Those looking for Alan Moore’s name in the credits of HBO’s Watchmen series may be surprised to find he’s been left out - and even more so when they learn it’s due to the author's own wishes. The relationship between Moore and his most famous work of comic book writing has long been tenuous and - its adaptation history having reached a head with the 2009 release of Zack Snyder’s Watchmen - the legendarily curmudgeonly writer has given up entirely on playing nice with Hollywood.
It almost goes without saying that Moore doesn't want you to watch the Watchmen on HBO, or anywhere else - something showrunner Damon Lindelof readily accepts. That being said, the story goes a lot deeper than an author who's unsatisfied with the quality of his comics' adaptations, and gets to the rotten core of the entertainment industry in general - at least, according to Moore, who has taken every opportunity to share his strong opinions on the subject.
- Photo: DC Comics
The Rupture With DC Led Moore To Develop Some Bitter Feelings Toward ‘Watchmen’
Moore appeared to be greatly hurt by what he saw as a betrayal by DC Comics. In an entry for the Forbidden Planet blog, Moore wrote:
If they hadn’t tried to steal pocket change from us at the beginning, 'cause that was when it was, that was the thing that started to queer the pitch, was when we realized that they were trying to pretend that Watchmen merchandise was self-financing promotional material, and me and Dave, not being completely stupid, said, "Yeah, but if you make profits from this self-promoting, self-financing promotional material, then it's merchandise, isn’t it? And we have to get some of that, don’t we?"
In a 2012 interview with Fast Company, Moore elaborated on his bitter feelings toward both DC Comics and Watchmen itself:
It's gone beyond anger. It's almost tragically comical. It's commerce over art. I'm proud of the work I did on Watchmen, but it's surrounded by such a toxic cloud of memories. I wish I didn't have to go through them. I don't even have a copy of the book in the house.
- Photo: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen / America's Best Comics
Moore Ended Up Back With DC In 1999 - And It Went Just As Poorly As The First Time
Though he vowed in 1989 to never again work for DC Comics, Moore found himself back in the fold a decade later through a bizarre series of circumstances. Moore had reached a deal with Jim Lee of Wildstorm Comics to publish The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but then Lee sold his company to DC, leaving Moore on the hook to once again produce work for his most hated employer.
At first, Moore begrudgingly agreed to the arrangement, but soon the relationship between publisher and author was damaged beyond repair. Despite receiving assurances that he would retain full editorial control, Moore was enraged to discover that DC had pulled all copies of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen #5 - the result of a seemingly innocuous joke advertisement he had included about Marvel-brand douches. After a few more instances of interference, Moore quietly completed his legal obligations and again promised never to work with DC Comics, dashing all hopes of having him involved in future Watchmen prequels or sequels.
- Photo: From Hell / 20th Century Fox
At First, Moore Had A Hands-Off Approach To Film Adaptations Of ‘From Hell’ And ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’
The first two of Moore’s comic book properties to be adapted to film were From Hell in 2001 and the notoriously dreadful The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in 2003. For those projects, Moore maintained a relatively hands-off approach, noting, "As long as I could distance myself by not seeing them, enough to keep them separate, take the option money, I could be assured no one would confuse the two. This was probably naïve on my part."
That attitude quickly changed, however, once Moore began to read of the public's reaction to these films - and the various changes the filmmakers made to his plots - though he claims to have never seen either movie. He told CBR’s Rich Johnston, "After the films came out, I began to feel increasingly uneasy, I have a dwindling respect for cinema as it is currently expressed."
- Photo: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen / 20th Century Fox
A Lawsuit Over ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ Soured Moore On Hollywood For Good
If Moore didn’t already have a negative view of Hollywood by the time The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen hit theaters in 2003, a resulting lawsuit launched against him and 20th Century Fox definitely sealed the deal. Producer Martin Poll and screenwriter Larry Cohen sued the people behind League, suggesting that its plot had been plagiarized from their unproduced script entitled Cast of Characters.
Moore, who had to take the stand to defend himself against the charges, found the entire thing ridiculous, as he explained to CBR’s Rich Johnston:
They seemed to believe that the head of 20th Century Fox called me up and persuaded me to steal this screenplay, turning it into a comic book which they could then adapt back into a movie, to camouflage petty larceny.
Moore was particularly incensed that Fox chose to reach an out-of-court settlement for the lawsuit, something he saw as an admission of guilt. He went on to say that he had been treated worse than he would have been if he had "sodomized and murdered a busload of children after giving them heroin."
It seemed likely that the days of Moore peacefully allowing others to adapt his stories were now behind him.