Tag Archives: Alan Moore

Alan Moore’s Novel Use of Point of View

“Superman/Swamp Thing: The Jungle Line, 2000 AD, a Mister Mxyzptlk, A Small Killing, A1#1, Abby Arcane, Alan Moore, Anthony Lilliman, antiheros, “Pog”, Big Numbers, daughter of Miracleman, Dazzle Comics, DC Comics Presents #85, Delia Surredige, deus ex machina, Dr. Manhattan, E.T., Eric Finch, Ethan Crane, Evey, Ghost Dance, Great Britain, Hallucinogenic POV, hippie, Intelligent ethically ambiguous POV, Kryptonian fungus, Larkhill, LSD, Marvelman, metafictional, Milo, Miracleman, Miracleman #13, Miracleman #14, Miracleman #16, narrative. Alien POV, Norsefire, Omniman, peyote, Pog comic strip, Pogo, point of view, POV, Qys, rebooted. Supreme #53, Skizz, Story within a story POV, Stream of consciousness POV, superhero universe reboots, Supreme, Survivor guilt, Swamp Thing, Swamp Thing v2, Szazs, Tales of the Black Freighter, the Comedian, The Green, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Punisher, V is for Vendetta, V is for Vendetta #5, v2, Vertigo, Walt Kelly, Warpsmiths. Qys, Watchmen, Watchmen #12, Watchmen #4, Watchmen #9, Wolverine, WW III

Alan Moore is one of the top comic book writers of all time.  Alan Moore uses many specialized techniques to entertain the reader including superhero universe reboots but another technique he uses to make his stories especially engrossing is the novel use of point of view (POV) in his narrative.  Moore uses alien POV, hallucinogenic POV, intelligent ethically ambiguous POV, stream of consciousness POV, and a story within a story POV in order to make his fiction more interesting.

Alien POV

Doctor Manhattan is Superman type character in the series Watchmen.  Doctor Manhattan has the ability to see the past, present and the future at the same time.  This is power 256 in my Superpower List (250+).  Doctor Manhattan may have been human at one point but due to an accident became a being that is growing distant from humanity.  Ozymandias on Doctor Manhattan, “If there’s one thing in this cosmos that that man isn’t capable of doing it’s having a political bias. Believe me… you have to meet him to understand. I mean, which do you prefer, red ants or black ants?” Doctor Manhattan can also make multiple versions of himself and does this for practical purposes but also because this is a point of view that he finds interesting.  Doctor Manhattan can perceive subatomic particles that exist for nanoseconds.  Doctor Manhattan has developed a nihilistic view of reality due to his superhuman perceptions that is shared by very few human beings but The Comedian is one of them (see Figure 1 below).

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Figure 1- Watchmen #4 (of 12) – Page 20

Doctor Manhattan is so removed from the human POV that he almost does not intervene to save the world from WW III (see Figure 2)!below

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Figure 2 – Watchmen #9 (of 12) – Page 11

And true love does not change his mind but instead he has some sort of eureka experience related to human individuality relative to probability (see Figure 3 below) and this insight causes him to try to stop WW III.

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Figure 3 – Watchmen #9 (of 12) – Page 28

The Swamp Thing discovers in Swamp Thing, v2, #21, the first issue of this character that Alan Moore wrote, that he is actually a plant not a human and this knowledge causes him to change how he views  humanity and temporarily flip out and commit his first murder.  Alan Moore decides to turn a superhero that was a man with plant features into a plant period with a plant POV!  This story is aptly titled “The Anatomy Lesson” and is a POV driven plot (see Figure 4 below).

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Figure 4 – Swamp Thing V2 #21 – Page 13

Alan Moore decided a superhero even more removed from humanity would be more interesting.  The Swamp Thing can also perceive and move through “The Green” which is some sort of dimension that contains the consciousness of all plant life.  As a plant and later an elemental, the Swamp Thing sees the human struggle between good and evil in a larger transhuman context.  Humans are one of many species and the welfare of humans at the expense of the environment is not acceptable.

In a two issue story arc, the story is told from the POV of an alien that happens to be an Earthling!  In “Mysteries in Space”, Swamp Thing, v2, #57 and “Exiles” Swamp Thing, v2, #58, Adam Strange is the hero of planet Rann.  The inhabitants are more advanced than Earthlings and have difficulty doing “primitive” things like fighting and procreating.  Adam Strange has slowly become aware that the Rannians see him as an ape-man errand boy and the statute erected in his honor as the hero of Rann is a façade to flatter him into doing their bidding.  There is plenty of action in the story but Adam Strange’s internal dialogue about he is perceived in the Rannians is actually more interesting.  In the end his relatively, to Earthlings, Rannian girlfriend, Alanna Strange, is found to be pregnant and this is the first pregnancy in quite some time on Rann.  The Earthling “alien” has done the “job” he was probably recruited and manipulated for in the first place (see Figure 5 below)!

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Figure 5 – Swamp Thing V2 #58 – Page 23

Another story of Swamp Thing tells the story totally from the point of view of an alien!  In “Loving the Alien”, Swamp Thing, v2, #60, an alien that is a planet made of biomechanical material is telling the story of her courtship of the Swamp Thing.  I guess alien biomechanical planets have a hard time finding suitable mates and all prior attempts at failed and often caused the death of the potential mate.  Swamp Thing tried to escape but she used a “chronofracture” which reverses time to get a second chance at catching the Swamp Thing and she has her way with him.  She transfers all the information biological and otherwise into her reproductive system and voila little baby aliens that want to hear the story of their mothers courtship and mom wonders if dad would love his children if he had gotten to know them (see Figure 6 below)!

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Figure 6 – Swamp Thing V2 #60 – Page 19

Miracleman is another Superman type character radically rebooted by Alan Moore who reflects on his superhuman condition has changed how he views the world.  Even his “father” who is a genius by human standards cannot understand the perspective of Miracleman in the opinion of Miracleman (see Figure 7 below).

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Figure 7 – Miracleman 07 #1440 – Page 16

Miracleman’s perceptions evolve and he recognizes his superhuman condition probably distances him from humanity and he sees this as a negative (see Figure 8 below).

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Figure 8 – Miracleman 16 #1440 – Page 29

The Miracleman’s universe includes two alien empires including the Qys and the Warpsmiths. The Qys can change bodies the way we change clothes and this radically changes their sense of self.  This ability changes the aesthetic of the Qys so radically that they are ruled by what to a human would seem like a giant monster (see Figure 9 below).

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Figure 9 – Miracleman 13 #1440 – Page 5

The Warpsmiths have the power of teleportation and with this power also perceive time very differently than humans.  There are hints that this power changes how they perceive the universe and their role in the universe (See Figure 10 below).

10-A1 Ghost Dance Warpsmiths

Figure 10 – A1 Ghost Dance Warpsmiths

For Alan Moore, superpowers are not just tools for fighting crime but create sensibilities that change POV radically.  The daughter of Miracleman realizes that Miracleman’s perspective is too human for her growth and development as a superhuman and leaves her father to go live with the Qys despite being a newborn (see Figure 11 below).

