A few words of explanation about this interview: On the 26th of November 2013 there was an event called An Evening with Alan Moore, where Moore was in conversation with biographer Lance Parkin, whose biography of Moore, Magic Words, had just been published by Aurum Press. The evening also included two short films, Act of Faith and Jimmy’s End, both part of a larger cycle of works, as well as some of Moore’s collaborators taking the stage, and a Q&A session with the audience. The evening seemed to be a great success – at least, I was there, and it seemed so to me, and to anyone else I talked to – but one of the attendees was not happy, and took to Twitter to say so. He Tweeted ‘Really wish An Evening with Alan Moore hadn’t involved four white people on stage defending the “golliwog” as a “strong black character” – Followed by a short film about a young woman stripping, dressing in “slutty clothes” and killing herself on screen – Followed by Moore insulting Gordon Brown based on mental and physical disability – I then left the venue. Much Internet conversation ensued, and much condemnation was poured on the heads of Moore and his associates, both for the fact that they did what they supposedly did, and that nobody had taken them to task for it. The Twitterer also didn’t take them to task for any of it, mind you, although he had originally intended to ask a question: ‘I was going to tell Moore I found Killing Joke very problematic in its representation of Barbara Gordon (shooting, sex assault) and ask if he could go back in time, if he would have written TKJ differently in that respect. But after the applause that greeted his (to me) gratuitous, exploitative, slut-shaming, disturbingly graphic short film about a woman’s suicide, I didn’t think it was the right time,’ presumably fearing he’d be lynched by the baying hordes of Moore fanatics. People stated opinions. Sides were taken. I was involved in some discussions about it myself, which led me to volunteer to actually ask Alan Moore some of the questions it was being said nobody dared ask him I’ve interviewed him before, numerous times, but I was still quite nervous asking him about these, but it seemed somebody had to, so it might as well be me. I got my answers, but I got quite a bit extra as well. those ‘minor points of my own that I’d like to raise‘ he mentions. So, judge for yourself.
Alan Moore: Pádraig, thanks for your list of questions. It may take me a while to complete this, with the cruellest season upon us, but hopefully I’ll be able to answer all of the issues you mention to at least my own satisfaction, following which, if you’ll permit me, there are a couple of minor points of my own that I’d like to raise.
The Golliwogg / Galley-Wag
Pádraig Ó Méalóid: There is a character in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen stories called the Galley-Wag, which is based on Florence Upton’s 1895 Golliwogg character. First of all, adding together a few things Kevin O’Neill has said in various interviews, I’m surmising that he wanted to include the character after he read about Florence Upton, and that you were initially resistant to this, but eventually agreed to use him. Is this broadly correct?
AM: On the issue of the origins of the Golliwog or Galley-Wag character in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, your own summary is largely accurate, although you may be overstating or overestimating my initial ‘resistance’ to the character’s usage. I certainly wouldn’t want it to look as if I were suffering from liberal qualms over the character’s inclusion, nor that I only gave in to the pressures of my South London Irish racist collaborator. For the record, as I remember the incident or incidents, Kevin had initially alerted me to the potential that he saw in Florence Upton’s Golliwog(g) while we were still working on volume two of the work under discussion. This would presumably have been because it was a striking character that Kevin had stumbled across in his often strenuous research, and one that had origins in the late 19th century period we were then working with. It may have even been Kevin’s original notion that the character could be used in that second volume’s main narrative in some way, although in the event all we could manage was an oblique reference in the New Travellers’ Almanac which accompanied that second book. Upon seeing the character and hearing Kevin’s explanation of his origins, I immediately felt that this could be a very useful and engaging figure to introduce to the overall League continuity, and my only misgivings were based upon story logic and aesthetic considerations. (This is not to say that issues of ethics or politics were not considered, of course, merely that I had absolutely no misgivings in those areas.) The logical and aesthetic difficulties which the character presented revolved mainly about how a character with the appearance of Upton’s creation could be rationalised as a semi-credible entity without sacrificing the fiercely independent qualities of the original, say by making him a robot toy of some kind. Once I’d arrived at the conceit of an escapee from a hypothetical Baryonic or ‘Dark Matter’ cosmos interwoven with our own, arriving at our previously-established North Pole-located Toyland and being given his ‘Dutch Doll’ automata by the robotic Queen Olympia (from Hoffmann’s The Sandman), any further problems regarding the character had evaporated, and we were able to use him (I think interestingly) at the conclusion of The Black Dossier. It would have been around the time of the Dossier’s publication that I addressed these issues for the first time, although I suppose by modern standards that is quite a while back and memories may need refreshing.
PÓM: The golliwogg is generally seen these days as being a racist character. Why did you decide that you wanted to use a character with a problematic history like that in your work?
AM: Without wishing to appear pedantic, I think that the Golliwog these days is seen as an insulting racial stereotype rather than a racist character. A racist character, i.e. a character perceived to be racist, would be The Black Dossier’s Bulldog Drummond or even Rider Haggard’s Allan Quatermain. But if you’re asking why I wanted to use a character largely perceived as a grotesque racial caricature, I would say that the answer is because Kevin and myself felt that we had identified a considerable gulf between how the character was originally presented and intended, and how the character had come to be viewed. Yes, I am of course aware that among nostalgic right-wingers such as Carol Thatcher there is the often-expressed sentiment that the later Minstrel-attired racist-slur toy should be returned to our toyshops and marmalade labels, and that it’s exclusion is a sign of political correctness gone mad. I would have hoped that it might be fairly obvious, with a little thought, that neither I nor Kevin are likely to be of that persuasion, but it appears not. What we perceived in Upton’s original was a strong, likeable and positive figure, presumably some manner of animated toy (although this would presumably have been one reasonably unique and personal to Upton herself, since the mass-production of subtly but crucially altered Golliwog toys only followed the publication of her stories), black-identified if only by virtue of his skin colour, during a period when the only other supposedly sympathetic black figures in fiction would be Nigger Jim or Uncle Tom.
I presume, for want of any earlier sources, that Upton had given her character the name ‘Golliwog’ purely because she liked the slightly nonsensical way that the word sounded, its most probable derivation being a word such as pollywog (which, lest there be any misunderstanding, is a word which has only ever meant ‘tadpole’ since its Medieval English origins as ‘polwygle’, and which has apparently never been used, either in the U.K. or the U.S., as a slang expression of any sort, let alone one with racial connotations). The later English 20th century usage of the word ‘wog’ as a derogatory term for almost any non-white person, while often glossed by apologists as an acronym for ‘Western Oriental Gentleman’ or the like, is clearly an appropriation of the name of Upton’s character but now given negative racial connotations that the author never intended, and now clad in minstrel attire to make racial mockery the only point of a figure that, up until then, had seemingly been intended to express the exact opposite. Upton dressed her creation in the black suit that was the standard formal attire of her day. One might suppose this to be a shorthand suggesting that he was a dignified and respectable figure. His courage and strength of character were ably demonstrated in his picaresque adventures, as was his intellectual acumen. My own thinking, and I would imagine Kevin’s thinking on the character, was that here we had a character which in its day was positive, bold, innovative, and the creation of a typically overlooked woman creator who had quite possibly wished to situate an admirable and loveable black figure in the imaginations of the white Victorian children who comprised her readership. It was our belief that the character could be handled in such a way as to return to him the sterling qualities of Upton’s creation, while stripping him of the racial connotations than had been grafted onto the Golliwog figure by those who had misappropriated and wilfully misinterpreted her work. While we felt that we had succeeded in what were well-intentioned aims, such an interpretation can only ever be subjective. It may have been the several years that have elapsed between our initial introduction of the character and this present round of debate, during which the Galley-Wag appeared to have elicited little or no controversy, which have led us to believe that our intentions had been largely understood by our generally insightful readership.
As for the use of ‘problematic’ figures in the pages of The League, a great number of the literary figures which we’ve appropriated or re-imagined in the course of the book, have been to my mind every bit as problematic as the Galley-Wag. They just haven’t been black. As an example I remain somewhat unsure, in light of these current issues, as to why our use of Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu in volume one seemed to have passed by without a murmur, given that here we have a character who was actually intended by his original author as a crude racial caricature of the most negative and xenophobic strain, and for whom our only act of rehabilitation was to suggest that Rohmer’s ‘Devil Doctor’ may have been motivated by a hatred of the British justifiably inculcated during his childhood in the years of the bestial and shameful Opium Wars. And yet, hardly a word said, as I recall. I would have thought that an attempt to, say, revive the Fu Manchu movie franchise, unreconstructed, would have been at least as unwelcome as a revival of the post-Upton Golliwog, but there may be something that I am missing or which I have failed to examine here. The nature of The League is that almost all of the interesting characters from fiction – or at least, all of those characters interesting to us – can be seen as problematic from a contemporary viewpoint. In our attempts to reinterpret these characters and to make them viable for a modern narrative, we have arrived at some solutions which, inevitably, some individuals are almost certain to find offensive. And while such individuals are of course entitled to their opinion, I don’t see that this should necessarily influence decisions made by a work’s authors who are likely to have thought about the matter at length and to have come to different conclusions. I would cite the minor internet controversy that was apparently generated by our use of the ‘Jimmy’ character in The Black Dossier. Apparently, while it was our explicit intention to reinvest the character with all of the unexamined misogyny and sadism of Ian Fleming’s still-popular original, there was a certain degree of outcry from persons presumably only acquainted with the character from his screen appearances, who felt that we had desecrated a beloved icon of their adolescence by implying unpleasant characteristics of which their hero was entirely innocent. As I say, these people were all entitled to their opinion, but from the perspective of what we were attempting to achieve – the prompting of a re-examination of this murderous, womanising and very popular masculine role-model – that opinion was completely useless and I feel that we were right to ignore it.
