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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

ALAN MOORE, ELITIST NEOPURITAN

On 11-20-13, Alan Moore gave an interview to THE GUARDIAN in order to advertise his upcoming work FASHION BEAST.  I for one would have preferred that the interviewer leave out all references to Moore's opinions on superheroes, since they're generally ill-informed.  But of course the question was asked and Moore responded in his usual fashion:

When I mention that Geoff Johns has done a whole series of Green Lantern based on his story "Tygers", he gets tetchy. "Now, see," he says, "I haven't read any superhero comics since I finished with Watchmen. I hate superheroes. I think they're abominations. They don't mean what they used to mean. They were originally in the hands of writers who would actively expand the imagination of their nine- to 13-year-old audience. That was completely what they were meant to do and they were doing it excellently. These days, superhero comics think the audience is certainly not nine to 13, it's nothing to do with them. It's an audience largely of 30-, 40-, 50-, 60-year old men, usually men. Someone came up with the term graphic novel. These readers latched on to it; they were simply interested in a way that could validate their continued love of Green Lantern or Spider-Man without appearing in some way emotionally subnormal. This is a significant rump of the superhero-addicted, mainstream-addicted audience. I don't think the superhero stands for anything good. I think it's a rather alarming sign if we've got audiences of adults going to see the Avengers movie and delighting in concepts and characters meant to entertain the 12-year-old boys of the 1950s."

I'm not sure that I recall Moore having gone on record as to saying superhero comics were intrinsically juvenile, but it's hardly surprising.  I must assume that he's using the term "superhero" in a restrictive manner, as in "only the characters with costumes and/or powers."  Only with such a definition would he be able to make that statement while continuing further problems with various "science heroes" in his LEAGUE-related books, whose principal phenomenal difference from superheroes is that they do not wear costumes.

In any case, this position allies Moore with a subspecies of "Neopuritan" that I described in this essay:



On one hand, we have Elitist Neopuritans like Gary Groth and Dirk Deppey. Their base conviction is that superhero comics should not include adult levels of sensational material because superhero comics are for kids. Extreme usages of sex and violence should be for the sort of reading material aimed at actual adults, though to be sure the usage of such sensationalisms in "trash fiction" aimed at adults, such as Mickey Spillane, will usually reap the same contempt shown to the "kiddie" superhero stories.
Moore's animus for "adult pulp" superheroes clearly follows the same line of thought.  Superheroes can only be for kids, because form follows function: all that they can do is"expand the imagination of their nine-to-13-year-old audience."  Older superhero fans are therefore abnormal in their attachments to the genre. Naturally Moore does not dwell on the extent to which older superhero fans purchased his works within the "formal" superhero genre: not just WATCHMEN, but also VIGILANTE, WILDCATS, SUPREME, and (arguably) TOM STRONG. 

What most astonishes me about this fulmination, though, is his issue with the success of superhero films with a general audience, which would seem to have little if anything to do with his usual targets: emotionally stunted readers and corrupt comics companies.  I'll expand on this topic in Part Two.




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