Challenger Logo by Alan White   A Science Fiction Fanzine   Summer 2006

The 2004 TAFF delegate was an incredible hit at Noreascon 4. Here he shares a joy of his native turf - one shared by comics fans everywhere.

March was
Moore
Month

James Bacon

Moving to London was a big thing for me, and I was worried about finding myself with too much spare time on my hands. Back home in Dublin between science fictional pursuits and being involved with things in England, I was always on the go.

Here in London I had expected to be bored on my days off, especially with the shift work pattern of 6 days on and 4 off and a further 28 holiday days a year.

How wrong could I have been?

I know now and understand why its difficult to get something started or organised here in London, there is just too much on for the average fan, to even contemplate spending time setting up something new, fresh or different, not that the average Jo should feel the requirement. In fairness though I have plans as usual.

In Dublin it felt like if you wanted something to occur, then you would have to get your finger out and make it happen, here it's a case of someone is already doing something like that already anyhow, and by the way, something is clashing!

I like to try and get to social events, things that would be common with my interests in Science Fiction and comics when I am not working for the railway company that employs me, in London Paddington, a central terminal.

Only in London, does one find such a cultural and literary reference. As everyone knows, Paddington is really the name of a fictional bear, from darkest Peru, whom the children's author Michael Bond wrote extensively about. There is a wonderful Bronze statue commemorating the bear from where the station takes its name. There is a special stall with Paddington Bear wares, and I always feel a bit special when I see the statue, its nice to have some sort of literary context to ones job, and the Brunnell statue is just so severe in comparison.

 

The slow burning build up to this year, when the release of V for Vendetta has created some sort of crescendo of appreciation or opportunity to appreciate Alan Moore. Some nice products were released, I got The Absolute Watchmen for Christmas, along with a set of metal watchmen figures, an original Watchmen badge and a V mask, from my girlfriend, who seems to be able to find anything on e-Bay, for very little.

Despite having read a lot of this "new" publication of Watchmen it contained from Stefan Lancaster's Graphiti version, I was impressed greatly with John Higgins's colouring job, he is a master and I spent some time comparing, and appreciating his efforts. Then there was the Hardback of V for Vendetta, again with some nice added extras, it felt like DC were doing everything they could to squeeze every penny out of my pocket and into their coffers, tempting me with wares by Moore. Of course, it's a love/hate thing, I love it, Alan Moore hates it, I Love His work that I hate being the punter as DC's pimps his work.

I first got the inclination that March would be really special when I received word about the Tate Gothic Nightmares exhibition, and then shortly afterward fellow Croydon fan picked up a copy of Mustard.

Mustard is a UK zine, of very professional calibre that is about humorous stuff, they have interviewed Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam, and have had a feature on the likes of Douglas Adams. Jim de Liscard found this zine, no 6. It had an amazing Alan Moore interview, with a fresh and new perspective on Moore, possibly cause it wasn't so comic focused, and maybe because he seems to have been in great talking humour.

Its over nine pages of very small type, which goes on many tangents and was fascinating, a real peep into Moore's thoughts, and these guys did a terrific job of striking the right balance between those who know and want to understand the work of Moore, and those who don't know or are just sycophantic psychopathic fan boys.

Anyhow, I highly recommend it, it's a great publication, and I found back issues at The London Fanzine Symposium in Russell Sq. They were pretty impressive, although I was most impressed to find a Fanzine about the Red Army Faction at the symposium, but less of that now.

Then Alan Moore appeared on the British Broadcasting Corporations programme, The Culture Show on 9th Mar, at 7.00pm. Now being on the Beeb, in my books is impressive, but when you consider how much influence Moore has had on the literary world of comics, and subsequently on celluloid, I think he sometimes gets missed; this programme briefly did justice to Moore.

It was really nice to see Iain Sinclair and Johnathon Ross contributing to the programme, and although its pales in comparison to the Mustard interview, it was a nice introduction to what Moore is about.

 

Working in central London and travelling through every day, has somehow exposed me to goings on that I might have otherwise missed, and if I were in Dublin would have been blissfully ignorant of.

In the Guardian newspaper, apparently a bit leftie but an enjoyable read I personally find, although no where near as good as the newspaper of record, The Irish Times, I found mention of a Talk and exhibition. It was a simple advert stating that David Lloyd would talk with Steve Bell on March the 13th at 7pm.

