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WHoniverse Cover

Next month sees the publication of Whoniverse, an unofficial guide to the Doctor Who universe written by me. It’s not, not, not an encyclopedia of every single planet ever mentioned in Doctor Who, or a geographical version of Ahistory. It’s a guide to the main points of interest and some of more out of the way places, with lots of lovely pictures. It hopefully wanders a little further from the beaten track than you might expect – the Marinus spread below should give you some idea of the ground it covers and what it looks like.

This is a book that I hope will square the circle of being a great introduction for new and relatively new fans; something fun for long-term fans, with plenty to argue about and what I hope are some genuine ‘what the cruk?’ style surprises as to what’s in there. It’s also a book you can hand to kids who enjoy the show, I hope.

Doctor Who is fun, the universe of the series is vast and colourful and weird, and I hope I’ve captured some of that tone. It’s released in mid-October in the UK, and the plan was to release it in November in the US, but a little bird tells me they might be able to get it out next month there, too. If you don’t find it in your local bookshop, handcuff yourself to the railings outside and say you won’t leave until they stock it.

Buy it at Amazon UK – WHONIVERSE at Amazon UK

and at Amazon US – WHONIVERSE at Amazon US




The problems with the First Past the Post system are well-known and well-rehearsed. The main issue is that a candidate can win with a tiny overall share of the vote, if the opposition is split. The more competition, in fact, the fewer votes you need to win. One of the features of FPTP is that it magnifies slight advantages, leading to a point that, well, as we saw in this year’s election, the winning party can win more than half the seats on only around a third of the vote. For all the talk of hung parliaments and minority governments, the result in 2010 was a fluke, like a coin landing on its side, and the chance of it happening again was always remote. FPTP wasn’t ‘designed’ to create majority governments out of not very much, but it’s always tended to. John McCain was crushed and humiliated by Barack Obama in the US Presidential election of 2004, but got a higher share of the vote than Tony Blair’s Labour Party when it won its massive 1997 landslide in the UK.
The alternative system on offer, though, was soundly rejected in a referendum nearly five years ago. This was AV, and something like it is used in a number of places around the world. The basic principle is that you vote for someone, but you register a second preference. If all goes to plan, the ‘winner’ is someone acceptable to most people who voted.

Psephologists have spent a great deal of time talking through the pros and cons of AV. The arguments tended to be dry and technical. What I’ve not seen discussed very often is that a big problem with AV is that it’s based on the premise that the problem with current British politics is that there are just so many great parties and candidates that it’s really unfair to expect people to pick just one.

Is that how things feel to you? If you just voted in the UK elections, did you stand with your pen poised thinking it was so hard choosing between so many awesome, talented and inspirational candidates, and somehow deeply unjust that you only got to vote once? Did you think ‘gosh, I wish I had two votes, here, this is like trying to pick between Sgt Pepper and Revolver?’

I humbly suggest that the ballot paper did not resemble the dessert menu at the Ritz, and that instead you went: ‘Seriously? In a country of sixty four million people, this shower is the best we can do?’ That looking at the potential Prime Ministers – there were two – that your reaction wasn’t ‘my god, Ed and Dave are both titans among men’ and you probably didn’t watch the televised Leaders’ Debate, and conclude ‘I firmly believe every one of those people could lead the country to a new golden age’.

You don’t have to outrace the lion in a British general election, do you? To win, David Cameron had to look more Prime Ministerial than Ed Miliband. This is an almost proverbially easy task. In fact, I suggest that from now on we use the ‘miliband’ as a unit of measurement for whether a candidate has reached the absolute minimum level of viability. Think of it as a line on a graph, and if you’re above that line, you can be treated as a serious candidate because you are at least ‘not unelectable’. Use it in a sentence as you might use ‘rubicon’ or ‘jump the shark’. ‘Andy Burnham obviously crosses the miliband, but does he have what he takes to win in Scotland?’; ‘Jeb Bush’s statements on Iraq this week have left people wondering if he’s sinking below the miliband’; ‘the televised debate will include all the candidates above the miliband’.
So what’s the solution? Here’s my proposal, a system I call ‘AV Minus’.

