Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Thrill Power 25 (2000 AD)
There are, of course, many ways in which British culture has jumped over and influenced American culture. But the British Invasion in the comics industry remains one that it’s easy to miss the significance of, in part because its three leading lights – Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, and Neil Gaiman – have largely sucked the oxygen from the event, obscuring the fact that for a significant period of time the overwhelming majority of significant comics writers and artists in the US were, in fact, British. Consider the following list: Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, Peter Milligan, Jamie Delano, Andy Diggle, Mike Carey, Andrew Cartmel, Paul Cornell, Mark Millar, Lawrence Miles, Warren Ellis, Tony Lee, Alan Davis, Barry Kitson, Dave Gibbons, Glen Fabry, Kevin O’Neil, Bryan Talbot, Gary Erskine, Frank Quitely, Trevor Hairsine, Sam Kieth, John McRea, Frazer Irvine, Brian Bolland, Garry Leach, Steve Yeowell, Steve Dillon, John Ridgway, Carlos Ezquerra, Pat Mills, John Wagner, Jock, John Bolton, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, and Mark Buckingham. Aside from one or two Doctor Who names I threw in there because this is a Doctor Who blog after all, these are some of the biggest names in comics, whether because they are or at some point were superstars or because they were on one or two massively famous projects. But more significantly, everyone on that list has published at least one thing in either 2000 AD or its spinoff Judge Dredd Megazine. And for the majority of them that was some of their earliest work.
So if you want to suggest that 2000 AD is one of the most important British science fiction publications ever, period, you’re not exactly short on ammunition for your case. On the other hand, generally speaking, if you want to argue that it was one of the best… well, now you’re in a bit of a harder situation. Because as vital as 2000 AD was and at times still is, it’s not exactly… good.
First some background. In late 1975 an editor at IPC Magazines got an inkling that science fiction might hit it big soon and hired Pat Mills to develop it. Pat Mills had overseen two previous comics aimed at the same age group – Battle Picture Weekly and the infamous Action, which was sufficiently violent and blood-soaked to as to piss off Mary Whitehouse. 2000 AD was a stunning example in the same vein. There were five strips in its first issue – sorry, prog – Invasion, Dan Dare, Harlem Heroes, Flesh, and M.A.C.H. 1. Almost all of them are gloriously and tastelessly violent – only Dan Dare, reimagined as a more properly “futuristic” strip, displays even a glimmer of basic taste. Harlem Heroes is about a sport that combines “football, boxing, kung fu, and basketball,” while M.A.C.H. 1 was an ultraviolent Six Million Dollar Man ripoff. Invasion was about working class British men violently resisting Soviet… sorry, Volgan occupation. And Flesh, perhaps the greatest of all of them, was about time traveling dinosaur farmers and a particularly murderous T-Rex.
That said, this basic aesthetic of 2000 AD is perhaps better summarized by the strip that replaced Flesh – a sixteen issue job that is rarely mentioned as one of the absolute classics of 2000 AD, despite being absolutely fantastic in every regard. I am speaking, of course, of Shako. Shako tells the story of a particularly homicidal polar bear who has swallowed some vital military hardware and is being chased by government agents. It is, in practice, nothing more than sixteen short strips of a polar bear violently slaughtering people in improbable and needlessly imaginative ways. Though really, little needs to be said about Shako beyond its tagline: Shako! The Only Bear on the CIA Death List! This, in a nutshell, is what 2000 AD was – a comics magazine of completely and utterly insane premises that was willing to execute those premises with a reckless and manic glee well captured by its fictional editor/overlord, Tharg – a futuristic galactic conquerer turned British comics editor who excitedly praised the comic’s “thrill power” with a gusto that would make John Nathan-Turner blush if he wouldn’t have been instantly vaporized by Tharg for entertainingly specious reasons.