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Figure 11 – Miracleman 14 #1440 – Page 7

Skizz is a character that Alan Moore created for 2000 AD.  Skizz resembles an E.T. the movie sort of alien and one biker actually refers to Skizz as being like E.T. in the movie.  Skizz is an interpreter and not very formidable physically and we get to see Earth from the point of view of an alien that finds us barbaric (see Figure 12 below).

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Figure 12 – Skizz – Page 14

More than any other comic book that I am familiar with, the story of Skizz revolves around the POV of an alien rather than relying on action for plot delivery.

In Swamp Thing v2, #32, “Pog”,  Alan Moore treats us to an alien that in a manner similar to Skizz provides an alien point of view in which we are seen as barbarian but even more than that a savage planet.  On the planet of Pog, even different species of animals coexist but in our planet a cartoonish crocodile will be eaten real crocodiles (see Figure 13 below).

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Figure 13 – Swamp Thing V2 #32 – Page 17

There is a metafictional aspect to Pog since Moore is comparing two types of comic book universe not just aliens and Earthlings.  The comic strip Pogo universe of Walt Kelly is being compared with the grittier Vertigo universe that Swamp Thing inhabits.

In Swamp Thing v2, #61, “All Flesh is Grass”, Swamp Thing meets a Green Lantern (Medphyll) on his alien home world in which plant life is sentient.  The title “All Flesh is Grass” is from the Bible and refers to the transitory nature of existence.  The story is told from the POV of Medphyll and the reader is treated to a description of an alien world of sentient plants and the art, religion and plant based architecture of the planet are described in detail.  The Green Lantern oath reflects the plant POV of the ring bearer:

“In forest dark or glade beferned,
No blade of grass shall go unturned.
Let those that have the daylight spurned,
Tread not where this green lamp has burned.”

The Swamp Thing is the horror from the stars in this story and we are reminded that what is a hero or a monster is a matter of perspective.  The Swamp Thing inhabits the form of Medphyll’s deceased and beloved teacher Jothra and the Swamp Thing and the reader are given a tour of this very interesting planet (See figure 14 below).

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Figure 14 – Swamp Thing V2 #61 – Page 18

Aliens like Dr. Manhattan, the Swamp Thing, Miracleman, Skizz and Pog view the world in a radically different way that in turn change how they think.  Super powers do not just let the character smash mountains but change how the characters perceive mountains and this is actually often more interesting.

Alan Moore wrote three stories about the Green Lantern Corps for DC Comics.  In the story “In Blackest Story”, Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #3 (1987), the Green Lantern Katma Tui has a very difficult time explaining the whole concept of the bright light of Green Lanterns fighting darkness because the alien, Rot Lop Fan,  Katman Tui is talking to cannot see and has no concept of light (see Figure 15 below).

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Figure 15 – “In Blackest Night” Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #3

In “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize”, Green Lantern, v2, #188, the bad guy cannot find the Green Lantern until he realizes the Green Lantern Mogo is not an inhabitant of the planet but the planet itself (see Figure 16 below)!

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Figure 16 – “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize”, Green Lantern #188, v2 – Page 6

In “Tygers”, Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 (1986), a hyper rational Green Lantern, Abin Sur, fails to understand how a demon of the Empire of Tears, Qull of the Five Inversions,  can use his perceptual abilities that combine clairvoyance, cunning and an understanding of mortal psychological weaknesses in order to create a death trap with words alone.  Abin Sur feels protected by his scientific world view but in fact the supremely evil POV of the demon allows the demon to murder Abin Sur even though the demon is imprisoned and should be helpless (see Figure 17 below).

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Figure 17 – “Tygers”, Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 – Page 12

In all three Green Lantern Corps stories, there are two aliens that have such radically different states of being that their POV makes mutual understanding difficult.  The Green Lantern Corps are aliens.  Moore realized the rich potential in exploring the alien side of the Green Lantern Corps rather than treating them like Earth based super humans that happen to look funny due to a third eye or some other cosmetic difference between the alien and us.  The Green Lantern Corps stories are even more POV centric than the other superhero stories mentioned previously.

Alan Moore develops the Alien POV idea even further in the Omega Men series.  The Omega Men are a team of extraterrestrial superheroes in a solar system other than that of Earth called the Vegan system.  Alan Moore did two back stories for the series that take place in the Vegan system but do not involve the Omega Men directly.  In “Brief Lives”, Omega Men #26, the Spider Guild, giant intelligent spiders, try to conquer giant aliens in the planet Ogyptu that live for millennia and move, think and perceive the world at a glacial pace, literally.  The entire invasion by the Spider Guild over a thirty year period is barely perceived by the giants.  The invasion fails because the POV of the giants is so radically different than that of the Spider Guild that the invasion cannot even be perceived and therefore cannot be successful (see figure 18 below).

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Figure 18 – “Brief Lives”, Omega Men #26 – Page 27

In “A Man’s World”, Omega Men #27, a female xenobiologist, or possibly an anthropologist since she mentions the rules of inter-system anthropology, studies a tribe called the Culacaons that reproduce minus women.  The female alien named Leelyo pays the ultimate price for not understanding the POV of the males in the tribe.  After probably three rereads, the reader figures out that the males of the Culacaons stab giant snails and plant their babies into the giant snails. The reader can infer that the Culcaon male stabs
poor Leelyo and probably deposits the children in her body after stabbing with
her with his Gamugha stick. Apparently, the male tribesman sees the female alien not as a fellow humanoid but as more similar to the giant snails and deserving similar treatment.  From the POV of the male Culacaon Leelyo is more like the giant snails than like him!  This story is widely dismissed as a very poor story.  However, if you reread the story then the horrible truth of the story becomes apparent and the true meaning of the title, “A Man’s World” becomes horrifyingly apparent (see Figure 19 below)!

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Figure 19 – “A Mans World”, Omega Men #27 – Page 24

Hallucinogenic POV

Swamp Thing was radically changed during his tenure under Alan Moore.  The Alan Moore Swamp Thing has tubers growing from his body that more or less has the same effects as peyote.  In “Rite of Spring”, Swamp Thing v2, #34, the Swamp Thing gives his girlfriend Abby Arcane a tuber in order to educate her about his perception of the Earth via The Green (see Figure 20 below).

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Figure 20 – Swamp Thing V2 #34 – Page 12

In “The Return of the Good Gumbo”, Swamp Thing v2, #64, the Swamp Thing again gives his soon to be wife Abby Arcane a tuber to eat since nothing says love like hallucinogenic tubers.  Abby is literally eating a part of her lover and has hallucinations that help her understand how the Swamp Thing perceives the world and they also have really good sex (see Figure 21 below)!

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Figure 21 – Swamp Thing V2 #64 – Page 14

In “Windfall”, Swamp Thing v2, # 43 a hippie named Chester found a tuber lying around the swamp and brought it to Baton Rouge.  Pieces of the tuber end up in a woman named Sandy painfully dying of cancer and she hallucinates a luminous body free of pain and is transported to a radiant heaven like garden in which she dies in the arms of her husband (see Figure 22 below).

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Figure 22 – Swamp Thing V2 #43 – Page 19

A sleazy drug pusher named Milo has a really bad trip and hallucinates some of the very ugly and evil villains the Swamp Thing has encountered.  The tubers as parts of the Swamp Thing apparently contain the memories of the Swamp Thing at some level (see Figure 23 below).

