Magic Words: The Extraordinary Life of Alan Moore is a biography of the legendary comic book writer, told by Moore aficionado Lance Parkin as he goes in search of this extraordinary gentleman, and reveals a writer quite unlike any other working today.
It’s difficult for me to be objective about the writer Alan Moore. After all, the man had been responsible for many of my favourite all-time comic book stories viz. Watchmen, From Hell, Marvelman/Miracleman, V for Vendetta, Top Ten, Saga of the Swamp Thing and so on. Apart from Philip K Dick, Alan Moore is my favourite writer. Period.
Reading Lance Parkin’s semi-official biography of the great man, it appears that that is precisely Parkin’s problem with Alan Moore as well. Parkin seems to have glossed over any really negative about the writer preferring to focus his critical energies on Moore’s work, which to his credit, is truly well executed. Thus, besides a chronological look back through Moore’s remarkable career as well as his numerous disputes with comic book companies, movie producers and co-creators, there seems to be a deliberate attempt to justify Moore’s choices and decision making somewhat.
Fact of the matter is, it does not take a psychologist to discern that Moore has a paranoid persecution complex and often sees evil intentions where there might be none – choosing to interpret the actions of others as malicious. One example is the manner in which he cut off ties with Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons in order to avoid any future contact by DC Comics to Moore through Gibbons. Seems rather drastic. Also, whilst Moore’s stance against furthering his career at the expense of his principles is contrasted strongly with someone like Neil Gaiman (who has famously described himself – perhaps tongue in cheek – as a whore!), there’s no doubt that Moore sometimes seems too naive to be true.
Considering that one particularly important aspect of Moore’s personal life is his unique relationship he had with his then-wife Phyllis and her lover, Debbie Delano, it is a little surprising that Parkin does not explore or develop any queries into this area. Presumably, Parkin might have felt that this was too personal, too sensitive a topic to broach. But as a proper biography, surely this was a critical issue that needed to be dealt with especially in relation to how this special relationship affected his creative workm if at all.
That said, despite these shortcomings, Magic Words is an essential tome for all fans of Alan Moore, comic books and creative writing. Now for that autobiography, Alan…?