You Were Expecting Someone Else 8 (Alan Moore's Doctor Who Work)

(37 comments)

Let us first stipulate that there is relatively little reason to care about these particular comics on their merits in either Alan Moore's ouvre or the Doctor Who canon. Bits of them - particularly "Black Death," may have credible cases for placing in any given top ten list of Doctor Who comics, but they're not self-evidently the best Doctor Who comics ever or anything, as one might hope from the combination of Alan Moore and Doctor Who.

On the other hand, there's something fundamentally irresistible here. I mean, obviously there is - I wouldn't do a post like this if there weren't. But I'm also hardly the only one. Russell T. Davies himself namechecks Alan Moore's Deathsmiths of Goth in a text piece published about the Time War. Miles and Wood argue that it was Moore's take on Time Lord history in "Star Death" that shifted the consensus view of the relationship between Rassilon and Omega. And more generally speaking, starting from 1987 and continuing to the present day, Alan Moore has been a massive influence on the show whether directly or indirectly. (For the purposes of this statement remember that Neil Gaiman is in many ways the quasi-authorized successor to Alan Moore) Much like Douglas Adams before him and Neil Gaiman after him, Alan Moore carries a massive fanbase that is separate from Doctor Who, and thus the intersections between the two of them carry odd and peculiar resonances.

This doesn't change the fact, however, that we are talking about a mere 28 pages of comics here, all drawn with David Lloyd, later to be Moore's artist on V For Vendetta. His first two stories consist of four two-page installments, and then he did a set of three interconnected one-parters at four pages each. That is it. We are necessarily not talking about a huge contribution to Doctor Who here. Furthermore, all of these were published in 1980 and 1981. These predate anything that it would be fair to call a major work of Moore's. This is Alan Moore, in other words, before he was even one of the very goods, little yet before he was one of the greats. 

It shows, most particularly in his second offering, "Business as Usual." He's reliant on clunky and awkward thought bubbles to convey exposition, for instance, having a character explore an industrial plant and think "This must be the warehouse section. It seems to be full of kids' toys. I suppose it figures... after all, our reports say that toys are Galaxy Plastic's main product..." It's a case of poor mechanics - simply put, Moore isn't using the medium well enough to get the exposition out organically. The pacing, similarly, is badly flawed. This is one of Moore's first multi-part stories, and he hasn't yet figured out how to make each two-page installment a distinct experience. It's really an eight page story with four cliffhangers as opposed to a story comprised of four two-part installments. 

But although Moore's mechanics are still clunky at this phase, even in this - by far the weakest of his Doctor Who efforts - there's quite a bit that's sharp. Moore has a solid handle on what makes Auton stories fun, and the touch of evil toy soldiers that actually shoot people is worthy of a Robert Holmes Auton story. And under the hood the story has a good idea - treating the routine nature of alien invasions (the fact that they're "business as usual" in Doctor Who) as linked to the sociopathic excesses of corporate culture, and using the plastic, manufactured Autons to tell a story about that. The basic idea is sound and there's a good story to tell there.

He's even got a solid handle on the idea that the dual word/image nature of comics means that you can juxtapose information. The first part has a running narration provided via captions that muse, over two panels, that "it was quite normal for a man in Blunt's position to appoint his successor... / after all... what if something should happen to him?" But the second caption is over a panel in which a character panickedly announces "It's Mr. Blunt.. H-He's shot himself!!" Neither the panel nor its caption on their own reveal what's happened, but the juxtaposition between two channels of information provides story enough. It's a good technique - one that Moore would eventually make much use of in Watchmen. All of this suggests that Moore has a solid handle on what the medium can do, and that he's just yet to completely master its mechanics. He can pull of virtuosic moments, but the overall flow of his writing is still choppy.

