Moore Interviews, Moore Problems

So I guess you’ve all seen this, right?

I don’t know if I would comment on it right away, if I didn’t have something of a personal angle on it. But I do, so I probably should.

That personal angle, by the by, is the post on this blog called “Interview With A Figment Part V”, now in temporary suspension, which features me dreaming about conducting an interview with Alan Moore in which I ask him what’s with all the rape in his comics, whereupon he laughs uproariously and exclaims…


Seemed funny at the time. Little did I dream someone would ever ask him the actual bloody question, and even less did I dream he’d answer it in a great big raft of 12,000 apparently quite angry words. So here’s the thing about that: my position on Alan Moore’s latest interview is something I may feel like reflecting on at some point, but what I definitely DON’T want is for my once-amusing (at least to me) Figment Interview to show up in some linkblog made by someone who’s looking for corroboration for their position while I’m still trying to get to a point where I might be able to articulate my own

And I’ll tell you why. Because that post was something initially made in response to the rising tide of blog-thoughts (more than a couple of years ago now) that spoke quizzically about the whole “what’s with the rapeyness” issue, and so it wasn’t itself really me wondering about it. Rather, I was wondering why we were wondering: why it would be so disturbing to us, for an author to want to examine sexual violence as Moore typically does? The implication (and it was only ever an implication) seemed to be that Alan had some kind of an inappropriate hang-up about it, that he was unconsciously returning to the subject matter because it…I don’t know, because it turned him on, or something? And so whatever he tried to do, he was always caught out on that slippery Freudian slope somehow or other.

And I thought this (implied) point of view didn’t make any fucking sense. There’s a lot of rape and sexual violence in Alan Moore comics, and it’s perfectly fair to bring it up. It’s perfectly fair to subject it to analysis. But it seems shortsighted in the extreme to turn the mere observation into a diagnosis, and call that an analysis. Alan Moore didn’t seem to care, but I did, and the easy implication started to work on my head a bit, until finally I came up with the joke.

So that was what that was all about, and though I felt a bit squidgy at the time about appropriating Alan’s voice I figured that it was basically okay because it was so obviously a lark, and anyway it’s my fairly-longstanding policy not to remove posts that people have commented on, and people did comment so up it stood. Right now, though, it’s all gotten a bit more complicated than that: since Alan Moore has addressed this issue, in his own voice and at terrifying length, my little excursion into larkish dreamtime now seems to me to have acquired a slightly-horrifying tinge both of presumption, and overinvolvement. And even worse still

It could potentially be used as a sort of “evidence”. As I said, I’m not going to go on and register my position on the latest Moore interview at the present time, but there are a few things I pretty much feel I should say right now even if they’re rather poorly thought-out, and one of them is that over the last little while it has become so TOTALLY OKAY for people to imply that Alan has an itch about rape that he just can’t scratch, that everyone seems to just assume it must be his problem that they think that, and not their own. But, it is their own. Because in a world where Marvel and DC up the ante on normalizing misogyny and sexual violence like they were two Dr. Dooms trying to out-rule the world at each other, while at the same time any complaint about said up-ante-ing will bring down the scolding wrath of everyone from to the frozen head of Walt-fucking-Disney, for Alan Moore to be looked down on for a bunch of normalizing and cynical exploiting that he actually (to my mind) does not do, all while Brian Bendis and Mark Millar and the writer of Rise Of Arsenal walk off scot-free simply because they have a crew

I’ll just say: the objection seems ill-timed. And I don’t want some dream I had a couple of years ago to be a part of anyone’s consensus-building about what a diseased fuck Alan Moore is. “Well, everyone’s talking about it, it must be at least partly true!” Ah, but right now that “everyone” is not going to include me, even by accidental default lumping-in with other people because somebody with a weird ax to grind couldn’t be bothered to read for context. To be quite frank, I think it’s a slander. And I don’t want to have to find myself suddenly all a-mingle with it, suddenly having to work quite hard to explain what I really meant, to people who probably won’t ever read anything else I’ve ever written, just on the off-chance that something I wrote gets somehow passed before the eyes of a wider audience as a sort of name on a petition I never was so much as asked to sign.

That’s one possible danger.

