The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore
Alan Moore is one of the undisputed masters of the comic book form, and that’s putting things mildly. He has authored a quite astounding body of work, including V For Vendetta, From Hell, and, of course, the magnum opus that is Watchmen.
TwoMorrows Publishing has, for the past few years, been publishing a wonderful series called Modern Masters, in which they spotlight a variety of the greatest artists in the field: Alan Davis, George Perez, Arthur Adams, John Byrne, etc. The format of those books (I suppose I should call them books — they are the size of magazines, but they are square-bound and much lengthier than your average magazine) is a lengthy one-on-one interview with the subject. Through these series of in-depth questions and answers, the reader is taken on a detailed journey through the life and career of the subject, and is also given great insight into his/her style, approach, and techniques.
First published in 2003, The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore adheres to the format of the Modern Masters series. The entire work is a lengthy interview with Mr. Moore, conducted by George Khoury. But while the Modern Masters volumes are all in-depth, this work puts those volumes to shame, clocking in at a hefty 237 pages. The new “Indispensable Edition,” which is what I have, was published a few months back, presumably with the intention of meeting the renewed interest in Mr. Moore’s work following the release of the Watchmen movie. This new edition has a great new interview with Mr. Moore, conducted in 2008, that serves as a fine epilogue to the whole piece.
For anyone who has ever read and enjoyed any of Alan Moore’s amazing comic books, I cannot recommend this publication highly enough. I thought that the early chapters, dealing with Moore’s youth and childhood, would be boring — but Mr. Moore’s wit brought great humor to those stories of his “early days.” And once the story moves to his break-though stint writing Swamp Thing, the narrative really kicks into high gear. The book is filled with behind-the-scenes stories of Moore’s time working on all of his seminal works. I’ve read a good deal over the years, for example, about his run on Swamp Thing and the making of Watchmen, V For Vendetta, etc., but the stories found here quickly move beyond the familiar “legends” connected with those projects. It’s endlessly fascinating to hear Moore’s thoughts on the development of those works, as well as his opinions about them now, looking back. (I was quite interested to read about the reasons for his dislike, for example, of The Killing Joke, which — despite his feelings — I continue to regard as one of the definitive Batman stories.) I was also pleased that the book spends a significant amount of time discussing some of Moore’s less well-known works, from the tantalizingly unfinished Big Numbers, to his time writing for Jim Lee’s Wildstorm and Rob Liefeld’s Awesome Comics universes, to his well-regarded but all-too-brief (to me, at least) development of his very own comic book “universe,” America’s Best Comics.
As if anything else was needed, The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore is supplemented by a number of illustrated tributes to Mr. Moore by some of his best artistic collaborators: Brian Bolland, Rick Veitch, John Totleben, Mark Buckingham, Dave Gibbons, Chris Sprouse, and more. There is also a wealth of imagery from all of Moore’s varied works that accompanies each page of the interview, including some great samples of his earlier, hard-to-find work from 2000 A.D. and other British publications. I was also tickled to see that lots of samples of Mr. Moore’s own illustration work was included. I had read that Moore had a decent talent for illustration himself, but I was quite blown away by the skill of his work (even drawings from 20-30 years ago!!) that was reprinted here. The man has talent, that’s for damn sure.
I thought it would take me a while to read The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore in its entirety, but it was so enjoyable and fascinating that I blew through it at great speed. Now I want to go back and read all of the Alan Moore comic books in my collection!! (And I also have a list of other projects by Mr. Moore that I need to track down, such as A Small Killing, which he apparently holds in great esteem.) For any comic book fan, this is indeed an indispensable work.
You can find more about The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore, the Modern Masters series, and lots of other fine TwoMorrow publications at www.twomorrows.com.