Or maybe it's just that Autons aren't a particularly inspiring subject for him. His story from a few weeks earlier, "Black Legacy," is altogether more solid. An exploration party of Cybermen hunting for an "Apocalypse Device" are slowly hunted and picked off by that device. In this story Moore manages a density of ideas that rivals that of Bob Baker and David Martin: Cybermen haunted by bad dreams and prophetic visions, a weapon that wants to be used, a society of weapon makers who killed themselves to stop their own doomsday weapon, a disease that rots away Cybermen bodies, a base under siege story where the Cybermen are under siege - all of this is very solid. Unlike Baker and Martin, he manages to wrap it around character moments. Yes, it's a stock character - madly hubristic military leader whose arrogance dooms everyone around him - but it's a character with a distinct arc. And he manages moments that are genuinely chilling and unsettling throughout the piece. 

What's interesting about "Black Legacy" is that it shows Moore finding ways to push the basic fabric of the Doctor Who narrative and universe. The story is specifically interesting because it's the Cybermen who are being hunted and scared, and they're not supposed to be scared. The story would lose all power if it were greedy humans seeking the weapon because greedy humans getting prophetic nightmares is business as usual. But by putting the Cybermen in a story that is ostensibly wrong for them the story becomes considerably more powerful. This may sound like an obvious point, but if one looks at the "classic monster" stories of Doctor Who up through 1980, when this was published, really only the Whitaker Dalek stories come anywhere close to building a story out of a frisson between the monster and the setting. It seems like a wholly obvious sort of idea in 2012, but the fact of the matter is that writers up to 1980 hadn't figured out how to use that idea on Doctor Who's own core monsters. (Maddeningly, they really don't get it figured out until the show gets taken over by Alan Moore devotees, at which point it immediately becomes standard.) To be fair, Steve Moore had been doing things like this from the beginning with the comics, most obviously with Kroton the Cyberman, but Alan Moore takes it by and large further. Steve Moore comes up with an interesting twist on the Cybermen. Alan Moore writes a story about a limit case of the Cybermen.

Then there are the three stories set around the war between Gallifrey and the Order of the Black Sun. There are several things we should note before diving fully into these. First of all, we should note that Moore ceased working for Doctor Who Magazine in solidarity with Steve Moore and that there is no particular reason to think that he was "done" with the Black Sun as a setting. We are in essence loking at three fragments from a whole of unknown size here. Second of all, we should note that there's equally little reason to think that there was some organized master plan on Moore's part that he had mapped out. We don't have a full story here as such, but to treat this as the beginnings of a radical reconceptualization of Gallifrey is also misguided. For one thing, Moore does not appear to have been a fan of Doctor Who ever, really, and certainly not since the Hartnell era. (He's said that he thinks all of the post-Hartnell Doctors feel a bit too pedophilic for his tastes) Which is to say that he's hardly the type to want to do a thorough continuity-laden job like sorting out Time Lord history. More likely, as Miles and Wood suggest, he chatted up a Doctor Who fan over a few pints and wrote from that research, hence his establishing that Rassilon and Omega were part of the same event in Time Lord history (a fact that was in no way clear in the television series at this point, or, indeed, any other).

But that Moore was not overtly planning a revamp of Gallifreyan history doesn't mean that his stories don't clearly gesture towards a vision of it. Given his relative detachment from Doctor Who it is surely coincidental that both he and Terrance Dicks/Christopher Bidmead turned towards a more fantasy-like conception of the Time Lords at almost the same time. Or, rather, both State of Decay and this are symptoms of a larger process, since in hindsight Shada turned more towards a view of Gallifrey as a source of ancient power than as a technological marvel. Nevertheless, it is worth noting explicitly that Moore's conception of Rassilon is overtly as a wizard, that the name "Order of the Black Sun" comes from an occult/mystical background (and Moore wasn't even anywhere near converting to snake-worship yet), and that these stories are overtly placed in Gallifrey's ancient past. This is flat-out science fantasy in the "long time ago in a glaxy far far away" sense.

