Sunday, 07 March 2010

On the persistent metafictions of Alan Moore (Because Amazon's taking away your almost-free books, I thought I'd offer up a free excerpt from mine. It's neither finished nor particularly good, but turning stacks of virtual notes into viable prose is a messy process and what's the point of even having a blog if you can't ask your readers to help straighten up your mess? It ends rather abruptly because I need to mark essays, but rest assured, it will arrive at the obvious destination soon enough.) The inaugural issue of the British comic anthology Warrior, published in March of 1982, contained two stories scripted by a 29-year-old Alan Moore that could not have been more different in tone or conception. The first told the story of an attempted rape in a dystopian future: corrupt police accost a young woman, but before they can rape her, they are murdered by a man who explains, in iambs, why he came to her aid and why he is about to blow up the British Parliament. In stark contrast to the opening chapter of V for Vendetta, Moore’s second contribution comes from “an age of lingering innocence, an age of golden dreams,” and recounts how, in 1956, “the Miracleman Family” repelled the invasion of a terrorist organization from the future called the “Science Gestapo.” These serialized stories represent two possible career paths for young Moore: he can become a writer who creates and develops original ideas, as he does in V for Vendetta; or he can become the kind of whose genius is particular to comics, i.e. one whose talent lies in the ability to transform a caricature into a character of compelling psychological depth. (Characters in mainstream comic books are, after all, a form of communal property: they belong to a company, and are subject to regular refashioning and repurposing.) Although its cartoonish art and quaint language could hardly differ more from the harsh lines and sharp tongues of V for Vendetta, the final eight panels of the Miracleman story depict the process that, over the course of the decade, will become Moore’s signature style. Reunited after preventing the “Science Gestapo” from traveling to the past by defeating them in the future, the Miracleman clan shares a laugh: “S-so…Garrer was never here, because he never left 1981! It sounds unbelievable,” says Kid Miracleman. “Maybe so, Kid,” Miracleman responds, “But that’s the way it was…or was it?” As they laugh, the focus shifts from the family to Miracleman alone and the narrator, whose role up to this point had been providing linguistic gristle for the duo-specific word-picture relations—in which the words and the pictures say the same thing, as in books designed to teach children to read—begins quoting an ominous-sounding passage from Nietzsche: The shift from duo-specific to interdependent word-picture relations—in which the combination of the words and pictures accomplish together what neither could alone—marks a transition from a childish, if educational, redundancy to a more rhetorically sophisticated intersection of word and picture. After ten pages whose form and content belonged...

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