After I first read Watchmen, I excitedly picked up The Killing Joke in order to explore more from...well...Moore. Yet while I liked it and appreciated its impact on the Batman mythology, it seemed an awful lot like Watchmen: the deconstruction of the super-hero—or, in this case, the super-villain. It was violent and perverse, and I thought I just about understood what Alan Moore had to say.
Then, after perusing his section in a comic shop, I discovered that I didn’t know anything at all about the Alan Moore Catalog.
In the much-maligned 1990s era of comics, Alan Moore realized he enjoyed the idea of working free from the confines of properties like Superman and Batman and set out with a cadre of artists to create his own comics line: The ABC Universe. America’s Best Comics (note the tongue-in-cheekiness, as Moore was born and still lives in Northampton, England) was intended to be a universe all Moore’s own, launching Top 10, Tom Strong, Promethea, Tomorrow Stories, and, most famously, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Despite the success of the latter title, the remaining ABC stories are still somewhat under-read by comic fans.
I initially made the ABC plunge with Top Ten, Moore’s response to super-hero “team” books. “Let’s do some thinking about modern super-hero teams. And the first thing I thought is, well, they don’t very often work,” Moore states in the recently re-released and true-its-subtitle The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore: Indispensable Edition. “None of the characters acted like they did in their regular books, because they'd all kind of been reduced to their lowest common denominator so they’d all fit together.”
Stories that did work well on a team level, Moore noted, were police series, like Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, etc., where the story depended on the team dynamic coupled with individual personalities. And so he set a police team in the middle of a city populated solely by super-heroes, super-villains, super-pets, sidekicks, alternate-earth counterparts, and so on—all the clichés of comics, but living together in one super-city, secret identities and all.
“If everyone was a super-villain, a super-hero…then it would become completely normal and mundane and boring. Then, you’d be able to do the same gritty realism stories they did in NYPD Blue or The Shield or whatever, but everyone would be wearing some sort of long underwear costume.”