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Interview with Affable Alan Moore
1963 Interview by Tom Field
It was nothing short of a dream come true.
I had just wrapped up my tour of the Swingin' Sweatshop and was just on my way out the door when Kooky Kandi Devine stopped me and whispered softly, "Al will see you now."
I would meet Affable Al!
Kooky Kandi led me through the art studio (what used to be the slaughter room), past the production department (the former walk-in freezer) through the locked door separating the Sweatshop from hers and Affable Al's spacious executive suite.
What energy! You could feel it in the air, partially because Affable Al's office is the only air-conditioned part of the Sweatshop, but also just because of the presence of Affable Al.
There he sat, behind a huge oak desk, sipping from a small metal flask that he keeps atop an original art page from Horus.
Before I could speak, he motioned to come closer. As I started to move, his first words to me were, "No, I meant Kandi."
As Kooky Kandi settled into a Kozy seat beside Al, I fired away with my eager questions. Tom Field: Al, could you explain how you broke into the comics field and came to create the super Swingin' Sweatshop character?
Affable Alan Moore: If you'll suffer me to shoot straight from the shoulder, Sahib, your script-slingin' saviour was saving his senseless scripting for the staggering Sweatshop itself, so sad to say I seem to have scarcely scratched up a single serialized super-hero story on the supreme score card in the sky before settling in my swivel-seat here at the Sixty-Three summit of spectacle!!! That's not to say that I hadn't been earning money from writing for a long time, though, nosiree!! Why, at the age of six I was writing cure letters to my uproarious uncle, mystical Morrie Mooreheimer, and he always sent me 10 bucks by return of post. I wrote him birthday cards, get well cards and long letters in which I struggled to express me awe and exaltation that such a truly divine being as himself should deign to exist in our mortal midst. So let me tell you something, travelers: all that writing eventually paid off!! After struggling with literary style in such early works as "Dear Uncle Morrie, I like you much better than my parents and can I have a sports car?" or the experimental minimalist piece "Morrie--Real Estate? Let's do lunch," I was given my own comic company! Let's face it, I'm a lucky guy!! [laughs]
TF: Can you explain the origin of USA and the other Swingin' Sweatshop stars? In your book, Here Come the Heroes, you recall creating USA on the back of a lunch napkin. Yet, Ed "The Emperor" Evans says he created the character back in 1941. What's the inside story?
AM: [long pause] Well, wayfarer, Ed "The Emperor" Evans is a very old and dear friend of mine. Very, very dear. And very, very old. Very, VERY old. Some might even stoop to the shameful state of suggesting that he was slightly senile, his reason raddled by resentment, his rarely reliable recollections roasted by round after round of rotgut and reefer, although I myself would shrink from stirring up such saddening slanders. Suffice it to say that I created all of our sizzling Sixty-Three superstars singlehanded, Sahib, save for such scarcely-significant spadework as the dreary details of design, concept and name. It's very hurtful to me that Ed Evans, who is, incidentally, a terribly thwarted and bitter man with a sad, empty life who I feel sorry for, should suggest that I was not solely responsible for creating these cavorting characters! Why, characters like Mystery Inc., Fury-Man and Johnny Behind are like babies to me! I know them like I know my own children, Al Jr., Al-Boy and, uh, y'know, the other one. Al something. What can I say, Sahib?
TF: Where is Ed "The Emperor" Evans today? Will he ever work for you again?
AM: Look, um, I mean, let's not dwell too much on the past here, pilgrim, you hear what I'm saying? Ed has a cosy little open-plan sort of accommodation over on West 24th Street, and from what I hear, he's the same bright, sunny optimistic guy he always was. A mutual friend tripped over Ed just the other day and told me that Ed said he was "just glad to be alive," to which I can only say Amen, amigo! As for "The Emperor" ever working for us again, although it isn't very likely, there's no need to worry, wayfarer! We've got about 8,000 pages of the guy's work that we can reprint whenever we want, possible as perfectly produced prestige publications that tender a touching tribute to truly modern masterpieces of the medium that will never die!! Unlike Ed "The Emperor" Evans, who's got four, maybe six months tops.
