Friday, November 14, 2008


To the uninitiated, I apologize. To my fellow defenders of the geek faith, I apologize even more. I'm here to tell you about the highlight of my month. Probably longer. I just met Alan Moore. I spoke to him. He spoke back. He signed my copy of Watchmen, and he took a picture with me. Afterwards, I walked out of the Victoria and Albert Museum in downtown London where he was taking part in a forum as part of what they're calling Comica, a series of comic book events. Once clear of the building, I jumped up and down, and did a little jig, doing a little dance, making a little love, getting down tonight. Why? Because I just met the greatest graphic novelist of all time, hands down.

The man who tears down every wall and barrier and preconceived notion, bathing it in illumination and fun and intense psychological exploration, and I met him. The man who deconstructed superheroes in the greatest of all graphic novels, Watchmen. The artist who crafted the ultimate battle of anarchism against totalitarianism in V for Vendetta. The genius who took us travelling back through time to the turn of the 20th century and into literary history with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The colossus of a writer who took us down the dark, dank alleyways of London and into the path of the most notorious serial killer of all in time in From Hell.

Let's face it, I'm a fan. I'm a geek, a devoted follower. As I told Mr. Moore, no book has EVER made me think as much as Watchmen, and I do my fair share of thinking. The characters, the story lines, the psychology and action and mystery and excitement and anticipation of it shook me and wrenched me along on a ride through every shade of grade, laying out right and wrong and morality for all the world to see and explore, shaking off all taboos and destroying all hesitation. We see humanity's greatest hopes and fears and the lengths to which we will go to preserve our tiny corner of the world and of our soul, the chances we take and the limits we push. Did I mention I love Watchmen?

The topic of the forum was the graphic novel Moore and his wife and collaborating artist Melinda Gebbie recently produced, Lost Girls. Depicting Alice from Alice in Wonderland, Wendy from Peter Pan and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, Girls continues Moore's trend of deconstruction, analysis and chastisement of trends and genres and facets of society. Don't freak out, but in this case it's an exploration of pornography. Yes, Alan Moore wrote a piece of artful smut, deal with it. While admittedly I haven't read it, I want to, uptight as I may be it sounds like an incredible exploration of how we view erotica. I love the idea of contrasting society's outrage with smut to its seeming acceptance of violence and death, set against the backdrop of World War I.

At the end of the talk, I asked Mr. Moore if he ever considered how a conversation with Lewis Carroll or Bram Stoker would go were they alive for him to ask permission to use their characters in his own stories. In the classic fashion of the man who epitomizes the eccentric hermit artist, Moore replied at length that he simply didn't care, and even if he did, characters of such long ago artists are fair game. With an aura more of normalcy and nonchalance than I would ever expect from a modern day literary genius, he described the numerous instances of authors long before Moore's time, including those whose characters he employs in Lost Girls and League of Extraordinary Gentleman who had themselves used ideas and works by other artists. He finished the justification with the observation that with "all of these people's characters, the authors in some way seem to want to break down the barriers between their different fictions and just have all of their characters in some sort of massive wonderland where they, they all get together."
Of course, not everything is fair game for Moore, especially when asked about the upcoming Watchmen movie. Despite a calm and collected reply, Mr. Moore's words were scathing. The faith in Hollywood that I still struggle to maintain has been completely shattered for Moore, watching his works laid out on the silver screen in a way that he describes as "pathetic loads of vile films." Some would say that he is overreacting, that V and From Hell were spectacular movies that stayed as faithful to Moore's vision as such a transition would allow. I myself am a huge fan of V for Vendetta, but admittedly I have not read the graphic novel and I can only imagine how an artist of Moore's caliber would feel about any deviation from his vision. This is particularly evident in the introduction of Tom Sawyer to what was an entirely British cast of Extraordinary Gentleman and significant watering down to the point where the characters had lost all the moral ambiguity Moore had meant for them to have.
And so we come to my own lingering question. Do I still have faith in Hollywood? One of the closest things I have to an idol does not, but then I was never one for role models. My own cynicism is not that far off from Moore's, yet still there is a little boy deep inside who longs to leap onto the stage and into the screen, confident that next time they'll get it right, just one more movie and they'll see the light. Zack Snyder has reportedly changed the ending to Watchmen, a frightening prospect. Yet he has in every instance that I've heard, touted himself as a longtime fan of Moore's work and as a devoted filmmaker intent on producing as close a likeness as the constraints of two and a half hours will allow when making a graphic novel come to life that took me an entire week to read. Moore let go a long time ago, I still dangle from the ledge, praying that if anyone is to faithfully adapt one of the greatest works of literature of the last 30 years, it is the man who brought Leonidas and his Spartan guard roaring to life with all the glory imaginable.

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