Also significant is the fact that Moore is playing with the nature of time travel more overtly than the series has ever really dealt with. The idea of a temporal war in which one side is attacked before they commit the act that is seen as kicking off the war is an interesting and complex one. More, though, than taking a particular monster and pushing them into a new type of story based on the nuances of their concept, this begins looking at the consequences of the very premise of the show. The series hadn't played seriously with the consequences and nuances of time travel since Day of the Daleks, so the idea of a story with complex and non-linear causality was heavily overdue.

And it's equally worth noting that Alan Moore and the production team hit on this at almost the exact same moment, with Bidmead putting out Warrior's Gate and Logopolis in quick succession right around the time Moore was doing these comics. There's a temptation to suggest that this means Moore isn't nearly as ahead of his time with these comics as his fans would like to think, but I think we can afford to be more charitable to the man. Being in step with Christopher Bidmead in 1980-81 is, in fact, being ahead of your time. One of the things that is notable about Bidmead's Doctor Who is that it is an era that has seemingly increased in stature over time as more and more of it turned out to be prescient. That doesn't mean it lacks flaws - narrative logic is not always Bidmead's strong suit, and he can have a bit of a tin ear when it comes to speech patterns - but it does mean that the style of fantastic science fiction that Bidmead favors is something that the rest of the world eventually caught up on.

And Alan Moore, more than any other writer in Doctor Who comics, and in many ways more than almost any other writer period in 1980, was right in step with Bidmead. Like Bidmead he had some weaknesses in storytelling mechanics, at least in 1980-81. But unlike Bidmead his future career is famous. And his Doctor Who work points towards it. He hones his style over the next few years, but as soon as 1982 he's doing work like Marvelman in which his instincts on how to write a story that cuts to the heart of an existing concept get their first really successful airing. And eventually he takes those skills to American comics to do revamps of Swamp Thing and, indirectly, the Charlton Comics stable of characters before expanding his horizons away from licensed characters and towards whole swaths of literary and cultural history. Followed by sketching out an aesthetic and magical philosophy with revolutionary potential that better understands and describes how stories work and what they do in the general case than just about any other out there.

But, of course, this isn't his story. This is the story of Doctor Who, which he never came back to after 1981 and has made clear he never will. (Though to be fair, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 1969 has three Doctor Who references in it, one of them pleasantly obscure.) Nevertheless, this fleeting point of intersection is telling. Moore was thoroughly in step with what Doctor Who was doing in his early career. The 1980s are far kinder to Moore than they are to Doctor Who, and Moore quickly comes to outpace Doctor Who in quality by some miles. But this in turn means that when the pendulum swings back and Doctor Who begins being influenced by Moore in 1987 there is something natural to it - a case of Doctor Who being influenced by an outgrowth of itself. It is not, obviously, that Moore was influenced by Doctor Who itself. By all appearances he wasn't. Rather it is something subtler - the fact that Alan Moore and Doctor Who are, in many ways, different tellings of the same story. Though they share only one landmark, they are vividly and clearly two derives through the same psychchronographic landscape.

Even if the 28 pages of it he wrote are mediocre.

Comments

Carey 5 years, 6 months ago

Haven't finished the essay yet, but just a quick amendment: John Stokes drew Star Death, the first part of the Time War trilogy, and not David Lloyd.

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JRSM 5 years, 6 months ago

Are the 28 Moore pages collected anywhere easy to get hold of?

9By the way, I'm very much looking forward to your Troughton volume, having really loved the Hartnell book (which I paid for!)).

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Carey 5 years, 6 months ago

"More likely, as Miles and Wood suggest, he chatted up a Doctor Who fan over a few pints and wrote from that research, hence his establishing that Rassilon and Omega were part of the same event in Time Lord history (a fact that was in no way clear in the television series at this point, or, indeed, any other)."

