In case you missed it (as I did) Alan Moore gave a big interview a little bit ago to Bleeding Cool in which he talked about Watchmen and how he’s going to refuse to speak to various other of his collaborators because he’s a crank and, oh, incidentally, DC comics is run by what we would call disease-ridden rodents if doing so would not get us sued for defamation by capybaras with head colds.
As I said, I missed the interview, and didn’t actually read it in full until just now because, (a) I already knew that Alan Moore was a crank, and (b) I already knew that DC comics was a cess pit. So I felt I had the gist.
However, it turns out others saw some novelty there. Specifically, Tom Spurgeon has a really excellent discussion on his site.
So let me suggest that anyone that just throws their hands up and says “Oh, that Alan Moore is crazy” isn’t just operating from a dubious moral position, they don’t know their history. Forget 25 years of Watchmen shenanigans for a second. If I had had just the experience Alan Moore had with ABC, where I had this giant, multi-pronged project with a publisher not DC in part because they were not DC and then found out one day when I felt I was too far along to back out without screwing over all my friends that my projects were part of a big sale to DC, I would suspect that company of bugging my phone and poisoning my water. If I had had the subsequent experience of being promised certain protections from aspects of DC editorial and then that falling through in absolutely pathetic and super-aggravating fashion over the stupidest of nonsense, I wouldn’t trust them to keep their word on a single damn thing. And that’s just one set of experiences for Moore when it comes to DC. People get more worked up in many industries when someone bogarts their parking space or makes them turn down a paid-for week in Disney World than Moore does here about 25 years of systemic dickery.
Then, in response, T. Campbell argued that Alan Moore should be mocked.
I agree that throwing up our hands and saying “Alan Moore is crazy” does a disservice to Moore, and much more importantly, to the issues raised in his interview and the meta-issue of how a creative person should conduct himself in public. Unfortunately, that denies him the insanity defense, which could be a useful excuse when he airily dismisses both his old friends (ex-friends?) and every comics writer in the new generation, whose work he hasn’t read.
Your argument that other people are crankier with less justification seems a bit desperate. Other people are serial ax murderers; that doesn’t mean we need to set the bar of acceptable behavior low enough to make one-time-only murder okay. Yes, we have all had bad-tempered moments, but the reason comics people care about Moore’s behavior in the first place is that his talent and career have made him a role model. And when role models fail, we should pay attention, because what happened to them could happen to us.
No one’s even mentioned that Moore has also airily dismissed the entire medium of film, several times, but oh it turns out he really just meant all the films that are playing now, which he hasn’t seen, and please won’t you watch his new film project which gets it all right?
Campbell also says:
I’ve never entirely understood the comics community’s addiction to tales of corporate betrayal. When an boulder doesn’t fall on you immediately, but waits for a few minutes and then falls on you, is that a “betrayal?” Because it seems to me that corporations in general don’t have a set of values to betray. They like money. That’s all there is to it. They pursue ethical behavior when it is profitable for them to do so, and individuals at the company are sometimes moral people, but a company is about as moral as a boulder, because it is a group of people with sometimes-conflicting values and opinions brought together by common profit. The basic failure to understand this, the continued attempt to anthropomorphize companies as if they were individuals you could trust or talk to, strikes me as a common failing of the artistic imagination.
Tom Spurgeon supplies an able rebuttal, with which I pretty much agree. I wanted to point out a couple of things from a slightly different angle, though.
First of all, Campbell suggests that Alan Moore is crazy. His primary evidence for this is that Moore dismisses old friends, dimisses comics writers in the current generation whose work he hasn’t read, and dismisses today’s films without having seen many of them. This is not how a “creative person should conduct himself in public.”
One does wonder which creative persons Campbell is thinking about precisely. Not Kanye West or David Boreanaz, I take it — or even Lady Gaga, presumably. Really, is there anybody out there who expects creative people to be beacons of propriety? I thought the expectation was that, on the contrary, creative people would be unpredictable and sometimes not especially nice, what with the driving ambition and the money and the fame and all. Hasn’t Campbell ever seen Behind the Music?
Anyway, while he’s no Varg Vikernes, it’s true that in his own small way Moore is a crank, and from all appearances a very difficult person to deal with. He believes he’s an actual wizard, for goodness sake. His habit of dropping friends is infamous, and he talks smack about his co-creators in public like he’s a rock star rather than a comic book writer. He lived in a polyamorous relationship for some time, and he writes underage pornography and even uses his real name while doing it. He’s a big, dirty hippie with a strong conviction of his own genius, and he’s a lot weirder than the average comics creator or fan. This is not news to even a small degree. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that Moore’s highly unusual career, including its very substantial achievements, probably has something to do with the fact that he comes at comics from an idiosyncratic perspective.
