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PART ONE: 09/09/02
Having been graciously invited to his Northampton abode by the World's Greatest Comics Writer, myself (Daniel Whiston) along with David Russell and Andy Fruish had a long and fascinating meeting with the Enlightened One, surrounded as we were by shelves groaning under the weight of books and comics, walls covered with mystic paraphenalia from throughout the ages, and a constant fug of smoke.
Having introduced ourselves (and established that the Dictaphone was indeed working), an intense two-hour introduction to Alan's methods, opinions and writing approach followed…
DW: I feel quite awkward doing this ‘cos I've never really interviewed anyone before…
AM: Well I'm a doddle for interviewing ‘cos I'm completely infatuated with the sound of me own voice…you just have to say a few basic words and I'll talk for the next hour or two…you prod me if you want me to stop or change to a different subject.
DW: The selfish motivation for me doing this is that I'm starting to try and write myself and would be really interested to get the benefit of your experience so from that point of view I'd be really interested in talking about the mechanics of the craft, and then maybe go on to talk about the higher level creative aspects in a little bit. AM: OK. DW: So maybe we could start off with the nuts and bolts…what's your approach to plotting, for example?
AM: My approach to most things has been in a state of flux and has been developing over the last 25 years that I've been working at this, with regard to plotting for example. When I started out with this I was living in a state of such terror that I would get to the end of a story and not have an ending for it, or would not have at least a satisfactory ending for it, that I would plot my stories out almost to the finest detail. If I was plotting a 24-page Swamp Thing story I would have a kind of rough idea of where I wanted the story to go in my head, I would have perhaps vague ideas of what would make a good opening scene, a good closing scene, perhaps a few muddy bits in the middle. I'd then write the numbers 1 to 24 down the side of the page and I would put down a one line description of what was happening on that page. This kind of developed to the point of mania with Big Numbers . LEFT: Big Numbers 1 cover When I plotted Big Numbers I plotted the entire projected 12-issue series on one sheet of A1 paper – which was just frightening. A1 is scary – it's the largest size. I divided it along the top into 12 columns and along the side into something like 48 different rows across which had got the names of all the characters, so the whole thing became a grid where I could tell what each of the characters was doing in each issue. It was all filled with tiny biro writing which looked like the work of a mental patient, it was like migraine made visible, it was really scary. I mainly did it to frighten other writers - Neil Gaiman nearly shat, the colour drained from his face when he saw this towering work of madness. I've still got it somewhere, I just don't look at it very often, it doesn't make me feel good, it's sort of: “Where was I?” So. I used to plot meticulously, but I started to get the feeling that plot – if you're doing something that is very heavily plot-driven: if you're doing a crime story, if you're doing a whodunit or something like that where a plot is a very very necessary thing, but some stories where there's nothing but plot, it does sound like someone walking through a bog, you know: “Plot plot plot plot plot plot plot plot….yeah yeah, your plot made sense, but I wasn't interested in it, I was not interested in any of these characters, your plot hung together but there was no real story”. So I try not to get quite so obsessed with plot. With the Americas Best Comics that I've been doing along with most of the stuff I've been doing lately of any stripe I'm much more liable to just come up with – it's not even a half-arsed it's a quarter arsed idea at best – but it'll do it for the first couple of pages: “Yeah, that'll be good, lets have some threeeyed cowboys. I've got no idea what they're going to do in the story, but this issue's all about three-
eyed cowboys. I mean, you might think of a story that's got three-eyed cowboys in it and hope it comes to some sort of resolution, but it always does. I've been working for 25 years now and I can probably bring near enough any story to a satisfactory resolution just because I've been doing this every day for 25 years – you get more confident in your ability to bring a story home. So you can ride bareback, and take more risks. That is something I have a great deal of fun with. I mean, when I wrote Voice of the Fire , I knew that the last chapter being narrated by me would have to be something that was true, and that had really happened, and yet it would also have to tie up all of the themes and motifs of the novel, so it took me five years to write that, and I knew that not only would the last chapter have to really happen, it would have to really happen during the month that I was writing that chapter. ABOVE: Cover to VOICE OF THE FIRE So if it happened that nothing happened that month, and nothing happened that provided me with things like severed heads, you know, black dogs, all of the other motifs, than I would have wasted pretty much five years, because the novel wouldn't have an ending. I mean that is really high-stakes gambling - but the thrill, when it comes off is really something. But it always comes off. If you've got the nerve, if you can sort of do it without flinching or worrying, then it always somehow kind of comes off, if you just follow the process. I mean, that's probably something – these days - when I started off, I was all technique, I was obsessed with technique, and I would approach every part of that technique meticulously, trying to think about it, how it might fit together, how it might be changed or modified, what effect you might be able to get by sort of twisting this a degree to the left, this a degree to the right. These days I tend to find that I kind of improvise with a lot of confidence, and find that the material is often much better, much fresher…
DW: Maybe that's because you had a technique to start with…
AM: …and then you can go beyond it, I mean perhaps it's true to say that to actually get a grounding in the techniques…once you know how all this stuff works, then you can throw away the rulebook, you can throw away the manual and then sort of, just do it, you know, improv…
DW: To someone starting off in my position, what would you say were the elements of that toolkit?
AM: The first thing is: think about what you are doing, think about every aspect of it. Bryan Eno was somebody whose thinking really influenced me when I was starting out. Now he was a musician and I was moving into comics, but his thinking was generalised enough that it applied to a whole variety of fields. One of the things that he said was that some creative people seem to be governed by a kind of superstitious fear about examining their own creative processes – its almost like riding a bicycle, where if they stop to think about how they're doing it, they'll fall off.
Whereas my attitude is, if you're going to be making your living out of this stuff, it's like if you're making your living as a driver, you'd at least want to know what happens if the car grinds to a halt, what all that stuff under the hood actually does and is… actually understand your own creative process…think about everything…think about what you're doing. If you're talking about comics writing, then many of the same things apply as with writing in general, but there is a whole couple of other layers to the possibilities because you've got an image track as well, and a kind of ‘over grammar', as I think I once heard it described as, where you've got the interaction, neither words nor pictures but the interaction of both of them.
DW: Scott McCloud talks about that quite a bit… AM: Yeah, Scott, he's a clever lad. I'm not sure about his new: “all comics are gonna be online”, I think he's talking bollocks there… DW: I think I agree in some ways… AM: It's academic…he's pushing it with this second book, there's a lot of stuff in there which isn't actually accurate thinking, but his first book's impeccable. DW: Maybe that comes from being more of an analyst and less of a practitioner…he hasn't written as much as he's thought… AM: I think he's become more evangelist is the word you're looking for…he's got very very into this idea of: “everything would be better if it's on computers,” without actually thinking about any of the practicalities of it… DW: Like scrolling over the pages of a comic that's 20 metres wide… AM: You could, and I believe he has actually done a strip especially for that format that can be read in all sorts of different ways, it sounds really cute, a really interesting experiment, I'm sure I'd love to do that once…the thing is, with Promethea 12 , looked at materially, it's exactly the same technology as Action Comics 1 ….it's a number of sheets of paper with like images and words printed on them and a staple in the middle. LEFT: Cover to Promethea # 12 However, Promethea 12 is a complete history of the universe broken down into the 22 Tarot cards, with a commentary in verse, a frieze – the whole thing is one panel, where if you duplicated it and got two copies of it and stuck it all together, yes, it could be put up as a frieze, the ends of the frieze join together so it runs forever, there's a flipbook worked into the sides of the pages, we've got this joke by Aleister Crowley running all the way along the bottom, we've got perfect anagrams of the word ‘Promethea' – 22 of them ( laughter ) – that fit in perfectly with both the Tarot cards and the era of history we are applying that Tarot card to – now that is a higher technology. To me, the basic technology is the word, I mean that's not technology, that is a fruit of technology. The clue with technology is the ‘logy' bit – technology means writing about a body of knowledge. The word is the mother technology, all technologies are based upon the word, the word is the primal technology. Dealing with language, dealing with being a writer, you're gonna be dealing with language. If it's comics, then that will involve a pictorial element, but a lot of the basic things are the same. If you want to learn how to write, be analytical, and that probably means when you're starting, be reductionist. It's
DW: I remember at the time you were worried that DC might do ‘Kid Rorschach' or something… AM: Well. Start thinking about the different components of a story. So you need these things: then. there's not an objective real world. It has to have a structure. art by Dave Gibbons So we've got all this sort of thing with the metaphor of the clock face. it might be more like noise than information…sort of like James Joyce. you're going to have to make it up in either sense. then no-one will laugh”. but it is full of information. different levels – I was showing off. but sometimes a plot need only be a string of events that takes you from point A to point B or D or whatever. you never know what DC might do: ‘Blot the dog' (laughter). If you're going to be really clever. because there isn't a real world here. and that your target is the soft grey putty of the reader's brain. You have to be as fantastic in your description. what kind of lasting scar do you want to leave upon your reader? You design the missile accordingly. what you want to do – you're going to need a world for the story to happen in. I kind of decided after Watchmen that there was no point ever doing anything like that ever again. at least I don't know anyone who's ever seen one. you can understand everything on the page. What are you trying to convey to them? It's going to be some kind of information. in your imagining of the place as you would be writing about some alien world or some exotic landscape like the swamps of Louisiana or whatever – you have to wring the poetry out of the place . or poem or verse or whatever it is you're writing. although this doesn't have to be the most important thing. psychological information…it's gonna be some sort of information…it might be non-linear. The plot is the skeleton. Imagine it is a kind of projectile which has been specially shaped to be aerodynamic. it's the ways of getting that information across – plot. and yes it is a kind of clockworklike construction – a swiss watch construction – where you can see all the works of it. you can kind of think of it as a kind of projectile.you don't want any more icing on the top. it would have been silly to have taken it further and done something more complex. at least at the start of your career. Now. it was always possible. Sometimes a beautiful and elegant plot is what a whole story's about. and that's great. So. it might be an imaginary one – it doesn't matter. I thought: “People will laugh at me ‘cos I'm doing superhero comics. Different areas where the text reflects itself. It might be the real one. Pure signal is like Janet and John – yes. Noise – or something approaching noise – is like a page of James Joyce. I'd better make ‘em really clever. There's a lot of subjective worlds. What the story is about . because actually it's the noise that holds the most information. emotional information.what are you trying to say? What kind of shape or impression are you hoping to leave upon the reader? In a sense. but there's nothing much there worth understanding. They don't all have to be tied up as fussily as that – in fact.too big a problem to grasp the whole thing at once. the story has to be about something. . Break it down. What kind of shape. what kind of indentation. you can maybe get the structure the plot and the theme all to reflect each other in some way – but that's just being clever. Now that can be factual information. What things should a story have? It should have a plot. it has to have a purpose. ABOVE: Detail from Watchmen . Watchmen was kind of clever – I was going through one of my clever periods – probably emotional insecurity. when it's already this sort of elaborate wedding cake of a comic book . because having done it once. it has to have a shape. a page of Ian Sinclair – where there is such a density of information that it almost becomes incoherent. which is not the same thing as the plot.make it real. like in Voice of The Fire where I wrote about this area. (laughter). the story. there should also be what the story is about. But you'll need all of those elements.
really clever. on all the different levels. the thing we've got coming out next year. Structure is dazzling – you can feel like a real big scientist when you're doing structure. So. So ok. characters are the most interesting and mysterious and wonderful part of the writer's craft in my opinion. give it an emotional reality. and I was thinking: “So. Why did we want to do that? Well. had characters and a story and all the things a regular novel should have. but I never really thought of what I could do with it other than… . with very few exceptions. Now. there's the island of the lost boys…I could see that that would have had a lot of sexual shadows to it. asking: “Now what goes next to this?”. of place. and if it goes somewhere you're not interested in.Whether it's real or not. It's probably quite a good way to describe the writing process. some fragment of a character – it might be a name. has there never been any great pornographic art? Why has there never been any great pornographic writing that has actually tried to do all the same things that ordinary novels do… DW: I think that's people think that it should be ugly and it should be dirty… AM: Yeah. sort of pick up an idea and try and follow it through in your mind and see where it goes. really beautiful. it might be a personality. I had an earlier idea that I'd put to one side and shelved. tell ‘em what it tastes like. When you can get people beautifying violence in the cinema… ABOVE: Cover to LOST GIRLS DW: Any subject can be beautiful… AM: Yeah. you think: “What does this suggest? If this is the name. what do they look like?” You put it together like a sort of broken vase. Remember that you've got more than one sense – don't just tell them what everything looks like. put it down. Peter Pan. and that took a long time. it might be a face. to talk about how that came about. It's ugly on all sorts of levels – aesthetically ugly. tell ‘em what it feels like. And once you've got that fragment. we decided that there was a need for it. we cast around for ideas as to how we would do this. I think I'd been thinking about the Freudian notion of flying as a dream metaphor for sex. That can give a much more wraparound sense of reality. sadly. Politically ugly. Pick up another one. With this idea me and Melinda had. there's something wrong there – we identified a problem there. something like that. he teaches Wendy how to fly. that's wrong” – and that's gotta be instinct. that you could maybe treat Peter Pan as a kind of coded erotic story. that most erotica – or pornography (and the distinction seems to be largely in the income bracket of the person buying it) – most of it is shit. tell ‘em what it smells like. Lost Girls . so why. so when people read it it will conjure a sense of location. but characters – they're strange because you'll think up some facts. give it the reality of writing. physically ugly. me and Melinda Gebbie. We decided that we wanted to do something that was erotic. so eventually… To pluck an example out of thin air. make it real. morally…on all sorts of levels…and there's no reason why that should be. of situation. why not do absolutely brilliant pornography that was really horny. because there were lots of wrong ways of doing it that we considered and thought: “no.
