In case you haven’t been keeping up, Alan Moore has recently spoken a little bit regarding the comic book industry and superhero movies. In terms of comics themselves, Moore criticizes the industry for not moving forward and growing up since he first started making a name for himself with the exception of a couple unnamed titles. He blames the industry for commercializing the trend of appearing to grow up but never following through and lays some blame on fans for wanting to read comics “as they always had” but not wanting to be viewed as childish or “subnormal” for it. He also goes on to say how superhero movies have “blighted” cinema and culture. He sees hundreds of thousands of adults going to movies to watch superheroes that were originally created for 12 year old boys as a symptom of seeking escapism from the complexities of the modern world which could be dangerously infantilizing a population.
OK…there is a lot to unpack here. The stuff strictly regarding the comics industry isn’t different from anything he has said in the past. Now of course there have been stories that have claimed to be mature and grown up but have failed in execution (I’m looking at you, “Heroes in Crisis”). And comics have fallen into certain repetition and cycles, like have an event every few years that claims to change their fictional universe forever. Honestly though, I do think in general comics have grown up. Not as drastically or in a way Moore probably would have wanted, but I do think they have generally grown in several respects.
For the movies, that is a little trickier to go over. There are things that are similar and can be found in multiple superhero movies, both the MCU and the DCEU. Some come from wanting to create a consistent world that makes sense and people can easily understand and follow, some are explained by studio executives pushing for them regardless if they are good or bad. But most if not all can be attributed to the fact that there are just bound to be repeats and similarities. Some are able to make certain cliches and tropes seem fresh or put a twist on it that makes them more entertaining, so give them props for that. As for people using them as escapism. Well…duh. It doesn’t matter what genre it is - movies are escapism. Movies, TV, books, music, anything about entertainment is going to be escapism to some degree. Even the movies or shows that have a lot of real world parallels will still be escapism (I mean, y’all remember a Stephen King story called “The Stand”, right?) This isn’t anything new. The reason this particular genre is blowing up right now is, well, there are people that are finding ways to make them seem more grown up and mature but also make them fun. It should also be noted that Moore himself admitted that he hasn’t seen a superhero film since Tim Burton’s first Batman movie. While he certainly has credibility when it comes to comics in general, it is a little weird for him to comment on something that he hasn’t really observed all that closely.
But I understand where he is coming from a bit. The US isn’t exactly in a great place right now, and the UK left the European Union. He feels like instead of people facing real world problems directly, we are hiding in movies and stories filled with characters originally meant for young boys for cheap entertainment.
Now, I do have a lot of respect for Alan Moore. His work on Swamp Thing, my favorite hero ever, is iconic and absolutely beautiful. But I do think there is something about Moore that needs to be addressed…he has become someone who, despite being a legend in the field, views comics (specifically superhero ones) as childish and superficial. He is also very clearly a pessimist, but I think he has been that for a while. If you have read my review of “Doomsday Clock” I talk a little bit about that in regards to “Watchmen”. But focusing back on the first point, it is clear that his experience with the industry and his own personal experiences in regards to superheroes has made him view this genre as something that should be completely pushed to the side.
I don’t blame him for being like this. To a certain extent, he is justified and makes good points. But to focus only on the negative and what he personally believes is the problem is to completely overlooks the good that currently exists and can be potentially created in the future. There are modern stories that do a good job of making real world parallels or make commentary that are well worth the read. And in today’s era, I don’t really see a lot of stigma against reading comics anymore. I’m sure it still exists, but it has become a lot less visible and is clearly not the norm anymore. Plus, stories like “Doomsday Clock” or “Avengers: Endgame” can provide hope and inspiration for people to actually go out in the real world to make a difference.
He is right when he said superheroes, back when they first came out and popular, were meant for young kids. Tell simple stories of good vs evil. They are still about good and evil, but they aren’t as simple anymore and they are clearly not just for young kids anymore. The industry has a lot of flaws that need to be addressed, but we can’t let that make us overlook the good that is there.