Alan Moore versus Grant Morrison
This, I think, leaves us only with the herpes-like persistence of Grant Morrison himself.
The first time this name passed briefly through the forefront of my consciousness before swiftly making its way to the latrine area would have been at some point in the early to mid ’eighties. As I remember, I was in Glasgow for a signing at local comics outlet AKA Books, although for a signing of what I couldn’t possibly tell you. Bob and John, the proprietors, both very likeable and honourable individuals, were taking me for a dinner at (I think) one of Glasgow’s many fine curry establishments, and asked if a regular visitor to their shop who had aspirations as a writer might be allowed to join us. Since I liked and respected both of them and had no reason to suppose that any of their associates would prove to be in a different category, I readily agreed. They were, after all, paying for the meal, and an extra guest presented no inconvenience to me. Of course, with hindsight…
At the restaurant I was introduced to Grant Morrison. I can’t say I remember him making any particularly vivid or lasting impression on the occasion, in terms of his appearance. All I can reconstruct at this distance is a blurred image of a soberly-dressed and smallish man with tidy collar-length hair and no remarkable or memorable features beyond a general pastiness of complexion, perhaps four or five years younger than I myself was at the time, although this age-gap seems to have somehow increased since then. As to his conversation, he was quite forthcoming in his praise for my work, telling me how much inspiration it had provided and adding that it was his ambition “to be a comic-writer, like you”. Looking back from my present position, it strikes me that I may have only imagined that there was a comma in that last statement, but at the time I took it at face value. I thanked him for his compliments (as I recall he’d been most effusive with regard to V for Vendetta, despite that might-as-well-call-it-a-rape in the first episode), encouraged him in his efforts as much as I could without having seen any examples of his output, and told him that I’d look out for his work in future. Short of perhaps adopting him on the spot as my ward and rather elderly boy sidekick, I don’t see what more I can be expected to have done for a complete stranger on such a brief acquaintance, although it may be that he came from a background with a different set of expectations and thus felt slighted in some way by the encounter. Certainly he gave no indication of this at the time, and I’m only speculating based upon what I perceive as his subsequent peculiar and creepy behaviour.
The next time his name arose would have been, I think, around the time that my relationship with Dez Skinn and Warrior magazine was beginning to enter its down-slopes. As I remember the occasion, I was approached by Skinn with an on-spec submission from Grant Morrison, a Kid Marvelman story as I recall, which while I had nothing against the story or its author did not fit into the storyline which I was attempting to establish. Additionally, I was the author solely responsible for Marvelman’s reinvention and was as puzzled by Skinn’s actions as I’m sure Steve Moore would have been if presented with a script for a spin-offZirk story by an untested new writer. I held none of this against Grant Morrison, and simply told Skinn to explain to him that the story didn’t fit with my plans for the character. As intimated above, I was already starting to formulate an impression of Skinn as a duplicitous and untrustworthy hustler by this point, and for all I know his initial statement (via Lance Parkin’s book) to the effect that he’d called Morrison and informed him that I’d rejected the story out of my growing possessiveness and paranoia may be, uncharacteristically, a true one, at least in as much as it may be a truthful account of the distortions that Skinn was trading in at the time. I can say with some degree of certainty, however, that Grant Morrison’s colourful account of the threatening letter which he purported to have received from me on the subject is entirely the invention of someone whose desperate need for attention is evidently bottomless. From Skinn’s less-than-smooth revision of his account in order to synchronise his notes with Morrison’s later publicity-ploy, I can only assume that these two individuals are in approximately the same bracket in terms of their moral outlook ( I’m told that Skinn apparently sells my old Marvelman scripts to collectors, presumably when he needs additional pin-money), and that there was thus a great mutual sympathy between them. Anyway, since again nothing was raised at the time of these non-existent events, I continued on my course with no knowledge of them and thus no reason to bear any ill-will towards someone who, in all honesty, was not really impinging on my awareness to any noticeable degree one way or the other.
It was an unspecified amount of time later, perhaps further towards the middle-’eighties, when I had ceased to be connected with Warrior and was already some way into my run on D.C Comic’s Swamp Thing, that I noticed a superhero strip written by Grant Morrison in 2000 AD, a periodical which I was only intermittently looking at during this period. I followed it for two or three episodes, noting that it seemed to have been influenced in several of its ideas and approaches by my own work on Marvelman and Captain Britain. Since every beginning writer probably shows undue signs of influence during their early career, I didn’t really see this as a fault at all, and certainly not an insurmountable one. I reasoned that once he’d found his own voice (as it turns out, an over-optimistic assessment) he might prove to be an interesting writer. Since at this time I was still on good terms with at least Karen Berger, and had only comparatively recently passed on to her the work of Neil Gaiman after he’d interviewed me for a men’s magazine, she’d asked me to recommend to her any other new British writers of interest whose work I happened to chance upon. I mentioned Grant Morrison, describing him as someone still very influenced by my work who could with time emerge as an interesting individual talent in his own right, just as Neil Gaiman had managed to do. While I have no idea whether my recommendation played any part at all in the decision to subsequently employ Morrison, I can’t see that that it would have hurt.
