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UK comics writer Steve Moore passes away at age 64

steve mooreVeteran British writer Steve Moore, one of the original contributors to The Fortean Times who’s also credited with teaching a young Alan Moore how to write comics scripts, passed away over the weekend at age 64.

The news was first reported this morning by Strange Attractor, a journal for which Moore regularly wrote. “Steve was a warm, wise and gentle man, with a surreal sense of humour and an astoundingly deep knowledge that covered history, the I Ching, forteana, magic, oriental mysticism, martial arts cinema, science fiction, underground comics and worlds more,” the remembrance states.

A contributor to 2000AD, Warrior and Doctor Who Magazine, Moore’s list of accomplishments includes pioneering the Future Shocks story format and co-creating “Red Fang,” “Valkyries” and Axel Pressbutton. A longtime friend of Alan Moore (no relation), he wrote “Young Tom Strong” and “Jonni Future” in Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales, as well as a novelization of the film V For Vendetta.

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Comics A.M. | NECA to acquire Hastings in $21.4 million deal

Hastings

Hastings

Retailing | Hastings Entertainment, which operates a chain of 149 stores that sells books, comics, video games and more, has announced a $21.4 million agreement to merge with two companies owned by Joel Weinshanker, president and sole shareholder of Wizkids parent National Entertainment Collectibles Association; Weinshanker already holds 12 percent of Hastings’ outstanding shares.

“NECA is a significant supplier of movie, book and video game merchandise and collectibles to the Hastings superstores, and we’ve had a close and growing business relationship with Mr. Weinshanker over the last decade,” John H. Marmaduke, Hastings’ chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “Mr. Weinshanker, through his affiliation with the estates of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali, and his company’s management of Graceland, is one of the leading drivers of the lifestyle industry, and we believe Hastings’ business will continue to benefit from our relationship with him and NECA.” Marmaduke will retire with a $1.5 million cash payout once the merger is approved. The announcement was followed by press releases from two New York City law firms that say they’re investigating the plan on behalf of Hastings shareholders. [press release]

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Does Disney’s ‘Frozen’ pay homage to ‘Watchmen’?

watchmen-let it go

While Adele Dazeem’s Idina Menzel’s performance of “Let It Go” from Frozen is inescapable (and downright catchy), I’d somehow missed widespread speculation that the big scene from Disney’s latest animated blockbuster is an elaborate homage to the Mars sequence from Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

It’s already inspired some mashups, but now Slate’s Forrest Wickman draws our attention to one that may just erase any doubts, ending the debate once and for all (or, y’know, not): Alex Wolinetz‘s combination of the song’s lyrics with Gibbons’ panels depicting a self-exiled Doctor Manhattan. (You can see the rest of the mashup at Slate.com.)

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Best of 7 | The best in comics from the last seven days

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Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about, as it says above, “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out. So without further ado, let’s get to it …

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Comics A.M. | British Library to stage largest exhibit of UK comics

The Trials of Nasty Tales

The Trials of Nasty Tales

Events | The British Library is staging a “long overdue” exhibit on comics, called “Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the U.K.,” which will feature comics in a variety of genres from the 19th century to the present. Featured items include The Trials of Nasty Tales, which chronicles the 1972 obscenity trial of the editorial staff of Nasty Tales. “I went to a very traditional school where they would raid desks and take comics off to the orchard to burn them,” said Dave Gibbons, one of the contributors to The Trials of Nasty Tales. “Fast forward 40 years and they now invite me to the school to lecture on graphic novels.” The exhibition runs May 2-Aug. 14. [The Guardian]

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Quote of the Day | Moore vs. Morrison, Round … something

alan moore“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.”

Alan Moore, delving deep into his history with Grant Morrison (such that it is), whom he refers to as “some feverishly fixated non-entity” and “my own personal 18th century medicinal leech,” who “through the early years of this present century [...] somehow managed to perpetuate his career seemingly without the accomplishment of any major or memorable works.”

The interview, conducted via email by Padraig O’Mealoid, is a fascinating and contentious read, with Moore also taking aim at journalist Laura Sneddon and The Independent. But he devotes a lot of space to Morrison.

Comics A.M. | Movies, merchandise and Mumbai comic con

Wonder Bai

Wonder Bai

Conventions | Complaints about comics conventions are apparently the same the world over, as a writer who attended the third annual Mumbai Film and Comic Convention (simply Mumbai Comic Con in its first year) this weekend notes, “Not to seem hypocritical, since we all tend to buy curios and the occasional t-shirt at Comicon every year, but when merchandising stalls (read: t-shirt shops) start outnumbering those which have an actual reason for being at a convention in the first place, we’ve got a problem.” According to DNA India, this year’s event saw the debut of the convention’s mascot, Wonder Bai (at right). [Think Digit]

Digital comics | Microsoft and the Indian publisher Amar Chitra Katha launched a comics app for Windows 8 at Mumbai Film and Comic Convention. “Children these days are drifting away from their Indian mythologies and stories, so this was our attempt to bring these value building stories on a platform familiar to them,” said Vineet Durani of Microsoft’s Windows Phone Business Group. [DNA India]

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The historical significance of ‘Miracleman’

Miracleman1

Miracleman #1

Marvel on Tuesday released the first preview of its remastered Miracleman #1, dividing fans with its modern coloring. Some of the comments come from newer comics readers still wondering what the big deal is about this series; surely, the “mehs” are already being prepared for the issue’s Jan. 15. debut.

