Earlier this week one of the greatest comic book writers of all time was interviewed by the British newspaper “The Guardian” where he expressed some pointed thoughts on the success of the “Avengers” movie and superheroes in general. Moore stated that he found the success of the film “alarming” in the sense that adults were being entertained by characters and concepts originally meant to entertain them as children. Before that, he also said that superheroes were not being used in their intended way to expand the imaginations of nine-to-thirteen-year-olds, with their current adult audience utilizing the term “graphic novel” in a way to justify their continued following of these characters without appearing emotionally subnormal.
Given Moore’s treatment at the hands of Marvel and DC over the years, I’m willing to write everything he says here off as simply being “justifiably bitter.” After all the stories of how he’s been jerked around by those companies, it’s not surprising that he’d want to lash out at them like this. Of course, personal shame could be a motivating factor here. Moore is almost single-handedly responsible for proving that superheroes (both legacy and otherwise) could successfully appeal to an older than nine-to-thirteen-year-old audience with his work on “Swamp Thing,” the soon-to-be-back-in-print “Miracleman,” and of course “Watchmen.” Seeing people take all of what he perceives as the wrong lessons from his work there; well, I’d be bitter too. (I’m also just a blogger on the internet trying to get inside the head of a truly fearsome talent, so feel free to take this with a grain of salt.)
That said, when Moore talks about superheroes in the interview it’s not hard to see that he’s talking about those published by Marvel and DC specifically. The writer’s whole rant came about when the interviewer brought up the connection between his classic “Green Lantern” story “Tygers” and Geoff Johns’ “Blackest Night” event, and he specifically mentions Green Lantern and Spider-Man when talking about the characters that adults are trying to justify their love of. I’d be interested to know if Moore has read any non-Marvel and DC superhero stories that have been published over the years like Robert Kirkman’s “Invincible,” Garth Ennis’ “The Boys,” Bendis & Oeming’s “Powers,” and the “Luther Strode” books by Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore. These books either show how a superhero story can thrive without being hemmed in by the constraints of operating in a shared universe, or simply flip the bird at everything the genre stands for.
In any event, as the audience for these books gets older, the more the mindshare and audience for them will dwindle. Marvel and DC have already shown that they can’t really achieve significant year-on-year growth without the constant need for relaunches, event-driven storylines, or cover gimmicks. Unless they can find a way to do this without these things, then it’s only a matter of time until Warner Bros. and Disney decide that the comics being published by their little intellectual property farms are more trouble than they’re worth. I can only hope that Image will have achieved market dominance by that time so that comics stores won’t have had to rely on Marvel and DC’s output for a long time.
I know that this sounds harsh and probably even a bit ridiculous coming from someone who reads a ton of Marvel and DC superhero comics on a regular basis. Yet while some of them are quite good, and a few are even excellent, the most compelling work in the medium is being done outside of the shared universes they have created. So even though I think Moore is entitled to his bitterness, I wonder if he has ever considered just kicking up his heels and watching the importance of Marvel and DC as comic book publishers be slowly eroded away by hungrier creators and publishers.
As for his complaints about the success of the “Avengers” movie? I can’t help him there, only to say that even a trend as massively successful as Marvel’s movies have been will eventually run its course. Eventually the quality will drop off and there will be one gigantic misfire that will cause Disney and Marvel to put the whole thing in mothballs for a few years before trying to give it another go. Trends like these are nothing if not cyclical.
So I guess if I want to say something to Moore about his recent interview, it would be, “Hey Alan: relax.”