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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.


  1. elvwood
    July 9, 2012 @ 1:21 am

    I'm one of the lucky few who got every issue of Warrior when it first came out, and then picked up almost all of Miracleman as well (I would have got them all if my local comic shop hadn't been in the process of going under towards the end of Gaiman's run). The latter are among the few comics I've kept (about 12' of shelf space, compared to boxes and boxes a decade or so ago).

    As ever, a great post with some nice juxtapositions. Thanks!


  2. Alphapenguin
    July 9, 2012 @ 1:40 am

    It's interesting that you should bring up the subject of lost futures today, because I just read an interesting piece in the Guardian on the same topic and it seems like it might be right in your wheelhouse. Have you read this yet?



  3. Archeology of the Future
    July 9, 2012 @ 4:35 am

    I think the thing that ties together a lot of Moore's work is the having characters become ideas, and having those characters be aware of it.

    Swamp Thing is aware of becoming a symbol, indeed he actually is just the idea of a man taken up by some roots. Promethea is all about this too land where stories are real.

    It's even true in Halo Jones, where we as readers and Halo as a character never get to see why she is so important but she is. Academics discuss her fro the future, refer to her as being symbolic.

    What's interesting about Marvelman is the fact that characters know how ridiculous their own previous fictional reality appears on reflection. They are genre savvy in a way that became frustratingly ubiquitous post Scream.

    The 'more that just another time lord' stuff obviously has roots in Swamp Thing's discovery of his true nature, but it's interesting that the mystery is something that the Doctor knows about but is withholding, rather than something that hes ignorant of and is led toward discovering.

    You have to do a post on Captain Britain, you really do. If there's one Moore story that reminds me of Who Cartmel and beyond it's Captain Britain.


  4. C.
    July 9, 2012 @ 5:24 am

    I'm very glad you touched on Marvelman, which as you said is the great lost Moore epic of the '80s (even if the rights issues were solved, a Marvelman film that stayed true to the comic, esp. the London holocaust/divine fascism climax to the story, would be a tough sell to Hollywood). There's a fine moment early on in the series, when Mike Moran has finally remembered his past and is trying to tell his wife about Kid Miracleman and Dr. Garzunga and she, naturally, just starts giggling. & he snaps something like "damn it, Liz, you're laughing at my life!" Which is a defense as one could mount of comics—they are inherently ridiculous, but still they have meaning, whether simply in how they helped to form a developing mind or in the themes they (absently, blithely) played with.

    There's also Moore's last stretch of Swamp Thing, where Swampy for some reason I forogt is exiled from earth and so winds up popping up on some of DC's forgotten alien civilizations (Adam Strange, the sentient plantworld of Green Lantern) and making them actually frightening and complex places.


  5. Adam Riggio
    July 9, 2012 @ 7:28 am

    That really is the genius idea of Alan Moore, reiterated in almost everything he did in his career: combining the grand, oversized unreality of myth with the everyday concerns of being a person. Having just watched Remembrance of the Daleks last week for the first time since reading your diagnoses of the decline in the Nathan-Turner / Saward era, I approached the story seeing many elements that I hadn't before. I'll save all the meta-fictional stuff I noticed for the Remembrance post on Wednesday, but it struck me most clearly that the story was about this enormous battle of gods ("Group Captain, that ship has weapons capable of cracking this planet open like an egg.") slamming into the everyday concerns of the military folk, scientists, Harry and Geoffrey at the diner ("Yes! It'll be twins."), and Ratcliffe and Mike's National Front group. And Cartmel and Aaronovitch actually manage to make it all work.

    It's remarkably difficult, really, and having Moore around as a guide is certainly a help, but no guarantee of success. Thinking about that collision of the mythic and quotidian in comics, I was reminded of this article I read a long time ago on io9. Gambit is trying to proceed with the ordinary, but very important, task of getting laid. But the mythic nature of the world keeps intruding in the most literal sense.

    This really is the problem of most of the bad superhero movies when I think about it. They concentrate entirely on the mythic elements of collisions of forces with the strength of gods, and leave most of the human drama behind, or at least so underdeveloped that it's barely worth noticing. So we no longer have a narrative, but a dance of quasars. Beautiful, maybe, but not a narrative.


  6. Ununnilium
    July 9, 2012 @ 7:59 am

    Hullo! First time I've commented here, and glad to be doing so.

    You make excellent points about how Moore's early work works here… and also illustrate my problem with it. Simply put, while these works point out why the hopes of the past failed, they don't really give any way that they can work in the present.

    For instance (since I haven't had a chance to read Marvelman), after Watchmen, what were superheroes supposed to do? Become Ozymandias, and become shameless extremists in the name of the greater good? Become Dr. Manhattan, and remove themselves from Earthly concerns? Become Nite Owl and Silk Spectre, and content themselves with small, personal victories, knowing that they're utterly powerless on a larger scale? Apparently, the choice the writers picked as "become Rorschach" – reasonable, considering he's the most dynamic character.