PÓM: How do you respond to the contention that it is not the place of two white men to try to ‘reclaim’ a character like the golliwogg?
AM: The idea that it is not the place of two white men to ‘reclaim’ (although I’m not certain that’s exactly what we were doing) or otherwise utilise a contentious black character, unless I am to understand that this principle only applies to white men using black characters, would appear to be predicated upon an assumption that no author or artist should presume to use characters who are of a different race to themselves. Since I can think of no obvious reason why this principle should only relate to the issue of race – and specifically to black people and white people – then I assume it must be extended to characters of different ethnicities, genders, sexualities, religions, political persuasions and, possibly most uncomfortably of all for many people considering these issues, social classes. I cannot assume, of course, that my perception of such a prohibition as self-evidently ridiculous and unworkable is one that will be shared unanimously, and indeed this would appear not to be the case.
It may be some variant upon this way of thinking that has for so long precluded positive representations of women, non-white people and people of alternative sexual orientations from most entertainment media (not historically well-staffed by women or people of different ethnicities or publically-stated sexualities), although upon consideration it’s probably more likely the result of simple ignorance and ordinary unexamined prejudice. Surely, rather than some rather poorly-conceived proscription being applied to the depiction of all differing groups of people across all of the arts, it would be more sensible to judge each separate occasion individually and on its own terms? Actually, whether it’s the most sensible approach or not, in any practical sense it is the only way that these issues have been judged in the past, and lacking any non-totalitarian alternative I imagine that it is the method by which such things will be judged for a considerable distance into the future. It is perfectly proper and correct that our interpretation of the Golliwog should be interrogated and questioned, as it was with the character’s first appearance some few years ago, when I believed these issues to have been addressed and that our motives had been both generally understood and generally accepted.
I hope it’s not improper or untoward of me to confess that I have found the ready assumption of my alleged racial insensitivity or thoughtlessness to be a little disappointing. I’m not expecting anyone to be that interested in my disappointment, but it is a subject that I’ll be returning to later on in this discourse, so I thought that I should flag it up in advance for anyone uncertain as to where all of this is inexorably leading. Returning to the question, as to whether it is ‘permissible’ for people of one kind to depict people of another (and, again, asking why none of this seems to have applied to our ‘reclaiming’ of Dr. Fu Manchu), I submit that if this restriction were universally adopted, we would have had no authors from middle-class backgrounds who were able to write about the situation of the lower classes, which would have effectively ruled out almost all authors since William Shakespeare (whose rarity as an example of a writer from an apparently working class background is attested by the number of theoreticians from more elevated social groups who would have it that his work could only possibly have been composed by a member of the aristocracy). While I might have winced on many occasions as a middle-class author such as Martin Amis presents his (at least to my mind) lazy and offensive studies of a vulnerable underclass, I would certainly hesitate before proposing any imposition of an ideology that would also exclude the works of Charles Dickens, Gerald Kersh or any of several hundred other fine writers. I understand that it may not be considered good form to suggest that class issues are as important as issues of race, gender or sexuality, despite the fact that from my own perspective they seem perhaps even more fundamental and crucially relevant. After all, while in the West after many years of arduous struggle we are now allowed to elect women, non-white people and even, surely at least in theory, people of openly alternative sexualities, I am relatively certain that we will never be allowed to elect a man or woman of any race or persuasion who is poor. So, no, I personally don’t see anything wrong per se in including Florence Upton’s creation in the pages of The League, nor, in light of the above argument, do I see how anybody could reasonably adopt such a position. Whether we have succeeded in our intentions with regard to the character is, patently, a different question entirely, and one to which, as I’ve already said, everyone is of course entitled to their opinion.
PÓM: as far as I can make out, the golliwogg is the only character in the League stories – certainly amongst the ones that are in the public domain – whose origin you have radically changed. Why did you feel the need to do this, when you didn’t do it with any of the other characters?
AM: This is a difficult question to answer, only in that it seems to be based upon an inaccurate perception. While with all of the multitude of fictional characters which we’ve included in The League we have tried to retain as much of the spirit, flavour and incidental detail of the original figures as is possible, in the act of trying to get all of these imaginary entities and continuities to add up to a coherent integrated world we have had to make minor or major alterations to almost all of them – not least in that four of the five original members of the group were officially dead before the opening of the first volume. As for changing a character’s origin, to the best of my knowledge the character never really had an ‘origin story’, this being largely a preoccupation of a more comic-book-oriented public than existed in 1895. In common with similar anthropomorphic children’s characters of that approximate period, like, say, the cast of Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories, I assume that the Golliwog had, for the purposes of Upton’s story, always existed with his supporting cast intact and thus had no need for a expository narrative about ‘how he came to be’.
The processes by which we arrived at our conception of the Galley-Wag’s origins were almost identical to the processes by which we reconfigured Virginia Woolf’s Orlando to suit our perhaps over-intricate continuity: in the case of Orlando, once we’d extended the character’s immortal history even further into the past in order to include the events of Orlando Furioso and Orlando Inamorata (along with the Roland legend upon which that character was initially based), we had the problem of coming up with a logical-sounding explanation for the character’s existence in our continuity; an explanation that did not violate too many of the details around which the character had initially been created. With Orlando, I felt we had to explain the character’s immortality and also the character’s propensity for shifting his/her gender. The blue flame or blue plasma-pool of immortality already established in Rider Haggard’s She provided an answer to the first difficulty, while relating Orlando to the gender-shifting Tiresias of ancient Thebes from Oedipus Rex took care of the other. With regard to Upton’s Golliwog, the difficulties were of course different, but the approach we took to solving them was essentially the same. We felt it necessary to explain the character’s physical appearance, mode of dress, behaviour, and existence in our continuity. Having already used ‘genetic experiment of Dr. Moreau’ for Rupert Bear, Tiger Tim, Mr. Toad and the rest in volume two (characters where I’d say we altered their ‘origins’ quite significantly), it seemed that something else was called for. We wished to preserve the independence and strength of character exhibited by Upton’s original, which, as mentioned earlier, ruled out simply making him another of Queen Olympia’s robotic toy subjects.
I believe questions have been raised concerning why we didn’t simply make him a positively-presented black male human, but that wasn’t the character that we were dealing with: Upton’s character didn’t look like a black male human because he was not, as far as I can discern, meant to be a black male human. I believe he was originally intended as a heroic, romantic and fantastical being whose skin colour was no more an indicator of race than that of the yellow creature in Mervyn Peake’s Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor. Why, if our intention was to examine and recreate Upton’s original, would we have sought to make the same racial equation as those entrepreneurs who’s dressed him in that minstrel outfit in the first place? What we actually did with the character was to decide that a character of those non-human squat proportions – which seemed to suggest a great density – and that non-reflective black colouration, might conceivably be a stranded alien entity from that sizeable majority of the universe’s missing mass and substance that is hypothetically described as ‘dark matter’; from a dark matter cosmos with little light and thus with sound being the most probable carrier of information, and where heat is generated by the greater and more compacted mass of the dark-matter bodies themselves. In order to reference and acknowledge the racial connotations that had accumulated since Upton’s first imagining of the character, I decided that our re-imagined Golliwog was most probably an escapee from a dark-matter-cosmos slave galley (for which we borrowed a previously established fictional slave-trading alien race who were un-problematically pink and thus fit the intended parallel rather well). Having a self-invented and self-constructed dimension-spanning escape craft took care of the balloonist aspect of Upton’s character, and having him arrive on Earth by way of our Arctic Toyland gave us a chance to explain his earthly attire and his Dutch Doll companions. It also occurred to me that having the character refer to himself as a ‘galley-wag’ might tie nicely into this escaped-slave construction, while further distancing our reinvention from the racial and racist associations that had been layered upon the name of the original. His dialogue, which as far as I can tell betrays no racial associations whatsoever, was intended to enhance the piratical, ferocious and more than slightly surreal way in which we wished to present the character. (The tone of the character’s dialogue uses some of the same kind of coinages that Upton herself employed, such as in the Kingdom of ‘Pankywank’.) As I say, this process is not essentially different in any way from our many other doctorings and revisions, and I imagine that the real question that is being asked in all this is actually ‘shouldn’t there be some fictional figures who, for whatever reason, authors and artists are forbidden to examine or refer to?’. To which my answer is a fairly unambiguous ‘no’, with the proviso, as stated above, that any such examination or reference should then be judged on its own merits or otherwise.
PÓM: Are there further plans for the golliwogg and the Dutch dolls in the League stories?
AM: As regards further plans for the character, I have nothing specific in mind beyond the fact that he will probably continue to appear in League publications in future, to a greater or lesser degree. There may well be an appearance in the forthcoming volume four of The League, although I’d been thinking of it as more of a cameo appearance to tie up a necessary plot thread than anything else. We’ll see. Certainly, this current debate is unlikely to affect my thinking one way or the other.
Sexual Violence Against Women
PÓM: one characteristic of your work that gets singled out in online debate quite a lot is the prevalence of sexual violence towards women, with a number of instances of rape or attempted rape in your stories. Why is this something you feel you need to put into your stories? Does it worry you may be alienating some of your audience by doing this?
