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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.

41 Comments

  1. Carey
    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.

    Reply

  2. Elizabeth Sandifer
    January 30, 2012 @ 3:45 am

    As I said – there are two more Alan Moore posts. 🙂

    Reply

  3. Herms
    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?

    Reply

  4. 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.

    Reply

  5. Matthew Celestis
    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.

    Reply

  6. WGPJosh
    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.

    Reply

  7. Matthew Blanchette
    January 30, 2012 @ 11:52 am

    "Alchemy", probably. 😛

    Reply

  8. Matthew Blanchette
    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…

    Reply

  9. WGPJosh
    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?

    Reply

  10. Elizabeth Sandifer
    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.

    Reply

  11. Elizabeth Sandifer
    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.

    Reply

  12. Elizabeth Sandifer
    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.

    Reply

  13. WGPJosh
    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.

    Reply

  14. elvwood
    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).

    Reply

  15. Iain Coleman
    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.

    Reply

  16. Elizabeth Sandifer
    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.

    Reply

  17. 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

    Reply

  18. C.
    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.

    Reply

  19. Iain Coleman
    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.

    Reply

  20. Jesse
    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.)

    Reply

  21. WGPJosh
    January 30, 2012 @ 4:11 pm

    No other votes for V for Vendetta and Swamp Thing?

    Reply

  22. Matthew Blanchette
    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. 🙂

    Reply

  23. jsd
    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).

    Reply

  24. Elizabeth Sandifer
    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.)

    Reply

  25. BerserkRL
    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.

    Reply

  26. Alan
    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."

    Reply

  27. Alan
    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.:)

    Reply

  28. Alan
    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.

    Reply

  29. elvwood
    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.

    Reply

  30. Gnaeus
    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.

    Reply

  31. Adam Riggio
    January 31, 2012 @ 2:11 pm

    I could not get past the first section of Smith's article. And I understand Félix Guattari.

    Reply

  32. Alan
    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.

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  33. Carey
    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.

    Reply

  34. Jesse
    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.

    Reply

  35. Gnaeus
    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).

    Reply

  36. Elizabeth Sandifer
    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.

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  37. Andrew Hickey
    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."

    Reply

  38. Elizabeth Sandifer
    February 6, 2012 @ 7:42 am

    Not only was I on the video interview, that was actually my question. 🙂

    Reply

  39. Andrew Hickey
    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).

    Reply

  40. timber-munki
    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.

    Reply

  41. Andrew Hickey
    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?

    Reply

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