

    I agree with you 100% – it’s so hard for me to reconcile this man who worked so hard to show us what comics can do with the crank who dismisses an entire storytelling toolset. It makes no more sense than if someone were to lobby against coloring comics because it robs the reader of the ability to imagine for themselves what color Superman’s cape is…

    Of course, interviewers know Moore’s feeling about the medium and they lob these questions at him knowing they’ll get some juicy bits out of the man. It’s just bear-baiting, like jabbing the guy with a pointy stick to make him roar.

  2. ILozZoc says:

    Still, and I agree with the fact that Moore takes the deconstructive, negative approach automatically, he brings much to the discussion. It’s sad that he refuses to stay in touch with the progress and exciting creative involvements made in both mediums; he’s a brilliant mind trapped in a personality-afflicted consciousness. You must admit when he roars, though, it’s always interesting and irritating; precisely why he’s poked so much.

  3. Steven says:

    I must be getting old, because I can meet Moore partway.

    Most mainstream applications of computer animation (and film itself, I presume) are heavily diluted either by constant editing by diverse hands, erratic direction by executives trying to copy what’s hot yet ineffective (like motion capture), or changing standards to accommodate the worst artists rather than the best. This is due to the necessity of using huge groups needed to get these projects finished, as opposed to the examples Moore used, where fewer hands allowed for greater individuality in the final product. Part of being a work-for-hire animator is doing your absolute best within a narrow set of parameters. I don’t see Moore’s criticisms as being an insult to the skill of the artists so much as it is the system they have to work within.

    That said, I think Moore’s wrong in that this has been the case for a very long time, and I don’t think it’s impossible to find many great, unique voices in modern film or animation, even within the mainstream. And even if it were, people looking for something they can’t find in modern media can draw upon a multitude of older works that contain those elements. Computer animation is still in its infancy, and I have high hopes that artists in the future will be utilizing them in interesting ways.

    Sorry for being contrary twice in a 24-hour period, Sean. I genuinely enjoy reading your viewpoint, even though I disagree with it more often than not. They help me re-evaluate my own.

  4. Brian W says:

    Yeah, that’s a bit silly — the idea that anyone creating anything robs someone of the ability imagine it in a different way. Was just watching that Doctor Who episode “Blink” the other day thinking how awesome it was that the power of what they were pulling off was completely dependent on what you imagine doing on off camera. There’s loads of brilliant stuff out there.

    I love that line “I’m still working on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but I don’t think either Kevin [O'Neill, the artist] or I see that in the context of comics anymore.”

    Sure there’s plenty of junk out there that ropes off markets and lumps diamonds in with the dirt, but isn’t that what pulp genres have always been about? Particularly when the diamond works find innovative ways to use the played-out tropes to make pop-masterpieces. And film can be a fascist medium, sure, but that can also be a context to reflexively getting an audience to consider how it’s watching a story.

    Can’t help ever wondering whether he believes these things himself, or if he just thinks that by saying them over and over again he can get over some form of self-loathing.

  5. Two possible explanations: (1) he sold his brain in exchange for his magical powers, or (2) we all turn into cranks eventually, convinced that what we loved when we were kids was more authentic, genuine, better, challenging etc than whatever those dad-gummed kids today like.

    The best bits for me: the equation of “work” with quality (presumably, then, the best art in the world is a blank page) and the deification of Harryhausen, as if he wasn’t working for money, as if what he could accomplish wasn’t based on money, and as if those films weren’t the blockbusters of their day, with budgets proportionally similiar to films of today.

    Crank.

  6. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I had no problems with any of that at all, and some of what you guys ascribe to him I don’t see even if I hold out my thumb in front of the computer screen and squint. Of course, I’m closer to his age than I bet most of you are.

  7. Steven says:

    “…as if those films weren’t the blockbusters of their day, with budgets proportionally similiar to films of today.”

