It can be a dangerous thing, meeting your heroes. Too often, they fail to live up to your expectations. This wasn’t the case on Saturday.
I’m pleased to say that Alan Moore is one of the most charming and generous people I’ve met.
I’d read on the website Bleeding Cool that Moore was speaking at the Northampton Guildhall for the charity Fight for Sight. I was worried that it’d be sold out but luckily I was able to secure two tickets. On Saturday morning, Roisin and I set off on the train! I was ridiculously excited about meeting one of my writing heroes and, if I’m honest, a little scared…
We had some time to explore Northampton when we got there. I was really taken with St. Pauls, an old Norman church as distinctive as Moore himself:
We had time for a quick lunch in the cafe of the very impressive All Saints church in Northampton’s main square. While we there, a few people came in clutching Alan Moore books and just outside the Guildhall, we saw a five year old boy skipping along holding V for Vendetta and Watchmen to his chest!
We collected our tickets from the Guildhall, then had a quick browse around an antiques market where I considered buying a walking cane. After a while, I decided that this was a bit too close to dressing up as Moore! The room in the Guildhall was beautiful, decorated with paintings of significant kings and statesmen in Northampton’s history and stained glass roundels.
We managed to get seats in the front row. Happily, it was quite a small crowd, making the event pleasingly intimate. Moore strode down the aisle, a slight cocky jaunt to his gait and a smile on his lips. After observing that he knew the acoustics of the room were weird from going to gigs there, he joked that there was a confused man in the back row who’d come expecting to see Alan Rickman.
Moore launched into an unscripted and frequently hilarious history of Northampton. Characterizing it as invisible to the media, he detailed the town’s history of political dissent and many of the fascinating figures it had produced (he named Charles Bradlaugh as a personal inspiration). Along the way, Moore conjured some typically outrageous images: blowing up a busload of nuns, angels playing billiards, and the Quaker Oats man nakedly, violently overthrowing the government.
Moore paused about an hour into his talk to read Partners in Knitting, a short story about the burning of two Northampton witches, from his book Voice of the Fire. I’d never seen Moore perform and I was mightily impressed. His deep rumbling voice gave a reading that was both dramatic and heartfelt.
In the second half of the talk, Moore concentrated on the decline of the Boroughs, the area of Northampton in which he was born. He explained the way in which his underground magazine Dodgem Logic was attempting to contribute to the community. Moore’s passion for the people of Northampton was (in Roisin’s words) endearing and infectious, and he concluded by reading a poem in their honour, written in “heroic couplets.”
The question and answer session afterwards was a real highlight. Moore proved generous and thoughtful with his responses. He was eloquent on his disillusionment with the comics industry, funny when discussing Ace the Bat Hound (who wears a mask so the other dogs won’t know his identity) and vituperative regarding the dead friends cheated out of creator’s rights by DC and Marvel. He also discussed a new multimedia project which I’m going to blog about tomorrow (same Bat-time, same Bat-channel)!
I was so proud when Roisin put up her hand and asked whether Moore would consider writing vignettes of Northampton a la Harvey Pekar. He was clearly pleased to be given the opportunity to speak of his old friend and described his favourite Pekar strip Making Lemonade (you can read Moore’s obituary of Pekar here). After digressing with a tale of Northampton character (star of Time Bandits and bastard son of the Shah of Iran) Jack Purvis, Moore suggested to Roisin that his difference to Pekar was as much one of geography as of personal style. While Pekar found wonder in his quotidian existence in Cleveland, Moore searched for normality in the weirdness of Northampton!
Afterwards, we queued to have some stuff signed. It was lovely to see Moore insisting that the five year old I’d spotted earlier be at the front of the queue. He was clearly very pleased to see someone so young at the talk – and what a brilliant experience for that child! As my long-suffering friends know, I’ve already got a Moore-Bolland signed The Killing Joke (99p in a charity shop!), so I thought I’d bring some more unusual stuff. So now I’ve got signed copies of The Spirit: The New Adventures #1, Miracleman #15, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century and Alan Moore’s Writing for Comics!
Me and Roisin chatted with Moore for about five minutes about Northampton and independent publishing, then he was gracious enough to pose for a photo. It was nice that he put his arm around my shoulder and shook my hand as we left, saying how much he’d enjoyed meeting us. I walked away feeling utterly elated and inspired.
What a day. Thank you Alan – you truly are an extraordinary gentleman!