Since I'm currently covering Alan Moore's run on CAPTAIN BRITAIN, this seems a good time to toss out my own personal thoughts on the guy. And I have to say, I don't get his influence. I fail to understand why so many in the comic book fandom -- not mention so many industry professionals -- worship at his altar. He's written some decent stories and some bad ones. If someone offered me a Moore comic or something by Roger Stern, Kurt Busiek, or Chris Claremont, I'd choose the latter, because while perhaps -- perhaps -- not as technically accomplished as Moore, I know I like their stories better than his.
I'm aware of exactly when I decided Moore wasn't my cup of tea, too... though I didn't even know who he was yet. I read the "classic" Superman tale, "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?", when I was about seven years old, and it disturbed the heck out of me. That depressing snuff story had no place in a comic aimed at children. The fact that it was disguised as something a kid could enjoy thanks to the throwback covers and Curt Swan artwork only added to the offense.
It was a little later that I learned to recognize credits, and still more years before realized the story was written by Alan Moore. In that time I had read a few more of his works and heard about many others, and I already knew I wasn't a big fan. But it turns out it was that story which was the first sign he might not be for me.
I will freely admit that I haven't read a lot of Moore. Beyond that Superman story, I know I've read WATCHMEN -- it's hard to find even a casual comic fan who hasn't -- along with THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN and of course, the CAPTAIN BRITAIN run. I've also glanced at some of his America's Best Comics and FROM HELL. I enjoyed all of these to varying degrees, but I like CAPTAIN BRITAIN the best because it reads the most like a traditional superhero serial.
Art by Kevin O'Neill
And as far the seminal WATCHMEN -- I like it as a mystery, and the craft is impressive, but I hate it as a "deconstruction" of the superhero genre. It started an avalanche which still hasn't let up. I don't hold Moore personally responsible for the gradual darkening of superhero comics we've seen over the past couple decades, but he was certainly at the vanguard of that change. And I know the writer himself has stated he doesn't want all comics to be like THE KILLING JOKE and WATCHMEN, but comics have been headed in that direction for years -- not always in tone, but in style, at least -- and Moore must take some of the blame for starting the dominoes falling.
Art by Brian Bolland
Side note: I've never touched Moore's other "masterpiece", THE KILLING JOKE, because I've read plenty of synopses and I know that --aside from the Brian Bolland artwork -- it's not something I'd like. As a kid, simply reading about it without even actually reading it, it disturbed me. And perhaps even more than WATCHMEN, it represents everything that bothers me about what comics have become. Batman can be dark and moody without being bleak and depressing. See almost any issue by O'Neil & Adams, Englehart & Rogers, etc.
So while I can't say that I really, truly, dislike all of Alan Moore's work -- in fact I like a lot of what I've read -- I can say that I don't understand why he's viewed as comic book royalty. There are plenty of writers I would put above him in that hierarchy. He's never been a writer whose work I have actively sought out, and I generally disapprove of the shadow he cast over the comic writers who succeeded him. But then, apparently he disapproves of that shadow too, so maybe we'd get along if we ever met.