All of which said, the real heart of 2000 AD is Judge Dredd. Originally intended to launch in prog one, Dredd was held back a prog due to not quite being ready in time. But he quickly and understandably became the magazine’s signature feature. On a superficial level Judge Dredd is much like all of the other 2000 AD strips. He’s a police officer in a futuristic city who is also authorized to dispense justice on the spot and who is a complete authoritarian hardass who thus solves every problem imaginable by shooting it, sometimes repeatedly. But what’s interesting about Judge Dredd is that underneath the extravagant violence is a rather wicked bit of intelligent satire. The entire premise of Judge Dredd rapidly becomes that the audience is rooting for a character who is obviously a bad guy.
This move underlies much of what appeals about 2000 AD. In its earliest days what is compelling about it is its stark anti-authoritarian streak. A character like Bill Savage, the protagonist of Invasion, was a classic anti-authoritarian tough guy who defied the rules and saved the day. Even in a strip without such an overtly rebellious lead, though, there’s an ostentatious brashness to 2000 AD. A strip like Shako is so needlessly violent and so cavalier with its plotting as to appear deliberate. There’s the sense, in other words, that 2000 AD is just trying to piss off Mary Whitehouse so it can laugh in her face after. Tis, at least, is fun, and is what leads to the usual description of 2000 AD having a “punk” sensibility. And notably, thus far the most 2000 AD-style story Doctor Who has televised is probably The Sun Makers.
But as ever, punk’s real apotheosis is its destruction and replacement with post-punk. We saw it in Doctor Who, and 2000 AD is no different. 2000 AD’s pure punk phase lasted one prog. Prog 2, with the introduction of Judge Dredd, moved on immediately to the post-punk phase in which the anti-authoritarian streak was applied to the ultimate establishment figure. Judge Dredd was a punk who not only worked for the man, he was the living embodiment of the man’s power. He’s the punk antihero who hasn’t so much sold out as existed from the first moment on the side of established power. And the tension implicit in this is simply allowed to stand. Dredd simultaneously embodies a punk sensibility and a biting critique of the impotent silliness of grown men in acting like angry children.
This is the essential genius of a lot of 2000 AD – its awareness of its own excessiveness and its tendency to undercut it. But Judge Dredd, with its absurdly over the top settings (Mega City One was explicitly cited by Russell T. Davies as the inspiration for New New York in Gridlock) and active willingness to play with the unsympathetic nature of its protagonist (one of its best-regarded story arcs is about Dredd violently putting down pro-democracy protesters), pushes this approach to a different level. The undercutting in Judge Dredd isn’t just a matter of the comic being ostentatiously over the top but a matter of active self-critique. Judge Dredd is continually calling into question its own pleasurability. It defies the reader to enjoy it even as it wallows in its own over the top excess.
It’s a good trick, and one that 2000 AD mirrored in a number of other classic strips – Rogue Trooper, Strontium Dog, Nemesis the Warlock, and Sláine all follow the basic approach of juxtaposing excessive and over the top violence with a sort of aggressively materialist and cynical view of the world that subjects that view to active critique. But as I said, it’s not quite good. 2000 AD is something that one respects more than one enjoys, if you will. Because its best moments go out of the way to be off-putting and alienating, it actively resists letting you just fall in love with it. And so as clever as this Judge Dredd sort of approach is, it’s not a trick upon which you build an entire takeover of another country’s comic book industry.
For that we need Alan Moore. To be fair, in my worldview we always need Alan Moore. I spent a while trying to figure out how many different Alan Moore entries to do over the course of this blog before realizing that the correct answer is “write a book on Alan Moore and Grant Morrison as modern day magical warfare after I finish the Wonder Woman project and mostly leave it out of this blog.” I mean, obviously the two projects intersect like mad, but yes. One of tentatively three entries in which Alan Moore will be substantively dealt with. (Though the third is a bit nebulous.)