  • 1. A voter gets two votes.
  • 2. As now, they place an X next to the candidate they want.
  • 3. As with AV, they also place a second vote. This, though, they mark ‘FO’, and this stands for ‘FOrgive me, sir or madam, I’m sure you are a lovely person, but I do not wish you to represent me in the House of Commons’.
  • 4. Candidates get one vote added for every X, and one vote taken off for every FO. The winner of the election is simply the candidate with the highest net total of votes.
  • 5. Here’s the best bit: when the returning officer declares the result, he turns to the candidate with the most FOs, raises two fingers at him and snarls ‘FUCK. OFF’. That person then has to walk out of the hall, like the losing contestant on The Weakest Link.

See? It’s brilliant, isn’t it?

Consider the following scenarios:

  • 1. You are a Labour supporter in a constituency where the Conservatives are ahead, but UKIP are nipping at their heels. Labour are a close third, but you really, really don’t want UKIP to win. Under FPTP, you have to vote Tory. Under AV-, you can vote Labour and go FO UKIP. The Tory may still win, but you wouldn’t have voted for them. And there may be scenarios, in fact, where the UKIP and the Tories FO each other to such an extent that Labour win.
  • 2. You’re a Tory in Wales. No, you actually live there, you’re not on holiday. It happens. You’re resigned to the fact your lot won’t win, but you don’t want Labour to win. But they’ve got a massive majority in your constituency … well, you can vote tactically: vote for whoever’s second and FO the Labour candidate. That’s basically two votes against Labour.
  • 3. You really, really hate Tories or the SNP. You’re indifferent about who wins, as long as it’s not them.
  • 4. George Galloway. I mean, seriously. Shouldn’t there be a constitutional mechanism that lets us tell him to fuck off?

It is possible, of course, to get the most FOs with this system but still win the election. This isn’t a problem – the MP knows that they won, but also that a great swathe of his constituents actively loathe him.
The only downside I see is that people might forget to put down the X, or that they might just endlessly find themselves scrawling FO next to all the candidates. Or that joke candidates might seek la lanterne rouge.
We are in an era of British politics where the electorate need a degree of damage control. We need to be able to say ‘no, not him’. Instead of the rather grubby spectacle we saw this time of parties saying ‘vote for us, that way you won’t be voting for them’, you can vote against someone without endorsing their rival.

Tony Benn always used to say that the mark of a good electoral system wasn’t that it allowed you to vote someone in, it was that it allowed you to vote them out. That has always been the problems with AV, AV+, PR and related proposed reforms – they’ve always been set up in a way that would create mushy coalitions, fosters a lukewarm centrism. There’s that old joke ‘don’t vote, it only encourages them’ – well, AV Minus squares that circle, allows you to go ‘for god’s sake, not him’. And, in the end, don’t we want an electoral system that creates stable governments and humiliates wankers?

Leonard Nimoy


An outpouring of grief is highly inappropriate, of course, but Leonard Nimoy’s death is a significant event. If nothing else, we might note that the cast of the movie Boyhood recently wowed critics by essaying the same characters for twelve years, but Leonard Nimoy was Spock for fifty. And Spock, in that time, evolved as a character, grew old and died. Although not, as it happens, in that order. Spock was portrayed with care and nuance by an actor who embodied a role like few actors ever have. He had a relationship with the character as up and down, as tempestuous, as Richard Burton did with Elizabeth Taylor, and who wrote two autobiographies about that struggle.

Spock’s character was assembled on the fly, his devotion to logic, his ‘half-breed’ (it was fifty years ago, the term was used) nature, his perpetual state of comradeship and yet simultaneously utter alienation … none of these were part of the original plan. They emerged in performance, Leonard Nimoy taking on a role that saw him caked in make up and glued on ears, and somehow being the most dignified presence on the screen. The writers loved him, the kids loved him, a whole new form of love called ‘fandom’ had to be created to express the response a portion of viewers had for Spock, and characters like him.

