Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Steve Moore - The Overlooked

Unlike his namesake, Alan Moore, Steve has never been credited as being a genius or for producing masterpieces like Marvelman, V for Vendetta, Swamp Thing or Watchmen.
Unlike his fellow brit, Neil Gaiman, Steve has never been credited for creating a 90's yardstick like the Sandman series by which all mainstream comics have since been judged.
He has never created lauded series like Transmetropolitan or Preacher and yet he has been writing quality comic book stories for nearly 38 years.

He is one of the same wave of comic book creators that hit the British comic buying public in the early to mid 70s but unlike Pat Mills, Mick McMahon, Kevin O'Neill or John Wagner, hasn't, apart from possible acclaim for co-creating Axel Pressbutton, received anything like the praise, plaudits or profile that those gentlemen have received.
He is praised by Alan Moore for being Alan's mentor and for being the man who helped Alan get a crack at the art form that has made him, if not wealthy then certainly, famed through out the comic book world.
So how come that somebody with such obvious ability and talent hasn't risen to whatever heights it is that his fellow Brits have risen too (and enjoyed) during the 80s and 90s?

Simple answer I suspect is that he is very happy and contented doing precisely what he is doing.
You see Steve is one of the many creative forces in the comic book industry that are utilised by various editors as "staff writers". These are the guys that editors call on to write a 12 page story or a filler of maybe 4 pages. It might be a story concerning an existing character like Judge Dread or it might just be a one off short story. Whatever, Steve, or somebody very much like him will be called upon and expected to produce, within days the finished article.

Easy huh?

Like hell it is.

Steve's career started way back in 1967 working at Odhams Press (where incidentally my father worked) as an office boy (not my father - Steve). He eventually became sub-editor working on POW! and SMASH the UK based comic producers that, in the late 60s, reprinted US Marvel strips.

I was pretty much unaware of Steve until the early 80s during his wonderful stint at the equally wonderful, and very much missed, Warrior. I missed his early stuff on Abslom Daak -Dalek Killer and also the stories he created for Dez Skinn's House of Hammer/Halls of Horror. In fact, truth to tell, the very first time I became aware of him was as Pedro Henry when, along with the other ludicrously named Curt Vile (it was the age of punk), he wrote the Roscoe Moscow series The Stars my Degredation, for music magazine Sounds. But of course at that stage I didn't know that Pedro Henry and Steve Moore were one and the same person, any more than I knew that Curt File was in point of fact Alan Moore. But of course having said all of that I WASN'T AWARE that Steve was Pedro and therefore didn’t make the association until years later.

Warrior was a milestone in comic book creativity not just in the UK but also across the atlantic in America. It re-introduced us to Marvelman and more importantly it introduced us to the major talented Alan Moore.

Alan is notoriously prolific in his output and at times was scripting up to 3 strips for Warrior. I won’t go into the strips' individual names as this piece is dedicated to the other Moore, Steve, but suffice to say Alan caught the world's eye with his stories and his huge output. Often forgotten but Steve was equally prolific writing at times not only Laser Eraser and Pressbutton but also Shandor-Demon Stalker, Zirk, Ektryn, Prestor John, the occasional short story and Twilight World. In fact toward the sad demise of Warrior it was Steve and not Alan whose work was featured the most. In fairness to Alan this was in part due to the dispute with Marvel Comics over the rights to use the name Marvelman but nonetheless it was the lesser known Moore who kept the ship afloat with a clutch of stories that anyone in their right mind would have been proud to put their name to as creative writer.

Once, during a rather transparently one way interview conducted by Pedro Henry and published by Warrior, Steve is called a hack. Rather than being affronted Steve says that he can hack - in fact he has often had to write scripts for TV adaptations, Westerns, Humour, Romance and loads of other jobs that he has little or no interest in. But as a writer, as he so pointedly states, he has to eat so if you want to swan around telling people that you are a writer and living off that reflected glory - fine! But if you are someone who loves to write then get on with it. Write.

And that is something Steve does so very well.

Unlike so many writers, especially Americans, who rely either on the ability of the artist to solely tell the story with their art and then they, the scripter, add text and dialogue to fill in the spaces, Steve does the whole nine yards. Plot, script, dialogue. All methodically written and then presented to the artist for his input and interpretation.
Steve’s pacing and structure is unbelivably good. He doesn’t use any uneccessary plot devices like thought ballons or overblown speech ballons. His writing is concise and all, well nearly all, of the scripts he produces have had an empathy with the artist he is working with. The end result is a comic strip that moves along at a cracking pace.

I said earlier that Steve hasn't been credited for producing any masterpieces or indeed comic books that have had either huge appeal or impact on the medium. Not strictly true. Warriors was popular and there were three reasons for Warriors popularity.
Marvelman. V for Vendetta. Laser Eraser and Pressbutton.
The esteemed Alan Moore wrote the former two whilst Pedro Henry wrote the latter.
And of course Pedro Henry is Steve Moore's pseudonym.
After Warriors demise, comic publisher Eclipse produced and published the excellent cult series in the American format. The series only lasted for a year which was a huge shame. It could and should have been as big as Judge Dread.

Secretly I wish that Steve would produce that masterpiece. His very own Maus or Watchmen or The Nikopol Trilogy. He more (excuse the pun) than has the talent, I just don’t think he has the desire or even sees the need to do it. After all when you are good at something and happy doing that one thing why go and screw it? I also wish that we could have seen more of Twilght World but hey ho some things are never meant to be.

Another string to Steve's bow is Fortean Times of which at one time he was associate editor and founding contributor.

He is currently working on Alan Moore's ABC line of comics. Writing and producing some sparkling stuff on Alan’s Tom Strong's Terrific Tales.
Long may it continue.

I can still dream of the masterpiece though can't I?

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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