Alan Moore

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Alan Moore

Alan Moore (born November 18, 1953, in Northampton, England) is a British writer most famous for his work in comics. He is the co-creator of comic books such as Watchmen, V for Vendetta and From Hell.

Moore is renowned for bringing mature, literary sensibilities to a medium often dismissed as juvenile and trivial. As well as including adult themes and challenging subjects (issue #9 of Miracleman included a graphic depiction of a natural childbirth), he also experiments with the form of comics, employing effects unique to the medium, and creating different ways to combine text and image. He brings a wide range of influences to his work, including Michael Moorcock and other authors of the New Wave of science fiction, horror writers like Clive Barker, more mainstream literary authors such as William S. Burroughs, Thomas Pynchon and Iain Sinclair, and film-editing techniques from the work of directors like Nicolas Roeg. Comics artist Bryan Talbot, whose The Adventures of Luther Arkwright anticipated the adult comics movement, is also undoubtedly a major influence.

Moore is also a practising magician, having become a gnostic in the mid-1990s, and part of a performance art group, the Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels. Two of their pieces, The Birth Caul and Snakes and Ladders, have been adapted for comics by Eddie Campbell. He has written a novel, Voice of the Fire, a set of short stories about linked events in his home-town of Northampton through the centuries, from the Bronze Age to the present day.

He has written one screenplay, the unmade Fashion Beast, a recreation of Beauty and the Beast commissioned by Malcolm McLaren. Two of his comics, From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, have been made into Hollywood movies, but Moore has been disappointed by the adaptations and refused to accept any money for any future film adaptations of his work. Nonetheless, a film of V for Vendetta is in development, written by the Wachowski brothers and starring Natalie Portman. Again, Moore requested that his name not be associated with the film. After a press release falsely reported that Moore supported the film, Moore cut all of his ties with DC, removing the last project he had with the company, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, from their lineup.

A tribute and in depth biography of Alan Moore in his Fiftieth Year entitled Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman is available from most comics stores. All proceeds of this publication will go to charity.

Alan Moore is blind in one eye, and deaf in one ear.




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Cover art for the collected edition of V for Vendetta by David Lloyd

Early work

Moore began his career in the late 1970s as a cartoonist, drawing underground-style strips for music magazines like Sounds and the NME under the pseudonym Curt Vile, sometimes in collaboration with his friend Steve Moore (no relation), and a regular strip, Maxwell the Magic Cat, under the pseudonym Jill de Ray, for the Northants Post newspaper.

Deciding he could not make a living as an artist, he concentrated on writing, providing scripts for Marvel UK, 2000 AD and Warrior. At Marvel he wrote short strips for Doctor Who Magazine and Star Wars Weekly before beginning a celebrated run on Captain Britain with artist Alan Davis, running in a variety of Marvel UK publications. At 2000 AD he started by writing one-off Future Shocks and Time Twisters, moving on to series such as Skizz (E.T. as written by Alan Bleasdale, with Jim Baikie), D.R. and Quinch (a sci-fi take on National Lampoon's characters O.C. and Stiggs, with Davis) and The Ballad of Halo Jones (the first series in the comic to be based around a female character, with Ian Gibson). The last two proved amongst the most popular strips to appear in 2000 AD but Moore became increasingly concerned at his lack of creator's rights, and in 1986 stopped writing for 2000 AD, leaving the Halo Jones story incomplete.

His most eye-catching work was for Warrior, where he wrote Marvelman, a radical re-imagining of a forgotten 1950s superhero drawn by Garry Leach and Alan Davis; V for Vendetta, a dystopian pulp adventure about a flamboyant anarchist terrorist who dresses as Guy Fawkes and fights a future fascist government, illustrated in stark chiaroscuro by David Lloyd; and The Bojeffries Saga, a comedy about a working-class English family of vampires and werewolves, drawn by Steve Parkhouse.

Warrior closed before these stories were completed, but he was able to continue them all elsewhere.

The American mainstream

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Moore's British work brought him to the attention of DC Comics editor Len Wein, who hired him in 1983 to write Swamp Thing, then a fairly formulaic monster comic, and also the poorest selling of DC's titles. Moore, along with artists Stephen R. Bissette, Rick Veitch and John Totleben, deconstructed and rebuilt the character from the ground up, writing a series of formally experimental stories that addressed environmental and social issues alongside the horror and fantasy.