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Figure 23 – Swamp Thing V2 #43 – Page 18

When Chester finds out what happened to Sandy and Milo he theorizes that the tubers bring out what is in your as a person.  Good people have good trips.  Bad people have bad trips.  Chester ponders whether or not to take what is left of the tuber and decides not to.

In V is for Vendetta, the lead detective, Eric Finch takes LSD at the shut down concentration camp Larkhill.  The psychedelic imagery used is disturbing and unnerves the reader.  Finch hallucinates the naked torsos of a man and a woman perched on barbed wire (see Figure 24 below).

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Figure 24 – V For Vendetta #9 – Page 4

Finch hallucinates wearing the striped garb of a prisoner.  Finch has a hallucination about a crowd of black people, presumably killed at the camp and they are friendly towards him but ultimately move away from him and disappear into a wall.  Finch is then transported in to his middle class house but this is also a hallucination.  Finally, Finch takes off all his clothes and experiences freedom from social constraints in the center of Stonehenge.  Stonehenge may or may not be a hallucination.  Eric Finch is using the LSD experience to help him understand how V thinks and to some extent succeeds.  V is an anarchist and Finch does develop an understanding of freedom that helps him in turn understand V.

In DC Comics Presents #85: “Superman/Swamp Thing: The Jungle Line”. Superman is hallucinating due to an infection by a Kryptonian fungus and has flash backs about Krypton that reveal a great deal to the reader about how Superman handles his Kryptonian heritage.  Swamp Thing is perceived as an enemy due to the hallucinations and is almost destroyed.  Some of the more interesting hallucinations Superman has are talking with his empty Clark Kent clothes and the empty suit explains to Superman that he is dying and furthermore that he is nothing special.  Superman seems to suffer from Survivor guilt which manifests in his hallucinations (see Figure 25 below).

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Figure 25 – DC Comics Presents #85 – Page 13

Swamp Thing can enter the hallucinatory world of Superman because this world is in part generated by a “plant”, strictly speaking a fungus is not a plant, and the Swamp Thing takes Superman into “The Green” which breaks contact with the scarlet jungle of the fungus Superman was dying in.  In this plant dimension the Swamp Thing soothes Superman so he can sleep and this allows Superman to recover.

Alan Moore returns to the use of a hallucinogenic plant as a central plot device a third time in “For the Man Who Has Everything”, Superman Annual #11.  This is of course the second time Moore has Superman hallucinating due to a “plant” (see figure 26 below).

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Figure 26 – Annual Superman V1 #11 – Page 12

A large alien plant called the Black Mercy has Superman trapped in a coherent hallucinated world on the planet Krypton and this is supposed to be his deepest desire.  This is the Krypton that would have happened if Krypton had not blown up.  Superman has never been Superman and has a Kryptonian brother and a niece.  This alternate world is supposed to be what the person really wants but soon turns ugly due to Kryptonian xenophobia and presumably this is the unconscious of Superman trying to free himself from the grip of the Black Mercy.  Batman also ends up with the plant on his chest and in his hallucination he is in a world in which his parents were not killed.  Finally, the bad guy, Mongul, ends up with the plant on his chest due to Robin.  Mongol has a hallucination of a world of endless conquest and Superman’s head on a pike.

In all the stories examined, the person hallucinating does gain insight that is often helpful.  The hallucinations are not always pleasant but generally reveal truths rather than being random and meaningless.

Intelligent Ethically Ambiguous POV

Generally in comic books the hero is simplistically good and the villain is simplistically bad.  Alan Moore departs from this practice and presents antiheros.  Comic books have any number of muscular tough guy antiheros like The Punisher and Wolverine but generally ruthless intelligent characters are invariably super villains.  Alan Moore uses intelligent antiheroes that present a compelling argument for ruthless action.

Ozymandias is a major character in Moore series Watchmen.  Ozymandias is considered the smartest man in the world. This very intelligence forces him to see the world differently than his fellow superheroes that are not as intelligent.  Ozymandias is at the upper limits of human intelligence but probably does not possess super intelligence.  The only Watchmen superhero to really agree with the actions of Ozymandias to save the world is Dr. Manhattan who probably possesses out and out super intelligence.  Ozymandias manages to save the world from WW III but kills millions in New York do accomplish this task.  The reader is allowed to share the triumph of Ozymandias directly and the background picture of Alexander the Great cutting the Gordian Knot is intentional (See Figure 27 below).

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Figure 27 – Watchmen #12 (of 12) – Page 20

V in V is for Vendetta is an antihero and is a powerful fighter but what makes him really dangerous is his super intelligence.  V uses strategy to take apart the fascist party Norsefire that rules Great Britain.  V commits various acts that may be considered unethical.  V kills a Bishop, Anthony Lilliman.   However, the bishop is also a pedophile so that’s probably ok.  V kills a doctor, Delia Surredige.  Dr. Surredige has clearly repented for her sins in the concentration camp V was in.  Killing a woman is generally not done by heroes.  Killing someone who has reformed is also not generally done by comic book characters.  V also kills the hired help of Norsefire that happens to be in the way.  V doesn’t do comic book things like use stun guns, non lethal Karate chops, or shoot their pistols out of the hands of henchmen.  Generally V throws knives into the hearts of the henchmen.  Killing the hired help is something the Punisher and Wolverine also do so this is not new ground for a comic book antihero.  V does imprison and torture Evey, a girl he had saved previously, and even used as a side kick.   Evey is clearly an innocent.  V tortures her to set her free by toughening her up!  V does provide the reader with a very eloquent defense of his actions (See Figure 28 below).

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Figure 28 – V For Vendetta #5 – Page 9

V and Ozymandias are intelligent men that employ ruthless means to accomplish noble ends and we are privy to their thought processes which generally is the POV of a super villain like Doctor Doom not a hero and this use of POV forces the reader to go beyond the simple structures of good and evil normally associated with comic books even comic books with antiheros.

Stream of Consciousness POV

Comic book writers did not employ stream of consciousness in early comic books.  The use of stream of consciousness is a narrative technique that is employed more and more in comic books in the present.  Alan Moore makes extreme use of an interior monologue in all of his comic books.  Rorschach’s internal monologue is used extensively in Watchmen.  However, Alan Moore pushes the comic book envelope of stream of consciousness in A Small Killing.

Alan Moore has used a stream of consciousness POV exclusively in A Small Killing and the narrative the use of images from the inner world of the protagonist.  There is very little action in A Small Killing and we follow the protagonist as he is haunted by a ghost like child that is presumably a hallucination of himself as a child.  However, there is a hint that the child might be an actual ghost rather than a hallucination (see Figure 29 below).

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Figure 29 – A Small Killing – Page 11

Incredibly I didn’t care about the nature of the child because the protagonist is an unlikeable whiner and I am sad that the “ghost” child did not succeed in killing the protagonist.  A slow read that is POV technique driven to the point that reading pleasure is sacrificed for art.  The favorite device for exploring stream of consciousness for Moore seems to be via the use of hallucinogens by the characters in his stories which is already discussed in detail in the prior section of this essay.