Never underestimate editors and their suggestions for stories-- a far likelier case than Miles' "Fan in a Pub." There are interviews with Moore from the eighties where he sings the praises of then editors (in particular, Bernie Jaye, his Marvel UK editor on much of his Captain Britain work) and their uses as sounding boards for ideas. The presentation of Rassilon in Star Death is no different to that in The Tides of Time that followed, and I seem to recall a text piece in issue 50 of Doctor Who Monthly that tried to come up with a theory of the origins of the Time Lords that worked in the same ideas as Star Death.

So while it's probable that the mechanics of the story was Moore's, I'd say the genesis was the editors (and in many ways no different from many other stories developed over the years from the executive in charge to the writer. Sometimes the results were failures, such as "two Doctors, Sontarans and New Orleans as a setting-- no wait, make that Spain;" and sometimes brilliant successes, as with "Clockwork robots and Madame de Pompadour."

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Spacewarp 5 years, 6 months ago

You'll find some of them here:

http://waveyourgeekflag.blogspot.com/2012/01/alan-moores-doctor-who-comic.html

As for the rest, I'm still googling...

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William Whyte 5 years, 6 months ago

This is a good point. DWM was actively involved in creating canon at the time - they were strong proponents, for example, of the idea that Hartnell->Troughton was a "rejuvenation" rather than a regeneration.

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Jack Graham 5 years, 6 months ago

"One of the things that is notable about Bidmead's Doctor Who is that it is an era that has seemingly increased in stature over time as more and more of it turned out to be prescient. That doesn't mean it lacks flaws - narrative logic is not always Bidmead's strong suit, and he can have a bit of a tin ear when it comes to speech patterns - but it does mean that the style of fantastic science fiction that Bidmead favors is something that the rest of the world eventually caught up on."

Absolutely dead on.

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Steve Hogan 5 years, 6 months ago

"Pedophilic"? Hah?

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Jack Graham 5 years, 6 months ago

I suppose that's a reference to the Doctor going around offering sweets.

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inkdestroyedmybrush 5 years, 6 months ago

its probably just a reference to katy manning's knickers

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Eric Gimlin 5 years, 6 months ago

The three Time War stories were reprinted in Daredevils, but those can also be tricky to find. Even if the stories are mediocre, it's a pity the reprint situation is complicated on these. Wardog from the time war stories later showed up in Captain Britain, meaning the current rights to the stories involve at least four parties. Sorting that out for just 28 pages is probably not worth the effort, even if Alan Moore's name would sell a lot of copies and "see where the time war began" would move a lot more.

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BerserkRL 5 years, 6 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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BerserkRL 5 years, 6 months ago

This must be the comments section. It seems to be full of comments. I suppose it figures ...

He's said that he thinks all of the post-Hartnell Doctors feel a bit too pedophilic for his tastes

Harsh words from the author of Lost Girls.

they're not self-evidently the best Doctor Who comics ever or anything, as one might hope from the combination of Alan Moore and Doctor Who.

On a related topic, do you plan (in the misty future, i.e., when you get to the Matt Smith era) to write about Michael Moorcock's Doctor Who novel? (which, in my opinion, was both sub-par Moorcock and sub-par Who, but I'd be interested in your take)

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Herms 5 years, 6 months ago

This is the story of Doctor Who, which he never came back to after 1981 and has made clear he never will. (Though to be fair, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 1969 has three Doctor Who references in it, one of them pleasantly obscure.)

I believe the Karkus is seen on a comic book cover in Black Dossier too, and not just in Century 1969. Can't find it though. Black Dossier also has what may be the TARDIS and a Krynoid.

Anyway, Moore has said in a couple of interviews that Kevin O'Neill is responsible for inserting many of the obscure visual Easter eggs, so Moore himself doesn't know all the references in the series. O'Neill backs this up and also says he does lots of research so that when characters pass a movie poster (for instance) it's a movie poster for a fictional movie, and things like that. So I think all the Doctor Who references are probably O'Neill's doing and not Moore's, especially the Karkus, which falls into the "fictional book/movie/etc" category O'Neill talks about.