The comic V for Vendetta, by Alan Moore and David Lloyd which has recently been released as a movie, and at the time being hyped led to the Newsroom art gallery in Farringdon, in the city of London (that's the business part in the centre to the east, as opposed to the west end, which is the party part) putting on an exhibition of V for Vendetta artwork and paraphernalia. To my glee, David Lloyd was going to give a talk, on one of the evenings, with booking requiring nothing more than an email.

So off I traipsed with tickets for friends, Steve, Stef and Robert and we went and saw a brilliant talk and slide show. The tickets were free. The various unseen notes and workings that had obviously been the genesis of the character prior to the publication in 1982 of the story in the black and white anthology comic, Warrior, awed me considerably. I learnt quite a bit and at the end of Lloyds talk, he answered a great selection of questions, and I was really pleased to hear Lloyd's opinion of the movie, which at the end of the day can be paraphrased as such.

"It's as best an adaptation as I could have hoped for, and go and judge for yourself."

It was really quite pleasing to see artwork, colour proofs, sketches, notes and even an extended LP based on the comic, on display, in such salubrious surroundings, and afterwards, it was to the pub, where after a few beers, we bid adieu to David, and went our own ways

I realised that this year has a lot of "Alan Moore" stuff going on and I decided that March was defiantly Moore month. But what of this enigma of a comic writer?

Now, Alan Moore is a brilliant writer, but more than this, he is considered to be the best comic book writer in the world, since about 1984. Now, there are many comic book writers whom I personally love as much, Brian Michael Bendis, Frank Miller, Mark Millar and of course my all time favourite, Garth Ennis. The difference is that all those guys go to conventions - but not Alan Moore.

I have met some of these guys, I have met many comic guys, I have many pieces of comic art and sketches, and I have hung many in my house, including two treasured pages written by Alan Moore, but I knew I could never meet him.

He had a bit of a nightmare experience, and this story, is near legend now, so it probably bears little truth except the result. At a London comic event sometime in the eighties in Westminster, Moore had suddenly become huge. He used to hang in bars, and chill like many others, but suddenly he was propelled into super-stardom by comics like Watchmen and V for Vendetta, which had then been published by DC.

So, Moore gets harassed by some fan boys, usual stuff, but it goes a bit Beatles, and a few turn into a throng, then a crowd, a large unruly crowd, he's suddenly surrounded, suffocated, he makes a getaway, and is chased by hundreds of fan boys, he hares up back stairs, round and round and locks himself into a toilet, screaming hordes outside. Or so the story goes. The result, he doesn't like conventions.

He doesn't do conventions at all. I know this as a fact, I have asked him to two, and both times he politely turned down the offer through friends.

So my opinion of Moore was twisted by the perception that he just didn't like fans like me, and of course, not knowing any better, I must admit resolute disappointment.

Then I become much more interested in actually seeing or meeting Moore. You see, I had heard an interview online, from the BBC 4 Chain Reaction series. Alan Lee interviewed Alan Moore, and it was a wonderful interview.

I had just bought into the mysticism of Moore. I presumed he must be fairly bitter, grumpy genius, who seems to fall out easily with comic and film companies and not have any interest in fans. Shunning conventions easily, surely a surely bloke, unpleasant even. Its easy to picture someone negatively when they turn down an invite to a convention, easier to believe that his principles, were just tantrums.

Hearing the interview, I knew I had him totally pegged wrong, I was forced to pause and to ponder on my misconstrued maligning manifestation of Moore in my mind.

Apart from being very entertaining, funny, enlightening open and erudite, he was well able to poke fun at himself, he sounded really really nice, his soft Nottingham accent and deep laugh, the sounds of a good bloke. The difference between reading this interview and listening to it, cannot be underestimated, what reads harsh, comes across wry and comedic. So from that point I was keen to meet him, to correct somehow my unfair character assassination, by paying some sort of homage to him, by seeing in the flesh, this nice man, but deep down I knew it wouldn't happen.

But then I had a chance to see Moore:

 

Pages From Chaos - A Homage to William Burroughs Thursday 16 June 2005, 7:45 pm Queen Elizabeth Hal, With Matthew Shipp, Marc Ribot, Jason Spaceman, Patti Smith, Alan Moore and Iain Sinclair.