    Almost all of the films Harryhausen was involved in were strictly B-pictures with budgets that were miniscule compared to the those of today. Adjusted for inflation, The Beast From 20000 Fathoms cost less than 2 million, Jason and The Argonauts cost less than 10 million and his most lavish production, Clash of the Titans, came in at a little less than 50 million.

  8. Steven: That wasn’t so harsh a disagreement you need to apologize for it! I’m a big boy, and we pretty much agree anyway.

    Tom: You for-serious don’t see a problem with opining at length about topics about which your leadoff line is “I don’t actually read/watch these things”? I’m pretty sure you can see that that’s silly without squinting, no matter how hold you are.

    I know I was a film studies major and film means a lot to me, so I admit I have a bias here, but it’s a bias in favor of not needlessly cutting yourself off from entire art forms and ways of making art. What Moore’s saying is in spirit and substance the same as the people who say “I don’t read manga” or “hip-hop sucks” or Denby’s recent snark rant. I feel bad for him. Then there’s the conflation of money with shittiness, which is the kind of thing that mature people point laugh at you for saying when you say it at 2 in the morning after watching Eraserhead your freshman year, let alone when you’re a visionary comics genius with decades worth of great work under your belt. He deserves some slack by virtue of being Alan Moore, but…seriously, you have NO problem with anything he said, as an approach to consuming and making art?

    “with film you sit there in your seat and it washes over you. It tells you everything, and you really don’t need to do a great deal of thinking. There are some films that are very, very good and that can engage the viewer in their narrative, in its mysteries, in its kind of misdirections. You can sometimes get films where a lot of it is happening in your head. Those are probably good films, but they’re not made very much anymore.”

    I’m sorry, but that’s just gross.

  9. Oddly, he also sounds like one of those horror fans who says the scariest stuff is what they leave to your imagination. It’s nonsense that makes you sound sophisticated.

  10. Wait, wait, I got one more:

    “I hear you’re buying a synthesizer and an arpeggiator and are throwing your computer out the window because you want to make something real. You want to make a Yaz record.”

    Alan Moore is losing his edge.

  11. Too good to leave in the comment thread

    I hear you’re buying a synthesizer and an arpeggiator and are throwing your computer out the window because you want to make something real. You want to make a Yaz record.–me on Alan Moore, more or less (Apologies to LCD…

  12. T. Hodler says:

    What’s gross about this, Sean?:

    “with film you sit there in your seat and it washes over you. It tells you everything, and you really don’t need to do a great deal of thinking. There are some films that are very, very good and that can engage the viewer in their narrative, in its mysteries, in its kind of misdirections. You can sometimes get films where a lot of it is happening in your head. Those are probably good films, but they’re not made very much anymore.”

    I really don’t understand what your problem with it is. He even admits there are exceptions right within the paragraph! I think you need to do more than just assert his statement is self-evidently wrong if you want other people to rally around you in mocking Alan Moore. It’s not like there aren’t a LOT of people (including film studies majors!) who wouldn’t agree that film can be a very seductive art form that can appeal to passive viewers. And it’s not exactly a minority position to argue that Hollywood films have generally become more escapist and less engaging in the last few decades, either. Which isn’t to say Moore’s necessarily right (though I think he mostly is, too), but is to say I don’t know why he’s obviously wrong.

    Anyway, I’m probably missing something. The money stuff I think you’re misreading, but at least I understand where you’re coming from. Here I don’t think your argument is as obvious as you seem to assume.

  13. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Alan’s not a critic, he’s an artist, and a working artist besides. Many artists when they get to a certain age focus in on aspects of work they like and leave others behind. I don’t think making some really harsh decisions and strong stands is outside the bounds of what an artist should do. If he were a critic, I’d probably want to punch him in the nads. As it is, I greatly prefer this to Grant Morrison’s equally willful cluelessness being portrayed as being on top of the current zeitgeist.

    I don’t think he’s in any way equating money to bad art as cleanly as you guys are fuming he is. I think he’s saying that in film in general and in special effects films specifically money has overwhelmed things he finds valuable about aspects of that art. I think that’s a critical stance you find in a lot of place; in comics it finds expression in the Art Out Of Time/Fletcher Hanks/Supermen books that celebrate an expression that was driven out of comics by commercial concerns.

