Tag: Alan Moore
In this episode we review:
SF #3 by Ryan Cecil Smith
In this episode we discuss:
Joe the Barbarian by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy
Susceptible by Genevieve Castree
District 14 (Season 1) by Pierre Gabus and Romuald Reutimann
Nemo: Heart of Ice by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill
Everybody Loves Tank Girl by Alan C. Martin and Jim Mahfood
Army of God: Joseph Kony’s War in Central Africa by David Axe and Tim Hamilton
Alex’s propagandizing to children with Nick Sousanis
The original two books of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen were fantastic, of course. What’s not to love about a superteam drawn from 19th-century popular fiction heroes? Part of the fun was in seeing characters we all knew well reinterpreted and placed into each others’ fictions.
It worked because most reasonably well-read fans could be expected to know Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, The Invisible Man, Dracula, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, King Solomon’s Mines, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and War of the Worlds. If not all of them, then a good number.
As Alan Moore has pushed the story of the League through the 20th century, though, the characters and fictions he’s plundering have become more and more obscure. In The Black Dossier he introduced us to Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, Emma Peel from the Avengers, and James Bond. Still pretty recognizable, though I’d argue Orlando and Emma Peel are already a step less so. But then in Century: 1910 he gave us Carnacki and A.J. Raffles.
Now, in the new The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 1969, I recognize literally none of his allusions.
They’re all detailed here (HT Stephen DeStefano). I read through that entire list and didn’t know a single one of those figures except Mick Jagger’s character from Performance, and that’s pretty damn obscure. (Except one: SPOILER BELOW THE FOLD.)
There are rather obvious reasons for this, having to do with the fact that most popular-fiction heroes from 1969 are probably still protected by copyright. Especially since most of them are comic-book heroes. (Caveat: see SPOILER BELOW.)
Nevertheless, Moore is changing the game on us. We will not be given the same pleasures that we got from the earlier part of the series. It takes a while to realize that, during which I, at least, kept wondering when something familiar was going to show up.
This need hardly be fatal. While Moore has done most of his best work appropriating and repurposing other people’s characters, he’s certainly proved himself capable of writing good stories without that crutch.
It’s just that this story I mostly found boring. It’s about the occult, which Moore finds more intriguing than I do, and the characters left in the League—now down to Mina Harker, Allan Quatermain, and Orlando—seem only half-interested in it themselves. Ultimately that leads to catastrophe, and the cliffhanger ending with everyone in a pretty terrible place does leave me curious about what’s next.
I hope I like it better than this. (I did like the short prose sci-fi tale at the back of the book, which continues a similar one from Century: 1910, only written in a 1960s sci-fi style rather than a 1910s sci-fi style.)
The other day in the comic book store I overheard a guy saying how it’s not fair for Alan Moore to complain about other people being unoriginal when he’s spent his entire career making new works with other people’s characters or by reworking other people’s tropes.
I’d never thought of it before, but it’s completely true: Watchmen, Miracleman, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Swamp Thing, Supreme, Tom Strong, Lost Girls, Skizz, even to a certain extent From Hell. Which isn’t to say that this isn’t a stunningly original body of work (or that in other books, like V for Vendetta, Promethea, and Top 10 he hasn’t also shown he can invent whole-cloth with the rest of them). But for the most part he’s made his bones showing just how much you can do with recycled material.
In 2004 he applied himself to H.P. Lovecraft with The Courtyard. It was an interesting, slim book in which an unapologetically racist FBI agent tried to crack an impossible set of murder cases and was exposed accidentally to the underlying grammar of the universe, which happened to be written just like Lovecraft’s vowel-less gibberish. This destroyed his mind and he ritually murdered his neighbor in just the manner of the murders he was investigating.
Neonomicon, the new series of some undisclosed number of issues, begins six years later as a new pair of FBI agents undertake to investigate that same set of murders—along with the three committed by the agent from The Courtyard. They start their quest by attempting to interview him in a criminal psych hospital, but he only answers them in Lovecraftian grunts. Then they try to track down the dealer he’d been chasing when he went mad, but the guy slips away from them and escapes into a mural.
One of Moore’s great strengths, as always, is in the way he fleshes out his borrowed elements (and I haven’t read my Lovecraft, so I can’t pinpoint what’s borrowed and what isn’t) with original character details, communicated through dialogue. In this case, for example:
“Get the fuck out of here. You got job-related stress. You didn’t carve people into fucking tulips.”
“Well, it wasn’t all job-related, I had a lot of personal issues to work through…”
“What, you were dating too many guys, you were drinking a little, it’s not the same thing…”
“Listen, I had problems. The sex-addiction thing…”
“Merril, if that was a real illness everybody over thirteen would be in a hospital.”
Later, Merril’s superior asks how her leave went, and then tells her that it’s great she’s sorted things out, and if she ever wants to go back to how things were, she should let him know, huh?
If I was one of those screenwriter bloggers, this is where I would write something like “That, kiddies, is how you lay pipe,” as part of an ongoing pretense that you can reduce creativity to mere craftsmanship. But what’s impressive about Moore isn’t the craftsmanship. It’s the bottomless originality.
There are broadly speaking two strains of comics: the superhero kind and the non-superhero kind. I prefer the non- kind, although I can often be interested in stories that twist superhero conventions in an interesting way (like, for example, Watchmen or Powers, about which more in a moment). Mark Waid does pretty conventional superhero comics, although he has done a few experiments with superhero conventions like Kingdom Come and more recently Empire, which I liked.
Empire takes as its premise that the baddest supervillain has defeated all the heroes, and now rules over all the world with an iron grip. In Irredeemable the world’s greatest superhero has snapped and is now traveling around the world murdering millions of people at a time, taking time off every now and then to kill his former superteammates.
As Waid describes it in his preface:
In superhero comics, pretty much everyone who’s called upon to put on a cape is, at heart, emotionally equipped for the job.
I reject that premise.
No one simply turns “evil” one day. Villainy isn’t a light switch. The road to darkness is filled with moments of betrayal, of loss, of disappointment, and of superhuman weakness. In the case of the Plutonian [the hero-turned-villain of the book], there were sidekicks who sold his secrets. There were friends who preyed too often on his selflessness and enemies who showed him unsettling truths about himself.
Honestly, unless you’re already invested in the superhero genre who takes seriously the idea of “villainy?”
The idea of the superhero who goes nuts and destroys cities was done first and best by Alan Moore in Miracleman, with unbelievable drawings by John Totleben:
(I’ll put another one below the fold so it can spread out; otherwise it’ll either be too tiny or screw up the page formatting.)
It was also done pretty well recently in Powers Vol. 6: The Sellouts, with stunning art by Michael Avon Oeming.
So far, I’m not seeing anything new enough from Mark Waid to hold my non-superhero interest, and Peter Krause’s art can’t hold a candle to the two I just mentioned. The layouts are conventional and the panels feel static. It looks like your basic comic book art. Preview below the fold, followed by the page from Miracleman I promised.