AM: Well, now, this a very serious and substantial charge, and, I think, demands an equally serious and substantial reply. We’ll be getting to the subject of just how subjects like this tend to arise in online debate in just a moment, after I’ve answered this current question, but I’d first like to establish exactly what is meant by the ‘prevalence’ of sexual violence towards women, including rape and sexual assault, that is in my work. I would have thought that a term like prevalence would have needed some kind of qualifier regarding what it is prevalent in relation to. Is it prevalent in relation to other expressions of sex in my work, or perhaps to the non-sexual violence contained therein? I’ll admit I haven’t counted, but I wouldn’t have thought so. On the subject of other expressions of sex, it seems to me that there is a far greater prevalence of consensual and relatively joyous sexual relationships in my work than there are instances of sexual violence. As regards non-sexual violence, there is clearly a lot more non-sexual violence in my work that there is violence of the sexual variety, although in our current culture that’s true of nearly everyone’s work, isn’t it? I certainly can’t claim special credit. So perhaps the prevalence in question is the prevalence of rape or sexual violence in my work in relation to the sexual violence in, say, literature, cinema or the modern recording industry? Again, I wouldn’t have thought so.
Is what we’re actually talking about here the prevalence of rape and sexual violence in my work in comparison to that in the work of other writers working within the comic industry? Now, here, I’d probably have to agree, especially if we’re talking about the comic writers of thirty years ago, when I first commenced my apparently rape-fixated career. If you look at the attempted rape in the first episode of V for Vendetta, for example, I think you’ll find that I was only able to identify the crime by its initial letter on the lips of a traumatised and stammering Evey Hammond. Still, this was one letter more than had been available to EC Comics a couple of decades before, when they were forced to tell their still-shocking tale of a rapist hiding behind a sheriff’s badge without referring to the actual crime except by implication. My point is that rape did not exist in the comic books of that period, save for the occasional permissible off-panel rape, such as when a tavern dancing girl might be pushed back into the hay by a muscular barbarian, her lips saying no but her eyes saying yes. Other than this, no overt sexuality of any kind existed in the mainstream comic books of that era, with the last of the underground comix having bitten the dust during the previous decade.
I’m curious as to what anyone who considered themselves to be a committed and conscientious modern writer would have done in those circumstances. What conclusions might the commentators of today have come to in relation to those issues? What options were open to creators of that period? Well, quite obviously, the safest and most comfortable option would have been to go along with a censorious status quo and simply not refer to sexual matters, even obliquely. Indeed, as I remember, this is exactly the option that most of my contemporaries in the field back then tended to make their default position, since they were understandably reluctant to displease their editors and thus to jeopardise their chances of future employment. It seemed to me, however, that if comics could not address adult matters – by which I meant a great deal more than simply sexual issues – then they could never progress to become a serious and accepted artistic medium, and would never amount to anything much more than a nostalgic hobby for ageing teenagers. To my mind, the only mind I had direct access to, it seemed that such a potentially astonishing medium deserved more than this. Along with political and social issues, I elected to make sexual issues a part of my work.
As I say, most of my writings in this area have concerned joyous expressions of sexuality, with as much diversity as I was capable of applying at the time. Unless anyone is arguing that comic books are not a place for sexual matters, then I don’t see that they can have any major disagreements with the above. So perhaps it is the next decision that I made wherein I am at fault: my thinking was that sexual violence, including rape and domestic abuse, should also feature in my work where necessary or appropriate to a given narrative, the alternative being to imply that these things did not exist, or weren’t happening. This, given the scale upon which such events occur, would have seemed tantamount to the denial of a sexual holocaust, happening annually. I could not, in all conscience, produce work under those limitations without at least attempting to change or remove them. Presumably, my current critics would have done differently, and indeed, as I remember, most people in the field found it more convenient simply not to address issues of sex or sexuality – or those of race, politics, gender and any other matters of social substance, for that matter.
As to whether it worried or concerned me that I may have been alienating part of my audience by addressing any or all of the above issues, why would I be concerned about alienating part of my potential audience on a moral issue which I had already thought through and come to what I felt was a considered opinion upon? Surely, the only reasons an individual would have for concern in such circumstances, and the most likely reasons why the majority of other comic professionals of that period chose not to risk any form of controversy in their work until ground had been broken and it was safe and indeed profitable for them to do so, would be reasons of financial gain and career advantage? But perhaps it might be thought that by discussing all of this context at such length – I’m told that context is not necessarily a welcome commodity in this type of discussion – I am attempting to evade the central issue, which is presumably the question why I, as a male, should feel privileged to discuss such matters in my work. How can someone who has not, to the reader’s knowledge, suffered rape or any other form of sexual invasion, conceivably be qualified to handle such topics in their fiction?
I hope readers will understand that I am being anything but flippant when I point out that, as yet, I have not been murdered either. Certainly I have known murder victims and their families, and I have likewise met murderers and their families too. While I cannot say whether this qualifies me to talk about murder or not, I am fairly confident that it has afforded me a more informed and compassionate view upon the subject than I might otherwise have had, which as a writer I presume to be a good thing. This is also true regarding the subject of sexual violence. While I myself only suffered an attempted abduction at the age of six or so and the minor molestations of a paedophile head of first years at the age of eleven along with almost everyone else in my year, I have known a distressing number of women, including women who are or have been close to me, who have been raped, sexually assaulted or otherwise threatened with sexual violence. In fact, when I think about it, I’ve had a lot more contact with people who’ve suffered from the effects of sexual violence than I’ve had contact with people either killed or devastated by their proximity to a murder. Lest this be thought a purely personal perception or perhaps a blip in highly localised statistics, I would cite the figures mentioned in my most recent copy of prison newspaper Inside Times (the most convenient source of information to hand at the moment for someone without an internet connection). From what I understand, last year there were 60, 000 rapes in the UK. I’m assuming that this is reported rapes, and that actual incidents of rape are possibly two or three times as high. There were a further 400,000 cases of sexual assault, and a frankly horrific 1.2 million cases of domestic abuse.
Leaving aside the sexual assault and domestic abuse figures and just focussing on the rapes – which is of course rather my ‘thing’ – I would have to say that I do not recall the sixty thousand homicides that occurred in the U.K. last year, possibly because – well, they didn’t, did they? Except, of course, in the pages of fiction, where I would imagine that there were considerably more violent deaths than the above-mentioned figure. It would appear that in the real world, which the great majority of people are compelled to live in, there are relatively few murders in relation to the staggering number of rapes and other crimes of sexual or gender-related violence, this being almost a complete reversal of the way that the world is represented in its movies, television shows, literature or comic-book material. Forgive me if there is something glaringly obvious that I am missing here; some evident flaw in my reasoning that I myself am blind to, but why should this marked disparity be so? Why should murder be so over-represented in our popular fiction, and crimes of a sexual nature so under-represented? Surely it cannot be because rape is worse than murder, and is thus deserving of a special unmentionable status. Surely, the last people to suggest that rape was worse than murder were the sensitively-reared classes of the Victorian era. Certainly, the actual victims of rape that I’ve known and spoken to don’t seem impressed with the idea of a ‘fate worse than death’. Most seem of a mind that while what they went through was unbelievably horrible, at least they hadn’t been killed, even if they had been threatened to that effect by their rapist. And yet, while it is perfectly acceptable (not to say almost mandatory) to depict violent and lethal incidents in lurid and gloating high definition detail, this is somehow regarded as healthy and perfectly normal, and it is the considered depiction of sexual crimes that will inevitably attract uproars of the current variety.
Again, if nobody is seriously arguing that rape is much more serious a human event than the actual violent termination of a life in its entirety, why should this be so? Why should sexual violence be ring-fenced when forms of violence every bit as devastating are treated as entertainment? If I may venture an answer to my own question, might it be because the term ‘sexual violence’ contains the word ‘sexual’, a word relating to matters traditionally not discussed in polite society? As I affirmed earlier, thirty years ago rape and sexual violence were unmentionable in comics. Now, God bless everyone who imagines that this was because the comics editors of thirty years ago were more sensitive to the possible upset feelings of women readers than their equivalent today, but I’m afraid this is not the case. Mentions of any form of sexual activity, positive or negative, were out of bounds and the reason for this is that since the Victorian period, sex had been considered rude and dirty by the middle classes. Indeed, the avowed sexual control exercised by that class was one of the main features by which they differentiated themselves from the more animalistic urges present among the lower orders and immigrant communities. I am not attempting to be disingenuous here, but I genuinely cannot see any reason why lethal non-sexual violence should be privileged over sexual violence, other than a residual middle class discomfort or squeamishness over all matters pertaining to sex, which in this instance has taken on the protective colouration of a fairly spurious appeal to contemporary sexual politics. Nor can I see any compelling or worthy reason why I, or any other writer, should restrain themselves from addressing whatsoever issues they feel are worthy of address, if they have the courage to engage with those subjects in the face of the possible approbation and loss of livelihood which may be entailed. Fortunately for those who think differently to myself, this is one of several traits which very few modern commercial career writers would seem to possess. I hope that, before I allow myself a more personal response to these matters, I have answered all of the questions raised with sufficient clarity and honesty to avoid having to repeat or re-repeat myself at some point in the future. I apologise for the length of my reply, but clearly these are important issues, to which I have been visibly turning my attentions for the past three or four decades. Surprising as it may seem to some, I have given these matters a certain amount of thought during that time. Possibly, although I cannot of course assume this, more than they themselves have exerted in their flurry of perhaps ill-considered responses to this somewhat manufactured controversy. Anyway, my longwinded screed may at least convey something to the casual reader of how dull, tiring and irrelevant I myself have found this episode. I certainly hope so.
