I just reread "V For Vendetta," so let's discuss Mr. Alan Moore. *Big-time spoilers*

OK, so I just zipped through my tattered old trade paperback of V For Vendetta for the hundredth time. And while it’s true that I now find some elements of the story highly suspect that I didn’t 15 years ago, it’s still a ripping good story. The same goes for The Watchmen, and Promethea. These three are usually the ones that I tend to think are closest to Moore’s heart, and therefore I consider them to be his “major works.” With both the strengths and weaknesses of the tales in mind, I’d like to discuss several things.

First, I suppose, we should discuss whether these three stories are, in fact, his major works. I realize that opinions will differ even on that point, so I’d like to hear thoughts on why some other stories of his would be more definitive. I see strong similarities in the themes of V, Watchmen, and Promethea because they all deal with freedom from the status quo as a theme. In Watchmen, Ozymandias frees the world from the oppression of the seeming necessity of global war by introducing a (putatively) alien factor - a threat against whom all contentious parties must (seemingly) unite, or be crushed. In V For Vendetta, V frees England from the oppression of a post-nuclear (I think) authoritarian government. In Promethea, the title character frees the world from the spiritual oppression of ALL governments, both religious and secular, by leading humanity through the Apocalypse.

There seems to be a theme of anarchy and antiauthoritarianism that runs through all three. The anarchy theme is most obvious in V, since it deals explicitly with a hero modeled after the Parliament-bombing Guy Fawkes. It also explicitly discusses some of the tenets of anarchy, making a convincing case in the story for it. However, in my opinion, it falls down on at least one major element: V makes a statement near the end, after he cripples the Eye and the Ears, that the period of looting and riots after England is given their three day reprieve is not anarchy at all. It’s chaos. He then says that this period of chaos must be followed by true ordnung, what he defines as voluntary order. This, in mystical la-la land, will be true anarchy…a stable society based on mutual respect, hard work, etc., and enforced by no leadership structure.

Uh huh. My reaction to this when I was 18 and strongly against The Man? “Cooooool!” My reaction now (at 33?) Cynical laughter. I have much the same reaction, incidentally, to the end of Watchmen, even though it’s a much more morally complex story. I tend to think that Ozymandias would end up drinking himself to death in his Fortress of Solitude when, as the months wore on, it became obvious that no invasion was coming, the same people started bickering among themselves, vying for power and influence, and wars started breaking out all over again. Pretty much the same as the aftermath of 9/11, to be brutally honest.

Anyway, the process by which this “passage to a higher state of consciousness” occurs in all three stories is accompanied by pain and death. There’s explicit murder and widespread unrest in V. There’s explicit murder and the deaths of most of the people in New York in Watchmen. There’s explicit murder, insanity, and destruction in Promethea. This pain and death is inevitably linked to “growing pains” of one of the main characters, or of humanity in general…a necessary passage to reveal more of the Truth. In Promethea, this is made most explicit as a birth metaphor, and linked to higher spiritual meaning through the structure of the Kaballah…specifically through the sephira of Binah, the female aspect of the Godhead.

Now it occurs to me that this “you’re gonna grow, even if I have to drag you by the hair, kicking and screaming, through the birth canal” attitude could reflect one of at least three ways on Moore. Either he could be merely using a well-worn thematic device to move his stories along, he regards this “painful transition” thing to be a spiritual truth and an inevitability, or it reflects his own personal frustration with the state of world affairs, of governments, and of people’s attitudes toward their liberty. Come to think of it, none of those are mutually exclusive. There may be elements of all of them in there. However, in some respects, it seems to me that Moore’s anti-authoritarianism has, at times, been, well, authoritarian.


Go on, Ogre… tell us what you really think.

I kinda feel you, though. I am a big, big Alan Moore fan, but a harsh but accurate summary for many of Moore’s multi-part stories could be… “and in the end, the conservative traditional establishment were revealed as impotent cowardly bullies clinging to an outdated status quo undone by our flawed yet earnest hero and his allies, who is the instigator of sweeping profound societal change in the aftermath of one great clash of two powerful ideological opposites.” This meme is repeated endlessly in Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Promethea – at least twice in the Swamp Thing’s run – perhaps most especially in Miracleman’s fight with Johnny Bates, and in From Hell – though that was a story that preserved the status quo, and in Moore’s aborted Twilight of the Superheroes proposal for DC comics, The Ballad of Halo Jones, and so on.