But another is that I somehow end up on the opposite kind of petition, the one that says Alan Moore can never do any wrong, and that anyone with a beef against him must be an asshole without a point or a clue who is just not getting it or just not even trying. This isn’t true either, and supposing that I think it is would be only to substitute reading for some context rather than none; in another place on this here blog is yet another misguided post on Alan Moore, in which I say loudly and longly that there is just no freakin’ way that the Golliwog in Black Dossier can have been meant as a simplistically non-problematizing “rehabilitated” figure…a contention Alan Moore has lately refuted, but if I am perfectly honest with you I must confess I cannot believe him when he says that, anymore than I can believe Chester Brown’s insistence that “Paying For It” is a title whose irony never occurred to him. So, that post I won’t suspend, even though I’ve often wished I could just flat-out erase it: but only because I think no one is likely to use it as petition-fodder. Ha, the tl;dr thing acts for once in my favour: that thing’s probably impossible to read for any sort of context, whether long or short.

“Interview With A Figment Part V”, though — for now, at least — has got to go. It just isn’t funny anymore, to imagine what Alan Moore might say if someone actually came out and asked him about his concentration on sexual violence. Really, things should never have got to the point where someone did ask him about it. Or at least, they shouldn’t have waited so long, until a simmering “Alan Moore, yeah that cat’s pretty weird” whisper-consensus had been built up.

Gossip is sure a shitty mistress, Bloggers. I can’t really blame Alan Moore for being angry. It seems to be common knowledge these days that he doth protest too much…but what is it to say that, except to say that “No” really means “Yes”?

You know what I mean?

Yet meanwhile on the other other hand, let’s just agree not to forget that the Twelve Thousand Words Of Alan Moore here were not just a defence, but also a massive retaliation, and that some of that fire rained down on tiny fish in a pokey little barrel. When I know what I think about that, I’ll tell you, but for now I’m still a bit stunned at the spectacle of it all. I have a lot of very heated thoughts on the matter! God knows if they’ll ever become transparent!

Good Lord, what an explosion!

But I won’t say more about it, for now. Just “sorry” to the commenters on that post, because I want it unpublic at the moment — because if it comes around to the point where I do express an opinion on the Twelve Thousand Words (which I am still endeavouring to process, mostly by reading around), or on the sexual violence in Alan Moore’s work, or on the matters of race and of class that he also tends to treat there, then I want it to stand on its own as something I fully intended to say, with no squidginess or equivocation.

And so in that way, quite unlike this post that you’re actually reading right now.


Sorry about that.

17 responses to “Moore Interviews, Moore Problems

  1. I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that in amongst the people wondering aloud what was with Alan Moore and all the rape a couple of years ago, you could easily have found not only friends of mine both bloggy and otherwise, but also me myself. There were of course many other people in that scrum too, some who were deeply angered by this concentration of Moore’s, and also some who just hate Alan Moore flat-out and would never pass up an opportunity to say he’s some kind of shambling pile of human garbage.

    Telling these people apart from one another can be tricky, sometimes.

  2. It’s a flavor of the month thing, no question. Was the Golliwog bit in Black Dossier more than a little bit fucked up? The more I look at it, yeah hard to spin that in a positive way. He fucked up there.

    But folks are hungry for idol-flesh, so they’d rather lash out at individuals than confront systemic issues. So they’d rather keep prodding at the sort of iconoclastic dudes that are often exactly Alan Moore. “Hey, you’re not perfect, you’re kind of a shithead actually!” And then these dudes, who already set themselves up against the majority in some way eventually respond in an overblown fashion, shooting at strawmen and sort of proving their detractors half-right. (Alan Moore was more of a siege than a seized opportunity, people have been baselessly criticizing him for years without realizing that he could actually be judged by his work.)

    Now his previously impeccable countercultural credentials have been soiled a bit. This story could get dragged out. Moore and his ilk see enemies everywhere because they’re used to their opponents being pro-establishment morons. He may not back down, the court of public opion may turn on him. I’m inclined to doubt it, though. It’ll probably blow over soon. Just another talking point for people who don’t like how he insulted super-hero comics in less than five weeks, I bet.

    Comics will continue to suck, but we’re used to that.

  3. So roughly 1/3 talking about gollywogs, 1/3 talking about rape, and 1/3 slagging off Grant Morrison. It’s going to take you a while to come to a conclusion about all of that.

    I’m not a great fan of Moore anyway and I think we’ve discussed the rape issue here at some length – probably safe to say I was on the minority side of that argument – so I’ll just say I’m not surprised he got called on it eventually. But I’m a little perplexed by the format he used.