    I'm not saying that the downer ending was a bad idea – far from it – nor am I saying that every problem has to be solved by the person who can express it the most eloquently. But when you revamp something, you're sketching a map for the people who come after you. You don't have to ink every intersection along the way, but you should at least draw an arrow in the right direction.

    (Note that he eventually realized this, and his later work is much better about it. Supreme and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen crackle with it, and the America's Best Comics line was essentially a way for him to set creators on a new path personally.)


  7. Elizabeth Sandifer
    July 9, 2012 @ 8:03 am

    Even in his 1980s work I feel like optimistic stories exist: V for Vendetta is basically optimistic. Swamp Thing is largely optimistic, and in ways that prefigure the optimism of later work. (Both Swamp Thing and Lost Girls find an intense optimism in the erotic.) Ballad of Halo Jones seems on track for optimism when it leaves off.


  8. Anton B
    July 9, 2012 @ 9:36 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  9. Anton B
    July 9, 2012 @ 9:43 am

    I too was lucky enough to be in on the ground floor of Marvelman in the 1980's with 'Warrior' and continued to follow it in the US colour reprints and through Gaiman's take. Waiting for the resolution of the 'Marveldog!' cliffhanger was almost as cruel a hiatus as Doctor Who has ever pulled. At the same time I had completely lost interest in Doctor Who, mostly for the reasons you deliniate in your recent posts. I didn't know Cartmel was such a fan of Moore (the Halo Jones connection is very interesting). This has definitely inspired me to re-examine his era of Doctor Who, thanks Phillip.


  10. BerserkRL
    July 9, 2012 @ 10:37 am

    Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, a comic with few ideas beyond "what if Batman were more badass and violent." … So where Frank Miller recast Batman as an ultimate conservative fantasy

    That seems rather unfair. Miller's satirical skewerings go both left and right in DKR; there's a strong antiwar message in it (this was before he found hawkish neoconservatism and lost his talent); and Batman's perspective doesn't go unchallenged.


  11. BerserkRL
    July 9, 2012 @ 1:22 pm

    Also in DKR there's the Superman/Batman dynamic, which is rather subtle. On the one hand, Batman criticises Superman for being willing to do the bidding of "anyone with a badge or a flag" — a valid criticism, and not a stereotypically conservative one (especially since the guy Superman is being criticised for obeying is a cold warrior and a transparent clone of Reagan). (Nor is Green Arrow's role in the story a conservative one.)

    On the other hand, the moral is not a simplistic Batman good / Superman bad either. Superman not only saves the world from World War III (and nearly dies doing it), but he in effect receives the direct blessing of Gaia herself when Superman is saved by the stored solar energy in the flower (one of the most original things I'd seen done with Superman in quite a while). This gives each of them a certain moral heft in his criticism of the other.


  12. BerserkRL
    July 9, 2012 @ 1:31 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  13. BerserkRL
    July 9, 2012 @ 1:32 pm

    Miller used to be more complex politically in general. Remember how in Martha Washington he took the plot of Atlas Shrugged and rewrote it into a story condemning imperialism, environmental devastation, and corporate greed — subverting Rand's message while still harnessing its force.

    Then something went wrong. Politically 9/11 seems to have unhinged him — although his talent was already slipping, as the sequel to DKR shows. (I mean his writing talent; his drawing talent has been steadily improving.) His abusive comments about the Occupy movement would have gotten him a good slap in the mouth from Martha Washington.


  14. Ununnilium
    July 9, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

    I'm definitely not going to disagree there. Heck, I'd say that Watchmen itself is boundlessly optimistic – both in Doctor Manhattan's open-ness to the worth of humanity, his newfound enjoyment in creation, and humanity itself coming together against a greater foe. But I'd say that, crucially, there's little optimism about the thing that it's deconstructing.


  15. BerserkRL
    July 9, 2012 @ 2:38 pm

    Plus of course there's Miller's little-known adaptation of The Hobbit….


  16. Eric Gimlin
    July 9, 2012 @ 9:19 pm

    To my regret I sold off my complete Miracleman run several years ago, a combination of desperate need to pay the rent and another burst of false optimism that the rights mess was close to being fixed. Kept the WARRIORS I had, though,and finally filled in the 3-4 I was missing last year.

    What I find more interesting is the idea that Cartmel was handing out copies of HALO JONES. I don't think it's much of a stretch to see fairly signifigant similarities between it and Doctor Who, particularly the earlier versions of the show. A character who is first defined by their drive to escape, wandering into any number of alien worlds? I really need to dig up my copy again…

    And of course the mention of 2000 AD makes me wonder if we're going to get a Morrison post prior to Invisibles. Zenith was starting around this point, if I recall correctly. While not in Marvelman's class, it's another book a lot of people would like to read tied up in rights issues. (Luckily I've got all 5 trades and the issues for the unreprinted stories on that one.)


