In 2002, before From Hell came out, he seemed at least at peace with the fact that his novel would be changed in its adaptation for the screen, telling The Guardian, "I haven't seen the From Hell movie yet. I might see it when it comes out on video... I kind of figured from the outset that it wasn't really fair of me to expect the film to be anything like my book. I've tried to keep an emotional distance." However, by the time Watchmen was heading for the screen in 2008, he told the Los Angeles Times that he "will also be spitting venom all over it for months to come." By then, he'd been burned one too many times by the studios over legal issues and disappointment with the final product.
In the same LAT interview, Moore made no bones that he was already fed up with the comic book craze in Hollywood, saying, "There are three or four companies now that exist for the sole purpose of creating not comics, but storyboards for films. It may be true that the only reason the comic book industry now exists is for this purpose, to create characters for movies, board games and other types of merchandise. Comics are just a sort of pumpkin patch growing franchises that might be profitable for the ailing movie industry."
With the ongoing hubbub over The Avengers and other Marvel properties, it's hard not to wonder if Moore has a point about the studios. However, the latest target of Moore's disdain is the superhero. In an interview with The Stool Pigeon (via The Guardian), Moore dismissed the superhero genre in comics and movies and instead expressed admiration for more subversive "urban superheroes."
Interestingly enough, Moore also says, "All these little urban superheroes have copies of Watchmen!" He's speaking more specifically, of course, about protesters who use the Guy Fawkes masks from V for Vendetta to stage protests (such as those in Los Angeles against the Church of Scientology) in anonymity, as well as subversive everyday "superheroes" who might be thought of as more along the lines of culturejammers.
Moore compares the superhero as s/he's portrayed in today's popular comics to "a symbol of American reluctance to involve themselves in any kind of conflict without massive tactical superiority." These all-American heroes are not the kind of superheroes that he was inspired by as a child. "To me, they represented a wellspring of the imagination. Superman had a dog in a cape! He had a city in a bottle! It was wonderful stuff for a seven-year-old boy to think about. But I suspect that a lot of superheroes now are basically about the unfair fight. You know: people wouldn't bully me if I could turn into the Hulk."
His seminal work, Watchmen, was, of course, about superheroes and all their flaws. "Initially Watchmen gained a lot of its readership because it was taking an unusual look at superheroes, but actually it was more about redefining comics than it was about redefining one particular genre... It was intended to be something that expanded the possibilities of comics rather than what it has apparently become -- a massive psychological stumbling block that the rest of the industry has yet to find a way round," he says in the Stool Pigeon interview.
I don't agree with him that "there hasn't been a more sophisticated comic released in the 25 years since [Watchmen]" -- after all, doesn't that dismiss a lot of his own work, as well as other comics like The Sandman, Transmetropolitan, The Invisibles, and many more? I'm not sure I even agree with him about modern superheroes; isn't a great deal of Marvel's Tony Stark appeal that he's an incredibly flawed human whose creations, as powerful as they may be, can be turned against him and used to bully him back? If anything, Iron Man was a critique of American imperialism in its own mainstream way. It seems to me that fans are just as hungry for anti-heroes done right as they are for the latest dazzling comic book flick.
This is an especially interesting conversation to embark upon just before Comic-Con, when countless comic book fans converge on San Diego along with the movie studios showing off their upcoming comic book creations. Do you think Alan Moore knows the score, or is he still venting his bitterness against Hollywood? What's your take on today's superhero craze?