This is, for some of us, an event with the same sort of moment as the death of a monarch, or the assassination of a President. If the internet had state funerals, then we’d be lining the route. An exaggeration, surely? Wasn’t this guy just someone from an old TV show? No. Social media today is full of responses from some of the hundreds of thousands of people who met Leonard Nimoy, talked to him, were inspired by him. Spock’s example helped them cope when they were lonely children, or inspired their studies and career, brought them into a community and camaraderie that spans the globe, or just gave them some catchphrases they could bandy around with their mates. If nothing else, it gave a lot of people who are by temperament not the emotionally expressive type a good cry at the end of Wrath of Khan.

Entertaining a billion people, inspiring millions … this is significant. There are those artistic or historical figures who will endure. The author Ken MacLeod has a nice phrase for it: ‘the names that will be remembered on the starships’. Leonard Nimoy was, to coin a phrase,  in a starship before most of us were in diapers.   

Alan Moore Interview, Part V: Underland, Hancock, Jerusalem, Literary Difficulty

The fifth and final part of my Alan Moore interview.

As I was finishing up the book, I was re-reading an interview with you [in Reflex, December 1991] and there was a one line reference to a project called Underland that I’d never seen mentioned anywhere else.

That may even have been a follow up to A Small Killing for Gollancz. Somewhere around that time. I had a book called London Under London, that Neil Gaiman had sent me when I was researching From Hell. I wanted to do something with Steve Parkhouse, and I came up with the idea of a subterranean world under London that linked up all these interesting underground spaces and had its own inhabitants and its class system. It was going to have a girl whose sister had vanished, been spirited away into this underland, and the girl – I meant it as a grown up children’s story, the adventures of this girl exploring this world and finally rescuing her sister. The same length as A Small Killing, something like that. I mentioned this in that interview and I got a phone call from Neil Gaiman saying he’d signed a deal with Lenny Henry’s production company to do Neverwhere. Given that Neil had sent me the book originally, I felt duty bound to say ‘oh well, you were here first, so I guess I’ll forget Underland’.

You’ve not done many children’s stories, is it a genre that appeals?

I submitted a proposal, I forget who to, to someone who was looking for a children’s book. This was prior to Bojeffries. It was about an unprepossessing, oddly willful child like a younger Ginda Bojeffries who was a belligerent genius who could have adventures on the Moon. It wasn’t what they were looking for, they wanted something for very young children. I got the impression I wouldn’t be that good writing for young children, I’m a tiny bit bitter and ironic. That said, Blanket Shanty with Shawn McManus, that was a Tom Strong story done as a bedtime story.

You’ve got Timothy Tate and Lobelia Loam in 2000AD …

They were still horrific stories. Blanket Shanty was aimed at small children … I probably could do children’s material in the right circumstances. Whether I’ll get round to it now, I don’t know. I avoided it for a while because it was trendy. I like some of the things about children’s stories, but I didn’t want to be jumping on a JK Rowling bandwagon. The whole middle section of Jerusalem is about a gang of children running around time in a four dimensional afterlife. It reads like a children’s book, but it’s not because it’s a much stranger story, it’s adult, it’s not meant for children.

One thing I can’t work out is where your music fits in. Clearly some of the recent work is linked to the magical … project, if that’s the right word. But with things like the Emperors of Ice Cream, is that a hobby, is that you letting off steam, or is that part of your serious artistic endeavours?

I’m basically still at the Arts Lab, it’s just an incredibly enabled Arts Lab with whatever contributors I want. With the Arts Lab all of my needs to express myself, all my urges, had an outlet. I could do comic strips, I could do poetry, I could do music. My emphasis has had to be on writing, but I’ve never abandoned drawing or performance. There’s never been a need to. I don’t define myself purely as a writer. ‘Magician’ is a handy word, as it’s almost the same as saying ‘artist’, but artist sounds so pretentious. Like Tony Hancock in The Rebel. My approach has always been the same, and I’m more mature and capable, but it’s the same impulse.

I don’t feel I’m part of the comics industry, any more than when Jerusalem is done I’ll feel like I’m part of the literature industry. I certainly don’t feel part of the music or film industry. I am probably at an Arts Lab in my head. An enthusiastic amateur. Yes, I get money for it now, but in my heart I’ll always be an amateur – someone who does it for the amour, for the love.

