Alan Moore Comes like a Thief in the Night: A Writer with a Libertarian Following Delivers Some Flaccid Porn
Cavanaugh, Tim, Reason
WHATEVER HIS literary reputation ends up being, there's one thing Alan Moore, the British scriptwriter of such legendary comics as V for Vendetta, From Hell, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, will always have going for him. When he started in the business, people were still reading comic books. Now, thanks largely to him, they still read comic books, but they're called "graphic novels." Just one example of how he has upscaled his medium: Time magazine last year lifted Moore's 1986 superhero deconstruction Watchmen out of the funny-book ghetto to rate it among the best 100 novels of the last eight decades.
Prior to Moore's milestone works, writing comic-book dialogue was an occupation akin to being the script doctor on a porn video: It wasn't clear the job even needed to be done. Beginning with his brilliant 1982 reimagining of the cornball U.K. superhero comic Marvelman (Miracleman in the United States), Moore changed the rules of the game, introducing pastiche, artful juxtapositions, intertextuality (in which real and invented portions from novels, histories, and other sources flesh out the story), an obsession with historical eras (in particular the Victorian and Edwardian periods), and a flair for the ominous and surreal. Moore is one of the reasons you can't find a simple pulp superhero adventure at the drugstore, and why your local library is clearing out shelf space for its graphic novel section.
With his new, boxed, three-volume work of pornography--Lost Girls, drawn by his fiancee Melinda Gebbie--Moore, a 52-year-old who worships a Roman snake god and boasts of having been expelled from school for dealing acid, has finally completed the perfect melange of his talents and concerns. He really has become the script doctor on a porn video.
Almost inevitably, Moore has a devout following among libertarians. The movement has always been top-heavy with geeks, and Moore is the rare figure willing to pay a steep price for personal and artistic freedom, walking away from a lucrative contract with DC Comics and refusing to take any credit for of money from this year's V for Vendetta movie. More important, his work deals with anarchism and freedom fighting (V), the bloody corruption of governments (From Hell), Pynchonian conspiracy and the attractions of bully worship (Watchmen), and other topics dear to the libertarian heart. Whether Moore handles this material well of his idea-hungry fans are just happy to see it done at all is another question. For my money, V for Vendetta's warmed-over 1984 plot is the height of bogusness, a story that congratulates itself for daring to stand against a rightwing totalitarian state so over the top that nobody would support it in the first place. And for all its Ulysses-esque density, Watchmen has one of the hokiest conclusions ever devised.
Lost Girls continues this pattern, in which none-too-sophisticated ideas are put to us amid much whirring of machinery. The book's heroines are the grownup versions of three icons of British and American children's literature: Alice of Alice in Wonderland, Wendy of Peter Pan, and Dorothy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Their adventures with the Red Queen, Captain Hook, and the Tin Woodman are literalized as episodes of wild, incesmous, Sapphic, bestial, multifarious sex. …