The main draw of Alan Moore’s Exit Interview comes from the fact that Moore dishes, at great length, on where exactly his relationship with DC Comics went sour. To a lesser extent, Moore talks about upcoming projects, the origins of British comics fandom, and his take on the mainstream comics industry, but the sensational stuff is likely what’s going to draw the most readers. That’s as should be, as Moore provides a fascinating look into the inner workings of big-time comics publishing, and how the creative talent can get mangled in the gears of the machine once Hollywood gets involved.
Exit Interview is, if not a sequel, then certainly a successor of sorts to Alan Moore Spells It Out, a lengthy interview that focused primarily on the creative process of comics writing. This time, however, the focus is business. And when talking business with Moore, the big issue is what happened with DC. Moore, for his part, pulls no punches. He goes blow-by-blow through the process of how movie adaptations (particularly one ill-timed and mendacious statement by V for Vendetta producer Joel Silver) started the process that caused him to pull his work from DC. It is simultaneously a culture clash – Moore paints himself as primarily interested in accuracy, while the Hollywood/DC side doesn’t quite seem to know what to do with someone who’s not all about the money. And along the way Moore expands the conversation, going into the staggeringly one-sided contracts he signed for Watchmen and V for Vendetta; DC’s relentless pursuit of his work; and why Moore sends all of the money he gets for film adaptations of his work to the artists involved.
From there it’s just a short jump to the business of comics in general: from how Moore’s experience paved the way for the notion of the “evergreen” graphic novel and the better working contracts that Neil Gaiman et alia received as a result, back to the origins of the American comics industry. Again, Moore isn’t shy, speculating about how DC is afraid that Warner Brothers will shut them down if they don’t keep generating movie franchises, suggesting that mainstream American comics publishing is tied into organized crime, and implying that the head of DC has what can only be described as a stalker-like relationship with Moore and his work.
The material is more optimistic when the interview shifts to Moore’s memories of the origins of British comics, which he describes as simultaneously more innocent and more explosive than the growth of the field in the US. Past that, the greatest enthusiasm is reserved for an upcoming project called Jerusalem, a history through the ages of the neighborhood where Moore was born. What appears to be a nondescript neighborhood is revealed by Moore to have a rich and fascinating history, another example of the author’s talent for finding the remarkable in the commonplace.
As an interviewer, Bill Baker does an excellent job of prompting Moore and then getting out of the way. Rather than showing off what he knows or directing the conversation with pointed questions, Baker sets up kill shots for Moore and lets him go, serving as a facilitator rather than insisting on an equal part of the discussion.
For a writer whose work has achieved such titanic success, Moore comes across as both nostalgic and resolutely uncommercial, deeply uncomfortable with the direction of the industry he no longer wishes to be a part of. And yet, at the end the interview strays back to metaphysics, and ends on an ultimately hopeful note. Moore may note the “long line of sad ghosts” behind beloved comics characters, but when it comes to the larger tapestry of life, he sees the possibility of transcendent beauty. So too should the reader see this as more than just a backhand at DC, or a chance for a writer to tell his side of the story. It’s part of something bigger, an important piece of Moore’s role in the history of comics, and offers a glimpse of a wider perspective.
(Airwave Publishing, 2007)