Alan Moore created Harold Potter long before he turned him into the Antichrist

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League2009Cover.194535 Alan Moore created Harold Potter long before he turned him into the Antichrist
Okay, so as the world has just noticed, in LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: Century 2009 we finally see Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neil’s multiverse-spanning pop culture adventure reach the current day (or close to it) and since the current day isn’t in the public domain, there’s good old-fashioned satire in the tradition of about 8000 previous books. The Independent’s Laura Sneddon has the lowdown:

What then of the potential controversy? When dealing with references to other fictional works, albeit in the guise of parody and gentle repurposing, there are certain points on the fictional compass that lend themselves more easily to screaming headlines. The prophesying Andrew Norton, Prisoner of London, warned in 1910 of, “a quarter platform over, the franchise express, gathering steam.” At no point does Moore use the words “Harry” or “Potter”, but a magical train hidden between platforms at King’s Cross station, leading to a magical school where there are flashbacks of psychotic adolescent rage and whimpering children pleading for their life, all strewn with molten corpses, does rather suggest a link to the Boy Who Lived. A hidden scar and a mentor named Riddle, though possessed as he is by the real villain, completes the picture.


Okay as headlines have been proclaiming “Harry Potter is the Antichrist,” at least in the allegorical sense. Now before everyone gets up in the false equivalencies dudgeon, this is not the same as BEFORE WATCHMEN. JK Rowling has not gone on record as asking Moore not to do it. It’s a parody/literary pastiche of the kind that has been done since the dawn of the novel. And sure, you can say it’s in bad taste or whatever but it is not the same thing as jerking around your best writer for 25 years.

As soon as DC does a Harry Potter comic while JK Rowling stands on the sidelines complaining, we’ll talk.

Whatever you think of that aspect of LOEG CENTURY 2009, it is NOT the first time Moore has messed with Harry Potter—or in this case. Harold Potter. As we’ve noted in the past, in LOST GIRLS, the erotic comic by Moore and Melinda Gebbie, the grown Wendy’s husband is named Harold Potter—a name chosen many, many years before Rowling had thought up the boy who lived in her post-divorce haze. Harold Potter was present in the first version of LOST GIRLS which was published beginning in 1991.

LOST GIRLS features grown versions of Wendy Darling, Dorothy Gale, and Wonderland’s Alice meeting up in a pre-WWI hotel and having lots and lots of filthy sex together and with whatever else will join in. Potter is portrayed as a fusty middle-class man who has a joyless post-Victorian marriage with Wendy.

201206181235 Alan Moore created Harold Potter long before he turned him into the Antichrist

This proves that if anything Alan Moore definitely has tapped into the mysterious slurry of literary zeitgeist (a theme somewhat dealt with in PROMETHEA). How? Blame it on the rain. Blame it on the a-a-alcohol. Blame it on Glycon, the snake god that Moore supposedly worships.

Comments

  1. James V says:

    Moore never names his Antichrist? I can think of three boy magicians in series set near enough to contemporary times. Harry Potter, Tim Hunter, and Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomancer.

    No, wait, I forgot Diane Duane’s Young Wizards stories. And I’m fairly sure there are more.

    Likewise, there is a literary tradition of using the fictional characters of others for satire, even if the name has to be slightly changed to do so, with a wink and a nod and a tap on the nose. It sounds as if that’s what is being done here. All the creators on Before Watchmen have the chops to do the same, no question. I doubt they’re doing so in BW, though, if I’m wrong, i wouldn’t be averse to being corrected.

  2. Safe bet he didn’t parody The Comedian.

  3. I don’t believe the links drawn to BW in this post are necessary. I suspect most of The Beat’s readers recognize the difference between satire and other works. The analogy would hold for Harry Potter if, for example, Bloomsbury hired Orson Scott Card and/or Jim Butcher to write new Harry Potter novels despite the objections of J.K. Rowling. That’s not what Moore is doing here at all.

  4. The Beat says:

    Rich….

    Have you ever actually READ an Alan Moore comment thread on the internet?

  5. Unfortunately, yes.

  6. Warner Brothers owns the trademarks to all the Harry Potter characters and elements.

    JKR owns the copyrights to the texts themselves as well as the publishing rights.

    What could WB do with Harry Potter that would be in their rights, which wouldn’t violate JKR’s rights, but she may get up in arms about? Would they be limited to making toys and merchandise? Just curious.

  7. Yeah, I think the satire aspect immediately squashes the false equivalencies. This is more analogous to that old plan Grant Morrison had of “Watchmen-izing” the Charlton characters in one of DC’s 52 Earths. Those would be satire/homage/literary exploration like “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.”

  8. Bit of a spoiler but the name of the Antichrist is written in Century 2009, and it isn’t HP (of course!). The references to the predecessors and analogues of HP are, I think, part of the larger meaning.