TF: Tell me, how is it that you are related to Morrie Moorenheimer, but you two have different last names?
AM: Basically, Believer, I shortened and changed my last name because I didn't want anybody thinking I was the kind of guy who'd trade in on his uncle's success. I'm sorry, Sahib, but it's just one of those things that I feel strongly about!!
TF: You often write about your security guard Klaus Shreck and gal Friday Kooky Kandi Devine (who I see is quite devoted to you). Who are they, and where did they come from?
AM: Well, Kuddly Klaus is a groovy, good-natured guy who arrived in this country just after the last war, lookin' for work as a security specialist and totin' some excellent references, traveler! And let me level with you, loyal ones: Klaus puts everything he's got into his job, throwing in lots of little extra touches that are all his idea, like those armbands he had made with the two little "S" symbols on to stand for "Sweat Shop!" Kooky Kandi, on the other hand, has an impressive career as a leading Hollywood method-actress behind her, as demonstrated in the cult classic "Kandi does Kansas!" After that she endured a tragically brief marriage to none other than Roarin' Rick Veitch, which ended when the Roarin' One had his workload unexpectedly trebled, meaning that he never got home to see his adoring wife! It would have been a trying and traumatic tempest of troubles for Kooki Kandi if not for the fact that she found herself a whole new career as my personal secretary at around the same time! Say no more!
TF: You were around in the '50s during the Kefauver hearings about comics. What role did you take to defend the comics industry?
AM: Well, I like to think that I cleverly avoided the threat of massive outside censorship being applied to the industry by suggesting that we bring in a code of conduct so draconian that it would be impossible for anyone to censor us further!! That showed 'em! I was on the self-appointed board that drafted up this new code of conduct, and I made sure that all the right issues were addressed. For example, since I'd always been secretly angered by the way that USA was parodied as U.S. Melvin in EC's Mad Comics, I snuck in a clause that said, "No comic book title that is a three-letter word meaning 'angry' or 'mentally ill' shall be permitted." Oh, yeah...and I sent a lot of anonymous letters to the committee, stating that my business rivals were dope addicts who abused their kids! We were always doin' things to kid each other along like that. Hey, it was a fun time!
TF: Your Distilled Competition says the secret of your success is that your comics are "too simple to hate." How do you respond?
AM: I know theirs are, but what are ours?
TF: What is an anti-award, and how does a fan earn one?
AM: The answer to both of your eager inquiries is that there's really nothing to it, reveller...and you can take that to the bank!!
TF: Given that you employ a blind inker, John "Inker without Fear" Totleben, would you ever consider creating a disabled super-hero? Or how about a minority hero? And what about female characters written by real females?
AM: Seriously, Sahib, I see myself as a trail-blazer when it comes to these tough and often touchy topics. Most commentators agree that my poignant and pathos-packed portrayal of the disabling effects of acne as witnessed with The Planet is a potential Pulitzer Prize puller, and with The Planet also being bright green, why, that's about as "ethnic minority" as it gets!! As for your other point, if females start writing comics, who's going to make the coffee, for Gosh sakes?? Sheesh!!
TF: What advice do you give to someone who wants to work at the Swingin' Sweatshop?
AM: First off, fawning ones, you have to write lots of letters to our lilting letter columns telling us all kinds of trivia about our characters that we frankly can't be bothered to remember ourselves. Then, when you leave school, come and work for us, and we'll pay you in comic books! Stay here long enough for everybody else to die or get fired, and we'll make you an editor, whereupon we'll start paying you with Mystery Incorporated T-shirts! Simple as that, Sahib!
TF: If the comics industry closed tomorrow, what would you do?
AM: Why? What have you heard?
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