Although I understand that these exchanges are intended to be by and large one way communications, I’m afraid I haven’t had the reasons for this satisfactorily explained to me, and so intend to ignore this convention. Similarly, I intend to presume that moral criticism and speculation as to motive are not the sole prerogative of any one side in this discussion. If this presumption is erroneous, or is in any way seen as a breach of manners or protocol, then I hope this will charitably be attributed to the many deficiencies of my age, my background, or, conceivably, my education.
Since I understand the various concerns addressed above to have largely arisen resulting from my attendance at the launch of Lance Parkin’s recent biography, a few words relating to the background of this event, at least from my personal perspective, may be in order. When Lance contacted me a couple of years ago and told me he’d been commissioned to write the book, he asked if I’d like it to be an official biography, a generous offer which I declined. This was partly because I felt that there had been rather a lot of books about me, and I didn’t want to appear self-regarding by actively collaborating in another one, whatever its merits might be. I also told Lance that in my opinion unofficial biographies were generally far more honest and revealing and suggested that he go ahead with his book on that basis, with the proviso that my friends and family not be interviewed on the grounds that they have probably suffered enough.
Of course, this really only left Lance with a string of people who are in neither of those categories. Despite this obstacle, when I finally got to read a proof copy of Magic Words I felt that he had done an excellent and fair-minded job, presenting the information with as much context as was available to him and then allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions about some of the rather remarkable claims made about me and my work. Having paid little or no attention to the utterances of the comic field for some decades, there were obviously more than a few statements by former associates that were something of a surprise and which seemed to me in many instances to be founded upon the distortion or even the wholesale invention of events. There were also, as you know, a number of statements by Grant Morrison – someone whom I have only ever met and spoken with once and have tried my best to avoid all contact with ever since – including his no doubt well-intentioned observation that there is apparently a rape in every single comic series that I have ever written. I imagine that this might have something to do with some of the actually rather important issues which have been demoted to use as ammunition in this presumably not uncommon online ‘controversy’.
While claims such as the above are obviously the equivalent of receiving a gift-wrapped turd through the mail, since Grant Morrison seems to have spent as much or possibly more time discussing me and my work over the years than he has his own, they are not, by this point, entirely unexpected. Despite these few slightly depressing passages, I felt that Lance and the people at Aurum Books had clearly worked tremendously hard and had produced a remarkably good biography, especially given some of the sticky-to-the-touch sources they’d been forced to resort to by my ‘no friends’ stipulation. When I was invited along to the launch of the book, despite the fact that I’m generally trying to avoid public appearances at the moment in order to concentrate on work, I felt that it would be a good way of showing Lance and the Aurum crew how much I appreciated what they’d done.
When Melinda and I arrived at the venue and I had the pleasure of meeting Lance for the first time, he surprised me by remarking on the current dust-storm of angry commentary that was apparently then being generated online, surrounding remarks I’d made in a newspaper interview. Not having a great deal of interest in online comment, this was news to me and I was at first unable to identify the interview in which I’d made this seemingly inflammatory statement. When told that it had run in the previous Saturday’s Guardian, I was still unable to recall conducting it. It transpired that this was because I’d actually taken part in the interview a couple of very busy months earlier, on the afternoon when I’d given a half-dozen brief press interviews relating to the launch of Fashion Beast. The subject of comic-related-films (or film-related-comics) had understandably arisen and, when asked, I had ventured my honest opinion that I found something worrying about the fact that the superhero film audience was now almost entirely composed of adults, men and women in their thirties, forties and fifties who were eagerly lining up to watch characters and situations that had been expressly created to entertain the twelve year-old boys of fifty years ago. I not only feel this is a valid point, I also believe it to be fairly self-evident to any disinterested observer. To my mind, this embracing of what were unambiguously children’s characters at their mid-20th century inception seems to indicate a retreat from the admittedly overwhelming complexities of modern existence. It looks to me very much like a significant section of the public, having given up on attempting to understand the reality they are actually living in, have instead reasoned that they might at least be able to comprehend the sprawling, meaningless, but at-least-still-finite ‘universes’ presented by DC or Marvel Comics. I would also observe that it is, potentially, culturally catastrophic to have the ephemera of a previous century squatting possessively on the cultural stage and refusing to allow this surely unprecedented era to develop a culture of its own, relevant and sufficient to its times. These, anyway, were my thoughts on the subject, and I remember that Lance said he wanted to ask me a question on the issue during our interview later, in order to give me an opportunity to clarify my remarks, to which I agreed. (I hadn’t yet realised that the somewhat belated date on which the Guardian had finally published the interview was, perhaps coincidentally, the date of the much-publicised Dr. Who anniversary – another phenomenon that had passed me by completely – during which a number of people in their thirties, forties and fifties would be enjoying characters and situations that had been created to entertain, well, the twelve year-old boys of fifty years ago. I hadn’t been thinking about Dr. Who when I made my original comment, but I suppose the timing of the interview may very well have made that appear to be the case, and anyway my opinions are probably as applicable to Dr. Who as they are to the Avengers movie that I was actually discussing. They would also probably be as unpopular and unwelcome in either instance.)
The evening unfolded from that point and I must admit that I’d been under the impression that the audience, a broad range of ethnicities and sexualities with a welcome and nowadays pleasingly common almost-equal gender distribution, had enjoyed themselves as much as the participants. Even when Lance asked me to reiterate my possibly contentious comments regarding the apparent emotional and intellectual arrest of modern cinema audiences, I didn’t get the impression of any vociferous reaction upon the audience’s part, either for or against. The same audience seemed to have generally enjoyed or at least been interested in Act of Faith and Jimmy’s End, and with these two short films having been freely available on You Tube for some considerable time, I must admit that neither I nor Mitch (nor Siobhan or Bob or Melinda) were expecting any kind of extreme reaction. Frankly, we were just grateful to those members of the audience who sat patiently through two not-entirely-comfortable films which they may have seen before.
As I understand the course of events unfolding after the launch, there had been someone in the audience, whose name escapes me but who is evidently pleased to identify himself as a Batman scholar, who had been offended by Act of Faith and, as people in this branch of scholarship presumably do, he had advertised this fact on social media. In a message that I was shown, his objections to the film became more obvious when he described and summarised it as film about a woman who dresses in ‘slutty clothes’ and then commits suicide. Without wishing to labour the obvious, I fear that this gentleman may have understood the film too quickly. Quite why he should have done this is a question that I have more trouble over, but of that more presently. For those who also had difficulty in interpreting the fifteen-minute film, and without wishing to spoil it for those who may not have seen it, the basic outline of Act of Faith is as follows: we witness a young woman, the Faith of the title, returning home after a day’s work as a journalist to reply to various answer-phone messages which lightly sketch in some details of the character’s life and situation. We next see her calling a costume hire shop to ask if anyone has been in to pick up the paramedic costume that she has presumably reserved earlier, to be told in reply that a young man has indeed called by to pick up the requisite disguise. She next changes into an outfit that we – including the actress Siobhan Hewlett who played the character – felt suggested a faintly sad and misjudged attempt at seamy eroticism. The character next places a call to a man who answers the phone with a matter of fact “Hello, Chad Bailey?” before being asked by his young woman caller if she’s speaking to “the paramedics”, after which he lowers his voice, adopts a huskier and more aroused tone and agrees that yes, this is “the paramedics” speaking. At this point Faith goes into a fairly obviously staged account of how she’s a young woman living alone and planning to kill herself. She also goes into a rather heavy-handed and, one might think, unnecessary description of the “slutty clothes” that she is wearing in preparation for this supposedly terminal act; her “stockings and everything”. Following this she hangs up and commences a clearly rehearsed set of ritual actions – the removal of a set of handcuffs from a plastic bag, the balling up of the plastic bag and placing it in her mouth, and finally looping a clearly pre-prepared noose around her neck with the other end attached to the rail of her wardrobe. Securing the handcuffs behind her back she gradually lowers herself to the extent of the rope, and we see from her expression that she seems to be in a state of arousal. This expression changes abruptly when her answer-phone receives another message. This is from the same young man we heard her speaking to earlier, only he sounds breathless and frightened, and commences his message with words to the effect that “If you’ve not started already, then don’t.” He goes on to tell her that there’s been an accident and that his car is not operational. He assures her that he’s running around to her place as fast as he can and tells her she should “just hang on”, amending this after a moment’s thought to “I mean, just don’t worry”. By this time the young woman, understandably, appears to be very worried indeed. We close upon the now-silent phone, which blurs to black as the track on her CD player plays itself out. This is the end of the film (or unusually high-quality trailer, as we’d originally thought of it), although a helpful screen caption at the film’s end announces that the film Jimmy’s End will be following shortly. We thought this might tip off viewers who had missed the many other trailing or unresolved references in the film that Act of Faith was a self-contained part or episode in a considerably larger, broader, and more complex narrative.
