Looking at his picture, it is not hard to accept that Alan Moore is a black magician – part deaf, part blind, who conjures up worlds of dystopian violence, vigilantism and totalitarianism. He is also the creative, if disturbing, genius behind at least four Hollywood blockbuster films.
Moore's singular talent as an author lies in his ability to visualise unique new worlds. Some are different in a disturbing way: witness his bringing together of children's characters from Peter Pan; The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland – Wendy, Dorothy and Alice – to meet and explore their sexuality in a pornographic fantasy.
Then there is the world of the Watchmen: a bouillon of paranoia and fear, filled with psychotic supermen, homicidal sirens and a corrupt President Nixon enjoying his fifth term during the 1980s. This Friday the "unfilmable" Watchmen, directed by Zack Snyder, will be unleashed in the UK after 20 years of aborted efforts and legal wrangling. Much is known already about the film: the trailer posted on YouTube, with a glimpse of stunning visuals, has whet the appetites of more than four million people.
Yet the creator of the graphic novel – published in 1987 – that spawned the film remains an enigma. Moore, 55, has turned his back on it – as he has disowned the films of all his creations: V for Vendetta, in which anarchists battle a big-brother state; From Hell – which revisited the Jack the Ripper murders; and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which united such Victorian supernatural heroes as the Invisible Man.
His post-apocalyptical vision no doubt stems from his formative years as a near unemployable soul in the economically depressed 1970s and early 1980s – he was kicked out of school, without qualifications, for dealing LSD.
Moore was quickly disillusioned with the working world. The early Thatcher years certainly inspired V for Vendetta. "He was doing horrible work, such as skinning sheep," said Paul Gravett, who put on an exhibition of Moore's work at the ICA, in London, in 2006. He added: "He has deafness in one ear and blindness in one eye."
And Moore had little time for polite, social norms. He and his first wife have two children, but lived polyamorously with a female friend until she and his wife left him to set up home together.
He is now married to the comic-book artist Melinda Gebbie, who collaborated with him on Lost Girls – the controversial and sexually charged work about Wendy, Dorothy and Alice.
Despite his success as a writer, Moore shuns the money and limelight the Hollywood adaptations of his work could provide. He lives in a three-bedroom terrace house in Northampton, where he has lived all his life, and rarely leaves. He is also something of a local celebrity.
But while his collaborator, Dave Gibbons, who illustrated Watchmen, is happy to promote the film and take the lion's share of royalties, Moore has removed his name from the credits and will not allow images from the novel to appear in articles about the film. The writer sees Hollywood as a voracious destroyer of ideas. He has described the film industry as "bullying" and "spoon-feeding" its audience.
Moore, who describes himself as an anarchist, is also deeply immersed in the occult. He belongs to a group called The Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels, which performs "occult workings" – prose and poetry set to music. He is said to worship a Roman snake god called Glycon, and has a shrine in his home. He is currently working on a "grimoire", or black-magic handbook, called The Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic.
"It's a serious book on magic," Paul Gravett said. "[And] he's writing his second [non-graphic] novel, set in Northampton." It's all a long way from his first comic strip for his local paper, from where he moved to Sounds music magazine, before ending up on 2000AD, the groundbreaking British comic, where he met Gibbons.
The few people who know Moore well describe him as modest and down to earth. But they insist it is deep principle that drives him. "He's not taken any money for the films," said Gravett. But he added: "Alan doesn't avoid the media; he just sticks to his agenda."Josh Palmano, who runs London comic shop Gosh!, added: "He is a genuine eccentric. He spends a huge amount of time researching ... He is very charismatic, I've never seen him in a bad mood."
Moore cannot block studios from making films of his older work, as the rights are held by DC Comics. But he went to some lengths, successfully, to veto a planned film sequel to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
He has done nothing to disguise his disdain for film: "I met Terry Gilliam, and he asked me, 'How would you make a film of Watchmen?'. And I said, 'Don't.' I think he came to agree with me that it was a film better unmade."
Last September – when there were fears that a dispute over the rights between Fox and Warner Bros would see Watchmen shelved – he told the Los Angeles Times: "Will the film even be coming out? There are these legal problems now, which I find wonderfully ironic. Perhaps it's been cursed from afar, from England. And I can tell you that I will also be spitting venom all over it for months to come."
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