So, do you have hobbies that aren’t artistic?

(Laughs) No. I don’t have time for anything other than reading, and that generally ends up being unexpected research. Just read a book today, by my friend the magician Joel Biroco, A World of Dust. Interesting, really good stuff. I continue to enjoy books and the very occasional film. The last enjoyable film I saw was A Field in England. So, I don’t really have hobbies. I’ve taken to going for walks lately, generally with Alistair Fruish, a very knowledgeable young man, we have walks all around Northamptonshire. I’ve known him since he asked me back to the Grammar School to talk to the kids. He works in the prison system now, he took me over to Wellingborough nick a couple of years ago, the lifers. They don’t get much entertainment, but I’ve apparently got a strong part of my readership inside. And these are ordinary blokes who had a really bad day and did something fucking stupid and after that point they would never be ‘not a murderer’. For the rest of their lives they can’t ever be ‘not a murderer’.

The other day, on a riverside in Northampton, Alistair and me found the source of the industrial revolution and capitalism. Check out the cotton mill founded in 1741, the first powered mill in the world. So there’s the birth of industry. Adam Smith heard about it or visited it, and said ‘all these looms work without anyone to manage them, it’s almost like an invisible hand’. So that’s the central metaphor of capitalism.

[Discussion has turned to Jerusalem, a massive novel Moore has been working on for many years which is set in Northampton.]

You’re nearly finished?

I’m on the last chapter, but then there’s an epilogue. So about one and a half chapters to go.

What are your hopes for it? How do you think it’s going to be received?

With Jerusalem, I embarked upon it purely because it was the book I wanted to write. It’s about the neighbourhood I grew up in and its very fascinating history, also the history of my family in the area which has its unusual side. Lots of lots of fantasy is mixed in there, and theories of the nature of time and life and death. When I was speaking to Melinda [Gebbie – Moore’s wife (and the artist on Cobweb and Lost Girls)] about it, she very perceptively said that it sounded to her like ‘genetic mythology’, and I thought, after all why should it be only aristocrats and pharaohs and monarchs that have genetic mythology? Shouldn’t people in slums be entitled to their own? So that was part of the urge, and in writing it, I realised that this is exactly the novel I wanted to write.

I am really proud of it, I think it’s sensational. That is, of course, just my own opinion. I am aware that conventional criticism will probably say that it’s about ten times too long, that it’s difficult in places, that some of the passages were deliberately alienating.

Actually I’ve just discovered – I’ve been reading lots of books of literary criticism, mostly about HP Lovecraft to do with Providence, which is a really big job that I’m about halfway through. My armchair is walled in with Lovecraft reference books, I’ve got everything. And I’m starting to pick up ideas from literary criticism, which I’d previously dismissed as poncey because I hadn’t seriously looked at it.

The concept of ‘literary difficulty’ – doing something that will put off a percentage of the audience but will force those who remain to engage with the work on a deeper level. It will challenge people. Now, if I’d had that concept before I’d written the first chapter of Voice of the Fire [told as the first person narration of a Neolithic settler, using a limited vocabulary], I’d have done it exactly like I did, except even moreso. That’s exactly what I did it for, even though I couldn’t have explained it like that.

There will be elements of literary difficulty with Jerusalem – actually lifting the book will be among the difficulties. It’s going to be a very forbidding book in terms of its sheer size and because it’s about the underclass. There is no better way of ensuring that you don’t get a readership of your book than making it about underclass people. In the current climate getting any fiction published is difficult.

I can take unfair advantage of my position. Only I could do this, only I could spend eight years of intense work on it, only I could actually recount what happened in that neighbourhood with those people, and only I am in a position where I could do that without worrying about getting it published. I don’t need to go with a big publisher, they don’t really have anything to offer me. It’s not a big, popular book or a beach read, I’d much rather have a small publisher who had some understanding of what I was doing.