    I don’t know, Sean. I liked all those orcs coming over the hill, but I have no problem with a view on art that didn’t like it. I like Pink Floyd, but I understand the anti-Pink Floyd early punk rock t-shirts, too.

  14. ADD says:

    Sean,

    I think your passion for film is blinding you a bit to the nuance that Moore clearly includes in his comments; he is not saying all movies suck, only bad and artless ones. And I’m willing to bet, even if he doesn’t see a lot of movies these days, that he’s seen enough bad ones in his time to know the difference. His comments leave plenty of room to love Ozu, Scorsese and Lynch while wanting to avoid the local Cineplex 18 at all costs.

    Maybe it is, like Tom says, because I’m closer to his age than yours, but I certainly understand what he is saying, sympathize and largely agree with it. I guess the difference between, say, me and Moore is that I haven’t personally had the experience of Hollywood and Time Warner fucking with me and my creations (both with and without his consent, variously), and so I can see his point and still be really fucking psyched to see Star Trek this May.

  15. Sean B says:

    “Because, frankly, I could have gotten someone, a passerby on the street, who could have gotten the same effect if you’d given them half a million dollars to do it.” – Alan Moore

    I’m sorry, Tom and Alan, but it’s specifically comments like this that Sean is referring to. No matter how you cut it, that is just either ignorant or insulting to people who hone their craft; I’ve seen far too many shitty special effects in multimillion dollar films to assign any level of credibility to Moore’s statement. It’s like saying that if you give some guy off the street a computer he can color a fucking comic like Dave Stewart.

    And it’s the little shit like that, not the general fact that he finds alot of studio cinema without nuance or even value, that goads me. I couldn’t give two shits what Alan Moore thinks about superheroes. Seriously. Why do people keep asking him about them? Does anyone give a fuck about that anymore? The guy wrote Watchmen. We get it – topicality is no excuse for beating a dead fucking horse.

    I love Moore – I love listening to him speak and reading his interviews, and I’ve seen him interact with fans and know him to be a warm, thoughtful guy generous with his time. I’m not saying Moore isn’t entitled to his opinions, but rather he (like just about everyone else, no matter what their profession or IQ) is guilty of making comments that make him sound not only out of touch but dismissive. I don’t excuse such comments from myself, and I don’t excuse them from people whom I respect and admire.

  16. Sean B says:

    I wanna clarify something, after reading my last post.

    It isn’t that I don’t care about Alan Moore’s opinions on film or even superheroes. I’ve been reading interviews with the man for over 20 years and I always find them worth reading – his discussions with Dave Sim remain something I return to time and again, for example, because he’s just so articulate and entertaining.

    The reason I ask if anyone cares what Moore thinks about superheroes is simply because not only has the guy clarified his position on the formula numerous times, but his work develops his thoughts and feelings about superheroes so well I just don’t know what else there’s left for him to say. I don’t have a beef with him not reading superhero comics these days – why would he? I don’t want to suggest he’s written everything worth writing about them, but even someone like Morrison, who I love, isn’t saying anything new about superheroes that Moore hasn’t said before.

    So, I may be coming at it from a more informed perspective than someone who’s picking up Wired and just knows the name Alan Moore from his Watchmen trade. I accept that my own feelings of ambivalence towards another question about the man’s opinions on the topic are colored by my exposure to his work and years of reading his thoughts on the matter in other interviews.

    See, I don’t even put up with dismissive shit from myself. :)

  17. ADD says:

    Apropos of virtually nothing, I would rather re-read Moore’s Spawn/Wildcats (generally considered one of his worst superhero efforts) over anything set in the Marvel or DC universes these days. It’s lightyears better storytelling in terms of intent, intelligence and entertainment value.

  18. Tim: I really don’t understand what your problem with it is. He even admits there are exceptions right within the paragraph! I think you need to do more than just assert his statement is self-evidently wrong if you want other people to rally around you in mocking Alan Moore.