Shortly after this, as I was no longer really engaged with the British fanzine scene (as I recall there’d been a couple of letters attacking me as an individual by over-entitled superhero fans, which at the time I found to be a compelling reason to sever my connections with that milieu), I had called to my attention a number of unpleasant comments and insinuations regarding me and my work which Grant Morrison was making in the promotional platform/fanzine column that he was selflessly providing for one of these publications. This was somewhat annoying and I concluded, not unreasonably in my opinion, that this was evidently some pallid species of career-tapeworm that one might perhaps expect to pick up in the parasite-infested waters of the comic business; a fame-hungry individual without the talent necessary to satisfy his inflated ambitions who had decided to connect himself with my name by simultaneously borrowing heavily from my work and making studiedly controversial statements about me in comic-book fanzines grateful for any free content from supposed professionals. I decided that the best thing I could do about this needy limpet was to ignore him and everything connected with him, reasoning that acknowledging his existence by replying to his allegations would only be assisting his strenuous scrabble for notoriety, and would be involving me in a debate with some feverishly fixated non-entity (we didn’t have the word ‘stalker’ back then) in whom I had absolutely no interest. I avoided his work, which seemed no great hardship as there was no real reason to revisit ideas that it appeared either Michael Moorcock or I had formulated several years earlier. On the rare occasions when his name came up in interviews, I would give the formula reply that since I didn’t read or have any opinions about his work, it would be unfair for me to comment upon it. It was my hope that this tactic might eventually persuade my own personal 18th century medicinal leech to clamp himself onto some more promising and responsive subject, but it’s been around thirty years by now and I am seriously starting to doubt the effectiveness of my own strategy. I’m frankly beginning to feel as if some more conclusive approach might be called for.
A possible reason for Morrison’s excruciating perseverance was to be found some years later in another fanzine contribution that I had pointed out to me, this time an interview in the American Comics Journal where he discussed his early reaction to my work. By this juncture his appreciation had evidently moved on from the mere ‘inspiration’ which he claimed to have found in my work during our only conversation in a Glaswegian curry house, to the remarkable statement that he had experienced such a strong response to my early stories that he’d felt, in a sense, that they were actually his stories. While this would explain why he’d felt at liberty to plunder them for ideas, I feel I must point out that in the limited technical sense of things that really happened in the real world, those were actually my stories, weren’t they? Later in the same interview, he reflected upon those early years of struggle and upon the frustrations he’d known upon realising that he still wasn’t famous enough (fame seemingly being the whole point of his career, rather than say the development of a distinctive voice or talent). Allegedly it was at this point that the young author, presumably lacking the option of attracting attention by means of original and well-written stories, decided that it would be easier to gain status by smearing my name from the safety of his fanzine columns. He expressed some mild regret that this had for some reason led to me not wanting anything to do with him, but in validation of his unusual method for attaining fame without noticeable ability, he pointed out that it had worked. The end, at least in the Morrison household, would always seem to justify the means. And although he certainly implied that he’d only employed this ugly technique during his disadvantaged entry into the field, as far as I can tell he never actually stated in so many words that he’d stopped, or that he’d ever had enough imagination to engineer another means of drawing attention to himself and his otherwise unrewarding product. I presume that in the world which Grant Morrison and his fellow mediocrities inhabit, where the worth of one’s work is a remote consideration after one’s bank balance and degree of celebrity, these methods are seen as completely legitimate or even in some way entertaining.
It appears that he never developed to a degree where he felt he could safely abandon either his sniping criticisms of my work or his Happy Shopper emulation of the same. I remember some several months after my announcement of the fractal mathematics-based Big Numbers, or The Mandelbrot Set as it was originally known, I had someone call my attention to a Mandelbrot set that had been spuriously shoehorned into the plot of an issue of Grant Morrison’s superhero comic Animal Man. This may, admittedly, have been no more than trivial and unimportant coincidence, and yet over the next year or so it would come more and more to look like Morrison’s sole creative strategy and an obvious extension of his strange ‘I felt they were really my ideas’ ethos. I remember Eddie Campbell advancing the theory that Grant Morrison had arrived at most of his published works around this time by reading my early press releases concerning projects which it would take me years to complete and then rushing into print with his limited conception of what he thought my work might end up being like. I announce From Hell and in short order he ‘has the idea’ for a comic strip account of a historical serial murderer. I announce Lost Girls, a lengthy erotic work involving characters from fiction, and within a few months he has somehow managed to conceptualise a Vertigo mini-series along exactly those lines. What I at first believed to be the actions of an ordinary comic-business career plagiarist came to take on worrying aspects of cargo cultism, as if this funny little man believed that by simply duplicating all of my actions, whether he understood them or not, he could somehow become me and duplicate my success. It would appear that at one stage, as an example, he had concluded that the secret to being a big-time acclaimed comic-writer was to be found in having a memorable hairstyle. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the possession of talent, hard-earned craft or even his own ideas would seem never to have occurred to him.