Story within a Story POV

Alan Moore often employs the metafictional device of a story within a story in order to give his narrative added depth and complexity.  In Watchmen, one of the children is reading a comic book about pirates called the Tales of the Black Freighter and the bleakness of the story makes the already “real” story of the Watchmen even more nihilistic and acts a plot juxtaposition device.

Miracleman was programmed in a reality that resembled a superhero comic book.  The adventures of the Miracleman family in this virtual reality can in turn be self contained stories.  There was a Marvelman comic book published in Great Britain in the fifties and from the perspective of the Moore series, those adventures took place in a virtual reality which explains the lack of “reality” in those adventures.  Miracleman is also a comic book fan and comic books are part of the narrative but this device was exploited more by other writers after Moore such as Neil Gaiman in Miracleman: Apocrypha.

Alan Moore’s Supreme has many metafictional layers but I will stick to the story within a story elements.  In the Supreme comic book, Moore’s Supreme has the secret identity of Ethan Crane who works Dazzle Comics on a character named Omniman that is being rebooted.  In reality, Supreme is a Superman character that is being rebooted by Alan Moore.  The comic book within a comic book is a parallel story! Eventually Supreme even has a fight with his own comic book creation in Supreme #53.  Supreme becomes a character in a comic book that fights Omniman (see Figure 30 below) but of course there is a “logical” explanation and a Szazs, a Mister Mxyzptlk,  clone, is the cause.

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Figure 30 – Supreme #53 – Page 6

In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Moore creates an entire universe made up of fictional characters from novels.  This is not exactly a story within a story device but is a metafictional device.  Basically Moore’s League invention is a pastiche of prior stories!

Conclusion

Alan Moore uses certain novel POV techniques with different characters in different comic book series in order to consistently make his stories more interesting.  There is a synergistic effect created by using so many POV techniques within a single narrative.  The combination of POV techniques causes the reader to feel transported to an unnerving and alien reality and upon reflection the cause of this feeling is hard to pin point but I would argue the POV techniques are a major cause.  POV drives plot in many instances.  How the character perceives reality not only explains the behavior of the character but often acts as the deus ex machina of an Alan Moore story.  The character must behave a certain way because of their perceptions.

Alan Moore uses caption boxes instead of thought bubbles to show the thoughts of the character.  This allows for lot more information to be expressed.  Alan Moore uses a lot of caption boxes relative to speech bubbles compared to other writers and this shows that POV is more important to Alan Moore than other writers.

Many of Alan Moore’s comic books have been made into movies including some discussed here (Watchmen, V is for Vendetta).  The art and text attempting to show the POV of Dr. Manhattan is one of the high points of this series that was not really explored in the movie and this lack of the comic book POV devices made the movie less interesting in many ways than the comic book series the film was derived from.

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You can also download my autobiography of my struggle with a bipolar condition on  Am I Kitsune on my Google Drive.

WereVerse Universe Baby!

 

Hugh Fox III - Brazil Soccer

DC vs. Marvel Spacemen

Clash of the Spacemen!

Clash of the Spacemen!

This is the fourth post in a series of posts that compare DC and Marvel non-superhero genres.  The first post looked at Westerns (https://foxhugh.wordpress.com/2009/02/13/dc-vs-marvel-western-heroes/).  The second post looked at war heroes (https://foxhugh.wordpress.com/2009/03/21/dc-vs-marvel-war-heroes/).  The third post looked at women’s comics (https://foxhugh.wordpress.com/2009/04/11/dc-vs-marvel-working-women/).  The genre is space opera and the heroes are spacemen.  This genre is a little harder to differentiate from the common super hero.  After all many superheroes have alien origins.  The very first superhero, arguably, Superman is from the planet Krypton but anyone who knows comic books and science fiction would not argue he is a space opera hero.  The main characteristic of space opera is that the action is almost entirely in space.  Superman has had his share of adventures in outer space but most of his adventures happen on Earth.  Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon are some early examples of the space hero in comic books. 

 

The DC spacemen are Adam Strange, Captain Comet, Knights of the Galaxy, Space Cabby, Space Ranger, Star Hawkins, Tommy Tomorrow and Ultra the Multi-alien.  All of these heroes were brought together in a three issue mini-series Twilight in 1990.  Twilight brought all of DC’s space heroes and characters together in a reboot that is dystopian and very different from the optimistic and naïve tone of the Silver Age originals.  Twilight is a precursor of what Vertigo Press will do on a regular basis when this press is formed in 1993. 

 

These DC space comic books were particularly popular in the Silver Age and I would say this was my favorite non-superhero genre growing up.  Westerns were ok.  I didn’t really get war comics until years later.  Women’s comics in the form of Romance comics were rare and far between.  The space opera titles on the other hand were comics I would keep an eye out for.  Adam Strange, Captain Comet, Space Ranger and Tommy Tomorrow would be the big four of the space men.  The Knights of the Galaxy, Space Cabby and Star Hawkins are much more obscure characters.  An ancestor of Adam Strange and Space Ranger did appear in a comic book together during the Silver Age in Mystery in Space #94.  Mystery in Space was also were most of the Silver Age space men appeared.  Cross-overs at DC in the early Silver Age were few and far between and their common genre identity was probably the cause. 

 

The most famous of all the space men is Adam Strange.  Adam Strange has a ray gun and a jet back pack but aside from that is a normal Earthman or as normal as any comic book hero can be.  Adam Strange is transported to the planet Rann on a regular basis where he has many adventures.  He also has a pretty hot girl friend on that planet.  Alan Moore did a really good story with Adam Strange titled “Mysteries in Space”, Swamp Thing #57, second series.   The title is obviously a take off on the Mystery in Space title.  The relative alien identity of Adam Strange was highlighted.  Adam Strange was offered membership in the Justice League of America, a first tier DC superhero group while the other space men never ever even met first tier DC superheroes.  Adam Strange was also a major player in the recent DC multi-title event the Rann-Thangar War that attempted to flesh out DC space empires in a way similar to the Marvel Kree-Skrull war had many years earlier.

Years later Captain Comet was rescued from comic book oblivion in a Vertigo title but during his original run was very obscure.  Captain Comet is a variation on Superman.  Captain Comet is a mutant that represents what we will evolve into in the distant future who decides Earth is boring and goes off into space.  Captain Comet is nowhere near as strong and invulnerable as Superman but is a fair telepath and telepathy means you know your opponents weaknesses. 

 

A contest between them would be kind of like Kyle XY versus Clark Kent of Smallville and be very interesting.  Kyle would know all about Kryptonite and have the super intelligence to use this knowledge for maximum tactical and strategic advantage. Dime a dozen hoods get the jump on Clark with Kryptonite in Smallville so I think Clark is probably toast.

 

I have not read a Space Cabby story in years but to this day I remember the very interesting premise.  The Space Cabby was a cabby but he had a space ship and he could jaunt around the solar system.  So if you needed a quick ride from Earth to Mars then he was your man.  Space Cabby emphasized humorous adventures and this is in direct contrast to the melodramatic nature of space opera in general. 