    Look around you, Tim–I’ve clearly had no problem rallying people around me to mock Alan Moore. Guys, the pitchforks are in the mail! :)

    In all seriousness, I’m not really in it to mock Moore. But I’ve got a big problem with the mentality he’s expressing here and no problem saying so. In a nutshell, I simply have a lot more use for and faith in the potential of Hollywood filmmaking than he does. I’ve expressed my reasons for this regarding a great many specific cases in reviews listed in the sidebar to the left, for example.

    It’s not like there aren’t a LOT of people (including film studies majors!) who wouldn’t agree that film can be a very seductive art form that can appeal to passive viewers. And it’s not exactly a minority position to argue that Hollywood films have generally become more escapist and less engaging in the last few decades, either.

    You’re right that the idea that Hollywood has gotten lousier over the years is popular, but I’ve always thought it’s wrong, too. I think Hollywood has been both lousy and great since its inception. As I’m fond of pointing out, even in the big American film renaissance of the ’70s, the most popular movies were still things like Love Story and The Towering Inferno; meanwhile, Hollywood’s generally agreed-upon golden age took place under the studio system, more of a film-by-committee mode of production than the one driven by armies of effects technicians that Moore is complaining about today and one at least as guilty as producing oceans of soul-destroying crap. I don’t believe that there was ever some halcyon era back in the good old days where things were creative and vivacious and awesome until money/blockbusters/computers/Spielberg came along and now we all live in a fallen world. Film is a hot medium and Sturgeon’s Law holds–I don’t think either of those ideas is exactly a news flash, and moreover I don’t think they’re reasons to take your open-mindedness ball and go home the way Moore apparently has done. The best he can muster for the few exceptions he grudgingly makes an allowance for is a “probably”–that’s not good enough for me, what can I say.

    I also think “engag[ing] the viewer in their narrative, in its mysteries, in its kind of misdirections” is a weird criterion for quality filmmaking, especially coming from Moore, who’s fond of writing stories like a series of solvable puzzles. I’m sure he’s talking about, I dunno, Tarkovsky rather than trying to figure out who the Final Cylon is, but it’s still odd and reductive and dismissive of an almost countless number of other ways of approaching film and storytelling generally.

    Tom: “Alan’s not a critic, he’s an artist, and a working artist besides. Many artists when they get to a certain age focus in on aspects of work they like and leave others behind. I don’t think making some really harsh decisions and strong stands is outside the bounds of what an artist should do. If he were a critic, I’d probably want to punch him in the nads.” Sure he’s an artist, but in this interview he’s not writing the next League sequel, he’s offering criticism. At that point it becomes irrelevant what occupation he lists on his tax forms–I’m gonna address his criticism. Also, I’m not saying it’s outside the bounds of what an artist should do–I’m not even sure what that would mean. I’m no more saying he’s not allowed to hold these opinions or even act on them than I was saying a few weeks back that Tucker Stone and Tim O’Neil are not allowed to predicate their criticism of superhero comics on business concerns. I’m just saying I don’t think it’s a great idea and that it doesn’t lead to particularly useful criticism, and here are my reasons why.

    “I don’t think he’s in any way equating money to bad art as cleanly as you guys are fuming he is. I think he’s saying that in film in general and in special effects films specifically money has overwhelmed things he finds valuable about aspects of that art. I think that’s a critical stance you find in a lot of place; in comics it finds expression in the Art Out Of Time/Fletcher Hanks/Supermen books that celebrate an expression that was driven out of comics by commercial concerns.”

    That’s fine for him; I disagree with him. I think he’s missing out.

    “I don’t know, Sean. I liked all those orcs coming over the hill, but I have no problem with a view on art that didn’t like it. I like Pink Floyd, but I understand the anti-Pink Floyd early punk rock t-shirts, too.”I understand them too, I think it was funny that they wore them, I appreciate the art that emerged from that mindset, but I like Pink Floyd and therefore I think ultimately Johnny and Malcolm were wrong about Pink Floyd. I think that’s worth pointing out. Similarly, Moore may be producing tremendous work that emerges from his current mindset vis a vis superheroes, America, comics, film, computer effects, whatever, but when he articulates those viewpoints outside the context of that work, we can analyze and criticize them independently too.