Having removed myself as much as possible from a comic scene that seemed more the province of posturing would-be pop-stars than people with a genuine respect for themselves, their craft or the medium in which they were working, I could only marvel when the customary several months after I’d announced my own entry into occultism and the visionary episode which I believed Steve Moore and myself to have experienced in January, 1994, Grant Morrison apparently had his own mystical vision and decided that he too would become a magician. (It wasn’t until I read Lance Parkin’s biography that I learned that as a result of Morrison’s apparently unwitnessed magical epiphany he had boldly decided to pursue a visionary path of ‘materialism and hedonism’. Could I point out for the benefit of anyone who may have been taking this idiotic shit seriously that this doesn’t sound so much like a mystical vision as it does an episode of The Only Way Is Essex? How does this magical discipline and philosophy differ in any way from the rapacious Thatcherite ideologies of the decade in which Grant Morrison wriggled his way to prominence?) I’m reliably informed that he has recently made the unprecedented move of expressing his dissatisfaction with the superhero industry, if only because there isn’t as much money in it as there used to be, and I imagine that there is a very strong likelihood that he will contrive to die within four to six months of my own demise, after leaving pre-dated documents testifying to the fact that he actually predeceased me.
Through the early years of this present century, as he somehow managed to perpetuate his career seemingly without the accomplishment of any major or memorable works, he apparently still found it necessary to keep up his running commentary on me and my writings through the very 21st century medium of a self-aggrandising website. I would occasionally have easily-amused industry associates insist upon passing on his latest hilarious sliver of Wildean wit, having conceived of no earthly reason why I shouldn’t find it as rib-tickling as they had evidently done. As I recall there was a particularly amusing piece where he’d suggested I should put a naked picture of myself on the front cover of Prometheabecause he (probably correctly) assumed that he and his discerning readership would very much like to see a image of my ‘todger’. (For American readers, I should perhaps explain that this is a cuddly, stuffed-toy-sounding euphemism used by British people who are too well brought-up to resort to words like cock or even penis.) While I understand that there is a large section of the superhero comic-book community who can see nothing at all unusual in one man being unable to stop talking about another, nor even in making a ‘jocular’ request to be allowed to look at his genitals, they should probably be made aware that from the recipient’s perspective this will obviously start to look like a genuine and long-sustained clammy infatuation which is (barely) sublimating its sexual component in saucy Carry On-style banter. It became difficult not to see this decades-long campaign of trying to attract my attention as some kind of grotesquely protracted schoolboy crush, or as a form of thwarted and entirely unwanted love.
This growing impression was only accentuated as I neared the end of my run on the America’s Best Comics titles when I was called by a colleague who happened to be related by marriage to one of Grant Morrison’s artistic collaborators and associates. It seemed that Grant Morrison had insisted on employing these third and fourth parties in order to ‘reach out’ to me and ask if we couldn’t perhaps be friends. Now, I understand that to a certain strata of the people reading this, my reaction of appalled incredulity will only provide more evidence of my apparently unfathomable and wildly eccentric nature, but this really isn’t how men in their fifties behave in the world that I come from. Why would I conceivably want to be the friend of someone who had never even previously been an acquaintance, whom I’d only previously ever met when he inveigled his way into a meal with associates in order to see if I could help him with his career, and who had subsequently orchestrated a campaign of abuse for the self-confessed purpose of making himself “famous” without recourse to anything difficult like effort or ability? When I raised these questions, it was suggested that Grant Morrison himself might argue that he was just being “a bit Johnny Rotten; a bit Punk Rock”, to which I pointed out that as far as I was aware John Lydon hails from a working class background, and that by his own admission Grant Morrison had spent most of the Punk era in his room for fear of being spoken to roughly by some uncouth person with a pink Mohawk and a U.K. Subs t-shirt. I’m afraid I didn’t see how appealing to completely unearned teen rebel credentials made any difference to the spoiled-child behaviour of a deeply unpleasant middle-aged man, and therefore once more declined the invitation to whisk him off to my Bat-cave so that we could solve mysteries together, perhaps in todger-revealing tights. I remained bewildered as to what kind of person could have made such overtures, deciding that if it wasn’t an extreme case of parentally-encouraged entitlement then it might possibly be something like clinical narcissism, shading into actual delusion. In either instance, this was evidently someone who I didn’t want anywhere near me, and who I could never have any reason to notice or take an interest in if he wasn’t, metaphorically speaking, continually masturbating on my doorstep.