Moore wrote a number of stories for DC, including the short Batman graphic novel The Killing Joke (with artist Brian Bolland) and a handful of acclaimed Superman stories, but it was with the limited series Watchmen, begun in 1986 and collected as a graphic novel in 1987, that he really cemented his reputation. Imagining what the world would be like if superheroes had really existed since the 40s, Moore and artist Dave Gibbons created a twisted Cold War mystery in which the heroes are variously neurotic, amoral, sexually dysfunctional and borderline fascist. Watchmen is formally ambitious, densely written, intricately constructed, non-linear and told from multiple points of view, and is a rare example of a "graphic novel" that in its scope and depth can be genuinely considered a novel in comics form.

Alongside roughly contemporaneous work such as Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, Art Spiegelman's Maus and Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez's Love and Rockets, Watchmen was part of a late 1980s trend towards comics with more adult sensibilities. Moore briefly became a media celebrity, and the resulting attention led to him withdrawing from fandom and no longer attending comics conventions (at one such convention he is said to have been followed into the toilet by eager autograph hunters).

Marvelman was reprinted and continued for the American market as Miracleman, published by independent publisher Eclipse Comics. The change of name was prompted by Marvel Comics' complaints of possible trademark infringement. Despite copyright disputes with artists and allegations of non-payment against the publisher, Moore, with artists Chuck Austen, Rick Veitch and John Totleben, finished the story he wanted to tell and handed the character to writer Neil Gaiman and artist Mark Buckingham to continue. The legal ownership of the character continues to be rather murky.

Moore and Lloyd took V for Vendetta to DC, where it was reprinted and completed in full colour and released as a graphic novel. However Moore fell out with DC over a proposed age-rating system similar to those used for films, and he stopped working for them after completing V for Vendetta in 1989.

The independent period

A variety of projects followed, including Brought to Light, a history of CIA covert operations with illustrator Bill Sienkiewicz, and an anthology, AARGH (Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia) campaigning against anti-homosexual legislation, which Moore published himself through his newly-formed publishing company, Mad Love.

After prompting by cartoonist and self-publishing advocate Dave Sim, Moore then used Mad Love to publish his next project, Big Numbers, a proposed 12-issue series set in contemporary Britain and based on chaos theory and the mathematical ideas of Benoît Mandelbrot. Bill Sienkiewicz illustrated in an intense, painted style but the workload became too much for him after only two issues. His assistant Al Columbia took over and painted a third, which never saw print, and the series was abandoned. Mad Love was financially wiped out.

Moore contributed two serials to the horror anthology Taboo, edited by Stephen R Bissette. From Hell examined the Jack the Ripper murders as a microcosm of the 1880s, and the 1880s as the root of the 20th Century. Illustrated in an appropriately sooty pen and ink style by Eddie Campbell, From Hell took nearly ten years to complete, outlasting Taboo and going through two more publishers before being collected as a graphic novel by Eddie Campbell Comics. Lost Girls, with artist Melinda Gebbie, is an erotic series decoding the sexual meanings in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Peter Pan and The Wizard of Oz. A collected edition is apparently imminent.

He also wrote a graphic novel for Victor Gollancz Ltd, A Small Killing, illustrated by Oscar Zarate, about a once idealistic advertising executive haunted by his boyhood self.

Return to the mainstream

After several years out of the mainstream Moore worked his way back into superhero comics by writing several series for Image Comics and the companies that later broke away from it. He felt that his influence on comics had in many ways been detrimental. Instead of taking inspiration from the more innovative aspects of his work, creators who followed him had merely imitated the violence and grimness. As a reaction against the superhero genre's abandonment of its innocence, Moore and artists Stephen R. Bissette, Rick Veitch and John Totleben conceived 1963, a series of comics pastiching Marvel's early output.

Tapping into the early issues of Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Captain America, and the Avengers, Moore wrote the comics according to the styles of the time, including the period's sexism and pro-capitalist propaganda that, though played seriously, appeared quaint to a 90s audience. There was also a large streak of self-promotion, a satire of the bombastic Marvel editorial columns and policies of Stan Lee.

