So I Read LOST GIRLS: And Other Pertinent Thoughts

The cover -or- basically the only image from the book I can show you.

So I’ve read Lost Girls. How about that book, eh? Arguably the greatest living comic author wanted to conquer erotica. And he wanted to do so using other peoples characters. If that ain’t a can of worms worth unpacking I just don’t know what is.

First and foremost ought to be the subject of comic erotica itself. As very much a non-connoisseur of the subject I couldn’t tell you the difference between erotica and pornography without assistance. But I don’t really want assistance, because that’s just not a Google search I’m ready for, so here’s what I do know. Comic porn has a long history, including these things called Tijuana Bibles, which actually sound kind of cool. Sally Jupiter in Watchmen even mentions that there were books starring her. Josh looked at a few in an iFanboy video episode when he went to the Museum of Sex in New York City. My own experience comes from having worked in a comic shop that sold a healthy assortment of various porn/erotic comics. They were incredibly graphic and the clientele that sought them out were about what you’d expect. Not my favorite part of the job to be sure.

So how does Lost Girls compare? I tried to go in with an open mind and I’m happy to report that Lost Girls is a good book. Sure it’s not something you’d read on the subway, but I enjoyed the meta-concept surrounding the tales of Alice, Dorothy, and Wendy. There is no doubt that Alan Moore is stunningly brilliant, and his ability to thematically incorporate so many aspects of these children’s books into erotic fiction is nothing short of astounding. If anything, his ideas about these stories ground them in reality, while still maintaining elements of the fantastic. It’s disturbing to see the stories you grew up with coopted for his purposes, but you have to admit that his interpretation is well thought out, reasonable, and masterfully constructed. If Alan Moore decided porn comics needed to be conquered, then I’d say he’s more than succeeded.

Yet there remains in me an unresolved conundrum. It’s a legitimate puzzler that I’m hoping some brilliant and mature commenters (of which iFanboy has many) can help me think it through. So in Lost Girls, Alan Moore takes characters created by someone else in a different medium, and uses them to tell his story in his preferred medium. This isn’t the first time he’s done that, see League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and even Watchmen to a certain extent. Yet when his characters are taken and used in a different medium it’s not ok?

"And then you had Dorothy do what?!"

My girlfriend (yes, she knew what I was reading) argued that because the stories that Alan Moore tells are novel, it’s ok. Which I think is a fair way of looking at things, but then I remember that Moore has criticized and insulted modern writers for using his ideas to try and tell new stories (see Blackest Night). And while I think Lost Girls in a fascinating homage, I cannot imagine that Misters Carrol, Baum, and Barrie would agree with his usage of their characters. Actually, Carrol might have been cool with it, but Baum and Barrie would have had none of it. As much respect as Moore may be paying to their original ideas, there’s still the aspect of their presumed displeasure with his work.

So there really seems no way around the idea that Alan Moore is a hypocrite, but that doesn’t sit right with me at all. I don’t want to think Alan Moore is a hypocrite, I’m just having a hard time figuring out why he isn’t. Some interviewer may have asked him and he may have given a decent answer using his wizard logic, but I haven’t seen it and am hesitant to head down that particular rabbit hole.

Ultimately, this seems to boil down to the same ‘creator-owned’ vs. ‘corporate-owned’ comics debate that’s been going around the internet since forever. Should you come up with a hugely original idea and make it yourself? Or work on established characters, arguably with those same original ideas?  As much as it may infuriate a certain breed of comic fan, I don’t think there’s one right answer. Clearly if you’re Alan Moore, or a handful of other creators, you don’t need the corporate machine to get your ideas out there, but I can see how hard the decision might be for someone passionate about making their own comics yet offered a consistent paycheck from one of the big two. Which is why I say there’s no one right answer, and that’s a great thing comics has going for it. This isn’t the military, you don’t need to move up the ranks to eventually be the general of Marvel (although Stan Lee does like to call himself Generalissimo, but he’s the Man). As we hear time and time again, everyone entered this industry through a unique path, which may be why we are blessed with the amounts creativity these hard working folks churn out regularly. I get why Alan Moore is upset about the way he’s been treated, but if his original 12-page comic setting up the Blackest Night is really that much better than the entire story Geoff Johns told, it’ll be remembered and Johns will be forgotten. Given the chance, I’d remind Alan Moore that the cream always rises to the top, which is probably the perfect line with which to end a column that began with Lost Girls.