And yet this is characterised, apparently in good faith, as a film about a young woman who dresses in “slutty clothes” and then kills herself. I must assume that the offended person genuinely has no knowledge of or did not recognise what most of those watching the film have correctly understood to be a dangerous sex-game that goes very badly wrong. Presumably he didn’t recognise the clumsy and clichéd sex-talk to “the paramedics” as the inexpert role-playing that it was intended to be, or perhaps the concepts of auto-erotic asphyxiation and sexual role-playing are utterly unfamiliar to him. If this is the case, then I must inform him that as far as I am aware, these are both fairly well-known phenomena, at least in the world that exists beyond the confines of his main area of study – although surely the idea of someone dressing up in a costume for reasons that are less than transparent and possibly unhealthy shouldn’t be beyond the reach of a Batman scholar? I wouldn’t wish to suggest that the standards of scholarship in this person’s chosen field are so lax that he simply didn’t bother paying any attention to the film before he started broadcasting his somewhat hastily-constructed opinion, and it would seem impertinent to even imply that perhaps someone more used to superhero comics might have difficulty in extracting meaning from a morally-complicated scene lacking the presence of a caption box to explain to them precisely what is happening, without any confusing ambiguities. I don’t think there’s any field of expertise where that would be recognised as a proper scholarly attitude, or at least I would sincerely hope not. If I don’t wish to say that this person is obtuse to the point of actual stupidity, or that he was prevented from understanding the film by reason of a suspiciously sheltered upbringing, then I’m at something of a loss when it comes to explaining his actions and behaviour.
This is, of course, if his outrage was actually related to Act of Faith, and if his misunderstanding of the film was genuine rather than actively constructed. As I noted earlier, it was not until my arrival at the venue that I’d been informed of the angry response from the online superhero fan community to my comments in the Guardian interview four days earlier, which I’d formerly had no idea had been published. As I also noted earlier, Lance raised the point again during our interview at the book launch, and for most of the audience the issue did not seem to be a terribly contentious one. I can’t help but wonder, of course, if someone who has made their continuing interest in Batman such a central part of their adult life might not have been offended or felt personally slighted by my suggestion that the mass devotion of middle-aged people to superhero figures might be a cultural indicator of intellectual and/or emotional arrest. Just speaking hypothetically, if such offence had been taken, what might such a person’s outlets of response amount to? It surely wouldn’t be sufficient to Tweet something to the effect that “Alan Moore thinks adult superhero fans are possibly emotionally stunted, and as a Batman scholar I strongly disagree with him”, even though that may in fact be the sum total of the actual truth. Is it unthinkable that such a person might attempt to assuage his hurt feelings by pretending that he is in fact angry about other issues, issues such as sexual violence or misogyny, which are genuinely important matters and might be expected to arouse more condemnation than an affront to one’s favourite imaginary costumed vigilante?
I genuinely hope that this is not the case, and that I have as seriously misconstrued this person’s motives as he has misconstrued mine. I genuinely hope that he is simply a poor scholar whose limited field of enquiry has resulted in him being unable to understand adult situations, or at least those which do not involve a rather simplistic revenge-motivated and bat-themed crime-fighter. In short, I hope he is as intellectually lazy and socially limited as he appears to me to be, because the alternative reading, that he deliberately chose to disguise a sense of wounded comic fan entitlement by resorting to manufactured allegations on an issue that has devastating impact upon millions of real women, who are not fortunate enough to be made out of paper and reside in Gotham City, would seem to border upon the actually vile. Especially so if there was any conceivable intent to raise one’s personal stock in the no-doubt vitally important arena of Batman fandom by publically launching an attack on someone who has worked prominently on that dull and wearyingly angry character, albeit in one of the least personally interesting and most regretted works of his career.
I might add that these very serious allegations, if indeed they result from spite rather than conviction, are a deployment of some very big guns over what were, relatively speaking, some of my less genuinely hostile opinions with regard to superheroes. If I had gone on to say, as I have on other occasions, that modern superheroes seem to mainly function as cowardice compensators for a number of their conflict-averse creators and readers, or that the origin of capes and masks as ubiquitous superhero accessories can be deduced from a close viewing of D.W. Griffiths’ Birth of a Nation, then I hate to think what I might have been accused of.
Given that I’ve only heard about this self-assembly contretemps at second hand, you’ll forgive me if I remain uncertain as to the precise order of events after our Batman scholar had provoked his excitable audience, whether actually school-age or just young at heart, into what I must suppose passes for a frenzy in this slightly airless world of interconnected back-bedrooms. I’m not sure at which point the person who is apparently an American photographer joined the debate, and again must apologise for being unfamiliar with her name. The only thing that I’d previously heard concerning this person was Kevin’s brief account of someone he’d apparently encountered at an American signing for The Black Dossier, an African-American woman (if that is still an acceptable U.S. term) who had seemed upset by our inclusion of the Golliwog/Galley-Wag. In Kevin’s account as I remember it he’d done his best to explain but was left feeling that he may have done an inadequate job, and that the woman hadn’t seemed to be interested in his account of Florence Upton’s original creation, or in the context within which we’d come to our decision. For what it’s worth, Kevin was genuinely concerned to the point where we talked for some while about the one person on his signing tour of many individuals who’d expressed a negative opinion concerning the character. However, given that Kevin had tried his best to provide an honest explanation in a face-to-face situation (somewhat more that most ordinary readers of the book had been allowed) and seemingly failed suggested that there was little more to be done. Other than resolving we should perhaps be more explicit and reveal more of the character’s back-story on future outings, to hopefully make our motives plainer without our regular readers thinking we were uncharacteristically underlining everything, we couldn’t really do otherwise than continue with our work. Unless anyone is realistically suggesting that we remove the character from our continuity after a negative reaction from a solitary reader, I don’t see what else we could have done.
Now, this person has an absolutely inalienable right to her reaction, and I am not suggesting or implying that her response was ‘wrong’ in any way. If that was her reading of the story, then she is fully entitled to retain her opinion. I would hope that in my lengthy response to the first several questions on your list that I may have perhaps allayed some of her misgivings, although my feeling is that this is frankly unlikely. I at least hope that in having raised her concerns and been listened to in a personal encounter with the book’s artist, and now having these issues addressed to the best of his ability by the book’s writer, that she will accept that her concerns have been engaged with to a degree that is greater than most readers could or would reasonably expect. I would point out that while everyone is entitled to their informed opinion, this is actually the full extent of their entitlement.
Possibly because I’m typing this on Christmas Eve I feel inclined, despite the long hiatus between this person first airing her grievance and us hearing anything further from her, to take her stance at face value. I can readily imagine how justifiably angry the depiction of non-white characters in contemporary comics, or the relatively tiny number of artists or writers of colour compared to the number of non-white comic readers, could make anyone, irrespective of their colour or ethnicity. I simply feel – and this is only my personal opinion and in no way privileged over her own – that in this instance that anger is misdirected. As I understand it from the questions I’ve been asked, the major bone of contention seems to be the question of whether white creators can presume to present possibly controversial material relating to black characters. I’ve addressed this more comprehensively above, but would only add that if I had adopted this attitude back in 1999/2000, there is every likelihood that the United States, surely embarrassingly, would be nearly a decade-and-a-half into the 21st century and still without any positive examples of mixed-race marriages producing mixed-race offspring anywhere in its media. Certainly not in its comic books. (I’m referring to Tom Strong here, incidentally, which is apparently also distinguished by the fact that it is the one title in my oeuvre in which I somehow managed to restrain myself from depicting acts of sexual violence against women.)
Moving on to someone whose name I recognise and whom I have at least spoken to over the phone on one solitary and never-to-be-repeated occasion, I note that one of the more vociferous complainants in this borderline-remedial debate is the alleged journalist Laura Sneddon. This is someone I encountered when my publisher Tony Bennett was arranging a very limited (at my request) series of interviews with mainstream rather than comic-oriented media (again at my request) relating to the then-imminent publication of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: 2009, the third and concluding section of Century. Tony told me that she seemed to be legitimate and would be interviewing me for the Independent, which at that point was a newspaper that I still harboured a certain amount of respect for, and explained to me that she was one of the very few people who had received an advance copy of 2009, under conditions of strict confidentiality, in order for her to be able to venture informed questions during the scheduled interview, which seemed fair enough.
The interview itself turned out to be a fairly routine exercise and passed without either memorable incident or memorable question. I had understandably forgotten about it until, I think, on or about the occasion of the signing that we’d scheduled to accompany the book’s launch. This was when I learned that in an edition of the Independent released roughly a week before the book itself Laura Sneddon had gleefully related all of the major plot developments and denouements, including the death of Allan Quatermain and the identity of the ‘Moonchild’ or Antichrist figure that we’d been carefully building up references to over the four or more years that we’d been labouring on that third (and longest) volume of The League. In addition to Ms. Sneddon’s apparent assumption that she and the newspaper that she represented were for some reason exempt from the confidentiality agreement which presumably lesser mortals had evidenced no such difficulty in respecting, she or other parties at the Independent had also seen fit to run an article in the main body of the paper, a sensationalist tabloid-style non-story speculating heatedly about the likelihood of J.K. Rowling’s lawyers taking action over a book in which none of the names or likenesses of her characters or institutions had been so much as mentioned. This actually seemed like an attempt on the Independent’s part to bring about the highly unlikely situation which their article had envisioned, perhaps in the hope of filling another half-page or so with over-excitable copy in which they could liberally use the words ‘Harry Potter’. You can of course understand their position. I mean, it wasn’t as if there was any genuinely important stuff going on in the nation or the world back then, was there?