But it’s the journey, full or twists and turns and suprising characterizations and sparkling dialogue to the somewhat perfunctory and predictable end that is endlessly inventive genius that is Moore. I mean, the **Twilight of the Superheroes ** proposal was rejected yet I still see huge chunks of its plots and themes reflected in several of DC’s miniseries, including Kingdom Come, Ross’ US, the Diggle **Adam Strange ** mini and the Rann-Thanagarian War.

All of Moore’s heroes tend to be (at least somewhat) liberal, open-minded, largely unflappable creative thinkers whose enemies are uniformly conservative, tunnel-thinking, bottom-line oriented, unadventurous traditionalists in the corporate world or politics. But heck - look at the people who Moore’s been working for all his career… American comic book publishers! No wonder they’re so real and demonized! All of Moore’s works practically drip with a sexual awareness, sexual variety and raw sensuality that may or may not be reigned in by an editor of Karen Berger’s finesse – but look at Moore’s personal life, with his first open marriage two his wife and her lesbian lover. Dave Sim couldn’t handle that shit. Many of Moore’s plot resolutions depend on hinting at, not always depicting – a higher awareness of social interaction and life and dependence on humanity not acting according to baser urges and natures or give in to character defects in order for them to work – but look at how many of Moore’s own high-concept creative projects (BIG NUMBERS, LOST GIRLS) have crashed and burned because of a failure on an artist’s or editor’s or publisher’s part to commit to a project to the end. Those collaborations don’t always work, just as Moore’s plot resolutions don’t always work as Moore planned it. A lot of Moore’s work is intensely personal as it is infused with huge chunks of his own beliefs and integrity, as well as his blind spot (Literally! He’s blind in one eye!) over the fickleness, sometimes, of human nature and commitments to higher ideals.

Now I haven’t dismissed Moore’s resolution to V for Vendetta as completely as you have – that England is a post-nuclear outpost of survival where the rest of the world is so utterly absent from the narrative it’s likely it may not exist at all (“Africa is gone,” and virtualy no mention of America at all) – so in a fctional context the *ordung * ending kind of works, because unlike the 9/11 there aren’t outside allies to help prop up the current social order, nor is there an outside enemy to contend with – all the stresses are internal, intranational. The Vendetta resolution wouldn’t work in our world at all, I agree – but then it’s really not our world.

Now certainly these are among his major works, but I personally wouldn’t consider them as the only ones worthy of a spot in the, say, top five. Certainly **From Hell ** is less genre-dependent than any of the works mentioned so far and for its research, historical accuracy, and cooly intriguing take on the Whitehall murders alone it deserves a spot in the top two, and Moore’s two-part volume on League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen considered as a treastie and homage to late 19th century European fiction should easily round out the top five.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’d rather read Moore than almost anyone else I know of. I’m not saying he’s a hack. Exactly the opposite. I’m fascinated by anything he writes.

I utterly agree with you here. Moore has a talent for character, and especially for dialogue.

I have to disagree with you here. Although the world of V is not precisely our world, the people that populate that world are precisely, highly human. What I mean is that all the usual human impulses, lusts, instincts, and behaviors are exactly the same in that world as in ours. That’s why I say there could never be ordnung. Somebody always tries to assert their influence. Someone tries to become the top dog. Someone always tries to lead the others. It’s human nature. Ordnung would never survive in any human society for very long.

I realize how dangerous it is to automatically compare the real world to the world of stories, on the other hand. That ordnung would never really work in the real world is not Moore’s point. I realize that. Perhaps it’s my general distaste for having someone else’s political beliefs shoved at me in a blatant manner…even if I mostly agree with them.

(This is the reason, incidentally, that Spurlock’s “30 Days” feels so forced and staged to me. It’s just so very, very obvious in its intent.)

Right, but I meant that these three stories, to me, reflect most accurately, Moore’s personal beliefs about society, government, and religion. Granted, this is solely based on my personal impression, from what I know and have read about the guy. For instance, he’s a self-confessed mystic, who believes that the Crowleyan interpretation of kabbalah and its tendency toward being the Grand Unification Theory for religion may actually reflect reality. He has self-identified as a wizard in the past. Therefore, I associate Promethea as a rather intensely personal statement of Moore’s beliefs…maybe the most personal of all his work (Certainly more personal than League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or From Hell. The other two stories are (IMO) the most thematically closely-linked to that of Promethea.