  4. Ho ho, Clone! Actually you have forgotten the fourth element, which is the prodigious shitting from a great height on Laura Sneddon. But yes, I do look more than a little wishy-washy saying I need some time about all that, don’t I? One can only hope it will be worth it. But on the other hand…

    “I’m not surprised he got called on it eventually.”

    Oh, did he? Yes, that’s right, I forgot: Obama made a speech.

    No, I mean Gary Groth threw down the gauntlet and invited him to a public debate after receiving many angry letters of comment!

    No, I mean Gore Vidal called him out on Twitter…

    No, I mean…I don’t think he did get “called on it eventually”, I don’t think that narrativization fits the facts. Was the social-media world in general just dying for someone to finally put a voice to what everyone was thinking already, and in that hour did Will Brooker finally stand up? Haven’t people actually been chattering away about this for years? It’s totally not new. No one called him on it eventually. It’s just that he finally noticed, right?

    • And a fifth element, surely; no one really seems to be commenting on Moore’s references to the class conflicts behind a lot of this stuff….

    • I’ve seen people comment on that, mostly to dismiss it as misdirection…which I don’t think is entirely fair, as it suggests to me we’re all treating Moore’s interview as though it’s a bit more in dialogue with us than it actually is: he may be answering criticism, but I think he stops short of meaning to persuade the readers of Padraig’s blog through reasoned debate. So I’d agree with you, Sean, insofar as I haven’t seen anyone really engage with the substance of what he’s saying…but then again, are they obligated to? Alan also says he takes the Golliwog to be a pretty thoroughly rehabilitated figure as far as race goes, and if that’s true then there seems little reason to begin a big discussion of how it addresses the matter of class — I’ve seen a lot of people brush the class thing aside as though it was just distracting bullshit, and couldn’t have anything to do with issues of race, and of course that isn’t strictly true: race issues and class issues are related, but they’re only related in the figure of the Golliwog if the race stuff is presumed to be there as a problematizing element, and Alan doesn’t concede this point.

      But then, why would he? It seems fairly clear to me that it isn’t his intention to open a discussion of class: he brings it up in passing, pretty much to say isn’t it funny how everyone talks about race and the Golliwog but no one talks about class and the Golliwog…but he doesn’t mean “hey everybody, now let’s talk about how class issues and race issues inform one another”! So it may be incoherent to want to talk about the Golliwog’s class implications without also allowing it has racial implications, but Moore doesn’t want to do this, and never says that he does. Leaving the subject still open, and it’s a pretty interesting subject, and it’s definitely a related subject, and I would definitely like to read what smart people have to say on that subject…but it still isn’t the subject at hand. If anyone wants to talk about how the Golliwog is a problematic figure not just on the ground of race alone, and in that way defend Moore and O’Neill’s presentation, fair enough! But that still won’t amount to being in agreement with what Moore says here — it’ll remain a position that departs from Moore’s own as he’s stated it. It won’t be in support of his contention.

      That all said, the point of this post is still largely to explain why I’ve removed Interview With A Figment, so I’m not super-prepared to discuss the Golliwog and race and class and that whole axis of discontent here, since the Figment Interview was all about the sexual violence thing. Not that you shouldn’t dare bring up the Golliwog or anything like that, it’s just that I’m still thinking about that and dunno if I have a sufficiently-coherent thing to say about it, that would really be worth airing in public just yet…

      • Fair enough; I’ve got a lot of time for Moore, but I’m interested in reading something about all this that comes from a more critical position, but without the sound of comic book axes grinding….So yeah, I’ll wait.

  5. I’ve had time to digest it, I think. Moore should have kept his mouth shut. He makes some decent points about the rape stuff which are worth debating, but he buries them in nasty personal attacks against Morrison and Sneddon which, as tends to happen when you go on the offensive, reflect badly on Moore himself.

  6. I’d like to include here as well, in case someone misses its inclusion up above, Will Brooker’s piece on the subject. There is a fellow in the comments who seems to believe it is horribly hypocritical and incoherent, but I must say I disagree with him: it seems like an admirably clear account, to me.

  7. Fig5 immediately came to my mind too, and I said on twitter that the first person I’d seen bring up the prevelance of sexual violence in Moore’s work was you, plok. But the upshot of that is that I only ever thought of the question as a good faith inquiry, up to and including this newest Méalóid thing.

