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Thursday, February 19th, 2004

"Alan Moore, Knows The Score"

…That’s a line from Pop Will Eat Itself’s “Can U Dig It?”. I first heard that song on MuchMusic of all places in like 1989 or 1990, and comic book geek that I was (was? Am, more like), I thought, “wow, comic book reference” and felt all warm inside.

But you know, it’s true. I am reading Alan Moore’s Voice Of The Fire, his first novel (originally published in 1996 and reprinted just recently), and am struck by how natural, how accomplished his storytelling acumen is – even without the aid of an illustrator. Especially when compared with my nearest frame of reference for comic book scribe-turned-prose writer, sentimental fave Neil Gaiman, whom I felt needed a few novels to start feeling really comfortable in the medium. Even now his writing still feels like it could be an adaptation of a comic book or television script. That’s not a criticism as much as an observation. Moore, though… he’s got the ideas and style to be a truly heavy hitter in either format.

In brief, Voice Of The Fire is a collection of stories all centered around Northampton, England, spanning thousands of years. Each chapter is set in a specific timeframe, from 4000 BC through late 20th Century, and even written in a style you imagine to be representative of the era. And while on the surface the stories seem to have little in common, threads and ideas from the past creep into the future. It’s subtle – if you’re not paying attention you may miss it, but it’s quite masterful. I’m not done yet, just about to start the AD 1705 chapter, but I’m very anxious to see how it all comes together.

While reading this book, I came to marvel that this was the same guy who wrote some of the greatest works in comic books of the modern era: Watchemen, V For Vendetta, Miracleman, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Swamp Thing (which I’ve never actually read, but which I’ll be investigating soon). To say he’s the most influential writer in the medium over the past two decades is an understatement. I use Gaiman as a point of comparison only because he’s a writer whose stuff I’ve followed since his earlier days on Sandman and whose voice I have a pretty good ear for – I’ve read almost everything he’s written, I’d say. Gaiman has a tendancy to reuse the same themes and archetypes in his work – it’s almost all uniformly excellent, but I can spot his work a mile off. He’s like a guy with an almost unhittable slider. Moore can throw everything masterfully – he can fool you with a change-up, overpower you with a fastball or confound you with a knuckler. The man’s imagination seems to have no bounds, and it’s something to experience. Okay, maybe I’m being a little effusive in my praise (and baseball analogies), but I’ve just now been struck by how big this guy’s shadow is. And not just literally.

Obviously I’m not telling any comic fans anything they don’t already know, but I just needed to stand up and say, “yeah”. I’ve got a stack of books to get through after this one, but I’m anxious to revisit Watchmen again. Can anyone fill me in on other essential reading from the man’s bibliography? As mentioned earlier, I haven’t read any Swamp Thing. Or From Hell. How is his recent work under the America’s Best Comics imprint? I hear good things about Top Ten. I don’t know. I need guidance. And I need to get my Miracleman collection back from home.

And in more comic book news, Joss Whedon will not be taking over New X-Men from Grant Morrison – instead he’s getting his own title, Astonishing X-Men, while New X-Men will be dropping the prefix and be back to just X-Men with Chuck Austen taking over that title (what a turnaround in creative teams – from the best X-Men writer in years to the worst) and Chris Claremont returning to the book that made him famous, Uncanny X-Men. Confusing? Yeah, which is why I’m not paying any attention to any of them except Astonishing and if that doesn’t grab me right away, then my shopping list will just get that much shorter.

Batman: Intimidation casting news – Liam Neeson is in as villain Ra’s Al-Ghul, and Morgan Freeman is Lucius Fox, a high-ranking employee of Wayne Enterprises. In other words, Neeson = bad guy, Freeman = good guy. Filming starts next month. Update: Variety has made a correction – Neeson will not be playing Ra’s Al-Ghul. He has been cast as Henri Ducard, a friend and mentor to Bruce Wayne. Which leaves the role of villain still open…

Post Parlo will be re-releasing Volume IV of thier Home series, which featured new tracks from Britt Daniel of Spoon and Conor Orbest of Bright Eyes. It’s short – only four tracks – but they’re good. Not good enough for the gougers prices the out of print disc had been getting on eBay, but good.

Pieces on Franz Ferdinand from eye and NOW. Isn’t it odd how one of Toronto’s entertainment weeklies spells its name in all caps while the other is all lower case? Weird. Franz Ferdinand are at the ‘Shoe this Monday. Anyone else going?

A reunited Sebadoh, comprising Lou Barlow and Jason Loewenstien, comes to the Horseshoe April 23 (Tickets $13.50) while Joel Plaskett plays Lee’s on the 16th of April, ducats $12.

Sorry about the late update. Technical difficulties.

np – Superchunk / On The Mouth

By : Frank Yang at 10:30 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. jen says:

    Do you know if there are still tickets available for Franz?

  2. Frank says:

    Rotate still had some as of last night. I thought it’d be sold out by now but I guess not.

  3. John Voorhees says:

    Frank, your best introduction to the scope of Alan Moore’s ABC universe is the Tomorrow Stories anthology series. (I’m partial to the Greyshirt stories.) I’ve not read any Top 10, but Tom Strong is wikkidawsum.

  4. graig says:

    Your observations about both Moore and Gaiman (baseball analogies included) are bang on… nicely done. I admire both as extremely talented writers not just in the medium of comics but in the world of literature, but Moore’s contributions to the changing face of the "funny books" puts him in a league that really no one except Kirby or Eisner can be put into.

    As for Moore’s work, From Hell is a definite key work… minding the rather plodding and intensive tour of turn-of-century England that is Chapter 4, the story is amazing, but even more so is the 80 page (I think… could be less) compendium that takes you page by page, and panel by panel to reference where Moore got inspiration/historical information for that part. It’s insane how much research he did, to the point that he is actually considered to be one of the world’s foremost experts on Jack the Ripper.

    In the ABC line Top Ten is easily my favorite. I must have read Volume 1 about a dozen times by now, and Volume 2 is just as great. It’s like a quirky cops show drama set in a world where everyone (and I mean everyone) is a superhero.

    Tom Strong Volume 1 is, as John said, wikkidawsum, but volume two is rather unspectacular for the most part.

    I could barely make it through Promethia though, despite the jaw dropping art.

    And I read on comicbookresources that Bryan Singer and the writing team from the films are taking on the New X-Men for a year after Chuck Austin does his 1 year stint.

    And did you know that Chuck Austin drew issue six and seven of Miracleman under the name Chuck Beckham. He also used to work for King Of The Hill and The Simpsons… but never in a writing capacity.