    Alan: “He is not saying all movies suck, only bad and artless ones.” If that’s the case, then, well, duh! Beavis and Butt-Head once said they like stuff that rocks and hate stuff that sucks, and so do I, and so I’m sure does Alan Moore, but if that’s really what he’s saying then he’s simply taking a tautology and dressing it up in some luddism. That’s not much better than if he actually IS saying all movies suck (or less hyperbolically, all movies have two and a half strikes against them from the outset, which is closer to what I actually think he’s saying).

  19. Kenny says:

    Sean, I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say there are a *lot* of very, very bad movies being made every year. I think that’s what Moore’s saying; he’s not dismissing people making good movies, he’s saying – look, there’s a lot of shit out there and these guys are making this shit while spending oodles of money.

    Think of it like this – to defend every movie ever made would be a ludicrous thing, and I don’t think anyone would rationally do that. But I’m sure if I wanted to, I could take what you’re saying and place it into that sort of context. You’re doing the same here with Moore’s words, you’re taking them out of context and putting them into one that suits you.

  20. Kenny–Depending on how you slice it, Moore is either voicing Sturgeon’s Law (as you argue) or going beyond that (as I argue). To the former I say “and?” and to the latter I say “wrong.” I’m pretty sure you can’t take me saying “oceans of soul-destroying crap” as a defense of every film ever made, but I’m pretty sure you CAN take Moore saying that film “turn[ing] us into a population of lazy and unimaginative drones” is “one of [his] big objections to film as a medium” is in fact him attacking film as a medium, NOT him simply saying he doesn’t like bad movies.

  21. T. Hodler says:

    I still don’t agree with you (on Moore), Sean, but thanks for explaining your problems with the quote!

    And slightly off-topic: I do agree with you that the ’70s are a little overrated in terms of being a cinematic golden age, but I also find it pretty hard to deny that there are a lot more super-expensive tent-pole SFX blockbusters these days than there used to be, and in my opinion that has had a generally deleterious effect on film. We have different cinematic tastes, though (I’d take Romero’s Dawn of the Dead over Snyder’s any day, and yes, I feel like I have to choose between them), and I understand and respect your position on that.

  22. Speaking of remakes, I feel like in this thread I’m playing the part of Frank Santoro and Alan Moore is playing the part of David Heatley–featuring Timothy Hodler as himself! :)

    FWIW I’d take Romero’s over Snyder’s too, but only if forced to choose. And I’d try to sneak the first reel of Snyder’s into it.

  23. I don’t know that Hollywood has definitely gotten worse than it used to be or not, but their laziness in falling back on the more superficial qualities of their product does seem more noticeable. As special effects advances are made, studios seem more interested in putting out a movie with the latest gimmicks on 4500 screens than with making sure everything else is up to par with the impressive visual effects.

    So I really don’t find Alan Moore’s comments regarding film to be so willfully ignorant. I think Hollywood’s laziness is breeding a lazier audience, which leads to the product being in a downward spiral. YMMV

  24. Todd says:

    Conisdering Moore has’t read or seen recent examples of the media he criticizes isn’t it all the more remarkable that his characterization of mainstream comics and movies is right on the money?

  25. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I disagree that Alan stops being an artist with an artist’s concerns when he engages in criticism. It’s not about a line on tax form — sheesh, that’s an insulting reduction — it’s about what I reasonably expect from someone’s view on things given their core identity. I’ll simply reassert that it should come as no surprise that Alan Moore views art through the concerns of his own art; he’s an artist. That’s why there’s a difference between making art and performing criticism.