Ryan Haupt feels more mature having attempted intellectual writing about erotica. Hear him sound much less mature on the podcast Science… sort of.


  1. Alan Moore can be a hypocrite as much as anyone, and I’m not a big fan of Lost Girls, but this whole “Moore uses other people’s characters too” debate is missing the point entirely.

    In order for this to be an apt comparison to what was done to Moore (and Kirby, and dozens of others) is if Moore went back in time before Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan were written, had the authors sign a contract saying he could publish those books, and then take sole ownership of them, denying Barrie, Baum and Carroll most of the profits, and the rights to republish, continue or otherwise use their own characters.

    There’s a difference between appropriation and fan fiction.

  2. The difference between Alan Moore using other people’s characters and Before Watchmen / Blackest Night is: Alan Moore has repeatedly taken existing ideas, fleshed them out to an incredible degree, and built his own world around them. In the aforementioned titles, other writers merely plug their own words into his newly fleshed-out characters and worlds.

    It would be the difference between a great Star Wars story using ideas set forth in the films vs. Michael Bay making a seventh Star Wars movie for a huge sum of cash.

    • I’ll give you Before Watchmen, but there is absolutely NO WAY you can tell that Geoff Johns didn’t “take an existing idea (ie a throwaway line from a GL short story written by Moore), fleshed it out to an incredible degree, and built his own world around it.” That’s EXACTLY what Johns did with Blackest Night/War of Light/ROYGBV Corps
      I’d hardly call GL in the 1980s (when Moore wrote Tygers) a “newly fleshed-out character and world.”
      You’re reaching

    • Should read : NO WAY you can tell me that Geoff Johns…

  3. I have to agree wholeheartedly with spectre-general and ArtiePhilie on this. Moore didn’t (and couldn’t) ever take a profit from these other creators because he didn’t find a loop-hole in their contract to exploit. Moore does offer an explanation of his use of other’s characters in a Vimeo video for a Kickstarter project to make a Harvey Pekar statue. Using the word hypocrite on him is rather extreme as I see it. Funny thing is I’ve been called a hypocrite on this very website by someone
    (who shall remain nameless) for choosing Moore over Miller, so there…

  4. I think the first two comments have already done a great job of explaining the difference. Hopefully this topic can be avoided from now on.

  5. There’s no two ways around it, Moore is a hypocrite in this instance, but being a hypocrite isn’t a crime. In fact, if we are all honest, we all have things we are hypocritical about. Sometimes there are good or defensible reasons for hypocrisy.

    What gets me about the whole fuss about Before Watchmen and other works of Moore’s that may be adapted to another media or be expanded upon in the future is why it is still an issue. Moore has been clear that he would rather others not expand or adapt his material. He want it to stand for itself. He’s also clear in that he doesn’t want to have anything to do with these expansions and/or adaptations. So, why do reporters chase after the same story and get the same answer every time it happens?

    It’s obvious DC/Warners isn’t going to turn over the rights to Watchmen to Moore and contractually Warners/DC is on solid ground. So what does it matter what Moore thinks? Is it fair? Legally, it is fair. Morally? It’s certainly debatable. Under the circumstances, DC/Warners has been silly not to exploit the Watchmen property further than it already has. I think the reason it hadn’t is that Levitz and Kahn before him were in a way trying to honor Moore’s wishes and keep an olive branch extended. But, Moore knows he’s not going to get control of the characters and he doesn’t need DC’s money, so why should he play nice with them.

    As for the argument over Blackest Night, Moore had a throwaway line in an 8-page story that sparked Johns’ imagination of what the Blackest Night prophecy might be. Johns then developed it into what it ultimately became, but Blackest Night is purely Johns’ work even though Moore’s throwaway line was the inspiration. Moore is again being hypocritical because just like Johns, his idea about a Blackest Night prophecy was inspired by whomever wrote Green Lantern’s oath back in the 1940s. Again, he is criticizing DC or Johns for doing the exact same thing he did.