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Herms 5 years, 6 months ago

Oh yeah...in case I wasn't clear, by "fictional books/movies/etc" I mean ones that do not exist in reality, but feature in works of fiction. So, fictional fiction. Like the sitcom pilot "Jerry" in Seinfeld, or the books of Kilgore Trout.

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vitaminbillwebb 5 years, 6 months ago

tl:dr Question for Phil: Do you think of Moore's or Grant Morrison's work as being more in line with the sort of thing that "Doctor Who" does?

It's 1981, so I'm probably being proleptic here, but I wondered, Phil, if you had read Grant Morrison's criticism of "Watchmen" in "Supergods" and what you thought of it.

He says in the book--I'm paraphrasing from memory here--falls prey to a contradiction: it insists that we're alone in the universe, that any patterns we see are accidental and that the watch exists without a watchmaker, but that the book itself is so carefully wrought, so crystalline and perfect, that it proclaims its own having-been-made on every page and thus deifies the author.

I ask because Morrison is probably the second-most-famous comics author to write for the "Doctor Who" comics, and, unlike Moore, seems genuinely to like the Doctor.

Morrison's critique of "Watchmen" is, I think, a roundabout criticism of Moore's politics in general. For all the crazy snake-god esoterism that Moore engages in, I think Morrison finds him a bit too much of an authoritarian. I mean, he talks a great anti-authority game, but his major works seem to rely on exceptional figures who exhibit a radical sort of subjectivity--Miracleman, V/Evee, Ozymandias, the avant-garde members of the League--to resist authority and assert their identities. Morrison's "All-Star Superman" or his "Doom Patrol" seem to be doing something different with their exceptional and often abject figures. Their exceptionalism isn't exemplary--like V's--nor is it deceptive like Ozymandias's or totalizing like Miracleman's. Morrison's characters may be exceptional, but that exception doesn't wind up setting up a new authority like Moore's does.

In this respect, Morrison seems to me much more in-line with the whole ethos of "Doctor Who," but I really would like to know your thoughts.

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Philip Sandifer 5 years, 6 months ago

I think Moore is much closer. Doctor Who is anti-authoritarian, but alchemically so - baesd on a dense body of thought and literature. He's also quintessentially Victorian. That tension matters, and I think Morrison is prone to discarding half of that tension.

I also think targeting Watchmen when targeting Moore is easy pickings. It's a book Moore has actively apologized for the legacy of, and its flaws are most evident in light of that legacy. Should he have been able to predict the legacy? Perhaps, but it's worth noting that Watchmen's most beloved character, Rorschach, is not meant to be sympathetic in the least.

I'd be much more interested in seeing Morrison attempt to critique Promethea, which strikes me as doing everything Morrison tried to do in The Invisibles except in a more accessible way that empowers the reader. Whereas I think The Invisibles is masturbatory show-off work that tries to be about anarchic chaos magic but is really just about how you're not as cool as Grant Morrison is, Promethea strikes me as being about something that the reader can very much take hold of, use, think about, and interact with. Indeed, I think almost every criticism Morrison makes of Watchmen can be turned around on The Invisibles, only there you're actually targeting the work the author holds as his magnum opus instead of one he's not actually that proud of.

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Jesse 5 years, 6 months ago

The Invisibles may be masturbatory in a literal sense, but it sprawls, takes unplanned detours, and in general avoids being carefully wrought and crystalline. And if it's "about how you're not as cool as Grant Morrison is," it does this in a curious way, given how actively it undermines authorial authority.

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vitaminbillwebb 5 years, 6 months ago

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vitaminbillwebb 5 years, 6 months ago

Cool. I haven't read Promethea or The Invisibles yet, although both are on the list. And I'm absolutely with you on Rorschach. Can't stand the fellow. But I can't really stand any of the characters, least of all Ozymandias, who is the hero literally, or Nite Owl, who is the hero (dys)functionally.

