Well so here, kind of astonishingly, are a few pages from Alan Moore's script to Watchmen. If you haven't thought about Watchmen since you helped bake a cake to celebrate my excitement at the release of the final issue c. 1986, be aware that it has remained in print in a paperback edition, has become recognized as a classic of the superhero genre, and is constantly on the verge of being made into a movie. Largely forgotten is the disappointment that we felt about the ending (which, bear in mind, we'd been waiting years for -- maybe it holds up better when you read it all in one gulp).

So: some thoughts re: Alan Moore, prompted by this incredible document:

1. In comics scripting there's two basic methods: the DC way and the Marvel way. Under the DC way, which was the dominant way until the early '60s, the writer scripts the entire comic, then gives the script to the artist to realize. In the Marvel way -- pioneered by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby on the first issues of Fantastic Four -- the writer writes a plot; the artist breaks it down into panels (a process in which most of the unique genius of the comics medium occurs); the writer adds the dialogue (and, in the case of Lee and Kirby, takes all the money).

Moore is the DC way taken to its ne plus ultra. "Over more towards the left, down at the bottom of the picture, we can see the old and worn metal of the drain cover with solid darkness visible between its slats...." Moore is famous for his clockwork plotting, his zingy dialogue, and his lyrical prose, but it turns out that his imagination is deeply visual.

2. You can understand why Bill Sienkiewicz, confronted with endless pages of similarly minute instructions, begged off Big Numbers after two of the proposed 10 issues. The fact that he did, though, is probably the biggest missed tragedy of modern comics. Big Numbers -- about the erection of a shopping mall in Northampton -- was going to be Moore's farewell to superheroes and hello to real-life drama. Those first two issues are astonishing. Instead, he started taking Aleister Crowley too seriously, began calling himself a magician, ruined the end of From Hell, took up performance art, and went back to superheroes. Because Moore has done some first-rate comics even recently (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, obviously, but also Top 10, which I really wish he'd continue) I think we overlook the extent to which his career is a wasted opportunity -- almost as much as Dave Sim's.

3. Also, if you haven't seen it, here's Moore's post-Watchmen proposal for a Crisis-style DC-universe-wide crossover maxiseries, Twilight of the Superheroes. A radical reinvention of just about every DC character ever, crammed into a plot that could have been a four-page Future Shock or Time Twister strip in 2000AD.