Alan Moore Interview, Part III: Scary Dog, Sun Dodgers, Rob Liefeld, Urinals

There’s an article in Warrior by Steve Moore from 1982 where he explains that the way to get into comics is to do what he did: spend ten years working as a production assistant and junior editor, patiently learning the craft. He then says – and I imagine him saying it through gritted teeth – that the other way is ‘the Alan Moore Method’, which is just bombarding editors with scripts.

I love that quote. I don’t think Steve was saying it through gritted teeth, it was just that he’d never seen it done that way before.

Did you ever try the Steve Moore Method of breaking into comics?

When I was still at school, I’d written a letter to Mike Higgs, who’d done stuff for Steve’s fanzine Ka-Pow, saying I wanted to make it as a comic books artist. He gave me some really good advice: join any sort of art studio, even if you’re just making the coffee. Just learn the ropes, watch what other people do, try and get better. And then maybe have a go at comics.

When I was expelled, I noticed that there was an advert for ‘cartoonist wanted’, somebody to draw advertising, and they asked as a trial ‘give us an illustration that would work as an advert for a pet shop’ and I did this – in retrospect – quite scary dog, and I’d used Letratone on it to show that I was au fait with sophisticated shading techniques. It was rejected of course. What they actually wanted was a smiley picture of a puppy, which I could have done, but I’d thought they wanted to see what a brilliant artist I am. No, they actually wanted to see you could follow a brief intelligently, which I was incapable of doing. So, with that, I gave up. That’s when I decided to go down to the Labour Exchange and take whatever was available. So the next stop was the skinning yard. So I did make a feeble attempt at following Mike Higgs’ advice. It wasn’t until I was about twenty-four that I came up with Plan B.

And that was to write and draw an epic space opera, possibly one you could sell to 2000AD. You’ve said you had elaborate plans, but after a year you only had a couple of pages completed. I don’t think you’ve ever gone into detail.

It was all in my head. I think it was called Sun Dodgers, but whether I lettered that up, I doubt it. They were a group of superheroes in space, with a science fiction explanation for each of these characters. They were a motley crew in a spaceship, probably going back the kind of strips Wally Wood was doing in witzend and The Misfits. That was certainly the model Steve Moore was building on with Abslom Daak. I was thinking along the same lines. I can remember somebody looked a bit like a futuristic samurai –

Like Warpsmith?

– I suppose so. A coincidence. It was Garry Leach who came up with that look, I gave him a free hand, I wasn’t adverse to it. There was also a humanoid robot thing with a big steel ball for a head, which probably later surfaced as the Hypernaut in 1963. There was a half-human, half-canine creature who ended up as Wardog in the Special Executive. I only got a couple of pages done. The ideas I had … actually, thinking back, there was a character whose name was Five, and I don’t think I ever got around to drawing him, but my vague idea was that he was a mental patient of undefined but unusual abilities who had been kept in a particular room, room five, that might have been an element which fed into V for Vendetta. I don’t think there was anything else that ended up in anything.

[We’re working through the manuscript in order, with Moore offering corrections and clarifications. We’ve come to the longest passage that got cut out. In the draft, I’d said this: ‘March 1983 saw the last of Moore’s strips for Sounds. He says that it was simply because he was now getting so much writing work, he didn’t have time to continue drawing The Stars My Degradation (for the last year, Steve Moore had been writing the series). This would make sense, but may not be the whole truth. Sexually explicit panels from the 18 December 1982 instalment were omitted from the published version – note the gaps and editor’s note:

december_18_1982

Moore – both Moores – may well have been ready to move on, but it is reasonable to imagine that an act of censorship like this might have provided an added incentive. Alan Moore had thought about producing a strip for Sounds centred on Mycroft the Crow from Roscoe Moscow, but in the event his work for the paper ended when The Stars My Degradation came to a cataclysmic halt seven episodes after the ‘Censorious Ed’ issue. He would say the following year ‘They treated me OK … I had my stuff censored fairly regularly – certainly enough to irritate me.’

Moore corrected this:

When me and Steve stopped doing The Stars my Degradation, yeah, there had been some explicit panels censored, but we’d kind of expected this and it was a minor irritation. I loved Alan Lewis, an old school music editor. I stopped simply because I didn’t have time to do the strip any more. I’d been gradually winding it down. That was why the last issues look so rubbish. I always heard real professionals use a brush, and I understand that is true, but I have no facility with a brush, and some of the artwork in those final issues show that. I wanted to continue it, but it was completely impractical. It wasn’t because of any instances of the odd little bit of very infrequent censorship. We got away with an extraordinary amount, and I don’t have any grievances regarding that.

Oh, a couple of pages on from that I’ve given you a big tick. You’ve got the line, ‘While Moore is not a ruthless man or a cunning businessman, he clearly does not like coming second.’ I thought that was quite funny. That actually made me laugh.

Right. Later, you quote Rob Liefeld saying: ‘He once called us up to tell us that he had just been in the dream realm and talking to Socrates and Shakespeare, and to Moses, dead serious, and that they talked for what seemed to be months, but when he woke up, only an evening had passed … etc etc … I think it’s all shtick … That’s the kinda stuff Alan would say all the time.’ OK. I’ve never spoken to Rob Liefeld at all in my life. I don’t ever remember ringing the Image office. I have had some conversations with [Image partner] Eric Stephenson, er –

OK.

For the record I have never had conversations with Socrates, Shakespeare or Moses.

If this was a magazine feature, I think I’d just have got my headline.

[laughs] Then there’s the urinal anecdote.

Ah. Not true, either? [Legend has it that at one comics convention, Moore was standing at a urinal when he realised that the queue of people behind him didn’t want the bathroom, they were after his autograph].

No, but it’s charming. I may have had one person follow me into a urinal and say ‘can I have an autograph?’ . . . there certainly wasn’t a queue of people, so that’s a piece of entertaining apocrypha.

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