    I don’t think Moore is fooling himself with these shots at DC. Moore is just using whatever ammunition he can find to fire across DC’s bow. It’s childish, but because Moore’s considered a genius a lot of folks are rallying to his defense.

    But I’m guessing some if not a lot of his defenders will be picking up the Before Watchmen material in some format once it’s released, making them hypocrites, too.

    • Regarding Blackest Night – How many times has Grant Morrison gone and dug out some old nuggets from the Batman or Superman archives and incorporated or expanded on them in a modern story? Yet nobody calls him on any of that. Instead, they praise his genius. He’s won Eisner and Harvey awards for those works. Maybe Moore protests too much?

  6. “So there really seems no way around the idea that Alan Moore is a hypocrite, but that doesn’t sit right with me at all. ”

    Hypocrisy shouldn’t sit right. Ever. But you’re calling it correct.

  7. Alan Moore has not written a prequel or sequel to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland, while DC is launching Before Watchmen. To me that’s a huge difference. Furthermore, like it or not, Lost Girls or The League Of….are a genuine creative attempt to put well known characters in a complete different contest while Before Watchmen looks like a simple commercial move. My two cents…

    • There was a discussion on the soon-to-be-altered DC boards where a poster pointed out that Moore is in a sense using the characters (in this case Lost Girls) for at least some commercial reasons.

      The poster pointed out that Moore could have written Lost Girls with other characters but opted to use characters that are quite well-known. And that, in doing so, he had to know that that would garner more attention than original creations. Hence added commercial value.

      It was an interesting point and not one I had really thought about. It certainly adds another layer to the argument of genuine creative attempt to put other characters in a different context versus commercial intentions.

  8. DC owns the characters and world of Watchmen, rightly or wrongly. It is, therefore, their right to publish more stories in that world, with those characters. Alan Moore may not like it, but they aren’t breaking the law. If Moore owned the Watchman characters, he would definitely have grounds to act. But he doesn’t.

    Is he a hypocrite? Well, sort of. Seems like it’s OK to use pre-existing characters as long as it’s not something he worked on. But if you stop and think about it, it’s not like any of the writers he borrowed from are alive to tell Moore to knock it off. Imagine Jules Verne telling him not to use Captain Nemo, etc. What if they were? Ryan touched on that regarding Lost Girls.

    What everyone is missing is that when Moore works with pre-existing characters, he has chosen ones that are in the public domain. These characters already exist, have histories and worlds that are known that he can build on, but they are out in the public domain due to copyright law.

    So, Moore has protected himself legally by using public domain characters, and he has also protected himself from the scorn of the original creators because they are all dead. Smart guy!

    The real testament to Moore’s creativity is that ANYONE could have legally written a story using them, but nobody did. It took Alan Moore to do that.

    • Also we have no idea what the original authors would think, but we know factually that Moore clearly thinks Before Watchmen is a crappy idea and asked DC to not go ahead with it.

  9. oh lord. here we go again.

    this is my take on it: i have no problem with alan moore’s contradictory stances because it impacts me in no way at all. if his opinions make him a hypocrite, then ok. i still like his books, and he can still be grumpy about people co-opting his ideas. it doesn’t take anything anyway from my enjoyment of from hell. there. cognitive dissonance resolved.

    unrelated note: i don’t think moore considers lost girls erotica. i’m pretty sure he was up front about saying, “nope. this is porn.” i remember that sentiment being somewhere in this rather lengthy article:,14006/

    heh. “lengthy.”

  10. “I don’t want to think Alan Moore is a hypocrite, I’m just having a hard time figuring out why he isn’t.”

    I hate this topic but it brings up something about the arts in general. Yes, he is a towering hypocrite but, seriously, it shouldn’t bother anyone that much. Think about it. Do we really want all of our artists to be all that rational? Wouldn’t it suck if they all wrote stories about people who calmly analyzed their problems and methodically went about solving them until they reached the denouement? Nobody wants to see that. Hell no, we want to see people screw up and react emotionally and maybe do some stupid shit along the way and possibly come out on top. It’s totally irrational to want to actually live that way but it’s fun to watch or read and always has been. (Some of those Nordic sagas are like soap operas.) Interesting art comes from artists who know how to sail the seas of emotion without sinking. If we want all artists to be pleasant, non-confrontational and non-contradictory then get ready for some art that will put you to sleep. Same with music and musicians… or all the arts, really. Alan Moore is an artist supreme in my books but that doesn’t make him a holy man who can’t possibly be a hypocrite. We can criticize him for his foibles and still dig the hell out his work. I know I do.