  17. Spacewarp
    July 10, 2012 @ 5:31 am

    I don't have any Miracleman but I remember borrowing them from a friend and reading them about this time. Very impressed. I also borrowed "The Adventures of Luther Arkwright" at the same time, which quite frankly impressed me even more (being a huge Mike Moorcock fan).


  18. Unknown
    July 10, 2012 @ 6:32 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  19. storiteller
    July 10, 2012 @ 7:58 am

    The human drama was what I particularly enjoyed in Sam Raimi's version of Spiderman. The second movie in particular, where he's just struggling to pay rent, brings such a good depth to the character that could just be a wiseass. In contrast, I just saw the new movie, which completely missed that part of the character. They almost completely focused on the "Wow, aren't those powers cool!" aspect and lost the entire heart of the thing. They tried to shove in some human-level drama, but it just seemed as if it was going through the motions and was very cold. I think part of it is that Sam Raimi is a genuine Spiderman fan, while the new movie felt like it was written by a studio using a checklist.

    That great love of the original material is something I think works for both Alan Moore and Doctor Who. Alan Moore couldn't express that level of awe without a genuine appreciation for the very concept of superheroes. Likewise, no matter how ridiculous the new version of Who gets, the sheer love of the people working on it seems to be contagious.


  20. Kit
    July 10, 2012 @ 6:30 pm

    Since Phil said he's saving mention of Morrison's DWM strips for the Invisibles post, I wouldn't expect any other discussion earlier. (And yes, Zenith Phase II was running around this time – contrast and compare Zenith's and Ace's jackets…)


  21. Kit
    July 10, 2012 @ 10:38 pm

    PS am I the only one in an eastern time zone who's been hopefully F5ing, every half-hour, all afternoon? I WANT MY REMEMBRANCE


  22. Tommy
    July 11, 2012 @ 8:25 am

    I'd argue though that the failing of the Saward era was that it reduced the mythological qualities of the show to their most superficial, materialist and petty. Even the Doctor himself became more like a typically inept male soap opera character, whether the self-berating, overearnest Fifth Doctor, or the Sixth being just a general vindictive, misogynistic thug. It used to be the case that the Doctor's idealism spoke for itself and he didn't really have to overcompensate for anything. But as Phil says, the Doctor kind of died as a mythological figure at the end of Logopolis. Even in Snakedance, Enlightenment and The Five Doctors the myths and legends are pointedly ones that show the Doctor as a mere mortal passing through by comparison.

    In a way I'd say Logopolis was part of the problem because it moved the show more into the realms of real-time storytelling as a way of making the show's universe a more 'real' experience, but leading to all kinds of padding, a more banal focus, and no apparent way of cutting corners or having philosophical debates actually develop- one gets the sense that the Doctor's debate with Davros in Genesis or his negotiations with the Sea Devils were barely glimpsed and took place on and off screen and could have plausibly lasted far longer than the screen time they got. But it also means that when leaps and bounds are made (the Sea Devils trusting the Doctor, or Davros totally losing it) it doesn't feel forced because of the sense of that lapse of time.

    Saward's era therefore was a cynical one because it ruined all chance of the Doctor ever building that kind of trust or shared ideologies with other people. Even in Kinda he's brushed off by enlightened figures as 'an idiot' and can't get through to Sanders without an instant box of Jana to provide an immediate emotional deus ex machina. This is mainly why Warriors of the Deep didn't work. In place of mythology we had continuity overstatement- the Doctor never had any of the interactions with the Silurians that justified his stance that they were misunderstood and capable of making peace, hence why he has to harp on about it as though people will believe it's true if he says it enough. Which lent for me to a sense that he was motivated to hold back not by any compassion for the Silurians, but more by spite towards the humans who were being besieged. Because that's all the 4 part real-time format and Saward's rewrites left him with.

    Of course with Delta and the Bannermen we began to finally see stories that actually could chart the length of a day, a night, and a morning after, as does Remembrance. This allows not just a chance at corner cutting and greater slickness and a far less episodic feel, but allows the Doctor to move more in the shadows, to place emphasis on what takes place off screen. The Doctor is allowed to become influential and enigmatic again.


  23. Jordan Murphy
    April 30, 2013 @ 7:04 pm

    Hello. This is my first comment and I find myself responding to a long-ago post. So it's unlikely anyone will notice.

    Yes, the Dark Knight Returns compares unfavorably with Watchmen. Most comics do. It also compares unfavorably with the Batman: Year One and Daredevil: Born Again arcs Miller created in collaboration with the spectacular David Mazzuchelli, the awesomely insane Elektra: Assassin created by Miller with Bill Sienkiewicz, and the sublime post-apocalyptic Ronin, written and illustrated by Mr. Frank Miller. And let's not forget Miller's first Daredevil stint, which made the former C-lister a book to follow two years before the undoubtedly genius Mr. Moore did the same to Swamp Thing, while casually introducing an obsession with ninjas to Gen-X Americans.
    While he became a caricature of himself decades ago (I'll never forgive him for treating The Spirit like a Sin City clone), he was every bit as important as Alan Moore in comic's second (and probably last) Golden Age.


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