That said, Morrison somehow feels more anarchic. League is, of the works I've read by Moore, the one that feels closest to actually defying and desecrating authority. I have yet to read anything by Morrison that makes anyone in authority ever look decent, let alone trustworthy. Perhaps the truth is that Morrison actually presents a less problematic and thus inferior version of chaos as an unqualified good. Hence the sort of masturbatory tendencies of, say Arkham Asylum. Moore, on the other hand, shows a bit more of something like negative capability. Even V, the anarch-at-large in his canon, isn't really likable in an unproblematic way. His Alan Quatermain or Nite Owl may be the closest thing we get to morally decent human beings in his work, and they're both (in Quatermain's case increasingly) ineffectual and impotent.

In the end, there may actually be no escaping Moore. There just might be more to say about him than Morrison. Hmm...

Incidentally, on the photo, I see what you did there.

Edit: Re-posted as a reply.

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Philip Sandifer 5 years, 6 months ago

Jesse - it undermines it only superficially, I think. I mean, Morrison wrote himself into the book self-consciously as its fetishized character. Sure, he beats himself up a few times and is in some way a haunting, absent presence in the final twelve issues, but King Mob is miles more egotistical than anything Moore has ever written.

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Jesse 5 years, 6 months ago

The way King Mob gets treated is part of what I had in mind.

Don't get me wrong, I have my problems with The Invisibles. It's one of the great pop artifacts of the '90s, but it hits some sour notes along the way. Still, one thing I like about it is the way it sets up both an author surrogate and a reader identification figure, then pulls the rug out from under them both.

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WGPJosh 5 years, 6 months ago

I'm not so sure V is meant to be likeable as much as he is meant to embody the whole of a certain viewpoint. Despite the sympathies of myself, and, presumably, Moore himself, I don't think V for Vendetta is about taking sides and showing how anarchism is preferable to authoritarianism. Rather, I think it's about weighing the two ideologies by showing the strengths and weaknesses of each before leaving the reader with the notion the ideas are bigger than any one person or group of people and will live on, for good or bad, to be endlessly reinterpreted and reconceptualised.

In other words, V for Vendetta could probably be more accurately read not as Moore espousing his personal worldview (a la Promethea) but rather trying to hash it out by way of looking at radical politics by way of traditional philosophical fiction.

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vitaminbillwebb 5 years, 6 months ago

@Josh Oh I agree absolutely. What I meant by not being "likable in an unproblematic way" is precisely that. V for Vendetta is a pretty even-handed portrayal of two positions. In order for it to be that, though, we need both Leader's monologue about fascism, in which he seems like a more-or-less principled jerk who is trying to save lives (albeit by slaughtering "undesirables") and V's horrific treatment of Evey, whose name I misspelled above. That is: the likability of a character is, when that character is as openly allegorical for a political position as V is, directly related to the likability of his/her politics. It's why I can safely say that Gone with the Wind glamorizes the Old South in the figure of Rhett Butler, and it's what makes anarchy, in V for Vendetta, undecidable, as much a cypher as its hero.

And that may actually be what makes Moore more complex than Morrison. Doom Patrol makes abjection and transgression cool. But V makes abjection and transgression complicated.

Nevertheless, I can't help but feel that somehow Moore's heroes are resistant subjects, while Morrison's are more like indigestible abjects.

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Eric Gimlin 5 years, 6 months ago

It looks like the first two stories showed up in marvel US Doctor Who comics, but I haven't seen them to verify that personally. (GCD says issues 14 & 15) The Time War stories were reprinted in Daredrvils, but those are fairly tricky to find as well.

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Herms 5 years, 6 months ago

He says in the book--I'm paraphrasing from memory here--falls prey to a contradiction: it insists that we're alone in the universe, that any patterns we see are accidental and that the watch exists without a watchmaker, but that the book itself is so carefully wrought, so crystalline and perfect, that it proclaims its own having-been-made on every page and thus deifies the author.

