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Crash Course

Alan Moore Crash Course

The vast library of Alan Moore is boiled down to a few of his most powerful pieces as curated by Sean Dillon!

I’m sorry, but do I really need to introduce Alan Moore. Seriously, Alan Moore, the bearded magician who changed the landscape of comics forever. Alan Moore, the guy who inspired several political and cultural movements. Alan Moore, the cantankerous bastard who wants to be left alone rather than be bothered about what stupid movie based on his work is being produced. That Alan Moore.

Or is this another Alan Moore? One who holds the people he cares about close to him. Who loves writing like no other person. Who has a million, million ideas such that even when he’s phoning it in with some Vigilante two-parter or a Future Shock, he can’t help but enchant the work. Who has, for all his flaws, implications, and meaning, a working-class heart.

Or is he both?

This is a crash course on Alan Moore. This is not a condemnation of the man’s failures nor a complete picture. This is simply the starting line.

CW: Rape

THE BREAD:

Tom Strong

(A) Chris Sprouse

(L) Todd Klein

(C) Scott Dunbier

Tom Strong is a fun, action-packed series about a pulp adventurer going on science adventures. Among the more fun, straightforward works of Moore’s, Tom Strong is simply charming. It’s a good introduction to the works of Moore. Not as overwhelming as a From Hell or a Promethea while not as slight as a For the Man Who Has Everything or Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow. It’s a fun series of mostly one-shots that pack ideas to fill thirty issues into one. But perhaps the crowning achievement of the series is Moore’s final arc as main writer: Tom Stone, where we are presented with a time travel tragedy that will break the hearts of anyone who reads it. It’s Chris Sprouse knocking it out of the park, especially when paired with various other greats of the field. Just a lot of fun for any reader, young or old.

V for Vendetta

(A) David Lloyd

(L) Steve Craddock

(C) David Lloyd

V for Vendetta is an action series about overthrowing the government. It’s an expression of anarchist philosophy that pits it up against a fascist government. But what’s interesting about V for Vendetta is how much weight it places onto things. It doesn’t portray the fascist government as a mere Saturday morning cartoon baddie who can be defeated nice and cleanly, nor as an organization with compatible goals with our heroes. Rather, they are portrayed with the utmost amount of empathy, highlighting their foibles, small kindnesses, and humanity. The book never once tries to sell that the fascists are good, however. It just refuses to pretend that there isn’t horror in the overthrow of the government; that systems are made by and contain people within them and that those people are also, in turn, capable of unspeakable horrors that we must bear witness to. There will come a day when we are allowed to love those we mean to, when we are free of the chains of tyranny. The core of the book, after all, is not the fascists, but Valerie. A queer woman who died too young, whose life inspired those around her to wish for a better world. Who loved and was loved. Who wanted nothing more than for a world with roses in them. We are free as long as we hold onto that one inch.

Marvelman

(A) Various

(L) Chris Eliopoulos

(C) Steve Oliff

Alan Moore’s first take on the superhero genre. A trilogy that rocked the very foundations of the superhero concept to its core. Here, Moore begins to flex the nature of superhero stories in a way he wouldn’t be allowed to in American Comics. Perhaps most infamously, Moore depicts the birth of a superchild in graphic and beautiful detail. Often when looking at Marvelman, writers will focus on the gore and violence. Indeed, it could be argued that this was the main influence it had on Superhero comics with its final fight being regurgitated again and again. But the core of the book lies in what the main character ultimately rejects: humanity. It’s Michael Moran feeling self-conscious of his other self, the birth of a child being a thing of beauty and fear of what was and what will be, and it’s Liz Moran’s ultimate critique of utopia. That one part that can’t quite be named, yet can’t help but be visible. Yes, the fighting is landmark and influential, but one can’t help but wish the smaller moments were seen more.

THE MEAT:

Providence

(A) Jacen Burrows

(L) Kurt Hathaway

(C) Juan Rodriguez

Alan Moore does Lovecraft is an interesting pitch that could go drastically wrong. Providence is a case of it going amazingly right. It’s a work of a master, taking all the tricks he’s learned over the course of a long and fascinating career and applying them in ways he previously hadn’t. It’s a journey through the American Northeast at the turn of the century that ostensibly is about the works of HP Lovecraft. In reality, it’s a work about the rise of fascism within the human subconscious. This is perhaps fitting considering the racist themes at the heart of Lovecraft’s work; the horrors of miscegenation and whatnot. It’s the horror of an idea that has power, meaning, and implications. Something that changes the world in ways that might not be for the best. At least, for the humans. To say nothing of Burrows’s clean, almost Steve Dillon-esque art style, which captures the horror of it all without diminishing the slower, more conversational portions of it.