But — how idiosyncratic is it, really, to sneer at contemporary film without really being especially up on it? Or how weird is it to say, “comics today suck” without having read a ton of them? People do that sort of thing all the time. And there’s no reason not to, is there? If you disagree, you disagree, if you agree, you agree. He’s shooting the shit, the way most people do when they talk about art. What’s the harm?
Campbell actually explains the harm in a second post.
Bottom line: I don’t see how there is anything “reasonable” about dismissing large bodies of work, and indeed entire media, that one claims not to have consumed. I can’t help but see a parallel between that kind of closed-mindedness and the closed-mindedness that keeps many people from reading comics.
“The closed-mindedness that keeps many people from reading comics.” It’s the ultimate insidery comics insult. You’re one of *them*, Alan! One of those evil people who doesn’t want to read comics, who thinks we’re a bunch of juvenile morons who don’t know that underwear is worn on the inside! Traitor! Traitor! Traitor!
The main infraction, the “bottom line” that makes Moore not “rational” is the fact that he basically doesn’t give a shit about the stuff he’s supposed to give a shit about. He doesn’t want to read contemporary comics; he doesn’t want to go to the movies. He just wants to crankily complain about them. He’s dipped his toe in once or twice at some point, presumably, he discovered he didn’t like it, and, instead of gripping tighter and tighter in nostalgic ecstasy while searching, searching, searching for the one piece of gold amidst the variant covers, he just said “fuck it.” He’s (gasp!) not a fan. And we all know that if you’re not a fan, you must be insane. And also a bad person. QED.
What’s especially interesting about this is that Moore’s criticism of the comics industry’s practices and creativity is actually tied to fannishness as well. Moore basically argues that DC is screwing him over in substantial part because they’re not creative; they just want to keep recycling the same old properties rather than coming up with something new.
This recycling is, of course, at the center of the current mainstream comics industry. Moore has, more than anyone, shown that said recycling can actually be creative and exciting. But for all his magic, he’s never been able to convince fans of that old dictum, “it’s the singer, not the song.” The mainstream audience remains much more interested in the old moldering properties than it does in the creators who reanimate them. And mainstream companies remain much more interested in what to do next with Batman than they are with what to do next with Alan Moore.
This is why Campbell’s pragmatic ode to the unculpability of corporations rather elaborately misses the point. Tom Spurgeon points out that, “Both DC Comics and Drawn and Quarterly are companies, but one has a mixed record when it comes to how it exploits people and one has an exemplary record,” which is true, but even that’s not exactly the issue. Rather, the issue is that mainstream companies act the way they do because of their history and because of their relationship with their readers and their creators. The music industry is a bastion of nightmarish evil, but they wouldn’t have fucked over Alan Moore in the particular way DC fucked over Alan Moore because you don’t treat creative talent that way in the music industry. And you don’t treat creative talent that way because the creators are more important than any individual thing they create. Fans pay attention to the creators; they care about the creators, not the individual album or the character. Beyonce can make up an alter-ego named Sasha Fierce for one album, but no industry exec is coming along to say, you know, we’re going to take this character and have it record polkas whether you want us to or or not. They don’t do that because it would be fucking ridiculous, and fans wouldn’t stand for it. But DC does it to Alan Moore and fans not only eat it up, they sneer at the man himself when he dares to suggest that the folks they plan to get to write the polkas are soulless, talentless hacks. (Moore even seems to be dissing Grant Morrison! Sacrilege!)
Tom writes that, “I think a lot of this comes down to the fact that for whatever reason, Alan Moore didn’t conduct himself in a way that suited comics fans.” I think that’s right, and I think the reason it didn’t suit comics fans is pretty clear. Namely, it didn’t suit comics fans because Moore is declaring that he is not one of the club. Further, he is declaring that the club screwed him over. His work has been bastardized and his pocket picked precisely because of the insularity, backwardness, and lack of creativity of mainstream companies, mainstream creators, and mainstream fans.
And how do the fans reply to this accusation? By declaring — Fuck you, you dirty hippie, you don’t even read Batman, why should I care what you think? And, oh yeah, how dare you be paranoid or bitter, huh? If you can’t smile and cheer for the latest crossover, then just take your beard and your polyamory and go suck on a snake demon or something.
But, hey, leave those IPs behind when you leave, damn it. I need a Rorschach plush toy for Christmas.