Some few months after these appeals to a potential bromance, I noticed a review of a book by Grant Morrison in which, seemingly unable to stop mentioning me even when he’s moved on to a superficially more grown-up medium, he mischievously cites the apparently poor sales of Big Numbers as the reason for my return to superhero comics. This book, from what I understand a paean to the significance of both Grant Morrison himself and the franchised superheroes owned by his major employers, would probably have been in the proof stages around the time that he was making his conciliatory approaches, another testament to the sincerity of both the man and his work. It was at this point that I decided a more stringent anti-bacterial attitude to both him and the modern comic-scene environment in which he appears to flourish had become necessary. Without public fuss, I began to inform publishers of Grant Morrison’s work, starting withJonathan Cape, that they should neither contact me nor send me any of their merchandise in future. Given the distance that I had already withdrawn from comic-scene matters, it seemed probable that I’d also have little difficulty in quietly disengaging myself from any people who considered themselves a friend, collaborator or close associate of his, and in this way further quarantine myself from a world in which I haven’t been interested for a long time, just in case anyone hadn’t noticed. The announcement sometime later that our neo-punk firebrand had accepted an M.B.E from the current pauper-culling coalition government, naturally, only confirmed me in the wisdom of my decision: I don’t want to associate with people I consider to be massively privileged Tories, nor with anyone who doesn’t see anything wrong in doing so. I particularly wish to avoid all of those who have struck rebellious or radical poses while always remaining careful not to offend their employers or to make any kind of moral or political statement that may later jeopardise their career prospects; all of the rebels without a scratch.
I think this brings us pretty much up to where we came in, with me arriving at the launch of Magic Words having read my would-be friend Grant Morrison’s characterisation of me as a writer with a rape in every single series he’s ever written. And then, after what had seemed a genuinely pleasant event, being made aware of the uproar orchestrated by the persons dealt with above (once more exempting the American photographer who I feel may have a genuine grievance which is in my opinion misdirected in this instance, although she is of course entitled to think otherwise). I hope the fact that I’m answering at such wearying length over the Christmas period – it’s now the 27th – demonstrates the seriousness with which I am taking your questions; possibly a far greater degree of seriousness than many of those who originally posed them. It might also indicate to a perceptive reader that I wouldn’t be doing this, at my advanced age, if I had any intention of doing this or anything remotely like it ever again. While many of you have been justifiably relaxing with your families or loved ones, I have been answering allegations about my obsession with rape, and re-answering several-year-old questions with regard to my perceived racism. I don’t imagine that anyone who has been following my career to even a cursory extent will be in any doubt regarding how I’m likely to respond to that, given my considerable previous form in such unwelcome situations.
As already stated, any publishers, friends, artistic collaborators or other close associates of Grant Morrison or Laura Sneddon should not approach me in future. Further to this, any periodicals or institutions which publish or have published interviews with Grant Morrison should similarly not attempt to contact me. To be brutally honest, I’d prefer it if, as with the Before Watchmen re-creators, their associates and their readers, admirers of Grant Morrison’s work would please stop reading mine, as I don’t think it fair that my respect and affection for my own readership should be compromised in any way by people that I largely believe to be shallow and undiscriminating. So far so predictable, perhaps, but an outcry over my appearance at an event which I myself had not seen as being specifically comic-related suggests that these measures are going by no means far enough. If my comments or opinions are going to provoke such storms of upset, then considering that I myself am looking to severely constrain the amount of time I spend with interviews and my already very occasional appearances, it would logically be better for everyone concerned, not least myself, if I were to stop issuing those comments and opinions. Better that I let my work speak for me, which is all I’ve truthfully ever wanted or expected, both as a writer and as a reader of other authors’ work. I’ve never presumed that I should have access to my favourite authors’ lives or, indeed, to anything more than that part of themselves which they’ve expressed through the medium of the words on the page. To this end, once I’ve satisfied my current commitments, I shall more or less curtail speaking engagements and non-performance appearances, certainly including all offers to talk on comic-related matters or in a comic-related context. Likewise, while I shall probably still do a couple of rigorously-selected interviews and perhaps a limited signing at the launch of any new books (since my worthy and excellent collaborators and publishers shouldn’t be disadvantaged in terms of publicity, although for my own part I’m not that bothered), it would be much more convenient if I just rejected requests for interviews unless I myself saw some especially good reason to do otherwise. I suppose what I’m saying here is that as I enter the seventh decade of my life, I no longer wish that life to be a public one to the same extent that it has been. As far as the signings and public appearances go, while I have over the years found the vast majority of my audience to be the nicest and most intelligent people that any writer could hope for, since Before Watchmen I’ve already ceased signing copies of any works that I do not own, which is of course most of them up to and including the A.B.C. titles with the exception of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I don’t keep copies of these books around or really have any good reason to think about them, and answering questions about them or signing copies of them, while I’ll sometimes make an exception for a particularly deserving case, is something that I can no longer do with any genuine enthusiasm.