Alan Moore is, at the end of the day, the most important of the British Invasion comics writers. Yes, Neil Gaiman surpasses him in raw popularity, but Gaiman broke in largely because he could imitate Alan Moore reasonably well. Sure, his style has improved since then, but he still started as an Alan Moore clone. Grant Morrison would desperately like to be the most important of the British Invasion comics writers, but the fact that Grant Morrison badmouths Alan Moore almost whenever he gets the chance while Moore has not, to my knowledge, ever spoken Grant Morrison’s name out loud pretty much says what there is to say about the asymmetry in that rivalry. No, at the end of the day Alan Moore is the one with the most influence. He’s the one who ultimately defines his era. You can tell, because he displays that trait that defines the truly influential – he has a host of imitations, and no two of them seem able to agree on what it is that defines his style. And while 2000 AD is not the start of Alan Moore’s career, it’s pretty darn early in that career. Which means that this is where we ought square away what makes Alan Moore so distinctive and influential.
The overwhelming majority of Alan Moore’s 2000 AD work consists of short pieces that are only a few pages long. He has three longer pieces – the ET knockoff Skizz, the unfinished epic The Ballad of Halo Jones, and the D.R. and Quinch strips. And the latter of those are still fairly short – a series of humor pieces where no story lasted more than five installments or so. Everything else consisted of short four-page stories in the recurring series of Tharg’s Future Shocks or Time Twisters.
Given the extent to which Moore is known for a sort of perverse verbosity (he’s been cackling madly in several interviews lately about how his new novel is longer than the Bible and how he hopes people will call it the Really Good Book) this sort of ultra-short format is an interesting place to watch him work, particularly so early in his career before he’d really settled into a firm style or voice. One can see what really made Alan Moore stand out, even at the start of his career, from everyone else around him.
The first thing is the one that is most superficially obvious about Moore, which is that Alan Moore is an exceedingly intelligent man. His knowledge of and ability to pastiche genres is startlingly vast, and while it’s not until the denser and more sprawling work of the 1990s that this tendency really starts to show, the Future Shocks give him plenty of opportunities to show off his broad mastery of genres. He’s also deft at coming up with clever solutions and ideas – few of his stories lack at least one neat or surprising twist somewhere in the story.
He is also an arch-formalist. More than almost any other comics writer Moore has spent an astonishing amount of time thinking about the mechanics of the medium and how to use them to tell stories. This isn’t as clear in his 2000 AD work where the constraints of the format naturally limit what he can do, but even in this early work, particularly in his Time Twisters stories, there’s moments where you can see the beginnings of his later arch-formalism.
This sort of cleverness is always a sound approach, although of Moore’s strengths it is also the one that most lends itself to cynical readings. I rarely end up linking to my more properly academic work from here, but this piece from a special issue of ImageTexT I edited a while back on Neil Gaiman’s comic work forms a fairly succinct account of the ethical and aesthetic problems this sort of raw cleverness can form. And, if we’re being fully open about it we should note that Steven Moffat, with his tendency to have the resolutions of episodes hinge on things like wordplay based on phone lock screens, suffers from/enjoys the same sort of popularity based on cleverness. In short, Moore, Gaiman, and Moffat are all popular for roughly the same reason – they’re very clever in ways that make the audience feel clever for keeping up with or appreciating them. It works, but in and of itself it’s not enough.
But there’s a second trick Moore has up his sleeve, and it’s both the one that really defines him as a comics writer and that is far, far less often imitated. And that’s that Moore is unmatched in his ability to get at the emotional content of a fantastic scenario. Even in a relatively early and unremarkable story like 1980’s “The Dating Game” he manages to take a drab old “the city’s computer has gone mad and is doing terrible things to people” scenario and spin it into a kind of creepily poignant yarn about a computer that has fallen in love with a man and started to stalk him before going a bit Fatal Attraction on him.
But Moore’s real strength was in pieces like “The Reversible Man,” a four page version of the simple premise of narrating a human life completely backwards in which he wrings delightfully ironic pathos out of moments like coming back from a funeral to meet his mother in the hospital for the first time. (Her condition gradually improves and she moves in with him and his wife.) But even on a smaller level, Moore is meticulous about having emotional motivations for characters. Even in a humorous piece like “The Wages of Sin” he builds his parodic treatment of stereotypical intergalactic conquerer villains around a washed up repairman in the fading Veeblefetzer market.
