September 12, 2016
Alan Moore to (mostly) retire from comics
by Ryan Harrington
This summer we wrote a piece about a Northamptonshire, England grammar school student named Joshua Chamberlain. More specifically, we wrote a piece about revered graphic novelist Alan Moore’s choice to use an excerpt from Joshua’s fan letter as a blurb on the jacket of his new (non-graphic) epic Jerusalem.
The humble bit of praise read: “All in all, you are the best author in human history. Please write back.” Moore did write back, but he seems to have internalized Joshua’s first point as well. Now, going out at the very very top of the game, Moore has decided to retire from comics. As Sian Cain reports for the Guardian:
The decision came, Moore explained, when he realised he felt too comfortable in the medium. “I think I have done enough for comics. I’ve done all that I can. I think if I were to continue to work in comics, inevitably the ideas would suffer, inevitably you’d start to see me retread old ground and I think both you and I probably deserve something better than that,” he said.
“So, the things that interest me at the moment are the things I don’t know if I can do, like films, where I haven’t got a clue what I am doing, or giant literary novels. Things I wasn’t sure I’d even have the stamina to finish… I know I am able to do anything anyone is capable of doing in the comic book medium. I don’t need to prove anything to myself or anyone else. Whereas these other fields are much more exciting to me. I will always revere comics as a medium. It is a wonderful medium.”
It’s an admirable creative leap, and an opportunity for the author to grow with young Joshua, and vice versa. And Jerusalem, it seems, is just the place to start. The thirteen-hundred-page novel took over a decade to write and sets its narrative in time periods ranging from the ninth century to today. When described by Nat Segnit in a recent New Yorker profile, Moore’s process for writing the novel sounds like the pinnacle of raw creativity and personal challenge: “Characteristically, with Jerusalem he has refused any intervention from his publisher. ‘What I wanted was to do something that was so completely unmediated and undiluted. I thought, I don’t want anybody making helpful suggestions.’”
The sprawling, idiosyncratic, cosmos-building new novel is nothing short of the literary manifestation of Moore’s beard, which seems to have been snubbed in at least a few “best authorial beard” lists, including one of our own. We regret the error.
Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.