The Brilliant Alan Moore

Comics' Most Accomplished Writer

With more than three decades worth of experience in the mainstream comic book industry, and quite a few more years besides that working on underground comics, Alan Moore has accomplished quite a bit. He is famous for writing such seminal works as WatchmenV For VendettaFrom Hell, as well as highly-regarded stories for existing characters like Swamp Thing, Superman, and even near-forgotten turn-of-the-20th-century adventurer Allan Quartermain.

Today, Moore prefers to write his creator-owned comic, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, in a series of graphic novels that are published by Top Shelf. But in the 1980s and 90s, much of Moore's most famous works were published by DC Comics. Unfortunately, the working relationship between writer and company fell apart, but before it did, readers were lucky enough to get to read the following excellent series that were all guided by the able writing style of Mr. Moore.

Swamp Thing

More Plant Than Man

After his success in the United Kingdom writing stories for the popular anthology Warrior, Moore was asked to begin writing the adventures of Alec Holland, the Swamp Thing, with issue no. 21 of that character's series. That issue, "The Anatomy Lesson," is still an excellent read to this day, in part because of its shocking twist (and here is a spoiler warning for a book that is 3o years old) that the creature known as Swamp Thing was not really former scientist and human Alec Holland, but instead a living plant that only thought itself to be Holland. 

Moore worked on Swamp Thing from 1984-1987, writing stories that concerned themselves with contemporary environmental issues and the then-current threat of nuclear armageddon. Stories were frequently so horrifying in Swamp Thing that the publisher ended up labeling the series "For Mature Readers," and the move to an adult sensibility also became the basis for DC's Vertigo line of comics, for which Swamp Thing is the clear spiritual forerunner.


Comics as Literature

Riding high on the popularity and the critical acclaim of Swamp Thing, Moore was asked to develop another book for DC. Brainstorming with artist Dave Gibbons, Moore thought about ways to right stories for the Challengers of the Unknown, the Martian Manhunter, and then the Charlton line of characters, which included the Question and the Blue Beetle. It was this last idea that led to the development of Watchmen, a book that has frequently been touted as the best mainstream superhero comic ever written.

The basic plot of Watchmen revolves around aging heroes searching for a missing former comrade and trying to solve a mysterious murder, but the themes of loss and regret run much deeper than any synopsis of the book could do justice. Moore has stated that he wanted to capture much of the Cold War zeitgeist of the mid-1980s with Watchmen, and he definitely accomplished that.

Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?

A Superman Story

"Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" is a two-part Superman story that ran in Superman issue no. 423 and Action Comics issue no. 583, and it served as a kind of coda for the Silver-Age version of the character. The story, although entertaining, has quite a few morbid moments, as it essentially serves as The Last Superman Story Ever Told. To that end, the story features "final battles" with Lex Luthor, Brainiac, and Bizarro, and these are battles that have a viciousness rarely seen in a Superman comic from this era.

Moore's plan for this story was to give the real Superman a final send-off, and he considers the book one that did not just impress Superman editor Julius Schwartz, but it also probably would have impressed Superman himself. And you will have to read it yourself if you want to see if Moore lives up to that assertion.

Batman: The Killing Joke

Does the Joker Die?

Batman is a character that everyone enjoys on one level or another. For those who enjoy both the comedic and tragic aspects of the character and his supporting cast, it is probably not necessary to look any further than Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's classic Batman: The Killing Joke to get a great Batman tale that combines both. This prestige format one-shot from 1988 presents a (maybe) origin story for Batman's most famous foe, the Joker, with flashback sequences interspersed with a modern-day madcap adventure.

This is the famous Batman story where Batgirl is shot by the Joker and confined to a wheelchair. The character would remain this way for more than 20 years of stories, working as the computer hacker Oracle, until finally regaining the use of her legs and becoming Batgirl once more.

There is also some debate among readers of this book about the ambivalent ending. Certain interpretations allow the reader to assume that Batman finally kills the Joker, but we know Batman would never do that, right? Really, it's up to you to make the meaning of this tale, and what you think may reveal more about you than the author. Another chilling masterpiece from Alan Moore.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Moore's Final Comics Work

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is Alan Moore's attempt to bring some of his favorite literary characters together into one comic book adventure team. This includes Mina Harker from Bram Stoker's Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Captain Nemo, Allan Quartermain, and the Invisible Man, among others. Over the course of several volumes, The League must deal with such diverse threats as criminal masterminds, foreign despots, and an alien invasion from Mars.

Only the first three volumes of LOEG are published by DC Comics, who actually went through the trouble of purchasing the original publisher of this book, in what some at the time said was an attempt to become Alan Moore's publisher no matter what bad blood existed between author and corporation. But if you look at the indicia of these books, you will notice a curious thing: there is absolutely no mention of DC Comics anywhere, only the America's Best Comics imprint banner! This is because Moore demanded that he not be associated with DC in any way, and that his books be free of any trade dress that suggested as much.

So, although Moore can be a bit strident in his ways, there is no denying that he has written quite a few memorable comic books, all of which are worth hunting down and reading on your own.