In a moving tribute to the late cartoonist Harvey Pekar, Alan Moore, acclaimed creator of Watchmen, From Hell and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, spent more than 2 hours answering questions and remembering Pekar during a live video conference for fans that donated money to the Harvey Pekar memorial project on Kickstarter. Moore was relaxed, erudite in the extreme and witty, while answering a wide range of questions on everything from the broad influence of Pekar’s work, to which of Moore’s own books he considers to be the best.
A longtime friend of both Harvey Pekar and Pekar’s wife, editor and comics writer Joyce Brabner, Moore approached Brabner about providing support for the Kickstarter project shortly after Pekar’s death in 2010. Moore even provided a video documenting his admiration of Pekar’s career for Brabner’s Kickstarter project. Access to the live video conference was offered for a $99 donation (multiple fans could split up a single donation) to the project. Kickstarter is a crowdfunding site that has become increasingly popular among cartoonists as a way to raise money for publishing projects. In this case Brabner set out to raise $30,000 (the project was funded in December, ultimately raising $38,356) to build a statue of Harvey Pekar in front of the Cleveland Heights Public library in Cleveland, Ohio.
Beginning around 2 pm Eastern Standard Time on February 4, 2012, Moore, resplendent in a vividly decorative sweater and even more vivid white and black polka dot, pointy-toed boots (!), joined the video conference from Northampton, England, where he lives, supported by the technical assistance of Joe Brown, a friend and neighbor of Moore, a self-proclaimed Luddite and who acknowledges his skepticism about technology. Brown lives down the street from Moore, who dropped by his friend's home to use his computer for the video chat. For the next two and half hours, Moore chatted with roughly 60 to 70 people during the live video conference, answering questions previously submitted for the event as well as a few posed to him over the conference chat stream. (Full disclosure: this reporter edited the list of over 100 questions down to around 28 of the best ones and I operated in the background via email, directing Brown which questions Moore should answer and helping move the event along.). In addition Jeff Newelt, editor of the online comics anthology, the Pekar Project, also worked behind the scenes to set up the video conference infrastructure.
The entire Alan Moore video conference will be available online for free. But remember, the Pekar memorial project can still use financial support and Brabner has requested that fans that view the video consider sending a Paypal donation to firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail to the Harvey Pekar Estate at P.O. Box 18471, Cleveland Heights, Ohio, 44118. Make checks out to Joyce Brabner or to the Pekar Estate.
There was a bit of news to come out of the video conference. After one of the questions put to Moore described his much-anticipated forthcoming prose work, Jerusalem, a massive 750,000 word novel set in his home town of Northhampton, as being “a Bible length novel that doesn’t even have a publisher," Moore was delighted to point out that indeed the book does have a publisher. Jerusalem will be published by British publishing house Knockabout Comics.
Moore said one of his favorite Pekar stories was an almost wordless comics strip about Pekar, “home on a hot day drinking a cold lemonade. Such a simple action with no words and few pictures and everyone can relate to it.” He answered questions about his own self-professed study of magic and the occult, emphasizing that, “first, be careful and remember the four basic magical weapons: intellect, compassion, drive and will; these all have to be under control in order to be a magician, which is really the same as being a human being, only writ large.” Moore said, “treat all of this respect. It’s all real, at least inside your head and that’s the only place it needs to be real.”
He responded to a question about fellow British comics writer Grant Morrison, who has been critical of Moore's work in the past, noting that he (Moore) and his friend British fantasy writer Michael Moorcock fight about, “which of our works Morrison has ripped off the most.” Moore cited From Hell (with artist Eddie Campbell), Lost Girls (with artist and wife, Melinda Gebbie) and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (with artist Kevin O’Neill), three of Moore’s most acclaimed graphic works, as “the works I’m most proud of” and even lamented that over time, “a lot of my works have become toxic to me.” Indeed in light of DC’s news about Before Watchmen, a series of prequels to Moore’s masterpiece that DC plans to start publishing this summer, Moore was asked about his hatred of “adaptations,” in light of his own history of literary “mashups” such as League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It’s well known that Moore is adamantly opposed to any derivative publications based on Watchman. Moore said, “I’m not adapting, I’m stealing,” joking that, “as long as the creator of the characters is dead, it’s irresistible to do these literary mashups. Taking comics characters from cheated old men is a different story.”
For two and half hours, Moore sipped tea, bantered with the video audience, cracked jokes about his own pop culture celebrity and pointedly and effusively praised Harvey Pekar and his work. He seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself. He even offered praise for video technology and the internet, which he acknowledged that he “despised,” but noted that “when I see it enabling something like this [memorial project], it gives me a greater appreciation of the internet.”
Asked about Moore following the conclusion of the video conference, Brabner said, “Alan Moore is the one of the kindest, most honest, warm-hearted and down to earth people I know. Alan and Harvey—two working class guys—just always got along.”
Brabner also pointed to the forthcoming publication of Cleveland, a new autobiographical work by Pekar that was finished just prior to his death. Written by Pekar, illustrated by artist Joe Remnant and edited by Newelt, the book has a foreword by Alan Moore and will be published by Zip Comics in March and distributed through an agreement with Top Shelf.
“I’m really glad to be doing this for Harvey and Joyce,” Moore said as the event was ending, “two people I love very dearly. I enjoyed answering all the questions and maybe we can do this again sometime if you aren’t all bored with me.” He needn’t worry. No one was bored and everyone online during this extraordinary event was thrilled to be a part of it.