For all that I adore the arcs of his philosophy and his inventiveness, this, in the end, is the real core of why Alan Moore was and is such a successful writer. He is phenomenally good at finding ways to use high concept science fiction and fantasy as a way into stories about everyday emotional experience. He is not the first or the only writer to do so, but he was very good at it, and his capacity to wed that to a sort of manic inventiveness and formal bravado propelled him to the top of his field.
And this, in turn, explains the other real revolution that took place within 2000 AD and its descendants. Even Judge Dredd benefited concretely from this approach, eventually and in Moore’s wake telling stories in which the over the top antics of Mega City One got used as the backdrop for remarkably affecting stories about the city’s inhabitants, often treating Dredd himself as a force of nature haunting the city instead of as a character. It wasn’t just a new type of comics storytelling, it was in many ways a new type of popular science fiction storytelling – one whose later influence on people like Joss Whedon and, let’s be honest here, Russell T. Davies was obvious.
And so while large swaths of 2000 AD are sophomoric and blood soaked odes to ludicrousness (and CIA Death Listed bears) it marked a major shift in what science fiction was and could be in the popular consciousness – one that quickly spread over to the US and became one the dominant paradigms of halfway decent science fiction.
And, of course, the 2000 AD crowd also ended up having a bit to do with Doctor Who, but that’s another post.
January 30, 2012 @ 12:45 am
I can't believe you brought up Alan Moore without mentioning his Doctor Who connection: he wrote a number of back up strips in Doctor Who Weekly/Monthly in the period we're currently discussing. Tim Callaghan, in his blog "The Great Alan Moore Re-Read" discusses them here: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2011/12/the-great-alan-moore-reread-captain-britain-prologue-via-doctor-who
I remember reading these stories at the time, and they're definitely an influence on Russell T Davies (who goes so far as to mention Moore's "The Weaponsmiths' of Goth" in a text article on the Time War).
Oh, and anyone wanting to know more about Shako! can read a review here: http://www.savagecritic.com/reviews/“…the-only-bear-on-the-c-i-a-death-list”-comics-they-used-to-be-for-kids-y’know/
And a good example of the 2000ad sense of humour at the time: http://www.2000adreview.co.uk/reviews/extra/2006/extreme/18/shako-scan-2.jpg
I also feel the need to defend Grant Morrison here, although I'm a fan of both writers. His animosity toward Moore is based upon something Moore did to him when Morrison was starting out, and something Morrison felt slighted about for quite a while afterwards. It's mentioned in the Morrison film, Talking With Gods, if anyone is interested.
Moore is on record as being a fan of the show during the William Hartnell years, but having no real interest in the Doctor Who since that time. Morrison, meanwhile, thinks the Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit to be a masterpiece.
January 30, 2012 @ 3:45 am
As I said – there are two more Alan Moore posts. 🙂
January 30, 2012 @ 5:34 am
Has Moore explained what it is about the post-Hartnell stuff that leaves him uninterested? Or on the flip side, what it is about the Hartnell era that interests him?
The Lord of Ábrocen Landmearca
January 30, 2012 @ 8:06 am
I'm afraid I have to reject a premise in that ImageTexT article – I don't think the appropriation of other texts has to be a declaration of authority, I've always ready it as a sign of affection, a desire to share with others texts and concepts they might not ever have known existed in their comfortable Western lives with little-to-no classical educations. I ma just be mis-reading the tone (I will admit that some of the critical vocabulary is beyond me), but to me the added texts show a love of other work, a pleasure in textual melding, not an elitist "look how much cleverer I am" – if that was the case, the works wouldn't be nearly as popular. The articles makes Gaiman sound like those smug academic pricks from Foucault's Pendulum, combining the esoteric because they're board and it makes them feel more erudite.
Anyways, that's just my reading, understanding that I'm not on the same doctoral level as Clay Smith.
January 30, 2012 @ 10:08 am
Judge Dredd is one of the best strips ever; even if the artwork was not always that impressive.