we've got very good stuff with Hook. I suddenly thought: “alright. And then as a counterpoint. everyone's fucking. and tell each other their stories. Certainly not nearly dead. she just liked to do stories about three women characters. and then immediately I thought of Alice and Dorothy. I thought. and their stories are sexually decoded versions of the stories that they are famous for. what if Wendy from Peter Pan is one of the characters?”. And I kind of worked it out that round about 1913. So that sounded like it was going somewhere. you know… it's a pornotopia. She'd probably be in later youth. and what ages they would all have been. Wendy would probably be middle-aged sort of 30. this is going to be section…” and that didn't really seem to be enough. AF: Middle aged?!?!? (laughter) AM: Later youth. But when I kind of connected that idea up with the Peter Pan idea. that's three different female characters from three different children's books. they can meet in this hotel in 1913”. something like that. to sexualise a children's story.AF: What about Hook? (laughter) AM: Oh well. and then I thought: “1913. something like that. or somewhere. but Melinda was saying that she'd written a couple of stories she'd enjoyed that had had three women characters…that for some reason. but it was going somewhere. So then I started to look at the dates those stories were written. and I thought: Wouldn't it be interesting if this whole story was going on against a backdrop…if we had this story happening in a beautiful place. where you could say: “ah yes. where everything is perfect and lovely. Dorothy would probably be about 20. And I suddenly thought: “ok. 35. it's erotic. 1914 Alice would have been about 60. that was when the war was kicking off. 19. this sort of art nouveau hotel. we'll show the assassination of Franz Ferdinand… . That was just random input. and try and work out the relative ages of the three women. and what period they could have met. all right. in the background we have the riots at the Stravinsky concert which to a certain degree show the emotional pitch Europe was at at that time…then we'll sort of take that on. I didn't know what to do with that other than do a rude version of Peter Pan. what if you had those women meet up at a hotel. and there was that Stravinsky performance in Paris of Rite of Spring when there were all the riots. it wasn't there yet.
this was the CIA rumour put around just before we bombed Tripoli…there's a lot of connections between war and eroticism. The Ayatollah Khomeini: “Oh yeah. just before they attack somewhere. There's a sort of glass screen – probably something to do with the opium – between her and herself. but then Dennis Potter was a good writer…so what we came up with was this aristocratic lesbian with a laudanum habit. then you try to imagine a little scene with him or her. almost insufferable. he likes little boys”. but when you're starting out it's not a bad idea. priggish. generally launch a sort of propaganda campaign saying the enemy is a homosexual…they have to make him into a woman. you know…so she'd have got married to a man who was older than her. And I was thinking: “There's something epic about this. the three women tell their stories and the First World War happens. or that Colonel Gadaffi: “He dresses up as a woman”. when you've tried to imagine about the character. war is a perversion of sex. yes. so it struck me that there was a story here where. And we did the same thing with Wendy. very prim. then we had to come up with the characters. you might say that the characters were already there. it was a nice take. who doesn't represent any kind of sexual threat at all because she had something happen to her. that's what we were saying just before we bombed the shit out of Iran. or at least a massive blow to it. any of these excitable young American pilots coming back from bombing Libya. I used to appear in sketches with the Northampton Arts Lab. with a very active imagination. (Phone rings and then there is a tea break). but the characters were already there as little girls whereas we wanted them as women. we shot our missiles right up their back door”. they were . They will also. Wendy's very middle class. be putting that energy into copulation rather than going over there and blowing some other young man's guts out. Homoerotic. AM: We were talking about character. and you put those two in juxtaposition against each other. you only have to look at things like the language of war. So all right. One of the things I used to do was to actually act things out in front of a mirror. “…They might be just made out of words and paper. we could do our original thing of bringing weight and importance to pornography.we'll show everything sort of careening towards war. It's a perversion. somebody who worked in the shipping industry and is really boring. but their effect in the world can be massive…” DR: Is acting something you used to do when you were younger? AM: You couldn't really call it acting. very maternal. and there seemed to be a plot there. to actually try and get the body language right and see what it felt like to be that person. and there comes a point. you try and imagine what their body language is. Also. and pretty much the destruction of European culture. All the pretty things get burned. which was a sort of experimental kind of arts collective that used to be around back in the ‘60s. and her response was to shy away from sex and to see it as something shadowy. who's kind of lost… something happened to her as a child…she kind of went through the looking glass and never came back. and they're saying: “Yeah. and you try and imagine how they move. or were going to. when you've done all these things. in a better world. I can do all that in my head now so I don't bother. Now. So we looked at Lewis Carroll's Alice: what sort of 60-year old woman would she be? She's obviously the most intellectual of the three girls – she's also the oddest. she's the most eccentric… DW: Did you see Dreamchild? AM: Yeah I did. there's something really stark about sexuality and war. because most of the people who get sent to die in wars are young men who've got a lot of energy and would probably rather.
When you've got all these things. some sort of er-Superman. Being a method actor. more of a Marxist school of thinking. that doesn't quite describe the phenomena. which is completely mad. because what he says is.very popular. but it wasn't quite as philosophical as that. DW: My background is political philosophy. who used to write Superman in the ‘50s for DC – I think he wrote the Superman newspaper strip in the 50s? – he also wrote a book called A Very Unlikely Prophet . the rest of the group would say: “Superman wouldn't do that” – and he said that this had happened so many times that he'd thought: “Hang on. you want to know what their phraseology is like. where there was – DW: Ideational space? AM: Idea space is what I'd call it. this and this?” – and unanimously. but is really interesting. although that's partly it – its where the characters first start doing things that surprise you – its sort of when – DW: Sorry to interrupt. tossing around ideas for Superman stories. even if the reader will never be able to hear that because it's in word balloons or whatever. or some sort of proto-Superman. (laughter) because you can't come up with any rational explanation for it… because it's like the comic writer Alvin Schwartz. there's tips you can pick up…both you and an actor are going to have to create a character that is believable…you're going to have to know the way they talk. but you couldn't actually hold up anything in the world and say: “this is Marxism”. you sit round with the other writers. what he was saying was that there seemed to be some level – or he and the writers seemed to be behaving as if there was some level. or something like that? A space in which concepts exist? DW: I think so. He started to come to the conclusion that there did exist somewhere – some sort of Platonic space. you find there comes a point with the character – probably sooner rather than later – where (this is a cliché. that all writers spout) – where the character comes to life. if a writer came up with a bad idea and he didn't like it. in that it's got immense power as an idea. just using that character. some platonic level. where I've heard a lot of that talked about – totally different discipline. I wouldn't do that”. and it's rather – odd… AM: It's the sort of thing that leads you to become a magician at the age of 40. Superman isn't real. Marxism is an example of what Carl Popper would have called a ‘World Three' structure. I've only just started writing myself but I've experienced that myself on a couple of occasions. And that's not quite it. the sound of their voice. Try and write a few words. who sort of. and somebody would come up with an idea: “what if Superman does this. where there was a Superman. you wanna know what the sound of their voice is like. but that isn't what's causing it… AM: Of course. I've worked on Superman. but it's kind of true. You couldn't even hold up Kapital and say: “this is Marxism”. but the actual essence of it is nothing to do with that… AM: It's the immaterial structures and things like that that are the important things? DW: And extensions of those into the world are what we observe. It's a book…anyway. that is kind of stupid. on which these archetypal sort of idea-forms actually existed. in that the important things about globalisation are not what actually happens in the economy – I mean that's important. If . Now. what do we mean ‘Superman wouldn't do that?'”. he'd just say: “no. but say aspects of globalisation… AM: Something like Carl Popper with his ‘World Three'. see if you get a voice that sounds kind of natural.
So yes. And that's true of written work. flecked with gold. you can't help but feel the weight of myth and history that is connected…its like if you were writing Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes is a massive figure in people's minds. I have read it to make sure that there are no clunky syllables.. An awful lot of my writing – why it reads well is because I've read it before I wrote it. I can see that. I mean when I started writing Watchmen . if they've got the right kind of mass. the molecules and the atoms. people don't even give a shit what you're saying. If I ever write a book on writing it will probably be called Real Men Don't Use Thesauri . DR: Associations as well are important… AM: Yeah. More massive than a lot of real historical characters – these figures have real weight. the letter ‘O' was white. there's no sudden three-syllable words where there should have been a two-syllable word. art by Dave Gibbons So OK. I mean one of the greatest writers.. there should be a word that means this or that. on which the mental voice of the reader will trip. That's better. They'll start telling you what they want to do. Rhythms – that was something I learned from performance. The rhythm alone will get everybody hypnotised. But it was the character himself who told me that. because they maybe jump from one sense to another – . don't touch ‘em. I'd got no idea when I started it. the right flavour. but their effect in the world can be massive.characterisation – they're all big – you could probably fill a massive book with your thoughts on all of them – sooner or later you get down past – like I say this is reductionist thinking – you'll break it down into areas like characterisation. so he'll have to die. you'll have to go through all of these areas . This is down to words. LEFT: Detail of Rorschach from Watchmen . the right kind of gravity and momentum. Synasthesia is a great literary tool. you'll know what they would say and what they wouldn't say. They might be just made out of words and paper. place. I think they're cheating. he's clearly…he wants out. ambience. plot. Not so much of written work – you have to rely upon the reader reading it in the right way and getting the right rhythm – but you can write so that you can at least guide the reader towards certain rhythms. could it be…”…making up a word and checking in the dictionary and seeing if there is such a word and if it meant what you thought it did. and alright you can waste an hour trying to get the exact right word that's got the right kind of sound. You'll be able to come up with perfect metaphors that are really striking and strange.you're a conscientious writer. he wouldn't be able to live with any sort of moral compromises. Vladimir Nabakoff. because a word sometimes will have completely illogical associations just because they sound like another word… AF: There's a sort of synasthesia going on there… AM: There's an awful lot of synasthesia. it was just by about issue three I started to know the character and I thought: “he's got a death wish”…he's so self-destructive. a lot of the greatest writers. I'd got no idea that Rorschach was gonna be dead by the end of it. There's no way that he's gonna live through this. And it's a good thing to try and develop. one of my favourites. the word ‘Moscow' was green flecked with gold…olive green. so that there's a nice sort of bumdabumdabumdabum there's a nice sort of rhythm. after two or three issues. with the Arts Lab – if you're talking in the right rhythm. he was a synasthetic. there does come this point when characters start talking to you. What's wrong with having an enormous vocabulary? What's wrong with thinking: “oh.to him. location (location location)…all these things…sooner or later you're going to get down into the molecules. could it be this. because no. the right colour…that fits just perfectly.
Also. and then all the rest. tractory – I'm getting peat.it's fantastic. That'll save you a lot of embarrassment. it's how we tend to do things anyway. So much of this stuff is made up of language.. a word from James Joyce… DR: Finnegan's Wake… AM: What's the actual quote? “A quark…” I've forgotten. is made up of language. blackcurranty”…talking about red things.. our consciousness. it can be quite easy. this is literally magical territory. The Hunting of the Snark . You need words before you know what they are. you'll cover all this territory.try describing a smell in musical terms. I've got some incredible shit…these are all Golden Door magic wands. it's when you get down to the words themselves. you know. was what they were saying.. yellow. somewhere. You are . Eventually. I've got Bibles that are older than America. You need a concept of ‘I' to start with. There's something there. which will…you'll get cleverer. And remember when you're learning the techniques. But yeah. I think that ‘quark' as a matter of fact is from James Joyce. that you can study it in so much of its fine details.. it's got all famous names and obscure names and dates. before you can store any information. Now they've done tests those people who describe the flavour and bouquet of wine. because it's got all the words in the English language and where they come from and what they mean. They've just proven that – you know when Jilly Gordon gets on a roll on The Food Program and she's talking about: “. I mean I've got some books here that are incredibly valuable. which are verbal. that's Austin Osmond's Fair Original. Any form of art is propaganda. which is an etymological dictionary which tells you where the words come from so you actually know what you're talking about. They're taking visual cues. so much of our reality. It's how a lot of our senses…I think synasthesia is probably a lot more common than the sensory aberration that it's made out to be. It's not that language grows out of consciousness. to learn all this technique you can amass an incredible vocabulary. composty. you can't be conscious. Language comes first. from the broadest categories down to. new-mown hay”…you know. I've got signed books by Alistair Crowley. everything. They did things where they'd put an odourless and tasteless colour agent into white wine to make it look like red wine. Yeah. you can learn all about the techniques.. Or it might even have some associations with Lewis Carroll. the sub-atomic detail of words and syllables… AF: And when they get down to quarks and things as well they talk about them in weird terms like ‘strangeness' and… AM: ‘Charm'. like I say. It's synasthesia. whereas when it was red wine they were saying: “…its wonderfully fruity. to how we sense everything. what does it actually mean?”. consciousness is predicated upon language. and then they'd note the kind of language the wine-tasters were using. remember what you're actually doing – don't kid yourself. When it was white wine they were using: “…buttery. if you haven't got language. and there's probably a key there. they're not describing the flavour or the bouquet at all – they are synasthetically describing the colour. Actually. I'm getting burning tyres…”. If you think there's a huge amount of difference between you and Paul Joseph Goebbels. It's also got a great Encyclopaedia function…it's a biographical dictionary. and it's best if you accept that and understand what you're doing and be honest about it: you are trying to change the mind of your target audience.it's a kind of buttery. the thing I'd grab if there was a fire is my Random House Dictionary . You need words for things. basically. If you're gonna be a writer. And that is my best Grimoire if you like. It is propaganda for a state of mind rather than a nation-state but it is propaganda nonetheless. If you use a word like ‘fascism' you can actually have a look and see: “now where does that word come from. you're kidding yourself. these are Dr Dee's tables. Synasthesia. You need concepts. The more…as far as I understand it. my best magic book.
