Alan Moore’s 10 Most Underrated Comics

Alan Moore is easily one of the finest writers who ever worked within the comic medium. From his career start in the 1980s onwards, he’s managed to redefine not just the superhero genre, but the entire comics medium as a whole, reestablishing various comic book conventions and developing a standard every comic writer after would strive for achieving.

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Moore’s accomplishments and influence in the comic industry is undeniable, with many of his titles, such as Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and From Hell, remaining some of the finest comic books ever produced. Even his lesser-known titles of him, such as Providence, A Small Killing, and cinema purgatory, show Moore’s immeasurable talent for creating entertaining stories that grip readers.

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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen


The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is one of Moore’s most ambitious projects. Designed to be an Avengers-type project set in Victorian England, Moore composes a ripping yarn of an adventure story that casts numerous pre-existing characters from his literature, film, poetry, and comics into his fictional world.

Spanning several volumes, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen follows the titular League—composed of Bram Stoker’s Mina Harker, H. Rider Haggard’s Allan Quatermain, and Jules Vernes’ Captain Nemo, among others—battling fiction’s most notorious antagonists. It’s a unique, entertaining project that takes place within numerous decades, exploring the way fiction and entertainment itself has changed over the years (from the 1950s Cold War-era spy thriller to Moore’s parodic critique of the Harry Potter series).


Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?


Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?  - 10 Superman Comics to Read before Batman v Superman

Moore produced quite a number of stories for DC in the 1980s’ that re-examined some of the company’s most notable superheroes. In Batman: The Killing Joke, Moore provided one of the most famous potential backstories for the Joker, examining the Clown Prince of Crime’s love-hate relationship with Batman. In the second, Moore concluded the Silver Age-era stories of Superman, imagining a story where Superman battles his most famous villains one final time.

In Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? Moore writes an amazingly powerful story about Superman as he prepares to meet his end, feeling like a dramatic precursor to Grant Morrison’s all star superman, which handled very similar issues about the Man of Steel’s mortality. It’s Moore’s work on stories like this that established him as a superhero deconstructionist, paving the way for writers like Tom King, seen as the modern equivalent of Moore today.


Providence


A confused man stands in the middle of a leaf storm

In terms of Moore’s past work, Providence serves as only a small part of a bigger picture, existing as a prequel/sequel to Moore’s previous comics, Courtyard and Neonomicon.

Inspired by the cosmic horror stories of HP Lovecraft, Moore’s three titles asks the question, “What if Lovecraft’s monsters were real and existed in the world today?” In ProvidenceMoore transports readers back in time to Lovecraft’s era, following a closed homosexual writer in New York researching the fabled Book of the Dead, the Necromonicon. It’s a startling, otherworldly comic that is an incredibly dark entry in Moore’s canon, but one that earned an incredibly positive response for readers.


cinema purgatory


Images of Cinema Purgatorio covers

One of Moore’s final comics he released before retiring from the medium in 2018, cinema purgatory examines the subject of film in an anthology comic format, complete with an overarching storyline set in an enigmatic, decrepit movie theater that exists in a dream-like state.

cinema purgatory was a comic anthology that also had the talents of Garth Ennis and Max Brooks behind it, but it’s Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s comics that are perhaps the most entertaining. In each issue, Moore analyzes various movie genres (the screwball comedy, the Roman epic, the Western), mixing real-life, backstage Hollywood scandals with fiction.


The Ballad of Halo Jones


Halo Jones by Alan Moore

In one of Moore’s earliest original comic books, The Ballad of Halo Jones centers around the life of the eponymous Jones, a woman living in the 50th century.

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Spanning three books, Halo Jones is seen as one of the crowning achievements of 2000 AD, the publisher responsible for releasing the story, and an early work that demonstrated Moore’s capabilities as a writer. Not only did Moore co-create a third-dimensional, fictional, futuristic world as seen in the series, but he also established himself as a writer capable of producing comics with numerous tones and emotions, ranging from light-hearted comedy to darker, more complex raw emotion.

A Small Killing


Moore may be known for the mind behind Watchmen or for delivering some of the greatest issues of Swamp Thing out there, but when he does horror, he does it incredibly well. TO small killing concerns the life of a successful ad executive in 1980s’ England whose life is interrupted by the appearance of a strange child who appears to continuously follow him, making the executive question his entire life and all the choices he made leading him to where he is.

A Small Killing is an existential horror story where, rather than having monsters or knife-wielding lunatics stalking the main character, it instead forces the character to look inside himself, coming to terms with who really is as a person, and whether his former, childhood self would be proud of what he’s accomplished.

Maxwell the Magic Cat


When he first started off, Moore struggled to find work within the comic medium, initially making ends meet by working as a cartoonist for a Northampton newspaper and producing his own weekly strip, titled Maxwell the Magic Cat, under the name, Jill de Ray.

Like much of Moore’s later work, Maxwell the Magic Cat never truly read like a simple cartoon strip. Instead, Moore used the medium to experiment with the form, producing a cartoon that was often dark, but always humorously clever (often poking fun at current news stories of the time).

Night Raven


Image from Night Raven

A character that originally haunted the pages of Marvel UK’s comic hulk series, Moore’s work on Night Raven illustrated his ability to rework and revitalize existing comic book characters that had fallen out of favor with readers (as Moore would do with his re-examination of Miracleman and Swamp Thing).


Originally, Night Raven appeared in a black-and-white series of comics set in the crime-ridden world of Prohibition-era New York focusing on Night Raven, a vigilante who branded his signature logo on the foreheads of criminals. By the time Moore got ahold of the character, the format of the comic was primarily prose, with Moore tweaking the character to resemble an unhinged, ageless lunatic who began punishing criminals with increasing brutality and violence.

Brought To Light


Still image from Alan Moore's brought to light

Famously being a self-professed anarchist in his political beliefs, Moore has always remained critical of government policies and agencies. In 1988, this animosity would result in his two-part anthology comic, Brought to Light, exploring the influence America’s government (especially the CIA) has had on various countries throughout the world.

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Divided into two main stories, Brought to Light is a heavily-researched story that explores America’s foreign policy initiatives, especially in regards to the Vietnam War, the Iran-Contra affair, and America’s relationship with multiple South American dictators. However, rather than being a dry, research-based comic, Moore injects his signature experimentalism into the story, framing the first story, Shadowplay: The Secret Teamaround a drunk, anthropomorphic American Eagle, who serves as a personification of the CIA.

Fashion Beast


Fashion Beast cover

Originally, Moore’s comic, Fashion Beastwas based around a film script he wrote that acted as a modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast, set in the fashion industry. In 2012, the script was converted into a comic, exploring the rags-to-riches story of a young coat checker who becomes the muse for a mysterious, reclusive fashion designer.

From the script alone, it’s hard to say whether Fashion Beast would’ve worked well as a film. As a comic, however, it works ingeniously well, serving as an intelligent, complex exploration of the classic Beauty and the Beast story.

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