I take issue a little with the suggestion that Dredd solves every problem by shooting at it- usually he takes the lawbreakers in alive and rarely executes the bad guys. Most of the killing he did was in self-defence.
January 30, 2012 @ 11:49 am
Well, I for one am really looking forward to more Alan Moore talk here, even if you do write a book on him.
By the way, it's not exactly relevant right now but bringing punk, post-punk and comics back into the discussion reminded me: Any chance of covering Tank Girl in one of these entries? I'd be curious to hear your take on it.
January 30, 2012 @ 11:52 am
"Alchemy", probably. 😛
January 30, 2012 @ 11:55 am
Not every emotional situation Moore devised was free of flaws; there are parts of Watchmen that even I think are a little shaky (namely, Nite Owl abandoning Rorschach to his fate — the movie tried to correct this as well as it could, but since its director was Zach Snyder, it couldn't do that very well).
The true genius of Watchmen was Dave Gibbons, at least in design; he's the one who came up with the "pirate comics" and the trademark "bloody smiley", after all…
January 30, 2012 @ 1:02 pm
Surely though the Troughton and McCoy eras do that tighter and better? Lambert and Whitaker were only there for the first two seasons after all, and Whitaker especially was more involved in writing during the Troughton era. I'd guess how detached and enigmatic Hartnell could be at times, but, then again, Troughton and McCoy are good at that too and even Tom Baker has his moments. Maybe it's the focus on exploration and strangeness?
January 30, 2012 @ 1:07 pm
I mean, he's never commented on it particularly elaborately. Cartmel apparently asked him for a script and he was uninterested in writing for television, and he's made a comment or two about thinking everyone post-Hartnell felt kind of like a pedophile, but he's basically not said a huge amount on Doctor Who ever and I doubt he's watched enough to have a very detailed critical view.
January 30, 2012 @ 1:09 pm
No need to be afraid. I just published the thing, I didn't write it. I think it was interesting and worth publishing, and that it advanced a worthwhile argument. When I have "journal editor" hat on, that's the standard.
I will say that Smith's fondness for post-structuralist theory references and elaborate Derrida-style wordplay does, I think, consciously and deliberately undermine his argument slightly. I mean, the article is hilariously pretentious in its citations as well and consciously plays out the same game it accuses Gaiman of. Certainly I always took that to be part of the point of it, though I never asked Smith or anything about it, so I may be wrong in reading that interpretation into it.
January 30, 2012 @ 1:12 pm
I will note that Watchmen is one of my least favorite Alan Moore pieces at this point. Not quite my least favorite (that would be Batman: The Killing Joke, which I think is nearly complete crap), but I'm certainly not going to defend Watchmen to the hilt or anything.
January 30, 2012 @ 1:32 pm
I'm unashamed to say I'm pleasantly surprised to hear you hate "The Killing Joke"-I thought I was the only one. I feel it's an incredibly overrated and simplistic story that reveals too much about The Joker and its treatment of Barbara Gordon is one of the single most contemptible moments in American comics in my opinion. To hear everyone gush about how terrific and groundbreaking it is really upsets me.
January 30, 2012 @ 1:41 pm
I loved Watchmen (and still do); but I, too, thought The Killing Joke was a disappointment. Still, I'm with WGP Josh in hoping you'll do more Moore in this blog.
I remember reading an early prog of 2000AD. While it was interesting because it was so different to what was around at the time, it didn't make me want to read more. I'm not into violence for violence's sake (which is how I interpreted it).
January 30, 2012 @ 2:05 pm
Watchmen is undoubtedly Moore's masterpiece, but for me his most profound work is From Hell, his strongest character is Halo Jones, and no comic book has ever brought me as much sheer fun as D.R & Quinch.
And yes, The Killing Joke sucks. Even Moore himself says as much – I recall an interview in which he expressed his regret that such fine artwork was wasted on such a poor script.
January 30, 2012 @ 2:14 pm
Watchmen is certainly Moore's most popular work. I think From Hell is straightforwardly better. For me, however, nothing will supplant Promethea for me. Sublimely good comic, that.