And you'll probably have to consider all these aspects of writing… DR: It's like some of Richard Dawkins' ideas about memes. Yes. I can. You will start to notice that. you'll find that the words are forming practically at your fingertips on the keys of the typewriter. Shane MacGowan's talked about: “songs are floating in the air. the thing is. Start writing. interesting idea. or about which you have no opinions. try and convince other people. so right. Juxtapositions are occurring to you. so are all of the people who run our lives. And if you actually look back you come. but they didn't seem to come from anywhere.trying to change their perceptions. when I asked him: “Where do you get ideas from?”. they just float through the air. these are perfect Orwellian ways of limiting the vocabulary and thus . would have had supernatural powers. It's a similar idea. And of course. AM: Yeah memes. If you actually notice this – you can write certain different types of prose. finding things together and dusting them down. the other a writer – Steven King and Shane MacGowan – have both made very similar comments about the fact that they discover what they do rather than create it from within themselves. if you start looking at it. and hit people on the head”. You will find that you've not got something perfectly planned in your head and you're writing it down. You get enough things like that and you start to – in my case anyway – you start to technique. and it's my duty to grab them before some cunt like Paul Simon does”. these things have their limitations. That is when you come up against a point like I did. You're probably going to have to consider all of these ideas – and eventually you're gonna come up against: the mystery. you alter the perception. Lafferty. I'm aware of how words can change people/s minds. Because our entire universe is made up of consciousness. The ethics of that we could debate all night (laughter) but basically. you are trying to stop them from seeing things how they see things and start them seeing things the way you see things. necessarily. Your mind goes into a very different state.A. in that anyone who'd got command of written language. It's like you were saying (to DW) about the first time that characters you've created start doing things other than what you'd intended them to. you alter the universe. the events will happen that make perfect sense of those stories if the stories had been written after the events rather than before them. ideas that you never had before. if you believe something is right or something is wrong then yeah. can change the way people think. and he said: “Ideas are like pumpkins. You alter the words. This is partly what you're doing. you'll maybe write some stories and you won't know where they came from – they were powerful. I mean because there is an essential mystery in writing. but that's not good enough. Why do they do that? What do you actually mean when you say that? These and other things will start to impinge upon you. you know skilful ways of persuading people to your argument or things like that. If you believe something. our only universe is perception. Make it so that other people will repeat it. so I will. to a point where craft no longer really cuts it. They're not pulling any punches – I would say that it is beholden unto any writer to equally not pull any punches. which can leave your mind in a state every bit as altered. they were heartfelt. So are all of the advertisers. I think Stephen King's talked about writing as archaeology. one a musician. I've noticed – and this is an experiment that perhaps a lot of other writers could try: start writing upon a subject upon which you don't know very much. the ideas are forming. after a while it's obvious that writing must have had its origins in magic. And then a year later. Where I started to look at the archaic notions of writing. as I did. where you want something more than craft. craft. as say psychedelic drugs. our perception of it. AM: Ha-ha. Spread the idea around like a designer virus. R. on the other side. we never really experience the universe directly we just experience our consciousness of the universe. DW: A couple of questions come to mind – I had one initially but another one just popped in. so are all of the politicians. good point Shane. A couple of creative people. All of our perceptions are made up of words. “…Text-messaging or The Sun . Not writing theory as it is now – let's look at what writing used to be.
the characters that we've invented for ourselves – we're all writers. you're dealing with the actual stuff of existence. and what's gonna happen? Your hens are gonna lay funny. there's lots of other sorts of things – but this is dangerous . miners get black lung. he puts a satire on you. you're playing the God game. the person who first came up with the idea of representative marks.we're dealing with the unreal. I think it is wisest and safest to treat them as if they are the same thing. imagine. and he's written a particularly good satire. Sixty percent of that ninety percent – which I think works out at roughly fifty percent of all writers – will have their lives altered and affected – seriously affected – by those mental problems. characters (laughter) and what's it mean. at what a twat you were. You piss off a bard. to actually make that huge jump of saying: “Right. All the things that you will have to consider before you write a story are exactly the things God had to consider before he created the universe – plot. you'd be big time magic. in the eyes of your children. So that sound means that thing over there. So you imagine someone who'd got written language – you could pass you thoughts at a distance. Don't doubt that for a moment. because you'd have words. but – ‘hut'. but we look back… AM: The thing is. I did this yesterday and that the day before and that the day before…”. maybe one of your kids is gonna get a hare-lip or something like that – no big deal. but more than that they were feared. they stand for it. people are still gonna be laughing. that's what we'll call it . They were respected. Now. it is magical. writers go bonkers. they would at least have been regarded as such in our distant past. if you'd pissed off some witch. nine out of every ten writers will have mental problems at some point during their life. we'll put them . As far as I know. It's like. Now. That is a massive leap of consciousness. This is a real occupational hazard. you're dead. then what's she gonna do. That is what distinguishes us from the animals. You're dealing right on the borderline of fact and fiction. you could remember things. Magic and language are practically the same thing. some more insidious than others – drink. your milk's gonna go sour. You could suddenly start to build a consciousness for yourself. treat it as if it was radioactive. there's a hut . you could fix time – you could remember that: “Hang on. worthless. There's not much else we do that they can't. then three hundred years after. he might put a satire on you. roles in this little play that we're running in our head that we call our lives. some of them a lot quieter.limiting the consciousness…” AF: So in those early times. With a writer.nine out of ten crack up. which is where our entire world happens. A lot of them suns. the bards were feared. the last figures I heard quoted.‘hut'. I think what that translates to is . what's the theme here…motifs. anyone who had that bigger grasp of language which was in its early stages looked like they were doing something incredible which is why these days… AM: They were doing something incredible… AF: Yes they were. And if he was a skilful bard. it destroys you in the eyes of your community. written language. it shows you up as ridiculous. and if I draw this little thing. but written language does seem to be a very important point. what's it about. as I understand it. In some way they represent. five out of ten go mad. (break in tape) AM: I'll give a brief recap in case we feel we missed anything. from which the whole of the rest of human consciousness springs from that point. There's plenty of ways to go bonkers. things like that. and forget about putting a curse on you. in the eyes of your family. So yeah. That'll be ‘hut'.we haven't got a word for it yet. pathetic. and if it's a particularly good bard. in the eyes of yourself. writing – this is dangerous. you see this carried on into the bardic tradition of the Welsh bards. these lines on the wall – ah – the ‘hut'. If you were just some magician. we all invent characters for ourselves. language. in the eyes of your community. they'll do. This stuff that you are dealing with – words. she's gonna put a curse on you. lame. heroin. We're living in a world of fact and we've got out heads full of fiction. they were.
and thus is an ancestor . Don't worry about this – this is going to happen quite a lot. Jeffrey Archer. You're probably not gonna make any money out of it. give them a sort of ‘Newspeak' that's like – AF: Text-messaging. especially if you start messing around and writing self-referential things. I just looked through the phone book – all the names from Big Numbers I got from the phone book. A phrase I read once in a book – “the annalidden ancestor” – and I thought: “Annaliden. most of those writers on the shelves. or did that happen in my story?” And she suddenly starts to look terrified. and he's a writer himself so he knows what to do: he walks up. one of those flatworms in the Burgess Shale that have got the rudiments of a spine. I wouldn't do anything else. what's that?”. AM: Alan World – well actually. and he's a brilliant writer. Keep the line there”. So you're dealing with dangerous stuff. which is a type of worm. that other stuff was stuff that you wrote. new words. did that happen. I could have thought: “Andrew”. and he says: “Right. that must be real. what's just happened to you is that you have for the first time confused your real life with your fiction. Eventually I realised it's a word that's been kind of coined. limit their language. it has made me more intelligent. I'm not exactly sure how it's pronounced but it's great either way. based upon ‘annalid'. it's a difficult job. It's difficult. snakes! These are easy…(laughter). So. and I thought: “Alan”. Jack Trevor Storey. It can…you can start to forget. that's just the breaks. To me it is the ultimate job and yes. well not a mistake – AF: Well it shows! (laughter) AM: It was. this is your name. but I didn't. that was a complete mistake. and she says: “Wait a minute. he was. It's a dangerous job. ‘the annalidden ancestor'”. and I found A. all emotion is put through this tiny little bit called the ‘Amigdale'.everywhere – hey. give them better language. So the corollary of that holds true as well. Yeah alright.H. So. because it's like George Orwell: if you want to make people less intelligent. slaps her round the face and says: “What's your name?” And she sort of. Most writers don't. just before he died. for example…there's a great thing in a Jack Trevor Storey book. and for about two years I thought: “I didn't dream that. looking through News Scientist – the ‘Amigdale'. Stephen King and Catherine Cookson.Smiths or Waterstone's. You go down to W. like writing a novel about your home town in which you are the final character… AF: Alan World. It's just important that you remember that you're a real person. so he slaps her again and says: “What's your name?” and she gives him a name. AM: Text-messaging or The Sun . There's one bit where he's talking to this woman. ‘the annalidden ancestor' is kind of like Pichia. most of them have got another source of income. Or perhaps the ‘Amidgda-luh'. well other than convict and embezzler. and she's telling him about events that have happened. But it's difficult to do. I mean. that is not their only job. it's not necessarily good for your mind…I mean the rewards of it are fantastic. wider language. Learn to love words. these are perfect Orwellian ways of limiting the vocabulary and thus limiting the consciousness. the part of the brain to do with fear isn't it? AM: Emotion. If you want to expand people's consciousness. limit their vocabulary. and I looked it up in a book and I couldn't find a word ‘Annaliden'. it's dangerous. learn to delight over a new word that you've found. DR: Oh yes. you're in dangerous territory. World and I thought: “that's good”.
I hadn't really got much of a choice by that point. which frightened me considerably…it would have just doomed me to something different. it wasn't. Even if that seems to be completely ruining your life. you're not gonna get a respite from writing when you go on a holiday caravan to Great Yarmouth. or my wife had at least. if I'd stayed with that gas board job. Language itself is such a fantastic phenomenon with it's own fantastic history. you might be thinking that on public transport. You might be thinking that when you're eating dinner. It's bigger then you are. words. with all this that I've said about the dangers of madness. will begin to fuck with you in ways you cannot even begin to imagine. because I was kind of aware what the alternative would be. AF: ‘Simulacra'. And the letter ‘C' was the other way round. well. I'd got a baby on the way. if you do right by the god. but I had got a job. just do what it says. It knows more about you than you do.to anything that's got a spine. Surrender to it right from word one. Don't fight. do it. It wasn't a great job. You're not gonna get a respite from writing when your head hits the pillow. This is my experience. and you're probably thinking that all the time. Writing will consume your life. you can get involved in writing to whatever depth you want. and was supposed to represent the crescent moon. you're probably thinking about problems with that story. So yeah. AM: I'm probably a bit dyslexic. then that's the best way to treat it. Treat it . they've always been ahead of the curve (laughter) or a long way behind it. but with a baby on the way…at which point. DR: Do you ever pick up the dictionary and start leafing through it? AM: Oh yeah. (laughter). You might be thinking that when you're having sex. But you find words like “Xanthic” which means “yellowish” – it's lovely. will maybe lavish nothing but success and wonder upon you and. when I was 25. I mean. Treat it as if it's not just some abstract idea of a god. I could probably get through that in half an hour”. if you were going to devote yourself to a particular god. that frightened me. or even letters: the letter ‘A' originally had wings. that frightened me more than dooming my wife and baby. do what it says. AM: Yeah. Even if it tells you to do something stupid – if it tells you to jump off a cliff. sometimes I sort of: “Look up how many words do begin with ‘N'? There's not many. and I couldn't stand that. it's more important than you are. good things about it that you wanna enhance and make even better. writing told me to quit my job. with a baby on the way… AF: That must have been a tough decision at the time… AM: But really. if you don't do right by the god. and it was a regular job. we were living up Blackthorn. or anywhere – the moon – you can't get away from it. that's what you're doing. you don't even need to be awake. it's probably obsessive. Surrender. If you believed in such things. and you won't go far wrong. DW: Aerosmith's logo's gone back to that. love writing right from the molecular level of words. it was really shitty. do it. If you've got a story on the boil. they're lovely. treat writing the way that you would treat a god. It knows what it's talking about. but the thing is that really you have to kind of remember the best way to do it. I was working down the gas board. treat it as if it was a real god that will maybe. I like. This is something that will take over your life. will maybe grant all your wishes. In effect. if it said jump off a cliff. it's in your head. I always pronounce it “sim-ul-ac-ra”. because so much of writing happens in your head – you don't need to be ‘at work'. it's more intelligent than you are. and if you're a writer you probably will have. Treat it like that. You've gotta love language. Yeah. And if it's working properly.
I've got a simple. DW: At this point Mr Moore reveals his Grimoire… (The book has tiny sketched-out panels (stick figures basically). he was a monster. and one for the panel no. I remember Julie Schwarz telling me – who was a lovely man – he told me about Mort Weisinger's funeral – and this was probably just an old Jewish joke that he'd adapted – for Mort Weisinger – but he said that apparently during Jewish funerals there's a part where people can stand up and spontaneously will say a few words about the departed – personal tributes. He opens it out on the living room floor. AM: Oh Christ. Each panel has a line drawn from it to handwritten dialogue that is accompanied by two reference numbers – one for the page no. You shouldn't go into it expecting it to reward you. who was the harshest and most brutal – DW: DC editor? AM: . Alan pointing things out to Dan). things like that. And always try to do your best for the deity that you swore yourself to. but what about in terms of writing for comics. You want to do this for Thoth and for Hermes – you wanna write something that is just that good. They will give me a breakdown…they'll just be sort of these pages – these are bits of Promethea – I will break down the page area into a number of panels. just for the glory of writing. Now this is something that won't come over on the tape. and Alan and Dan crouch over it.) AM: Horrible. it looks like a family heirloom. Now. and it might reward you. Now. but you can perhaps reconstruct for your audience. DW: Bit of a tyrant from what I hear. So it's Mort Weisinger's funeral. with a boat on shore in the foreground in some panels). treat it like a god. falling apart at the seams.of the DC editors during the ‘60s. mathematical mindless formula that I follow that is – I mean if you look at these little bits of dialogue that go in each of the panels you'll see that they have little numbers written after each of the lines and what this is is the number of words. about writing in collaboration with another creative person. you just do this for the glory of writing itself. laid out quite precisely to form a rough outline of a page from a Promethea script (the scene has two characters in conversation walking down a beach. but I think at the end of the day. rather than by yourself? AM: (Gets up and walks away to desk to fetch something and comes back with it). Grandfather's old schoolbook brought down from the attic. and you probably won't go far wrong. And like I say. That's got me through 25 years. DW: Using glove-puppets… AM: Or give them a brief verbal description…now somewhere in here… (Alan has fetched a battered blue hardback notebook of lined A4 paper. that's a completely irrational attitude. that's the best one. and it gets to this bit in the funeral and there's absolute .like that. tatty book. this is basically something that I took from Mort Weisinger. but which are basically all I need for anything re writing comics. but what this has got in it is lots of crappy little drawings that are indecipherable to anybody else but me. What was your second question? (laughter) DW: I feel a bit anally-retentive…we've talked about writing a lot.
