Alan Moore, Comic Books, and Generations

I came across a year old article about Alan Moore, written by Alison Flood in The Gardian. In it, some comments from an interview are quoted. It is supposedly his last interview, so he claims.

My first take was that Alan Moore had become a crotchety old man. For those of us who are male, it is hard to avoid this fate. I’m halfway there myself. The world passes us by, no matter how hard we try to keep up. Growing old and approaching death can put one in a bad mood.

Much of Moore’s commentary comes off as a petty, emotional rant that was fueled by frustration and bitterness. I get it. I could imagine all the critical attention an artist receives could wear a person down after a while. It would be hard to hold it all at arms length and consider it neutrally or just ignore it. I sympathize. Even if he is a crotchety old man, he has every right to be so.

Anyway, his major gripe seems to be the following:

“To my mind, this embracing of what were unambiguously children’s characters at their mid-20th century inception seems to indicate a retreat from the admittedly overwhelming complexities of modern existence […] I would also observe that it is, potentially, culturally catastrophic to have the ephemera of a previous century squatting possessively on the cultural stage and refusing to allow this surely unprecedented era to develop a culture of its own, relevant and sufficient to its times.”

Wasn’t he once a child who innocently loved comic books? He overlooks the fact that these days, just as in the past, most people who read comic books and watch the movies based on them are those on the young end of life, not crotchety old men. He seems to have forgotten what it was like to be a child. I’m sure he read all kinds of cheap entertainment crap as a child, but it drew him into the comic book world and inspired him to try his own hand at the form.

His complaints could also come off as being arrogant and somewhat hypocritical. He is complaining about the very field that made him famous and I’m sure quite wealthy. It’s as if he is arguing that, since his own great accomplishments, there is nothing original left to be done with superheroes. This is naive as well. As I write, there are comic book artists pushing the form in entirely new directions, including in terms of superheroes. Just like Moore and his peers did, every new generation will re-create the entertainment media in entirely new ways with new messages.

Another thing More takes issue with are the accusations that he isn’t being appropriately sensitive to racial and gender issues. He spent his life trying to be a sensitive white male and then many who are younger dare to complain that he isn’t being sensitive enough. His defense for his portrayals of sexual violence toward women is that they aren’t any more overrepresented than are the the acts of non-sexual violence. It doesn’t occur to him that it is problematic that both are being overrepresented, as compared to normal life.

Over at, Shathley Q discusses an entirely different interview with Rob Salkowitz. A useful point is made:

“Rob muses on the idea that there’s always a kind of generational lag in comics. It’s the idea that comics’ fandom shifts generations much earlier than comics’ creators. And that the art isn’t always up-to-speed with the artists.”

That lag time is quite apparent in the case of Alan Moore. Several new generations of new comic book audiences have entered the scene since he started his comic book career. Even younger GenXers were still in their diapers when he published his first work. Generations Z and Y weren’t even in existence yet.

That wasn’t always the case. When Moore was a kid, most comic book artists were barely beyond being kids themselves. Back then, it was a young field, in more ways than one. Comic books were only coming into significant popularity the decade before Moore was born.

It was that popularity that got parents and authority figures so worried. The kind of complaints Moore makes now are reminiscent of the complaints back then. These juvenile entertainments were making their way into mainstream influence. With the rise of youth culture, it was as if the entire society was turning juvenile. It was the rise of youths as a major market force. The Comics Code Authority was established the year after Moore was born. Because of this, the 1960s saw the rise of underground culture, including new comic books avoiding censorship.

Another angle to consider is to the earlier context of comic book violence, including sexual violence. The early critics were particularly irate by the violence-and-sex-obsessed nature of the medium, and their criticisms certainly weren’t based on feminism. It is interesting that even, though Moore complained about people holding onto the established comic book superheroes, he defends his own use of that old school comic book sexual violence. Why does he criticize others for the former while defending the latter against the critics who he sees as attacking him? It is strange how strong an argument he makes for his right, almost moral obligation as he states it, to portray sexual violence. He apparently is quite attached to it.

Those are just some semi-random thoughts. My main interest was how generational experience might have shaped some of Moore’s opinions. He was a Boomer, the early popular comic book artists were GIs and Silents, and in recent decades new generations of comic book fans have become artists in their own right. A lot has changed over that time. Moore seems to have an uncertain relationship to that change, embracing it in some ways and demanding even greater change, while in other ways still being stuck in an old mentality.

4 thoughts on “Alan Moore, Comic Books, and Generations

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