I was sorry to learn about the recent death of British comic book writer Steve Moore, who passed away at the age of 64 earlier this month. Steve Moore was a longtime friend & associate of Alan Moore, so much so that they constantly had to remind people that they were not, in fact, related to each other.
Steve Moore was involved in the early days of the weekly sci-fi anthology series 2000 AD, penning several installments of “Tharg’s Future Shocks” in the late 1970s and early 80s. In late 1979, he became one of the first writers for Doctor Who Weekly / Monthly for Marvel UK, penning a variety of back-up stories spotlighting the aliens & monsters of the television series.
With then up-and-coming artist Steve Dillon, Moore co-created two recurring characters in the comic book back-ups. The first was Junior Cyberleader Kroton, introduced in “Throwback: The Soul of a Cyberman,” published in Doctor Who Weekly #s 5-7 (1980). Unlike the rest of the Cybermen, when he was converted into a cyborg Kroton somehow retained his human emotions, his capacity for empathy. Struggling with his unexpected feelings, Kroton eventually sided with the human resistance on the Cyberman-occupied world of Mondaran, helping them to escape to the unoccupied jungles of their planet. However, realizing he was neither fully Cyberman nor human, Kroton elected to blast off into outer space, where he shut himself down.
The other character conceived by Moore and Dillon was Abslom Daak, the Dalek-Killer, originally featured in Doctor Who Weekly #s 17-20 (1980). Although they shared a common enemy in the Daleks, Daak was the polar opposite of the Doctor. Whereas the wandering Time Lord was eccentric, cultured, and sought to resolve conflicts with his intellect, Daak was a brutal career criminal, a cynic with a dark sense of humor and a death wish whose solution to any problem was violence.
On the opening page his debut Daak has been convicted of “23 charges of murder, pillage, piracy, massacre and other crimes too horrible to bring to the public attention.” Given a capital sentence, Daak is offered a choice, “death by vaporization or Exile D-K.” Dryly commenting that “vaporization doesn’t hurt,” Daak takes the second alternative. Exile D-K involves sending an individual by matter transmitter into the heart of the Dalek Empire to wage a hopeless one-man guerilla war against the fascist mutants from Skaro. This suits Daak just fine. Armed to the teeth with an arsenal of weapons, including his beloved chain-sword, he is teleported a thousand light years across the galaxy to the planet Mazam, newly invaded by the Daleks. There Daak plans to go out in a blaze of glory, violently taking as many Daleks with him as possible in an orgy of destruction.
Upon his arrival, however, Daak ends up saving the life of the stunningly beautiful Princess Taiyin. Daak is all ready to do a reenactment of the ending to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but Taiyin realizes this brutish warrior might just be able to help her escape. Knocking the Dalek-Killer out, she transports the two of them away from her palace via sky-sled. Once again attacked by the Daleks, Daak reiterates his hopes of achieving a spectacularly violent demise. Taiyin reluctantly points him in the direction of the Daleks’ command ship and, against impossible odds, the two manage to destroy it. Taiyin, who has begun to fall for Daak, asks him to stay on and help rebuild Mazam. Before Daak can answer, Taiyin is shot from behind by one of the surviving Daleks, and dies in the Dalek-Killer’s arms.
Moore did an interesting job of developing Daak. He starts out as a thoroughly unpleasant individual who is looking to cash his chips in. Along the course of the story, Daak reluctantly comes to realize that he likes Taiyin, and perhaps he could have a future with her, a reason to go on living. And then all that is cruelly yanked away from him in an instant with Taiyin’s death. From that point on, Daak vows to “kill every damned stinking Dalek in the galaxy.” Revenge and the almost impossible hope of somehow finding a way to revive Taiyin are Daak’s only reasons to go on living. That final page is powerfully illustrated by Dillon.
Moore continued Abslom Daak’s story in “Star Tigers,” which ran in Doctor Who Weekly #s 27-30 and 44-46. The Dalek-Killer gains a battleship, the Kill Wagon, and a crew made up of exiled Draconian prince Salander, the Ice Warrior mercenary Harma, and the human criminal strategist Vol Mercurious. The first few installments were again drawn by Dillon, with a young David Lloyd assuming art duties on the later chapters.
(There is an excellent interview with Steve Moore concerning his Dalek-Killer stories online at Altered Vistas. Check it out.)
Moore intended to write additional installments of“Star Tigers.” But he was then switched over to the main feature in Doctor Who Weekly / Monthly, scripting the adventures of the Fourth Doctor. Here he was paired with regular artist Dave Gibbons. In the mid-1980s, Moore’s Doctor Who work was reprinted in color in the American comic book series, which is where I first had the opportunity to read his various stories.
Moore also contributed numerous stories to the short-lived anthology series Warrior in the mid-1980s. Among these were the adventures of the psychotic cyborg Axel Pressbutton and his sometimes-partner, the beautiful & deadly Laser Eraser.
Throughout the 1990s Moore worked as a writer and editor at Fortean Times, the British magazine of strange & esoteric phenomena. He returned to the comic book field in the late 1990s, when he began writing “Tales of Telguth,” a horror / fantasy anthology feature in 2000 AD with dark twist endings. This allowed Moore to collaborate with a number of very talented artists such as Simon Davis, Greg Staples, Carl Critchlow, Dean Ormston, and Siku.
In the mid-2000s, Moore once again became associated with Alan Moore, working on several stories for Tom Strong, Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales and Tomorrow Stories from the America’s Best Comics imprint. These were illustrated by an all-star line up that included Paul Gulacy, Jimmy Palmiotti, Alan Weiss, Arthur Adams and Eric Shanower. In 2008, Steve Moore wrote Hercules: The Thracian Wars and Hercules: The Knives of Kush for Radical Comics.
At the time of his death, Steve Moore was working with Alan Moore once again, this time on The Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic, to be released by Top Shelf. Hopefully Alan will be able to complete the tome and it will see publication.
Steve Moore leaves behind a very impressive, offbeat, original body of work. His two original characters from the Doctor Who comics, Abslom Daak and Kroton, became fan favorites. Daak later encountered the Seventh Doctor, both in the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip and in prose fiction. Kroton, after many years absence from print, reappeared to travel for a time with the Eighth Doctor. So please raise a glass (or a chainsword) in his memory.