  9. I gave up on LOEG after black dossier. It dawned on me that it is nothing more than overdressed fanfic. I dont get anything anymore out of tying other authors creations together other than ‘thats neat’.
    But also just because you state that this is different than BW doesnt necessarily make it so hence invalidating what can be a very valid argument.
    This whole debate does remind me of those unwritten rules of baseball that can be contorted to fit the eye of the offended yet are so vague that it doesnt stand up scrutiny.

  10. Synsidar says:

    But also just because you state that this is different than BW doesnt necessarily make it so hence invalidating what can be a very valid argument.

    Moore is using Harold Potter, et al., like he used the women in LOST GIRLS, to say some things and give the story a purpose. In BEFORE WATCHMEN, the writers were given the WATCHMEN characters and told, “Here. Have them do things, because some readers want to see them doing things that are entertaining.” The purposes of the stories are very, very different.

    That desire just to see characters in stories isn’t limited to comics—George R.R. Martin has heard complaints from fans wanting to see more novels in his A Song of Ice and Fire series—but many superhero comics fans don’t connect what the hero does in the story to the writer. They just want to see him in action.

    I question whether there’s any real point in writing a story which only reassures the reader that the hero is an icon. If the reader knows exactly what the hero will do when faced with a choice, the hero never makes a serious mistake, never has a serious lapse in judgment—what is anyone not in love with the hero supposed to get out of the story? Betty Crocker and Wonder Woman are both icons of sorts, but nobody has the need to see Betty Crocker in stories validating her status as an icon.

    SRS

  11. swampy says:

    Sean T. Collins puts it best:

    [These would be the same thing] if and only if Moore released this issue as “BEFORE HARRY POTTER,” starring all the actual Harry Potter characters rather than parody versions of them, using the Harry Potter trade dress, through Harry Potter’s publisher, exploiting a loophole in a contract he arranged with Rowling, over Rowling’s explicit and unequivocal objections, following a two-decade string of mistreatment and broken promises.

  12. “As soon as DC does a Harry Potter comic…”

    Not counting Books of Magic, which got there first, in any case.

    But, yes. These things are not the same.

  13. There should be an app that just reposts the same weatherbeaten pro and anti-Moore arguments any time Alan Moore is mentioned anywhere in the online comicsverse.

  14. I LOVED 1910, really enjoyed 1969 for different reasons; it had such a bleak and horrible taste that was geniusly contrasted with goofy characters running around the central characters… and I can’t wait for 2009. Almost every character in LoEG is a metaphor (much like Watchmen, Miracleman or Swamp Thing) and to see them, as Victorian archetypes mirrored by and adapting (but mostly failing) through the lens of different eras is really exemplary. It’s social commentary without being didactic. I cannot wait to read this!

  15. Between Black Kiss II and this, I’m in heaven.

  16. I’ve never been an enormous fan of Harry Potter, but I don’t really see where Moore’s coming from in his approach to the character. Is Potter REALLY a good example of something that exists as a franchise first and a character second? Isn’t he about as creator- and story-driven as a highly successful story could ever get? If his point is that the scale of success available to modern characters is inherently self-destructive to their artistic merit, I’d seriously question whether Potter really exemplifies that premise better than Sherlock Holmes or Dracula.

  17. Johnny Memeonic says:

    Trying to wave off Moore’s use of other characters as satire is just that: a hand wave. It’s not what he’s using the characters for that’s the point. The point is the very fact that he’s using the characters. Even Warren Ellis made all his Planetary references into somewhat different characters.

    It’s also worth noting that nobody called League a satire until the “Moore’s only using public domain characters” arguement collapsed.

    Note that this is not an arguement for Before Watchmen. I consider Watchmen a complete story and have no interest in any new material. I just disagree that with anyone on a high horse about characters being grabbed from Moore without permission when he regularly engages in the same practice.

  18. Rich Larson says:

    I would agree Johnny M. The LOEG stories always actually used the characters from old stories in new ways. Part of the cleverness was that they were actually consistent with their original appearances and were a (possible) modern continuation of their stories.

    Using the non-public domain characters (James Bond for example) was pushing it. Using JK Rowling’s characters and just changing the names a little seems wrong given Moore’s objections as to how his characters are used. Maybe it’s legal and maybe it’s a good story, but it still rubs me the wrong way.

    I think Unwritten uses the idea of a Harry Potter character to explore it’s themes, but you know it’s not the character. LOEG has always actually used the characters. That might legally be parody, but the stories have never read like satires to me.

  19. MBunge says:

    Either it’s wrong to use the creations of others for your own use or it’s not. You can’t say it’s okay for this reason but not for that reason because, who the hell are any of us to say Reason X is better than Reason Y?

    And yes, LOEG has never really been a satire and using Harry Potter as an example of “franchise before character” is wildly off the mark.

    Mike

  20. Of all the people in this thread on Rich jas actually read the issue.

    So let’s hold off on the lynching party for a little bit.