The stage had a trestle table, and lot of stuff around, and places for musicians and what not. It got started with Patti Smith talking and introducing Ian Sinclair and Alan Moore and Marc Ribot, and out they came. Ribot is Tom Waits guitarist and was pretty awesome on an acoustic guitar, very weird, but not exactly heavy. He even used a fan to strum the strings, a master of his axe, gently slicing the air with amazing jazzy poetic sounds, like a surgeon. As he gently quietened, like a sea, just rolling away with the tide, Moore started to read, no.

Moore started Orating a biography of Burroughs. Tempo'd with Ribot's music in the back ground, both chasing and quickening.

Moore had written this himself, and it showed, as he barley read the lines. He commanded the stage, his voice strong but not booming. His emphasis good, clear, understandable. It was easy to listen to, but it was spiralling upwards, with verses broken, BANG BANG!

He has loads of hair, black curly hair, falling in a huge triangle. It gently wafts around his shoulders as he strided onto stage, a superb Victorian looking suit, and fingers clad in huge metal rings akin to a knight's glove. His beard is equally awesome, but with the greying of parts, again soft and easy.

His eyes, are gentle, Stef agreed, yet they were sharp, focussed, but laugh lines and his look was far from the hard northerner I once had imagined, here was a friendly happy set of eyes, piercing through the crowd with words strengthening.

BANG BANG!

I was in awe; this was brilliant. I was not twenty feet from him, and tried to take in as much as I could, nearly sucking in the ambience and tense effect that he created through out the theatre. The audience were wrapped up in his words, and I was wrapped in his presence. Occasionally, "this is greats" were passed, but otherwise, I relaxed, soaked up and smiled.

He concluded, too soon, way too soon, no that's not fair, I was selfish. Ribot powered up, then gently powered down as Iain Sinclair started his tale, which immediately caught me, as it began in my own fair City, Dublin.

So I knew that Alan Moore the man was not the same at all as Alan Moore the grumpy non con going creator who had a chip on his shoulder about the movies.

I am sure many fans share the pleasure of enjoying an authors work even more once they have shared a beer with them or enjoyed their company, and as much as I can enjoy the company with Alan Moore, I must admit I love his work all the more, sounds terribly vain, but I hopes its more humanistic than self gratuitousness.

So when I heard that Alan Moore would be giving a talk on Blake and Fuselli as part of the Gothic Nightmares exhibition in the Tate Britain, I told my mates and immediately bought some tickets.

 

Alan Moore on Gothic Nightmares, Tate Britain, Gothic Nightmares Exhibition, Superheroes Room, Saturday 25 March 2006 15.00-16.00

 

"Gothic Nightmares explores the work of Henry Fuseli and William Blake in the context of the Gothic - the taste for fantastic and supernatural themes which dominated British culture from around 1770 to 1830."

And Alan Moore was going along to talk about it, in the superheroes room, which sounded like an absolutely perfect tie in, and of course, I went and booked tickets, and told many a friend.

I was initially worried that there didn't seem to be any system of booking a ticket specifically for the talk, but was assured by the Pleasant Tate staff that people were only allowed entry at specific times, so there was always a flow. They obviously underestimated the perseverance of the comic fan.

The exhibition itself was wonderful, I had booked a time early enough to gain entry and learn what was going to be a talked about, and as I went around the superhero room, I was drawn to certain pictures, Henry Fuseli's The Oath on the Rütli (Die drei Eidgenossen beim Schwur auf dem Rütli) 1779-1780 which was Oil on canvas was a representation of a "Team Up" as 3 cantons of Switzerland join forces to fight against the evil tyranny of Austria.

Henry Fuseli's Othar Rescuing Siritha from a Giant is a Classic image of our Hero rescuing a damsel in distress; it could easily have been Kal El and Lois Lane.

John Hamilton Mortimer's Sir Arthegal, The Knight of Justice, with Talus, The Iron Man Oil on canvas, has everything the Superhero would need: Sir Arthegall is the personification of Justice, he is accompanied by his sidekick Talus who is armoured from head to toe in invulnerable iron. How many comic book stereotypes does that play into, and we wont make mention of the Man in Iron. I was amazed by the sheer size of the picture, and spent a long time taking it in.