keeps it intimate. if a balloon has more than 20 or 25 words in it. . saying it does allow for serendipity. Right. 18 and 19 – DW: Oh right. laying out comics pages – it gives you somewhere to start – you sort of know: “OK. these little panels just – one of them says this. well this is a spread so it's 18 and 19 5. they're right down by the tide line there. is 35. who I greatly respected. 35 words per panel. that I'm not gonna make – oh. the next one just sits down and takes a breather – and then I thought. then the maximum number of words that you should have in each panel. I've seen some terrible comic writing where the balloons are huge. and I don't just wanna suddenly jump to them on the seafront. a bit constipated. Also. I mean. the other one says that. so 6 panels. That's the maximum. I'll just put a big wide panel taking up the whole tier – big picture of the beach at night – and there's these two little men. and I don't wanna caption saying: ‘Meanwhile. How much room have you got? What's the pacing like? One thing to remember in comics – and this is an interesting axiom – space equals time. I'll take his standard as the strictest”. So I thought alright. because he was the toughest of the editors. or thinking. cover the entire of the background – DW: Doesn't that tend to often happen when you've got what's called the American plot style of scripting which is where the writer basically gives a very broad breakdown – AM: I've never really got on with that. If you've got 9 panels it's about 23-24 words – that'll be about the right balance of words and pictures. shall we be getting back?'”. “Alright. Mort Weisinger. And then I thought: “Right. Whereas. the prologue. But anyway. and I'd been doing that in just little panels because I thought. when I was doing From Hell – I think it's the epilogue? – no. it's gonna look too big. DW: And if you've got one panel you'd have 210… AM:…and if you've got 2 panels you'd have 105 each. 35 words a panel. so he has to make them look kind of neutral. in those panels. in your suggestions to the artist. the prologue. No more. that's good. and everything gets sort of blanded out. but I should imagine that as a reward that is probably outweighed by the fact that all the characters. walking up the beach and the width of the panel will convey. that will depend. that's it – it's a nice way to get to grips with a page. I remember once Archie Goodwin. where I've got the prologue with just the two old guys on the beach. at least in my little crappy drawings. I thought: “Alright. 25 words is the absolute maximum for balloon size.dead silence. I can't see – that just looks sloppy to me. that means about 210 words per page maximum”. with the staple line in the middle? AM: Yeah. I can make sure there's not too many words for any panel – DW: So this number refers to the page and the panel within the page? AM: Er yeah. I can see that. To convey time in a comic – it's spatial. Alright. to make sure that I'm not gonna overwhelm the pictures. it took a long while to do this. once you've taken on board those two simple rules. I remember. and the silence just goes on and on and on and nobody gets up and says anything and eventually this guy at the back of the synagogue gets up and says: “His brother was worse!” (laughter). Yeah. I'll have one of them say: ‘Its getting cold. As to how you lay the page out. shortly later…'”. What he said was: if you've got 6 panels on a page. So that is why I obsessively count all the words. and actually it would take them quite a long while to walk back up the beach. I can control this – I can make sure that everything works. the artist has to give them neutral expressions because he doesn't know what they're gonna be saying. it will take the reader 3 seconds – 2 seconds – to actually look at the picture and take it in – there's no words in it – but it will convey time.
You're looking down upon this warren of alleys. and then walks out of the door into panel 12. So forward-thinking. and you could have everyone moving logically – in different directions – panel 1. that was all sort of 40s. and then panel 4 she's putting it in the dish-rack and she's starting to come down the right-hand side of the kitchen into panel 8.a drop of water falling while something happens – AM: Yeah. he'd used the whole page as one big image. there's something lovely about that. that's it. But I thought: “Yeah. a lot of the ideas. so brilliant – I mean there was a thing that I did in Big Numbers 2 which was a thing that I did just for the pleasure of 2 or 3 – or the discomfort of . then the action's gotta suddenly go to the middle left-hand side – DW: I guess you could spiral couldn't you? AM: Well. Of their period. Gasoline Alley . it all works perfectly – and he gets pissed off with her and storms out down into panel 9. where she's washing it up. or a one-off verbal gag. Harvey Kurtzman – they're the best. for the sale of variety. now hang on a minute I think she's taking a dish off the table. panel 2 she's scraping it into a peddle-bin which is just next to the sink. in terms of one scene – AM: . as soon as you get to the right-hand side of the top row. you look at Windsor Mackay… DW: Little Nemo in Slumberland… AM: Little Nemo in Slumberland . I think most of what Frank based his stuff upon – on which any aspiring comic writer would do very well to go back to – is Will Eisner. and he breaks this down into panels and in each of the panels there is basically a one-off sight-gag. that is. there are different possibilities – yeah but with a spiral you're gonna end up in the middle. in this alley. that Frank and people elaborated upon – you look through Eisner and you can come up with so many brilliant ideas that he just throws away. Or probably even better. you see something that would take 2 seconds. Terry and the Pirates . I can see his problem here. the Mum is. that are all happening at the same moment. it's happening in slow motion. a sort of deceptively mundane strip. you look at Frank King. yeah. DW: Dragon Lady and stuff like that? AM: No no. Dreams and Rarebit Themes . You go back to 1902. And what this was was that I'd looked at some of the early Frank King Gasoline Alley pages where.where you splinter the action. They came up with a lot of the devices.2 or 3 other comic writers who'd be able to see what I'd done. before that – Steve Canyon was sort of ‘40s. that was moving between the panels”. rather than the bottom left-hand corner which is where you wanna end up – so when I did Big Numbers 2 I came up with this brilliant idea of how you could have a family arguing around a breakfast table. look back at the early American newspaper strips of the turn of the century. ABOVE: Art from Big Numbers 2 Meanwhile you've got her husband sitting at the table – there's the children at the table as well – they're having this conversation. all of a sudden it's all happening. wouldn't it be great if you could have a moving element. I think she's. where he storms out of the kitchen leaving . And I thought: “That's charming.DW: There's some scenes in Dark Knight where Frank Miller really chops it up. and you do it in 10 panels – DW: . but then you got the Sunday colour supplements which were pieces of art that would stagger you if you came across them in the latest issue of Raw or something like that.
but make it a bit cleverer and have moving elements in”. comics might therefore be one of the only forms of art that calls upon you to actually have a kind of integrated experience. Comics were best. You're taking in the picture peripherally while you're reading the words. And I thinkDW: That synasthesic thing is the same kind of thing… AM: It's utilising both lobes of the brain. but if you want more mad theory. and they'd tried comics. but. Now. our pre-verbal minds – what used to be called the ‘right brain' – you might say that the currency for that side of the brain – the pre-verbal part – would be the image. Which says that comics is a very versatile medium that's got possibilities that people have not even begun to touch. what do you think it says about the technique… AM: Why does it work? Why do comics work? Well. and your eyes will sort of zig around – and you kind of absorb them both at once.his wife to come down through panels 4. Because some people who have trouble reading comics – and there are a lot of people – well they'll say: “Do you look at the pictures first or do you read the words?”. you're being dragged through the experience at 24 frames a second – that's a given. then it's gonna flash by. You don't have to rewind the video and then pause it. Now. you can do it. that's fine if you've got sort of a down view of a path that winds like that or a staircase that will double back on itself. but one where we are in complete control of the experience and where because it is so reader-friendly – you wanna check out this panel there to see if there's any connection – you can just flick back. People aren't gonna see it: if its in a Dave Gibbons-drawn comics page where they can sit and look at and absorb it at their own pace. Even in the most complex films you couldn't – the reader – even if you've got someone saying this line of dialogue just as something happens in the background or something that makes a really ironic connection. films have an image track and they have a sound track. leaving the family looking after him – it's a brilliant little whirlpool of a scene. . then you can get layer upon layer of meaning and reference – DW: Partly because it's self-paced. Now. Yeah. getting them across? I would say it's because the verbal parts of our brains – what used to be called ‘left-brain' activities before we found out that they're actually kind of all over the place – you might say that the ‘currency' if you like – for what used to be called our left brain – you might say that that was the word. DW: Do you think you could do that in any other medium? AM: No. big problems: you can't synchronise. they'd tried illustrations with captions. DW: Underlying that. 8 and 12. It is a medium which not only combines the verbal and visual parts of our minds. I've done the same in Lost Girls . because the reader is in complete control of the experience. AM: Yeah. when I was researching Brought to Life I found out that the Pentagon had done tests to see what was the means by which information could be most easily taken in and could be most easily retained – they'd tried straight text. I thought: “If only I could do what he'd done. why should that be? Why are comics so brilliant at fixing ideas in people's minds. whereas if you read comics you know that you kinda do both at once. you'd have to get into mad theory. or what used to be called both lobes of the brain. if you like. With a film. so that that will do the right thing. but there's other variations. they'd tried text with photographs. I'd say that the reason comics work – and work they do – I mean. I've got a couple where that problem of having to have the zig-zag line. And it might be that because it's the only control…alright. photographs with captions. It was all inspired by Frank King.
This is the theme whether you're talking about writing a performance piece. 2005. However. AM: Yeah. those different works. DW: I think we're talking about something from nothing. but do you start with a fragment of dialogue. orAM: Well. Easy. Alan graciously invited us back for a second visit as we were still in full flow. those different pieces. Once again Alan welcomed us with by now customary cups of tea into his inner sanctum. any errors are entirely my fault (having spoken to Alan after the interview was first published. Daniel Whiston. It can start with a fragment of dialogue. a story or a comic or whether you're talking about the creation of the universe. this is the essential mystery of creation whether you're talking about an individual act of creation such as writing a poem. it works perfectly. There's that white page somewhere there at the beginning of the process. but so far hasn't had time to). It's all something from nothing. but when they're frozen on the page where everyone can see how clever you are for all time. it can start with a sudden idea for a character. or an idea. We cracked open the Dictaphone. and got down to business… AM: What questions can I answer about The Craft for you? DW: Last time we talked about the ‘toolbox': if you're gonna be reductionist about it. to utilize all those advantages and come up with really clever structures that would be lost in a film. the inventive writer. plot – AM: Different areas of creative importance. he mentioned a few terms/references that I had transcribed incorrectly .but I never established what they were. whether you're . whatever. that seems to come out over time? How does one start? I mean. PART TWO: 29/10/02 Having already met Alan in September. a story can start with anything. And so it enables the comic book writer. is there an experience that is common to those different projects. it can start with a purely intellectual musing upon some subject or other – the thing that unites all of these things is the endless frozen tundra of an empty page.you just flick back. You could say the same thing about thoughts entering our heads. this is a naïve question. He planned to revise the mistakes. [The interview then abruptly ended with Dan and Dave madly scrambling into Andy's car in an (ultimately-successful) attempt to make the last train back to London. DW: What I thought might be interesting to talk about this time was a more type of ‘reportage' perspective: when you sit down to write a comic. a comic. this interview previously appeared in Zarjaz. David Russell and I returned to the Moore-cave in October for a second fix.] AUTHORS NOTE: This interview is copyright me. Ideas. a novel.
or in cinema. so the genre is already imposed. I'm afraid. DW: Do you think that had an impact on the density of the footnotes? AM: It probably did – well that was mainly due to the nature of From Hell . I find. he said that in real life. say. If you're a novelist then it is literally a white page. ( laughter ). if you're working commercially then you're lucky. we don't have access to their inner life. 5 pages long. because some of those restrictions will be pre-imposed. Now you can then. Which is what the white page is. I didn't completely banish captions until From Hell . the artist on the stripDW: At this point. If I knew. you can know everything. Now. said that he'd got a feeling that comics would be better without sound effects and without thought-balloons.talking in cosmological terms where the white page is the quantum vacuum. These are all kinds of structural considerations which give you somewhere to start. once you've got your basic shape – you know it's a five-page comic strip about science fiction – or a five. what is productive very often is to immediately come up with a bunch more shackles with which to bind yourself. if we pause the tape. yes that'll give you greater verisimilitude. You know it's gonna be something in the kind of science fiction/fantasy area. People won't have so many barriers that are placed between them and complete identification with and immersion in the story. He made a very cogent case for this. LEFT: Art by David Lloyd from V For Vendetta Start imposing ridiculous little rules.panel comic strip about a cat – a one-hour performance piece about William Blake – you've got your purely external parameters imposed – then. with a mask and a hat and a cloak. in a way. You know it's gonna be. You don't have to be too logical about this. Now in literature we do. But…V's exactly what he looks like: he's an idea. I could see that there was something about thought-balloons which distanced the story from immediate reality. there are certain parameters. which was very very restricting. we don't have the luxury of knowing what people are thinking. what you have to do is limit yourself. a few less. can you tell us who V really is? AM: Erm – no. but I could see his point. I'd got rid of the thought-balloons and I started to think well probably I could do with getting rid of the captions as well. although logic can help. DW: Maybe in a sense literature makes you God. David Lloyd. so the footnotes seemed necessary to me. But it certainly added to the length. If you're asked to write a half-page story for a comic anthology – 2000AD – then you know certain things about the story. often achieve interesting results by…once you've got your initial start conditions. at the outset. or because you think they might help. we can't see a little cloud above peoples heads. I mean. He's much more symbol than reality. They kind of mess up the white page. When we were doing that. You cannot work in a complete conceptual void. and that's one of the reasons From Hell was so long. which means that's probably 30 panels. because when you're not using things like captions or thought-balloons for exposition. interestingly. I would. greater reality in the story that you're telling. but that's roundabout what you're looking at. just perhaps on a whim. At the same time. Now. maybe a few more. in that it was a kind of historical reconstruction. You have to start putting restrictions upon yourself. when I was starting to write V for Vendetta . or often books are written as though you know absolutely everything that's going on unless they're a mystery. whereas other mediums are more observatory… AM: I'd got rid of the sound-effects. Dave Lloyd. tops. as an example. it will take you two or three pages to do what you could have done in a few panels if .