The only ambition I have for Jerusalem is for it to exist. I’m under no illusions that anybody is going to say this is the greatest book of the century. No, no, it’s probably far too difficult for that. It’s just an accurate expression of part of my life and part of my being that also includes lots of other subjects that have become part of that: history, economics, poverty, the Gothic revival, the Gothic movement which started in Northampton with James Hervey, Charlie Chaplin, wars and ghosts, psychological and factual. Family and famous people who’ve passed through this neighbourhood.

Beyond that, fate will have to take its course. I don’t have another prose novel in mind after this. Maybe a really big poem at some point in the future, I have an inkling for one. There’s more League stuff, there’s the book of magic, there’s Providence which I want to be – in my terms – the definitive Lovecraft story. Then there are the films, we’ve got the Kickstarter money for that, and then there’s the possibility of a feature film and TV series after that, both called The Show. Pipe dreams at the moment, they may not come in to land. But a lot of things that have been brewing for years are falling into place.

Alan Moore Interview IV: Arnie, Bernie, Faecquels

In one interview, you talk about a meeting with a senior DC manager threatening you with Watchmen prequels, but you didn’t go into details of that meeting, so –

As far as I remember, this was when Jenette Kahn was in this country. If I had to take a guess, I would say that was the end of 1986. It was after we’d started to fall out, but at that time there was still the overhanging thing of the Watchmen film, which I’d initially agreed to. So this was right at the end of our relationship, when things were looking very, very dodgy, and this was a meeting with Joel Silver and Jenette Kahn.

As I remember it, we were in some hotel lobby. We met Jenette Kahn first. Joel Silver would be joining us. And in the time we were waiting for him to arrive, Jenette Kahn said that they were talking about doing prequels to Watchmen including Andy Helfer writing one, I think, somebody else was doing the Comedian in Vietnam. And then she said ‘but of course we wouldn’t do this if you were still working for us’. And I just went silent while I processed that. I think Dave Gibbons said, ‘Well, I’ve been assured that you won’t be doing that anyway,’ and she seemed to accept that. But I was thinking, ‘you just threatened me, I know what that was, I don’t know if you can do it or not, but you just threatened me and this is not how I want to conduct business relationships’.

There was then a rather uncomfortable meeting when Joel Silver turned up, and he was going through stuff like ‘what about Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dr Manhattan?’, and I was saying I didn’t think he’d be able to handle the dialogue about quantum physics, and he said ‘oh no, he’s a really smart guy’. I still didn’t think he could handle quantum physics, but … well, we left as soon as the meeting was concluded, and, yeah, that was one of things that made me sever contact with DC shortly thereafter. That was on the negative scale that was starting to add up.

[We then discussed the ins and outs of disputes over Marvelman at some length. To cut a long story short, Marvelman had been published in Warrior, edited by Dez Skinn and with art by Alan Davis. Pacific Comics bought the US reprint rights to Marvelman … and promptly went bankrupt. Eclipse acquired the rights (and eventually published it, as Miracleman, to avoid a trademark dispute with Marvel Comics). During this period, Moore and his Warrior editor Dez Skinn fell out. Moore had also fallen out with Marvel Comics, when his editor there (Bernie Jaye) left the company – Moore had been working with Davis there on Captain Britain. This, in turn, led to Moore and Davis falling out].

As I remember it, when Bernie Jaye was fired, we were both of us filled with young man’s testosterone, you know, we both really liked Bernie, and as I remember it, we were both saying ‘well, that’s it for us and Marvel’. However, I think that Alan [Davis] might have regretted saying that. If indeed he did. Maybe he didn’t gainsay it, and I took that as assent. This might be where some of the problems arose – if Alan had thought ‘I don’t really want to cut myself off from Marvel Comics’. It might have been then that these other fairly trivial things started to arise. He seemed suspicious of everybody and began taking jokes seriously. It might have been his way of distancing himself from any idea of a shared agenda.

By the time I was enmired with Eclipse I wasn’t in contact with Alan Davis, and I was totally at the mercy of what I was being told by [Eclipse editors] Cat Yronwode and Dean Mullaney . . . genuinely the reason I was stickling over delivering new work to Eclipse was because, while I didn’t much like Alan Davis at that point, and I thought he was a bit of a grumpy person who I hadn’t got any interest in talking to again, I didn’t want him to be cheated. I didn’t want anyone to be cheated. [Pauses] I should have done more. In retrospect I should have demanded.

