Eccentric is certainly the easiest descriptor for Alan Moore, a man who has had a huge impact on storytelling within the #comic book industry since the 1980s. Moore, a tall, bearded magician (and I didn't make that last one up) with rings adorned on each finger, is now an award-winning household name. Moore penned numerous critically acclaimed graphic novels such as Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Swamp Thing and From Hell. With a portfolio like that, it's no surprise that Alan Moore has had such a huge impact over the years. His work often challenges readers and goes deeper than the average read. As we examine his achievements, it's important to delve into Moore's inner workings to discover why he is undeniably one of the most important graphic novel writers of our time.
Comic Books in the '80s: A New Audience for Adult-Appropriate Content
During the '80s #Marvel and #DC were dominating the shelves with the likes of the Avengers and Action Comics. Comic book readers from the '70s were now growing up, meaning they could now be targeted towards teenagers - with some titles moving away from the wacky antics that had driven comics for the last decade. During the '80s, infamous comic stories such as Marvel's 'The Dark Phoenix' (1980) and 'Days of Future Past' (1981) sat on the shelves instead, and as the titles suggested, these stories were darker and more mature.
Along with an aging audience, much of this new approach to darker narratives can be attributed to the work of Alan Moore, who is largely credited for revamping the way graphic novels were constructed for an older audience. For example, Moore's 1988 one-shot comic The Killing Joke broke a traditional trope of hoaxing a character's death on a comic's cover. The death of Jason Todd, better known as Robin, was as brutal as it was provocative.
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Alan Moore dug deep into the colorful comic book pages prevalent in his youth and dragged them out into a darker, grittier, adult themed world. Before the '80s were over, the industry itself would take note and follow in his footsteps.
Watchmen: An Uglier Side of the 'Hero' and Superhero Tropes
Nowhere is Moore's influence on darker narratives more evident than in one of his most recognizable graphic novel series, #Watchmen (1986). Behind the colorful cast of superhero themed characters stood a politically charged story that reflected the real ongoing tension at the peak of the cold war during the 1980s.
Gone were the tried and true, the morally just heroes that graced the covers of action comics. Instead, Moore took superhero tropes and used them to display an uglier side of the "hero"; a morally ambiguous, fallible but ultimately more human hero. Watchmen became one of the bestselling graphic novels of all time and won Alan numerous awards, including the Eisner Award for 'Best Writer'. Watchmen would eventually be listed in Time's list of 100 best novels and Moore would go on to bring this break from the monotony into many other graphic novels.
Watchmen presented an opportunity for Moore to tell a complex, meaningful story with layers and multiple interpretations. He would refer to much of his graphic novels and #comicbooks as being purposely written to be unfilmable. Though this remained true for quite some time, numerous movie iterations of some of his works would come to fruition, raising further awareness of his work. However, no adaptation could truly capture the complex over and undertones present in his work, proving the graphic novel to be the perfect storytelling artform for his style.
V For Anarchy: The Societal Impact of 'V For Vendetta'
"I'll write like I'm trying to get sacked", words from Alan Moore that presented the realm of anarchy that he so greatly identified with. Evident throughout much of his work, Moore always looks for ways to push the boundaries within his own domain. For example, anarchy is a focal driving point in the graphic novel, V for Vendetta (1988).
Set in the dystopian city of London circa 1997, where fascism reigns supreme, the enigmatic, titular protagonist known only as 'V' emerges. V, sporting a Guy Fawkes inspired mask (a further allusion to anarchism) sparks an anarchist revolutionary against the London ruling parties in a bid to destabilize fascism.
The titular protagonist is like the cast of Watchmen, morally ambiguous, relying more upon the reader's own interpretation of the character and his mantra. In true anarchist fashion, it is ultimately up to you, the reader, to draw a conclusion.
Since its release in 1988, #VforVendetta has had a huge impact on today's society - for better or worse. The guy Fawkes mask seen in Moore's work is now used globally as a sign of protest, perhaps most notably by the 'Hacktivist' organization, 'Anonymous'. The organization notoriously use the Guy Fawkes mask from Moore's graphic novel and, just like with the protagonist V, it's up to you to decide whether their cause is just or not. The influence and increased use of the Fawkes mask just goes to show how Moore's work has influenced our society to an extent that is arguably unrivaled by any other graphic novelist.
Subverting Horror Myth: A Lovecraftian Affair
Horror is a genre that Moore, as you can imagine, fits snugly within. Though he never let genre constrain him, Moore has contributed to the horror genre with several graphic novels, some of which were famously based on Lovecraft's universe. With titles such as Neonomicon and From Hell, Moore's impact on the horror genre is a reflection of his unflinching ability to be bold.
Moore has frequently taken myths and legends to use as the basis of his stories. From Hell focused on the infamous case of Jack the Ripper and the possible conspiracies behind it. Whether the crux of the horror was human or monster, the fear came almost always from a human element; Neonomicon features a single inhuman creature among a cast of human characters. However, the creature is certainly not the only "monster" depicted in the graphic novel.
Throughout his career, Alan Moore has shown a masterful ability to force the reader to confront the taboo and what makes them uncomfortable and in a compelling manner. This is something that has made him one of the greatest graphic novel authors. As Moore retires from the industry that made him famous, the impact of his work will still be felt for decades to come.
Alan Moore's latest work, 'Jerusalem', has been described as a "sprawling new epic" and is available worldwide.
This article was selected to be part of the Creators.co fanzine, Graphic Novels: The Breakthrough Medium That Revolutionized Storytelling.