As anyone of even rudimentary intelligence might have predicted, absolutely nothing came of these attention-seeking predictions save for Tony Bennett (who’d arranged the interview in good faith) contacting Laura Sneddon and informing her that neither he nor the book’s creators wished to have anything to do with her in future. When somebody has seemingly done their level best to sabotage a major project, whether by malice or by a frankly incredible degree of stupidity, I fail to see how anyone could have expected a professional publisher or professional creators to do anything else. I certainly don’t see that simply withdrawing contact, compared with her own actively deceitful actions, can be seen in any way as harsh. Ms. Sneddon, it seems, did not agree. There was a flurry of rather panicked communications in which she insisted that she had actually been attempting to help us by revealing the ending of a four-or-five year serial continuity, and by apparently trying to involve our work in a completely spurious legal controversy. This help, it hardly need be said, was both unsolicited and unappreciated. You will perhaps think me cynical, but this looked to me like an insultingly clumsy bid to have reneged on an important matter of trust and responsibility and yet to somehow still maintain important media contacts that might prove useful in the subsequent advancement of her career. In fairness to Ms. Sneddon, we offended parties quickly acknowledged between ourselves that she could not have been solely responsible for the situation, and that at the very least the Independent’s standards of journalistic integrity clearly also left much to be desired. In an attempt at even-handedness we decided to forego any further contact with the newspaper in its entirety and that, not unreasonably I feel, was where the matter would have rested were it not for Laura Sneddon’s current (thus far successful) efforts to bring herself to my attention.
Actually, that isn’t wholly accurate. While discussing this latest highlight of my continuing presence in the comic field and my present perceived persona as a rape-fixated racist with my wife (and let me just repeat that to underline the seriousness of what I’m trying to get across here: WITH – MY – WIFE), she foggily and uncertainly recalled an incident which had apparently taken place some months ago but which had previously seemed too trivial to commit to memory, or to mention. Having travelled to Edinburgh as a guest at the Literary Festival only to belatedly realise that she’d be appearing in part of a comics-related subsection of the main event, as she distantly recalled she’d retired to her hotel room in order to avoid as much of the (to her mind) surprise comic convention as she felt she could politely manage without giving offence. Although in a state of some distraction over her unexpected and not entirely welcome immersion in the comic world (despite impeccable and courteous treatment by the Festival organisers), she thought that what had most probably happened next was that she’s been disturbed by the ringing of the room’s phone. Answering, Melinda discovered she was talking to a young woman who announced herself as Laura Sneddon and seemed to think that Melinda may have heard of her, perhaps assuming that there has ever (until now) been a point in my relationship with Melinda where we’ve had nothing more interesting to discuss than the machinations of journalists. When Melinda expressed her unfamiliarity with the name, this reportedly prompted another burst of implausible self-justification and the irrelevant news that Ms. Sneddon was no longer employed by the Independent. There followed a request for an interview on comic-related issues, which Melinda declined, and then a hastily-reformulated request for an interview on supposed feminist topics, from which Melinda also excused herself, perhaps fearing that this appeal to sisterhood may be insincere.
In light of Ms. Sneddon’s recrudescence in the admittedly very seasonal pantomime immediately to hand, it might be thought that these apprehensions were not without foundation. It may be that in her own almost endearingly clumsy Miranda Hart-like way, Ms. Sneddon is once more only trying to help and that I am once more leaping to unfair and unreasonable assumptions with regard to her motives, but it seems to me that what has quite possibly happened here has nothing whatsoever to do with whatever opinions she professes to hold with regard to feminism or to violence against women. Could it be that having demonstrated her reliability as a journalist and had it found wanting, her mystifying sense of entitlement to a profession within which she is, in my own opinion, transparently incapable of conducting herself properly has been outraged? In her apparently affronted astonishment that if you play what look like unpleasant and self-serving games with people who have trusted you then there may be unforeseen consequences, I think it not unlikely that she has attached herself to our Batman scholar’s very public ostensible disgust at Act of Faith as a particularly slimy way of settling whatever she imagines to be the score; once more, it would appear, with no evident forethought on the subject of potential repercussions. (Not being personally familiar with online discussions I’m clearly taking a shot in the dark here, but is there something about the nature of internet discourse that encourages this actually reckless sense of impunity in persons who might otherwise be reluctant regarding more immediate and direct confrontations? As I say, this is only a guess.)
From my perspective, this appears to be a case of someone who has from somewhere acquired an attitude that whatever furthers their own personal interests is entirely justified, and that it is only nasty and belligerent people who will fail to understand this. Having decided to ignore an agreement of confidentiality (something which I don’t remember the Independent ever doing in the case of J.K. Rowling herself) in the hope of some kind of manufactured ‘scoop’, and having been predictably cut off by the persons whose trust she had betrayed, it seems that she has next attempted to position herself as the injured party in all this. Alternatively, it may be that since her first ploy to increase her status and attract attention has worked about as well as might have been anticipated, making a lot of hurt and offended noises might conceivably be some kind of Plan B. Again, I have to say that the thinking here is less than impressive. After the initial incident, if she had quietly accepted our wishes to have no further contact with her and had simply continued with her own career, then there is absolutely no reason why Tony, Kevin or I would ever have had reason to mention her or even think of her again. Instead, she has apparently elected to seek both redress for her wounded feelings and perhaps further playground notoriety by joining in with the ill-informed and suspiciously-motivated outcry over Act of Faith, expressing surprisingly strong feelings concerning a film which she reportedly hadn’t seen or previously demonstrated any interest in. Perhaps seeking to broaden the debate in order to include a comic field that she clearly feels she knows something about, she has introduced the wider issue of the continual pageant of rape running through my work, at least as it is described by Grant Morrison. Again, given her understandably powerful feelings as a woman and as a purported feminist over this genuinely serious issue, I’m surprised that she didn’t think to bring it up when interviewing me over League: 2009. In fact it’s something of a puzzle as to why none of the many reputable journalists of either gender who’ve interviewed me during my thirty-something year career have possessed Ms. Sneddon and Grant Morrison’s penetrating insight or earnest concern for womankind. Unless, of course, there is absolutely no substance to that insight or those concerns, in which case we would be talking about persons of almost unbelievable pettiness and vindictiveness; persons who are prepared to trivialise rape and sexual abuse by using them, casually, as bludgeons in their purely personal and career-furthering vendettas.
Wondering at the source of what seemed to me to be Ms. Sneddon’s embarrassingly low standards of personal and journalistic ethics, I was unsurprised to the point of actual tedium upon discovering that her entry to the field of journalism was achieved by means of an interview with her compatriot and, I’m assuming, her fellow convinced ‘feminist’ Grant Morrison. I neither know nor care about the extent of the connection between them, but I hope that everyone will understand that I really don’t see any convincing reason why I should invite any continuing contact with what appear to me to be polluted and toxic sources. To this end, as with Ms. Sneddon’s previous venture which resulted in the severing of connections with the Independent, it appears that I must extend these sanctions to any other publication or institution with which she claims to be associated. Surely, given my response to the earlier incident, this cannot be an entirely unexpected outcome. I really have no interest in this woman, in her to-my-mind pretended outrage, or in her career. I don’t imagine that my life will be greatly impoverished by never hearing of her or having anything to do with her again.
This, I think, leaves us only with the herpes-like persistence of Grant Morrison himself.
The first time this name passed briefly through the forefront of my consciousness before swiftly making its way to the latrine area would have been at some point in the early to mid ’eighties. As I remember, I was in Glasgow for a signing at local comics outlet AKA Books, although for a signing of what I couldn’t possibly tell you. Bob and John, the proprietors, both very likeable and honourable individuals, were taking me for a dinner at (I think) one of Glasgow’s many fine curry establishments, and asked if a regular visitor to their shop who had aspirations as a writer might be allowed to join us. Since I liked and respected both of them and had no reason to suppose that any of their associates would prove to be in a different category, I readily agreed. They were, after all, paying for the meal, and an extra guest presented no inconvenience to me. Of course, with hindsight…
At the restaurant I was introduced to Grant Morrison. I can’t say I remember him making any particularly vivid or lasting impression on the occasion, in terms of his appearance. All I can reconstruct at this distance is a blurred image of a soberly-dressed and smallish man with tidy collar-length hair and no remarkable or memorable features beyond a general pastiness of complexion, perhaps four or five years younger than I myself was at the time, although this age-gap seems to have somehow increased since then. As to his conversation, he was quite forthcoming in his praise for my work, telling me how much inspiration it had provided and adding that it was his ambition “to be a comic-writer, like you”. Looking back from my present position, it strikes me that I may have only imagined that there was a comma in that last statement, but at the time I took it at face value. I thanked him for his compliments (as I recall he’d been most effusive with regard to V for Vendetta, despite that might-as-well-call-it-a-rape in the first episode), encouraged him in his efforts as much as I could without having seen any examples of his output, and told him that I’d look out for his work in future. Short of perhaps adopting him on the spot as my ward and rather elderly boy sidekick, I don’t see what more I can be expected to have done for a complete stranger on such a brief acquaintance, although it may be that he came from a background with a different set of expectations and thus felt slighted in some way by the encounter. Certainly he gave no indication of this at the time, and I’m only speculating based upon what I perceive as his subsequent peculiar and creepy behaviour.