This may seem like a disproportionate response, but for thirty years I have had to patiently endure the craven and bitchy hostility of someone who, when I bother to think of him at all, I think of as a Scottish tribute band. While he is clearly not the only reason why I have come to feel actual revulsion for the greater part of today’s comic world, he has probably done more than any other single individual to foul its atmosphere and make it unbreathable with his ongoing reeking incontinence – and that, believe me, is in a field where he has enjoyed a great deal of vigorous competition. There are perhaps a dozen or so people in the industry that I respect immensely and with whom I am delighted to both work and remain in contact, but the rest of it is a comic world that I don’t wish to take any part in; a world of fleeting minor celebrities who have managed to make this magnificent medium into a source of lucrative commercial product that is socially acceptable to the point of being neutered, or else into style accessories by which otherwise socially cautious and conventional people and publishers perhaps hope to foster an air of edgy modernity. During the Before Watchmen debacle, although I was touched and surprised by the response from a number of the readers and retailers, I received only two letters expressing support from anywhere within an industry that evidently has as little concern for me as I have for it. It’s hard to see how my withdrawal is going to greatly inconvenience anyone, and Grant Morrison will have finally vindicated all those long years of effort by at last getting my full attention for a few hours. I myself will be able to get on with my work without interruption, which I think is something that I’m entitled to do after all these years, and indeed part of the length of this response might be likened to someone taking their time about unwrapping a long-postponed and very special birthday present to themselves. The truth may or may not set us free, but I’m hoping that blanket excommunication and utter indifference will go some considerable way to doing the trick.
Now all of this amuses/entertains me. I cannot say if it is true, especially because a talented storyteller can imbue falsehoods with the ring of truth. Grant Morrison himself, as well as Laura Sneddon, take a contrary view to the whole saga.
Let’s start with “an aspiring writer…”The usually well-informed Moore’s grasp of the facts is a little shaky here but the truth is well documented and, as can be quickly verified, my first professionally published comic book work “Time Is A Four-Letter Word” appeared in the independent adult sci-fi comic “Near Myths” in October 1978 (written and drawn by me, the story was/is, amusingly enough, based around the simultaneity of time concept Alan Moore himself is so fond of these days and which informs his in-progress novel “Jerusalem”). By 1979, I was also contributing stories on a regular basis to DC Thomson’s ‘Starblazer’ series and I’d begun a three year stint writing and drawing ‘Captain Clyde’, a weekly half-page newspaper strip about a lo-fi “realistic” Glasgow superhero. “Captain Clyde” ran in three newspapers. I was even a guest on panels at comics conventions… In October 1978, Alan Moore had sold one illustration – a drawing of Elvis Costello to NME – and had not yet achieved any recognition in the comics business. In 1979, he was doing unpaid humour cartoons for the underground paper “The Back Street Bugle”. I didn’t read his name in a byline until 1982, by which time I’d been a professional writer for almost five years. Using the miracle of computer technology, you can verify any of these dates right now, if you choose to. It’s true that Moore’s work in “Warrior” and “The Daredevils”, combined with the rising excitement of the early ’80s comics boom in Britain, galvanized me into refocusing and taking my existing comics career more seriously at a time (1982) when the music career I’d tried to pursue was spinning in circles but I hope even the most devoted of his readers might understand why I’ve grown tired of the widely-accepted, continually-reinforced belief that Moore’s work either predated my own or that he inspired or encouraged me to enter the comics field when it’s hardly a chore to fact-check the relevant publication dates.So I’ll repeat until maybe one day it sticks; I was already a professional writer/artist in the late ’70s, doing work-for-hire at DC Thomson alongside “creator-owned” sci-fi and superhero comics. This was at the same time as people like Bryan Talbot, Peter Milligan, Brendan McCarthy, and Brett Ewins, making us some of the earliest exemplars of the British new wave. If Alan Moore had never come along, if he’d given up halfway through his ground-breaking turn on “St. Pancras Panda”, we would all still have written and drawn our comics. We published our own fanzines, and small press outlets were popping up everywhere. “2000 AD” was at a peak. Marvel UK was in a period of expansion and innovation. I’d already submitted art and story samples several times to both DC and Marvel, along with a pitch for a crossover entitled “Second Coming” to DC’s New Talent Programme in 1982. I was on the files and I didn’t stop angling for work. DC would have found all of us, with or without Alan Moore, who seems curiously unable or unwilling to acknowledge that he was part of a spontaneous movement not its driving force or sole font of creativity.