Ogre. Now, hey, clearly you’re an Alan Moore fan. Sorry if it wasn’t clear I was teasing when I typed, “Tell us what you really think.” That was mostly a comment on how long and well-thought out the OP was.

Well… the Amish seem to do okay with as close to ordnung as possible. Honestly? I think the point of (Moore’s take on) ordnung is that it doesn’t require force of arms to cede to any central authority, but other passive influences are frankly okay. That ordnung fails in a civilization context like 21st century America is largely the result of vast differing interacting ethnicities and mobile classes, multimillion population levels, economic policies that get taxes from people to fund the government largely automatically, organizational powers among the authorities to mobilize people to war and to some extent how abstract the economy and national lifestyle is. Monocultural agrarian societies, like the Amish, like the Hopi, like the Sea Island Gullah, like the Xhosa, tend not to have our level of differentiation, crime or strife – though I agree they do exist.

I agree again that **Vendetta, Watchmen ** and Promethea share some thematic links, with the caveat that Promethea’s world had antecedents in Moore’s Supreme and Glory titles at Awesome, and that more of Moore’s political views are likely seen in the highly fantasized climax of the “utopia” of his Miracleman run. If we’re talking about personal projects we of course will have to include **Birth Caul ** and **Snakes and Ladders. **

I think there’s a level of intent in V For Vendetta (one of my all time favorites) that you’re missing in this.

I don’t think Moore’s intent is to make clear that a peaceful anarchy of equals will be acheived. The intent is to make clear that members of a society get the society they make.

This is made clear in two scenes.

First, where V captures the broadcast studio and makes his broadcast to England. He talks about leaders and how they’ve led England to fascism and oppression. And then V sums it up with ‘but who elected them?’ He’s making clear that the responsibility for England’s fascist government lies only at the feet of the English people. They can not blame anyone or anything else for their situation.

Second, immediately following that scene he disables the fascist governments ability to observe and monitor the citizens (if they can really be called that!). This leads one character to observe how much he misses the cameras and their little back-and-forth motion. But it quickly degenerates into riot and rampage now that the people are freed of monitoring. I don’t think it’s coincidence that Dave Gibbons used the classic waif from Les Miserables in that scene. I think that’s the most powerful image in the story.

But what Moore is implying here is not so much that anarchy will lead to glory (though I think, like me, he has internal pressures that feel that anarchy is sometimes necessary to clear the arteries of society) but that under no circumstances is the form of government in the hands of anyone but the people of the society. They can acquiese to fascism or violently erupt in chaos. But the choice is theirs if only they realize it and seize power from those who would lead.

Ah. I gotcha. Sorry for the misunderstanding. And thanks! :slight_smile:

Well, I would argue that you’re not talking about parallel cases when you’re talking about a clearly industrialized, multimillion-population society (like England in the story) versus a small agrarian population like the Amish. There are several reasons for this. First, not all Amish are alike. There are populations of Amish in Alabama and other Southern states that live almost completely modern lives, who have business dealings with outsiders, and who you might not even be able to identify as Amish, if it weren’t for their penchant for more traditional forms of dress. Second, even the clannish Amish population aren’t run by true ordnung. There is a definite authoritarian source, and that sourse is Tradition and Religion. In addition, there is a uniform set of social values which are passed on within the communities, and innately rejects outsiders. This system of values can only be preserved through a very strict set of laws…thus authoritarianism (to a degree and only in a sense. Don’t get all huffy. :)) Third, the population of the post-war England would be far too geographically separated, numerous, and heterogenous to expect that some sort of true voluntary order would arise out of the collapse of the state. Now, granted, this is a wild guess, since to my knowledge the population of that fictional England was never made explicit. However, I think it can be inferred based on scenes of crowded nightclubs, large London crowds, etc.

And I have to admit I have not read Birth Caul, so I can’t spout pseudointellectual gibberish about it, like I can with some other of his titles. :slight_smile:

Oh no no no no. I am totally on board with you. As a theme in the story, that one would be hard to miss. And yes, a lot of what happens is brought down on England by their own hubris and laziness. BUT…Moore places the teaching of that lesson in the hands of a highly idealistic and opinionated protagonist. This to me implies authorial judgement, and a desire to replace the oppressive authority of the status quo in the story with a different system - one which he is, in a sense, saying is better. I suppose he could be saying that the rise of a figure like V to combat authoritarianism is inevitable, and thus the society has molded its own fate that way, but if so, V is a pretty extreme example…and not terribly realistic (of course.)