Despite the updated coloring, it probably isn’t fair or even realistic to hold the series up against contemporary comics, despite Miracleman‘s significant influence on a good deal of them. Instead, it’s best to view these stories in the context of the times, which makes it easier to see why Miracleman (or Marvelman, if you prefer) is the natural stepping stone to Watchmen, and established many of the themes Alan Moore and many creators that followed him would explore in subsequent works up through the present day.

Among the relatively few fans who have read these stories, Miracleman is often held in the same regard as seminal works like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. Both of those revered miniseries debuted in 1986 and caused a seismic shift in how superhero comics, and mainstream comics in general, were created and received. It’s worth noting then that a good amount of what Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns later touched upon and accomplished had been done four years earlier with Marvelman. If it weren’t for the legendary rights quagmire that prevented those stories from being reprinted, Miracleman would almost surely be just as celebrated and commercially successful as its successors.

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Comparing Marvel’s remastered ‘Miracleman’ to Eclipse original

miracleman-1

Following the release this morning of the preview of Marvel’s remastered Miracleman #1, CBR News Editor Kiel Phegley dug into his archives for the original 1982 color issue, by Alan Moore and Garry Leach, so we can compare and contrast (the story first appeared in black and white in 1982′s Warrior #1).

While some traditionalists may argue for the original, we can probably all agree that Miracleman’s recolored, non-purple face on the right is a great improvement. You can compare the other preview pages below.

The remastered Miracleman #1, featuring a new cover by Joe Quesada, goes on sale Jan. 15.

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Original ‘Killing Joke’ art reignites debate about torture scene

killing joke-gordon2As if recent renewed debate about its ending weren’t enough to demonstrate that, after 25 years, Batman: The Killing Joke can still spur discussion, now new original artwork has surfaced indicating the scene depicting the torture of Barbara Gordon was initially far more graphic and sexualized.

A photo of the inked page (below, definitely NSFW) was tweeted Sunday by Bill Hynes, a former employee of Gosh! Comics in London, revealing a naked and bleeding Barbara among the montage of images shown to her father James Gordon. In the published comic, by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland, that shot is replaced by a close-up of Barbara’s face.

Bolland confirmed the artwork’s authenticity, writing on his blog, “Here’s a page I drew for Killing Joke. I drew what was in the script. That’s my job. I was asked to tone it down a bit. I don’t know how the person who posted it got this image.”

Sue of DC Women Kicking Ass notes, “This isn’t some thumbnail sketch. This is a final inked page. At least someone at DC had some sense to kill it. Because really, how can you claim a book doesn’t sexualize violence when you have stuff like that in print?”

Indeed, whether the Joker raped Barbara Gordon has been long debated, with some readers insisting the violence was physical and not necessarily sexual. This page now may cast the scene, and the already-controversial comic, in a slightly different light.

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Quote of the Day | Neil Gaiman on writing comics

neil gaiman“I knew what a movie script looked like, I’d seen them. But I couldn’t get my head around what a comic script was. And eventually, a marvelous comics writer, probably the finest writer of comics there’s ever been, a man named Alan Moore just showed me how to write comics. He sat down and said, ‘Right, right now, you write Page One, Panel One. And then you say everything that is happening in that panel.’ In this case, you know, you’d say, ‘Page one, panel one, Neil Gaiman and Tom Ashbrook are sitting in a studio, there’s paper all over the desk, there are great big microphones. Neil is talking, waving his hands around, doing an impression of Alan Moore. Tom is nodding sagely.’

It’s stage directions, and it’s a letter to an artist. And then underneath, you’d write Tom: ‘It’s stage directions’; Neil: ‘It’s a letter to an artist’ and those would be what would go into the word balloons. And Neil, thought balloon: ‘I’m so glad they got me that cup of tea.’ You put everything. As far as I was concerned, and still to this day, as far as I’m concerned a comic script is a 10,000 word letter to an artist. I would always get puzzled when people would say to me, ‘So you write comics! So you write the words that go in the balloons.’ And you’re going, ‘That’s absolutely the tip of the iceberg.’ What I’m doing is building the cake, and in those words I will tell the artist everything I want to be in the panel — the size of the panel, the shape. What you’re also doing is working with some of the most creative people in the world.”

