Alan Moore is probably the most respected and recognisable author in comics and his works, which include Watchmen, From Hell, V for Vendetta and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, are classic graphic novels that Hollywood routinely turns into terrible films.
We met the Wizard of Northampton for a chat about shoes, films, magic, technology, and the ways in which the internet is mutating our brains.
NICE SHOES, ALAN.
(Mr Moore is sporting a pair of shiny purple brogues by Northampton master shoemakers, Jeffrey-West)
Thank you. I’ve never been conspicuously fashionable - you’ve only got to look at the haircut and the beard to figure that out - but I have always had a strong sense of what my friend the artist Oscar Zarate refers to as “working class vulgarity”. I actually quite like suits and ties. I wouldn’t claim to have ever been fashionable, but I’ve always liked tarting myself up a bit. So I have a certain amount of vanity, and I have a certain amount of admiration for the dandies, who were very, very brave. They used to put up with all sorts of violent attacks, just because they thought they had a right to look wonderful.
WE DIDN’T THINK OF YOU AS A FASHIONISTA...
I’m not. I have no interest in fashion itself, as much for a political reasons as anything else. Having been born into the foment of the 1960s, you tend to pick up a lot of attitudes about things that are ‘straight’. I would have probably been happy if everyone was wearing a hessian sack until the end of the century.
AND YET YOU’VE WRITTEN A BOOK ON IT?
Well, technically I wrote a film. I was approached by Malcolm [McLaren, manager of the Sex Pistols] back in the 1980s. He said he’d like me to collaborate on a film, and he pitched these three ideas: Surf Nazis sounded like fun, but probably not my kind of fun, knowing very little about surfing and only slightly more about Nazis. Then there was a was one about Oscar Wilde making a Madonna-esque tour of mining camps in the American West, which sounded interesting but again, probably not my cup of tea. But the third idea, Fashion Beast: that combined Beauty and the Beast with the strange, twisted life of Christian Dior. That sounded like something like something I could get my teeth into.
WHAT DREW YOU TO IT, IF YOU’LL PARDON THE PUN?
I could see how those two things, fashion and fantasy, could fit together. Because the fashion industry is already a fantasy, it’s already a fairy tale where everyone’s dressing up in extravagant costumes. And I could also see how it could probably play nicely into some of my own feelings about the world. When I started on Fashion Beast I was still working on Watchmen, and a lot of the politics, the apocalyptic darkness, the environmental stuff and the sexual politics of my later work are in there. There’s even some bits where the central character’s talking about the shamanic power of clothing, which seemed to prefigure my later obsession with magic.
IF IT WAS MADE INTO A FILM… WOULD THIS BE THE FIRST GOOD FILM OF AN ALAN MOORE BOOK?
My personal feelings are that despite the fact that it was originally intended as a film, its most perfect expression is as a comic book. If it had been made as a film, it wouldn’t have emerged anything like that. It would have been rewritten a couple of times at the insistence of studio executives who have to appear to be doing something, there would have been changes made, for better or worse, by the director, by the actors, by whoever. However, since it was originally written as a film, rather than written as a comic and turned into a film for purely commercial reasons, I’d be open to experiment with it.
My objection to the filming of all my other comics has been on the grounds that these things were designed for comics, they were written specifically to show off the things that comics can do that no other medium can do, so making them into films... it’s not going to be the same work, so there’s no point in it. Other than to make money. But this one’s different. I could see this conceivably making a decent film. It would need to be made by the right people, and given the number of people that I’ve had bellowing tantrums with, that is a pretty brief list.
More after the break...
WE HEAR YOU’RE NOT THAT KEEN ON TECHNOLOGY...
I don’t have an internet connection, or a mobile phone, or a TV signal. I can play [digital] music on the television, or on the computer I suppose, but I don’t. I am pretty much cut off from the 21st century. It’s like culturally I’m trying to establish a kind of sensory deprivation tank for myself, whereby I am receiving no modern signals whatsoever, because I’ve heard that after a while in a sensory deprivation tank you start to hallucinate and have all sorts of strange experiences, so I’m waiting for that to happen.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE WITHOUT THE INTERNET?
It seems to work. I am pretty much cut off from the majority of the 21st century, but not much escapes me. You hear about everything, because you’re talking to people, you’re absorbing a lot of this information as if by osmosis, just through the pores of your skin. I have said that by embracing the internet in the way that it has done, which was kind of inevitable, society has embarked on a massive experiment without having any idea of the various ways in which those technologies will impact upon us socially, politically and psychologically. So I so think if there’s this huge experiment going on, it’s best that I remain outside the petri dish, as a kind of control, so that we’ll be able to see how badly the rest of you have mutated, by comparing you with me as a kind of baseline.
YOU’VE HAD A COUPLE OF SUCCESSFUL KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGNS, THOUGH
That’s true. But this was at the suggestion of other people who actually live in the modern world with everyone else, rather than in some imaginary version of the 19th century with me. I was prepared to give it a go and yes, we got the money for it and we’re making the film [Jimmy’s End], so it was a success. However, whether I would ever want to do it again, I really don’t know. It does seem like aggressive begging. That’s not to decry the service at all, it sounds like a very important one and a real way for a lot of probably fringe material to actually see the light of day.
So, yes: I am prepared to engage to a certain extent. I recognise that the technological modern world is there, I’m not in denial about it, I know that there is this thing called the internet. But it seems to be mainly a novel way of watching pornography and venting your hostility, and I’ve got plenty of my own pornography and plenty of ways of venting my hostility.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE MASK FROM V FOR VENDETTA BEING USED BY THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT AND ANONYMOUS?
I’m glad that the modern protest movement, which I greatly admire for the most part, has found something of use in something I did 30 years ago. I can’t claim any credit for the work that these people are doing - they’re the ones who are out there in sub-zero temperatures, braving the tear gas and the nightsticks. I’m sitting at home in comfort writing my comics. It’s always a bit strange when things that were previously only inside your head are suddenly rampaging up and down the high street.
HOW DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE TURNING OUT FOR HUMANITY?
I don’t think it’s pessimistic or optimistic. Most of my dystopias are meant as diagnosis. They’re about the present, they’re warnings: don’t let this stuff go too far, or we might end up with something like this. My personal view is that we are on an escalating curve of complexity. I think this is the major issue that underpins everything in the contemporary world. Everything is becoming more and more complex, at an exponential rate. Human information is doubling around every twelve months, and counting. If the graph holds up, there comes a point where human information is doubling every split second. Imagine: every split second, there will be more information created than has existed in the previous history of the world. I don’t know what human culture is like on the other side of that. I don’t know if it’s even still there, but it’s different, whatever it is. And I suspect that it will be a mixture of a utopia and a dystopia, an apocalypse and a genesis. It will be the usual glorious human mess.
Fashion Beast is out now.