The Mind of Alan Moore

Sep. 8, 2008
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Alan Moore is probably bemused, even a bit amused, by the legal problems surrounding next year’s scheduled release of Watchmen, the film based on his 1980s graphic novel. Seems that 20th Century Fox is suing Warner Brothers over who owns which slice of the movie rights.

Moore has been largely disdainful of previous efforts by Hollywood to adapt his graphic novels, a remarkable catalog that includes V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell. In the fascinating documentary The Mindscape of Alan Moore, out on DVD, Moore is also disdainful of the term graphic novel, calling it the invention of someone in a marketing department somewhere. He’s probably right, as he is about many things.

One of the problems with Moore and movies is that his writings (he usually collaborates with graphic artists) are so invested in being comic books, in playing off the medium’s particular strengths, that to fans (and probably to himself), his books will always be better.

Moore speaks of his chosen medium and much else in the series of interviews conducted and visualized by filmmaker DeZ Vylenz for The Mindscape of Alan Moore. The mere sight of his hirsute visage on camera is startling. Moore is a recluse with definite opinions on the corrosive force of fame. Astutely, he understands celebrity as a commodity, grist for the mills of an increasingly insatiable 24/7 infotainment media. He also sees the pursuit of fame as the postmodern analogue to seeking adventure at sea— one difference being that there are few kind skippers on the ocean of tabloid attention. Moore has chosen to work at the edges of the mainstream, cultivating his vision without distraction while causing ripples in the wider culture.

Occultism is at the root of Moore’s work, an influence often less overt in content than in the careful symmetry and numerological precision of his form. He wraps anti-authoritarian messages in adventure stories that subvert the genre’s conventions, but his deepest preoccupations have to do with the nature of reality itself. Taking a leaf from Aleister Crowley’s book, Moore defines magic as the art and science of manipulating symbols to achieve changes in consciousness. To cast a spell is not unrelated to what we learned in spelling class, he says. Spelling involves manipulating the symbols called letters that are arranged into words. And words have power.

Nothing is disconnected in Moore’s cosmology. The universe is alive, not the place of dead matter postulated by modern science unable to see beyond the tip of its own yardstick. But as he is eager to point out, the newer science of quantum physics and string theory brings postmodern thought closer to the old traditions of Kabbalism and the archetypal shuffle of the Tarot deck. It’s heady material for comic books. But then, in one of the interviews for Mindscape, Moore numbers the desire for entertainment among the debilitating addictions of our age.

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