 

Ultra the Multi-Alien is the comic book equivalent of a winner of the Rotten Tomatoes award.  The comic book was so garish and over the top, obscure and just plain bad that you couldn’t help but like the title.  Prez and the Geek would be two other Silver Age titles that merit the same type of award.   An Earthman due to a bizarre ray gun malfunction received the body parts of four other aliens.  Each body part has a different power.  Kind of like the movie The Fly but instead of merging with one insect, the character merges with four insects and of course more is better.  I hereby create my own superhero based on this premise!

 

Beware of Insectoid the Multi-Insect Man!  He has the claws of a praying mantis, the wings and eyes of a fly, the stinger of a scorpion and the antennae of a ant that gives him some other super senses that insects generally don’t have.  Anyone interested in this character should contact me at foxhugh@yahoo.com.  Only serious requests will be considered!  So I guess that means no requests will considered.

 

The Marvel list is much smaller and includes Captain Jet Dixon, Captain Marvel, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Speed Carter Spaceman and the Star Jammers.  I would consider myself a bit of a comic book historian and I never read or heard about Captain Jet Dixon or Speed Carter Spaceman until I did some research for this post.  This is unfortunate since based on my research they are pretty classic space men in the Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon mold clearly fit the premise of this entire post.

 

The Galaxy Rangers and Star Jammers are Bronze Age space men.  They are about a thousand times more relevant and famous than Captain Jet Dixon or Speed Carter Spaceman.  The adventures of the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Star Jammers do take place almost entirely in space but are still more superheroes than spacemen.  The tolerance of fans for non-superhero genres during the Bronze Age of comics was a lot lower than during the Silver Age and superhero elements had to be grafted onto heroes from other genres in order for them to survive.  I mention the Punisher as hero that combines war hero and super hero elements in my war hero post and I think this is similar phenomena.

 

I think the Star Jammers are basically the X-Men set in space and have their origins in the X-Men titles.  The Guardians of the Galaxy started more as space men but then evolved into superheroes.  The premise is that in the future solar system planets have been terraformed and genetic engineering has been used to make humans that can live in these terraformed planets that are still pretty inhospitable.  So you have a crystalline humanoid from Pluto and a super strong soldier from Jupiter, etc.  The first issue that premiered caught my eye and they wore futuristic but non-superhero clothing and I liked the premise.  Years later the costumes changed and they started hanging around the Avengers, got a ton more members and became the Avengers in space. 

 

Something similar happened to Captain Marvel who was a Kree soldier who wore a very space man kind of costume and used a ray gun but later got one of the coolest superhero costumes ever and lost the ray gun and gained some nega bands and lot of other cool powers to boot.  The Kree is a intergalactic empire consisting of thousands of worlds that often is in conflict with the Skrulls.  These are very much ray gun and space ship aliens.  The Skrulls even use flying saucers.  Heroes like the reborn Captain Marvel even have a category in the Marvel Universe and are considered cosmic superheroes. 

 

The adventures of cosmic superheroes take place in space but this is a cosmic space far away from anything Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon could handle.  In many ways this cosmic version of space is magical and more importantly mythic.  Characters like Galactus, the Watcher, the Silver Surfer, the Elders of the Universe and Thanos have adventures in the cosmos not space.  They have no need for space ships or ray guns and can often alter reality through a super science that is the power cosmic.  This genre transformation process seems to be a hallmark of Marvel as opposed to DC.  The Skrulls may have thousands of world under their dominion but hide like ants when the Silver Surfer was the herald of Galactus in their original appearance in the Fantastic Four Galactus Trilogy that created Marvel’s cosmic space. 

 

DC takes non-superhero heroes and lets Vertigo Press do really interesting things with them while maintaining their core genre identity.  All non-superhero heroes in the Marvel universe end up becoming superheroes!  Night Nurse, who I mention in my women’s comic post (https://foxhugh.wordpress.com/2009/04/11/dc-vs-marvel-working-women/) ends up becoming the nurse of superheroes years after her original appearance.  I guess if I have a choice of being transported to the DC or Marvel universe then I should pick the Marvel universe since I am about a hundred times more likely to become a superhero in that universe than the DC universe and that was pretty much my life goal until I was six and “grew up”.  I put the phrase in quotations since someone writing these posts has arguably not grown up!

 

So hard choices, do I pick the famous hybrid space men/super hero men of Marvel or the pure space men of Marvel no one ever heard of?  I will do a little bit of both.  The Star Jammers and Guardians of the Galaxy are superhero teams that are a hundred times more powerful than guys like Adam Strange and Space Ranger and I like these guys to much due to early childhood sentiment to pit them in such an unfair contest without a little tidbit ahead of time.  So Captain Jet Dixon and Speed Carter Spaceman just got drafted.

 

Captain Jet Dixon goes up against Adam Strange and Adam Strange easily beat him to the ray gun draw since he has had a hundred more issues to master target practice.  The Knights of the Galaxy go up against the Guardians of the Galaxy because they both have galaxy in their name and the non-super powered knights are easily defeated by the Galaxy Rangers with their numerous superpowers. 

 

The Knights of the Galaxy were space man types with ray guns and space ships that followed a knightly code.  The knightly code isn’t going to do them much good against a top tier super hero group like the Guardians of the Galaxy.  This mingling of medieval and science fiction is not a first for DC and the Atomic Knights come to mind.  I do mention the Atomic Knights in another post on this blog (https://foxhugh.wordpress.com/2008/05/25/dc-vs-valiant-universe-2-armorines-vs-the-atomic-knights/).  I also mentioned in the prior war hero post that the mingling of two non-superhero genres is a hallmark of DC rather than Marvel. DC has weird westerns, weird wars and even haunted tanks, supernatural plus war comic.  I love it!

 

Space Ranger goes up against Speed Carter Spacemen and in a low tone of voice informs him that he is the Space Ranger and nobody’s like Carter should flee and Carter does.  The Guardians of the Galaxy then descend on Adam Strange and Space Ranger and give them a space whupping they will never forget. 

 

Captain Comet fights Captain Marvel since they both have Captain in their name.  This is actually a really tough fight to call.  They both have super strength, invulnerability, and flight.  Captain Marvel has cosmic awareness which is kind of like spider sense on steroids but is not an out and out telepath.  Captain Comet reads Captain Marvel’s mind and realizes if you slam the nega bands on his wrists together then Captain Marvel is banished to the negative zone and proceeds to do just that.  Captain Comet is feeling pleased for about one minute until the Guardians of the Galaxy gang up on him and beat him senseless.  The Marvel, kind of, space men win!

 

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Other DC vs. Marvel Posts

Big Monsters

Fourth Wall Heroes

Funny Animals

Horror Hosts

Kids

Robots

Sidekicks

Spacemen

Superpets

Teenagers

Transportation

War Heroes

Weapons

WesternHeroes

Women in Refrigerators

Working Women

WereVerse Universe Baby!

Alan Moore’s Superhero Universe Reboots 5: Watchmen Universe

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watchmen

 

The superheroes of this universe are only vaguely based on the originals from Charlton Comics so arguably this is not a reboot at all.  The main superheroes of the Watchmen universe include Captain Metropolis, the Comedian, Doctor Manhattan, Dollar Bill, Hooded Justice, Mothman, Nite Owl I, Nite Owl II, Ozymandias, Rorschach, Silhouette, Silk Spectre I and Silk Spectre II.   This is Moore’s last universe reboot alphabetically but his second chronologically.  This is the series that brought Alan Moore fame and fortune in the US. 

