Alan Moore: ‘I’m Not Adapting. I’m Stealing.’

The venerable writer delineates the difference between Before Watchmen and his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Alan Moore

Contrary to the popular opinion of Alan Moore, he is not a bile-spewing malcontent in a constant state of unfettered hatred toward the world.  In fact, according to my close, personal friend Dirk Manning, who filed a report with Bleeding Cool on a rare online charity video conference Moore participated in, the author was actually quite congenial, gracious and funny the entire time, even in the face of subjects that one might expect to send him into Vandal Savage rages.  Moore freely admits he's a luddite, but he contributed his time to the Kickstarter Campaign, started by Joyce Brabner, who is trying to fund a Harvey Pekar Library statue in Cleveland in honor of her late husband.  Everyone who got the chance to speak to Moore via the internet chipped in $99 for the fund.

In the almost-three-hour chat, Moore addressed a great number of topics (including his "feud" with Grant Morrison and professional wrestling, of all things), which you can see summarized by Manning on his post –  I won't regurgitate everything he said.  But of relevant interest this week is the question of how what DC is doing with Before Watchmen, the prequel project to his hallowed comic series that he has vocally opposed, is different from what he does in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – which is, namely, use characters created by other people to tell new stories.  [See Also: The Case For and Against Before Watchmen]

You can watch the video chat here:


Alan Moore chats with Harvey Pekar statue contributors (FULL) from Chris Thompson on Vimeo.


Here's the basic gist of his quote, as summarized by Manning, and Moore admits this might be a hair-thin delineation, but he stressed that Watchmen was “meant to only to go a finite time and have a finite end.”


In literature, I would say that it’s different. I would say, and it might be splitting hairs, but I’m not adapting these characters. I’m not doing an adaptation of DRACULA or KING’S SOLOMON’S MINES. What I am doing is stealing them. There is a difference between doing an adaptation, which is evil, and actually stealing the characters, which, as long as everybody’s dead or you don’t mention the names, is perfectly alright by me. I’m not trying to be glib here, I genuinely do feel that in literature you’ve got a tradition that goes back to JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS of combining literary characters…

It’s just irresistible to do these fictional mash-ups. They’ve been going on for hundreds of years and I feel I’m a part of a proud literary tradition in doing that. With taking comic characters that have been created by cheated old men, I feel that that is different… and that’s my take on the subject.


An interesting take, to say the least, and to be frank, it does indeed sound like splitting hairs.  I'm sure DC would posit that it was just irresistible to make Watchmen prequels, too.  Maybe I'm not entirely getting his point on the difference between adapting v. stealing, but it would seem to me that he's saying that he is writing famous literary characters in perfect lockstep with how their creators would have written them, while the BW gang will not, because, uh, Moore simply would not have written them anymore?  I guess?  Or, maybe he'd be okay with it if it was Watchmen Meet Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein.

Or maybe, with the "cheated old men" line, it's just one more huge reminder to Moore that he doesn't own Watchmen like he'd expected to, and the company that screwed him out of it can flay its corpse at their leisure, but at least wait until he's dead and can no longer give a damn.  Just don't put his name on the project, and he won't put Arthur Conan Doyle's name on his.