That's interesting. my”. I suppose at its purest with comics you're talking about wordless comics – or comics with very few words – where people are drawn into the situation purely visually. almost incomprehensible to some people – there are some people who never got to read the rest of the book because they couldn't get past the impenetrable bramble hedge of that first chapter. I don't like voiceovers in films anyway. me.for one thing only exists in your perceptions . and I thought I don't want this to come over like that . They can become the ‘I' of the story because there's no I. then the reader can get completely sucked in. With the first story of Voice of the Fire I decided to alter the entire language to an approximation of the kind of language I imagined a Neolithic tribesman speaking in. "The entire universe . So it's a first-person narrative without the first person. I think I got a bit self-conscious. when you've got a bit of an idea of what you're going to do. but I decided that based on my knowledge of Aboriginal languages. well that was always rubbish…I mean it was using a comic-book technique – and not very well – because it didn't actually add that much information to the scenes.you'd been using captions. That's a different mindset to the modern mindset. You know that it's an hour of performance. they see the past and future as being somehow subsumed within the present. Alan Moore – there's no occupying entity in the story. I. You know what the limits of the perimeter fence are. But that was a sort of limitation that was self-imposed. my anywhere – and it's quite an interesting exercise. the cowboy narrator in The Big Lebowski was to my mind one of the major flaws of the film – it was a distancing device. except to the impenetrably dim members of the audience – DR: And as you were saying any ambiguity destroyed the verisimilitude – AM: Yeah. like in the first version of Blade Runner where they've got the voice over… AM: Oh. Then break it down. for some reason – because it was me narrating it I suddenly got very shy about using the word ‘I'. .. If you don't have those obvious devices. And I also decided that they'd probably have a very very limited vocabulary. I. So." DR: Surely it can be better. Which made it very difficult to read.although I am the narrator I want to be kind of invisible. Devices like that make it much more obvious to the reader that they are reading a story. attend to its internal structure. the last chapter. I don't use the word(s) I. When I was writing Voice of the Fire . You impose these preconditions upon the work. And I think that the vocabulary of the first story of Voice of the Fire . But you can come up with other stylistic limitations that will be to the benefit – generally – of the story. Then. Much as I'm a big fan of the Coen brothers. I want to be an anonymous voice.000 words. it got the effect that I was after. or whatever. or five pages of comics. I thought I hate it when I read pieces by people and it's: “I. they don't have a past or future tense. But it was what I wanted to do.is around 500? It's very stripped-down. me. it leaves a kind of vacuum at the centre of the narrative that the reader can then inhabit. me. most of them seemed only to have a present tense.. so there's just a nice space left. I tried – I think the vocabulary of the average Sun reader is something like 10. Obviously it's in English. it does something to the prose.
And yeah. and then about 80 minutes in. You'll start to develop a personal aesthetic as to the kind of shape of the stories that you wanna do. DW: That's what I meant by becoming aware… AM: Yes. you know. Know thyself is a magical goal. and then you erect fine and finer. you start out with this white tundra. but which comes with practice. where everything will be resolved. And they will all shape the thousands of creative decisions that you're gonna make. two-thirds of the way through and then. something decisive will happen. To all practical intents and purposes this is purely some kind of lightshow that's being put on in the kind of neurons in our brain. right at the end. Where it just said: “Know thyself”. you can see that – you watch most Hollywood films. probably in the course of even a short work.doing something this way – you can get results. something that completely turns the story around and that you never expected will happen. But the best place to start is by understanding the inner universe. which is something which is not really quantifiable. how you interact with those worlds you conjure up.It's a novel. Therefore you have to start to become aware of the different requirements that human beings have. And there's a certain amount of intuition in that. So you'll kind of modify the way you approach emotional scenes… you'll perhaps decide that there's greater power in keeping more in reserve. as a writer you're gonna have to understand pretty much the whole universe. reductionism is a useful tool. er – DW: Sorry to interrupt. you've got the lowest spheres of the Kabbalah (at this point Alan turns around and is explaining a diagram hung on the wall of the room) this sphere – the lowest sphere for those who are listening to the tape and can't see what I'm doing – the lowest sphere of the Kabbalah relates purely to the physical realm – that is the . Which means becoming aware of yourself. And then. say they're about two hours long. break it down into pages. coming to understand yourself – again. So. more and more detailed levels of structure. but it sounds like you're saying – to someone who's not a very practiced creative person – that it's something to do with clarifying and developing an emotional position on your work. if it's a comic script. your middle and your end where you've got plot points placed a third of the way through. break it down into chapters. To understand the universe there's worse advice than that which was carved above the shrine of the Delphi oracle. In Kabbalah. the big climax. I mean. The entire universe – for one thing – only exists in your perceptions. neither are you your intellect. but like I say to me there is very little difference between magic and creative art in any sense – the laws of one apply perfectly well to the other. You'll start to realise that . An easy textbook way of doing this is the kind of standard Hollywood three-act drama. their functions. There's benefits to all these approaches. what their purposes are. your beginning. It's trying to jerk people's emotions around. Try and understand how the different pieces you've broken it down into fit together. it's sort of. if it's a performance piece like one of the Blake pieces. but as an individual you are not your emotions. They're not things that you are . the payoff. the different areas that they like to be satisfied in. Let it sort of detonate in the readers mind a few moments later. BELOW: Diagram of the Kabbalah Now. then about 40 minutes in. break it down into movements. These are things that you have . And that that doesn't feel right. in soft-peddling. So what you're doing is. emotional position is part of it. in leaving a lot unsaid. and at the end of the film you'll have the climax. Unless it's Mulholland Drive and he's David Lynch and he doesn't have to follow making fucking sense. but it's manipulative. Understand yourself. The whole of reality. in a way that feels right… AM: Well. That's all you're gonna see of it.
surviving – it's got something higher behind it. both of which are faculties you need. romance. you've got to be materially grounded. or the ‘higher self' if you prefer that sort of taxonomy. the bottom of the left hand side of the tree is the Sphere of Mercury. the highest self. Don't leave home without your sword – your intellect. They're a very important part of our makeup just as our body is. you've got to understand the material world. You need your coin. this and this”. We all have intellect and thus our intellect has demands. material things – the body. that applies to art as well. You've got to understand the urges of the flesh. as the Sun God. that is the sphere of intellect. which we all have. goes there (points). fantasy. The most important sphere on a human level is the Solar Sphere. That's what wands are. practical. it applies to writing. the guardian angel. earthly level. This bit over on the left. but they are not the sum total of us. the will. it is the soul. That represents the soul. The coin represents the earthly. but we are not our dreams. The wand is the will. by J. The sword represents intellect and discrimination. the cup and the coin. Mick Gray and Jeromy Cox The four magical weapons are the wand. just as our bodies do. which is the column three tiers up. What you have to do is develop each of those areas within yourself. Discrimination is the most powerful tool. it's above emotion. this and this. again using magical terminology. This is to do with emotions and feelings. Well. We all have a body but we are not – whatever the materialists would have us believe – we are not our body. is that in magic it's said that that you shouldn't really commence magic until you've got your four magical weapons and I'd say yeah. To have the intellectual discrimination to be able to say: “This idea doesn't work because of this. the thing that drives high art. this idea could work if we did this. I mean the Delphi Oracle. It is something above intellect. ABOVE: Art from Promethea 17 . It's not to do with fight and flight. The next sphere up is the Lunar Sphere which is related to dreams. This is the drive – whatever that is – in each individual. and we all have dreams. That's really very useful. as in ‘know thy self'.H. You need to be able to tell a good idea from a bad idea. Williams III. The opposing sphere on the other side of the tree is the Sphere of Venus. it was an oracle to Apollo who. the self. fighting and fucking. Yeah. You've got to understand how all of this works on a hard. High art is nothing to do with the lower personality. just as our imaginations do. the imagination – and we all have an imagination.realm of the body and the physical world surrounding the body. the sword. eating. . another way of looking at it.
It's one of the works – there's some very good things about it. But these are things which are universal. obviously. it's what it's about. that's not the way to do it. and I sometimes find it a very brittle sort of cleverness that doesn't actually have a great deal of heart behind it. You know. I like to think that the people reading my stories are going to find them satisfying upon a material level. The soul is the theme. you'll be incredibly motivated and you'll be incredibly materially solid. The Killing Joke where Batman versus The Joker. The plot works. smoking smack in the toilet of John Major's plane…I dunno. somebody says: “I love you”. you need it to be an interesting intellectual structure with interesting intellectual ideas to satisfy people's intellect. These are reactions. you'll also be a monster. on a material level. You know. that would be the soul – you know. or whatever. There needs to be some theme. which is compassion. the book's gotta have a heart. The emotional level – that's probably down to the characterisation. it needs to be about something. it's not about anything of human importance. of intellect. That is its emotional content. what the fuck do you mean. its gotta have. I mean. It's important to satisfy your readers emotionally – that doesn't mean that you have to pile of the violins. Edmund Hilary: “Because it's there”. if you want it to come across as a balanced thing. And you need to have all these elements of your personality balanced. but it's lacking something. Is it about something that's big. Pfah! So you need to connect with whatever your real feelings about things are. Which I suppose. there's loads of emotion layered on there. These are the big issues of human existence. that's important. rather than to be a cold piece of artifice. or next thing you know you'll be doing restaurant reviews. It's quite clever. or important enough? Amongst my own work. you want to put characterisation at that particular point in this writing Kabbalah. You need to have these things balanced. that's the plot level. Yeah. tug the heartstrings. I mean. as human beings we tend to have feelings that come from inside ourselves. emotionally. that's probably down to characterisation. they need to be explored. you'll be incredibly clever. then no. that'll last for about ten or fifteen years. or the world of coins. we get angry. and it's lacking soul. It's not got the thematic drive that say Watchmen has. if the plot works that's not enough. if you bandy it around? And that'll take some thinking about. It's of no use to you as a human being. and you also need to have all of these elements apparent in your writing. And. does it work intellectually? Is this stuff interesting to a reasonably developed intellect? And yeah. and a kind of a beating heart. Does the story work on a material level – could these things actually happen in a material universe? So yeah. but without the compassion that the cup represents. but I find some authors like Martin Amis or like Will Self. So you'll need all four of these things. Someone says: “Grrrr”. The level of swords. That is the plot. and then there are reactive emotions – someone says: “Boo!”. is it gonna give them new thoughts? If it's just clever then…ah shit. if you say you love your kids. I suppose. ok. its not a true feeling. They might have nothing to do with our true feelings. it's about Batman and The Joker and you're never gonna meet anybody like Batman and The Joker. we say: “Aaahh”. for me. if you like. . attending to material things. and that is true whether you're a human being. I find them overly impressed by their own cleverness. but is it going to tickle their intellect. you could end up like Will Self. But it's not about anything. this is my personal choice again. what I wanna know is. A story. a magician or a writer. anybody can think of a plot. have Little Nell dying on every page. whether it does resonate. we get scared. Yeah. that's manipulative and mawkish – that's reactive emotion. Not just: “Does it satisfy the plot demands of the lowest level of audience comprehension”. If you say you love your girlfriend. Theme – that would be the solar centre. you need it to make plot sense on a material level. Well. you need it to have emotional resonance and depth to give it humanity and warmth. so it's gotta have a soul. exactly? What do you mean by that word.If you have all three of these things but don't have the cup. they're going to work as stories about real people in a real world. But to make it really work as a story.
So yes. I was doing Dark Knight – I was doing The Killing Joke at the same time as I was doing Watchmen .which had a much more important and universal human theme running through it – I brought back to bear upon a BatmanJoker story. something that the whole work – whether it's a short. Watchmen was about a number of things. “It was about its own structure. We wanted to do a superhero story where we saw what would happen if you'd got a group of superheroes existing in a credible. purpose. real characters emotionally-speaking. That was my big mistake. theme. real world.which I was doing at the same time. I suppose that was the basic premise – we thought we . and what if these were credible. or at least as credible as we can make them. It started off as a silly-ass superhero story. DW: So what was Watchmen about? ABOVE/BELOW: Details from Watchmen . 5-page story or whether it's a 500-page epic: something that this is about. and there was nothing there to support that kind of weight. art by Dave Gibbons AM: Well. It was about a certain way of viewing reality…” The approach that I was bringing to bear upon Watchmen .
but it's about a lot of things. I thought: “Actually. so we'd got a scene with the news vendor sitting there at his little shack. that Watchmen's structure was what it was about. as being a black ship seen against a yellow sky…and then I'll also have some balloon from the off-panel news-vendor that will have some resonance with the content of this pirate caption. . across the street there's people putting up a fallout shelter notice – I thought: “People putting up fallout shelter notices. Manhattan that seems to capture that perfectly: “Time is a multi-faceted construct that human beings insist on viewing one surface at a time”. And I think. The other characters who are all dealing with this world in their own different ways – the way that Watchmen fitted together. it was the first page of the third issue? Where as the opening scene I wanted a bit of vox pop – you know. DW: There's a quote from Dr. which is mainly about war. There was something happening within the structure of the story – slightly interesting sparks. coming to life – I remember the actual page very clearly. About power and about the idea of the superman manifest within society. that kind of looks a little bit like a very stylised picture of a black ship. so maybe if I wrote a caption from the pirate comic that the little boy is reading. reading a comic. Piracy. Death”. I decided to pull back from a tight close-up of the radiation symbol on the fallout shelter sign. We started off with a closeup. It's not a linear perception of things that we do increasingly have in the 21 st century. we continued with the imagery – the pirate captions. In the first drawing I did of the close-up of black and yellow. We had got to round about the third issue when all of a sudden we started to realise that there was something growing out of the storytelling that we hadn't really anticipated. There's more to him than that. he's pretty obviously a walking bomb. Manhattan is pretty openly – I mean his name is related to the Manhattan Project. what's going on with the man on the street. Watchmen came to be about power. we noticed. It was about a certain way of viewing reality. It was about its own structure. was its structure. Dr. and as I think it will be in the near future. there's a little boy sitting against the electric hydrant. And yes. that would reinforce the reader's identification with this black and yellow shape. but he is one level of human power. the dialogue of the news vendor – all of these things are starting to strike sparks off of each other. and as we continued to pull back. at the end. So I had the newsvendor making a comment about the possibility of a forthcoming nuclear war. that sets a tone”. It was about a kind of perception which I think was perhaps not as prominent in 1985 as it is now. What I eventually came to the conclusion of about Watchmen was that the most important thing in it. grittier than usual superhero story out of it. that's kind of ominous.might get a darker than usual. it was about power.
nobody understood it. We're nowhere near catching up with that yet. Einstein. Manhattan has this kind of dispassionate quantum view. pretty much everybody understands the theory of gravity. Rorschach has got this fierce. when Isaac Newton came up with the theory of gravity. it wasn't from the perspective of one person. who've at least heard of the theory of relativity and have some vague idea of what it entails. And it gets faster. given enough time. it was multiple viewpoints. it wasn't from an omniscient Godlike perspective. The Comedian has got a particular view of the . Now. when he came out with his theory of relativity. not everybody in the world understands Einstein. Certain people.ABOVE/BELOW: Details from Watchmen . that's it…I mean. But I think with Watchmen the way that we were structuring reality. it takes us a while to catch up with… DW:…the guys at the front… AM:…yeah. Nobody understood the theory of gravity. and now. there were probably five people in the world who had the first idea what he was talking about. the guys at the front. I might even believe some of those things myself on a particularly bad morning. who are actually shaping our view of reality. All of the different characters in Watchmen have got a completely different view of the world. Then. What I'm saying is. but there are thousands of people. quite a few people did. Dr. morally-driven kind of psychotic view that is…something you could imagine people believing. quantum physics suggests all sorts of interesting possibilities for looking at reality. Our technology acts as a kind of engine that speeds up our perceptions. hundreds of thousands of people probably. art by Dave Gibbons AM: Yeah. we catch up quicker than we did in the past because things are generally speeding up. At the moment. however. There's probably been more breakthroughs probably in the last 18 months than there have been in the whole of world history.