 

The comic book within a comic book takes the form of a pirate comic book named Tales of the Black Freighter.  A teen who happens to be at a newsstand, were the lives of the heroes intersect, is reading the comic book on the curb.  We view the panels of this comic book within a comic book as the series progresses. The plot line of Tales of the Black Freighter comic book is reminiscent of the Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.  The comic book within the comic book also reflects the larger world’s descent into WW III and annihilation.  The Watchmen’s universe is too gritty and real for us to believe that anyone will survive as they generally do in comic books.  Nixon is President since he had those pesky Watergate reporters killed by the Comedian, a super hero!

 

Although this is never stated in so many words, there are enough references to Einstein and his thinking that one can assume Moore has probably read Einstein’s comment that good and evil are manmade constructs. Doctor Manhattan as more force of nature, than human takes this literally and departs from Earth to Mars rather than stop WW III. 

 

One of the more disturbing characters, Rosarch has an epiphany while watching dogs eat the bones of kidnapped girl and becomes a Nietzsche superman, beyond good and evil.  In contrast to Dr. Manhattan, who is a Superman type superman and then some.  Dr. Manhattan could easily take out Superman!  Dr. Manhattan is also four dimensional and shifts in and out of the present into the future and past and actually little gains the insight that past, present and future do not actually exist and therefore free will does not exist.

 

Ozymandias is a Batman type superhero who decides to create a fake alien invader that kills millions in New York City in order to unite the world against a larger enemy. Ozymandia succeeds and thus averts WW III.  The bad guy has succeeded!  This doesn’t happen very much in comic books but is he really a bad guy.  Ozymandias has lied to his fellow heroes, killed millions, and even killed his own servants but he did this to save the world and if fact did save the world.  Do the ends justify the means?

 

Another aspect of the Watchmen that is different from other works by Moore is his extreme use of symbolism.  The watch as symbol is used throughout the book.  The watch does not just represent time and the inexorable flow of events as most readers can easily figure out.  The watch also acts a secondary symbol that I think very few readers figure out.  The watch is symbolic of the most important question in human existence.  Is there a watchmaker?  Or more broadly does “existence precede essence” Is there an underlying karma, purpose, a plan to the universe?

 

Are the watchmen just watchmen as in the quote by Juvenal “Who will watch the watchmen” or are the watchmen also agents of the watch maker?  If the watchmaker is God as Newton stated then are not the Watchmen agents of God?  The Watchmen is an incredibly ambitious work that asks all the big questions yet provides an entertaining story.  The Watchmen to some extent was an inspiration for my novel Half Square (https://foxhugh.wordpress.com/half-square-chapter-1-agent-wanted/) in that I wanted to explore the big questions but do so in an entertaining manner.  Unlike my novel which is unpublished and largely unread, the Watchmen were a huge commercial success and have been reprinted in graphic novel form continuously.  The Watchmen is the greatest comic book ever written period!  The Watchmaker is the only comic book to win a Hugo Award ever and rightly so.  I would rank the Watchmen number one of the five reboots analyzed in this series.

 

So there you have it readers:

 

1) Watchmen

2) League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

3) Miracleman

4) Albion

5) Terra Obscura

 

Do you agree?  Comments are more than welcome.

 

My other website at:

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WereVerse Universe Baby!

 

Alan Moore’s Superhero Universe Reboots 4: Terra Obscura universe

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terra_Obscura

 

The main superheroes of the Terra Obscura universe include Adam the Ape, American the Crusader, Captain Future, Doc Strange, Fighting Spirit, Fighting Yank (I), the Ghost, Grim Reap, Lance Lewis, Space Detective, the Liberator, Magnet, Miss Masque, Mystico and Princess Pantha.  All the characters are based on characters that Nedor Comics published in the 1940s.  Moore seems to be taking a break from his more serious works here and just wants to have some fun.  The Terra Obscura gang is comic book camp at its best/worst.  I get it.  I wonder how many younger readers do.  You have outrageous characters like Adam the Ape side by side with the Space Detective.  Moore criticizes such juxtapositions in his twilight piece (https://foxhugh.wordpress.com/twilight-of-the-superheroes-by-alan-moore/).  In particular, Moore mentions the absurdity of putting Sgt. Rock side by side with the Legion of Superheroes.  Moore makes the material a little darker in that the Terror has been killed by an evil nearly omnipotent machine and death of major heroes really only becomes acceptable in the eighties with the death of Marvel’s Phoenix and after that becomes almost common place due to market response.  The death of Superman series is the ultimate example of how market forces drive comic books rather than aesthetic logic.  The fact that Superman was not actually dead didn’t stop DC from making millions from a line that was moribund even if the character was not.  All in all characterization is not up to Moore’s usual standards. 

 

Doc “Tom” Strange is a doppelganger of Tom Strong from another Earth billions of miles away.   Doc Strong points out that the adventures of the heroes on Terra Obscura are described in comic books on his Earth.  Tom Strong shows Doc Strange a comic book with a cover of the actual source material.  There is not only a comic book within a comic book but a comic book that points directly to the source material.  Tom Strong is more of a pulp fiction hero and very similar to Doc Savage.  Doc Strange is more similar to Superman.  The two superheroes look alike and the superman version meets the pulp fiction version of itself. 

 

The absurdity of heroes of vastly different power levels interacting in a more or less equal manner is taken to new heights.  Tom Strong once fought and defeated Doc Strange using atomic gloves!  The atomic gloves are basically supped up brass knuckles.  Doc Strange has literally crossed billions of miles of interstellar distance over a period of decades without food, water or sleep and therefore can withstand the extreme rigors of space but can be knocked out by atomic gloves by a character that maybe has the strength of ten men!  I think Moore is poking fun at the convention that any superhero stands some chance in a battle with any other superhero regardless of power levels.  Daredevil fighting the Submariner and later the Hulk comes to mind. 

 

The WizKids superhero game tries to incorporate this crazy comic book logic into their minis game.  I pitted the Hulk against Batman.  Batman was able to knock out the Hulk with a batarang!  Our group consisted of hard core D&D mini enthusiasts were such happenings are impossible and we never played the game again but later I thought about what happened and realized this is the way a comic book universe operates rather than a D&D universe.

 

I give this reboot a rank of five of the five reboots looked at.  This means Terra Obscura is at the bottom of the pack but Moore’s worst comic book generally surpasses 99% of the comic book material out there and I would definitely recommend this series to a fellow comic book reader especially one the revels in the kitsch factor of comic books.

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Alan Moore’s Superhero Universe Reboots 3: Miracleman Universe

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracleman

 

The main superheroes of the Miracleman universe include Kid Marvelman, Miracleman, Miraclewoman and Young Miracleman.  The Miracleman universe is the third reboot alphabetically but Moore’s first reboot chronologically.  Moore did this reboot before the Watchmen that led to his ascendance as the premiere comic book writer of all time.  In the sixties in Great Britain there was a superhero called Marvelman.  Marvel comics book sued the English publishers and this lead to the demise of Marvelman.  Marvelman never made it to the US.  Years later, Moore decided to reboot Marvelman but due to the same copyright issues could not use the name Marvelman and changed the name to Miracleman. 

