Whether or not you know his name, comics author Alan Moore has influenced the direction of a lot of films you’re most certainly familiar with. The Dark Knight, Joker, V For Vendetta: these are all critically acclaimed and highly successful movies that were either adaptations of Moore’s work or heavily inspired by them. When it comes to comics culture, he is a true legend.
The man can be a bit aloof, though, and typically shies away from doing interviews for the press. That’s what makes his recent discussion with Deadline not only fascinating but surprising. The publication somehow got him to speak (and at length) about this upcoming project The Show and the impact superheroes have had on our culture. He’s definitely got some choice words he’d use to describe Marvel and DC.
For some background, Moore officially retired from comics in 2018 after completing The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen -parts of which were adapted into the abysmal 2003 film of the same name-. It comes as no surprise, then, that Moore would say, “I’m not so interested in comics anymore, I don’t want anything to do with them.”
Discussion of his background with Deadline is what guided the conversation towards superheroes in cinema. “Most people equate comics with superhero movies now,” Moore stated. “That adds another layer of difficulty for me. I haven’t seen a superhero movie since the first Tim Burton Batman film. They have blighted cinema, and also blighted culture to a degree.”
As Moore puts it, he thought it was a worrying sign that hundreds of thousands of adults were gathering en masse to watch films based on characters created 50 years prior that were written for 12-year-olds. In his mind, that desire almost signals a desire to escape from the complexities of modern life and try to shape the world as we viewed it when we were younger. “That seemed dangerous, it was infantilizing the population,” Moore said.
In some way, Moore feels responsible. “It was largely my work that attracted an adult audience, it was the way that was commercialized by the comics industry,” he explains. “This thing happened with graphic novels in the 1980s. People wanted to carry on reading comics as they always had, and they could now do it in public and still feel sophisticated because they weren’t reading a children’s comic, it wasn’t seen as subnormal.”
That’s the most troubling aspect for him. Watchmen was written as a critique of superhero worship and it took heroes to their logical conclusion. It wasn’t meant to create a new generation but show that the time of heroes had passed. Conversely, the world of comics took it as a new beginning and started to shift to a darker tone.
“I’ve been told the Joker film wouldn’t exist without my Joker story (1988’s Batman: The Killing Joke), but three months after I’d written that I was disowning it,” Moore expressed, “it was far too violent – it was Batman for christ’s sake, it’s a guy dressed as a bat.” Moore was then questioned about escapism, and agreed it is important, but feels superhero films too often use it as a means to avoid criticism. They don’t challenge enough, as it were.
I’m not sure if I 100% agree with Moore here, but I do think he’s onto something. Comicbooks and superheroes can have some relevance to people of all ages, but the way that Disney, Marvel, Warner Bros., and DC have used to them dramatically change the tone of Hollywood is troubling. Nowadays, everything has to either be a franchise or a smaller piece of a larger puzzle. It seems the days of independent stories are long behind us. Even Star Wars, which signaled its own change in the ’70s, has been directly influenced by the MCU.
It’s important to remember that Moore is all about creative control (something he touches on in this interview about The Show), so he’s talking from the perspective of studios altering artist’s creations without their consent. He might partially be so negative because his own works have had such poor adaptations that went against his wishes. Still, he definitely hits a few nails on the head and the interview is a really eye-opening look at how superheroes might not be the almighty force of good we think they are.