You've got I myself having to adopt that viewpoint. he was a good one. these new options that we're provided with. and that is gonna need new forms of thinking. we're not going to be able to bomb our way around them. I was just talking about the actual Copenhagen interpretation of Nils Bohr when he first made it. maybe we can spend and bomb our way around them. The same thing's true of fractal maths. as a species. I could be wrong. I wasn't aware of that. DW: It's a good play. Or yes. but I'd just say let's try some of the options. and ended up as a multi-layered metaphor for the effects of power upon society. When I did the abortive Big Numbers I could think of new possibilities for viewing human society . So. Nite-Owl – he's got a largely romantic view of the world. but I would say on balance that if we're gonna get round them at all. in the end result. we're gonna have to think our way around them. Ozymandias' view of the world is the right one. it was about the way in which Watchmen viewed reality. and see if anything interesting comes up. a number of problems at this current time. DR: What about Nils Bohr's ‘Greater and Lesser truths'? AM: Yeah. And these are things I think it is important – vital – that we try and assimilate. Dr. and realising what a lot of poetry it brought to normal human existence.human groupings – a healthier way. it's a haunting notion that. One of the benefits of fiction. where I presume they had parties and things – well. I didn't know they'd made a play of it. We're not sort of saying: “And yes. The only way I can see for us to get round them is thinking our way round them – I can't see us spending our way round them. new ways to think. and hard to write off as the product of a special brew too many. I don't know what they are. DW: The play uses the metaphor – the structure of the uncertainty principle – in terms of the impossibility of knowing about a conversation between Nils Bohr and a German colleague of his – about interpreting history – AM: Well. But these are viewpoints that we're going to have to take on board. especially of fantasy fiction. is that is does enable us to put on these extravagant clothes. Watchmen started off as a grim superhero story. The Dr. observations of our own thought processes. it was suggesting new ways in which to view reality. We obviously have. I think I said in Voice of the Fire that he came up with that in the Copenhagen brewery – the Carlsberg brewery in Copenhagen. Manhattan sequence where he views time as a kind of solid with past and future present in any moment – that was very interesting to write. AM: Is there a play of it? DW: ‘Copenhagen' – Michael Frayn.can only be. that was very liberating to write. But at the end of the day I think what Watchmen was about was its own structure. All of these – none of them are presented as being more true than the others. Nils Bohr – ‘The Copenhagen Interpretation' . I could see possibilities in fractal maths – a new way of looking at how humans interact.world. new ways to live. AM: Ah right. Manhattan's view of the world is the right one”. if I interpreted the Copenhagen Interpretation correctly I think that at root it seemed to say that all of our observations – be they of remote astronomical events or of the hidden quanta . It enables us to do thought experiments. It enables us to imagine ourselves to extremes and to perhaps understand ourselves a little better by running through: “What is this? What would I think if this .
the name suggests that now I come to think of it: “Watch-men”. yeah. enough to strike a little eerie chord. Manhattan viewing time as a solid object. giving echoes of things that have already happened. Manhattan's perceptions are one key to reading Watchmen . I've got a pretty good memory. there are actual bits in it which are actually referring to ways of reading Watchmen .happened? What would I do if this happened?”. maybe when we've caught up with quantum theory. Dr. I mean. Dr. DW: Going back to what you were saying about the underlying theme of Watchmen being its own structure. if it came into existence in the Big Bang. are the readers. you're listening to symbolic dialogue. I think that can be useful. it's gotta be for something. you're watching a conversation on a street corner. linking the present with the past and the future. and maybe as you say it is a way of letting us see something that we couldn't see with our eyes by looking out the window… AM: Like I say. It might even be the point of art full stop. And Swamp Thing . In Watchmen …I mean just like that football structure of space-time. maybe when we've caught up with some of the shit I read about in New Scientist every week. a few small inches away from the present of its characters – all the moments within that story are contained within the two covers. right? DW: When you were talking about Dr. in the same way as apples fall from trees. the reader sees it that way too. I can accept that. Big Bang at one end. men of structure… AM: Also. Now. in the way that no other tool short of fantasy really can allow people to be put into those spaces and those mindsets. a book has the future of its characters. Big Crunch at the other – and all the moments in-between are all co-existing in this one big hyper moment of space-time. and I came to think that time was happening all at once. but to really know it. All these things are useful – or potentially useful – tools for getting people to understand natural phenomena from the inside. Running through these little scenarios. It's multi-channel viewing. when it's closed. So. Adrian Veidt with his multiple television screens. Both of those are ways of reading Watchmen that are encoded within the text of Watchmen itself. then that means space time is a kind of giant football – more like a rugby ball. unless I've misread A Brief History of Time (laughter). and I've had odd premonitions from time to time the same way everybody does. if I understand Stephen Hawking. which is another key to reading Watchmen . You're watching a pirate story. Adrian Veidt is watching six channels at once and so. not just the whole of space that came into being and it all came into being inextricably linked together. intellectually. and it's only our conscious perceptions that arrange it all into a linear sequence. Manhattan I can suggest to the reader what such a consciousness might be like. never about anything significant. Manhattan's perceptions. giving foreshadowings of things that have yet to come. DW: You started off by counter pointing that with The Killing Joke which you thought maybe didn't work as well… . who's to say that our perception of time wouldn't change? I mean. where I was actually trying to think my way into: “What would a mass vegetable consciousness be like? What would the concerns of a vegetable consciousness be? What would its emotional range be?”. when we've assimilated that to the extent that we understand apples falling from trees. And there by exploring the consciousness of the fictional Dr. the whole of spacetime. to have it as an observable reality…sometimes I can almost get there. you're seeing little symbols moving around. men of clockwork. they are a key to the actual structure of Watchmen . I mean. maybe when we've caught up with Stephen Hawking. at various points in Watchmen . that was the whole of time. so we tried to make Watchmen structured so that images recur all the way through.
the problem with The Killing Joke was that I was writing it at the same time as I was writing Watchmen and there was leakage between one narrative and another. they were designed in the late 1930's. and you don't happen to like it. The Killing Joke just wasn't one of them. I was bringing to bear the mindset of Watchmen upon characters and situations that were too slight to bear them. it's exquisite – it's like putting that exquisite golden frame around a dog turd. With the best will in the world. I said it's not gonna make the dog turd look any better. In fact the dog turd can make the exquisite golden frame look a bit – an attempt to polish a turd. a useful mistake. AM: Not to slag anyone off. the book's come out. you have to choose between honesty and diplomacy. I felt bad about The Killing Joke for a while. I'm sure there are perfectly good stories you could tell about Batman. lovely. always a difficult time. we'd designed the characters in Watchmen to kind of – or at least the way they developed – they were capable of carrying the weight of the narrative. but at the time. I met Dave McKean after Arkham Asylum came out. What I should have done. Because it irked me. the mechanics of the storytelling. then. a central reason for being. people wanted to find out what was going to happen to Rorschach or to Dan and Laurie or whatever so it didn't become oppressive. They were interesting characters in their own right. it is. and then proceeded from there. if I hadn't been so immersed in writing Watchmen – well what I probably should have done is passed on writing Batman until I'd finished writing Watchmen – what I probably should have done is to have thought longer about the Batman story and tried to come up with a story that – just because The Killing Joke doesn't work doesn't mean that Batman's a bad character. what could be said honestly and effectively using that character. What I should have done is to have thought more deeply about Batman as a character. early 1940's… Left: Cover to The Killing Joke. And so I had to sit down and think: “Why? Why does this book not satisfy me?” Brian's art's lovely. because that didn't seem to work as much as anything I've read…and I'm not sure why. by someone you know and get on with. DW: That's interesting. on the other hand. Whereas Batman and The Joker. art by Brian Bolland DW: But what was it that you thought you were getting right with The Killing Joke that looking back you weren't? How do you differentiate those two experiences? What was it you think you did wrong with The Killing Joke? AM: Like I said a few moments ago. a soul. Not very satisfied with it. the clockwork…the ticking of the clockwork didn't drown out the story.AM: ‘Cos Watchmen has got a theme. I didn't really like Arkham Asylum . and the fact that it had got Dave's beautiful sumptuous artwork appended to it. But. . I thought his art had been beautiful. you know it's better than most of the post-modern Batman books…” DW: Arkham Asylum… AM: Well I wasn't gonna mention any names…but yeah. but it was the story that the art was in service to… DW: Perhaps it wasn't really a story… AM: Well it wasn't much of a story. the structure. and I remember saying to Dave McKean that I hadn't liked Arkham Asylum . I said to Dave that it was like putting an exquisite golden frame – and I said your art is an exquisite golden frame. the story didn't really resonate for me on any level. The Killing Joke was a Batman story.
When we were casting around for how to do it I mean I was looking at Melinda's work. when I. it's beautiful. if you could bring it out. no matter how grotesque or disgusting it might sound. the artwork. it was the first time that I'd seen her colour work. this soft crayon work. and not only see why it's good. Because you'll be thinking: “Someone expended all this effort and created all this beauty on this story”. You think in terms of pleasing the artist first. back when I used to write for 2000AD and I didn't know who would be drawing it a lot of the time. It's like the gap between the story and the art is vast. Yes. If you were to do the erotic stuff in this beautiful textured and layered coloured crayon. which is. marry it to the right story. that enough layered coloured crayon. the sillier it will look. which is not the most common writing experience? AM: It's a good question. and it's gonna look like an illustration from The Butterfly Ball or something like that. yeah (smiles) …a valid opinion… DW: But that's not what I want to talk about at any length… AM:…Got plenty of artists that can't write…not mentioning Dan Jurgens in any way of course… DW: Bit more of an auteur really… AM: An auteur. a quality in someone's art. it can be the most gorgeous stuff in the world. then you have to write an artist-proof script.It's like. How do you see the relationship between writer and artist? I mean. because many people would see you as a writer rather thanAM: One of the things that I learned very early on was – I'm very perceptive when it comes to comics artists – I pride myself on – I can look at an artist's work. and the more gorgeous it is. it all becomes a lot easier. my talent for collaboration is my most prized and probably my most highly-defined and adaptedDW: That's interesting. and seemed to enjoy. With that. so that even if they're not inspired at all. Her erotic work is really wild. working in the comics industry. It's like – I could give examples from any of the works I've done – errr – Lost Girls . pastiching other . it's a collaborative medium. if it's not in service to something which has depth. and I suddenly thought: “This colour work. writing a story – OK. So what I do. unless you're a writer-artist. let them run riot with this particular thing that they do. You put in all the details you can think of and you try and make it as entertaining and as exciting for the artist as possible. you could get away with anything. some writer-artists have stated that they see no place for a writer who isn't also an artist in the medium – for example Dan Jurgens… AM: I don't think I know who he is…he wrote The Death of Superman ? Yeah. it's gonna look like a children's favourite. me and Melinda we both knew that we wanted to do an erotic piece of serious fiction. also by that time I'd realised that Melinda was quite good at. and I'd say that of all my talents. prismatic coloured crayon. DW: That brings me to something I'd like to ask. I think he probably is… DW: How you do you see the relationship of writing for an artist. So. you know. that would be really subversive. Now if you're writing for an artist where you do know who they are. it looks like children's illustrations so therefore it looks fake”. maybe once they've read your story they'll want to give it just that extra little bit of effort. I can also see things that that artist could do that not even the artist knows that they could do – I can see possibilities.
then maybe they pull back and let you do a bit of a solo…when you get into the right sort of tempo then a good story will generally be the result. Jim Williams told me. The band are playing along with the horses. The band are playing along with the random capering of the horses. like. and I've gotta say. he intervenes and fills the Earth's sky with illusions to keep this creature away. reading the first few episodes of From Hell . pull back. that'll make sense of it and will bring out its best qualities?” Because if the artist is enjoying it they're going to pour all their energy and enthusiasm into it. Stan ‘The man' Lee. So. what if in the next issue. I'm reading a comic”. he'd pencil five pages a day…he just wasn't human. DW: Do you think it's accurate – and if so what it says about writing and about the medium . The Watcher. so all right. And you've got Kirby. I'd say that one of the greatest compliments I've ever had for my work was when Terry Hillier. this dancing. That's what I'm aiming for with everybody. but it doesn't work…”. It's like dancing or sex or – both of those are decent metaphors. collaboration is vital and it's done by understanding the person you're working with. These things have all shaped. nine pages a day. and this is only my opinion having seen Jack Kirby's pencils. develop your perceptions and sublimate your work to the artist. and I'm thinking: “What sort of music can I put to this capering. a pretty good Mucker. maybe I could work that into the book in some way. the Marvel-style approach. With Promethea . what if there's some really big powerful threat from space. the content and the storytelling of Lost Girls . the unit for most of my comics is the page. That's something like what happens when I'm working with an artist. I compose each in two-page bursts. he'd be . a pretty good Beardsley. The reason the circus horses dancing to the music works so well is that that's not what's really going on. in all instances…it's a bit like circus horses.artists' styles – she could do a pretty good Egon Schiele. next issue of The Fantastic Four . early on. sort of – or according to some people. And Jack Kirby goes away. I think that the process went something like this: Stan Lee comes up with an idea: “Right. and work out: “Is there anything interesting visually we can do with this spread?” So. and yeah. and it appears like a beautifully synchronised piece of dance.that the more you do write full-script and the more closely you design the comic from a writing/ideas/concepts point of view. let the other person do the solo. he'd be inventing the characters. this started with Smilin' Stan Lee. I am looking at this capricious. not having a huge explanatory text box saying: “Meanwhile. So yeah. the unit for Promethea is the spread. which is gonna give the work a life you could never have achieved on your own. So. he'd be breaking it down into a continuity of images. whether that's Oscar Zarate's or Kevin O'Neill's or whatever. and he thinks: “Galactus… Galactus eats planets…and he's got this herald…and it's this silver guy on a surfboard and he goes before him…and this guy's so frightening that solar systems will switch off their suns so that he doesn't notice them. he really likes symmetry in a spread layout. the less visible the collaboration is – the more seamless the collaboration is . and in every panel – so he'd be breaking it down into stories. but also the more there is of the reader fully immersing themselves in the story. wonderful style. the FF – the Fantastic Four – fight God”. prancing. You sort of have to kind of get into a rhythm. six pages a day. I want it to read so naturally that it will be just the work of one person. Perfect. he really likes working with spreads. on the other side of town…” AM: Exactly. He'd just sit there pencilling five pages a day.between writer and artist. something that would give her the opportunity to do those things I know that she'd like. and not being aware of “Oh. they'll black out their entire galaxies so that he'll pass them by. But. DW: One of the very crude distinctions between different schools of comics scriptwriting is to label one the plot-driven approachAM: The Marvel school. commented to Eddie Campbell that: “It reads like the work of one person”. You don't lead when your partner's leading.