– It was on that basis that I recommended him to Karen Berger when she was starting [indecipherable speech – Vertigo?]. –
It’s hard not to be a little insulted by Moore’s comments that he recommended me to Karen Berger for, what he has described on more than one occasion, and with a fairly extravagant degree of solipsistic self-regard, as a “proposed Alan Moore farm with Vertigo Comics”, seemingly unable to imagine veteran writers like Peter Milligan, me and others as anything more than extensions of his own self-image. See here-http://www.seraphemera.org/seraphemera_books/AlanMoore_Page1.html– or here –http://blog.newsarama.com/2012/08/10/all-the-writers-were-instructed-to-write-this-like-alan-moore/
However, as five minutes research will confirm, the Vertigo imprint was established in 1993, by which time Alan Moore had fallen out with DC over the “For Mature Readers” ratings system and quit doing new work for them (I believe his split with DC occurred in 1987). I had already been working there for six years doing “Animal Man”, “Doom Patrol”, “Arkham Asylum”, “Gothic”, “Hellblazer” and “Kid Eternity”. I had a good relationship with Karen Berger and was a fairly obvious choice for her to call when she conceived the Vertigo imprint. No other recommendation was necessary. It ought to go without saying that none of us were told to write like Alan Moore – nor did we – and that this is an out-and-out lie. Far more significantly, much of the material that fed into early Vertigo was originated by the creators and by Editor Art Young for the proposed Touchmark imprint of creator-owned adult comics he’d been assigned to put together under the aegis of Disney, of all things. Coincidentally gay-themed series like Peter Milligan’s “Enigma” and my own “Sebastian 0″ – which actually grew out of a pitch for a revamp of IPC’s “Janus Stark” character – were commissioned by Art for publication at Touchmark, not by Karen Berger. When Touchmark experienced a failure to launch, Art was re-hired by DC and brought his portfolio of projects to Vertigo. At no point was Alan Moore involved in any of this. Again, why the fibs, other than to reinforce once more the fantasy of me – and indeed every other Vertigo writer – in a junior or subordinate position to himself?As Moore points out, the work I did on “Zenith” 25 years ago can trace a little – not all – of its influence to “Marvelman” and “Captain Britain” both of which I loved; my own introduction to the first volume of “Zenith”, published in 1988, admits as much, while also listing the book’s many other touchstones.
– Then there started a kind of, a strange campaign of things in fanzines where he was expressing his opinions of me, as you put it. He later explained this as saying that when he started writing, he felt that he wasn’t famous enough, and that a good way of becoming famous would be to say nasty things about me. Which I suppose is a tactic – although not one that, of course, I’m likely to appreciate. So at that point I decided, after I’d seen a couple of his things and they seemed incredibly derivative, I just decided to stop bothering reading his work. And that’s largely sort of proven successful. But, there still seems to be this kind of [indecipherable speech] that I know. –
I don’t believe I ever tried to get “famous” by insulting Alan Moore. It doesn’t seem the most likely route to celebrity.The commercial work I was doing in the early 1980s wasn’t much like the kind of material I wrote and drew for myself, or for indie publication. To get work with Marvel UK and “2000AD” I suppressed my esoteric and surrealist tendencies and tried to imitate popular styles – in order to secure paying jobs in the comics mainstream. There is a reason those pieces were written in a vaguely Alan Moore-ish style and it’s because I was trying to sell to companies who thought Moore was the sine qua non of the bees knees and those stories were my take on what I figured they were looking for. I also did a good Chris Claremont and a semi-passable Douglas Adams. My personal work from the same time is written in a very different style, and is more in the vein of ‘Doom Patrol’ or ‘The Invisibles’. You don’t have to take my word for this: it can be verified by looking at the ‘Near Myths’ material or stuff like the “Famine” strip in “Food For Thought” from 1985. It can even be gleaned by looking at the clear difference between the first four “Animal Man” issues and the fifth – “The Coyote Gospel” story Pádraig mentions – and subsequent issues… Doing my own approximation of the “in” style to get gigs on Marvel UK books was, I thought, a demonstration of my range, versatility and adaptability to trends, not the declaration of some singular influence it has subsequently been distorted into over four decades – mostly by Alan Moore and his supporters, in what can sometimes feel like a never-ending campaign to undermine my personal achievements and successes and to cast me, at all times, in a subsidiary role to the Master. Furthermore to suggest, as Moore does, that subsequent work of mine, including the balance of “Animal Man”, “Doom Patrol”, “Flex Mentallo”, “JLA”, “The Invisibles”, “New X-Men”, “Seven Soldiers”, “Batman”, “All-Star Superman” etc. was equally indebted to “Captain Britain” and “Marvelman” means either one of two things: that he’s read the work in question and is again deliberately distorting the facts for reasons known only to himself – or that he hasn’t read it at all, in which case he’s in no position to comment surely?(I do know that Alan Moore has read a lot more of my work than he pretends to – one of his former collaborators quite innocently revealed as much to me a few years ago, confirming my own suspicions – but until Moore himself comes clean about it that will have to remain in the realm of hearsay.)