In the past I’ve tried to say, ‘Look, we are all crappy superheroes,’ because personal computers and mobile phone devices are things that only Batman and Mr Fantastic would have owned back in the sixties. We've all got this immense power and we’re still sat at home watching pornography and buying scratch cards. We’re rubbish, even though we are as gods. . . .Of course, many nations have superheroes. But perhaps they’re all simply imitations of a fundamentally American innovation.
I’ve come to the conclusion that what superheroes might be — in their current incarnation, at least — is a symbol of American reluctance to involve themselves in any kind of conflict without massive tactical superiority. I think this is the same whether you have the advantage of carpet bombing from altitude or if you come from the planet Krypton as a baby and have increased powers in Earth’s lower gravity.
That’s not what superheroes meant to me when I was a kid. To me, they represented a wellspring of the imagination. Superman had a dog in a cape! He had a city in a bottle! It was wonderful stuff for a seven-year-old boy to think about. But I suspect that a lot of superheroes now are basically about the unfair fight. You know: people wouldn’t bully me if I could turn into the Hulk. . . .
Initially Watchmen gained a lot of its readership because it was taking an unusual look at superheroes, but actually it was more about redefining comics than it was about redefining one particular genre. I think both me and Dave Gibbons had a lot of knowledge about that scene and we were able to take it and change it around to our advantage.
And, as you say, there hasn’t been a more sophisticated comic released in the 25 years since, which I find profoundly depressing, because it was intended to be something that expanded the possibilities of comics rather than what it has apparently become — a massive psychological stumbling block that the rest of the industry has yet to find a way round.
And perhaps Moore’s disenchantment with the genre has more to do with his stage of life than with the roots of the genre, geopolitics, or the state of the industry.