I think that most of the writers I admire in comics. and Rick would say: “Yeah yeah. that could be it. come to think about it. very quick. And it leads to homogenous product because think about it . first page. (laughter). On one of those Prometheas . I've got that. five panels. who would look at the story that Jack Kirby had written .that they're most successful in their . but it was only one of them who had a share of the action on the characters. And the Marvel method – I've heard people – Archie Goodwin. and I'd have a vague idea of the type of dialogue that would be appropriate even when I was drawing the pictures.writing the dialogue suggestions – very crude. they put the work in. if the artist has no real idea what anyone's gonna be saying in a particular panel. if I spec a page – DW: Maybe that's why they wear masks… AM: Well. tying in Tarot cards and all the rest of it. But I would say that it would be so infrequent – and I mean looking at the vast output of Marvel comics during the last thirty years of the twentieth century – those moments of serendipity were pretty few and far between. in the first panel this happens and this happens. So yeah. Whereas with me. do you understand?”. who was a lovely man. it's lazy. I have worked close to Marvel style. and that was…the smiling one. It's a process of homogenisation. I really think that if a comic's gonna have a writer then the writer should write. ‘thous'. now go away and draw me the story”. would dialogue it in his own unique way – he would put in a lot of ‘thees'. but sometimes quite detailed. “It's like putting that exquisite golden frame around a dog turd…” DW: What does that say about comics – it's almost paradoxical . we're looking down”. footnotes. so it was a more streamlined – it was closer to the Marvel method but actually it was just a more streamlined version of my normal method. then how can he put a particular emotion on their faces while they're saying it? So you have to go for this kind of – the emotional range of Marvel characters is generally ‘mouth open – mouth closed'. and then it would go out as ‘ Fantastic Four created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby'. And he said: “Well. Then this would go to Stan Lee. It's not helped by the fact that all the main Marvel characters all look like the same person with different hair colours. That may be true. “Right. To me – I mean. But even then it wouldn't be me saying to Rick Veitch or Steve Bissette: “Yeah. that looks great”. I'd say that the disadvantages of the method outweigh whatever slender advantages there might be. whereas for me it's at the very minimum a page of comics is two pages of manuscript. his scripts are about halfway between mine and – in terms of length and detail – he's about halfway between me and average comics scriptwriters. I was doing exactly the same things as I always do – I was breaking it down into tiny little pictures – the only difference was that I was phoning through the descriptions to Rick and Steve over the phone: “Yeah alright. I've gotta say. sometimes three. when we were doing the 1963 pastiches. It's lazy. send them to me and I'd dialogue them. Neil Gaiman. There's things I've done in comics that would not have been possible – I mean that Promethea 12 . so it should be resisted. So do the female characters. And that's probably why he was smiling. two pages of comic took me three pages to write for Jim Williams…but I think it's worth it. a great comic writer and somebody I respected a great deal – I once said to him: “I can't see any advantage in the Marvel method”. and I think that the results show. ‘face front true believers'. For average comics scriptwriters a page of comics is probably gonna be a page of manuscript. there's no way that could have been done other than with a very detailed full script. second panel overhead shot. Then they'd draw the pencils. sometimes it allows for serendipity”. and he fights a cockroach kind of guy in this issue.I mean.
alright. Art Spiegelman. Mick Gray. but yeah when Frank was cooking. who I believe has been very vocal about – at least in the past – how the mainstream industry. it was a conveyor-belt process. And then you've got all of those energies in one harness. I've got a great deal of respect for Art Spiegelman as an intellect. I wanted it to have a much more profound horror to it. he was a good artist-writer. I'm sure it can be soulless. anything new that I can come up with to bedevil Todd this issue. and you can take the story to lengths you would not have imagined possible. I'm sure it can be a conveyor belt. artistwriter. harnessed to one project. it depends how you use the collaboration process. and I'm working trying to think of new colouring effects for Jeremy to try out. DR: So would you typically hook up with an artist before you begin work on a story? AM: Well. I'm trying to think of what to do with the lettering this issue. I mean. because it was not the work of one individual. Will Eisner. generally if possible. but I think he's wrong on that one. and who'd got pretty subtle. artist-writer. and that needed somebody who could conjure up a much more believable. and thus soulless. it doesn't really describe the collaboration between me. I think it says that comics are – I mean. The majority of comics artists – some of the best ones. Jeremy Higgins and Todd Klein on Promethea . some of the best creators in comics have been writer-artists. Dark Knight one was good. low-key sensibilities. because it is what they most want to do.own terms when the person who the average man in the street would think was in the driving seat – the artist – is in fact written for to a larger extent? AM: Well. mundane everyday reality. make him work for his money. There's nothing soulless about the way that I approach collaboration – the exact opposite. These are – everybody's putting in ideas. not so sure about Dark Knight two. John Williams. Eddie was perfect. but conveyor belt does not begin to describe the collaboration between me. . Harvey Kurtzman. because I didn't want it to be a horror story in the comic book sense. Sometimes I'll have the idea for the story – like with From Hell I had the idea for the story and thought: “What artist would be perfect for this?” And I thought about it and I realised with From Hell you needed an artist who was able to take a very low-key approach to something. Dave Gibbons and John Higgins on Watchmen . I try to involve everybody so we've got everybody's energies pouring wholeheartedly into the book. mainstream comics could produce nothing of worth. Frank Miller – well.
you had a writer with a certain amount of fan popularity. These were the full scripts. And you try to work as one organism. and it is possible. In this Bad World thing they actually reprinted the scripts to all three issues in the back section of the third issue. You have to be sensitive to the person that you're working with and they have to be sensitive to you. the idea was there first and then I kind of picked those artists.according to my instincts. my intuitions. Issue 5. shall we say. because they seemed . I don't know whether – I mean I speak to Warren. Warren's scripts aren't very long. It was one panel per . where me and Dave sat down with the idea of doing something together and let it evolve from there. Yeah. so the writer had covered as much of the artist's work as possible with huge word balloons (laughter) . “Some of the things that I put my readers through are pretty extreme…” DW: What are the pitfalls to collaboration? AM: Well. they all work in different ways. maybe he's trying to sound a bitDW: I think what he was talking about something quite specific where he'd written something and the artist hadn't liked it and decided to draw something else… AM: I've never had that happen. to be the perfect ones for the job.ABOVE: Detail from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol 2. it would – just Kevin's sense of design would bring such a lot to the script. when I was musing about: “Who would be the perfect artist for this?”. Don't suddenly decide that the way to make your mark upon the industry is to stamp your presence over every story indelibly. it's a war. and then the artist will start getting revenge…and it's not a collaboration. and you can see instances where the writer had decided that the artist was getting too much attention and that he wasn't getting enough. as best as possible. and he always seems a polite. because any two individuals are gonna have a different chemistry between them. where you had an artist with a certain amount of fan popularity. I've seen some terrible examples within the industry of an artist and writer at warDW: Was it Warren Ellis? AM: I was thinking more about some of the American books I'd seen. I mean. These were things where I came up with the idea first as opposed to Watchmen . The kind of cartoonish. they're not dialogue-heavy. art by Kev O'Neill League of Extraordinary Gentlemen . Once the image of Kevin O'Neill's art came into my mind I knew that that would be exactly right. to a certain degree. but with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or From Hell . there's not a lot on dialogue. don't get an attitude. Collaborations all have a different nature. I mean I've seen…Avatar Comics brought out something called Bad World that Warren had done…I mean if you look at Warren's scripts. English caricature quality in Kevin's work would really give a lot of bounce and energy to the script – it would dispel the heaviness of the Victorian setting. but the thing is is that I've seen some of Warren's scripts. well-mannered young man when I speak to him.
Some people had to put the book down. calmingly. Why were you trying to challenge your audience? What have they ever done to you? I prefer seduction. Then you won't go far wrong. Make sure that you're being as clear as you can be. and then they match that. and I know that it was very gruelling to read for some people. Now. they're gonna want to do a good job for you. There are plenty of reasons for using ambiguity. it's an intense little scene. if that's how Warren likes to work. make sure you know why you're having ambiguity in there. And OK. But that is the equivalent to a challenging debate. and then they'll say it was meant to be challenging. I had . but if he does have trouble with artists suddenly deciding that they're gonna be a bit creative with the last quarter of a comic or something…I mean. or whatever it was. Not many people take me up on it. but one of them is laziness. I mean. If I'd wanted that. it was very gruelling to draw. liked it and then done an art job that has gone beyond your script. I talk to them interestingly. then as long as you basically understand the effect I was going for here and can think of a better way to achieve it. but some do. I'd have hung out in the taxi rank downtown on a Friday night at chucking out time. which I'm sure most of us would welcome. And I try to give them complete leeway. and it's a kind of impetus to make your next script really knock the artist out. then a kind of benign and lovely gauntlet's been thrown down. They've also got as much freedom as they want. it was very gruelling to write. I can't see any point in – some artists seem to produce something not very pleasant to read.page and there was a little caption – no. Give people the support that they need and the freedom that they want. When the artist has read your script. then that's a different sort of challenge and it's not something I particularly picked up the book for. the characters. It's a good way of amping up the creative energy on a project. the dialogue. Make sure you're not just saying it has ambiguity because you haven't actually figured out what it's about. if you've got a better way of doing this panel. I once said that a good way to describe my approach to writing is that in the story. DW: But you have to adequately specify what you require of your collaborator. I couldn't have got the readers to look at that without the preceding 400 pages. despite the fact that there's all this previous detail. let alone create with collaborators. If you're gonna have ambiguity in there. hypnosis. so they've got as much support as they need if they haven't really got an idea of how to do the page. It'll probably mean more work for you. perhaps you've not got quite as much room to complain if they take that as you giving them a long reign. but it's not a burden. Some of the things that I put my readers through are pretty extreme – I mean the Mary Kelly sequence in From Hell . in the telling of it. I always in my scripts will give instructions saying: “Look. You can't be too clear. and so on. I'm counting on you. I like the work that I read to challenge me. if you've got a better idea than me to throw it in. It becomes a very benign competitiveness that you can get into sometimes with comics. which I think is the best way to work with people generally. It might be that if you're gonna be very very loose with your instructions to the artists. because that'll make the story better”. then please do. that's fine. and then you can do whatever you want to them. Jim Williams'll change things because he'll suddenly see that actually these five panels could be arranged more interestingly and still have the same story power. if he did it like this. where you're trying to show off to each other. fascinatingly. but the end result is that your collaborators will feel that they're collaborating with you – if they feel you've done a good job for them. I don't want to scream at my audience and demand that they understand my gemlike pearls of wisdom. But if the artist or writer is trying to challenge me in the manner of an obnoxious street drunk. one panel per spread I think – with a terse little caption talking about it. I introduce myself to the reader. Whether in your actual script or your actual storytelling. I've never had that problem. I like it to expand my horizons. I get them to sort of follow me up the alleyways of the narrative until they are so far within it that they probably can't find their way out. AM: Be clear.
these sentences are fucking fantastic…the way they sort of self-destruct…”. And I don't think I betrayed that trust. then you would want. and I'm glad I'm not as penniless as him”. Most writers. Stephen King. before moving on to fresh topics). you're doing something to pay the rent and then working into the small hours while the wife and kids are asleep.to get them to trust me. let's go out on a limb – the finest writer currently working in the English language – Downriver . So why would you choose to communicate that which you wish to communicate less clearly. try something else. but probably not a lot. I mean. and I think the thing to decide is the level you're happiest at. I knew that if I was gonna have a scene that stark. to communicate it as clearly. less powerfully? If you've got something to communicate. there are a lot of ways I could have done that scene and the lead-up to it that would have made it merely unpleasant. the people I can only vaguely imagine. or works in a bookshop. But art. and say: “Right. I think about the collaboration a lot. as it is. and that would be a terrible fate. as powerfully and as affectingly as possible. there is the transmitter and the receiver. but at the same time you don't want it to be…insultingly simple. I had to get them to go with me into a horrible placeDW: Well it was a story about Jack the Ripper… AM: On the other hand. then I needed to do an awful lot of groundwork. You go into any branch of Waterstone's and 90% of those books on the shelves. surely one thing that all of this is is an attempt to communicate something. how does she do this stuff. or works as a lorry driver. I wish I was as brilliant as him. covering the same ground as was gone over previously. These are the people I don't know. or a social worker. treading very carefully every step of the way until you finally throw open the doors and take the reader into that room. So in any communication there are two factors. which is good. I would think. there is something terrible about it. I've known a few borderline – Kathy Acker was nearly a writer's writer. Write what you have genuine enthusiasm for…” (We then returned to a discussion of ‘signal to noise' in writing again. especially the very best ones. Jeffrey Archer – the ‘giants' as I like to think of them – unless you're talking about them you're talking about someone who is a teacher. There's levels. But she was not easy and she was not popular. unless you're talking about Catherine Cookson. “I'd say to anyone aspiring to be a writer: write what you like. Don't think that you have to write – just because literary critics decided some time in the 19 th century that Jane Austen's comedy of manners was the only form of literature that could really be considered . how many it sold I don't know. one of his best books. And you wanna make sure that the receiver receives the message that you were sending out with clarity. I think – yeah. and if there comes a point when you're no longer happy writing pulp adventure stories. Iain Sinclair. other writers would say: “Jesus. You could end up as a writer's writer. What that means is you'd be a writer where all the other writers would say: “God. writing. even the very best ones. that intense. If it had been merely unpleasant – a bloke cutting up a woman – than that would have let down the whole book and probably not done an awful lot for my reputation as a writer. took him five years to write and he got 2000 quid for it. don't often make a living from it. I also think about my relationship with the audience. there's levels to being a writer. If you're happy writing pulp adventure stories then for God's sake write pulp adventure stories. this is the heart of the story”.