The Sandman writer Neil Gaiman, turning his interview with Tom Ashbrook for the WBUR radio show On Point into a comic script on the spot

Quote of the Day | Alan Moore on superhero comics, fandom

alan moore“Now, see, I haven’t read any superhero comics since I finished with Watchmen. I hate superheroes. I think they’re abominations. They don’t mean what they used to mean. They were originally in the hands of writers who would actively expand the imagination of their nine- to 13-year-old audience. That was completely what they were meant to do and they were doing it excellently. These days, superhero comics think the audience is certainly not nine to 13, it’s nothing to do with them. It’s an audience largely of 30-, 40-, 50-, 60-year old men, usually men. Someone came up with the term graphic novel. These readers latched on to it; they were simply interested in a way that could validate their continued love of Green Lantern or Spider-Man without appearing in some way emotionally subnormal. This is a significant rump of the superhero-addicted, mainstream-addicted audience. I don’t think the superhero stands for anything good. I think it’s a rather alarming sign if we’ve got audiences of adults going to see the Avengers movie and delighting in concepts and characters meant to entertain the 12-year-old boys of the 1950s.”

Alan Moore, addressing modern superhero comics in an interview with The Guardian about Fashion Beast, his collaboration with Malcolm McLaren. Moore also touches upon the influence of his work on other writers, and gets in a jab another in the process: “Grant Morrison has actually self-confessedly made a tactic of not only basing some of his narratives on my style or my work but also trying to make himself more famous by slagging me off at every opportunity. I have nothing to do with him.”

Blog saves classic fanzine art from the ash heap of history

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We’re living in an age where increasing aspects of our comics heritage is being protected, with all manner of work coming back into print in fittingly deluxe packages. However, we can all think of great comics that will probably never be reprinted, for various obscure reasons. For example, all manner of great work published by Marvel and DC in the 1970s and ’80s will never see the light of day again due to lapsed licensing deals. Other titles, other creators, simply fall from fashion, to await rediscovery by another generation. Others still end up in complicated rights battles and litigation.

One field of comics-related work that seems to be just lost to the unrelenting march of time and progress is that of the pre-Internet fanzine. Many significant figures in comics history contributed text and art to this near-dead medium, and it’s hard to see any organization having the will to invest in researching, reprinting or digitizing this lost legacy.

Colin Smith is a blogger and the author of Sequart’s “Shameless? The Superhero Comics of Mark Millar,” and as a critic has written about comics for some of the United Kingdom’s top magazines. He has a secondary blog where he has been recently sharing some great art from old U.K. fanzines and convention booklets.

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Sequential celebrates Alan Moore’s birthday with free bio-comic

Alan MooreLegendary comics writer Alan Moore will turn 60 on Monday, and the digital comics distributor Sequential is celebrating with a free download of Gary Millidge’s Alan Moore: An Extraordinary Gentleman, as well as a sale on all of its Moore comics.

Millidge originally put together the 20-page bio-comic in 2003 to celebrate Moore’s 50th birthday, and he has revised and updated it for this occasion. It’s text-heavy, with a two-page introduction followed by the story of Moore’s life told in panels from his comics, overlaid with lots and lots of text boxes. It’s certainly an interesting comic and worth checking out if you have an iPad. Millidge is the creator of the self-published comic Strangehaven and the editor of the anthology Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman.

Sequential is also offering discounts on a number of Moore’s comics: From Hell is $3.99, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century and Nemo: Heart of Ice are priced at $2.99 each.

If you’re wondering, “Is it worth it to download another app just for these cheap comics?” the answer is probably yes, if you have an iPad and you like indie and underground comics, particularly those from the United Kingdom. Sequential has a very nice presentation, and there’s quite a bit of free material, including the collection of Neil Gaiman’s Lost Tales (which includes Moore’s Leviticus) and the digital comics magazine Infinity.

Cover, details revealed for ‘Nemo: The Roses of Berlin’

Nemo: The Roses of Berlin

Nemo: The Roses of Berlin

Back in April Alan Moore told Padraig O. Mealoid that he was almost finished with the follow-up to Nemo: Heart of Ice. Titled Nemo: The Roses of Berlin, the graphic novel follows the further adventures of Janni Nemo, daughter of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen member Captain Nemo, as she takes over the family business (and submarine).

Thanks to Forbidden Planet, we now have some additional details on Roses of Berlin, including a cover, a release date and solicitation text:

“From The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen! Sixteen years ago, notorious science-brigand Janni Nemo journeyed into the frozen reaches of Antarctica to resolve her father’s weighty legacy in a storm of madness and loss, barely escaping with her Nautilus and her life. Now it is 1941, and with her daughter strategically married into the family of aerial warlord Jean Robur, Janni’s raiders have only limited contact with the military might of the clownish German-Tomanian dictator Adenoid Hynkel. But when the pirate queen learns that her loved ones are held hostage in the nightmarish Berlin, she has no choice save to intervene directly, traveling with her aging lover Broad Arrow Jack into the belly of the beastly metropolis. Within that alienated city await monsters, criminals, and legends, including the remaining vestiges of Germany’s notorious ‘Twilight Heroes’, a dark Teutonic counterpart to Mina Murray’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And waiting at the far end of this gauntlet of alarming adversaries there is something much, much worse.”

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