It's probably not fair to get too critical of a brief summary from memory like this, but as presented this strikes me as pretty nonsensical. Yes, Watchmen was made; it's a book, that's not really in dispute. What does that have to do with the universe though? If the idea is "Watchmen is really complex and has an author, so since the universe is so complex is must have an author too" then that's naive; there are lots of ways complexities and (seeming) perfection can arise without planning. That's what evolution is all about. And anyway, that really has nothing to do with Watchmen in particular. Watchmen may be a particularly notable example of a finely-wrought book, but if it's considered as contradicting the idea of a watchmaker-less universe then you could say the same thing about any book. And if that's what he's saying then it's silly. Does he really consider it contradictory for someone who doesn't believe the universe has an author to author a book on that theme? If so, that seems like pretty low-level false equivalence. Saying that the universe isn't like a watch built by a watchmaker isn't the same thing as saying that there are no such things as watches or watchmakers.

And all that aside, I don't think it's true that Watchmen as a whole "insists that we're alone in the universe, that any patterns we see are accidental and that the watch exists without a watchmaker." Certainly there are characters in it that expound or illustrate that view, but I think the opposite view gets at least as much of a hearing. As Philip said, Rorschach isn't supposed to be very sympathetic, and on the same note I don't think his despairing psychiatrist is meant to have perfect insight into the book's world.

I also recall Moore saying in interviews that Watchmen was largely about showing that reality is made up of coincidences, which seems to me very much the opposite of Morrison's take on the book's themes. I know, death of the author and all that jazz, but if Moore wasn't going for "we are alone, patterns are meaningless" in the first place then I don't see how the book could be defying its author, even if its high degree of perfection really did contradict that idea.

So I don't think Watchmen says what paraphrased!Morrison thinks it does, and even if it did I don't think this would mean what he thinks it would mean. But I'm sure the full version of Morrison's arguments is better.

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Spacewarp 5 years, 6 months ago

Have just had a look at the "4-D War" strip from the link I posted earlier. Very interesting. I'd put money on RTD being influenced by that, as both the Untempored Schism and the Time Lord Council Chamber from End of Time appear to be in there!

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vitaminbillwebb 5 years, 6 months ago

@Herms Well, it's better, but not really much. Morrison's prose in Supergods is... problematic. It can't really be called overwritten. It's just surprisingly poorly written.

That said, yes, I think there's something to it. I mean, the fact is that the universe of Watchmen does have an author. That doesn't mean that this one does. In fact, I'd wager that Moore isn't a fan of the idea that anything is author-ized in that sense. But Watchmen is about two things: 1.) It's about the necessity for people to make sense of the universe, because no one's going to do it for us. I don't know that anyone actually voices the opposite opinion, either. There's no one in the book who says "Actually, God" or even "Actually, progress or the revolution or any other sort of transcendental sign." Rorschach isn't alone in saying there's no pattern. Every character except Nite Owl and Silk Specter say there isn't one. And they don't advance anything different, except, I suppose, for love, which Dr. Manhattan reveals as no more than a truly miraculous chemical reaction, not a transcendent meaning. 2.) It's about being really, really well written. That is: it contains patterns that do, in fact, exist. They were put there by an author. They were deliberately set up to get us as readers to buy the idea that--and this is close to a direct quote--the smartest man in the world would do the stupidest thing in history after thinking about it all his life.

To me, that's not just death-of-the-author jazz. It's a text that says authors and authority are at worst empty and at best imaginary, all the while pointing out its cleverness and it's sense of itself as an object made by a genius.

Now, I think it's a clever critique. I don't know that it ruins Watchmen for me, though, because, as I said, the thing is made damned well. It's a joy to read. And part of the fun of reading any well-made work is feeling it warp me as a reader, pulling me out of my headspace and into the author's. It's just that, in this one case, doing so is self-contradictory, while not being self-defeating.

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Wm Keith 5 years, 6 months ago

I've always found comic strips very difficult to appreciate.

But "Black Legacy" (and here I'm writing from childhood memories) was a quite superb story, absolutely in the spirit of the Hinchcliffe era, definitely something which did leave a legacy in the back of the reader's mind.