Right, but what you’re taking as a central tenet of the story, I’m seeing as idealistic poppycock. There will always, given a large enough and distinct enough population, be those who would lead. Always. Even in anarchistic organizations, there is usually one who makes decisions. V, for example, is making decisions in the name of anarchy for all England. What gives him the right to do this? Well, he’s convinced that people need to be freed (even though it could be argued that the majority of the population was perfectly happy the way things were) from their government, when he had to know full well that what would happen is that clans would develop. And these clans would bicker and have many, many internecine wars and conflicts…at the end of which, you’d have the strongest on top, exerting their dominance over everyone else. That’s history in a nutshell, and I don’t see a country as large, separated, and diverse as England defying it. Hell, they never really have.

But let me be clear - V For Vendetta is, hands down, my all time favorite Alan Moore read. The reason I deconstruct it is because I love it so.

Very minor comment:

I can see where V and Watchmen are considered Moore’s greatest works, but Promethea comes nowhere close, IMHO. It tags on philosophically to themes Moore holds dear, but the execution is off - too wordy, not enough straight plot to stay engaging. Much more of a miss than a hit.

On the other hand, I love Top Ten - taking a Hill St. Blues multi-plot motif and using it to explore all-too-human themes was very very effective. And it lets Moore explore some of the issues he likes, but within a tighter set of constraints so he doesn’t fall off the deep end and lose plot, character, etc.

I hold it up with Moore’s best. But nothing beats Watchmen.

True enough, but I think Watchmen is ultimately a reversal of this trope – and a self-aware one. In Watchmen, the flawed yet earnest instigator of sweeping profound societal changes is a monster, and the protagonist and hero is impotent to do anything about it.


That’s kinda my point, Ogre. Orndung might work in the context of the story because all available evidence suggests it is an artificially homogenized, weirdly industrial and highly decimated population. The current population of England hovers around fifty million; I have a hard time believing that the England of the story is anywhere near that large, and has possibly been reduced to (my own guess) late 19th century estimates of around a mere one million or so: London Underground is abandoned and fallow and not even occupied by the homeless and the story mentions no problems with population movements or even needing the trains; agricultural gains still make the top of the news, suggesting a problem of feeding whatever population’s left; large swathes of London neighborhoods seem abandoned (such as the one Evie was left in); the principal media appears to be Fate’s radio broadcasts and some innoculous propaganda-laden TV. By all story indications, within one generation England’s population has frankly been culled by the stresses of post-nuclear war and a vicious fascist government that instituted “resettlement camps” to (largely) weed out socialists, liberals, radicals, homosexuals, lesbians, blacks, Pakistanis, Indians, etc. and their attendant cultures and philosophies to embrace a simplified, organized monitored society that submits to all sorts of governmental demands, including The Church of England as the prevailing moral authority and The Voice of Fate as the government’s vocal authority. Once the Party is left leaderless, and the ordinary English have been incited to riot, they’ve abandoned their role in maintaining the infrastructure, sparking the period Moore names as ordnung.

But unless I very much have mistaken Moore’s intent (I can’t find my copy of Vendetta – I haven’t been able to unpack all my boxes since I moved back to Georgia ) I don’t believe that this ordnung is meant to be an enduring period. Evie was groomed to be V’s successor as the architect of what comes afterward – a repository of banned music, cinema, ideas and books --alternative medicinal, chemical and engineering knowledge and a further role in shaping the society to come.

WordMan. I think I agree with you.** Promethea** is not meant strictly as a narrative; it’s at least half Moorian treastie on magic, as idea intensive as Birth Caul and **Snakes and Ladders ** and the unfolding of Masonic mysteries as From Hell. But the non-linear execution and plot through the “Sophie takes a road trip through the kaballah” is a bit… off-putting. It is possible through re-readings to be drawn into it more. But Promethea considered as an exercise in what can be achieved through innovative comic book narrative layout alone deserves some kind of special Eisner, never mind the mind-fucking ideas it has.

Cliffy. Good point. Adrian Veidt is possibly the most monsterous anti-hero of all Moore’s memorable creations and none of the other heroes could reasonably stop him. Kind of makes you wonder what Seymour did with Rorschach’s journal, dunnit?

I haven’t read any more except for The Watchmen and Killing Joke. I just wrote a 26-page essay on politics in The Watchmen for my graphic-novels-as-literature grad course.