November 26, 2021 @ 12:34 pm
Grant, the Hipster Dad
January 30, 2012 @ 2:19 pm
Damn right 2000 AD is "not exactly…good." It's ZARJAZ, and has been for 35 years, you grexnix.
–Grant Goggans, KTT
January 30, 2012 @ 3:48 pm
People often forget "Marvelman" in the list of the great Moore books. Or "Miracleman," if you prefer. Book III in particular is just astonishing writing, with equally fine art by John Totleben, whose sight was literally fading as he drew it. I'll take it over the admittedly flawed "Watchmen."
The weird but compelling "A Small Killing" also tends to get overlooked.
January 30, 2012 @ 3:53 pm
Sadly, my ex-wife got custody of my copy of From Hell. I really should see about replacing it.
January 30, 2012 @ 4:03 pm
Much as I admire FROM HELL and PROMETHEA, and for that matter V FOR VENDETTA and THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, I'm going to have to cast my vote for WATCHMEN. It is, in the best sense of the phrase, a perfectly constructed clockwork where everything is in place.
(I haven't read MIRACLEMAN, though. Or rather, I read a few installments way back in the '80s but do not remember them well and never saw the entire series. So I reserve the right to join Team C.)
January 30, 2012 @ 4:11 pm
No other votes for V for Vendetta and Swamp Thing?
January 30, 2012 @ 4:37 pm
Let me make this clear; I absolutely love Watchmen, for its brilliant, brilliant plotting and characters… but, unfortunately, at times, the plotting seems to overtake the characters. They sometimes did things that felt… wrong; for example, at the climax, what goes on between Rorschach and Manhattan plays out naturally, but all of Nite Owl's concern for his friend seemingly goes out the window so he can engage in a little pre-poon chat about perfume with Silk Spectre. 😛
The whole thing, though, just felt… I don't know, "cinematic" at parts, especially in the way it flowed between scene transitions — the movie especially frustrated me in not following through with such, in this regard.
Flawed as it may be, it's still brilliant, and a towering gem of Anglo-American comics. 🙂
January 30, 2012 @ 4:44 pm
V For Vendetta is very good but my favorite Moore works are Watchmen (popular opinion but what can I say, it deserves it) and Promethea. However, at least 50% (maybe more) of Promethea's excellence is due to J.H.Williams III. HOLY CRAP is his art amazing. He's doing a bang up job on Batwoman right now (which I wouldn't have read except for JH3 being involved).
January 30, 2012 @ 6:13 pm
I was into Batwoman originally as much for Greg Rucka, who is actually my second favorite comics writer, as for Williams. But yes, Williams's art for Promethea is phenomenal. Equally, however, Moore is actually capable of writing scripts that need Williams to execute. (Whereas Rucka is open about the fact that he frequently just deferred to Williams on page structure. The result is also spectacular, as are Williams's own designs, but the fact that Moore can write scripts that actually need JH Williams to execute helps Promethea tremendously.)
January 30, 2012 @ 6:56 pm
On first click, I thought for a moment you had written it; the "I rarely end up linking to my more properly academic work from here, but this piece …" line misled me. On starting to read it, I felt the same kind of dismay I would feel if someone I thought I knew suddenly started speaking in tongues and pulling rattlesnakes out of his pockets! I was very relieved when I finally noticed the "By Clay Smith" at the top.
January 30, 2012 @ 8:03 pm
he's made a comment or two about thinking everyone post-Hartnell felt kind of like a pedophile
Interesting. I wonder what his feelings are about the current era, since Moffatt flat-out made that textual in "Amy's Choice."
January 30, 2012 @ 8:04 pm
I don't know if it was one of the best strips ever, but I do think "Gaze into the fist of Dredd!" is possibly one of the best lines in history of the English language.:)
January 30, 2012 @ 8:09 pm
I would probably have a more negative opinion of "The Killing Joke" due to its horrific treatment of Barbara Gordon had it not resulted in what had previously been nearly a joke character becoming one of the most important female comic book characters (and unquestionably the most important character suffering from a disability) in the last 20 years. Pity DC recently decided to throw Oracle out the window and put Barbara back in a cheap fuschia knock-off of Batman's costume.