The next time his name arose would have been, I think, around the time that my relationship with Dez Skinn and Warrior magazine was beginning to enter its down-slopes. As I remember the occasion, I was approached by Skinn with an on-spec submission from Grant Morrison, a Kid Marvelman story as I recall, which while I had nothing against the story or its author did not fit into the storyline which I was attempting to establish. Additionally, I was the author solely responsible for Marvelman’s reinvention and was as puzzled by Skinn’s actions as I’m sure Steve Moore would have been if presented with a script for a spin-off Zirk story by an untested new writer. I held none of this against Grant Morrison, and simply told Skinn to explain to him that the story didn’t fit with my plans for the character. As intimated above, I was already starting to formulate an impression of Skinn as a duplicitous and untrustworthy hustler by this point, and for all I know his initial statement (via Lance Parkin’s book) to the effect that he’d called Morrison and informed him that I’d rejected the story out of my growing possessiveness and paranoia may be, uncharacteristically, a true one, at least in as much as it may be a truthful account of the distortions that Skinn was trading in at the time. I can say with some degree of certainty, however, that Grant Morrison’s colourful account of the threatening letter which he purported to have received from me on the subject is entirely the invention of someone whose desperate need for attention is evidently bottomless. From Skinn’s less-than-smooth revision of his account in order to synchronise his notes with Morrison’s later publicity-ploy, I can only assume that these two individuals are in approximately the same bracket in terms of their moral outlook ( I’m told that Skinn apparently sells my old Marvelman scripts to collectors, presumably when he needs additional pin-money), and that there was thus a great mutual sympathy between them. Anyway, since again nothing was raised at the time of these non-existent events, I continued on my course with no knowledge of them and thus no reason to bear any ill-will towards someone who, in all honesty, was not really impinging on my awareness to any noticeable degree one way or the other.
It was an unspecified amount of time later, perhaps further towards the middle-’eighties, when I had ceased to be connected with Warrior and was already some way into my run on D.C Comic’s Swamp Thing, that I noticed a superhero strip written by Grant Morrison in 2000 AD, a periodical which I was only intermittently looking at during this period. I followed it for two or three episodes, noting that it seemed to have been influenced in several of its ideas and approaches by my own work on Marvelman and Captain Britain. Since every beginning writer probably shows undue signs of influence during their early career, I didn’t really see this as a fault at all, and certainly not an insurmountable one. I reasoned that once he’d found his own voice (as it turns out, an over-optimistic assessment) he might prove to be an interesting writer. Since at this time I was still on good terms with at least Karen Berger, and had only comparatively recently passed on to her the work of Neil Gaiman after he’d interviewed me for a men’s magazine, she’d asked me to recommend to her any other new British writers of interest whose work I happened to chance upon. I mentioned Grant Morrison, describing him as someone still very influenced by my work who could with time emerge as an interesting individual talent in his own right, just as Neil Gaiman had managed to do. While I have no idea whether my recommendation played any part at all in the decision to subsequently employ Morrison, I can’t see that that it would have hurt.
Shortly after this, as I was no longer really engaged with the British fanzine scene (as I recall there’d been a couple of letters attacking me as an individual by over-entitled superhero fans, which at the time I found to be a compelling reason to sever my connections with that milieu), I had called to my attention a number of unpleasant comments and insinuations regarding me and my work which Grant Morrison was making in the promotional platform/fanzine column that he was selflessly providing for one of these publications. This was somewhat annoying and I concluded, not unreasonably in my opinion, that this was evidently some pallid species of career-tapeworm that one might perhaps expect to pick up in the parasite-infested waters of the comic business; a fame-hungry individual without the talent necessary to satisfy his inflated ambitions who had decided to connect himself with my name by simultaneously borrowing heavily from my work and making studiedly controversial statements about me in comic-book fanzines grateful for any free content from supposed professionals. I decided that the best thing I could do about this needy limpet was to ignore him and everything connected with him, reasoning that acknowledging his existence by replying to his allegations would only be assisting his strenuous scrabble for notoriety, and would be involving me in a debate with some feverishly fixated non-entity (we didn’t have the word ‘stalker’ back then) in whom I had absolutely no interest. I avoided his work, which seemed no great hardship as there was no real reason to revisit ideas that it appeared either Michael Moorcock or I had formulated several years earlier. On the rare occasions when his name came up in interviews, I would give the formula reply that since I didn’t read or have any opinions about his work, it would be unfair for me to comment upon it. It was my hope that this tactic might eventually persuade my own personal 18th century medicinal leech to clamp himself onto some more promising and responsive subject, but it’s been around thirty years by now and I am seriously starting to doubt the effectiveness of my own strategy. I’m frankly beginning to feel as if some more conclusive approach might be called for.
A possible reason for Morrison’s excruciating perseverance was to be found some years later in another fanzine contribution that I had pointed out to me, this time an interview in the American Comics Journal where he discussed his early reaction to my work. By this juncture his appreciation had evidently moved on from the mere ‘inspiration’ which he claimed to have found in my work during our only conversation in a Glaswegian curry house, to the remarkable statement that he had experienced such a strong response to my early stories that he’d felt, in a sense, that they were actually his stories. While this would explain why he’d felt at liberty to plunder them for ideas, I feel I must point out that in the limited technical sense of things that really happened in the real world, those were actually my stories, weren’t they? Later in the same interview, he reflected upon those early years of struggle and upon the frustrations he’d known upon realising that he still wasn’t famous enough (fame seemingly being the whole point of his career, rather than say the development of a distinctive voice or talent). Allegedly it was at this point that the young author, presumably lacking the option of attracting attention by means of original and well-written stories, decided that it would be easier to gain status by smearing my name from the safety of his fanzine columns. He expressed some mild regret that this had for some reason led to me not wanting anything to do with him, but in validation of his unusual method for attaining fame without noticeable ability, he pointed out that it had worked. The end, at least in the Morrison household, would always seem to justify the means. And although he certainly implied that he’d only employed this ugly technique during his disadvantaged entry into the field, as far as I can tell he never actually stated in so many words that he’d stopped, or that he’d ever had enough imagination to engineer another means of drawing attention to himself and his otherwise unrewarding product. I presume that in the world which Grant Morrison and his fellow mediocrities inhabit, where the worth of one’s work is a remote consideration after one’s bank balance and degree of celebrity, these methods are seen as completely legitimate or even in some way entertaining.
It appears that he never developed to a degree where he felt he could safely abandon either his sniping criticisms of my work or his Happy Shopper emulation of the same. I remember some several months after my announcement of the fractal mathematics-based Big Numbers, or The Mandelbrot Set as it was originally known, I had someone call my attention to a Mandelbrot set that had been spuriously shoehorned into the plot of an issue of Grant Morrison’s superhero comic Animal Man. This may, admittedly, have been no more than trivial and unimportant coincidence, and yet over the next year or so it would come more and more to look like Morrison’s sole creative strategy and an obvious extension of his strange ‘I felt they were really my ideas’ ethos. I remember Eddie Campbell advancing the theory that Grant Morrison had arrived at most of his published works around this time by reading my early press releases concerning projects which it would take me years to complete and then rushing into print with his limited conception of what he thought my work might end up being like. I announce From Hell and in short order he ‘has the idea’ for a comic strip account of a historical serial murderer. I announce Lost Girls, a lengthy erotic work involving characters from fiction, and within a few months he has somehow managed to conceptualise a Vertigo mini-series along exactly those lines. What I at first believed to be the actions of an ordinary comic-business career plagiarist came to take on worrying aspects of cargo cultism, as if this funny little man believed that by simply duplicating all of my actions, whether he understood them or not, he could somehow become me and duplicate my success. It would appear that at one stage, as an example, he had concluded that the secret to being a big-time acclaimed comic-writer was to be found in having a memorable hairstyle. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the possession of talent, hard-earned craft or even his own ideas would seem never to have occurred to him.
Having removed myself as much as possible from a comic scene that seemed more the province of posturing would-be pop-stars than people with a genuine respect for themselves, their craft or the medium in which they were working, I could only marvel when the customary several months after I’d announced my own entry into occultism and the visionary episode which I believed Steve Moore and myself to have experienced in January, 1994, Grant Morrison apparently had his own mystical vision and decided that he too would become a magician. (It wasn’t until I read Lance Parkin’s biography that I learned that as a result of Morrison’s apparently unwitnessed magical epiphany he had boldly decided to pursue a visionary path of ‘materialism and hedonism’. Could I point out for the benefit of anyone who may have been taking this idiotic shit seriously that this doesn’t sound so much like a mystical vision as it does an episode of The Only Way Is Essex? How does this magical discipline and philosophy differ in any way from the rapacious Thatcherite ideologies of the decade in which Grant Morrison wriggled his way to prominence?) I’m reliably informed that he has recently made the unprecedented move of expressing his dissatisfaction with the superhero industry, if only because there isn’t as much money in it as there used to be, and I imagine that there is a very strong likelihood that he will contrive to die within four to six months of my own demise, after leaving pre-dated documents testifying to the fact that he actually predeceased me.
Through the early years of this present century, as he somehow managed to perpetuate his career seemingly without the accomplishment of any major or memorable works, he apparently still found it necessary to keep up his running commentary on me and my writings through the very 21st century medium of a self-aggrandising website. I would occasionally have easily-amused industry associates insist upon passing on his latest hilarious sliver of Wildean wit, having conceived of no earthly reason why I shouldn’t find it as rib-tickling as they had evidently done. As I recall there was a particularly amusing piece where he’d suggested I should put a naked picture of myself on the front cover of Promethea because he (probably correctly) assumed that he and his discerning readership would very much like to see a image of my ‘todger’. (For American readers, I should perhaps explain that this is a cuddly, stuffed-toy-sounding euphemism used by British people who are too well brought-up to resort to words like cock or even penis.) While I understand that there is a large section of the superhero comic-book community who can see nothing at all unusual in one man being unable to stop talking about another, nor even in making a ‘jocular’ request to be allowed to look at his genitals, they should probably be made aware that from the recipient’s perspective this will obviously start to look like a genuine and long-sustained clammy infatuation which is (barely) sublimating its sexual component in saucy Carry On-style banter. It became difficult not to see this decades-long campaign of trying to attract my attention as some kind of grotesquely protracted schoolboy crush, or as a form of thwarted and entirely unwanted love.