    In general, I don’t understand the anger. Older Artist Doesn’t Care For Certain Kinds Of Art Shocker. My Mom told me last night she’s given up on the newspaper comics page because she think the art’s generally ugly and looks like “anybody could do it” and it’s just relentless, snotty gag-making. Using the standards applied in this thread, I probably should have stood up and said, “Fuck you, Mom, you’re clearly not informed enough to have even heard of Richard Thompson and you’re willfully ignoring Patrick McDonnell. Plenty of really good artists work on the comics page and I’m sick of people being uninformed and dismissive.” And then I should have yelled at her boyfriend for asking the question in the first place.

  26. Sean B says:

    *Yawn* Yeah, Tom. The two scenarios are totally equivalent.

  27. Bob Temuka says:

    I think Mr Moore would be a lot happier if his interviews went like this:

    Interviewer: So, there is this Watchmen movie coming out.

    Moore: I don’t care.

    Interviewer: Right, so moving on to your new work…

    He is smart enough to realise that he doesn’t always know about certain entertainments, and in his most recent interviews, he has tried to steer the conversation towards the new League book or the Bumper Book of Magic or Jerusalem.

    But there is this bloody movie coming out, so he has to offer some critique of the whole thing. In these circumstances, resorting to the same arguments you were using 20 years ago is the only sensible option.

    At least he always openly admits when he isn’t up to date on the latest comics and movies, unlike many movie critics who suddenly became experts on comics because they read Watchmen once, even if they had to skip past the text bits and pirate stuff.

  28. Adam says:

    This is a trend I notice very common in bloggers and fans like Sean B.:

    If someone commits the sin of not loving superheroes or movies like they do, they have to insult them and belittle their opinions.

    It seems that Sean B. is really just pissy that Alan Moore does not agree with *him*.

    Are people like Sean B. so immature and defensive that they can’t engage with the active arguments without making insulting remarks about the person? It reduces the discourse to the level of name-calling 10-year-old boys.

  29. Tom: I didn’t mean to insult you with the tax-form line–I’m sorry! Nor did I mean to say that Moore stops being an artist with an artist concern’s when he engages in criticism of this or any sort. What I AM saying is that as a critic, he makes a heckuvan artist, as it were. Opinions and approaches that probably function for him just fine in terms of informing and influencing his actual work are, to me, pretty weak tea when expressed in a Wired interview independently of having Eddie Campbell or Kevin O’Neil draw them. I agree with you that “there’s a difference between making art and performing criticism”–that is in fact my point! What he’s doing here is performing criticism, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t address it as such just because he is primarily one thing and not the other. I’m certainly not “surprised” he feels this way because as i’ve said, he’s got a track record with it.

    Regarding your Mom example, the obvious difference that I’m sure a man of your talents is aware of already is that your Mom isn’t a titan of the arts the way Moore is (though I’m sure she’s a lovely lady with a lot of terrific qualities and she raised some fine young men). In Moore’s specific case he’s not only totally awesome, but a big part of his total awesomeness historically has been the way he uses art to get people to reconsider declass

  30. I will also cop to feeling this weird blend of sadness and personal insult on behalf of myself and all filmmakers and film buffs regarding the idea that film makes people into zombies, since I spend so much of my life thinking and talking about film and really really love film so much. I guess I admitted that in the original post already, though. But seriously, it’s bizarre–I, like, pictured an empty theater and felt bad for it like it was a puppy Moore was mean to. Maybe that’s The Magic Of The Movies that Jeph Loebe talked about in that Superman/Batman story, folks, I dunno.

  31. Sean says:

    Sheesh…

    Alan: Let’s try this again. Did ya’ read my comments, complimenting Moore, and attributing to him the things I find admirable about the man – who, I might add, has written some of my favorite comics of all time and whose spoken word performances I have loaded on my MP3 player as we speak? I mean, reading your post actually made me go back a reread all of my prior comments to see if there was anything there to give anyone the impression that I thought Alan Moore was anything less than someone I respected as a craftsman.

    And I don’t expect Alan to agree with me. About anything. I don’t measure the value of a person’s opinion against how highly I value my own. If that were the case, I’d hold NO ONE’s opinion in any esteem whatsoever because I don’t confuse subjective opinion with fact.

