Saturday, September 26, 2009

Several Bald Men Fighting Over A Comb, Part 1

This is old news by now (as befits my usual timely fashion of addressing these things) but let's talk a bit about the latest kerfuffle between Alan Moore and the comics industry.

For those of you who don't want to wander through the link, let me sum up thus: Alan Moore, elder statesman of the comics industry/fringe nut laments openly that DC has strip-mined a few slight Green Lantern stories for the germ that would ultimately became Blackest Night. The source of contention, is, in his eyes, mere strip-mining of older material, with only the merest filing off of the serial numbers prior to its repurposing.

This has been taken by people who think he's full of crap that he's arguing against the idea of referencing past continuity at all, and for all it is possible for the layperson to understand the mind of Alan Moore, it's possible that yes, that's something of what he meant. Mind you, I and plenty have other people have argued against referencing past continuity for its own sake plenty of times (Is there any reason why in 2009 we need Toro, the Human Torch's sidekick back in continuity? Is there any benefit at all?) That said, the writer of Supreme (Wiesenger era Superman homage) League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Victorian-era literary characters in a Wold Newton-esque metastory) and Lost Girls (Fairytale character slashfiction/meditation on the artistic merit of pornography--whatever that means) doesn't really have a leg to stand on in arguing against it any more than Dave Sim could credibly write a column in Cosmopolitan.

But a closer reading gets to what he was really talking about, I think. In referencing Marvelman and Watchmen, he laments more that people have copied his style in those two stories all too closely and missed what his real approach was--to bring fresh approaches to comics in general rather than to hew everything to the Watchmen model or the Marvelman model and simply have that approach be the be-all and end-all of Moving Comics Forward.

Mind you, some of that does happen. Grant Morrison, when he's on, can take what's established on a concept one would imagine was hopelessly played out and expand the parameters of it in ways that show you more possibilities than you ever imagined and making the whole thing positively crackle off the page (All-Star Superman and New X-Men spring to mind as exemplars of this) and while it may reference continuity to some extent (one is surprised in re-reading New X-Men just how much of the stuff that had immediately come before Morrison was willing to use) it mainly tries to blaze its own trail. One would imagine that's exactly what Moore would like to see more of, but there's no telling, really.

That said, there's something slightly sad about the fact that Moore gives the same interview over and over here lately--he talks a little about Watchmen and Marvelman, why he won't work for Marvel or DC, he doesn't watch movies, how his bad mood 20 years ago marked comics forever, how he doesn't read comics, blah blah blah . . .honestly, for all that the industry takes its cues from Moore, he really has become marginalised with the rest of cranks, hasn't he?

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