Thursday, June 22, 2006

Alan Moore's Shocking Futures

There’s been a lot of talk lately about Alan Moore’s upcoming project with Melinda Gebbie, LOST GIRLS. Most folks whose opinions I respect are championing the project. Certainly, many respected authors have published works of erotica and/or pornography. Theodore Sturgeon, Phillip Jose Farmer, Dean Koontz and W.E.B. Griffin come to mind right off the top of my head. It was rare, however, when they put it out under their own name, leaving only the cognizanti to know the truth. I'll even go out on a limb to say that I, myself have published adult material under a pseudonym. Literate, funny and by all accounts erotic, none of that kept the bluenoses away. Moore is taking a risk and, some say, putting the dealers, distributors and store owners at an even bigger risk because his own name is just too big to be ignored. Being out of work and behind in the mortgage, I can’t see that I myself would even be able to afford it. Having read the original chapters published more than a decade ago, I’m not even certain if I’d like it if I could. I am fascinated on how it will be received, however.
Two of my favorite Alan Moore projects are the Titan volumes seen here from 1986, ALAN MOORE’S SHOCKING FUTURES and ALAN MOORE’S TWISTED TIMES. Taken from the fertile pages of the UK’s long-running weekly 2000AD, the mostly one-off stories presented here masterfully show their author’s sense of humor, his sense of wonder, his quirkiness, his originality and his quiet genius for storytelling in a bare minimum of space. Abetted by art from some of England’s best including Kevin O’Neill (who did both covers), Bryan Talbot, Paul Neary, Alan Davis and WATCHMEN’s Dave Gibbons, these are EC-style fantastic stories, capturing sometimes only the briefest moments in the lives of their protagonists, other times a lifetime.
My personal favorite is the DRAGNET/MAD parody (with Gibbons) entitled CHRONOCOPS. The narrative plays with time in ways that are a little maddening and a little ingenious. The art is a direct homage to Willie Elder! In the panel seen at left, the cops meet each other coming and going on their time travels. Later in the story, the panel repeats and we learn that the nuns in the background were ALSO our heroes! Another enjoyable piece is THE DISTURBED DIGESTIONS OF DOCTOR DIBWORTHY in which a scientist discovers an idea that will make time travel possible. Almost immediately, he is visited by his future self telling him not to do it. Their conversation is interrupted by another future self telling him that it turns out okay after all. With each passing instant, another of the doctor’s future selves arrives with a different view of history until finally…?
Not all of the stories are so light-hearted, though, as some take an Ellison-like turn for the deep and pure surreal. Moore himself offers introductions and story commentaries. There’s really no other way to describe these books than to say that they already make you realize that you’re watching a young master play with his chosen medium. As that master has moved into deeper fields with FROM HELL, V FOR VENDETTA, the aborted BIG NUMBERS and now LOST GIRLS, it’s important not to lose sight of these early training ground stories. These were what made Alan Moore the comics superstar he’s become and gave him the right--no the duty!-- to expand the medium as far as he can expand it!

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