    Also intelligence test:

    True or False?

    Alan Moore did not write a book called “Before Harry Potter” that was all about the childhoods of Professors McGonagall and Snape.

    (Note: I would totally read this if he did.)

  21. Don Murphy says:

    1- The note about selling Film rights before publication is laughable- ALan sold them to me YEARS before the first issue ever cam out
    2- You mention false equivalencies and then make them yourself. Shame on you. No one could ever make another Harry Potter because the unemployed housewife didn’t sell her rights to a corporation for an increased page rate. Alan Moore does not own Watchmen and never did. Not equivalent situations.
    3-Rich here is a tissue, there is brown on your nostrils. Your desire to be liked by someone who bans you from your own comic book store is shockingly pathetic.

  22. Mikael says:

    “I just thought that they were all lying around, up for grabs, and I hadn’t heard of anything else that was being done with them. They were just a nice, innocent little bunch of characters, which is always fair game, really, and there was a self-contained universe with four or five characters, and I thought it’d be nice to just take that and do whatever you wanted with it.”

    “…he really didn’t want to give his babies to the butchers, and make no mistake about it, that’s what it would have been.”

    “What would be horrendous, and DC could legally do it, would be to have Rorschach crossing over with Batman or something like that”

    “if the characters have outlived their natural life span and DC doesn’t want to do anything with them, then after a year we’ve got them and we can do what we want with them, which I’m perfectly happy with.”

    Alan Moore’s (and Dave Gibbons’) own past words negate everything current Alan Moore tries to spin.

  23. Mikael says:

    BTW – so nice to see a comments section that doesn’t blindly follow the tsk tsk wagging finger of the article. I too found that part of the article inappropriate.

  24. After having recently read the first two books of this newest LOEG series, I am completely uninterested in reading this third one. What an unentertaining slog it’s turned into, so much so that I have absolutely no interest in seeing what happens to these characters we’ve been following for so long.

    Not that I’m upset with Moore or anything – he wrote the books he wanted to write, obviously. Other than the dubious fun of picking out all the various characters he sprinkles through every page, they just don’t connect with me at all.

  25. @Mikael
    If you take all of those words out of context, sure.

  26. Rich Larson says:

    The Beat Herself:

    I don’t think I’m lynching anybody. I have read all the other LOEG books. I thought Moore using Voldemort in the last issue was unfair to an active author (it wasn’t parody, it was a scene from Voldemort’s youth) and does undercut the Watchmen argument where I do think Moore is being treated unfairly. Those are my opinions for what they’re worth and I thought reasonable enough for a comments section.

  27. Sam Thielman says:

    I suppose only an idiot would think this comment would put the whole issue to rest, but I’m posting it anyway in faint hope.

    Alan Moore: Other people’s characters, right. Yeah, I’ve heard that. Now, what needs explaining is that you’re talking about two or three different things, there. With The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, you’re talking about a literary phenomenon that has nothing to do with comics. I can get to that in a moment. But, in terms of comics, when I entered the comics industry, I was given characters that the company owned, which were on their last legs–ones which were so lame that they were practically on the verge of cancellation.

    Swamp Thing had been, I suppose, created by Len Wein (although in retrospect it really wasn’t much more than a regurgitation of Hillman Comics’ The Heap with a bit of Rod Serling purple prose wrapped around it). When I took over that character at Len Wein’s suggestion, I did my best to make it an original character that didn’t owe a huge debt to previously existing swamp monsters. And when I finished doing that book, yes, of course I understood that other people were going to take it over. That went for characters that I had created, like John Constantine. I understood that when I had finished with that character that it would just be absorbed into the general DC stockpile and I believe that I’ve expressed my admiration. I think that Brian Azzarello’s editor had heard that I quite liked the job that he did with Richard Corben on Hellblazer and he phoned up asking me for a quote. I don’t know if they ever used it, but I gave them a fulsome one.

    This is because those were characters the company owned and I understood that. And I understood that whether I had created the characters like John Constantine, or whether I’d simply recreated them beyond all recognition like Swamp Thing, that these would just go into the general comic company’s stockpiles. I’ve never objected to that. I mean, I don’t think it is necessarily the fairest thing, but I’ve not objected to that.

    The thing was, that wasn’t what we were told Watchmen was.

    We were told that Watchmen was going to be a title that we owned and that we would determine the destinies of. If we didn’t want there to be more than 12 issues, there wouldn’t be more than 12 issues. We thought we controlled and we owned these characters. Now, there is a huge difference between the two of those things.

    Do I continually tap on about people who kind of take characters that I’ve created or stuff like that? If it was under those terms, no, I don’t think I do.

  28. Sam Thielman says:

    The rest of the interview is here, and it’s quite good: http://www.seraphemera.org/seraphemera_books/AlanMoore_Page5.html

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