    I’d seen Morrison’s snipes of course, but never gave them any more consideration than as part of the continuing perfomative wizard war. Just self-evidently inaccurate and hypocritical. (“I managed to do thirty years in comics without any rape”? No you didn’t.)

    Which was pretty naive! Like you, Duncan Mindless pointed out the observation carries a nasty implication even at its most neutral, and detractors like Moore’s are going to use that as a weapon as soon as they see it. (Not to lump him in with, but it must be Morrison’s worst-judged impish barb.)

    None of which excuses his woefully inadequate response to the Golliwog question, or his absurd attacks on Laura Sneddon (truly embarrassing), but it does give the thing a context that makes me judge him a little less harshly.

  8. Ha, WordPress has “upgraded” again, and now I can’t get that mail link to the hopefully-fictional “niceguypua97” out of your comment, James

    Fucking hilarious.

    I’m far from being a guy who’s never bothered by stuff he reads in a comic or online, but the proof that I am somewhere on the continuum of outrage that isn’t right on the end of it is, I guess, that I don’t find anything particularly complicating in Moore’s concentration on sexual violence. I’m aware that others do, and that they’ve usually got a point about that…but then again, I’m also aware that sometimes when other folks have a problem with Alan’s rapeyness I would not concede the point. You do find some bad-faith critiques out there! Or at least, critiques in which the temptation to straddle both sides of the intentional fallacy is strong. And the thing about that is, if your beef is with Moore then you have already begun talking about his intentions, you have brought him into the discussion…you can’t then turn around and say “I’m just analyzing the text, no harm no foul”, after that! So, I often encounter criticisms of Watchmen (for example) where unlike Clone the critic will claim the text is misogynistic, essentially by using the text to demonstrate that Alan Moore’s intention is misogynistic, and of course he wrote the text so the thing proves itself, but never at any time does that circular argument fracture to lay bare the contention that Alan Moore is a misogynist

    Which it probably should do, if that’s what people think he is, or if they think his work has got misogynistic implications on account of him. All very well to debate the matter of Sally Jupiter, but if it’s talking about Sally that’s one thing and if it’s talking about Moore that’s another, and we should be able to tell the difference. Clone generally comes right out and says “I think it’s in there, and I think it says something about him”, which at any rate places the horse in front of the cart! But I don’t feel nearly as tolerant of criticisms that sidle up to saying “okay, so here’s where Moore really gets into some slut-shaming”…

    Well, is it true that’s what he’s doing?

    Not that it matters if I say it, or some other blogger says it, or even if a bunch of people like us say it or talk about it or whatever…it isn’t that damaging to anyone’s reputation if the groundlings chatter amongst themselves, right? But at a certain point, if you’ve got other professionals saying it about you, if you’ve got people putting their heads together in some meaningfully-public forum, at some point you are going to start to feel defamed. Yet whose door do you drop the lawsuit at, when people are only saying isn’t it funny how Alan Moore has so much rape in his books…doesn’t it just make you think

    So I think I’ll agree with you, James: we already know how badly Moore comes off in his Twelve Thousand Words, but oh that Morrison. He’s not one of the groundlings anymore, he isn’t even Jason Aaron, and what was the provocation here, exactly?

    He felt defamed by Moore calling him a copycat in a videochat?

    I’m not completely sure, now, that Moore’s avalanche of invective against Morrison isn’t something Grant may deserve. But anyway, just as you, I’m not gonna lose a lot of sleep over that. Not like the Laura Sneddon thing…

    Or, damnit, that Golliwog thing…

  9. Oops! Maybe if Mr niceguy is real, he’ll pick up some cross-chatter on misogyny in comics and reconsider his commitment to dehumanising “systems”…

    It got lost in an edit, but “Moore’s detractors” definitely wasn’t meant to include any and every critic (hi, Clone!), but was aimed at… aw, you know the type (hi, Jason Aaron!) (Mostly kidding.)

  10. Just to make clear that, although I think Sally Jupiter’s depiction was simply awful, I do not and never have accused Moore of misogyny. It’s a serious allegation, and if that’s flying around, I’m not part of it.

    As for the Gollywogg character, I only learned about that through Moore’s own article. It was truly a terrible idea, and if Sally Jupiter hadn’t already put me off buying Moore’s work, that certainly would have done the trick.

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