Tag Archives: Alan Moore
As of last Wednesday, I have entered a whole new realm of geekdom. Most people keep their interest of comic books or sci-fi to a purely amateur, general level. I have become a genuine scholar of the geek arts. Or, at least I will be when I complete my college course on comic books.
The course is specifically called Visual Words: From Comic Books to Graphic Novels. My fellow students seem to be predominantly made up of people working towards a diploma who were looking for an easy gen ed. Since there is no diploma for comic book appreciation, I’m taking this course purely for my own enjoyment. And to brag to other nerds.
Honestly, though, I’m really looking forward to the unique opportunity that it provides. With my other comic book fan friends, all we really talk about is trivial stuff. “Can you name all of Batman’s Robins?” “Can you believe they brought Bucky back?” “Before Watchmen is so lame, right?” But this class is going to be about analysis and discussion. I’m hoping to broaden my ability to discuss comics from a literary stand point.
The reading list is pretty cool. The only two I’ve read previously are Pride Of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Nico Henrichon and Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The other three are Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Death Ray by Daniel Clowes and Signal To Noise by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. Admittedly, these are a bit more literary than my general comic book interests lay. For example, I would have suggested Scott Pilgrim or The Authority or even the great Superman story “For The Man Who Has Everything.” I think those better exemplify a typical comic book story.
But, who am I to question the choices of our illustrious instructor. She (yes, gentlemen, the teacher of this class is indeed of the fairer sex) has picked comics that go from a more commercial standpoint to a more scholarly one. For instance, Baghdad is about a group of cute lions who escape from their zoo in Baghdad and wander through their war torn city. While the subtext definitely presents an interesting take on war and its effects on bystanders, the Disney-esque art style helps make it more palatable for a broader audience. Persepolis, on the other hand, is a more realistic depiction of war and the toll it takes. This is a biographical graphic novel about the author’s childhood in Iran during the late 70s and 80s. I’m looking forward to the inevitable comparison of the two stories.
Honestly, I’m really looking forward to the weeks where we discuss Watchmen. Each class is supposed to be three hours and, according to the syllabus, three weeks are supposed to be devoted to the critically acclaimed comic book. Is nine hours really enough time to cover the ridiculously dense 12 issue maxi-series? I guess we’ll see. But, considering how big it has become since the movie and the recent announcement of the prequel stories, I imagine there will be quite a few perspectives on the topic.
So far, I’ve only had the one class. It was a quick getting to know you class, so I don’t even know if it really counts. Tomorrow is when we get into the really nitty gritty stuff, and I hope to keep you posted on anything particularly interesting that we learn. If you want to follow along, Persepolis is the first book on our reading list. Let me know what you think!
Graham Becksted is having a hard time keeping up with his monthlies while reading these graphic novels for class. He leads a hard life. He is the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 64th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
This week, I would like to present a retort to Mr. Jones’ column from a couple of weeks ago. In it, he asserted that Superman is devoid of character and is not deserving of starring in serialized fiction. For the record, I’m not a huge fan of Superman in general. I find him too overpowered, and a little too boyscouty. But, there are some indisputable facts that can be used to defend Supes from Mr. Jones’ onslaught.
Firstly, and most notably, Superman comics have been in print uninterrupted since 1938 when Action Comics #1 was released. At various times, he has also been featured in Superman, Man Of Steel, Man Of Tomorrow, Justice Society, World’s Finest, Justice League, Legion Of Superheroes, Superboy, Superman/Batman, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, and Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane. Amongst others. For a while, Action Comics was even published on a weekly basis. There were other times when there were four in continuity Superman solo-titles released a month. On top of that, he had various team commitments, cameos, and out of continuity appearances. I would like to think that after almost 75 years and well over a thousand issues that he would have developed a character of some sort.
Now, let’s take a look at the roster of people who have written Superman at one time or another. It’s almost impossible to name an important figure in comics who hasn’t done a Superman story. Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Neal Adams, Mark Millar, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, Bryan Hitch, Frank Quitely, and Greg Rucka have all written a Superman story or two in their day. Some of the most respected names in comics and out have taken the Man of Tomorrow for a spin – Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Jeph Loeb, J. Michael Strazcynski, Brad Meltzer, and Richard Donner. On top of all that, even Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, two creators who couldn’t be more associated with Marvel, have done Superman stories. I can’t imagine all of these people working on the character if there was nothing there but a blank slate. He must offer something to intrigue them.