    As i said before, Alan, I really don’t give a damn if Alan Moore “likes” superheroes. That’s just goofy. And I’m not angry at him for having an opinion that differs with mine – I am, however, angry that someone would throw me into the pit with the dopes who call Alan Moore a shithead for saying he doesn’t want to see Watchmen or claiming he’s just a bitter old man who didn’t get his name in lights.

    My issue are with Moore’s comments, his statements, directed at a group of craftsmen who work hard to create a product he doesn’t value. The fact that he doesn’t value their contributions is fine. I don’t give a damn if he likes superheroes, movies, tunafish sandwiches or the shape of the moon. What I take issue with is ALAN MOORE saying things like if you give some joe off the street a hundred million bucks he can make great CGI. Nobody would dare suggest that you could give some guy a typewriter and he’d write V for Vendetta.

    So, no, I’m not “name calling” – OK, I did call him a “crank” – I’m saying that making statements like that do him an injustice as much as they do the thousands of people who work their asses off to perfect their craft. Just because he doesn’t appreciate their artistry doesn’t negate the fact that it is artistry.

    So, next time, Alan, try reading what I wrote and not what you think I wrote. Moore said some things that sound very ignorant for a man of his intelligence. At least, they sound ignorant to me. That doesn’t mean I think Moore should burn in hell because he doesn’t have any desire to see Watchmen.

    Now, before this get’s even more stupid, I’m bowing out…

  32. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Sean: I simply don’t believe there isn’t some small bit of outrage and emotion expressed throughout this thread. Sorry. That’s just not a convincing thing to say given the language used in other posts and the explosion of posts. The other stuff you mentioned I never argued. I don’t think Moore’s statements are automatically deserving of the disdain shown them. I’m guessing you would leave the room at the Spurgeon house during Thanksgiving every three seconds.

    Other Sean: that yawn was funny and, uh, ouch, but it might be useful to you in the future if you stopped holding things to rigorous standard, both joke examples and mid-interview declamatory statements. You’ll live longer. I mean, if you’re this disappointed in Alan Moore, you must hate Dick Cavett’s guts for that monkey/typewriter/Peyton Place joke.

  33. “Outrage” isn’t quite right, but it’s closer to it than “anger,” Tom, so I’ll admit that, sure. There’s certainly a great deal of emotion entering into it for me, as I said; these aren’t issues I’m dispassionate about, that’s for certain. I do promise you this isn’t something it would occur to me to get angry at a person about–I vehemently disagree with the ideas but I don’t see any reason why having tea with Moore tomorrow wouldn’t be perfectly pleasant for both of us. But perhaps you’re saying that based on my behavior my differentiation between anger and other emotions is a distinction without a difference, and that’s fair enough.

    I also am aware that I have a distinct tendency to jump ugly and then plead innocence. The innocence is genuine, because I honestly don’t get angry at people personally in any of these discussions, but I understand my tone can get away from me and become quite combative even though I don’t actually feel combative toward people, and on the rare occasions I do I try NEVER to air that in public anymore. But that whole situation is my bad and I apologize, and I apologize for apologizing and thus attempting to inure myself from criticism along those lines, and so on and so on…

  34. Rasselas says:

    I, like, pictured an empty theater and felt bad for it like it was a puppy Moore was mean to.

    Dude, it’s not like Moore is making fun of newspapers, where you might have a case. Talk about friendless underdogs. But the most glamorous, powerful, desired, envied and imitated business in the world can probably sustain the resentment of one bearded teabag.

  35. Allen Rubinstein says:

    This all reminds me of the people who said that none of us were capable of judging Miller’s adaptation of The Spirit until we’d actually seen the film in its entirety. This despite the fact that the trailers sucked, the released clips sucked, the costumes were ludicrous, the comments made by the filmmaker seemed to completely misunderstand the source material and Miller hadn’t made anything but drek in almost a decade. I didn’t need to actually waste time and money watching the thing to know it was a piece of crap, and reactions by people who did waste that time and money confirmed it for me. It really is possible to accurately pre-judge something based on all indicators because previous experience gives us a rough idea of what those indicators indicate about the end product.

