9.6.09

Alan Moore

I do not have the brain cells to deliver an adequate discussion on the works of Alan Moore. The man needs to be read to be believed. His work is huge, and encompasses all of us. I try and grapple with Watchmen over here, but I've already been told off about the interpretation I've come up with by comics maniacs on the internet who know better than me. They really do, hard to believe I know...

Instead, I shall recount the sordid and sorry tale of how I met Alan Moore once for five seconds. A couple of years ago, Moore's 16-years-in-the-making pornographic epic, Lost Girls, was finally published in full in the UK. The work had been locked in several controversies which had delayed its release. It depicts underage sex and incest with intent to arouse. It also uses characters from well known and well loved children's stories, and the estate of J.M. Barrie objected to the way Wendy (of Peter Pan fame) was being treated.

Incredibly, opposition was overcome, and Top Shelf published a three-volume hardback in a elegant-looking box set. I was exited. I had used illegal means to sample the first 10 or so issues, and I thought the work was beautiful. I had a strong feeling that this may well be Alan Moore's magnum opus of magnum opuses (there have been many). I also found out that Moore was doing a signing in the Gosh comics store, spitting distance from the British Museum. I had to go.

And so I went. But walking into Gosh comics on the appointed day, my heart sank. The Lost Girls collection would set you back £75! Even I would find it difficult to spend that amount of money on porn. Dejected, I stumbled out and found myself gravitating towards Forbidden Planet, a comics store 5 minutes walk away, in the hope of picking out something cheap and cheerful to sooth my rage and disappointment on the bus home.

Entering the basement of Forbidden Planet, London's comics mecca, I was confronted once more with the hateful Lost Girls collection. But wait. This one had a sticker on it. A sticker with the word 'SALE' printed in big beautiful letters. Forbidden Planet had knocked a third of the price off. It was a sign. £50 for porn wasn't that bad, all things considered (desperation will make you believe anything). I clawed a copy to my chest, ran upstairs and with a wince, keyed my PIN on the PIN machine. The horrible business over with, I scurried out of the shop removing all trace of Forbidden Planet from my purchase. With the falsification complete, I sneaked into the queue snaking out the back of Gosh comics. The first hurdle was overcome.

The second hurdle was the wait. You may not know this, but Alan Moore is a popular guy. With all the fiddling I had to do, I had lost the precious advantage of arriving early. The queue was long, and getting longer every minute. Now, there was no guarantee that I would reach Moore within the 3 hours of book-signing time alloted. I could walk away and not risk loosing a whole age of my life standing around in the cold. Did I mention it was cold? And I was wearing Converse-knockoff trainers bought in Bulgaria for £1, which felt like they were made of air. My feet were freezing.

But no. I was here wasn't I? I wasn't going to forgo this opportunity to meet one of my heroes, no matter how remote that seemed. I knuckled down to it, wrapping my iPod cans around my ears, and threw on the backlog of In Our Time podcasts I had studiously downloaded but never listened to.

It was a long wait.

Looking around me at the other members of the queue, I started to feel out of place. The average age was somewhere in the mid-thirties. Everyone looked self-assured and jovial. Most were in small chattering groups. I was on my own, still (barely) a teenager, with all the awkwardness and uncertainty that entailed. And I was meeting a genius. How did these other people handle this prospect so easily?

One of the guys in front of me joked about asking Moore to sign a DVD of V for Vendetta. Moore had come out vociferously against the adaptation, which neutered the anarchist slant of his original graphic novel. I was awed at the audaciousness of the suggestion. If this surprises you, pick up your copy of Watchmen. If you don't have a copy of Watchmen, stop reading this and go buy one. Look at the back-cover photograph of Moore. The giant mass of frizzy long hair. The Gandalf beard. The furtive, suspicious look at the camera. The man looks deranged. He looks like he types out the scrips of his comics with inch-long fingernails from a hospital bed. Whoever said that genius and madness often lie side-by-side (Jack Sparrow?) appeared vindicated by that photograph. Meeting him would be a daunting experience.

I realised that I hadn't given any thought to what I might say to Moore when my turn came up. What do you say? I didn't need him to clarify anything about his work. I had no personal insights that I could give, and even if I had, it would have been presumptuous for me to do so. Asking his opinion on other creators I admired seemed petty. There was nothing I could say. Apart from thank you. Please sign my book. I think it'll be great.

Incredibly, just as the third hour drew to a close I finally entered the shop, a giant queue still shuffling on behind me. Conscious of the many people still waiting, I didn't want to hog Moore any more than I had to. And I was tired as well. I wanted the signing over and done with.

Coming down to the the stairs to the shop basement, I could finally see the signing table, although Moore himself was obscured by a large crush of people. But I could finally hear his voice, talking to one of the shopboy lackeys circling around for his entertainment. Moore was good-humouredly expounding on fellow comics legend Frank Miller, who had recently released his graphic novel 300, which Moore had branded racist and homophobic. Miller, he chuckled, with a shade of anger in his voice, had told him about how people in Afghanistan mutilated their women, and so deserved to die under American gunfire. Isn't that astonishing?

And there's the striking thing. Alan Moore, comics genius, political radical, one of the finest minds of his and all generations, was also a person who could laugh along with everyone else. He was a regular guy, one you could imagine in a pub with other regular people. Instead of the inaccessible weirdo I had expected, I found someone generous with his time, and who seemed to genuinely like talking to others.

I was up. I handed my copy of Lost Girls, and asked for the autograph to be made out to Ilia. He, being a genius, spelt my name correctly without asking. I thanked him and left. The whole thing was over in under a minute. And it was totally worth it.

Yes, my hero was a real person. Doesn't mean I could suddenly be able to speak to him. Teenager, remember? But even now, I wonder what I could possibly ever say if I had the opportunity to meet another hero of mine, Joss Whedon. Well, apart from "excuse me, may I lick your shoes?". I would choke up. So weird how someone's art can affect you on a life-changing level, and yet you are unable to speak to them face-to-face. Hopefully that self-confidence will come with age, perhaps when I have achieved something on my own.

1 comment:

  1. Nice!
    i really like this post
    thanks

    ReplyDelete