When it comes to superheroes, his work being adapted by others, or pretty much anything else he's asked about, comics legend Alan Moore is never shy to share his opinion. The creator of Watchmen, V For Vendetta, and more iconic works that inspired films and other adaptations has been critical of many things over the years. In what may not be a surprise to many, he even once brutally slammed superhero movies and the people who love them.
A quote from Alan Moore, published back in 2017, has been has been making the rounds on the internet, likely in reaction to many other great minds sharing their thoughts on superhero movies. Moore was asked about the impact of superhero movies and why so many people are fascinated by them. Watchmen had already been adapted into a hit movie by that point, and it's worth considering his past thoughts now that Damon Lindelof has produced a Watchmen series for HBO. Here's what Moore had to say:
I think the impact of superheroes on popular culture is both tremendously embarrassing and not a little worrying. While these characters were originally perfectly suited to stimulating the imaginations of their twelve or thirteen year-old audience, today’s franchised übermenschen, aimed at a supposedly adult audience, seem to be serving some kind of different function, and fulfilling different needs. Primarily, mass-market superhero movies seem to be abetting an audience who do not wish to relinquish their grip on (a) their relatively reassuring childhoods, or (b) the relatively reassuring 20th century. The continuing popularity of these movies to me suggests some kind of deliberate, self-imposed state of emotional arrest, combined with an numbing condition of cultural stasis that can be witnessed in comics, movies, popular music and, indeed, right across the cultural spectrum.
For those needing a translation, it sounds like Alan Moore thought a lot of people are stuck in the past. In Moore's opinion, superhero movies represent the values and nostalgia of the audience's past, and viewers feel safer in retreading that familiar territory rather than perhaps moving forward with something new and inventive.
It's an interesting quote to ponder because one could argue HBO's Watchmen provides viewers with a sense of safety in revisiting a franchise from days gone by. At the same time, however, Damon Lindelof's series, much like the original, does not portray its heroes as near-perfect men that are the epitome of what we want to be. Heroes like Looking Glass and Sister Night have some real flaws and trauma, and frame real-world issues in a way that one could argue is more adult than the average Marvel movie.
Moore continued railing on superhero movies in a past issue of Folha de São Paulo (via alanmooreworld.com), and shifted to critique the writers in comics and the companies that employ them. Moore touched on the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche once more and opined that the fantasies of these creators and companies are to create heroes with better moral codes than they themselves would have, and even tied some of the appeal to the creation of a master race.
The superheroes themselves – largely written and drawn by creators who have never stood up for their own rights against the companies that employ them, much less the rights of a Jack Kirby or Jerry Siegel or Joe Schuster – would seem to be largely employed as cowardice compensators, perhaps a bit like the handgun on the nightstand. I would also remark that save for a smattering of non-white characters (and non-white creators) these books and these iconic characters are still very much white supremacist dreams of the master race. In fact, I think that a good argument can be made for D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation as the first American superhero movie, and the point of origin for all those capes and masks.
It's certainly interesting to read these past comments from Alan Moore, as the writer was reportedly "not thrilled" about how Damon Lindelof took his series into the future. Given some of the subject matter touched upon and these past statements, one would think he'd be happy with the various changes in direction and thrilled about the show largely centering on an black female lead.
So provided Alan Moore's thoughts on superhero movies translate to superhero shows and are still current with his modern beliefs, one could say Damon Lindelof has, so far, created a series that Moore could approve of. With that said, Lindelof may have had an easier time winning the author over had he tried to tell this tale with entirely new characters and left the Watchmen franchise completely out of it. Basically, there may be no outcome of this series that will please Moore, but Lindelof seemed to know that early on so he's probably unconcerned about it.
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