Promethea

(A) JH Williams III and Mick Gray

(L) Todd Klein

(C) Digital Chameleon

To put Promethea in a box of 150-200 words would, ultimately, diminish it. It is the sun. It is the moon. It is death. It is life. It is a fantasy. It is caught in a landslide (no escape from reality). It is Moore’s grand thesis on magic as a comic book; where he perfected his lecture style of writing to talk at great length about his love of magic. The stories of fairies, the spells cast, the jokes told. All of it is here. Everything is here. Everyone is here. You are here. I am here. The world has ended, and we still have to go in for work. To put Promethea in a box of 150-200 words would, ultimately diminish it. This was always a lie. Promethea is Promethea. Dive deep and dive true, for the magic will consume you. Promethea is Moore’s magnum opus. I mean, JH Williams III is right there changing the world forever alongside the bearded magician. Read it and be changed yourself.

The Show

(D) Mitch Jenkins

The Show is a 2021 film about a detective going to Northampton to find a missing artifact. What follows is a series of odd encounters with both the natural and supernatural alike. Being the first film by Alan Moore, it’s oddly fitting that a lot of the major themes of his work recur here. From the nature of reality being based on the Block Universe theory to a simultaneously loving and disparaging relationship with his hometown to the relationship between art, magic, and the nature of the universe. The Show is an absolute delight in terms of side characters, many of whom it’s worth discovering on your own. But if I were to go with but one of them, there’s Antonia Campbell-Hughes’ Monica Beardsley, a black and white haired punk whose deadpanned delivery makes her stand out in her brief appearances in the film. If nothing else, it has Alan Moore’s singing voice, and that’s always a delight.

THE SAUCE:

The Mirror of Love

(P) José Villarrubia

I cannot write about this epic poem about the history of queer love without crying. This was a foundational book for me as a queer person. It helped me see myself as myself. Even now, writing this short piece about it, without the text in front of me, I can’t help but fight back tears. Alan’s words changed me for the better. José’s images broke my heart and healed it again and again. So then, why is this in the Sauce section? Simply put, for all that it’s my favorite work of his, The Mirror of Love is a deep cut. It’s not one of his more populist works, the kind that get reprinted ad nauseum, ad infinitum. But it remains something near and dear to me. Something I will revisit over and over again. It’s my favorite Alan Moore story. I wish you would read it above all the others.

From Hell

(A/L) Eddie Campbell

From Hell is an in-depth look at the murders of Jack the Ripper. It’s a conspiracy thriller about one theory of Jack the Ripper’s identity that decides to take the Dirk Gently approach seriously and explore the entirety of Victorian England to uncover the full scope of Jack the Ripper. It’s an extremely dense text highlighting the sheer scope of one of the most famous serial killers. But by taking this approach, From Hell is able to highlight aspects that other Jack the Ripper stories might ignore. Mainly, the women who were murdered. We see their lives, their failings, their strengths, their love in all its grandeur and monstrosity. Perhaps the most underrated aspect of Alan’s voice as a writer is his empathy for everyone. He tries time and time again to understand the people his stories explore, to show their full depth, even if they’re monstrous. Even if they only appear in one part. Even if they are fated to die. Moore, at his best, can make a world out of just a few words.

Brought to Light

(M) David J

Brought to Light is a spoken word piece about the history of the CIA from its inception to the 1980s. I mean, what else is there to say? Do you want me to go at great length about the horrors of the CIA? The sheer incompetency which brought said horrors to life? Shall I talk in great detail about the backing score by David J, which makes each of Alan’s words come off with the anxiety and dread of living in the 20th century? Shall I talk about Alan’s American accent? The way he makes a nation feel sick, at once for comedy, tragedy, and horror? Or shall I simply link the thing to you so that you may experience one of the best things Alan Moore has ever written? Yes, I think that last thing is what I will do. This is not a dream.

It’s also a comic with art by Bill Sienkiewicz.

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