Eruditorum Press

An entryist coup for your subconscious

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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

8 Comments

  1. Carey
    March 28, 2014 @ 1:53 am

    But instead Moore embraced the sentimentality of E.T. over the spiky anger of Boys from the Blackstuff and ended up with a mediocrity.

    I'd disagree with this. Skizz identifies one of the central messages that runs through all his best work: people are individuals, and the moment we categorise them (as unemployed, or a teenager, or an "enimal" to quote Skizz's central villain) we reduce them to at best commodities, at worst statistics. The answer to Thatcher wasn't the creation of a radical but reflective ideology, but to become nicer people. The central point of Skizz is the JG Ballard approach to science fiction: to treat humanity as aliens and explore who and what makes the best of them that way. For all that they end the series in the same geographical location that they begun in, the protagonists end the story as different people, and better people at that.

    For a comic that was aimed at the time to adolescents, that's as radical a lesson as armed insurrection. And one that will probably lead to a better outcome.

    2000ad for its first ten years very much had that in common with Doctor Who: for all that adults read or watched them, they were primarily aimed at reaching the younger section of the audience, and then adding further layers on top to appeal to the older section. One of the reasons that Doctor Who enjoyed such success upon its return in 2005 was the realisation that the youth audience is crucial, not least in the fact that they may become the adult fans of tomorrow. Tragically, from the early 90's onwards, 2000ad forgot this. The nadir came with the "All Sex Issue" ( http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_f5CeYHsQgt8/S4gJsYCufPI/AAAAAAAABns/QV-ByzuhxKs/s1600-h/1066.jpg ) in the late 90's, which got the comic permanently consigned to the top self of newsagents and far away from any youthful audience.

    I was 14 when Skizz was serialised in 1983, and probably the right age for it– to young to have watched Boys from the Blackstuff the year before (but not too young to be unaware of it or the furore that it created), and think the story perfectly crafted for exactly that age group. In many ways I feel it far more sophisticated than some of Moore's output from the last few years. At the very least, it lacks something that I feel has come to dominate his work: cynicism. For all it's faults, Skizz has optimism, and lacks irony. Something that I feel is a loss in Moore's work now.

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  2. Iain Coleman
    March 28, 2014 @ 4:11 am

    Ah, D.R. and Quinch. Alan Moore has done deeper work, he has done more thoughtful work, he has done work of far greater artistic importance, but he has never, ever done anything even nearly as much fun.

    Reply

  3. Tom
    March 28, 2014 @ 9:42 am

    In the context of Moore's work I think this is a fair assessment of Skizz – the ending is the weak part, with too many movie-style reversals of fortune: Cornelius sticking his wrench up through the window of the crashed van still makes me shiver, Cornelius climbing back up the overpass is a moment too far. You're right that ET vs Boys From The Blackstuff is an encounter that probably can't end well, but that's not the only genre encounter going on in Skizz, I think. Each of Skizz' three main human allies is stepping out of a different, very successful 80s TV program. Cornelius is Yosser Hughes. Loz is a Minder-style loveable wide boy/petty crook. Roxy is a Grange Hill age schoolkid. And they all get plots straight out of their shows – Loz with a comically OTT criminal scheme, Roxy with the soap-for-kids parents and pupils conflicts Phil Redwood pioneered on Grange Hill, Cornelius with the BFTB job-quest. So what the alien's arrival does is upset three different TV comedy-drama shows from their courses and bring them swirling together to beat Van Owen. That doesn't save the ending from your criticisms, but it makes the rest of the series a bit more intriguing.

    From the perspective of 2000AD, meanwhile, Skizz was an absolute triumph, even beyond Moore being the best writer they had. 2000AD had basically avoided engagement with contemporary Britain – the residue from the ACTION! crisis, British comics' equivalent of the Hinchcliffe sacking – and had only featured a few present-day stories, mostly forced imports from other failed titles (eg The Mind Of Wolfie Smith). So Skizz' arrival in Birmingham is more startling than it reads on its own, and the comic is as uncompromising as Halo Jones would be in presenting adolescent boys with stuff they'd got used to not seeing. A female protagonist, obviously, and the reality of unemployment* but also little asides like namechecks of local reggae acts, and (very importantly) real-world politics without Dredd's veil of satire/allegory: given how cautious IPC sometimes were, I'm amazed and pleased Moore managed to get a racist white South African in as his villain, and make it clear that this is exactly why Van Owen is the villain. So a bleaker ending for Skizz might have made it a better Alan Moore comic, but would have been a disaster for 2000AD, sending the wrong signals about female leads and real-world politics in the comic. (Though this point is basically moot, given how almost nobody save Moore followed up on that.)

    *though 82-ish 2000AD had a minor theme of employment as a source of stories. Behind all the rococo visual invention, Ace Trucking Co. is basically a story about cutting corners and blagging within a bureaucratic work environment, and had 2000AD's 'industrial action' story. Strontium Dog's central metaphor is of a minority doing the crap, dangerous jobs the privileged don't want. And it's the point in Judge Dredd's career where the satire is largely pointing away from the judges and out into the city, and Dredd is, more than at any other time, a guy doing a job and enjoying a bit of Sector House banter at the end of a case.

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  4. Jesse
    March 28, 2014 @ 12:26 pm

    I hope the next installment includes a long digression on Robert Altman's O.C. & Stiggs movie.

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  5. Alan
    March 29, 2014 @ 9:25 am

    I saw the movie on VHS in 1988. Being a young college student in the 80's, I had no idea who Robert Altman was but assumed he was a no talent hack. Certainly, from watching the movie, I had no idea that it was based on a prior source, let alone one that was considered to be funny.

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  6. BerserkRL
    March 29, 2014 @ 8:45 pm

    "such importance is as inaccessible to him as "

    As what? Something seems missing.

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  7. tom jones
    March 30, 2014 @ 1:22 am

    The most depressing thing about Boys From The Blackstuff is that it was actually written in the late 70s. The first three episodes were written while Labour were still in power, according to Bleasdale.

    Reply

  8. kodrati
    May 30, 2016 @ 6:18 pm

    Reply

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