 

A mad scientist working for the British government has figured out alien technology thousands of years ahead of ours and has created Miracleman, Miraclewoman and Young Miracleman.  Their powers are more or less than same as Superman’s but they are in world much more like ours than Superman’s so their relative power is much higher.  The beings are kept in a state of stasis and they are programmed with adventures which are the same as the adventures of the original Marvelman series.  This is the first use of the comic book within a comic book that will become Moore’s trademark signature in all other reboots except in the case of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

 

Miracleman ultimately does all the things that Superman will not even though he could.  Miracleman creates paradise on Earth and guides humanity towards the next level of evolution as part of an interstellar community.  The Miracleman family takes over the Earth in order to bring order at the “molecular” level and the does just that.  The Miracleman family exists as a pantheon of gods sitting above humanity.  This theme of super beings dealing with the fundamental issues of human existence such as worldwide pollution, bad governance and unequal distribution of resources and opportunity will later be explored in two other comic book series including DC’s Squadron Supreme and the Authority.  The absurdity of Superman using his vast powers to stop bank robbers and dealing with the symptoms of human suffering rather than the causes of human material suffering if not existential suffering was identified by no less an literary giant than Umberto Ecco in his essay about Superman.

 

Miracleman is not only a more “realistic” version of Superman but a much darker version.  If a mere mortal messes with Miracleman then this mortal can expect instant death.  Gods do not suffer disrespectful mortals.  Superior characterization is shown throughout the series but certain characters stand out.  Miraclewoman is very different than Miracleman in attitude.  She is much more positive about her condition and revels in her super powers.  This is in contrast to Super Girl who is a clone of Superman who happens to have breasts in most treatments of her.  Miraclewoman is smarter than Miracleman.  When faced with the leader of the aliens from which their powers are derived she suggests a radical diplomatic solution.  Earth will be a neutral ground where the two great powers that govern the galaxy can meet.  When Miracleman is rude to Margaret Thatcher, Miraclewoman intervenes and takes some of the sting out of their coup de tat.  Miracleman is a brooding character that has transcended material suffering but not existential suffering.  Miraclewoman is a cheerful happy person as well as she should be given her position as the queen of the gods.

 

Dr. Gargunza is probably the most fleshed out mad scientist in the history of comics.  Dr. Gargunza is given credit for being a genius who as one of the aliens points out was like a gorilla that got a hold of a camera and made technological discoveries using that camera.  Miracleman has to admit that Dr. Gargunza is his father and chooses to kill him with a kiss.  The kiss is given while in orbit around the Earth where there is no air so the kiss is fatal and the subsequent meteor like fall is most certainly fatal.  Miracleman must kill Dr. Gargunza because his intelligence and mastery of the alien technology makes him too dangerous but Miracleman does so with regret.  And don’t gods always have to kill their fathers to ascend to the top of the pantheon?  Zeus must kill Chronus to fulfill his potential as a god. 

 

Dr. Gargunza comes from the most humble beginnings in Mexico and after making a sufficient amount of pocket money, from gang activities, moves to Europe and starts a new and seeks out the likes of Heidegger and leaves the red dust of Mexico behind him forever.  Dr. Gargunza realizes from his conversation with Heidegger that the ultimate problem of human existence is death and the solution is for him to create a baby with the alien technology that is super powered and immortal.  Dr. Gargunza is not driven by some desire to take over the world but a desire to survive.  Dr. Gargunza is a student of animals and hunts cheetahs for fun and would argue the will to survive transcends all other morality and the ends do justify the means.  Issue 15 of the series shows a Kid Miracleman rampaging through London and is generally considered some of the darkest work in comic books period.  I own every issue of the Moore version of Miracleman except this one and have heard the issue is extremely gory.

 

I give this reboot a rank of three out of the five reboots.

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Alan Moore’s Superhero Universe Reboots 2: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_League_of_Extraordinary_Gentlemen

 

The main “superheroes” of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen include Allan Quatermain, Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll/Edward Hyde, Hawley Griffin and Mina Murray.  I put quotes around the word superheroes since the question must be asked if the aforementioned characters are actually superheroes.  Allan Quartermain, Captain Nemo, and Mina Murray do not have super powers but this does not mean they are not super heroes.  Batman doesn’t have super powers and an archetypical superhero.  Allan Quartermain and Captain Nemo are the literary grandfathers to Batman.  Allan Quartermain and Captain Nemo are men of adventure that belong to the world of pulp fiction that preceded comic books.  Can pulp fiction heroes be superheroes?  Both types of fiction are similar. The main difference would be that comic books went a step farther and emphasized more incredible and futuristic elements due to the ability of comic books, as a visual medium, to awe young readers with incredible pictures.

 

By putting all these fantastic characters in a more fantastic world than they originally existed in, Alan Moore has clearly made the pulp and/or sci-fi heroes into super heroes.  Alan Moore has done the opposite of the dictum of H.G. Wells, the original creator of the Invisible Man. The Invisible Man is a member of the league.  H.G. Wells stated that you could write about Martians or invisible men but not invisible Martians.  Comic books go in the opposite direction and if Martians are interesting then an invisible Martian like DC’s Martian Manhunter is even more interesting.  Superheroes are the baroque version of science fiction and that’s one of the reasons I love my comic books!

 

There is no comic book within a comic book since these heroes were from books not comic books.  On the other hand, Alan Moore has created a universe were all fictional literary characters imaginable coexist in a single universe.  Every character in the series is from a literary piece and half the fun of reading the comic book is figuring out what work of fiction the character is from.  There is also an atlas of this world in textual form that is incredibly intricate and takes universe building to another level!  I suspect compiling the atlas probably took Moore more time to write than writing all the other reboots together.

 

There is also not a superior level of characterization in Moore’s material compared to the source material since the original material were great works of literature rather than obscure comic book universes.  Moore does take the original source material into a darker realm as he does in other reboots.  Mr. Hyde beats the Invisible Man and then sexually assaults the Invisible Man, finally killing him!  The Invisible Man had betrayed Earth to the Martians and, worse in the eyes of Hyde, hurt Mina Murray.  Hyde also eats a Martian in front of the other Martians for fun and the purposes of psychological warfare.  For some reason this version of events was never shown in the movie of the same name. 

 

I do want to mention that the movie and the comic book are very different both in plot and tone.  The movie is very typical, feel good, sell popcorn, movie fare.  The comic book is dense with literary references and much darker than the movie.  The characters in the comic book are much more fleshed out and less heroic and more human than the same characters in the movie. 

 

Mina Murray is a person weak physically but strong of will and mind who wins the affection of Mr. Hyde, the love of Quartermain and the respect of Nemo in a way that is believable.  This character was written out of the movie altogether!  The only comic book character that is even vaguely similar to Mina Murray is Spiderman’s aunt May, another character whose will allows her to surpass her physical frailty.  Quartermain, in contrast to the portrayal by Sean Connery in the moview, is portrayed as an old broken man that has been in the deepest slums of India smoking opium and is only saved by the strong will of Mina Murray.