The series was to have concluded with an annual in which the heroes travel to the 90's era to meet the prototypical grim, ultra-violent Image Comics characters. The 60's heroes would have been shocked at their descendants, even the change in art from four colors to gray shading would have been commented upon. Although Moore had gotten a number of pages into the annual, the splitting up of the Image partners spelled the end of the project. There has been some talk recently of a possible concluding chapter, re-conceived as more contemporary commentary.

Following 1963, Moore worked on Jim Lee's WildC.A.T.s and a number of Rob Liefeld's titles, including Supreme, Youngblood and Glory, retooling sometimes rudimentary and derivative characters and settings into more viable series. In Moore's hands Supreme became an inventive post-modern homage to superhero comics from the 1940s on, and the Superman comics of the Mort Weisinger era in particular.

America's Best Comics

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Cover art for the collected edition of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Kevin O'Neill

After working on Jim Lee's comic WildC.A.T.s, Moore created the ABC (America's Best Comics) line, an entirely new group of characters to be published by Lee's company Wildstorm. Before publication, however, Lee sold Wildstorm to DC, and Moore found himself in the uncomfortable position of working for DC again. The line included:

Major works

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Cover art for Miracleman #3 by Howard Chaykin


Main article: Miracleman

Moore resurrected Marvelman, an obscure British comic which was a thinly disguised ripoff of the American superhero Captain Marvel. The strip, which ran from 1953 to 1963, followed the adventures of Micky Moran, a young boy who was given the power to become a full grown superhero by a recluse astro-scientist who discovered the secret "key harmonic" of the universe. The strip, which maintained a childish innocence and purity, has the distinction of being the first British superhero comic.

In Moore's revival, begun in 1982, the now adult "Mike" Moran is a married journalist with no memory of his former life as a superhero. Caught in the middle of a hostage situation, he remembers the key word "Kimota" and becomes Marvelman once more. But the world does not remember him, and the simple morality of his former life no longer seems to apply. Mike begins a search for the answers to his past, which involves a secret government conspiracy and technology reverse-engineered from a crashed alien spacecraft.

After Warrior closed, Marvelman was reprinted and continued at Eclipse Comics, renamed "Miracleman" due to a trademark dispute with Marvel Comics. After disposing of the conspiracy that created him, Miracleman faced his former sidekick in a battle that devastated London, and ultimately used his god-like power to overthrow the governments of the world and institute an uneasy utopia under his rule.

Miracleman is an early example of post-modernism in superhero comics, and has a strong theme of loss of innocence. Another key idea is that the existence of a superhero would change the world radically, something Moore would return to in Watchmen.

V for Vendetta

Main article: V for Vendetta

Moore's original strip for the British Warrior comic was designed as an homage to the spirit of the British Boys Adventure comics of the 1950s and 60s as well as referencing literary sources such as George Orwell and the libertarianism of William Blake. The title character "V" appears at first to be a modern Robin Hood figure righting wrongs in a corrupt Fascist Britain of the Future, but as the story develops becomes more sinister. Moore's writing in 'V' continually challenges the assumption of moral absolutism.

Though set in the year 1997 the strip captures the feel of life in Britain in the early 1980s with economic decline and a perpetual drift to the right in national politics. In the strip Moore also innovated for comics the use of the literary device of intertextuality, with V's speech often made up of extended quotes and references that are not cited. Moore also makes extensive use in 'Vendetta' for the first time of the technique that became his motif: using secondary characters to carry forward plot development or elicit background details.

Swamp Thing

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Cover of Swamp Thing #21, "The Anatomy Lesson"; art by Tom Yeates
Main article: Swamp Thing

Possibly worried about the mature elements of Moore's work -- for example, an issue of Miracleman graphically depicted childbirth -- DC hired Moore to work on a fairly unpopular character distanced from their superhero line. But Swamp Thing, a title starring a man turned into a vegetable monster by an experimental plant growth formula, was soon given an Alan Moore twist.

