Happy birthday { feuilleton }

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It was a year ago today that I sat down and wrote some words of Charles Fort’s, “One measures a circle beginning anywhere…”, as a headline for the first entry on this page. Some posts over the ensuing year have been more popular than others (and it should be pointed out that the “most popular” list in the sidebar has only registered hits since a new plugin was activated). Referral links and Del.icio.us adds are a good guide to popularity so here’s the top five:

Watchmen (June 24th). An old Fantasy Advertiser interview with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons about their graphic novel masterwork. I knew this would be popular, not least because it’s one of the best interviews I’ve read about Watchmen, and one conducted quite soon after the story had been completed. Good to be reminded that the book’s creation owed as much to the artist as it did to the writer. As Alan Moore’s popularity has grown there’s been a tendency on the part of critics to see him as the sole author of his comics, all of which are collaborations with different artists who invariably contribute to the work themselves. From Hell artist Eddie Campbell has recently been showing examples of these working methods on his excellent weblog, The Fate of the Artist.

Atomix by Nike Savvas (August 5th). A big surprise this. I spotted pictures of this installation in passing on a Yahoo! news page, thought it looked interesting so made a little entry about it. Many hits later people are still searching for pictures. Ms Savvas would be advised to tour this artwork, people love it.

Aldous Huxley on Piranesi’s Prisons (August 25th). Another scanned article and another surprise. I remember thinking ?no one will want to read a long-dead writer talking about a long-dead engraver.? The moral, then, is never underestimate your audience.

The boys (various dates). Despite the groaning tubes of the interweb being stuffed with every shade and variety of porn, some pictures of unclothed young men remain more popular than others. So people arrive here searching for Eugen Bauder (very popular indeed), Felipe Von Borstel, Brian Joubert and others. I often feel as though I should apologise for not having any exclusive material but surfers of the one-handed variety are probably only stopping by for a moment before flitting elsewhere.

Barney Bubbles: artist and designer (January 20th). Very gratifying that this has been received with enthusiasm as this is the kind of post I like best, something that makes up for gaps in the pool of web data. These entries take time to prepare so it’s good to know that people appreciate the effort; I’m hoping there’ll be more to come (work allowing) in 2007.

Thanks for reading!

John x

Watchmen

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This year sees the 20th anniversary of the publication of Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. This landmark comic book, one of the few to deserve the designation “graphic novel”, remains a particular favourite of mine, and one that still excites today for its consummate command of the comics medium. The following is a very long round table discussion with Watchmen‘s creators from issue 100 of Fantasy Advertiser, first published in March 1988. It’s surprising that this doesn’t seem to have been posted anywhere else on the web as it’s an excellent discussion into some of the details of this great book.

Spoiler warning: this piece discusses in depth just about every revelation in the story so you’d be advised to skip it if you haven’t read the book.

MARTIN SKIDMORE: Alright, let’s have a starting point… just what is it about Watchmen that distinguishes it from other…
STEVE WHITAKER: Cream cheeses?
MS: …superhero comics on the market?
DAVE GIBBONS: Is this in the form of direct questions to us, or…
FIONA JEROME: No, we’re all gonna talk.
DG: Well, I’ll have a schnoozle then…
SW: The thing that I think distinguishes Watchmen from other comics is that the series holds together more like a novel. Your climax isn’t in the last 3 panels in Watchmen 12. There are long quiet tracts with exciting bits or…moderately exciting bits (LAUGHTER) In terms of Jack Kirby Wham! Smash! Pow! it’s all very quiet. There’s a lot of suffering but…
MS: …it’s all emotional rather than physical suffering.
ALAN MOORE: It’s a difficult question for me and Dave to answer, probably one that you could answer better, but if I had to say anything then it’s the degree of structure that me and Dave have applied to it—I can’t think of many examples of that degree of structure, that degree of layering.
FJ: I was going to say: especially visually you don’t get such a use of motif certainly not in American comics.
MS: Doug Moench has used it occasionally.
FJ: But not with the same complexity and not filling-in with written structure as well.
PETER HOGAN: The thing is: you’re given a world. The characters, alright, they’re based on the Charlton Characters but they’re new as of page 1. Even so, they’re characters with a history that comes out over the course of the thing… Their world has a history… it has a cohesion to it.
SW: Something that quite interests me now we’re talking about structure and stuff, is the symmetry—there is a real symmetry to Watchmen and the way the characters are set up.
DG: Two arms… two legs. (LAUGHTER)
MS: Perhaps the Comedian and Rorschach…
SW: I was thinking more of Osterman and Ozymandias.
MS: That’s right—the intellectual and physical, chaos and law…
AM: It’s difficult pinning down what’s symmetrical to what—I mean to me, at least to some extent, there’s an equally good case for contrasting Nite Owl and Rorschach.

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Alan Moore interview, 1988

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Originally published in Strange Things Are Happening, vol. 1, no. 2, May/June 1988. Note: “Vincent Eno” was Richard Norris, later one half of dance/ambient outfit The Grid with Dave Ball. See also the Watchmen round table discussion on this site.

Vincent Eno and El Csawza meet
comics megastar ALAN MOORE

Amidst smouldering heaps of superlatives flung in the direction of the comic genre of late, one name stands head and shoulders above the crowd: ALAN MOORE. But don’t just trust the gushing blurbs on the back of Moore’s works (‘Alan Moore has reinvented the comic book genre’ and so on), take it from your pals at Strange Things – Alan Moore is beezer!

With Watchmen the comic book format legitimately became what the media manipulators were attempting to tell us all about – the graphic novel. Watchmen is a work to be read and re-read, loved and cherished. Poetry, Cinema, narrative, music… they’re all here. The advent of such a work is as exciting in literary terms as the publication of the earliest novels, and you’d better believe it. Because within the next two years, the work of Alan Moore and his contemporaries is going to eclipse Watchmen and zoom into overdrive. As Alan says, ‘the next two years are going to be good for comics.’ Some understatement.

Turning into the first true comic megastar wasn’t an easy ride for Alan.

‘After school I did a variety of awful horrifying jobs,’ he recalls. ‘They look great on the dust jacket of your first novel, but were shit to actually live through! I started off by working at the skin division of the local Co-operative society. We’d go to work at seven thirty in the morning, drag these blood-sodden sheepskins out of vats of cold water and urine, chop off extraneous testicles or hooves and throw them at each other in this concentration camp gaiety we’d established to cope with the grimness of our surroundings. People there were splattered with this chemical for removing wool from hide, these blue marks all over them.

‘Then I climbed up the social ladder and became a toilet cleaner for a hotel. After that I went through a number of grindingly tedious office jobs; finally I had to make the jump into writing because we’d got a kid on the way and if I’d waited until after the baby was born I’d never have had the nerve. I decided that life being as short as it is, and as far as I know us getting only one crack at it, it just seemed important that I shouldn’t spend any of it doing something I didn’t want to do.’

Continue reading “Alan Moore interview, 1988”