ALAN MOORE is not talking about his book The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
This might seem strange of the Northampton author because the Hollywood film version, starring no lesser mortal than Sean Connery, is on general release this week.
On Film 2003 Jonathan Ross salivated over it as one of the year’s biggest action spectaculars.
Wouldn’t any author be forgiven for stepping into the limelight for a moment, even if only to hold up a copy of the graphic novel that inspired the project and perhaps encourage a few sales?
Not Alan Moore.
He is steadfastly indifferent to how it fares at the box office and won’t even be venturing out for a viewing.
He hasn’t fallen out with the production team or the studio. There is no bitterness behind his lack of engagement. He simply isn’t interested.
“Well, it’s not the book. It just happens to have the same name,” he explains in a good natured way that makes you realise he never expected any other outcome from doing deals with Hollywood.
And he should know. He has been tussling with Tinseltown for several years now as film-makers, hungry for original ideas, have attempted to mine the rich vein of creativity that goes into Moore’s books.
From Hell, his meticulous examination of the Jack the Ripper case, was a revelatory tour through Victorian London that somehow became a lurid house-of-horrors peepshow in the hands of Hollywood.
Similarly the movie version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen hasn’t come anywhere near revealing the layers of glittering detail in the source material. However the original idea was such a good one, the story has survived the inevitable yanking about.
It centres on the creation of a Victorian ‘superhero’ team populated by characters from fiction who are already household names in their own right.
Alan Quartermain, from King Solomon’s Mines (played by Sean Connery in the film) is their leader. There is the Invisible Man, Dr Jekyll and his alter ego Mr Hyde, Mina Harker suffering from the after effects of a vampire bite and a certain Captain Nemo, who has a very useful submarine . . .
The Hollywood treatment has seen fit to add Oscar Wilde’s immortal Dorian Gray, and cynically a US crowd-pleaser in the form of 19th century CIA man, Tom Sawyer.
It was this final inclusion that convinced Moore that yet again he was right not to be involved any further than giving his permission.
In terms of the original stories, Tom Sawyer should have been around the same age as Alan Quartermain in 1899, the year in which The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is set, but in the film he is simply fresh-faced Hollywood eye candy.
It’s the fundamental difference between what Moore does right and Hollywood regularly does wrong . . . the detail.
It doesn’t mean the movie is a bad film. It’s an action romp set around a genuinely interesting concept. But Moore, who saw Ross’s TV review, found himself cringing with embarrassment as the Film 2003 presenter reserved his most lavish praise for the graphic novel and its author.
Moore admits to initially wrestling with notion of whether he should sell the film rights to any of his work.
It was not a question of money. Moore’s appeal as a graphic novelist has been global for more than a decade.
In the end he opted for the path of least resistance by allowing rights to be sold but it has always been on the understanding that he will neither take blame or credit for the end results.
It is a shame for UK cinema audiences that however well intentioned, the efforts of American film companies have so far failed to represent the true quality of his work.
For disappointed fans hoping they were finally going to see some of the ‘Moore magic’ make it to the silver screen intact, there is only the consolation that the ‘Moore magic’ is still right where he left it . . . in the books.
FOR a man who has written hundreds of comic books and is revered as a master of the genre on both sides of the Atlantic, Alan Moore has managed to keep a surprisingly low profile.
Born in Spring Boroughs, his early career saw him drawing a weekly Maxwell the Magic Cat cartoon for the Northants Post newspaper, but it was not long before he had his big break into the shadowy world of graphic novels.
After being accepted by comic company 2000AD after only his second attempt, he soon made his mark on the industry with three successful series, V for Vendetta, Marvel Man and the Bojefferies Saga.
The accolades were not far behind, although he modestly claims most of the awards he won were “voted by 35 tragic men in anoraks” and he was soon signed to DC Comics – the holy grail of superheroes – and started his own independent publishing company.
His career has been nothing if not prolific and he still produced comics at an astonishing rate.
And in the unlikely event he does have writer’s block, he does have another trick up his sleeve.
On his 40th birthday he announced he was a magician, but Moore is no Paul Daniels.
“If you take anything like science, maths or philosophy back a couple hundred of years you get back to alchemy or magic.
“That’s what I want to explore.”
But despite the lure of Hollywood, it seems Northampton will always be home.
“Terraced suburbia is my home and even if I left I think I’d be drawn back by some strange gravitational pull,” he said.
First published in the Northampton Chronicle & Echo