  11. Once again, who is using a character and how good they are as a creator is irrelevant.

    Alan Moore did not deny L Frank Baum, Lewis Carroll, or Sir James Barrie the rights to their works, nor prevent them from making a profit on them as they saw fit, as was the case with Watchmen.

    The point isn’t that someone using a pre-existing idea. That happens all the time, and no one cares. Sometimes great art is made that way. That’s everything from Shakespeare to Michael Crichton.

    The point is that a creator who has been exploited is still being exploited, just a little more so.

    • People keep throwing up this creator’s rights issue but that’s beside the point, it’s not where the hypocracy comes in. Think of this from a purely artistic perspective without the legalities. He said Watchmen was like Moby Dick and shouldn’t be tampered with but he didn’t extend that ethic to Barrie, Verne, etc. Yes, it’s legal but it’s hypocritical on his part regardless of his issues with DC.

  12. anyone know what Moore thinks of the current Swamp Thing run. He probably hasn’t even read it, but I’d like to know.


    Lost Girls was surprisingly good and kind of hilarious at points (the Peter Pan/Hook battle splash page.)

  14. Have any of moore’s works been wholly original? Beyond the obvious stuff like marvelman, swamp thing, league, watchmen, and lost girls, V is Guy Fawkes, necronomicon is lovecraft, top 10 is the whole superhero genre… And I love everything I mentioned (except necronomicon- does everything you write need rape?), and it wouldn’t bother me at all (i like the pixies and nirvana) if he wasn’t so vicious about works like blackest night that he hasn’t and most likely will never read.

  15. “Alan Moore did not deny L Frank Baum, Lewis Carroll, or Sir James Barrie the rights to their works, nor prevent them from making a profit on them as they saw fit, as was the case with Watchmen.”

    The only problem with this argument is that Alan Moore has never owned the rights to the Watchmen. DC has owned the Watchmen from inception. Moore was paid to invent the characters and write the story for DC on a work for hire basis. DC owns the characters by contract and has never lost that ownership. That contract had stipulations for Moore to eventually take control of the work if certain conditions were met (the work being out of print for 5 years). Those conditions were never met. Moore never owned the rights to the Watchmen.

    Someone(s) designed and made the couch in your living room for a company. That company sold the product to a retail. You bought the couch from the retail store. Who owns the couch in your living room? While someone(s) designed, crafted, distributed and sold the couch, those people don’t own it. You do because your receipt is a contract that says you own it. For a time the company owned the couch, so did the retailer, but at no point did the designer or the craftsman own the couch because they were paid to produce the work for the company.

  16. And frankly, reading Alan Moore books kinda just depress me now. Yes, the craft is impeccable, but the philosophy is so overwhelmingly nihilist. All heroes lose, no one is effective, the world sucks, etc. V will always be my favorite because he was advocating something he believed in, not skillfully tearing down something he hated. And I can’t forgive him for the hyde/invisible man rape scene in league 2. As a friend of victims of rape, I vociferously say that’s not something you should make into a heroic ‘fuck yeah’ moment

  17. I don’t understand how so many people can’t see the difference between what Alan Moore does and what Before Watchmen does. In Alan Moore’s works, he sometimes takes established characters, reinvents them and builds his own world and story around them. The characters in “Lost Girls” have only a passing resemblance to the characters they are based on. The characters in LoEG are really not like the characters they are based on at all, except in very basic details (like the powers and skills they have). The real meat of the characters – their personalities, actions and purpose, are completely original to Moore. It’s just a slightly exaggerated version of what every writer does when creating a character – you start from a basic archetype, such as “loner with a talent to show the world,” or “sagely old man/woman”, or “renegade cop who breaks all the rules for the sake of justice”, etc. It’s just that the archetypes he’s using are a bit more detailed and give the reader a jump-off point to understanding the character. This allows Moore to jump right in to the story, and to upturn the reader’s expectations of those characters.