… Leaving aside his own appropriation of entire swathes of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Harry Blyth, Moorcock fails to convince that he’s read any aspect of my “work” even once, let alone twice. He has so far failed to back up the casual slander with any actual evidence or examples of when he found the time to write “The Invisibles”, “St. Swithin’s Day”, “The New Adventures of Hitler”, “We3″, “The Filth”, “Kill Your Boyfriend”, “Mystery Play”, “Seaguy” or “Joe the Barbarian” to name just a few. In a 34-year career, I’ve also written long-running DC and Marvel series, plays, screenplays, video games, short stories and a book; all of which, if Michael Moorcock is to be believed, were written by him. Except for the bits I stole from Alan Moore!Allow me to demonstrate how easy it is to play this dangerous game:I’ll start by pointing out how various interviews in which I talked about my practice of Chaos Magic during the 1980s and early ’90s clearly played into Alan Moore’s decision to declare himself a magician in 1993. Next, with censorious authority, I’ll point to my own “Doom Patrol” #53 and claim it gave him the idea for his “1963″ project at Image, released a year later. I’ll suggest that Moore’s take on “Supreme” was a lot more like my take on “Animal Man” than “Zenith” was like “Marvelman” or “Captain Britain” – The Supremacy in “Supreme” is a fairly blatant copy of the Comic Book Limbo concept I introduced in “Animal Man” seven years earlier and the Moore book’s wider meta-fictional concerns also covered territory well-trodden by “Animal Man”. “LOEG: Century” with its apocalypse/moonchild plot occurring over three time periods cannot help but recall the apocalypse/moonchild plotline running over three time periods in “The Invisibles” fifteen years previously – with Orlando playing the Lord Fanny role, if you fancy. I could go on and on here, with “convincing” examples, but you get the idea. I’ll wind up with some condescending comment about how I figured he’d grow out of the rip-off magic and metafiction nonsense then wryly conclude that there’s not much chance of that now he’s nudging 60.The above is at least as plausible as Alan Moore’s outlandish attempts to claim that my entire career rests on two stories he wrote 30 years ago.As Ed Brubaker pointed out in the comments section of Part 2 of Pádraig’s series of articles, all writers are influenced by all kinds of things, including one another, all the time. The wider issues around plagiarism, influence, ownership and appropriation – especially in the context of the “IP”-driven corporate vision of creativity – are definitely worth further discussion but I’d like to keep this narrowed down to Pádraig’s essay and specifically Alan Moore’s comments about me.However, as evidence that I’m not alone before the jury, Moore has charged and found guilty the entire mainstream comics industry of living off his leftovers for 30 years here –http://www.mania.com/alan-moore-reflects-marvelman-part-2_article_117529.html– and in other interviews which relentlessly position his own oeuvre as the source of all our Niles. No-one would begrudge him his own obvious influences if he didn’t feel compelled to lecture the rest of us from a moral high ground he occupies dishonestly -Moore includes Geoff Johns among the “parasites” and “raccoons” rooting through his trash. Why? Because Johns seasoned his own epic expansion of the Green Lantern mythos with a couple of minor elements from Moore’s Green Lantern short story “Tygers” (1986) – a story that was itself created to make sense of a plot hole in the 1959 Green Lantern origin by Gardner Fox! So, in fact, both Moore and Johns were simply doing their work-for-hire jobs by adding to and expanding upon the many-authored quilt that is DC, and specifically Green Lantern, continuity. In a shared narrative universe, such as those of DC or Marvel, any element introduced into the continuity surely becomes part of the backstory and is therefore available to other writers to build upon or incorporate. Johns’ Green Lantern work and the “Blackest Night” story in particular would have worked as well without any reference to “Tygers”, in fact. Why the sneering, dehumanizing putdown? Who chastises a man for the unspeakable crime of synthesizing prior elements of Green Lantern’s back story into his own fresh and personal creative vision for the character, m’lud?Would Moore have appreciated a comparison to vermin snuffling among Gardner Fox’s garbage for treats when he brought Fox’s Floronic Man back from the archives to feature in a “Swamp Thing” (Len Wein’s trash!) story? What obsessive snouting around in the municipal tip does “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” reduce to if we regard Alan Moore’s endeavours through the same unforgiving lens he applies to Geoff Johns’ work?Geoff Johns like the rest of us, has his own identifiable obsessions as a writer. He has his own interests, his own points of view, and his own way of articulating his ideas via his chosen medium. I know for a fact that Geoff has seen and done and endured things in his life that Alan Moore is unlikely ever to experience, yet Moore automatically brands him creatively bankrupt and tries to insists that Johns’ imagination is so low on fuel, it relies for sustenance on his own. If I can speak up for a friend, Geoff Johns, like the rest of us, like anyone who picks up a pen to earn a living, has plenty to say and, with all respect, he doesn’t need Alan Moore’s help to say it… The timing is very important because Moore met me not once but many times – the first at a comic mart in Glasgow’s McLellan Galleries (in ’83, I think) when I gave him a copy of my music fanzine “Bombs Away Batman!” which contained positive reviews of his strips in “Warrior” and “2000AD”. The second time was at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow in 1984 where I recommended William McIllvaney’s “Laidlaw” novels to him. On both occasions, and whatever he may have thought then or now, I was not an ‘aspiring writer’ but a many times published one, as can easily be checked.In the company of Bryan Talbot, I spoke briefly with Moore again at a comic convention in Birmingham in 1986, by which time we had corresponded on the subject of “Marvelman”, and when we met for a fourth time at the dinner he semi-recalls (in Glasgow during the “Watchmen” Graphitti Editions tour in 1987, when he and Dave Gibbons signed a copy of their book for my mum), I was a full-time professional, working for “2000 AD” – and DC too by that point – not an aspiring writer (I also met and spoke with him after that – the last time we were in a room together was at the Angouleme comics festival in 1990 but by then he would no longer communicate with me, even by semaphore). When Moore says “They asked if I could perhaps – if they could invite a local comics writer who was a big admirer of mine along to the dinner.”, the careful, self-aggrandizing, phrasing suggests not only that Moore had no idea who I was but that some special privilege had been accorded me when, in fact, the meal was organized by John McShane, who ran AKA Books and Comics in Glasgow at the time. I spent two afternoons a week hanging around John’s shop talking comics, and as a friend and a fellow professional who knew Moore and respected his work, he naturally invited me along to the dinner as a guest. This mysterious “local comics writer” was, in fact, someone Alan Moore knew, had met, and had even exchanged letters with previously, as outlined above. A fellow professional, in fact.I remember talking to him about becoming a vegetarian – ‘sometimes you can’t live with the contradictions, Grant’… – which suggests I’d started work on “Animal Man”. I kept detailed diaries from 1978 – 93 and I can check the exact dates but “Arkham Asylum” was also written in 1987. I was far from up-and-coming at the point in time Moore cites.Why the made-up stories about me?… the persona I adopted for “Drivel” was an exaggerated caricature partly inspired by the Morrissey interviews I enjoyed reading. The whole point of the column – which was one of the magazine’s most popular features, incidentally – was to take the piss out of the comics scene at the time.Alan Moore was only one of the many, many targets of “Drivel” and he came off lightly in comparison to some others – with whom I am still on friendly terms. The main target of the satire in “Drivel” was myself and if anyone’s reputation has suffered as a result of people in other lands and different times presenting as indictable some daft words written in jest, I’d suggest it’s been mine.In defense of my 30 year old self, he had an editorial mandate to amuse and provoke, unlike the 59 year old Alan Moore who insults, condemns and hurls baseless accusations at his contemporaries and their work in almost every interview he gives. I find it tragic but quite pertinent to this piece that the loudest voice in our business – the one that carries the furthest and is taken most seriously by the mainstream media – is the one that offers nothing but contempt and denunciation, with barely a single good word to say about any of the many accomplished and individual writers currently working in mainstream comics, let alone the wealth of brilliant indie creators.Does he ever, for instance, use his high media profile to do anything other than steer potential readers away from modern comic books and their creators – while over-playing his own achievements and placing himself centre stage at every turn? How hard would it be to say something encouraging, positive, or hopeful about the generally improved standard of writing in all comic books these days? Or at least say nothing at all. And if I may untangle the logic behind so much of his hectoring: Moore constantly reiterates the idea that all modern comics are copied from stuff he did in the ’80s – and they’re all rubbish!Is he genuinely saying that his influence has been entirely malignant? If he actually believed that, I’d almost feel sorry for him. I see my own influence all over the place and I’m quite chuffed… My blood runs cold because I am no longer a young man but an increasingly decrepit 52 year old with a lot less arrogance, a lot more life experience, and a bit more compassion for people, even the ones I don’t particularly like. With the wisdom of hindsight, I wish I could tell my younger self that in the future, no matter how much he thought he’d changed or matured, “Drivel” would always return.These days, if I aim a barb at Moore, and I sometimes do, it’s generally as revenge for having my attention drawn to some latest interview or other. I know there’s a lot more to him than the contemptuous, patronising Scorpionic mask – we’re all just people and we all do the same daft people shit and all that – but it’s the face I’ve been exposed to more often than not, so I’m afraid my view of Alan Moore has a somewhat negative bias that deepens every time he opens his mouth to preach hellfire and damnation on the comics business and its benighted labour force.Having said that, I learned long ago to separate my antipathy toward the man’s expressed opinions from my enjoyment of his work and I’ve been very complimentary about that work over the decades. Conversely, I can guarantee you will search in vain for a single positive comment about me or my work coming from Alan Moore’s direction – in spite of our obvious shared areas of interest.
Grant Morrison’s recollection comes with specific dates, as well we a hint of regret of his own past persona.
Coupled with the truth that people are influenced by many things without being plagiarists brings me to believe Morrison’s recollection over Moore’s. I enjoyed reading Moore’s more because of the tone but Morrison’s recounting sounds less like myth.