Before we start, there’s a new podcast featuring an interview with me by James Wylder up. It’s a nice, lengthy chat about occultism, Recursive Occlusion, Gamergate, and all sorts of other stuff. It’s in two parts, the first a bit over an hour long, the second a nice solid ninety minutes. Part one. Part two.
Right, so, you may have noticed that we, at long last, reached the end of Book One of The Last War in Albion last Friday, which means that we’re finally going to start Book Two tomorrow. And that seemed like a good time to take a breath, recap events, and give some explanation for what’s coming up next.
First off, if you’ve not been following The Last War in Albion, or have fallen behind, this is, as they say in comics, a great jumping on point. So, let’s recap.
The Last War in Albion
is a history of British comic books told through the lens of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. It’s epic, sweeping, and although the story it tells starts in 1979, frequently dips into the history of Britain and of comics to paint a fuller picture of what’s going on. Individual chapters are in turn cut, with wry arbitrariness, into two-thousand word chunks, which are serialized weekly. A user’s guide can be found here.
Book One concerned the early careers of both Moore and Morrison, from 1979-86. Mostly it’s about Moore, since he was the more prolific in that period. Here’s the recap I’ve got in the omnibus of the next chapter:
In 1979, two men got their starts in the British comics industry. One, a young Scotsman named Grant Morrison, largely sunk without a trace, writing only a few short stories for a failed magazine called Near Myths, a local newspaper strip, and a couple of sci-fi adventurers for DC Thomson’s Starblazer, a magazine renowned for only ever giving the editorial note “more space combat.”
The other, a decade older man from Northampton named Alan Moore, steadily worked his way from some low rent gigs writing and drawing his own strips to a career in the mainstream British industry, pulling together a living writing disposable short stories for 2000 AD, superheroes for Marvel UK, and low-selling but critically acclaimed work like V for Vendetta for Dez Skinn’s Warrior, before making the jump to American comics to try to salvage the failing title Swamp Thing, which he did in spades, taking it from a book on the brink of cancellation to one of DC Comics’s crown jewels.
Meanwhile, Morrison, having largely failed in his goal of being a rock star, and inspired by Moore’s work, particularly his postmodernist superhero tale Marvelman in Warrior, got back into comics, following the trajectory of Moore’s early career by securing a strip in Warrior (unfortunately for Morrison, his first appearance was Warrior’s last issue) and beginning to write short stories for 2000 AD.
In 1986, DC Comics published the first issue of Watchmen, a new superhero series from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
The result was the outbreak of the last great magical war in Albion.
As you might imagine from that, Book Two is going to concern Watchmen. As you might imagine, that requires a different take. It’s not a straightforward analysis of Watchmen that goes from influences to consequences. Instead it looks at Watchmen as the first major battle of the War – a complex and multilayered event where cause and effect are not always entirely straightforward.
Past that, it consciously shares its structure with Watchmen. To this end, there’s a new formal device for Book Two – some paragraphs will have uncaptioned images of single panels from Watchmen accompanying them. This marks a point where the two texts are meant to be explicitly paralleled. Each chapter will coincide with an issue of Watchmen, although this does not mean that the chapters are about their corresponding issues as such; rather, it means that the storytelling approaches of the issues inform the critical approaches of the chapters.
Given this, the nature of these parallels varies. Sometimes they related to large thematic elements – major characters, for instance, explicitly match up to larger concepts in the book and in the War. Other times they match up because of a shared phrase or image within the panel and paragraph, or for entirely esoteric reasons. The specific nature of any parallel is left as an exercise for the reader.
Unlike with Book One, which was written on the assumption that nobody could possibly have read everything under discussion, Book Two generally assumes that you’ve at least read Watchmen once, although it does not require any specialist knowledge of the book.
If you’re a Patreon backer at $2 or higher or a Kickstarter backer at the appropriate tier, you’ll find links to the full version of Book Two, Chapter One there. Otherwise, the first part goes up tomorrow.
Finally, if I may be so forward, linking the hell out of tomorrow’s post would be appreciated. It is, as I said, a good jumping on point for Last War in Albion, both because it’s a clean start and because it’s tackling a big, well-known subject of interest to rather more people than, for instance, The Bojeffries Saga or Skizz might have been.
See you tomorrow.