Used to be, I was in awe of Alan Moore's work. Seminal pieces of literature like V For Vendetta and Watchmen were required reading-- and still are-- for any discerning comic book aficionado. For all his ups and downs as a writer and as a character caught up in his own fiction, Moore was a magnet for good story-telling, and his work has influenced that of dozens since.
Personally, I own a score of his work. You have to, like I said. There are rules. My copy of Watchmen is well thumbed and worn. The sign of a truly enjoyable read (or one that aggravates and angers, but I digress). I'm not going to lay into the storytelling of Moore, I couldn't possibly, he's a great storyteller when he's On, and even when he's Off, he's still majestic with his words. But something has really come to my attention in the past year, and it's caused me to be disgusted by his work.
Alan Moore is past his prime. His diatribes against the "corrupt" comic book industry he continues to work within ring more and more hollow as each day passes, and I'm stuck looking at his recent work and wondering why.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was introduced to me by my dad. It was a thinking man's comic book, and it appealed to his literary sensibilities, and it would serve to act as a bridge between his childhood and my own. My dad, he read comics when he was young, Hotspur, Eagle, the big British war comics of their day. He was the one who introduced me to comic book and so I owe him a lot. LoEG bought us together with our joint anticipation and expectation for the next issue/collection. Volume One was amazing, an action packed tour de force with winks and nods for those who could recognise them. Volume Two was darker, dangerous, but still an amazing read. Then came The Black Dossier and then... and then...
Alan Moore vanished up his own arse.
LoEG became a superbly/poorly tacked together narrative with constant asides to things that didn't really add anything to the overall arc of the story. Maybe it's my naivety, maybe it's my lack of knowledge, but there's references, callbacks, there are winks and nods like I said, but then there's plumbing the depth of the literary world until you're in the darkest, deepest recesses... and then keeping the casual reader completely in the dark as you tell your story.
Don't get me wrong, my problem isn't with LoEG being too smart. I loved the references, but Alan Moore's dance around copyright and his knowing looks to the reader have become a pantomime that I don't really want to take part in, but am forced to due to a-- perhaps ill-placed-- nostalgia for the project.
I love the overall arc. It's great. It's British. It resonates with me and the collective consciousness that I am part of. It typifies the source of inspiration for scores of my inspirations. But there are certain storytelling tics I've begun to notice in Moore's work that scupper my enjoyment.
Mainly, Alan Moore's use of rape as a story telling tool has disgusted me and I won't have it anymore.
Specifically, Moore's apparent hatred of women has ruined my enjoyment of his work to such a degree that I, the consummate collector, have holes in my collection because of it. Moore's work offends me.
It should have dawned on me first when I read Volume Two of LoEG. The Invisible Man's brutal attack on Mina Murray was horrible. Disgusting. I shrugged it off, because I hadn't begun to see the pattern but then in The Black Dossier, Jimmy [Bond] is casually going to sodomise and rape Murray. Then Jimmy goes on to effectively promise Bulldog Drummond that he's going to do the same thing to Emma [Peel]. The latter is a stretch of what I started to notice but bear with me.
This is where it became apparent to me. In Century 1910 Captain Nemo's daughter Janni is gang-raped casually. In Century 1969, Mina is molested while unconscious, and then carted away to a mental asylum. These are massive set pieces for Moore! Whole stretches of narrative are transposed onto these events, depicting starkly by Kevin O'Neil's art.
In October of 2010, I had the opportunity to go to New York Comic Con, and it was brilliant. I spoke to Mike Wolfer at the Avatar Booth, and he was just so kind and great that it really made the day for me. At the Avatar Booth, I purchased Neonomicon #2, Alan Moore's latest comic book project (yet another after he declared his leaving the medium...). I owned #1, and it was okay, it was interesting. Vicious and nasty but with an interesting story behind it, that I can deal with. But in #2, the main character is taken captive, raped, and then is left to a Cthulhulian nightmare for more sexual depravity. I didn't pick up the next issue. Enough was enough for me.
Maybe I'm being too sensitive. Maybe I've developed some double standard. I can deal with violence generally but the fact that Moore's projects are riddled with these horrible events of violence against women... it's become too much for me. How am I supposed to enjoy a body of work that I share with my father when I have to skip over pages and pages of story. I want to enjoy his work, truly, but I don't think I have it in me to forgive him for these objectionable choices now. Before, I could forgive him because he was the best, but I don't have to forgive him anymore. I've surpassed that "expectation". Ask me a good gateway comic and I don't have to name Moore's work anymore. I don't have to go to that obvious well of choices. I can show you Starman or Secret Six or Love and Rockets or countless others.
I wish that Alan Moore would stop inflicting his brand of weird hate on me, and, if he truly hates comics, stop developing them. You might disagree. You might think I'm being too drastic. But there comes a time when we have to say no to the way certain things are depicted in a medium. DC have got in trouble recently because of their complete lack of female characters and female creators involved in their new relaunch. We have a phenom known as "Women In Refrigerators" that tracks all the female characters in comics murdered (named for the way in which the 90s Green Lantern's girlfriend was killed and stuffed... in a refrigerator) and we accept it, because it's become part of the comic Zeitgeist like thought balloons have been removed from it.
Is it wrong that I want optimism? No. And luckily, I have a score of titles to choose from now that give me an option out of the situation I've become trapped in. I want "the greatest comic book writer ever" to not be a complete and utter woman-hater.
Like I said, I might be exaggerating. And I don't truly think Alan Moore hates women. I just wish that his work didn't make that frame of mind so hard to keep. I'll always have Tom Strong or Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow? to remind me of the days when I wasn't ashamed to read Alan Moore's work. That's something, at least.