By then, there were strains on the relationship with Dez Skinn. I had just signed the deal for Watchmen, which at that point I believed was a brilliant new deal that would allow the copyright of the material to return to us after an interval. As I remember, I sold the idea to David Lloyd on that basis. Which is one of the things I felt particularly bad about afterwards. They were offering a better deal than Eclipse. With Marvelman, that was something Dez partly owned, so I was prepared to let that go where it was going to go. That process was underway. DC was making the offer for V, and that was on the same basis as the Watchmen contract. Shortly after that came the realisation that we weren’t going to get these copyrights back.

So, um, shouldn’t you have read your contract more carefully?

The problem arose after the fact. Well after the fact. With DC we did read through the contracts and some of the language was impenetrable, but we thought we knew what it meant. And also when clauses say something like, I can’t remember exactly, ‘if for any reason you do not wish to sign a contract, then we have the power to sign it for you’, we were told that was standard contract stuff, it goes into all the contracts and doesn’t mean anything. And we’d never seen a contract before, and we had no reason to mistrust people at that point.

The Jim Lee contracts [in the late nineties, for the America’s Best Comics line, published though Lee’s company Wildstorm], that was done knowingly, because that seemed like a better deal and a more certain deal for the people whose livelihood I was trying to protect. It seemed they would be getting more money up front and this was a raft of characters who I was creating and I’d just be doing a few issues of each of them. Above and beyond that, I trusted Jim Lee, I thought he’d always been a perfectly equitable fellow to deal with, and if something showed up where the contracts weren’t working, we could renegotiate.

So nowadays do you read your Avatar contracts and your Top Shelf contracts?

Er .. yes. That’s not to say something couldn’t go wrong in the future. I still don’t get a lawyer to look at things, because that seems to me mistrustful. Yes, I know that sounds stupid, given that it’s obviously an industry I mistrust, but I do really prefer to be working with people on the assumption everyone’s being honest with each other. I’d rather not work with people than be in a continual state of mistrust.

[Moore picks up on a line in the manuscript that states that he’s entitled to money from the Before Watchmen prequel series]

I have received no money for the Watchmen faecquels, as I call them. I saw this word in the Viz profanisaurus, it means ‘a sequel or a prequel that is shit’. I certainly didn’t get any money for any of those books. I’m not sure DC did – I heard that they abandoned the final capstone of the series due to lack of interest.

Apparently, based on its chart position – and strictly when senior management are out of earshot – junior DC staffers have started referring to it as Below Hawkman.

(Laughs). Well. (Laughs). Yes … that’s amusing. To the best of my knowledge, they are not contracted to give me money for Before Watchmen.

There was a point writing this book where I suddenly realised that I had more rights and control over my work about Alan Moore than Alan Moore usually did with his own work. I thought it was a little insane that anywhere except comics –

– I would never have had all this trouble. Yeah. I’m naturally quite a placid individual in many ways. Looking back at some of the stuff that happened, I was laughing incredulously, not because what you said didn’t happen, but because it did. I’ve had people tell me ‘in any other industry, if someone like you turned up, they would bend over backwards to accommodate you’, and I don’t expect that, but there seems to be something personal in the way I’m treated by some of these people.

DC couldn’t have possibly thought Watchmen would be a bestseller for twenty-five years –

Nobody did.

– and I’ve had people who work in the publishing industry read my book and they’ve said ‘rights reversion clauses are absolutely standard’ and got a little cross with you … but then they’ve read on and seen the way DC treated you, and they all say that if they had an author like you who was selling books and winning awards, and that author wanted to keep working with them, but he wanted to renegotiate the terms of his old contracts … well, they’d invite him down and take him out for a nice meal and renegotiate the terms of his old contracts.

Course they would. The writers who followed me got much better deals than I did, because I’d been though that minefield.

So why weren’t DC nicer to you?

