Alan Moore Interviewed in Wired

A taste…

“Wired: Can you be more specific about what the things that comics as a medium do better than other media?

Moore:One thing is that with the comics medium, it has been proven—I believe by Pentagon tests in the late ’80s—that comics are actually the best medium for imparting information to somebody in a form that they will retain and remember. That’s not just me saying that, that’s the Pentagon. I personally feel—and this is just pseudo-scientific hippie bullshit—I feel this might be because the unit of currency of what used to be called our left brain is the word. Our left brain is what goes about speech and rationality. The unit of currency for our right brain, conversely, would be the image, because the right brain is preverbal.

So perhaps it is because of the combination of words and images in a readable form that comics does have this unique power. Now, of course, movies are a combination of words and images, but they have a completely different structure and completely different way of working. With a movie you are being dragged through the scenario at a relentless 24 frames a second. With a comic book you can dart your eyes back to a previous panel, or you can flip back a couple of pages to check whether there is some reference in the dialog to a scene that happened earlier.

You can also spend as much time as you want absorbing every image. This is especially true of something like Watchmen, where I was trying to take advantage of Dave Gibbons’ brilliant capacity as a former surveyor for including incredible amounts of detail in every tiny panel, so we could choreograph every little thing. The little symbols and signs appearing in the background, every little touch could be choreographed to the last detail, and we knew that the audience—because they’d be reading at their own pace—would be able to study each panel and to take in these almost subliminal details. Even the best director in the world, even a person as talented as Terry Gilliam, could not possibly get that amount of information into a few frames of a movie. Even if they did, it would have zipped past far too quickly. Because the audience at the movie theater is not in control of the experience in the same way somebody reading is.

One of my big objections to film as a medium is that it’s much too immersive, and I think that it turns us into a population of lazy and unimaginative drones. The absurd lengths that modern cinema and its CGI capabilities will go in order to save the audience the bother of imagining anything themselves is probably having a crippling effect on the mass imagination. You don’t have to do anything. With a comic, you’re having to do quite a lot. Even though you’ve got pictures there for you, you’re having to fill in all the gaps between the panels, you’re having to imagine characters voices. You’re having to do quite a lot of work. Not quite as much work as with a straight unillustrated book, but you’re still going to do quite a lot of work.

I think the amount of work we contribute to our enjoyment of any piece of art is a huge component of that enjoyment. I think that we like the pieces that engage us, that enter into a kind of dialog with us, whereas with film you sit there in your seat and it washes over you. It tells you everything, and you really don’t need to do a great deal of thinking. There are some films that are very, very good and that can engage the viewer in their narrative, in its mysteries, in its kind of misdirections. You can sometimes get films where a lot of it is happening in your head. Those are probably good films, but they’re not made very much anymore.

There seems to be an audience that demands everything be explained to them, that everything be easy. And I don’t think that’s doing us any good as a culture. The ease with which we can accomplish or conjure any possible imaginable scenario through CGI is almost directly proportionate to how uninterested we’re becoming in all of this. I can remember Ray Harryhausen’s animated skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts. I can remember Willis O’Brien’s King Kong. I can remember being awed at the artistry that had made those things possible. Yes, I knew how it was done. But it looked so wonderful. These days I can see half a million Orcs coming over a hill and I am bored. I am not impressed at all. Because, frankly, I could have gotten someone, a passerby on the street, who could have gotten the same effect if you’d given them half a million dollars to do it. It removes artistry and imagination and places money in the driver’s seat, and I think it’s a pretty straight equation—that there is an inverse relationship between money and imagination.

If you haven’t got any money, you’re going to need lots and lots of imagination. Which is why you’ll get brilliant movies by people working upon a shoestring, like the early John Waters movies. People are pushed into innovation by the restrictions of their budget. The opposite is true if they have $100 million, say, pulling a figure out of the air, to spend upon their film, then they somehow don’t see the need for giving it a decent story or decent storytelling. It seems like those values just go completely out the window. There’s an inverse relationship there. ”

More here.  I’m particularly excited about his future projects. 

Karen and I had an interesting conversation about the Watchmen film, fueled by Kevin Church’s thoughts on the matter.   I’m riding a fence on the whole thing, but it’s starting to chafe something wicked.

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~ by Zebtron A. Rama on February 24, 2009.

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