January 30, 2012 @ 10:59 pm
I first (knowingly) encountered Moore's work in Warrior, which I was able to follow from the start. Marvelman and V for Vendetta both wowed me – as did his reimagining of Swamp Thing soon after. I've never been able to finish From Hell, not because of any shortcoming in the work but just because it's so unrelenting! With Promethea I adored the sephirothic journey but found the on-Earth chapters to be no better than "good".
I would hate to pick a favourite.
January 31, 2012 @ 10:07 am
Berserker: Thank goodness for that. I had a horrible feeling I was going to be the only person to think that article a load of obscurantist drivel.
January 31, 2012 @ 2:11 pm
I could not get past the first section of Smith's article. And I understand Félix Guattari.
January 31, 2012 @ 6:04 pm
Grant Morrison is an interesting case. Intellectually, I know he's not as good as his reputation, mainly because his ideas are so scattershot and all over the place that his overall works lacks consistency. (I would frequently have to put down the trades for The Invisibles to go do some online research in order to find out what the hell he was talking about.) That said, I will always have a soft spot for Morrison for the important role he played in rescuing the X-Men from the disaster of the late 90's, a time when the series was drifting aimlessly with nearly impenetrable time travel stories built around crap characters like Gambit and Cable. IMO, Morrison made the X-Men culturally relevant for the first time in ten years and was the first person in nearly thirty years to do something with the title other than Chris Claremont inspired soap operas.
February 1, 2012 @ 12:05 am
My understanding of Moore's relationship with Doctor Who was that he watched it as a child (remember, he was 10 when An Unearthly Child was broadcast) and has nostalgia of the Hartnell series but quickly grew out of it and never really wanted to go back and revisit it (other than early in his career as a writer when he was willing to try any and all opportunities presented him– and even then, he never wrote the Doctor himself).
Considering what he has said he enjoys on tv (The Wire, for instance) and his liking for narratively challenging material, I imagine that there was little in Doctor Who to make him want to revisit it anyway– although narratively, Steven Moffat is certainly producing more challenging material than at any other time in the show's history.
In many ways, his nostalgia maybe something in Doctor Who's favour, as he seems to have at least some fond regard toward it, which means he's less likely to deconstruct it in a negative way than other characters he grew up with (see the Black Dossier's portrayal of James Bond for a really venomous deconstruction).
Glad to hear Moore will be revisited, Philip.
As an aside toward the 2000ad/Doctor Who, it's always struck me as interesting that 2000ad has, at times, disliked Doctor Who– at least one editor (Andy Diggle) has gone on record to say he simply didn't understand the show and felt it childish, and while 2000ad has featured a variety or competitions related to other science fiction properties over the years (such as Star Wars and Star Trek), it has never had anything to do with Doctor Who. Ironic, considering when, during his time as Executive Producer of Doctor Who, when the Media Guardian wrote a short profile of Russell T Davies, he said that the regular magazines he read were the Fortean Times and 2000ad.
February 1, 2012 @ 4:16 am
Having read both Grant Morrison's DOCTOR WHO strips and Alan Moore's DOCTOR WHO strips, I can say without much fear of contradiction that there is at least one arena where Morrison is better.
February 1, 2012 @ 5:26 am
I think the point of the article was that Gaiman is good at what he does because he has a command of English literature and folk tale. This is, I think, a generous interpretation(/interpolation/interpol/polizei/zeitgeist).
February 1, 2012 @ 5:50 am
Obviously I am not Clay Smith and can't speak for him, but I did accept the article for publication, so I can at least say what it was that I saw in it. There are basically three things.
1) It was actually critical of Gaiman. One of the reasons I wanted to do a special issue on Gaiman's work in the first place was to actually engage with his stuff instead of leaving it on a pedestal to be admired but not critiqued. The fact that it was taking an iconoclastic view worked in its favor. (Obviously it was not sufficient – iconoclasm for its own sake is masturbatory. But on balance having a new take on things is a plus.)
