Never mind that its been years since he's produced any truly significant work. The output of his 1980's heyday remains worthy of reading, discussion and in-depth study. To say that he almost single-handedly changed the comics art form, as well as the public perception of that art and comic industry's image of itself is only a small exaggeration.
Increasingly, however, when Moore is discussed these days, it is not his work that sparks the debate, but rather his progressively problematic persona and especially his prickly public pronouncements. The latest dust up is actually a couple of months old. However, I only really delved into it recently when I spent, or perhaps you could say wasted, as there was a whole list of other things I really should have been attending to, almost an entire Saturday afternoon on the Internet losing myself further and further down the rabbit hole of responses, replies and rebuttals to Moore's so-called “last interview,” which appeared on-line in early January.
Its not so much an interview, really, as a rambling, epic length screed ostensibly in response to a handful of e-mailed questions from blogger, and noted Moore friend and apologist, Pádraig Ó Méalóid. Prior to embarking upon the writing of this piece, I looked up the word “jeremiad” in order to assure that I would be using it correctly should I chose to do so. Sure enough, my dictionary defines the word as “a tale of sorrow, disappointment, or complaint.” If you actually invest the time to read the whole thing, I believe you'll agree that that definition comprises a fairly accurate assessment of Moore's tirade.
I don't want to accuse Moore of lying, however he inarguably does exaggerate and distort certain facts. Its entirely possible that this is due more to faulty memories or skewed perceptions rather than any intentional effort to cloud the issue and make himself out to appear even more the wounded party. Still, its difficult to reconcile journalist, and target of Moore's wrath, Laura Sneddon's account of her brief interaction with Moore and his wife with Moore's more Machievellian and conspiratorial version of events.
To be fair to Moore, his critics have engaged in a certain amount of hyperbole of their own. The blanket statement that Moore has included a rape scene in every single thing he's ever written is patently ridiculous on its face. I seem to have missed the rape scene in “Mogo Doesn't Socialize” and glossed over it in “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” (Although, Julian Darius at Sequart points out the irony that Moore's chosen example of a work of his that is free of sexual violence actually does contain a rape scene in an early issue, thus further undercutting the credibility of Moore's arguments)
On the other hand, the argument that white males should not attempt to write minority or female characters is one that I seen refuted by any number of white male writers over the years. However, I cannot recall reading any instance of anyone actually seriously arguing this position. It is a text book example of a classic “straw man” argument. It certainly appears, from the reactions to Moore's accusations that I've read, that no one was saying that in this case. Rather, Moore's critics are doing exactly what he implores them to, taking him to task for a specific portrayal in a specific work.
Honestly, I, being a middle aged white guy who grew up in a nearly all white small town and never really interacted with people of color until I went away to college and have never really experienced any serious racism, I feel spectacularly under qualified to discuss matters of race. There's also the fact that I've not read the work in question. However, for an in-depth examination of the issue, you can read Pam Noles (who, by the way, is the unnamed African-American woman whom Moore claims confronted Kevin O'Neil at a book signing) detailed deconstruction of the history of the character of the Golliwog and its use in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen here.
I cannot say that Moore's depiction of sexual violence has never bothered me. I do remember have some difficulty in my early readings of Watchmen with Sally Jupiter's forgiveness of Eddie Blake. Still, I find Brad Meltzer's trivialization of the rape of Sue Dibny into a retconned plot device in Identity Crisis to be far more “problematic” (by which I mean “reprehensible”) than anything I've encountered in Moore's work. For an examination of the most commonly stated problems with Moore's depiction of sexual violence, I recommend this piece.
Not content with re-imagining the past in order to bolster his sense of outrage, Moore resorts to belittling and denigrating his critics. This is especially true in the case of the un-named by Moore “Batman scholar” whose tweets in reaction to a public appearance by the writer apparently kicked off this current controversy. Moore characterizes the man as a disgruntled middle-aged fanboy upset not over issues of sexual violence and race in Moore's work, but rather using these as a smoke screen to cover his outrage over Moore's cavalier dismissal of the fan's beloved super-heroes in a newspaper interview. It appears that Moore's cynical assessment of his nemesis could not be farther from the truth. Other sources on-line have revealed the so-called “Batman scholar” to be Dr. Will Booker, who is, in fact, a bona-fide scholar who has written an intelligent and insightful book entitled Batman Unmasked, that examines the Dark Knight's place in popular culture. As an aside, I just want to say that I have read and enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. Booker himself has written a long account of his part in this controversy that expands on his issues with Moore and his work and what inspired his Moore-offending tweets.
Moore's worst outpourings of venom, and most of his most outrageous distortions of reality, are reserved for Grant Morrison. He has inflated a handful of semi-serious comments by the Scottish writer into a three decade long sustained campaign of stalking and harassment. Moore's most serious accusation against Morrison contends that Morrison has never had an original idea in his life and has stolen everything he's ever written directly from Moore's work. It is true, and Morrison himself has admitted this in numerous places, that the first four issues of Animal Man represent a conscious effort on Morrison's part to write like Moore, since this was, as he has explained, what he believed his American editors at DC Comics wanted. With that exception, it might be more accurately contended that Morrison's career output, particularly his work in the super-hero genre, has been a reaction against Moore's work and his perhaps disproportionate influence on the way super-hero comics have been written ever since Moore's early 80's rise to prominence in the field.
I wouldn't go so far as to suggest, as one on-line pundit does with the eye catching headline that initially drew my attention to this whole mess, that Moore has gone insane. There's nothing in this rant that even remotely approaches Dave Sim's level of crazy as exhibited in the latter years of his Cerebus run. However, while he starts off seeming perfectly reasonable and level headed in refutation of his straw man critics, his rant becomes increasingly vitriolic as it progresses. Still, its only right at the end that Moore turns into an out of touch, totally unreasonable asshole. Moore actually has the nerve to demand that anyone who enjoys Grant Morrison's work should never again read any of his comics. It is undoubtedly the very height of unmitigated arrogance for Moore to believe even for a second that he actually has the right to make such a demand. In the very same sentence he claims “respect and affection” for his readers, yet it is abundantly and painfully obvious that he does not respect us enough to allow us to make our own choices concerning what else, other than his supposedly sacred texts, that we wish to read.
I'm somewhat torn. I don't know whether I should gather up all my Moore written comics and sell them to Half-Price Books, or pick up my copy of Watchmen and read it from cover to cover, followed by a re-reading of Morrison's Flex Mentallo as a symbolic “Fuck You” to Moore.
At one point relatively early in his jeremiad, Moore states that “...while everyone is entitled to their informed opinion, this is actually the full extent of their entitlement.” Besides being true, this is the most reasonable and rational statement Moore makes in the entire screed. However, it would seem from his subsequent mad demand that his readers forsake all other comics writers, or at least those who have done him some perceived injustice, that Moore does not believe that sentiment actually applies to himself.
If this is truly Moore's last interview, and if it truly represents what Moore has become, then its just as well that we, to paraphrase Richard Nixon, won't have Alan Moore to kick around any more. (Perhaps its worth pointing out that Nixon made that statement in 1962, well before he was elected President in 1968.) It might perhaps, as Moore suggests, “...be better for everyone concerned, not least myself,” if we let him continue the process of disappearing further and further up his own ass and leave the world with his body of work to speak for itself, which, he claims, is all he's ever wanted anyway.