I'm a big collector. he used to write comics. Michael Moorcock is never going to get a Booker Prize. and certainly don't even consider people like Lovecraft. but he's a better writer than 100% of writers who have won the Booker Prize over the last 20 years. I've got nearly all of them. these are the people I am particularly fond of. Forget about him. They were about the habits of the class of people who were criticising the books. but it's also kind of poignant…it's talking about human life. John Lodwick. Marvellous. people who are fine writers. sadly not. God bless her. The Wind in the Snotty Gobble Tree . The Yew tree grows particularly well in graveyards. Yeah. There are all of these people. It was holding a mirror up to a particular strata of society – which included the critics – and they said: “Yes. people like David Lindsey. So the title. Arthur Knacken. There was someone who. In three weekends. people like Jack Trevor Story. Wells or Olaf Stapleton. the only stuff of legend. You're not gonna find any science fiction. If you're writing detective stories. who wrote House on the Borderland . or vulgar or rude. where the prize would be something like £200 and the only condition would be – say £500 to £1000 – and the only condition would be that after two weeks the recipient would have nothing to show for it. after he died. two weeks later he would have nothing to show for it. You're not gonna find any genre. various other books…a visionary genius. in literary terms. Write what you have genuine enthusiasm for. William Hope Hodgson. Gaudy. But forgotten. But he's vulgar. The Wind in the Snotty Gobble Tree . Who had a ‘clumsy prose style'. but that might be an interesting point. You're mainly gonna find novels of manners. because they're low and vulgar”. which is difficult in this day and age. our ways. Human life is just the wind in the Snotty Gobble Tree. They were flattering. because they are the voices that are most in danger of being lost. poignant. Ghost and horror stories. Which was pretty much the pattern of Jack Trevor Story's life. who because they were too cheerily vulgar. it's funny. Jack Trevor Story. Angela Carter. because science fiction is a lower art form than the novel of manners. I've got all of the Horace Spurgeon Fenton trilogy. Apparently. but no. So in a lot of cemeteries you get the Yew tree growing. who wrote A Voyage to Arcturus .G. comics have been dominated by genre fiction. suggested the Jack Trevor Story prize for literature. the re-forgotten as Iain Sinclair calls them. our funny little intrigues. well we'll just about allow Poe. The wind in the graveyard. too proletarian. he used to write Sexton Blake . The Night Land . something like that. who couldn't write . You're not gonna find these people anywhere in Melvyn Smith's list of 100 novels you simply must read. they weren't allowed in past the doormen. one of the most mystifying and brilliant British fantasy novels anywhere. Jack Trevor Story. Don't write to get a Booker prize. DR: Maybe in a hundred years… AM: Nah. another writer who will never be included in the canon of great British writers. it thrives upon a human loam. one of our very best writers ever. he'll have been completely forgotten…he'll have been forgotten three times over by then. Completely forgotten. That was only for your Iris Murdochs. perversely fond of. our vanities. so called because of its sticky white poisonous berries. People like Gerald Kersh. There were a lot of people who didn't have the right kind of shoes on to get in. DW: I feel somewhat base bringing it back to comics yet again. Their books aren't in print anymore. For God's sake don't write anything in genre. Less forgotten. Whenever he got any payment. . Because they seemed possessed. or a ‘Snotty Gobble Tree'. always used to refer to ‘that sort of person' as ‘shortlist victims'. to your people who were on the list. very sad. The Snotty Gobble Tree is the Yew tree. because they weren't well behaved enough . He was very funny. I mean. Clark Ashton Smith. But these are my heroes. Jack Trevor Story. On speed. Don't write detective stories. nobodies concerned. into the literary banquet going on. or intoxicated. I'd say to anyone aspiring to be a writer: write what you like. on second thoughts.literature. even if you are an extraordinarily beautiful and gifted writer. this is the stuff of legend. And those are the people I treasure the most. he used to write science-fantasy trilogies. but still ignored. At least within the English-language tradition. Even if you are Raymond Chandler. along with Jack Trevor Story. He used to write the Talisman adventure libraries. forget it. and it's true. even if it's H. Basically it's because her novels were about the habits of the class that could afford to buy books.
with things like Watchmen . then how am I gonna get around that problem? Pornography. but that is one of the main pleasures of genre. DW: The blank page. Obviously there's a problem in how are you gonna do pornography that people are gonna respect and people are gonna like? I've read most of the feminist critiques of pornography. some of them I can dismiss fairly easily – Andrea Dworkin . if they can turn that round and make that weight work for them…. It's putting on a straitjacket and then making a big spectacular display of springing out of the straitjacket with no concealed lock picks or anything like that – underwater . But you get someone like Raymond Chandler who suddenly brings in this weary moral element. or anything like that? DW: It's never good to end a conversation on a negative note. or a novel of manners.some of them less easily. and he transcends the detective genre. and makes it something it wasn't before. the moral loneliness – as a counterpoint to this bleak image of a corrupt San Francisco he was painting. if they are up to that particular act of aesthetic ju-jitsu. The detective story genre in the hands of Mickey Spillane is dull – dire – not very interesting. I'm not saying that every work I've ever done in superheroes has transcended the genre. The genre is the straightjacket and you can do some nice Houdini tricks if you put on a restrictive enough genre. really. how do you produce a piece of red-hot pornography that answers these critiques? That avoids the pitfalls like that? These are all big problems. The more hopeless the genre the better. It's like I was saying about putting limitations on yourself when we were talking right at the beginning. for me I'm always quick to try and find the advantages in any situation. which can often be the apparent disadvantages. but the work you get out at the end can be all the better for the kinds of travails you've had to go through to get there.so it depends very much upon the writer and how they are viewing the kind of creative milieu they are working in. because he used the extremity of the detective situation – the isolation. There's ways you can look at the disadvantages of a situation and see that they can be used as a kind of lever to spin the project in a completely different direction. have you got a last question. So. If this is a problem. if they succeed it is because they transcend the superhero genre. I think with my own work.with a hopeless genre. DW: And it's very hard to think of how that emotional range could have been expressed – better – in another… AM: Well absolutely. if they can actually turn the weight of negative expectation that is being hurled against them. But yeah. Without denigrating those genres. because people are gonna be more surprised if you do something good with itDW: Which puts comics writers in a privileged position in some ways… AM: Well. do you think because of this. I think they're perfectly valid. by some crafty kind of ju-jitsu move. So. AM: The blank page. They take it somewhere where it had not previously been.particularly the superhero genre which could be seen as even more ‘vulgar' than the ones you mentioned before. Some of them I don't wanna dismiss. comics writers have to ‘smuggle in' other themes? AM: The beauty of a genre is in transcending it. and genuine compassion and human insight. it's difficult to see how it could have been expressed better in Pride and Prejudice . And you don't have to look very far to see some brilliant examples of that. but if there's anything more you could .
and it'll be a crutch that you lean on.recall that's a classic mistake. I don't like failure. If you're sure you can do something there's probably no need. Give me an ending”. you want the security of knowing you can accomplish these things. because these were motifs running through the entire narrative. because you've spoken a lot about the positives… AM: OK. but if you do fail that'll probably just give you the incentive – not to not try that thing again. don't be afraid of trying. otherwise it will become a rut. covering some familiar topics before moving on to conclude with an observation about coming to trust the process of writing itself). It was . don't be afraid of failing – once or twice – because that can be a big learning experience. Some of my stories have been failures. Since all the other stories had taken place in November. This is perhaps not advice for people when they're starting out. In Corby an old man had had a home invasion. nobody likes to fail so you probably won't either. And that was the night I came downstairs and saw on the telly the details of this murder case that had been held at the County Court behind Sceptre Church at Campbell Square there. I'm sure we could all think of a lot of authors – perhaps quite popular ones – who write the same book over and over again – sometimes very entertainingly – but they're not moving anywhere. Also. but don't be afraid to try anything. but I should have thought it through more. I knew in that last chapter I knew I had to have turning up within my field of vision within Northampton spectral black dogs. I was basically asking the gods: “For fuck's sake. When you start out. but creatively you're not gonna be cutting it. and all of your books will be exactly like the last one. I'd done a ritual. ambiguous – a failure. if you're sure you can do something. there'll come a point when you realise if you're sure you can do something. where I was trying to tie stock horror icons in with horrific aspects of contemporary society. I ended up not quite saying what I'd wanted to say. it was muddy. severed head turning up somewhere in Northampton. you die. an easy little thing. Don't make too many mistakes where it matters. Stop it. If you notice something that is becoming a staple part of your style. and it was the details of a murder trial that had happened previously but had just come to trial in November. and I tried to do a story that tied in zombie imagery with a comment on racism – and it didn't really work. Don't be afraid of failure. that probably means that you do it too much. Do something else. you could perhaps do it. and succeed. at the crime scene. some lovely bits of writing in it. (We again returned to a conversation about Voice of the Fire . that's probably because you've done it before. help me find a way out of this novel. In the American Gothic run on Swamp Thing . But if you get on. If you don't fail once or twice. So. I'd got the treatment of women tied in with the werewolf story. A valiant attempt. this was right that I had to write about things that happened to me during the November when I was writing this last chapter. I'd say keep moving – if you stay still. a negative…a negative…what shouldn't you do…you shouldn't…you shouldn't come up with things that you shouldn't do. then there's no point in doing it because it's too safe. And I think on the last night of November I'd taken a bunch of mushrooms. The detail that hadn't come to light at the time was that his head wasn't there. but you'll have some idea of how next time. so I had to try and analyse what I'd done wrong and work out ways that I could avoid making it again. You should also remember – here's some other bits of good advice: if you notice something that you do. Think: “What would be really impossible to do – or nearly impossible to do? What am I not sure I could do?”. You might die very lucratively. I'd say what you should do is probably make all the fucking mistakes that you are capable of. someone had broken into his house and he'd been murdered. you're not taking enough risks. …so it was leaving an insane amount of stuff to chance. something you learned not to do early on. And like I say. you're probably not reaching far enough. I had to have a severed head. Best thing is trying to find a decent-looking cliff edge and throwing yourself over it. no point in bothering to do it. before I go mad. a real. And if you do fail. human. abandon it. As a writer.
any errors are entirely my fault (having spoken to Alan after the interview was first published. and if you just do these things you can get to that point.but I never established what they were. But that was that for The Craft. Whatever. sometimes irrational things.) AUTHORS NOTE: This interview is copyright Daniel Whiston. All images copyright their respective holders. this interview previously appeared in Zarjaz.found. No infringement of copyright is intended nor should be inferred) LINKS: ALAN MOORE LINKS: News site: http://www. it will be a great book about dogshit. which is bigger than you are and more important than you are.net/Vendetta/ Rare Moore related art. he mentioned a few terms/references that I had transcribed incorrectly . (We then went on to talk about Alan's 80's silver suit. it'll sell a million copies. It's bigger than you are. then trust the process.alanmoorefansite. In my experience. sort of: “I'm going to have written the great British novel by the time I'm…”. don't worry if it make senses or not. If something in your instinct tells you that this is possible. Leon Hewitt and Matthew Badham. which…perfect. Trust the process. by a black dog. They're not that common. go with it.com/ V for Vendetta Shrine: http://www. you've gotta trust – when you get to a certain point. He planned to revise the mistakes. then trust it. so to have this conjunction of black dogs and heads – and it was the first decapitation I could remember happening in Northampton during my lifetime. Spanish language site . comics fandom and all sorts. I mean I'm sorry for the guy and all that but I mean I'd got stuff in the 11 th century chapter about how the head of St Edmund was found being guarded by a big black dog. Forget all that. even if it looks hopeless. You have to kind of surrender yourself to the art. in forgetting what your career plans are or what your literary plan is. it will…even if it sounds unlikely but that's what the process tells you. it tells you to do certain things. If you can surrender yourself utterly – which takes some nerve – then there won't be very much you can't do. 2004. the best advice I can give to any writer is: trust the process. later. It guides you. if it feels right. then don't worry. under a hedge. and it knows better than you do. but so far hasn't had time to). If the process says you really really should write a 200-page work on dogshit. If you trust your instincts. At least in my experience. so the fact that it should happen right when I needed it to happen to finish my novel…yeah. and are used for information/review purposes only. it is a mysterious thing that doesn't really follow conventional laws of physics or logic.shadowgalaxy. if it feels right. (Editors Note: Art sourced by Barry Renshaw. if you trust your feelings. there's a certain amount of surrender involved. The process by which you write is a mysterious thing that is separate to you – it is a magical thing.
com (currently unavailable) HALO JONES artist Ian Gibson: http://www.marvelman.com/ WATCHMEN artist Dave Gibbons http://www.igibson.freeservers.com/frameset.brianbolland.br/galeriasindex.com/home.hpg.demon.bryan-talbot.com/ COMICON site: http://www.comicon.davegibbonsfansite.fortunecity.http://www.com/victorian/durer/229/amoore.htm YUGGOTH CULTURES artist Bryan Talbot http://www. including March of the Sinister Ducks and the V Theme.co. Spanish language site: http://www.com.com/Athens/Olympus/7160/league1.html Watchmen: .turmoilcolour.ig.alanmooresenhordocaos.geocities.edu/~wald/v-for-vendetta-index.htm Moore related music clips.uk/ WATCHMEN colourist John Higgins: http://www.htm ALAN MOORE'S ARTISTS LINKS: BATMAN: Killing Joke artist Brian Bolland: http://www.html ANNOTATIONS: V for Vendetta: http://theory.com/moore/moore.mit.htm Marvelman fansite: http://www.html League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: http://www.lcs.
dccomics.html http://www. D.salon.R.alternativeapproaches.com/ Including LOST GIRLS.net/articles/amoore/index.html PUBLISHERS: http://www. Watchmen. and Quinch INTERVIEWS: http://www.edu/~wald/watchmen-index.com/features/promethea/index.dccomics.com/ For Hypothetical Lizard and Yuggoth Cultures http://www.lcs.com/magick/kabbalah/kabbalah002.http://theory.2000adonline. V for Vendetta.com/books/int/2004/07/22/moore/index_np.html ABC Comics/ DC Comics page for Promethea http://www.com/ For ABC Comics. VOICE OF THE FIRE and others http://www.blather. Batman: Killing Joke and others http://www.html http://suicidegirls.com/ For Halo Jones.mit.topshelfcomix.htm .com/words/Alan+Moore+-+The+Mirror+of+Love/ ABOUT THE KABBALAH http://www.avatarpress.
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