Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Secret World of the Magus of Northampton - Part II: From Hell to Magic

by Manuel Espírito Santo

From Hell

Between 1989 to 1991 Alan Moore starts doing his version of Jack the Ripper, with Eddie Campbell, on “From Hell” (serialized on the magazine Taboo from issue 2 to 7 from Spiderbaby Graphics).

Followed later by Mad Love/Tundra Press/ Kitchen Sink in ten volumes from 1991 to 1996, “From Hell: The Compleat Scripts” on 1994 with full scripts of prologue and the first three chapters with Moore’s artwork and cover by borderland press, an appendix on 1998: “From Hell: The Dance of the Gull-catchers” and the collected edition TPB by Eddie Campbell comics on 1999.

Alan doesn’t take the “who done it?” method (used on movies, books and series until this masterpiece) preferring the term “why was it done?”.

Perhaps it’s my favorite book ever (we can see the story of London city, the beginning of freemasonry throughout all ages, the elephant man myth, Cleopatra’s needle history, London architecture, London’s origins. It seems that everything connected to London’s is on this book (from the beginning of times until now).

What I remember most of this story’s is the volume seven where William Gull after the last murder goes back and forward throughout past, present and future (a bit similar to the narrative created by Moore on “Watchmen” issue number 4) having visions of computers (future), William Blake (past) and his life on this volume (present).

1996 he writes the short story “I Keep Coming Back” (with Oscar Zarate, in “It's Dark in London”, Serpent’s tail anthology) where we notice the Ripper mystery still present today.

The 90’s - Indie works and Image

1989 - The same year that starts “From Hell” also makes “Shadowplay: The Secret Team” with artwork by Bill Sienkiewicz, in “Brought to Light” at Eclipse. Being a manifest of all major conspiracies filled on the American system where we see Alan’s humorous fest as well as his serious one. He came to develop his own opinions on the subject of a global conspiracy, stating that "Yes, there is a conspiracy, indeed there are a great number of conspiracies, all tripping each other up… the main thing that I learned about conspiracy theories is that conspiracy theorists actually believe in the conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is chaotic and far more frightening; no one is in control, the world is rudderless.” Making a spoken word CD with Gary Lloyd over the same themes and the same title portrayed on this graphic novel on 1998 by codex.
While working at “From Hell” and “Shadowplay: The Secret Team” he works on “Big Numbers” with Bill Sienkiewicz artwork on 2 issues of a projected 12 ( released by Mad Love on 1990). Alan  tries to make his tour de force with “Big Numbers” giving us a global history of his home townNorthampton writing one of his best work yet (the detail, the plot, the characters, all perfect). He makes 2 numbers with artist Bill Sienkiewicz and when this artist leaves the project due to time.

Alan chooses one of his assistants (Al Columbia) that gets paid for issues 3, 4 and 5 and only makes random drawings of Alan’s scripts (we can find the script for issue 3 on the web) leaving this project  and abandoning comic books for more than 10 years. With this “sign” (and personal problems as well) Alan Moore considers this masterpiece to be “haunted” and tries to forget about it, never returning to write it again or finish it.       

1991 - A “Small Killing” with Oscar Zarate published by Victor Gollancz Ltd
With this book Moore starts with his more personal writings examining images of one man's inner world. The main character is rather the apotheosis of 1980s culture and serves as commentary of it. Seeking inspiration for the above mentioned project he returns to his home town to confront his perceptions of the past and himself.

“Lost Girls” with artist Melinda Gebbie

This book was serialized on Taboo magazine between 1991 and 1992 on issues #5-7 , later at Tundra (on 2 issues on 1995 to 1996) with short explicit pornographic stories depicting the characters Wendy (of Peter Pan’s fame), Alice (Of Alice in Wonderland fame) and Dorothy (of The wizard of Oz fame) on an adult stage of their lives with the background of the first world war and the age of “la belle époque” where he not only see these characters as pornographers but also with all the art Erotic/pornography throughout history as background as well. This book was completed only with the final collection on 2006 released by topshelf after the end of it; on 2007 Alan married the artist  that made this story with him (Melinda Gebbie). 

