Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Alan Moore and Warner to Split

After Warner Brother's failure to accurately translate his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic limited series (if you think it was just a graphic novel leave now you artsy fartsy twit) to the silver screen with their LXG, Alan Moore has decided to part ways with DC Comics.

Before I discuss what this means for DC Comics, and express some of my views on comics in general, I would like to say a brief word on what LXG did right and what it did wrong.

Let's start with what it did wrong because that is the easiest. It completely missed the mark and essentially ignored it's source material. As with any "entourage pastische" one runs the risk of trivializing the "meeting" of literary characters. By "entourage pastiche" I mean any media narrative which takes famous popular culture figures, who were not involved in each others stories but whose stories take place in the same epoch, and place them in a single adventure. Successful examples include the Moore miniseries, Night in the Lonesome October, and arguable Murder by Death. Moore's limited series managed to introduce and use the characters without the narrative becoming kitsch, the film failed monumentally in this regard. In fact, the flaws of the film are too numerous for the brief space I wish to use. Making the entourage kitsch is the primary weakness, the secondary is the entire loss of a serious tone. Moore's narrative asked "what if these characters lived in the "real" Victorian era", and the movie asked "what if these characters lived in a comic booky version of the Victorian era." This is not exactly the sort of artistic interpretation which lends itself to success. Comic adaptations are usually better when taken seriously rather than spoofed or "imitated."

But did LXG get anything right? Actually, the answer is yes. It minimized the victimization and raping of Mina. I swore if I saw another subjection of her character in the limited I was going to scream. I know that women were shown as physically weak, Mina in spades in Dracula, and that Mina was being "manipulative" in the limited, but I still found it trivial and exploitative. It just didn't interest me and removing that aspect was fine by me. As was the addition of the Dorian Gray character, though I still didn't like the narrative he was an interesting addition.

But even LXG, with all its flaws, wasn't enough to make Moore sever ties from DC. That took the upcoming V for Vendetta film which will be released this fall. The Wachowski's, who everyone forgets gave them Assassins worked on the screenplay which Moore refuses to be associated with.

All Moore seems to want is to have his name removed from adaptations of his product. He doesn't want people to mistakenly think he approves of the adaptations/interpretations. This doesn't seem unfair, and is actually very consistent given Moore's career. You see Moore has made a career of "adapting" and "reinterpreting" other's creations. Not just with League, but with his other work as well.

Moore "deconstructed" the Charlton characters and turned The Question (an Objectivist) hero into a person with deeply rooted psychological problems in The Watchmen. I know that this is high heresy, but I am less than overwhelmed by The Watchmen. I enjoy the comic, but as my knowledge of Silver Age books increases (and the number of Outer Limits episodes I watch does as well) my appreciation of the deconstruction of characters like Blue Beetle and Captain Atom decreases.

The same is true of his V for Vendetta story, it is a deconstruction of Steve Ditko's magnum opus character, at least in the minds of his true fans (of which I am not one but I do like him), Mr. A. You see Mr. A is a "purification" of the character created in the Question character. Mr. A is a true Objectivist (A=A and all that jazz) for whom all moral choices are choices between life and death, absolute and objectively knowable choices. The philosophy behind Mr. A, which as a non-Randian I disagree with, is a complex philosophy not as easily deconstructed and mocked by turning them into Anarchist Revolutionaries. Now I actually enjoy V, but if I were Ditko I would be pissed. Even more so because people don't usually know about the V/A connection.

Moore's Supreme, for image, was the take he would have had on Superman. This title is actually less a deconstruction than the others and plays with the conventions of Modern/Silver/Gold Age comics. Once again his work reinterprets others.

Other examples include:

Tom Strong = Doc Savage
Promethea = Wonder Woman (though Wonder Woman is very much Ayesha from She)

But what Moore has never done, in any of his deconstructions, is to credit the author. Often because he is arguing with the author, or pointing out philosophic differences.

I think that Moore deserves the same courtesy.

Go ahead...make V a Republican named R, but don't associate Moore's name with the project.

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