|Zander Cannon's cover art for Smax tp.|
Today is Alan Moore's 61st birthday.
I worked with Alan on Top Ten and Smax the Barbarian in the late '90s and early '00s for America's Best Comics, an imprint of Wildstorm, which was then itself an imprint of DC Comics. I've never met the man in person (and it has been postulated that he no longer has human form, but rather exists as a blue smoke which gives a vague sense of unease), but spoke with him frequently on the phone. Sometimes it was for a legitimate storytelling reason, but as often as not it was because I knew that all things must eventually pass, and there would come a day when I had no reason to speak to one of my greatest heroes on the phone.
I learned more from my time working from Alan Moore's scripts than at virtually any point in my career. Gene Ha and I had adjacent studios while working on Top Ten and we passed our pages back and forth, talking about the background characters, ideas for design, and taking guesses where the story was going (we had no idea). The scripts, beyond being legendarily dense, long, specific, and chatty, were an education in comics storytelling right there on the page. His style of comics does not work for every artist, but it absolutely hits the bullseye on HIS style. It creates intricate, layered, humorous, on-point comics that are both dense and dynamic, treating every panel like a well-constructed sentence and every page like a well-constructed paragraph. Consequently, drawing from his scripts was as much an exercise in efficiently cramming elements into a panel as it was a process of storytelling. I used to tell people it was like 'cartooning Tetris'.
It's come into vogue lately to criticize the once-uncriticizable Moore for being a crank, or for protesting the unsanctioned or unethical use of his or others' work to make a billion dollars for massive corporations, or for simply being unwilling to 'go along to get along'. Now, I don't like to have my parade rained on any more than anyone else, but for Moore to harsh our collective buzz about the Watchmen or V for Vendetta movies by speaking out against the way he's been treated, and the similar ways that others have been or are being treated, is completely fair, and completely warranted. And frankly, reducing it down to "well, that's just the deal he made", shows a crucial lack of awareness of how comics companies ran in (in this case) the late '70s to mid-'80s. Furthermore, for a prominent person who has financially thrived in that system to nevertheless make the case for fair treatment is very important for those of us who have yet to knock one out of the park.
Alan is a gentleman, a remarkable artist, and in my experience, a kind and generous soul. I thank him for providing me a boost in my career, the Platonic ideal of a great comic book script, and hundreds of thousands of pages of wonderful comics. Not to mention some really enjoyable phone calls. [Zander Cannon]