When it comes to campaigns of vengeance, a fracas between a writer of comics, his publisher and a movie producer is bound to be less cinematic than a scheme to blow up London's Houses of Parliament. Nevertheless, Alan Moore has been very vocal about his unhappiness with the new adaptation of V for Vendetta, his 1988 graphic novel about a future fascist Britain. Last weekend The New York Times reported on Moore's decision to not only remove his name from the movie's credits but -- as a shot at DC Comics and its corporate parent Time Warner -- have his name removed from every work controlled by his former publisher.
The cause of Moore's displeasure is not the movie itself. No, Moore was upset because producer Joel Silver claimed that Moore had given it his blessing. When DC Comics failed to get Silver to retract the remarks, which were based on a meeting with Moore when Silver optioned the material nearly two decades ago, Moore severed any relationship with the company. His reaction may seem out of proportion to the affront -- aren't movie producers expected to be creative with the facts? Yet it's easy to see why Moore has run out of patience when the system has been so cruel to his vivid and imaginative creations.
The British writer, who began his career as a cartoonist for British rock magazines in the late seventies, has long had a wary relationship with the film industry. For one thing, he has not written or collaborated on any of the screenplays -- unlike David Lloyd, V for Vendetta's illustrator who is credited as a writer on the film. As Moore once told the Guardian, "If someone's going to butcher my baby, I'd just rather it wasn't me." Including V for Vendetta, four of Moore's works have been made into movies. Another, Watchmen, has failed to make the jump despite innumerable attempts. Filmmakers have been consistently stymied by both the complexity of Moore's storytelling and his quintessentially English preoccupations.
From Hell (2001) was based on Moore's exhaustively researched inquiry into the mystery of Jack the Ripper. The filmmakers opted to present the story as a murky whodunit, disregarding Moore's wider examination of how societal conditions in 19th-century England set the stage for the Ripper's crimes and future atrocities. In the case of the 2003 adaptation of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen -- about the adventures of a crime-fighting team of fictional heroes including Allan Quartermain and Captain Nemo -- Moore's playful reimagining of the Victorian era's fantastic literature was lost amid a cacophony of explosions. The 2005 thriller Constantine was based on a character that Moore invented while writing Swamp Thing. It was Sting who inspired the image of demon-fighter John Constantine. He was played on screen by Keanu Reeves; in the words of Stan Lee, "nuff said." As for Watchmen, Moore's revered series about the murder of superheroes, the film project has been linked to Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky and, most recently, Paul Greengrass.
Ironically, of all the movies based on Moore's comics, V for Vendetta is the most faithful. Though a work that was originally intended to demonize Thatcher's Britain now includes references to America's war on terror, it remains Moore's dark vision at its core. There's even a new scene in which a police inspector is given information by a mysterious gentleman who, with his unkempt, greying hair and long beard, bears a distinct resemblance to the now-uncredited author. However, if this hirsute figure is not intended as an homage to Moore, then Mick Fleetwood should sue.