The Watchmen is, in our collective opinion, one of the greatest comic books ever written. We are all connected to The Watchmen, albeit some more than others. For example, one of my old friends from the days of Metropolis Comics, Gerard, loved The Watchmen as much as anybody. Now, two decades later, his band My Chemical Romance has a song featured in the film adaptation's soundtrack. So, needless to say, my affection for this classic work knows no bounds.
Sadly, I must also confess that I am a little less enthusiastic about the author.
Alan Moore has been an outspoken critic of every film ever based on his comic books. Of course, as he will happily admit, he’s never had anything to do with any of them. In fact, he has always refused any creative consultation on any of them. He is also of the strong opinion that none of them have ever come close to capturing the spirit or essence of anything he has ever written. Of course, he’s never seen any of them. He refuses to. Why? Because they aren’t any good, of course. In fact, Alan Moore is not a fan of movies at all. Not that he watches any of them, which he doesn’t. Why should he, if none of them are any good? Interesting logic for a man regarded as a highly intelligent literary figure.
Famous authors have often rallied against Hollywood, usually after they’ve sold out to it. Anne Rice spent a great deal of time bad mouthing the casting and story of Interview With a Vampire, then ended up taking out a full page apology in Variety. Stephen King got bent out of shape when the adaptation to The Lawnmower Man bore nothing in common with his short story by the same name, which featured a lawn care worker who ran around naked eating grass before eviscerating the lawn’s owner. He retaliated by writing a horror film of his own called Sleepwalkers, which ended up being far worse than Lawnmower Man. Clive Cussler threatened legal actions against the Hollywood version of Sahara, mainly because the screenwriters keep insisting on giving his Dirk Pitt series characters recognizably human personalities. Michael Crichton panned the film version of Jurassic Park and complained that people in Hollywood were ‘Stupid’, then proceeded to sell them the rights to his other titles so they could keep up the good work.
Where Alan Moore parts company with these other authors is that he consistently refuses communication with anyone involved, while simultaneously insisting that they have no idea what they are doing. Much like Ralph Bakshi, who made himself even more irrelevant that he had previously been (this was before Cool World) by declaring that Peter Jackson could never come close to adapting Tolkien the way he did in the animated Lord of the Rings, Moore has rejected Zach Snyder’s attempt to adapt his comic to the big screen with absolutely no knowledge of how it was being done. When asked about film adaptation of The Watchmen by The Los Angeles Times, Moore gleefully stated that when it finally came out, he would be “…spitting venom all over it.”
It is almost surprising, considering his distaste for any adaptations of his work, how eager he is to give interviews about how much he hates them. Surprising, that is, until you realize that he isn’t really talking about how bad the films are, but rather how great he is. These interviews usually start off with an explanation of how the film in question will never come close to mimicking his poetic genius, and eventually wrap up with the interviewer asking Moore’s opinions about government policies and world affairs as if he is Noam Chomsky, and not a guy who writes comic books. He hates these films so much, he can’t stop talking about them.
The irony to this is that the last two film adaptations of his work, V for Vendetta and The Watchmen, are two of the most faithful translations of a comic book to the big screen ever made, right along with Sin City and 300. I’ve heard some Moore fans bitch and moan about how V for Vendetta wasn’t faithful enough, and all I can recommend is that they go watch the first four Batman movies, follow it up with a double feature of Daredevil and The Spirit, and shut the hell up.
Moore’s main complaint about the adaptations of his work is no doubt what many critics will use as their crutch, that these films can never truly copy the experience of reading the comic book. This argument, of course, is pure and simple crap. Of course a movie can’t deliver the same experience as a comic book. It can’t deliver the same experience as a novel, either. It is a different form of media, which is why you have to adapt it. If that is your main argument against the film, then you had no business watching it in the first place. Stop criticizing movies for being movies and get over it.
To be fair, Moore doesn’t just restrict himself to criticizing an entertainment industry he has no experience in and knows nothing about. He’s also very critical of the publishing world that brought about his success, the comic book industry. When I say critical, I mean he hates it. His hatred of DC Comics is somewhat understandable, as they apparently tried to cut him out of merchandising royalties during the initial success of The Watchmen. But he also has strong words for the rest of the industry, and for comic books themselves, which he firmly believes are still stuck in the same clichéd format that they were when he first started writing for them. Of course, he readily admits in interviews that he doesn’t read comic books anymore (except maybe League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which he writes), so at least his opinion of the industry’s current state is fully informed.
Of course, there is one film that Alan Moore likes. He not only approves of it, but also stars in it, mainly because the subject matter is close to his heart. The documentary The Mindscape of Alan Moore, for the most part, is over an hour of Alan Moore sitting in his home and telling a camera what he thinks about his art and the world. Moore may not like films or comic books, but there is one thing he still enjoys with a passion: the sound of his own voice.
All writers share two universal drives; an overwhelming desire to entertain, and a love of hearing themselves talk. When writers lose that first drive, they cease to be writers. They become advocates, politicians, protestors, leaders, advertisers, or sitcom staff writers. Or, they occasionally become wild-eyed lunatics preaching against the evils of a world they rarely visit and no nothing about.
There is always an irresistible urge to compare writers to their creations, and it is one I am not immune to. While some might compare Moore to the delusional Rorschach or megalomaniacal Ozymandias, I think he bears a closer resemblance to Dr. Manhattan. Like the good doctor, Alan Moore is a simple man who was given a gift of creative power, and in the process of utilizing it, lost touch with humanity. Of course, Dr. Manhattan came to understand the human race and left to possible create his own, while Moore grew his hair out and attempted to become the next Harry Potter, so there are flaws to the comparison.
So, I don’t agree with Alan Moore. Is that any reason to resort to name calling? No, of course it isn’t. But my argument isn’t that he is egocentric, obnoxious, and runs around looking like Rasputin the Mad Monk telling the comic and film industry how much they suck. My problem with him is that he consistently manages to spit in the face of everything that has made him the legend he is today. Like most entertainment personalities who go on to become boorish egomaniacs, his ultimate sin is that he bought into his own hype. Enough people called him an artistic genius and a literary god that he actually believed it.
Now he has eyes only for himself, for there can be no other but him. His contempt for comic books spills over to the fans, and his resentment of films attempting to translate his works into another format spills over to his own fans. You’re stupid if you read any other comic books but his, and you’re stupid if you liked any of the films based on his comics. In fact, you’re stupid if you like any films at all. In short, Alan Moore wants us to know that barely any of us has any taste, and that nearly all of the other comic authors and filmmakers out there have no real talent. And that, as far as I am concerned, is what makes him a total ass hat.