Legendary grouch Alan Moore is behind some of the most famous superhero comics of all time, but he’s firmly against what superheroes have done to movies.
Today, we learned that the upcoming Green Lantern series on HBO Max would tell the stories of various members of the Green Lantern corps, the interstellar police force that uses their willpower to create fantastic weapons from their magical rings. The show will feature Lanterns like Guy Gardner, Jessica Cruz, Simon Baz, and Alan Scott, as well as fan favorites like Sinestro and Kilowog. There’s never been a live-action Green Lantern show of this scale before, and it could be a big hit whenever it debuts on HBO Max.
But you know who won’t be watching? Alan Moore, the genius behind hugely influential comic books like Watchmen, V for Vendetta and Batman: The Killing Joke. Moore, who officially retired from comics in 2018, is famous for disapproving of adaptations of his work, such as the 2003 League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie. In fact, he’s pretty outspoken with his complaints about the entertainment industry in general and comic book movies in particular, something on full display in a rare interview he just gave to Deadline.
“Most people equate comics with superhero movies now,” Moore said. “That adds another layer of difficulty for me. I haven’t seen a superhero movie since the first Tim Burton Batman film. They have blighted cinema, and also blighted culture to a degree. Several years ago I said I thought it was a really worrying sign, that hundreds of thousands of adults were queuing up to see characters that were created 50 years ago to entertain 12-year-old boys. That seemed to speak to some kind of longing to escape from the complexities of the modern world, and go back to a nostalgic, remembered childhood. That seemed dangerous, it was infantilizing the population.”
I don’t watch any [superhero movies]. All of these characters have been stolen from their original creators, all of them. They have a long line of ghosts standing behind them. In the case of Marvel films, Jack Kirby [the Marvel artist and writer]. I have no interest in superheroes, they were a thing that was invented in the late 1930s for children, and they are perfectly good as children’s entertainment. But if you try to make them for the adult world then I think it becomes kind of grotesque.
I’ve been told the Joker film wouldn’t exist without my Joker story (1988’s Batman: The Killing Joke), but three months after I’d written that I was disowning it, it was far too violent – it was Batman for christ’s sake, it’s a guy dressed as a bat. Increasingly I think the best version of Batman was Adam West, which didn’t take it at all seriously.
So as you can see, Alan Moore has opinions. And they do sound kind of shocking considering what a huge industry superheroes are right now and that Moore’s work may be responsible for popularizing the elevating the form, something he acknowledges. “It was largely my work that attracted an adult audience, it was the way that was commercialized by the comics industry, there were tons of headlines saying that comics had ‘grown up,'” he said. “But other than a couple of particular individual comics they really hadn’t.”
This thing happened with graphic novels in the 1980s. People wanted to carry on reading comics as they always had, and they could now do it in public and still feel sophisticated because they weren’t reading a children’s comic, it wasn’t seen as subnormal. You didn’t get the huge advances in adult comic books that I was thinking we might have. As witnessed by the endless superhero films…
So Moore’s complaint seems to be that modern superhero films exist mainly for commercial purposes without much redeeming artistic merit, and mostly operate to infantilize viewers and give them a form of escape from the real world. But hasn’t cinema been a form of escapism? “Sometimes it was, all art-forms are potentially,” Moore admitted. “But they can be used for something other than escapism. Think of all the films that have really challenged assumptions, films that have been difficult to take on board, disturbing in their messages. The same goes for literature. But these superhero films are too often escapism.”
Is Moore right that superhero films are have blighted cinema and maybe even the culture at large? I’ll leave that for you all to discuss. Whether it’s true or not, I just love that someone as prominent as Moore is out here so pointedly criticizing such a powerful organization. I hope he never stops.
Although it’s the buzziest part of the interview, Moore was actually talking to Deadline in the first place about his new movie The Show, about a Northampton man who gets mixed up in a surreal world of crime and mystery:
Moore says he’d be interested in turning The Show into a TV series at some point — he already has four-five seasons planned if anyone’s interested. At the least, you know it’s not another superhero story.