Saturday, September 20, 2008
Inside the Mind of Comics Genius Alan Moore
Comics-writing wizard Alan Moore is my Kilgore Trout. As I remember it in the Vonnegut novels (I haven’t read ’em in a few years now), Trout is a sci-fi author whose stories only see the light of day in the form of lurid paperbacks and as filler in porn mags. In the meantime, however, he’s a brilliant writer dispensing cosmic wisdom in his works, while remaining unappreciated and certainly unknown to the public as a whole.
Moore is certainly not unknown, he’s one of the best-regarded writers of (that phrase, again!) “graphic novels” and is one of the gents who elevated the comic book into the realm of true literature. His works have been made into some middling movies (kudos to V for Vendetta for keeping the radical politics, though dispensing with much of the poetry of the piece), so he therefore can’t be too obscure. Still, Moore is thought of by those who aren’t familiar with his work as a toiler in the vineyard of capes and costumes, a superhero scribe who did that Watchmen thing everybody was raving about back in the Eighties.
Moore’s writing has always been compulsively readable, and he has been working in different genres since his start with the cartoon “Maxwell the Magic Cat” and short sci-fi and comedy features in 2000 AD. However, the last decade and a half has seen him grow into one of the most intriguing writers in the medium (a fact begrudgingly admitted in one of those alternative-comix-are-the-only-kind-to-read articles in The New York Times magazine section a few years back). In interviews and in a series of experimental and fascinating (and, yes, compulsively readable) comic series, he began to pass on a truly developed worldview that encompasses culture, politics, religion, and sex. Still, he is conceived of by the vast majority of folks (most definitely those who see the middling movies being made from his works) as a pulpsmith with a talent for plotting, but certainly not a visionary or modern-day soothsayer. The further I delved into his works a few years back, from his titanic, brilliant From Hell to the mind-bogglingly inclusive myth/culture/religion commentary in Promethea, it became apparent to me that this reclusive comic book writer, legendary for having opted out of the fan-con and personal-appearance circuit, is one of the most talented writers around. Who happens to be working in… yeah, comic books.
And why do I bring all this up? Well, because there are a few British television documentaries on Moore that are up in their entirety on YouTube, and a newly made docu about him is coming out next week from the Disinformation Company. The film called The Mindscape of Alan Moore may not be for those who are not familiar with Moore’s work or life, as it plunges you straight into his ideas without supplying context for who he is and what he represents in comic (and pop culture) history; for the background, you would need the docus on YT (plus the knowledge that he took up at age 40 heavy research into the worlds of magic, the occult, and religion). For those who are familiar with Moore’s writing in any way, however, Mindscape is a heady dose of the shaggy shaman’s philosophy on a whole host of topics. The presentation is extremely trippy, as befits Moore’s appearance and garb, but the picture essentially functions like a very interesting illustrated lecture by Alan on everything from war, politics, and culture to fame, pornography, and… quantum physics?
Moore has a terrific way of linking up disparate subjects, and I am a massive fan of artists and entertainers who connect things that ordinarily aren’t connected, or speak about the “imponderables” in layman’s terms. Moore does a lot of the latter in the film, giving us the gist of what he’s learned in his exploration of the occult, which is not so much about the spooky side of things as it is the threads between ideas. He has previously spoken about the notion of “idea-space” in interviews, but here he develops it at length (and with pitchas!) so we have the equivalent of an Errol Morris treatment of concepts that could be as dry as dust, but are vibrant, and yes, just a tad strange, but are first and foremost comprehensible reflections on the world around us. And, yeah, he does talk about his comics too (although the director, the colorfully named DeZ Vylenz, seemingly didn’t have him touch on a few of his key works like Promethea and Miracleman).
The two-disc set of Mindscape comes with an additional disc that contains six interviews, one with a comic historian (who doesn’t really offer a contextual overview, just his own reflections on Moore’s work) and five artists who have brought Moore’s work life. Of the latter, Dave Gibbons of The Watchmen provides the most interesting information about the working process — the other four artists (the men and women who illustrated V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Promethea, and Lost Girls) wind up discoursing on various topics and proving that, as smart and talented as they are, they are not as engaging speakers as Moore himself.
The trailer for Mindscape can be seen here:
Here’s the four –part1987 British TV docu “Monsters, Maniacs and Moore” from the show England, Their England.:
For the comics-minded, Moore provides background about four of his most famous series on the show “Comics Britannia.” The gent who put up most of these clips on YT maintains a Moore interview site here
A unique interview with Moore for a low-budget video (could this be the British equivalent of pub-access?) can be found here, and those who understand French can see a translated interview
here, plus listen to a radio interview here.
An excellent intro for those who want to delve into the spiritual/supernatural side of Mr. Moore is this “Comic Tales” interview, cut into a bunch of smaller pieces: