The Importance of Alan Moore

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  March 1, 2009 — Leave a comment

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s this gigantic blockbuster film featuring dystopian super-heroes coming out later this week called “Watchmen”. Perhaps you’ve seen an ad or two. The film is an adaptation of one of the most critically lauded comics of all time. It, and several other works from writer/creator Alan Moore, have been turned into would-be blockbusters against his wishes. This reluctance to play the Hollywood game, and his outward eccentricities, guarantee a run of profiles by journalists often amazed that he doesn’t want to cash in.

At 55, the Northampton hermit will take no more credit for the film than he did for From Hell, the screen adaptation of his Jack the Ripper comic book, which starred Johnny Depp, or for the anodyne film version of his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Moore’s name will not appear on the credits of Watchmen and his share of the cash goes to his illustrator on the series, Dave Gibbons.

So what? Aren’t “Hollywood botches the book” or “Hollywood cashes in against the wishes of the writer” stories a dime a dozen? What’s different is that Moore is, for all intents and purposes, “one of us”. By that I mean he’s an occultist/magician who possibly worships the “sock-puppet god” Glycon, and is currently hard at work writing a “a clear and practical grimoire of the occult sciences”. In addition, he also wrote an outstanding 32-issue comic series that doubled as primer in magic entitled “Promethea”. Yet, despite all that, Moore isn’t really a figure of much discussion outside the small subsection of comic-book collecting Pagans and occultists. Neil Gaiman in contrast, who has a comparable track-record of critical and mainstream successes, has a huge Pagan following. Perhaps it’s that Gaiman is far more outgoing, Internet-savvy, and willing to work with Hollywood? Whatever the reason, you’re far more likely to hear a Pagan talk about “Coraline” (which was great) than the fact that Moore’s upcoming “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” comic sequel (due out in April) will prominently feature fictional/literary versions of Aleister Crowley.

“…an apocalyptic plot masterminded by obscure W. Somerset Maugham villain Oliver Haddo, a parody of Aleister Crowley; it almost goes without saying that Moore seizes the moment to populate Haddo’s entourage with fictional creations of the actual, prolific Crowley, while steeping the diabolist’s scheme in arcana from Crowley’s 1917 novel Moonchild.”

So when you head off to the theatre to see “Watchmen”, keep in mind that what you see on the screen is merely an echo, a fannish recreation (warning: spoilers at that link) of a work specifically created for the comics medium. A work not intended to be adapted to big-screen action. Or better yet, why not spend the weekend (and the money you might have spent on admission, a large popcorn, and soda) getting to know one of most brilliant writers of his generation. A writer who happens to share with us an interest in the practice of magic. I think that in retrospect, historians of our wider religious and philisophical movement will pay far more attention to the influence of people like Moore than the dozens of “Wicca 101” niche writers we currently argue and debate over. Perhaps it’s time more of us got a jump on those historians.

Jason Pitzl-Waters