Anyone who has read an article by me knows that I am a fan of the work of Alan Moore. Moore is a phenomenal writer with a talent for thought-provoking writing done in an approachable manner. Today Moore is semi-retired from writing comics (though he’s writing a grand novel and a collection of short films), other than writing more volumes of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (and an occasional horror piece for Avatar). In his infamous interviews, Moore has expressed utter contempt for Hollywood and mainstream comics. It is understandable why Moore is so angry at DC, but it is ironic and equally tragic because it is clear that Moore loved DC Comics and superheroes at one point.
Moore’s work on the superhero genre in Marvelman and Watchmen fundamentally changed the way we look at superheroes in the world. Despite later proclaiming that Watchmen was in essence his final work on superheroes (despite later doing Supreme and WildC.A.T.s), Moore was eager to write a superhero event comic that would be the end of the DC Universe. The event was to be titled Twilight of the Superheroes, the title and plot inspired by the legend of Ragnarök, which tells of the Norse gods’ death. Sadly the work was not commissioned, and Moore left DC permanently. Years later the proposal for Twilight of the Superheroes came out, and while it is impossible to say what the finished product would be, even in its outline form the story is incredible.
Moore’s detailed proposal sheds not only the plotline and characterizations, but his thoughts on
crossovers and tie-ins. The most immediately surprising element of the proposal is that Moore recognizes the many commercial possibilities of Twilight, noting that toys, T-shirts, and a movie can all be derived from the work. Curiously, Moore has a tone of comic fanboy in his proposal, as he complains that the Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC Universe undoes all of the stories that he grew up reading. Yet at the same time, Moore thinks that continuity should not be too important and cites The Dark Knight Returns as an excellent model for loose continuity and providing an ending for superheroes. Furthermore, despite not liking the Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC Universe and its limitations, Moore is willing to play with the rules of the new DC Universe. He sets about a clever way of restoring the multiverse (multiple universes) of DC in a way that is perhaps more intriguing than the existing multiverse. In a sense, Twilight is ambiguously cannon; it had the potential of being an ending, or it could have been an avoidable fate, a la Ragnarök. Furthermore, the Alan Moore of the proposal is kind to fans’ wallets, as he tries to make the linking device of Twilight of the Superheroes to other books not at all essential to reading Twilight. Alan Moore also comes across as a good team player, as he makes the linking device optional for writers of other books to include in their work.
The framing device of Twilight has Legion of Superheroes villain the Time Trapper create a fluke field in 1987-2012 that prevents that time from being explored by anyone outside the field. In this “fluke field,” multiple possible timelines exist. (Moore envisions a potential tie-in that would involve the Legion of Superheroes stopping the Time Trapper’s sinister plan related to creating the fluke field.) Thus, from the onset of Twilight of the Superheroes, it is implied that the “future” of the story may be the definitive future of the DC Universe. The framing device (and potential crossover tie-ins) involves time travel and deals with the theme of free will and fate. A future Rip Hunter travels back in time to meet John Constantine with a letter from his future self, telling him that he must look to preventing the future seen in Twilight of the Superheroes. From there presumably all tie-ins to Twilight would involve Constantine and Rip Hunter warning a hero or group of heroes about what happens to their future self.
The world of Twilight of the Superheroes is described as a dystopia brought on by the lack of an apocalypse. As Moore reasons, the expectation of a nuclear armageddon led to an irresponsible lifestyle that eventually forced the superheroes to reluctantly become the rulers of Earth. Now the heroes are divided into several “Houses.” Moore applies a Watchmen-like deconstruction/revisionism to many of DC characters. Moore details greatly about every single hero from DC, showing where even the most obscure of heroes are in life. The most haunting and tragic portrayals are found in a former superhero bar with characters like Doll Man becoming some hideous insect-man creature, Uncle Sam a depressed drunk and Plastic Man as a benevolent gigolo.
The main plot of Twilight of the Superheroes involves John Constantine scheming to thwart the dynastic marriage between the House of Steel (Superman, Wonder Woman (now Superwoman) and their children) and the House of Thunder (Captain Marvel and family). The story would culminate in a bloody climax that eradicates all superheroes, freeing mankind. Back in the present, Constantine receives a second letter telling him that all his work causes the Twilight future to happen. Depressed Constantine is getting drunk, but is told as he is in the bar that he will meet the woman of his dreams. When his future wife appears, Constantine in spite ignores her, dooming him to loneliness and possibly forever changing the future.
It is impossible to say for sure how Twilight of the Superheroes would have been had it been written and drawn. John Totleben stated that he was the artist Moore wanted for the project, and judging from his sublime illustrative work in Marvelman/Miracleman, it is clear the two would have made Twilight of the Superheroes amazing. It is a great tragedy that this work will never truly exist, still for what it’s worth, everyone should read the Twilight of the Superheroes proposal; it’s infinitely better than most of what DC is producing now.
Footnotes: Alan Moore has charged that DC has strip-mined any and every idea of his. Many, including Moore, have seen the event Blackest Night as being based off of an 8-page story by Moore. This charge of strip-mining is more substantial as DC has used numerous characterizations and ideas from Twilight of the Superheroes. Mark Waid and Alex Ross have admitted that they looked to Twilight of the Superheroes for inspiration in their “end of superheroes” book Kingdom Come. Furthermore, Waid’s introduction of Hypertime was essentially better name for Moore’s “fluke field” in Twilight of the Superheroes. In addition to this, DC has coupled Wonder Woman and Superman together like Twilight, a female Flash has been introduced and Cyborg has become more of a robot and less human.
Other Footnote: All of the illustrations were commissions done by previous collaborators of Moore compiled by a fan and can be found here. Also, Evan wrote an excellent article on Twilight of the Superheroes that can be read here.