There have been 33 feature films based on DC Comics since 1951, yet the Hollywood history of DC has been largely limited to a trio of characters too vivid to exist in the real world: Batman, Superman, and Alan Moore.
The first two everyone knows. The third is a British writer who, while not technically a fictional character, is absolutely a character of the highest order. But in what way does he rank with the caped legends? Four of Moore’s brilliant comic book epics have been adapted by Hollywood: Watchmen, V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and From Hell. A fifth film, Constantine, was based on a character he created, and a sixth, Return of the Swamp Thing, was propelled by his landmark three-year work on bog monster’s series.
Those individual movies range from underrated and okay (Watchmen, Constantine) to overcooked and odious (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). But collectively, they put Moore’s bookshelf not far behind Gotham City lore (nine Batman movies plus the stray spinoff Catwoman) and Metropolis mythology (the seventh Superman film is now in theaters, plus Supergirl and Steel, which were as bizarro-stupid as they sound.)
Moore lives in Northampton, England, the same place he was born 59 years ago. Since then, he’s covered a lot of territory, and not just in this dimension. Moore’s interesting look — a bushy prophet beard, a menacing sorcerer’s glare, and metallic talons on his fingers — fit a guy who identified himself as an anarchist and (with a wink) a worshiper of Glycon, the 2nd Century snake god. But even with all that, it was only after Moore refused to cash his Hollywood paychecks that his industry peers began to wonder about his grip.
Moore is no forest hermit despite some past press portrayals, but he does live off the grid if your definition of “basic shelter” includes wi-fi coverage. “I have very few connections with the 21st century, actually,” Moore said last week over the most modern of connections: a landline telephone with a curly cord stretching all the way to the 20th century.
The line was busy the first couple times I dialed, but Moore picked up on my third try and I found (just like the first time I interviewed him, back in 2008) that there was far more mischief in his voice than malice, even when he took shots at DC Comics and Hollywood, which he sees as factories that grind art (and artists) into pulp that can be sold, recycled, and then sold again in new shapes.
The topic is timely: Moore’s name was in Hollywood headlines last week when reports surfaced that Fox has ordered up a League of Extraordinary Gentleman television pilot with hopes that a savvy small-screen take on the material could right the many wrongs made by director Stephen Norrington’s 2003 film (which notoriously drove star Sean Connery into retirement). [Read Owen Gleiberman’s review here.]
That same television do-over approach worked for Fox with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but that series had the character’s creator, Joss Whedon, on board to show the way. Moore laughed when asked if he or League artist and co-creator Kevin O’Neill would be involved in any way with the broadcast venture.