Academic journal article Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts

H. P. Lovecraft, Too Much Sex, and Not Enough: Alan Moore's Playfully Repressive Hypothesis

Academic journal article Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts

H. P. Lovecraft, Too Much Sex, and Not Enough: Alan Moore's Playfully Repressive Hypothesis

Article excerpt

Shocking readers and sparking online outrage with its graphic portrayal of sexual assault and human-monster intercourse, Alan Moore's Neonomicon (2011) stands out for its controversy-provoking position in the oeuvre of an author who has arguably made a career out of comic book controversy. Neonomicon incorporates elements from H. P. Lovecraft's "The Horror at Red Hook" (1927) and "The Shadow over Innsmouth" (1936) into a graphic Cthulhu Mythos tale roughly set in a dark version of our twenty-first century. Moore's text self-consciously locates sexual repression as its key problematic, going so far as to perform the familiar sort of distilled Freudian reading that perceives a causal link between repression and violence. Moore himself remarks in an interview that, "Lovecraft was sexually squeamish" and, in Neonomicon, the project is to "put sex back in" (Gieben). The idea behind this use of "back in" is that the stories of the Cthulhu Mythos are inherently sexual, but that this is obscured by a repressed author who instead channels his unnamable thoughts into the unnamable things that populate his fictional universe. Moore gives diegetic voice to this theory when one of Neonomicon's characters remarks, "I've read his books ... perhaps it's me, but it seemed it was all sex. You know? The monsters and all that? They're like a lot of cocks and pussies crawling round. White slime everywhere and stuff stinks like dead fish" (Neonomicon ch. 3). (1) Neonomicon proclaims itself to be invested in a project of unveiling that rebels against cultural restrictions on sexuality to show the sex that is "truly" at stake behind the Cthulhu Mythos. Moore as author and Burrows as illustrator replace the authority of the source text with their own emphasis on graphically represented sexuality while positioning sexual repression as the root cause of not only sexual violence but of all sorts of human and supernatural evil.

Arguing in his polemic history of sexuality, 25,000 Years of Sexual Freedom (2012), that "sexually progressive cultures gave us mathematics, literature, philosophy, civilization, and the rest, while sexually restrictive cultures gave us the Dark Ages and the Holocaust," and claiming sex crime rates to be inversely related to the visibility of pornography in a given culture, Moore proposes a cause-and-effect relationship between sexual repression and a constellation of violent behaviors and intolerant attitudes (25,000 Years 39, 69-73). Such reductive logic abounds in 25,000 Years, which tends to present an ongoing conflict between those who would repress and those who would healthily enact sexuality--Moore locates evidence of this opposition by examining artistic, literary, and historical examples from the Venus of Willendorf to twenty-first-century pornography. Neonomicon, published only one year before 25,000 Years, is a playground for these theories, and features parabolic sequences in which characters are made to suffer as a result of what Moore presents as a world of pervasive sexual repression.

Neonomicon in its graphic novel format is a story composed of two distinct pieces that share characters and plotlines but which focus around two very different protagonists. The Courtyard, initially published as a prose piece (1994) and adapted into graphic format by Jacen Burrows and Anthony Johnston (2003), tracks the sexually abstemious and vocally racist federal investigator Aldo Sax as he goes down the path of madness in Brooklyn, much like "The Horror at Red Hook's" detective Malone. The second part, whose title, Neonomicon, is appropriated for the title of the entire graphic novel, features FBI Agent Brears, a slim and blond recovering sex addict who is raped when her cover is blown during the investigation of a "Shadow over Innsmouth"-themed Salem sex cult. Brears and her male colleague, Agent Lamper, infiltrate the cult to the point of stripping naked and entering a dingy underground orgy room equipped with a swimming pool that, unbeknownst to them, has a secret underwater access point. …

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