In Moore's second issue, "The Anatomy Lesson", the title character is shot and dissected by a scientist. The scientist soon concludes that Swamp Thing is a superficial imitation of a man, his lungs cannot pump air, his brain does not contain neurons. He concludes that the swamp creature is a plant which had absorbed the memories and imitated the life of a dead man; Swamp Thing was never human. The initial shock to his sense of identity led the character to embrace his identity as a plant, discovering new abilities and becoming less a "muck-encrusted mockery of a man" than a virtual vegetation deity.

Many of Moore's stories dealt with social ills as seen through horror metaphors. Sexual discrimination, racism, violence, fear of nuclear energy, and pollution are all themes addressed in his work. The series was formally ambitious, using unusual story structures and experimenting with different ways to combine text and image for narrative effect. The slow, languorous pace of Steve Bissette's layouts, the intricate textures of John Totleben's inks, and Tatjana Wood's imaginative and atmospheric use of colour were all put to good use.

The series also revitalised DC's neglected magical and supernatural characters, featuring the Spectre, the Demon, the Phantom Stranger, Deadman and others in supporting roles. At the prompting of Bissette and Totleben, who were fans of The Police and wanted to draw a character who looked like Sting, Moore created his own magical character, John Constantine, who would go on to headline a title of his own that is the longest continuously published comic of DC's Vertigo imprint.

Moore's Swamp Thing was enormously influential in showing a larger audience that genre comics could address serious issues and take on literary pretensions. DC followed Swamp Thing's success by recruiting British writers like Grant Morrison, Jamie Delano, Peter Milligan and Neil Gaiman to write comics in a similar vein, often involving radical revamps of obscure characters, and thus laid the foundation of what became the Vertigo line.

Gaiman in particular was strongly influenced by Moore's Swamp Thing work: his Black Orchid, Books of Magic and many early Sandman stories are largely derived from Moore's innovations.


Main article: Watchmen
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The cast of Watchmen, clockwise from top: Dr. Manhattan, the Comedian, Ozymandias, Nite Owl, Rorschach, Captain Metropolis, the Silk Spectre. Art by Dave Gibbons

Moore's most popular comic work, Watchmen, is about superheroes who have been affected by real world politics. McCarthyism, The Vietnam War, and the Cold War have unhinged the current superhero generation.

Watchmen deconstructed the superhero, looking at the moral, psychological, and sexual implications of their activities. His most far reaching work to date, Watchmen addressed such issues as free will, the nature of time, human psychology, global politics, and moral relativism.

Watchmen incorporated cinema style transitions and voice overs. It avoided the then typically-used comic book thought bubble.

Watchmen is the only comic to be granted an honorary Hugo award. Moore said that it was his final statement on superheroes, and, upon completing his commitment of Miracleman, retired from mainstream comics.


Main article: Supreme

Moore was asked by publisher Rob Liefeld to write further adventures of Supreme, Liefeld's violent, inconsistently-written Superman knockoff. Moore agreed on the condition that he could throw out everything previously done with the character, as he felt the comic was not very good, and turned the series into a post-modern homage to the innocence and imagination of Mort Weisinger's Superman.

Beginning with issue 41, Moore began developing a new approach to comic storytelling and the Superhero. Supreme is a complex comic, containing layers upon layers of metafiction, each issue containing further comment on the nature of comics history, storytelling, and the Superman mythos.

Supreme's secret identity is Ethan Crane, a mild-mannered artist for Dazzle Comics. When not saving the world as the archetypical superhero, he illustrates the adventures of Omniman, an ultra-violent Supreme-like character going under a relaunch with a change of writers. In the first issue, Supreme discovers he is living in the most recent "revision," as reality is an ever-changing story and there have been many versions of himself who came before. Retired Supremes live in the "Supremacy", an afterlife for characters whose stories have come to an end.

Supreme's learns that his memories are "backstory" gradually being filled in until his real memories are indistinguishable from the filled-in, never-happened ones of the past. Flashback Supreme sequences are told in the comic style of the era, reflecting different periods of comics history.