It may go back to Paul Levitz’s initially incomprehensible remark about me: ‘you are the biggest mistake I ever made’. Which almost seems to be predetermining our relationship. This is only a guess, but I think they perhaps thought ‘yes, he’s selling a lot of copies, we’ll take advantage of this, but this person has too much talent to fit within the confines of the medium as it exists at the moment’. That there’s the fact that if they do it for me … like at 2000AD I said ‘give me and Ian Gibson the rights to Halo Jones and I’ll be prepared to do another few books of Halo Jones’. If they did that, they’d have to give Pat and John Judge Dredd, they’d have to give all their properties back to the people who created them. Where DC handled me particularly badly was because (sigh) I was very different on a number of levels. I was hard to corral. By that point I’d already got a reputation – I didn’t take well to authority, I preferred to work on a non-authoritarian level as just friends and equals. Which, again, probably wouldn’t fit with DC’s philosophy. Perhaps Paul Levitz was having a prescient moment, that he saw that the comics industry would have to change so radically to contain people like me and that wasn’t going to happen before I had kicked down the fence. He probably knew it would end badly.

But, yes, it’s a bit weird. I did feel somewhat singled out. This could be another instance of my famous paranoia, but it’s difficult not to feel that you are being treated somewhat specially. It was an unusual situation to be in, and when they bought Wildstorm, that was unbelievable. They’d already tried to buy Awesome on the condition I was part of the deal.

Perhaps it’s not for your benefit – perhaps they want to say to everyone else ‘if we can do that to Alan Moore, we can do it to you’?

They’d already done that to Jack Kirby. There were plenty of examples of heads on poles to intimidate the rest of the industry with. You might be right, I really don’t know how these people think, if think they do. I suspect they follow arcane programs they learned from some bestial editor that oversaw them when they were new to the company. It’s the equivalent of what you hear from a certain type of man about women: ‘treat them mean and keep them keen’. It’s probably all those pieces of received wisdom … the people in comics haven’t got a theory, any wisdom of their own, so it all amounts to ‘Stan Lee said once he didn’t like green covers’, so they’ll never, ever do a green cover. They’re completely stuck, they can’t do anything new. ‘Let’s repeat these memes from the 1960s and see what happens.’

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:


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 –


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.

Alan Moore Interview, Part II: The Arts Lab

The second part of my Alan Moore interview. The first part is here.

Me: When I wrote my Pocket Essential I typed the line ‘Alan Moore was a member of the Northampton Arts Lab’ and left it there and I didn’t really have a clue what that meant. It’s really only when I wrote this book that I found out anything at all about them …

Alan Moore: They were a strange little bubble, the Arts Labs. What happened in Northampton, how it was instigated, was that there was a couple called Dick and Janice Smith. There was a hippy venue called Badge after the Cream track of the same name. They used to meet in the Carnegie Hall at the back of the library. I never went there, I was slightly too young. But one night after the music had been played, they put out an announcement that if anyone wanted to join an Arts Lab, they should contact Dick and Janice. So a few people attending that night, including my friends John Woodcock, Brian Ratcliffe and Nick Bunting – who I think was the only published poet out of the whole lot of us, he had a poem published in the Love, Love, Love anthology from around 1967, 1968, and he was a member of the international socialists, and he had a Stalinesque moustache – they became the nucleus of the Arts Lab.

They met on Tuesday nights at the Becket and Sargeant Youth Centre. They and a few other people were doing gigs around town. The first I heard of them was through Ian Fleming, who was younger than me but hipper. He was in my year at school. He collaborated with me on the first issues of Embryo, and he mentioned that he knew these people who’d formed an Arts Lab and we should go along and join. I admit I was suspicious at first, because I didn’t want this magazine we’d just got off the ground to be absorbed by this larger body. But I went along, and I got on with everybody, and we became members. And yes, I really loved going down there on Tuesday nights. I wasn’t enjoying my school work, didn’t see any future in it. I did see a future in the Arts Lab, a completely hallucinated future with little practical application.