In a way, it was the Hinchcliffe version of "Mission to the Unknown", yet one which could never even have been attempted in live-action television.

(Incidentally, in your first paragraph, you conflate "Star Death" and "Black Legacy" as "Black Death")

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Jesse 5 years, 6 months ago

I think the prose in SUPERGODS is very good. To the extent that I have a problem with the book's writing (as opposed to disagreements with the book's ideas), I'd say its problems are on an organizational level: The structure unravels somewhat in the last third of the book. There are also places where Morrison either contradicts himself or does a poor job of explaining why he isn't contradicting himself.

All that said, I enjoyed the book quite a bit.

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BerserkRL 5 years, 6 months ago

it's worth noting that Watchmen's most beloved character, Rorschach, is not meant to be sympathetic in the least.

Well, not "sympathetic" in the sense of someone you're supposed to root for, exactly; but we're clearly meant to feel both pity and admiration to some extent, though neither unqualifiedly. And Moore did say in an interview that Rorschach is the only character in the book whose inegrity isn't morally compromised.

Of course Rorschach's moral vision is screwed up, deformed, hateful, borderline insane -- but Moore is never going to combine the most decent character and the character with the most integrity into a Mary Sue.

(Likewise I saw another interview in which Moore said he deliberately made V. morally flawed and some of his fascist opponents sympathetic because it would just be boring and lazy to combine all positive qualities into the hero and all negative qualities into the antagonists.)

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BerserkRL 5 years, 6 months ago

vitaminbillwebb,

I can safely say that Gone with the Wind glamorizes the Old South in the figure of Rhett Butler

Do you mean Ashley Wilkes? On most readings, Wilkes stands for the Old South and Butler for the New South.

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Axel Brass 5 years, 6 months ago

Phil, Morrison was once asked what he thought of Promethea at a convention appearance.

"It has good art" was his reply.

I'm not massively fond of it either - felt like I was reading a textbook in places. Nevertheless, I appreciated the conclusion, because that was, I feel, deceptively difficult to pull off.

Miracleman/V for Vendetta are maybe my favourite Moore (well, today). Apparently they ran at the same time, which adds a great deal of resonance. One is about a man whose actions are intended to be noble, but who nonetheless ends up establishing a totalitarian state, whilst the other is about a man whose actions are somewhat murky, but who dismantles a totalitarian state. It's an interesting parallel, which does open up the obvious, but still fascinating reading where V can be viewed as a later Miracleman. Never did see behind that mask....

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Martin Porter 5 years, 6 months ago

I had all those DWW/DWM mags from about 1979 to about 1985.

And I gave the lot away.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh......................

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David Bateman 5 years, 6 months ago

Phil made the point earlier in this blog somewhere that there could be two different Timelord histories going on in Doctor Who. I thought it was interesting re-reading 'Star Death' how Moore deals with Rassilon and Omega. Rassilon is in charge of the whole operation, while Omega commands a ship which gets pulled into the black hole. And, the end of 'Star Death' hinges upon a paradox anyway. Could Rassilon have saved Omega if he'd wanted to?

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Matthew Kilburn 5 years, 6 months ago

Strictly speaking, the rejuvenation issue was an idea of Richard Landen. Jeremy Bentham hadn't advocated it, and the editorial comments in the letters page disassociated DWM from Landen's rejuvenation arguments themselves.

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Wm Keith 5 years, 5 months ago

Lance Parkin has just announced that he's publishing a full length biography of Moore next year.

http://lanceparkin.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/alan-moore-the-biography/

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John Seavey 2 years, 5 months ago

I suddenly want to see a TV adaptation of 'Black Legacy', with the Doctor and companion inserted into the narrative. It'd be so awesomely subversive if the Doctor and the Cybermen wound up working together to find the Deathsmiths' ultimate weapon (with different intentions about what to do with it), and the Doctor actually got to see Cybermen panicking, and...oh, wow. That'd have been so awesome.

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