From Hell

Main article: From Hell

From Hell is, in a different way, as intricately constructed as Watchmen, but this time the intricacy is not of form but of message. It was partly inspired by the title of Douglas Adams' novel Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. To solve a crime holistically, one would need to solve the entire society it occurred in. Moore's take on the Jack the Ripper murders is not a "whodunit": he spells out his (fictional) culprit and the reasons for his actions very early on. From Hell takes Stephen Knight's largely discredited Final Solution, slightly modified, as its starting point (see Jack the Ripper royal conspiracy theories): the killer is Sir William Withey Gull, the royal surgeon, silencing all those who knew about Prince Albert Victor's illegitimate child; but as Gull remarks, "Averting Royal embarrassment is but the fraction of my work that's visible above the waterline."

The murders are an occult ritual, a complex sacrifice using Victorian London itself as an altar. The symbolism of London's landmarks is explored in a tour de force chapter, in which Gull explains his motives to his uncomprehending coachman. Women had power over men once, Gull believes, and the irrational, Dionysian unconscious mind once dominated the rational, Apollonian conscious mind. Gull is reason's lunatic, carrying out an act of magic to enforce the rational, masculine hegemony. Following the murder of Marie Kelly, Gull claims to have "delivered" the twentieth century; his success can be judged by the depiction of the conception of Adolf Hitler, which by simple arithmetic must have occurred in the same month as the murders.

On a more prosaic level, Moore indicts the inequalities of Victorian society, contrasting Gull and the wealthy circles he moves in with the hand-to-mouth existence of the women he targets, the moral disgust shown at the peccadilloes of the poor with the depths the rich are prepared to sink to to protect the appearance of propriety, the imaginary anti-semitic conspiracy theories which divert the police's investigations with the real conspiracy that controls them. Just about every notable figure of the period is connected with the events in some way, from Joseph Merrick, the "Elephant Man", to Oscar Wilde, from the Native American writer Black Elk to William Morris, the artist Walter Sickert to Aleister Crowley, who makes a brief appearance as a young boy in short trousers, sucking on a candy cane, and lecturing the police about magic.

Almost none of this made it into the film adaptation, which merely dramatised Knight's theory as a "whodunnit", with the addition of a psychic, opium-addicted police detective.

Moore has always been at pains to point out that From Hell is fiction, and that he used Knight's theory for its artistic potential rather than its accuracy; yet he included an "author's statement" in the serialised publication of the epilogue which consisted of a blown-up panel from the prologue, depicting the psychic Robert Lees confessing that although his visions were accurate, they were fraudulent: "I made it all up, and it all came true anyway. That's the funny part."

Musical work

Alan Moore has also made one brief foray into music, with ex-member of Bauhaus David Jay and Max Akropolis. They formed a band known as The Sinister Ducks and released a single, March of the Sinister Ducks.

Partial bibliography



  • Voice of the Fire, 1997, Orion Books; republished 2003, Top Shelf Productions

Recorded works

  • March of the Sinister Ducks (Single recorded by The Sinister Ducks, 1983)
  • The Birth Caul, 1996, D.O.R.; adapted for comics by Eddie Campbell, 1999, Eddie Campbell Comics
  • The Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels, 1996, Cleopatra
  • Brought to Light, 1998, Codex Books
  • The Highbury Working, 2000, RE
  • Angel Passage, 2002, RE
  • Snakes and Ladders, 2003, RE; adapted for comics by Eddie Campbell, 2001, Eddie Campbell Comics


Moore has publicly asked for his name to be taken off the credits of the Constantine, V for Vendetta and Watchmen films, as he wishes to have nothing to do with any film adaptations of his work where he does not own sole copyright and cannot prevent the films' production. In each case, Moore had his option money given to the artists involved.


  • Gary Groth (1990-1991), "Big Words", The Comics Journal 138-140, Fantagraphics Books
  • George Khoury (2003), The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore, TwoMorrows Publishing
  • Alan Moore (1994), From Hell: the Compleat Scripts Book One, Borderlands Press/SpiderBaby Graphics
  • Alan Moore (1999), "Appendix I: Annotations to the Chapters", From Hell, Eddie Campbell Comics
  • Smoky Man & Gary Spencer Millidge (eds) (2003), Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman, Abiogenesis Press

External links

es:Alan Moore fr:Alan Moore it:Alan Moore pt:Alan Moore sv:Alan Moore


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