Mar 11, 2015

Millar and... The Alan

Mark Millar's permission via Twitter, 11th of March 2015.
From the sold-out Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman book (2003, Abiogenesis Press, page 79), below you can read the contribution written by the acclaimed writer MARK MILLAR to celebrate Alan Moore's 50th birthday.
Posted on this blog with the author's permission. Many thanks to Mr. Millar for that.

How I Learned To Love The Alan
© Mark Millar

Okay, I’ve got two Alan Moore stories and neither of them is particularly good, but they’re mine and I love them and I’ll share them with you right now if you have a minute to spare.

The first is probably the most embarrassing and features me, aged thirteen, showing- up at my first, very modest comic convention in the futuristic city of Glasgow back in 1983. I’d never heard of Alan Moore at that point, but my Dad had read in a newspaper that some Marvel Comics writers and artists were going to be appearing locally and eager young fans were invited to approach for autographs and sketches. Now bear in mind that I was thirteen years old (and a slightly stupid thirteen at that), but I showed up with a sketch pad and asked this preposterously tall man with a beard, Jesus hair and a fine 40s-style hat where I could find Stan Lee. He looked politely awkward and said that Stan wasn’t here, but the Marvel UK boys were. He introduced me to such fledging superstars as Alan Davis, Gary Leach, Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons and a fairly large number of people I’d never actually heard of before. It was one of those slightly surreal scenes where a weighty group of comic book pros were actually lining up to sketch and sign for a single, semi-detached young fan who was a little disappointed this line-up wasn’t quite what he expected. Deep down, they knew that I wanted to save those blank A4 pages for slightly more important pros, preferably with American accents.

Flash-forward one year and Alan Moore is back in Glasgow again at one of those ill-attended Scottish Cons. He’s instantly recognisable, of course, and knowing absolutely no-one else at the show I approach him as he thumbs through a bargain bin and ask him for his autograph. I’ve still never read any of his work at this point, but a friend had asked me to get some Warriors signed for him and it wasn’t really much of an inconvenience. Mistaking me for someone who’d actually been reading this stuff, he asked me what I thought and, as bone-crushingly cringing as it is to admit now, I just pretended I was quite a fan and let Moore detail at length his upcoming plans for perhaps the two finest comic-strips of that very illustrious decade. But a strange thing happened as I tuned into his hypnotic, Northampton accent. I don’t know if it was the Rasputin beard, the Svengali eyes or the fact that he was just invading my personal space to the point where I agreed with almost everything he suggested, but I became a convert. This slightly frightening-looking black and white stuff was a million miles from the four-colour shite I’d been eating up every month from Marvel and DC, but he made a fascinating case for it and, on the train home, I read every single word and hungered for more.

Next day, I begged my parents for cash and took off into town again on a mission to catch up on this guy’s stuff. His fifth or six Swamp Thing was out so I had a few of them to catch up on, Warrior was at number twenty-one or so which meant I had a couple of blissful years of Marvelman, V For Vendetta, Bojeffries and various shorts to masticate over. As the weeks passed, I even started tracking down the smallest two and three page 2000AD stories this rising star had churned out on his way to the top and, best of all, I picked up every single issue of Bernie Jay’s Daredevils; a monthly, black and white reprint magazine that not only featured all these Krigstein-like strips from some guy called Frank Miller, but page after page of a young Alan Moore who was writing everything he could get his hands on. Captain Britain, comic-book articles, cartoon strips and interviews; Daredevils gave Moore a forum to not only dazzle us with the stories, but also convert us to his rapidly growing cult by indoctrinating us with his opinions. Here was a grown-up talking about comics like they actually meant something and, when you’re fourteen years old and living in the arse-end of nowhere, that’s really quite alluring, you know.
Moore's essay on Stan Lee.
My most poignant memory of Moore’s articles (and I’m too lazy to dig it out to give you specific reference) was a piece where he wrote about his appreciation of 60s Marvel and his (really quite manly) love of Mister Stan Lee. His ode to Stan ended with an appreciation of his efforts that not only gave him years of pleasure as a child, but also built a foundation that meant that he and his peers could actually earn a comfortable living on the basis of Stan’s hard graft. I remember being impressed with that at the time and feel the same way now as my rolling, easily-distracted eyes drift across my bookshelves and see a body of work from Moore which, more than anyone else of his period, promoted his craft and the medium he obviously has such a scary-looking erection for. My own snotty generation of British writers owe Moore for not only proving that it was possible to work for an American company while living on this miserable, rain-soaked rock, but we owe him a debt for inspiring us to write something better than that formulaic super-shite we’d probably be writing without him. Together with guys like Miller and Chaykin, he redefined the medium forever and, based on that bedrock, the biggest industry spike we’ve ever seen took place in the early nineteen nineties. But I think Moore deserves the credit for that foundation more than anyone else and I’ll say that to their faces, dear reader. Moore was really our Stan Lee and he’s pretty much the reason most of us are in a job.

By the way, before I go, I should probably point out that I never actually got that Alan Moore autograph for the pal in my old hometown. I was genuinely so mesmerized by Moore’s loose chatter about an upcoming Superman annual and his eerily accurate vision of a totalitarian Britain that I completely forgot and only remembered once I’d opened my front door again. Like the bastard I am, instead of just admitting my mistake, I took the easy way out and clumsily forged his signature across a copy of Warrior issue one. To this day, that autographed cover hangs on his wall and I must admit that even I can feel some tiny twinge of guilt whenever I look at it. If you’re reading this, mate, I’m so incredibly sorry, but I suppose it isn’t every day that a writer gets to sign a book that good.

Cheers, Alan. Have a good one and may whatever dark forces you’re channelling these days let you live forever at the expense of others.

Mark Millar,
25th March 2003

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