William Blake's The Good and Evil Angels Struggling for Possession of a Child circa 1790-4 Pen and watercolour on paper, is simple yet beautiful and again, we have angels, or beings with the power of flight, fighting above us for the soul of a child.

To me the correlation between the work in the gallery and comics that I love so much was obvious, and I thought that Moore would touch upon these common subjects that pervade through time and have seemingly always been with us, the stories of heroes, and good triumphing over evil. How wrong I could have been.

 

As the Gallery slowly filled up, it was apparent that people had booked tickets at every possible time, and hung around to see Moore, and when he arrived, the room was absolutely rammed, there must have been at least 200 people standing, listening, much to the concern of the curator, who immediately described her surprise.

Of course Moore started by saying that he reckoned he was asked because of the perceived link between the work of Blake and the work of Graphic Novelists, but immediately dismissed the idea that comic creators are the inheritors of Blake's legacy by drawing a very solid line between the work that modern creators do for money, and the work that Blake created for no reason except its creation.

He spoke about Fuselli's nightmare, and how it brought him great fame and comfort.

He also spoke of the true freedom that Blake had, due to his insanity, and mentioned how he lived in abject poverty and at times was found to be eating pieces of terrible meat by Fuselli, who himself then admitted could never achieve what Blake had, because he was too used, or perhaps tied to comfort, which Blake didn't require.

It was interesting as the talk then went onto what Romanticism is, was and who is creating it, including in his own perverse way, George Bush who he described as a romantic due to what he visualises and therefore has gone on to do. It was rather surprising then to hear have hard Moore only compare two comic creators to Blake, and Jack Kirby being the only one I am au fait with.

Moore went on to brilliantly and deeply describe what he sees and understands to be consciousness and the thoughts and place in the mind compared with the world outside it, and the difficulty that the consciousness places on scientific thought, as it is impossible to empirically measure or understand what truly goes on in ones consciousness. That there is a separate world in our consciousness, which may have the genuine tactility in ones mind as the world that surrounds us is a deep and philosophical route to explore.

The talk then turned to the matter of commercialism and materialism, Moore seeming to eschew materialistic values, and at one stage call for people to look around and understand what is wrong with our world.

There were a number of questions, I off course wanted to ask him why he doesn't consider himself a romantic, given his definition of the word and how he has brought about exactly that, through his works and if he truly depreciates himself thus, given the crowd and surroundings, but alas, there were better and worse questions. With only about 45 minutes gone despite the depth and provocations of the talk, the curator ushered Alan Moore away after mentioning her concern that the crowd had essentially closed the gallery Exhibition, a wonderful acclamation of Moore's own popularity.

I went to the pub, with my friends and I contemplated and pondered about the world in my little mind, compared to Moore's vast vista that he can pull stories from and smiled at the thought of Sir Arthegal, The Knight of Justice and his trusty Man in Iron, his sidekick Talus.

 

I have been considerably taken aback by the amount of things to do. I always expected to do so many things, while I lived in Ireland, if I ever lived in London and now I am here, its incredible how much there is to do.

I am very surprised by the amount of value that is accredited to the subjects and media that I enjoy and love, here in London.

I was underwhelmed by New York when I visited it, as London for me, has so much more to offer, now I live here in London, its beyond belief just how much there is to do, and of course how much of it seems to be of interest to me, so many people willing to make things happen and I can understand how people find it difficult to get to everything and even worse, to run things themselves.

When I discuss what I do, with work colleagues, they boggle at me, as they see me as some sort of cultural expert, art galleries and book gatherings, and not a water pistol or zombie in sight, and it makes me realise how culturally acceptable some of my pursuits have become with a move to this metropolis.

Even, in a weeks time I will go to Lambeth Library writers and readers festival, as part of their Graphic Novel weekend, on Sunday the 28th of May, where in a Movie Theatre in Nettlefold Hall, West Norwood only a few miles from here, there will be a screening of The Mindscape of Lan Moore and following that a talk and Q and A session by Dez Vilenz the director.

To add to the intrigue, Nettleford hall was a location for Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.

 

London: It's a grand spot. I haven't even scratched the surface.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/comedy/chainreaction.shtml

 

 

[ HOME ]     [ Current Issue ]     [ Archives ]

Challenger is (c) 2003-2006 by Guy H. Lillian III.
All rights revert to contributors upon initial print and website publication.