Anyone who knows comics knows that Alan Moore is both a genius and a madman, and that the increasingly eccentric, celebrated graphic novelist is cantankerous to the Nth degree about his work being made into films.
So it should be interesting to hear what he has to say about the recent news from Deadline that FX is busy developing a series based on From Hell, Moore's groundbreaking graphic novel that was turned into the 2001 film of the same name starring Johnny Depp (back before he, too, had also gone more than a little off his rocker).
The entire graphic novel is a holy-shit-that's-long 572 pages, and due to being unable to adapt that behemoth into 2 hours for a movie, the film adaptation ended up vastly differing from the original source material. But series executive producer, Don Murphy (who also produced the film), hopes that the space and flexibility of a television series will remedy that, with David Arata (Children of Men) penning the script.
So if we're getting a series that should be much truer to the graphic novel...what is it about, exactly? And what might we see in the TV series?
It's based on a conspiracy theory about Jack the Ripper
From Hell is based on the Whitechapel murders of Jack the Ripper, but it's based just as much on author Stephen Knight's theory (which has been debunked quite a few times since) that the murderous spree of Jack the Ripper was part of a conspiracy to cover up the birth of an illegitimate child by Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence.
According to the graphic novel, Clarence, in disguise as a commoner, fathered a baby with shop girl Annie Crook. Queen Victoria herself has Annie committed to an asylum, the baby sent off to live with Crook's parents, and all seems resolved. Until Annie's prostitute friends, who know the truth, start gossiping. So Queen Victoria enlists the help of royal physician, Sir William Gull, to have the women murdered in order to silence them.
BRILLIANT. Except for the, er...murder bit. But expect to see a crazy plotline that involves multiple characters, intrigue involving the royal family, and murder most foul.
It's also about Freemasons, the Illuminati, and transcendental philosophy
I wasn't joking when I said Moore is brilliant, but off his rocker. He's long been fascinated with alternative religions, philosophies, and conspiracy theories, and those are all a part of From Hell. Gull justifies his horrific crimes as them being a Masonic warning to a secret Illuminati threat to the throne, and that they are also parts of a lengthy ritual of mysticism to ensure that males will continue to societally dominate women because...reasons. Psycho nutjob reasons.
Gull also has moments while committing the murders that he sees as transcendent, psychic visions and, just before his death, he has a lengthy mystical experience in which his spirit travels through time and sees the future. His spirit's last, culminating act is to "become God."
Whether or not this more-than-slightly bonkers aspect of the graphic novel will make it into the TV series or not remains to be seen. It would provide a really interesting thematic element, but it would be incredibly difficult to pull off without it being just. too. much.
The graphic novel included over 40 pages of notes and references
You didn't read that wrong. One of the things that made From Hell so incredible was the heavy historical research that Moore and artist Eddie Campbell put into the story. Going one step further, Moore included an appendix that was over forty pages long in which he included much of his research notes and his personal thoughts about the subject matter.
FX has a track record of making some really solid shows, but imagine what they could with From Hell if it's as steeped in historical accuracy and details as other shows like, say, [Peaky Blinders](series:1241450) (best show you're not watching, by the way) or [The Knick](series:968791).
So far, adaptations of Moore's work have been...middling to awful, to say the least. But perhaps that's because they've all been film adaptations, and what makes Moore's graphic novels so iconic and revolutionary are all the layered themes they include. The very brevity of a movie doesn't give enough time to even begin to explore all of the concepts that Moore's works touch upon.
Perhaps a television series, where these ideas and characters are allowed to develop at a slower pace to a deeper effect, will be the thing for audiences to finally appreciate Moore's work in a different medium.