    Alan Moore is, I believe, somewhere in his sixties, and he’s a professional fiction writer (as well as a hellishly smart man). If I don’t need to actually read Iron Man to know I’d find it boring as shit, he sure the hell doesn’t. Age and experience mean something. You start to form larger conclusions about broader swaths of the human experience and what in it has value.

    The difference in being an artist is that he can see right through to the roots of the creative process itself. His critique of superheroes isn’t based on avoiding them; it’s based on decades of writing them. That gives what he’s got to say on the subject more weight in my book.

    His take on movies though does seem to reflect more about his choice of preferred medium. If he regarded movies as a better means of expression than prose or comics, he’d be making movies.

  36. Rasselas: Haha! Good point. But I definitely don’t think of Don Simpson forcing prostitutes to blow him while he takes a dump when I think of movies–I think of myself on my couch watching Raging Bull or Starship Troopers or whatever.

    Allen, I obviously disagree with your assertion that it’s a critically sustainable position for Moore to sound off on superhero comics and on film in general (not one particular superhero comic/movie he’s seen a bunch of promotional material for, but all of them) because he writes comics. But that’s really neither here nor there for me–as I said I’d disagree with that kind of blanket dismissal even if it were based on seeing tons and tons of them. Moreover I’m uncomfortable with the idea of treating the pronouncements of older artists as some sort of received wisdom due to their age and status (“he can see right through to the roots of the creative process” is something I’d be uncomfortable asserting), although of course I believe we should indeed take experience into account. And Moore is a creative genius, no question at all, and he’s produced a half shelf’s worth of wonderful comics in my library, two or three of which are among my all-time favorites. But in this particular case, Moore has an opinion based on his experience (and a bit on his lack of experience), and I happen to profoundly disagree with it based on my own.

  37. Jon Hastings says:

    Wow – I wished I had jumped in earlier, because now I’m not sure I have much to say except that I mostly agree with Tom’s comments here.

    Also, Sean, I feel I must warn you to avoid reading anything Jean-Luc Godard has said about film since about 1980 or your head will probably explode!

    (The 1980 cut off is so we can sneak in JLG giving props to The Fury.)

    I’m kidding – haha – of course, but…

    It seems to me that when Moore (or JLG) makes these statements it isn’t just that they’re based on his experience, but it’s that they’re expressions of one of his central concerns as an artist – how do stories work? What does it cost us when the storymaking process turns into an industry? Etc., etc.

    And, while I don’t agree that there’s always an inverse relationship between money & creavity – I do think that, when it comes to imaginative/fantasic fiction, there’s a deadening, standardizing element to CGI that hasn’t been overcome yet, because of the industrial process involved in putting big CGI movies together.

    Me being me, I’d hedge a little here and say, “Of course there are some partial exception/near successes” (The Matrix and Revenge of the Sith, say), but I’m not sure that there’s anything wrong with not hedging/clarifying – especially when you’re trying to be a bit polemical.

  38. xheight says:

    I think ILozZoc is dead on here but let’s unpack what he is saying which doesn’t contradict Spurgeon’s point about being an artist. Moore in so much of his work takes the given and breaks into his notions of its constituent part of which one of the key elements is the political and the power relations of those micro and macro. It this macro analysis that seems arrested by prejudice when in fact it acts as means of liberating himself from those cultural bounds and power. Case and point: movies. whatever good work is done there it is without a doubt that it is the hegemon of the visual arts. The rest flows from this position as his personality and the details matter little as the arguments themselves. They are however colorful and expansive and make for as fascinating reading as his fictions.

  39. I’ve not read the whole comment-thread as yet but susbtantially agreed with Sean on Moore’s comments.

    Just finished a post that tangentially touched on Moore’s antipathies to adaptation, here:

    http://arche-arc.blogspot.com/2009/03/unmoored-part-4.html