    Before Watchmen, on the other hand, takes Moore’s world and characters en masse and tries to tell a new plot without having to do the hard work of building a new world for them.

    Do you guys see the difference yet?

    • It’s like pouring a glass of milk and then pouring another separate glass of milk, while before Watchmen is like trying to pour more milk into the first glass.


  18. Everyone’s a hypocrite, people shouldn’t get so hung up on it. Just note it and move on…

  19. I really don’t care about who’s right and who’s wrong. As long as the stories are good, I’m fine with any expansions or new approach.

    Pretty sure Moore calls Lost Girls pornography and not erotica though.

  20. A. You turned this opinion piece from discussing erotic comics into more flame-war inducing arguments about Alan Moore? May I buy a cat o’ nine tails and ship it to you so that you may whip yourself until you cover the floor in blood? How PEDESTRIAN for you to go there.

    B. This argument is MOOT. There appears to be a small group of people who have locked onto this one, and bad, ideology that all this anti-Watchmen sentiment is based on ‘No one should take Moore’s creations and do what they want’. As someone who is not excited at all about Before Watchmen, I tell you this avenue of the argument is crooked and full of holes and continuing that argument when you KNOW its crooked and full of holes is idiotic at best. DC can do whatever they want w/ the Watchmen. They OWN it. If you want to write a 12 issue mini series about Rorshach in space where he has sex w/ 3-breasted aliens, then so be it. No, there is NOTHING wrong with being able to do that. But to expect fans to like it? To accept it blindly? That’s the part that’s insulting.

    The REAL argument about Watchmen is that the original series is so self-contained and wonderfully composed, than any ‘pre’ story seems kind of pointless. I personally do not care about Niteowl’s adventures in fighting crime. His role in Watchmen served its purpose to tell the Watchmen story. He IS a caricature of existing characters, all of them are, which is why their purpose is to tell the story of Watchmen, not intended to sprout roots and leaves and spin off into their own stories. Some people say they like that kind of thing… so be it, they’ll be the ones that pay for Before Watchmen and I hope they enjoy it. Me… if i want to read stories about a rich guy who dresses up and has money for gadgets and technology, I’ll go back and read some original Blue Beetle… or Batman… or Iron Man… or….

    • To point A: pedestrian is really harsh. I felt the piece had a logical flow. It was called “so I read lost girls and OTHER PERTINENT THOUGHTS” not “my thoughts on porn”. Discussing a work where Moore takes liberties with others’ creations naturally leads to a discussion of his thoughts about people taking liberties with his creations. And I wouldn’t call this discussion a flame war. A heated debate maybe, but everyone has contributed ideas they’ve clearly put thought into as opposed to just yelling at each other.

  21. I was hoping for a little more on Lost Girls and a review of the reading of it.

  22. The thing is, at what point does a character or a work of fiction become folklore? How ingrained and incorporated into the Zeitgeist does a story or a character have to become before in becomes part of the cultural grammar and such common currency that it becomes part of the venacular? I’m sure that’s where Alan is probably coming from, when you consider his neopagan, shamanistic view of authors and creators as storytellers. If a character can be both an original piece of intellectual property, a brand essentially, AND an aspect of the popular consciousness, a trope even, then at what point do they begin taking on the status of fairy tales?

    It’s not when they get turned into a Disney movie , that’s for sure… Disney in their golden era certainly adapted every bit of public domain folklore and every European folklore they could lay their hands on, knocked out their own remix of it, stamped their copyright on it and moved on without worrying about it. Sometimes, it’s just out and out folklore and legend (as with Robin Hood), sometimes it’s a traditional fairy tale that everyone just *knows* and nobody really wrote it (like Snow White or Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty) and sometimes we know the names of the people who first wrote them down, usually long dead, but they were probably just writing down the traditional stories other people had told to them, as is the case with stories attributed to people like Haans-Christian Aanderson (Little Mermaid) and the Brothers Grimm.