Arts Labs thinking has been an underlying factor in a lot of my subsequent work. It is how I do tend to organise projects: let’s have fun, let’s experiment. We always tried to be practically-minded at the Arts Lab, although we very often failed miserably, albeit enjoyably. I can remember me and Brian Ratcliffe had the use of an overhead projector, and we thought ‘can we do some sort of performance around this?’ And we came up with the idea of doing a live comic strip, where we would project up speech bubbles and an array of characters stood in the right positions on stage acting out this drama. It certainly wasn’t a total success (laughs). It was an interesting fusion of two forms, neither of which I fully understood. It was a lot of fun, some of the gigs were really tremendous.

I remember Ian Fleming writing a poem called ‘Message to the Winter Trees’ that went, in its entirety: “Message to the winter trees: cover yourself up”. And he wrote this on an end roll of newsprint which had been liberated from the [local newspaper] Chronicle/Echo and the audience unravelled this fifty foot long poem. It was immense fun. We kept coming up with more complex ideas going into the performances and into the magazine.

So would this be individual members performing just to the rest of the group?

What would generally happen was that we would have a gentlemen called Paul Green, and he didn’t have any artistic talent, but he was brilliant with that crew of people, he was a great organiser, he would sort out the venues, he would sweet talk the management, he would get them as cheaply as possible, he would do all the practical work. We’d ask ‘shall we do a poetry reading, shall we do some kind of event?’ Paul would book it, and once we had a date, we’d all start to work towards it – maybe we could do this, maybe we could do that.

We never had a shortage of poets (laughs), and as a way of relieving the monotony of the evening, we invited [local musician] Tom Hall. Tom took me under his wing. I later found out that his mother and my father had been dance partners back in the fifties. My mother didn’t like to dance, Tom’s father didn’t like to dance, so they’d sit down and chat and my dad, Ern, and Tom’s mother, Kitty, would take a turn around the floor. Tom came along and would listen to all our poems, and he’d play something impromptu and we’d perform it with that, and it would be beautiful. We had a splendid evening.

Later, there was a rather caustic member of a northern Arts Lab who’d relocated to Northampton, and he was abrasive about how we did things, the Arts Lab and Northampton in general, and he took a dislike to Tom Hall. And he was saying ‘let’s not have Tom Hall there, he just lives off benefits and turns everything into the Tom Hall Show’. I remember Nick Bunting angrier than I’d ever seen him, saying in a very cold and deadly voice: ‘Tom Hall does not accept a penny of benefits. If Tom Hall can’t live by his music he can’t live’. Which was the first time I’d actually heard that spelled out. I remember thinking that was awesome. That that’s what I wanted to be: somebody who could be completely themselves, who did not have a master or boss and who subsisted entirely upon the fruits of their own creativity. Tom was a real formative idol.

Those were great days. When it was over, it was over, and we could all feel the vitality had gone out of it. The end of the sixties. There wasn’t going to be a revival of that spirit. Some of the people who joined later perhaps didn’t really fit, but they couldn’t be excluded under the general ethical code of those times.

If we’d have seen you back then, would we have imagined you’d go on to bigger and better things?

I have heard some people from back then saying ‘oh, it was obvious. You knew just what you wanted to do, that you’d be something like you are now’. I’m not sure I believe that. It may be obvious in retrospect. It wasn’t obvious to me back then. I felt that I would feel most comfortable working in the arts, supporting myself. Whether I would be able to do that, I really didn’t know.

If you’d have seen me back then, you might have thought I was good at reading poems, I could engage an audience, I was a decent performer. I’m not saying the poems themselves were any good, but I was increasingly aware of what an audience responded to.

The pinnacle of that way of thinking was 1974, 1975, when I wrote Old Gangsters Never Die as a recitation piece. The language in that, and the rhythms, that was the pinnacle of my style of writing at that time and I’d written it to perform. I realised it had great emotional effect, it had a got a lot of punch, especially with a little bit of music in the background. I also realised it didn’t mean anything. Other than evoking this very rich material about gangsters. It didn’t say anything. I started to think the best thing to do would be write stuff with the same command of language this stuff has, but if it means something as well, I might be getting somewhere. It was a gradual process mastering that.