Alan Moore is hardly a household name, but in his prolific, visionary, mad career he's created the comic books lurking behind the movies From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Constantine, and V for Vendetta. But while his graphic novels and comics elevated the genre to literature with exhaustive research, intricate plotting, and complicated characters, the movies they've spawned tend to be, well, cartoonish. Moore has always declined to work on adaptations of his comics, and in fact would rather that filmmakers just left them alone. Up next? His masterpiece.
The Hughes brothers' 2001 version of From Hell reduced his dense, complex graphic novel about Jack the Ripper to a typical Goth-y whodunit, complete with a Marilyn Manson song on the soundtrack. After 2003's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen sparked a lawsuit accusing Fox -- and Moore -- of plagiarism, he turned his back on Hollywood for good. At least, he tried to. He announced that anything he controlled entirely would never be turned into a movie; for works out of his control, he would refuse to allow his name to be attached, and he would give any royalties to the artists of the original comics.
In 2005, Constantine and V for Vendetta appeared, without Moore's input or his name. They didn't need it; according to Moore, in a move that he calls a swindle, DC Comics led him to believe that the rights would revert to him when the books went out of print, something they had no intention of allowing to happen. By the same contract agreement, or swindle, take your pick, DC owns the rights to Moore's masterwork: Watchmen.
Set in an alternate 1980s United States where superheroes have been outlawed, Watchmen features characters who aren't, at first look, particularly heroic: flabby, bitter, compromised, and excruciatingly human. The standard frame-by-frame story is complemented by a pastiche of book excerpts, medical records, newspaper clippings, and a pirate pulp comic, Tales From the Black Freighter, which runs alongside the narrative. Hardly traditional fare for a summer popcorn flick, and by design: it was never meant to be one.
The series, released as a graphic novel in 1987, was hugely successful and influenced a generation of comic readers and creators. It won a Hugo, the only comic ever to do so, and appears on loads of "best of" lists, including Time's 100 best novels, alongside books like The Grapes of Wrath and Beloved.
There has always been interest in making a Watchmen movie, even if none of it came from Moore. In a 2002 MTV News interview, Moore said, "I met Terry Gilliam, and he asked me, ‘How would you make a film of Watchmen?' And I said, ‘Don't.'" Since then, Darren Aronofsky, director of Pi and Requiem for a Dream, has been attached, and then Paul Greengrass, director of the last two Bourne movies. Finally, Watchmen has a director -- Zack Snyder, of 300 -- a cast, and a release date: March 6, 2009. Moore seems to have low expectations, or, rather, no expectations at all. As he said in a recent interview with Wizard, "I won't be watching it, obviously."
At least for the near future, it looks like Alan Moore's work is safe. He did release a graphic novel, Lost Girls, in 2006, with art by his now wife Melinda Gebbie. The project? A 264-page, 7-pound pornographic treatment of Alice, Wendy, and Dorothy, formerly of Wonderland, Neverland, and Oz. I don't see Hollywood touching that one. Besides, in that MTV interview, discussing the prospect of a film version, Moore said, "How would they get actors of any quality to appear in a hard-core sex film? We'd need Judi Dench for it, and I don't think she'd do it."