 

The “do the ends justify the ends” question is explored again by Moore.  Germ warfare is used to destroy the invading H.G. Wells style Martians.  Moore rightly assumes that characters of the Victorian age would find such behavior shocking and immoral.  This is before WWI and WW II desensitized us as a species to such behavior, unfortunately.  Because of the strong characterization and incredible universe building, I would rank this reboot number two of the five reboots this series will examine.

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Alan Moore’s Superhero Universe Reboots 1: The Albion Universe

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albion_(comics)

 

The main superheroes of the Albion universe include Bad Penny, Brian’s Brain, Captain Hurricane, Charlie Peace, the Cloak, Cursitor Doom, the House of Dolmann, the Dwarf , Eagle-Eye, Faceache, Grimly Feendish, Janus Stark, Jason Hyde, Kelly’s Eye, Martha’s Monster Make-Up, Mytek the Mighty, Queen of the Seas, Robot Archie, Rubberman, the Spider, Tri-Man and Zip Nolan.  Alan Moore’s daughter is credited with being one of the creators of the Albion Universe and I am sure this is the case but the hand of the master is clearly in evidence.  The Albion universe highlights the ability of Alan Moore to take the most sketchy superhero source material and raise the quality of this material to another level.  Chronologically this is Moore’s latest reboot and is only dealt with first because these posts are organized alphabetically.  Moore took a group of superheroes published by Fleetway press in the 1960’s in Great Britain and gave them new life.  These comic books were never distributed in the US so they would be totally unfamiliar to US audiences and even readers in England. 

 

I remember talking to a British friend of mine about the series after buying and reading the graphic novel that collected the series.  My friend is a fellow comic book fanatic and he had no idea what I was talking about despite my descriptions of the various characters.  After he borrowed the graphic novel from me he said “Yeah, yeah. I read some of these characters back when I was a kid but totally forgot about them”.  I have spent time in London and spent a lot of my time in comic book shops, to the chagrin of my wife at the time, ex-wife now, perhaps there is a relation between the two events, and of course was more interested in stuff from England than stuff from the US.  To my chagrin, the people working in the comic book stores pointed me to Judge Dredd stuff that is easily available in the US in the form of graphic novel reprints.  I didn’t run into any Fleetway stuff back then and I am a fairly obsessive person when it comes to finding weird comic books.

 

I was vaguely aware of the Fleetway stuff since as a kid in Venezuela in the 1960s I was friends with a kid from England and read some of that stuff in his house.  The publication quality was far below US standards.  A lot of the strips were black and white!  They were in a tabloid format.  The covers were on regular paper rather than slick!  Still, like Moore I have always had an interest in obscure super hero universes, the more obscure the better, even as a youth and did read his collection avidly.

 

Some of the original material from the 1960s is also included in the graphic novel and this helped me dredge up memories of those comic books.  As I have stated in the introduction, comic books of that time period were much more innocent and light hearted than comic books today.  I have started collected Marvel Essentials and DC Showcase editions which reprint a lot of stuff I read as a kind in the sixties, and going down memory lane is fun, but I am often amazed I could be entertained by such simplistic and juvenile material but then have to remind myself that I was a juvenile back then!  Even by US sixties standards the Fleetway stuff is even more light hearted and many of the strips would have to classified as comedy rather than drama. 

 

In particular, Captain Hurricane has undergone a radical reboot!  The original sixties Captain Hurricane was more like a Popeye character than a super hero.  In Moore’s reboot, Captain Hurricane has been turned into a dark British version of the Captain America’s super soldier story.  Captain Hurricane is the only successful subject of an experimental procedure that killed over 300 other subjects.  Furthermore, the process turned Captain Hurricane into a homicidal maniac who during rages is capable of killing whole platoon of Nazis with his bare hands in the most brutal manner imaginable.  Alan Moore does some other interesting things with the other characters.

 

Rubberman is a major character in the Albion universe and as far as I can tell he was an obscure character in an obscure superhero universe and I think his importance in the Moore reboot is indicative of a feeling on Moore’s part that super stretching is an important super power that is generally underestimated except by the greats.  The Elongated Man and Plastic Man are prominent in Frank Miller’s, The Dark Knight Strikes Again.  Frank Miller is the second greatest comic book writer ever, after Moore, but a distant second in my opinion.  Batman states that Plastic Man has the power to kill us all i.e. Batman and Elongated Man together.  Batman is a first tier super hero and a master of assessing combat abilities so this comment is very interesting.  Batman is talking for Miller and stating this type of power can be very dangerous.  Most writers have not taken super stretching very seriously and have exploited this power for comic effect rather than thinking this power gives great durability, a means of escape from any prison and the ability to inflict great harm.  Plastic Man has generally been treated as a funny character and not as a dangerous character.  Elastic Lad, Jimmy Olsen’s super hero persona, generally had funny adventures.  Elongated Man engaged in amateur sleuthing and fought common criminals rather than super villains except when teamed up with the Flash.  Superheroes with super stretching as a power generally don’t get much respect.  The big exception is Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four who is a heavy weight.  I agree with Moore that super stretching is probably the second most underestimated super power. 

 

The most underestimate super power is super speed.  A common “what if fight” is between the Hulk and Superman.  If Superman can dodge bullets then he can certainly dodge blows from the Hulk or from anyone without super speed yet he never does this when fighting opponents with super strength but without super speed.  Superman should be able to dodge every blow by the Hulk and deliver every blow he aims at the Hulk but I guess this would not be a very fun comic book battle.

 

Part of the story involves the main character trying to track down old comics that are hard to find.  We later learn that the comic books actually portray real events!  In a twist one of the funnier and more juvenile comic books portrays, perhaps the most dark and evil character in this universe.  This is a consistent characterization thread.  There is the character as portrayed in the comic books and the actual character.  There is also a Machiavellian angle.  The British government employed the Spider to round up or destroy all the super powered heroes and villains and this same government then betrayed the Spider.  The surviving heroes and villains are put in common gulag rather than separated since as far as the government is concerned they are all guilty of the same sin of creating disorder.  Moore is a student of power politics and this is reflected in many of his works. 

 

V is for Vendetta, possibly his best work after the Watchmen, explores the relationship between fascism and anarchy and is one of the most, if not the most, political mainstream comic books ever published.  Is fascism justified to prevent anarchy?  Do ends justify the means?  The Albion series in contrast to some of Moore’s other works does not pose any deeper question but therefore cannot be put in the same league as the Watchmen and V is for Vendetta.

 

On the other hand, Moore’s level of characterization has never been better.  Subtle differences between British and American thinking about the role of authority are explored using the conversations between the director of the gulag and a CIA agent sent from homeland security to evaluate the gulag’s security.  The heroes and villains are old men who have spent decades behind bars and this has affected their thinking and therefore their speech and behavior.  The old men look and act like old men.  Generally in comic books the younger version and the older version of the same character are indistinguishable except for the fact they are drawn differently.  There is also great use of British expressions that clearly make the reader feel they are in England based on the dialogue.  Not the usual “Jolly Good Batman” banter that is so common in comic books.  In Albion different characters of different social classes do speak differently as is the case in England to a greater extent than the US.  Of the five superhero reboots, I would rank the Albion reboot as being first in characterization and a rank of number four of the five universes!

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