2) The basic argument was sound. Under the mass of critical theory citations, Smith makes a point about how Gaiman is popular in part because he makes his readers feel clever and is good at finding ways to cultivate long-term relationships with readers. It's a very good point about the culture of pseudo-access to celebrities that was already developing five years ago when the article was written and has only gone further in the age of Twitter and the like, and how Gaiman's allusive writing style and tendency to consciously leave gaps for the reader to fill and pat themselves on the back for is a perfect fit for that.
3) The critical allusions were hilarious. A piece about how Gaiman overuses references, citations, and allusions that's willfully over-clever and full of excessive citations to obscure critical theory? That still makes me laugh. And it gets at the other key thing. Even thinking through the ruthless commercial skill Gaiman displays in his writing – and he is ruthlessly commercial, and his sense of commercial success is no small part of why he did better than anyone else in his generation – I still love his stuff. As, clearly, does Smith, who has apparently read damn near all of it. And the piece displayed that sort of irony – laughing at its own critique as it made it.
So I do stand by the piece and think it's better than many of you are giving it credit for being, although I recognize the myriad of ways in which it is… off-putting.
February 6, 2012 @ 7:27 am
Interestingly, Moore did mention Morrison by name just about the time you were writing this – in a video interview (don't have the link on me I'm afraid) he said "the only argument I've ever had with Michael Moorcock is over which of us Grant Morrison ripped off more."
February 6, 2012 @ 7:42 am
Not only was I on the video interview, that was actually my question. 🙂
February 6, 2012 @ 8:59 am
Ah, right. Didn't keep track of who'd asked what, and didn't make the connection (I mostly watched it because my friend Bill Ritchie was another of the questioners, and of course because it's Moore).
February 14, 2012 @ 11:25 am
With regards to the Killing Joke, one of the most interesting thing about it is the photo on Batman's desk in the Bat Cave featuring Batmite & Ace, The Bat Hound, as well as Batwoman, Batgirl & Robin who is obvious a kid at the time it was 'taken' and I find the juxtaposition of these silver-age/lighthearted sensibilities with the story matter & tone fascinating and to me adds another layer to the piece.
Having said that Killing Joke is nothing compared to the brilliance of the opening page of Action Comics #423. If I ran DC comics I'd print the last sentence of the introductory paragraph on the first page of all comics published every month and ensure Moore was recompensed for it's repeated use.
February 14, 2012 @ 11:40 am
There was a great rewrite of that in a Doctor Who context that someone did on a blog once (the blog unfortunately no longer exists) that I ended up using as a chapter heading in my own book on Who, Moore and Morrison:
THIS IS AN IMAGINARY STORY (WHICH MAY NEVER HAPPEN, BUT THEN AGAIN MAY) ABOUT A MAN WHO CAME FROM THE SKY IN A BIG BLUE BOX AND DID ONLY GOOD.
IT TELLS OF HIS TWILIGHT, WHEN THE GREAT BATTLES WERE OVER AND THE GREAT MIRACLES LONG SINCE PERFORMED, OF HIS HIS ENEMIES CONSPIRED AGAINST HIM AND OF THAT FINAL WAR IN THE BLIND WASTES BENEATH THE MEDUSA CASCADE; OF THE WOMEN HE LOVED AND OF THE CHOICES HE MADE FOR THEM; OF HOW HE BROKE HIS MOST SACRED OATH, AND HOW FINALLY ALL THE THINGS HE HAD WERE TAKEN FROM HIM SAVE FOR ONE.
IN THE BIG CITY, PEOPLE STILL SOMETIMES GLANCE UP HOPEFULLY FROM THE SIDEWALKS, HEARING A DISTANT WHEEZING, GROANING SOUND…BUT NO: IT’S ONLY A SAW, ONLY A MACHINE. THE DOCTOR DIED TEN YEARS AGO.
THIS IS AN IMAGINARY STORY…AREN’T THEY ALL?