30 November 2009

A Little Moore Love, Part the Third incorporating The Summup.

Ah, well. Here it is the thirtieth day of November as I write this, almost the end of Alan Moore Month, and I did not get the last two parts of my little series completed in time. Oh well, I'll try to make the best of it and hit the last two series in condensed fashion. Again, I'm just attempting to shine a light on certain Moore-scripted efforts that made a lasting impression on me, without citing a lot of the usual suspects.

The final two series I wish to bring up have a bit in common, which is to say that they both feature strong female characters as their leads. Now, believe me, I know that discussing "strong female characters" is a red flag to some, who will always find some point or another to dispute your claim no matter how good the intention is; that said, I think Moore has done quite a bit towards giving us characters of that ilk- Abigail Arcane, Mina Harker, Dhalua and Tesla Strong to name a few. And yes, I know you can nitpick these selections as well- some of them are dependent, to different degrees, on the male characters in the books in which they appear; it seems to me to point towards the pursuit of a well-rounded character rather than any sort of slight, intended or not.

One such character was an early effort, released in 1984 at roughly the same time as Saga of Swamp Thing: The Ballad of Halo Jones, a British series that was collected and reissued Stateside in three volumes. It was probably the first thing I read by Moore after I had discovered him via Swamp Thing. In collaboration with longtime British comic stalwart Ian Gibson, he gave us a young lady of the 50th century who embarks on a quest of sorts, without even knowing it. She leaves Earth after the death, under mysterious circumstances, of her best friend, then eventually heads into outer space as hired help on an luxury space liner before ending up, through a set of odd circumstances, as a soldier in a interplanetary war. She really undergoes a life-changing journey, and I found it fascinating when I first read it so long ago, especially thanks to more than one really deft plot twist as the story unfolds. It also points to another unfortunate reoccurring situation in Moore's career, and I borrow Wiki's assessment: "a dispute between Moore and Fleetway, the magazine's publishers, over the intellectual property rights of the characters Moore and Gibson had co-created", effectively ending what was originally intended as a nine-issue saga. A couple of pages from Book Three:

The other series is Moore's highly imaginative, and often hard to (for lack of a better word) penetrate ABC series Promethea, in which he once more confounded expectations by taking what had appeared on the surface to be an attempt to bring us his version of Wonder Woman into some strange and unexpected places, taking the opportunity to expand upon and instruct the great unwashed about his views and beliefs on divinity and the afterlife, as well as the nature of Man. Heavy stuff, and to Moore's credit he gradually worked it in rather than overwhelm us with it. By issue #10, he got around to the nature of sexuality, and how it tied in with the imagination as well as magical realms (some would say there's no difference), and while I had been exposed to many of these ideas in a number of other places, I had not seen them presented as concisely (and I must say I had never seen them presented as well, either, thanks to the great J.H. Williams III) as I had here. In this issue, in order to learn how to harness her abilities and powers better, as well as face the threat she was dealing with at the time, she enters in an agreement with the John Constantine analogue Jack Faust, (who appears to her as he truly is, an old man, rather than the young-looking glamour he wore when we first met him) who offers to instruct her (and alter-ego Sophie Bangs) in exchange for sex. Well, it's not quite as sordid as it sounds-- and the lesson proceeds something along these lines:

See what I mean? Anyway, the series proceeded to get more metaphysical and phantasmagorical from here, and while sometimes it seemed like Moore was headed straight up his own arse with much of it, he did bring the series home nicely at the end. This issue in particular, though, has remained one of, if not my very, favorite of the whole run due to its clever and fascinating way of enlightening a subject that remains near and dear to my heart, even after all these years.

So, to sum up, it seems to me Mr. Moore gets some stick in a lot of corners, usually from the people who are inclined to be contrarian and simply hate to see anyone or anything praised or highly regarded in what they consider to be excessive or disproportionate fashion. Me, though, I have no problem with the accolades he's been given due to the many, many outstanding works he's given us. Sure, in many cases he's simply recycling ideas he's gleaned from a multitude of sources-- but isn't that what most writers do? Einstein once famously remarked that "The secret of creativity is knowing how to hide your sources", and I believe this to be true. And while he may not be an Einstein, Mr. Moore is a pretty smart fella. Smart enough to take a look at comics, their characters and their tropes, -many sacred, others less so- and rethink many of them. Look at them in a newer, more realistic light. Separate the good stuff from the bullshit and distill them down to their essences, and reshape them to his more level-headed way of thinking. Sure, many other writers have also done this since-- your Morrisons, Ellises, Ennises, Gaimans and so on (notice most of them were from that big UK invasion of the mid-'80s/'90s) have done the same, and it can also be argued that Frank Miller took this tack (in my opinion, he still toed the Marvel House line and kept his innovations squarely in the Spillane-school area, and DD still looked/felt like a Marvel comic) when he revamped Daredevil in the very early '80s...but Moore was one of the first, or at least the first to get my attention in this fashion. To me, that's something remarkable, and it's a shame that all the battles with American comics publishers and all the kerfluffle with Hollywood have seemed to drain his energies and dent his reputation somewhat.

Regardless, while I've been a bit disappointed in recent efforts such as LOEG: Black Dossier and Century, if he writes it, I'll check it out- I still believe in his ability to make, well, magic.

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Blogger Ahimaaz Rajesh said...

Nice to see Moore's Halo Jones being mentioned, since it isn't often, which the author says is his Dear work. I look at it this way that Killing Joke is a fan favorite (sure, not every one's), but the authors regrets it. Not that it's any less a good work, but... The former is under-appreciated when the latter is overly. Just a thought.

Promethea maybe is his most personal of works and it's as joyful to behold as food for thought.

I happened to like LOEG: Black Dossier because I found parts of New Traveller's Almanac most fascinating. It certainly is overwritten for a comic book but its aesthetics, when at times jarring, are undeniable. Truly, it's more a prose work than a comic book.

March 15, 2010 7:52 PM  

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