I’m inclined to agree. There are numerous signs that this is going to fail – the ending suggests possible exposure, of course, but there are other signs. I mean, Ozymandias. That name doesn’t exactly sing success, thanks to Shelley’s poem.

Plus, The Nova Express – the title of the paper is taken from a William S. Burroughs book about how a quasi-fascist intergalactic organization throws incompatible alien life forms onto the wrong planet to sow discord and create conflict. That sounds like Ozymandias’ plan, but having the opposite effect.

I think Ozymandias is meant to be shown as bad as Rorschach in his own way. He’s as much one of the Watchmen who need to be watched as Rorschach and the Comedian are.

While **Ogre ** and **Askia ** obviously dig the relevance of Moore’s work to modern society, I think he’s a genius for other reasons.

He’s a “mystery” writer in that in between issues (chapters) of his stories, you debate on what’s going to happen next and speculate based on clues he’s previously written in. For example, my friends and I would get together over pizza and beers in between issues of V for Vendetta and try to predict next issue. One time by myself I had an epiphany while reading V:


and started calling my friends and screaming ALAN MOORE’S A FUCKING GENIUS!!!

He’s also a genius for his visual perception. He draws thumbnail sketches of his script before sending it to the artist, so he has the panels and scenes all blocked out beforehand. There’s an issue of Swamp Thing where Swampy travels to a planet, intending to possess plant life as he usually does when he’s on his intergalactic treks, but didn’t realize the plant life was sentient. All the plants were people, living out their soap opera lives, attending art shows, getting into arguments, that sort of thing. Swamp Thing went insane from all the millions of souls running through his psyche, as he assimilated all their bodies and grew to a giant, raging thing.

Years after buying that issue, I read it again, and discovered something I hadn’t picked up before: the scenes of the plant people’s lives were all juxtaposed on one page, and when you hold the page back at a distance,

it creates a mosaic of the Swamp Thing’s screaming face!!!

Again, I called everyone I knew to tell them ALAN MOORE’S A FUCKING GENIUS!!!

Agreed. In The Watchmen, I had to have pointed out to me that Chapter V – entitled “Fearful Symmetry” – was laid out symmetrically by panels and (somewhat) by panel content. Page 1 corresponds to 28, 2 to 27, etc.

This symmetry is marvellous, and contains a lot of clues. For instance, the panel where Rorschach cracks an egg (he later says, “Can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs”) corresponds to the panel closeup of Moloch’s head with a bullethole in it. Moloch is a “broken egg” in Ozymandias’ scheme.

Also, the end and beginning are symmetrical to the middle, with Rorschach and Ozymandias interchangeable. irst few pages, Rorschach is an agressor at Moloch’s home, and in the last few pages, he’s the one attacked. In the centre spread, the very middle panels of “Fearful Symmetry” is the moment when Ozymandias ceases to be the attacked by the “hired killer” and becomes the agressor killing the “hired killer.” Of course, since Adrian has hired his own killer, he is his own assassin and victim – symmetrical with himself.

I love this stuff. In Killing Joke, the Joker says that everytime he remembers his past, it comes out differently. Well, Batman has a photo in the Batcave that’s a picture of him with several characters that had been retroactively written out of continuity (including the Bat-Mite). In other words, his past is now remembered differently :smiley:

With this thread in mind, I dug out my copy of Watchmen, and also noticed Dr. Manhattan tweaking Veidt’s nose at the very end.

Veidt: Jon, wait, before you leave…I did the right thing, didn’t I? It all worked out in the end.
Manhattan: “In the end?” Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.
Veidt: Jon? Wait! What do you mean by…
Manhattan: disappears

Smug bastard. I’ll leave it up to you to determine which smug bastard I mean.

Then, of course, Rorschach’s journal shows up at the newspaper…

On another subject, is the 49ers trade available?

I realize this is a matter of opinion, but I disagree in the strongest possible terms short of invading your country and planting my flag of conquest and righteous wrath on your native soil. :slight_smile: Promethes, to me, was executed with absolute perfection. The art, and the link between the spoken story and the art, was far better than in any other Moore series I have ever read. Some of the “cosmic landscapes” in Promethea were a story in themselves. The philosophical material was presented as efficiently as possible, with extreme clarity…but without sacrificing much of the complexity of the subject matter. Promethea is an absolute masterpiece.

Glad it worked for you.