This growing impression was only accentuated as I neared the end of my run on the America’s Best Comics titles when I was called by a colleague who happened to be related by marriage to one of Grant Morrison’s artistic collaborators and associates. It seemed that Grant Morrison had insisted on employing these third and fourth parties in order to ‘reach out’ to me and ask if we couldn’t perhaps be friends. Now, I understand that to a certain strata of the people reading this, my reaction of appalled incredulity will only provide more evidence of my apparently unfathomable and wildly eccentric nature, but this really isn’t how men in their fifties behave in the world that I come from. Why would I conceivably want to be the friend of someone who had never even previously been an acquaintance, whom I’d only previously ever met when he inveigled his way into a meal with associates in order to see if I could help him with his career, and who had subsequently orchestrated a campaign of abuse for the self-confessed purpose of making himself “famous” without recourse to anything difficult like effort or ability? When I raised these questions, it was suggested that Grant Morrison himself might argue that he was just being “a bit Johnny Rotten; a bit Punk Rock”, to which I pointed out that as far as I was aware John Lydon hails from a working class background, and that by his own admission Grant Morrison had spent most of the Punk era in his room for fear of being spoken to roughly by some uncouth person with a pink Mohawk and a U.K. Subs t-shirt. I’m afraid I didn’t see how appealing to completely unearned teen rebel credentials made any difference to the spoiled-child behaviour of a deeply unpleasant middle-aged man, and therefore once more declined the invitation to whisk him off to my Bat-cave so that we could solve mysteries together, perhaps in todger-revealing tights. I remained bewildered as to what kind of person could have made such overtures, deciding that if it wasn’t an extreme case of parentally-encouraged entitlement then it might possibly be something like clinical narcissism, shading into actual delusion. In either instance, this was evidently someone who I didn’t want anywhere near me, and who I could never have any reason to notice or take an interest in if he wasn’t, metaphorically speaking, continually masturbating on my doorstep.
Some few months after these appeals to a potential bromance, I noticed a review of a book by Grant Morrison in which, seemingly unable to stop mentioning me even when he’s moved on to a superficially more grown-up medium, he mischievously cites the apparently poor sales of Big Numbers as the reason for my return to superhero comics. This book, from what I understand a paean to the significance of both Grant Morrison himself and the franchised superheroes owned by his major employers, would probably have been in the proof stages around the time that he was making his conciliatory approaches, another testament to the sincerity of both the man and his work. It was at this point that I decided a more stringent anti-bacterial attitude to both him and the modern comic-scene environment in which he appears to flourish had become necessary. Without public fuss, I began to inform publishers of Grant Morrison’s work, starting with Jonathan Cape, that they should neither contact me nor send me any of their merchandise in future. Given the distance that I had already withdrawn from comic-scene matters, it seemed probable that I’d also have little difficulty in quietly disengaging myself from any people who considered themselves a friend, collaborator or close associate of his, and in this way further quarantine myself from a world in which I haven’t been interested for a long time, just in case anyone hadn’t noticed. The announcement sometime later that our neo-punk firebrand had accepted an M.B.E from the current pauper-culling coalition government, naturally, only confirmed me in the wisdom of my decision: I don’t want to associate with people I consider to be massively privileged Tories, nor with anyone who doesn’t see anything wrong in doing so. I particularly wish to avoid all of those who have struck rebellious or radical poses while always remaining careful not to offend their employers or to make any kind of moral or political statement that may later jeopardise their career prospects; all of the rebels without a scratch.
I think this brings us pretty much up to where we came in, with me arriving at the launch of Magic Words having read my would-be friend Grant Morrison’s characterisation of me as a writer with a rape in every single series he’s ever written. And then, after what had seemed a genuinely pleasant event, being made aware of the uproar orchestrated by the persons dealt with above (once more exempting the American photographer who I feel may have a genuine grievance which is in my opinion misdirected in this instance, although she is of course entitled to think otherwise). I hope the fact that I’m answering at such wearying length over the Christmas period – it’s now the 27th – demonstrates the seriousness with which I am taking your questions; possibly a far greater degree of seriousness than many of those who originally posed them. It might also indicate to a perceptive reader that I wouldn’t be doing this, at my advanced age, if I had any intention of doing this or anything remotely like it ever again. While many of you have been justifiably relaxing with your families or loved ones, I have been answering allegations about my obsession with rape, and re-answering several-year-old questions with regard to my perceived racism. I don’t imagine that anyone who has been following my career to even a cursory extent will be in any doubt regarding how I’m likely to respond to that, given my considerable previous form in such unwelcome situations.
As already stated, any publishers, friends, artistic collaborators or other close associates of Grant Morrison or Laura Sneddon should not approach me in future. Further to this, any periodicals or institutions which publish or have published interviews with Grant Morrison should similarly not attempt to contact me. To be brutally honest, I’d prefer it if, as with the Before Watchmen re-creators, their associates and their readers, admirers of Grant Morrison’s work would please stop reading mine, as I don’t think it fair that my respect and affection for my own readership should be compromised in any way by people that I largely believe to be shallow and undiscriminating. So far so predictable, perhaps, but an outcry over my appearance at an event which I myself had not seen as being specifically comic-related suggests that these measures are going by no means far enough. If my comments or opinions are going to provoke such storms of upset, then considering that I myself am looking to severely constrain the amount of time I spend with interviews and my already very occasional appearances, it would logically be better for everyone concerned, not least myself, if I were to stop issuing those comments and opinions. Better that I let my work speak for me, which is all I’ve truthfully ever wanted or expected, both as a writer and as a reader of other authors’ work. I’ve never presumed that I should have access to my favourite authors’ lives or, indeed, to anything more than that part of themselves which they’ve expressed through the medium of the words on the page. To this end, once I’ve satisfied my current commitments, I shall more or less curtail speaking engagements and non-performance appearances, certainly including all offers to talk on comic-related matters or in a comic-related context. Likewise, while I shall probably still do a couple of rigorously-selected interviews and perhaps a limited signing at the launch of any new books (since my worthy and excellent collaborators and publishers shouldn’t be disadvantaged in terms of publicity, although for my own part I’m not that bothered), it would be much more convenient if I just rejected requests for interviews unless I myself saw some especially good reason to do otherwise. I suppose what I’m saying here is that as I enter the seventh decade of my life, I no longer wish that life to be a public one to the same extent that it has been. As far as the signings and public appearances go, while I have over the years found the vast majority of my audience to be the nicest and most intelligent people that any writer could hope for, since Before Watchmen I’ve already ceased signing copies of any works that I do not own, which is of course most of them up to and including the A.B.C. titles with the exception of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I don’t keep copies of these books around or really have any good reason to think about them, and answering questions about them or signing copies of them, while I’ll sometimes make an exception for a particularly deserving case, is something that I can no longer do with any genuine enthusiasm.
This may seem like a disproportionate response, but for thirty years I have had to patiently endure the craven and bitchy hostility of someone who, when I bother to think of him at all, I think of as a Scottish tribute band. While he is clearly not the only reason why I have come to feel actual revulsion for the greater part of today’s comic world, he has probably done more than any other single individual to foul its atmosphere and make it unbreathable with his ongoing reeking incontinence – and that, believe me, is in a field where he has enjoyed a great deal of vigorous competition. There are perhaps a dozen or so people in the industry that I respect immensely and with whom I am delighted to both work and remain in contact, but the rest of it is a comic world that I don’t wish to take any part in; a world of fleeting minor celebrities who have managed to make this magnificent medium into a source of lucrative commercial product that is socially acceptable to the point of being neutered, or else into style accessories by which otherwise socially cautious and conventional people and publishers perhaps hope to foster an air of edgy modernity. During the Before Watchmen debacle, although I was touched and surprised by the response from a number of the readers and retailers, I received only two letters expressing support from anywhere within an industry that evidently has as little concern for me as I have for it. It’s hard to see how my withdrawal is going to greatly inconvenience anyone, and Grant Morrison will have finally vindicated all those long years of effort by at last getting my full attention for a few hours. I myself will be able to get on with my work without interruption, which I think is something that I’m entitled to do after all these years, and indeed part of the length of this response might be likened to someone taking their time about unwrapping a long-postponed and very special birthday present to themselves. The truth may or may not set us free, but I’m hoping that blanket excommunication and utter indifference will go some considerable way to doing the trick.
On the final point of my reference to Gordon Brown as a bipolar cyclops, I concede that this may have been thoughtless and I apologise for any offence unnecessarily caused by my remark. I have good friends who suffer from bipolar disorders. In every instance they are among the most motivated and capable people that I have ever met, and my comment wasn’t intended to denigrate either them or anyone who shares what I know is a debilitating and sometimes unbearable condition. My failed attempt at humour was a least partly born of a misunderstanding concerning current attitudes: I’d perhaps figured that my own monocular and Polyphemus-like qualities might get me a pass on the eye business, while I’d perhaps expected a more robust field of discussion on mental health issues after the many published comments about my own age and concomitant derangement, such as the last time I went ‘beyond paranoid’ in a ‘crazy old man rant’. I don’t remember hearing about waves of protest on those occasions, but that isn’t to say that they may not have happened. In the case of Gordon Brown, I was trying to suggest that while this condition in itself is one to be treated with understanding and compassion, it was perhaps not the best possible situation to have an undisclosed sufferer governing the nation. Still, if that’s what I was trying to say it was clumsily expressed for the sake of a funny conversational sound-bite, which is irresponsible. Again, I sincerely apologise, and the reduction of future interviews and appearances should prevent it from happening again.