Note: It seems that Alan Moore was inspired on the old Tijuana bibles books that were part of the 50’s and 60’s to do this book.
1993 - He makes “1963” for Image comics with artists Stephen R. Bissette, Rick Veitch, Dave Gibbons, Chester Brown among others on 6 issues. These issues were a just homage to Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Stan Lee and we see on them the tenderness that Alan has for these artists with humor being the most important subject on them.

Note: I remember mostly the ads, the suspended issues and Chester Brown artwork on the fabulous story “Hypernaut”.

1998  - He finishes “Alan Moore's Songbook” for Caliber Press, a collection of song adaptations published in Negative Burn #10-14, 16-19, 25-26, 28 and 35 made for the same publisher. On these issues this artist surprised us by giving us words compiled towards songs with rhymes inspired on names such as Edgar Allan Poe with the work “Murders on rue Morgue” - drawn by Neil Gaiman! - among many others.

1999 - Makes a script for Dame Darcy’s Meatcake nº 9 “Hungry is the Heart” published by Fantagraphics, asking in return for this work only 2 dolls made by this artist to his daughters, Leah and Phylis Moore, and establishing with this a new friendship and a collaborator for his Tomorrow Stories Cobweb after Melinda Gebbie’s run.

Religion and magic on the 90’s
In 1993, on his fortieth birthday, Moore openly declared his dedication to being a ceremonial magician, something he saw as "a logical end step to my career as a writer". According to a 2001 interview, his inspiration for doing this came when he was writing “From Hell” in the early 1990s, a book containing much Freemasonic and occult symbolism: "One word balloon in From Hell completely hijacked my life… A character says something like, 'The one place gods inarguably exist is in the human mind'. After I wrote that, I realised I'd accidentally made a true statement, and now I'd have to rearrange my entire life around it. The only thing that seemed to really be appropriate was to become a magician".

Moore associates magic very much with writing; "I believe that magic is art, and that art, whether that be music, writing, sculpture, or any other form, is literally magic. Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words or images, to achieve changes in consciousness… Indeed to cast a spell is simply to spell, to manipulate words, to change people's consciousness, and this is why I believe that an artist or writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world to a shaman."

Connecting his esoteric beliefs with his career in writing, he conceptualised a hypothetical area known as the "Idea Space", describing it as "...a space in which mental events can be said to occur, an idea space which is perhaps universal. Our individual consciousnesses have access to this vast universal space, just as we have individual houses, but the street outside the front door belongs to everybody. It's almost as if ideas are pre-existing forms within this space… The landmasses that might exist in this mind space would be composed entirely of ideas, of concepts, that instead of continents and islands you might have large belief systems, philosophies, Marxism might be one, Judeo-Christian religions might make up another." He subsequently believed that to navigate this space, magical systems like the tarot and the Qabalah would have to be used.
Taking up the study of the Qabalah and the writings of the notorious early 20th century occultist Aleister Crowley, Moore accepted ideas from Crowley's religion, Thelema, about True Will being connected to the will of the pantheistic universe.In some of his earlier magical rituals, he utilized mind altering psychedelic drugs but later gave this up, believing that they were unnecessary, and stated, "It's frightening. You call out the names in this strange incomprehensible language, and you're looking into the glass and there appears to be this little man talking to you. It just works."

Moore took as his primary deity the ancient Roman snake god Glycon, who was the centre of a cult founded by a prophet known as Alexander of Abonoteichus, and according to Alexander's critic Lucian, the god itself was merely a puppet, something Moore accepts, considering him to be a "complete hoax", but dismisses as irrelevant. According to Pagan Studies scholar Ethan Doyle-White, "The very fact that Glycon was probably one big hoax was enough to convince Moore to devote himself to the scaly lord, for, as Moore maintains, the imagination is just as real as reality."

Note: All this knowledge will be used on his “Promethea” series, “Birth Caul” and “Snakes and Ladders”.

Part III: From Magic to Logic

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