    You can’t *own* characters and concepts like Snow White or Robin Hood, even if you know who first created them or put them on paper – if everyone has an idea of those characters and stories in their head, everyone has created their own version in their head and they belong to everyone, by virtue of the fact that they are endemic and ubiquitous in the culture.

    In the same way, (almost) everyone knows that Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes. And even though almost straight away, they began doing things to him and Watson that are completely removed from Conan Doyle’s original work – after the first couple, the Basil Rathbone films timeshifted to then-present day Blitz-ravaged London, 1940, as opposed to the 1890s so Holmes and Watson could battle Nazi spies and saboteurs – the character himself is iconic and unbreakable.

    Anything that’s been around longer than Mickey Mouse and is still recognised as an identifiable story or character rather than just a trope is similarly unbreakable and unassailable and thus belongs to everyone in that way, even if legally, that isn’t always true.

    Which, I happen to know, was a key element of the notion underpinning Alan’s thinking when he came up with LoEG, and you see it a lot in his other work as well to some extent in things like Promethea, 1963 and even Supreme to a greater or lesser extent.  If all these characters exist within and inhabit the collective unconsciousness of our culture, they occupy the same space and there’s therefore no reason why they meet up and have adventures. 

    When you get into the post-Mickey Mouse era of 1928 or so (for anyone who doesn’t know, the lifetime of US copyright ownership on a given work gets extended, like clockwork, every time that the first Mickey Mouse cartoon, Steamboat Willy, is about to lapse into the public domain, which would potentially mean that Mickey himself becomes legally owned by anyone who wants to make use of the character – thanks, Sonny Bono), things begin to get legally tricky, even if the psychology underpinning doesn’t… Something which, in one of my favourite bits of Alan’s writing, he decided to have a great deal of fun with in The Black Dossier….

    Now, no-one owns Robin Hood.  No one really owns Sherlock Holmes, even though we know the name of the man who created him. He belongs to everyone, he’s such an established part of the public consciousness.

    BUT someone (or some collection of people) DOES own James Bond. 

    And to that, I say:- Bollocks. 

    No they don’t, don’t be silly. “James Bond” is shorthand for “spy” in the minds even of people who’ve never read a Bond novel or never seen a Bond movie (which isn’t that many, because apparently, half the population of the entire globe has seen at least one Bond movie, I read somewhere.)

    Regardless of who *legally* owns James Bond (Kevin McClory has a great deal to answer for, there), in reality, no-one owns James Bond, he’s part of modern folklore, along with Indiana Jones, that’s why they get spoofed so often. 

    The “nasty little thug” and potential rapist “Jimmy” in the Black Dossier is a far more accurate and honest re-use of the frankly abhorrent Bond of Flemming’s early novels than Roger Moore getting laid in zero gravity on a space shuttle, orbiting a world that contains indistructable giant mutes with metal teeth, hovercraft gondolas and Space Marines with laser rifles.

    And yet, Campion Bond’s family embarrassment “Jimmy” is named only in a circumspect, tongue in cheek way, since one of these versions was produced by someone authorised who “owns” James Bond, whereas the other is not, and their version is therefore the only “real” one.

    Of course, if you asked Grant Morrison about this, as with Batman, he’d no doubt say that they’re *both* real, (both in continuity and in the sense of being actually REAL people) just branching off into different vibrational planes and quantum realities, which is why their lives don’t make any sense unless view from up really close. Which may be part of the reason why Alan hates him.

    But he may be right. James Bond remains James Bond, in spite of the Space Marines.

    Dorothy Gale will always be Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, Alice will always be the girl who fell down the rabbit hole, and Peter Pan’s bossy girlfriend whose name no one can ever remember will always be the bossy, humourless woman who comes into his life, makes him tidy up, and guilts him into growing up by raining all over his carefree bachelor lifestyle by telling him he needs to be more responsible and start acting like a man.

    You can’t own the “bossy girlfriend” character, it’s a trope, it’s timeless. Even if, in this case, someone actually does… And, bizarrely but true, Wendy Darling is, in fact owned by Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital Trust.

    (even though every child in Britain can tell you what a “Wendy House” is, despite never having read Peter bloody Pan…

  23. Alan Moore himself said in the biography on him that the difference between pornography and erotica is a matter of class.