Matt is right when he says that he is the prototypical superhero. Every other superhero owes a debt to him as they are all reflections of him from Captain Marvel to Lobo. But, that does not necessarily mean that he’s got a personality. The fact is every creator brings their own spice to the Superman mix. There are a few constants, though. He represents the idealized middle-American, white-bread, country boy. He believes in equality, and freedom, and saving as many people as possible. He tends to not use his powers for personal gain, as evidenced by the fact that he doesn’t rob banks or constantly win the lottery. On the other hand, he has won Pulitzer prizes for his interviews with himself. He’s also a good leader, and an inspiration to other heroes. He’s the whole reason the Legion Of Super Heroes exists!
As evidence for all of this, I shall present some storylines that I’ve read that I think exemplify his personality. First off, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s Superman For All Seasons. This is a retelling of his coming of age, kind of like Smallville. It’s about him coming to grips with his powers, and the responsibility that comes with them. Next, the other extreme, The Death Of Superman by Dan Jurgens, Louise Simonson and a crap load of others. This is Superman fighting a guy to the death to protect his adopted home simply because it’s the right thing to do. There’s a great moment where he is getting interviewed, and certain members of the studio audience are criticizing him. During a commercial break he leaves because he’s needed in the fight against Doomsday. Even when he’s not very popular, he still goes out to fight the good fight. And lastly, the awesome Alan Moore story “For The Man Who Has Everything”. One of Superman’s enemies, Mongul, hooks Superman into this alien plant thing that makes him imagine he’s living the life he wishes he had in his heart of hearts. That life turns out to be as just a regular joe back on Krypton. It’s a pretty cool story, especially when Superman breaks loose of the plant’s control.
So, I rest my case. Superman, while not being the most intriguing character ever created, is definitely worthy of our respect and is a pretty prime example of a good character.
Now that his work here is done, Graham Becksted is going to put his glasses on and slip into the background. He is the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 59th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
All right! All right! I guess I’ll just have to give in. This week, there’s one thing all comic book blogs have to talk about. I’m not going to bury the lead any further. Watchmen. Prequels. There. I said it. Now, I don’t really know what else to say since every other blog seems to have said it all before. But seriously, was anyone really surprised about this?
I mean, sure there might have been some initial shock, but wasn’t it only a matter of time? For the past twenty-five years people have been saying, “They better not make a Watchmen sequel!” “How could they even consider doing a follow up?” “Watchmen is untouchable.” Turns out they were half right. Prequels are untouchable (at least for now), but prequels are totally fair game. At least, that’s what DC says. Alan Moore is not pleased.
But, Alan Moore is never pleased. The only time I’ve ever seen him even close to pleased was when he was talking to some Occupy London protestors. And I’m not just being flippant. It was on the news! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FumNSfY7SfI) Seriously, though, Moore fights with anyone over anything. He fought with DC over creator rights, and a rating system. He ended up not trusting the Image guys and Rob Liefeld in particular. He fought with Jim Lee when Wildstorm was sold to DC and they started messing with his work. He hates Marvel for some reason that I cannot quite figure out. (It has something to do with his time writing for Marvel UK.) So, Alan Moore not liking something is not reason enough for it not to be done.
The entire comic book industry is about taking other people’s work and exploiting it. I knew this isn’t exactly a news bulletin, but even Watchman is based on other comic book people’s work. Rorschach is a thinly veiled version of the Question. Nite Owl is Blue Beetle. Doctor Manhattan is based on Captain Atom. Has he ever thanked Steve Ditko for letting him corrupt all of his characters?
Besides, it seems like whenever comic book pundits say you can’t do something the industry takes it like a dare. After Chris Claremont killed Jean Grey in the Dark Phoenix Saga, there was an ongoing contest in the Marvel offices to find a way to bring her back. So, just when fans are getting used to the idea of Jean Grey being dead, she gets resurrected.
There used to be a saying, “Uncle Ben, Gwen Stacy, and Bucky are the only characters who stay dead.” Add to that Batman’s first dead Robin (Jason Todd), and you have a pretty important group of characters. All but Uncle Ben have returned to life in one form or another, most notably Bucky and Jason Todd. All three are characters whose deaths had a serious impact on other characters. They represented the greatest failures of Captain America, Batman, and Spider-Man. They influenced their thought processes and their priorities. But, that didn’t stop the industry from bringing them back.
Why should Watchmen be any different? Bucky’s resurrection has lead to a “new” character and some fantastic stories by Ed Brubaker. He even lead a group of Avengers for a short time. Maybe Watchmen could follow a similar trajectory? A lot of concern and dissention, but ultimately a big success? They certainly got a strong group of creators to give it the best chance possible.
Graham Becksted watches the Watchmen. And, apparently, so does the rest of the internet. He is the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 52nd follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
P.S. Honestly, I’m not even all that interested in these prequels. But, I’m sure I’ll try ‘em out in trade just to see what’s what. At the very least it’ll give me something else to write about.