Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Secret World of the Magus of Northampton - Part I: From Magic Cat to Joker

by Manuel Espírito Santo

Alan Oswald Moore (born 18 November 1953) is an English writer primarily known for his work in comic books.

I’m trying to do an approach on what I love most on Alan Moore’s work since its debut to contemporary ones being this merely my opinion of his works and what I think of him as an author/artist with the info that I could get.

First comic work: 

1979 - “Maxwell the Magic Cat” was a comic strip written and drawn by Alan Moore under the pseudonym Curt Vile (a pun on the name of composer Kurt Weill), with his friend Steve Moore under the pseudonym 'Jill de Ray' (in parody of Gilles de Rais, a French murderer). Published in the Northants Post from 1979 and collected in four issues by Acme Press in 1986 and 1987 was an excellent book that was fun but Alan stated at the time and later that he wanted to write stories finding his drawing skills very poor. 

1980 - Alan Moore under the pseudonym Curt Vile made a great review of a band that was forming at his hometown; the legendary Bauhaus band with musicians: Peter Murphy, Daniel Ash, David J. (that still collaborates often with Moore) and Kevin Haskins that were releasing their album “In the flat field”. All members of this band really loved not only several movies (particularly the German expressionism ones), theater, literature and art, also loving comics with Alan’s ones on the lead (like Peter Murphy one time told me this after a concert). 
As a mere reference, when Bauhaus band was over the other members of this band apart from Peter Murphy created another one called: Love and Rockets (based on the comic books by the Hernandez bros that Alan also loved). 1981 - Alan Moore under the pseudonym Brilburn Iogue wrote the preface of this band’s album “Mask”.  

1983 - This artist made a band with David J of Bauhaus fame called Sinister Ducks with another pseudonym (Translucia Baboon ) that consisted of a funny record on which he sang and composed the lyrics with the themes “The March of the Sinister Ducks” art cover being done by none other than artist Kevin o’neill and “Old gangsters never die” that had an 8 page comic adaptation of this song written by him and illustrated by David Lloyd that worked with Moore on the popular “V for Vendetta”.

Again on this year, David J sang “This vicious cabaret” with music by Moore on an EP with David Lloyd cover artwork. (as curiosity this song was included on David J. album: “On Glass” – the singles released on 1986).
With these works one knows that Alan was trying to find his place while providing magic to others and that’s why I like so much this piece of work.

Works of great interest made for the British market:

1982 - Works for Marvel UK, retelling the origins of “Captain Britain” with artist Alan Davis on “Daredevils” magazine making one of the best superhero comics of all time, and Warrior magazine until 1985. It’s on this magazine that he makes three masterpieces on my opinion; making himself a true icon with the works: “V for Vendetta” with David Lloyd (an utopia with lots of references like Orwell’s “1984”, David Bowie or the Guy Fawkes myth and considered to be one of the best graphic novels ever), “Marvelman” (on the U.S.A “Miracleman” due to a complaint by Marvel comics company) with Garry Leach, Rick Veitch and John Totleben).

Note: This comic showed us for the first time what could happen if real superheroes existed on our world and how they would react to it. One can never forget issue 9, the birth one (the first comic ever depicting graphically a birth and that caused plenty of controversy on 1985 drawn by Rick Veitch) and on 1988 at issue 15 (drawn by John Totleben) where we see the massive destruction on London city caused by the fight of two superheroes (Mick Moran as Marvelman and Johnny Bates as Kid Marvelman) and later the exile and utopian world of superheroes being relegated to the roles of Gods at final issue number 16 like the pattern formed on the TPB “Olympus” that collects issues 11 to 16 with some of the best graphic work of John Totleben (and rumors say that on issue 15 he has having problems with his eyesight due to a disease). 

This is one of the best works that Alan did and for me “Marvelman” will always be “Marvelman” and not “Miracleman” like the homage that Moore wanted to make to one of his favorite childhood comics with this name and written by Mick Anglo.

“Bojeffries Saga” (on this comic series one can see the refined sense of humor that Alan has and how skillful he’s on providing us good laughs. When I read it, I instantly remembered “The munsters” Tv series or the later “Addams Family” movies released on 1991 and it’s one of the best comics ever written by this artist) with Steve Parkhouse.

Between 1983 to 1985 he writes the hilarious and fabulous (I remember clearly the Marlon Brando character appearing and disappearing on this series) “D.R. and Quinch” with Alan Davis artwork in black and white for 2000 A.D,  this collection was released in color as “D.R. and Quinch - Definitive Edition” on 1991 through Fleetway to the English market.

American editions and new works (mid eighties to early nineties):

After 1985 this three series go to the American market to be finished and have color on them. “Marvelman” changed its name to “Miracleman” and was serialized by Eclipse being issues 1 to 6 the work that Alan Moore already did at Warrior but with color and the rest of them was new material that ended on 1991 after Moore leaving the character and being replaced by his friend Neil Gaiman.

1986 - “Bojjefries Saga” was published on the U.S.A reprinting the warrior stories on color (on the magazine “Flesh and Bones” by Upshot) and Alan Moore writing new ones on “Dalgoda” magazine number 8. Between May 1989 and April 1990, a further four tales were published by Atomeka Press as part of its anthology title A1 issues #1-4, with a fifth appearing in the A1 True Life Bikini Confidential on Feb 1991. In 1992 Tundra press reprinted the ten “Bojeffries” stories together with an introduction from Lenny Henry and four new illustration-stories: three cut-outs and a recipe. 
1988 - DC Comics published “V for Vendetta”, a ten-issue series that reprinted the Warrior stories in color, then continued the series to completion. The first new material appeared in issue #7, which included the unpublished episodes that would have appeared in Warrior #27 and #28.

Notes and influences: George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Thomas Disch, Judge Dredd, Harlan Ellison's "Repent, Harlequin!" , “Catman” and “The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World” by the same author. Vincent Price's “Dr. Phibes and Theatre of Blood”. David Bowie, The Shadow, Night Raven, Batman, Fahrenheit 451, the writings of the New Worlds school of science fiction, Max Ernst's painting "Europe After the Rain". Thomas Pynchon, the atmosphere of British Second World War films, Robin Hood, Dick Turpin.

The political climate of Britain in the early 1980s also influenced the work, with Moore positing that Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government would" obviously lose the 1983 elections" and that an incoming Michael Foot-led Labour government, committed to complete nuclear disarmament, would allow the United Kingdom to escape relatively unscathed after a limited nuclear war.

However, Moore felt that fascists would quickly subvert a post-holocaust Britain. But on 2003 a group called “anonymous” appeared trying to prove that anarchy was the best key to solve mankind’s problems, using V’s mask on their conferences and statements, showing Moore’s influence on modern days, a thing that he wasn’t expecting for sure. 

DC works:

On the U.S.A, between 1983 to 1987, Moore begins his work on “Swamp Thing” that will revitalize an old comics character (created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson) making a more pure and modern junction of text and image with artists Rick Veitch, Stephen Bissette, Alfredo Alcala and John Totleben among others and creating modern urban myths (with the appearance of John Constantine as a sort of a modern Magus with the looks of a simple “normal” man),  while making an unique love story and trying to confront the eternal good versus evil on a subtle way and sending this character to other planets (with his “death” at the hands of Batman) giving us a new vision of what could be life on other planets while searching for our memories that were left on this planet (while leaving his run on swamp thing on issue 64, Alan makes a story within a story using himself as the guide of Swamp Thing and its universe on a particular cameo).

Between 1986 and 1987 writes Watchmen with artist Dave Gibbons: a modern parody of superheroes with the cold war as scenario while making unique characters like “Rorschach” (based on the psychological tests used in outpatient mental health facilities in the 1960’s) and “Ozymandias” (based on Ramesses' throne name, User-maat-re Setep-en-re and on the written poem by writer Percy Shelley).

On this graphic novel, Moore gives us all the references and possible knowledge with quotes by English writer Wiliam Blake and musician Elvis Costello, while also giving us his personal view of a pirates story (inspired by Milton Caniff among older terror tales of pirates) and even giving us a realistic vision of our fears at the time by putting the smiley icon in blood. (I think that this describes pretty clear his unique vision of what he saw on the cold war).

Moore and Gibbons

It’s not my favorite Moore’s work, but I think that issue 4 (due to the uniqueness of time travel through Dr Manhatan on framed sparkles of time and memories beautiful described by Alan’s script) is one of his best single issues on comics. Issue 5 is also amazing due to the description of a reader (a kid waiting for the apocalypse while reading a pirates comic book) and where we see two stories at the time (an unique thing), the kid reading the book with his background at the time (cold war) and we as readers capturing his story as well as the story that he was reading (a story within a story that I find fascinating as a reader). Issue 6 was one of the most violent ever and the best on this story was, us the readers, seeing a superhero with all his flaws and imperfections due to a lost childhood and infancy (not a common way of telling a story at the time). These were the comic issues that even now appeal me most due to these feelings that I’ve towards them.

1988 - With artist Brian Bolland, Moore makes the definitive origin of the Joker with "Batman: The Killing Joke”, where we see him as a “normal” person with a “troubled” past that triggered his lunacy. I believe that this comic book inspired the whole character that Jack Nicholson portrayed on Tim Burton’s first Batman movie.

Part II: From Hell to Magic

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