Posts Tagged ‘Alan Moore’
A new decade has begun, and with it, High Five! Comics will soon be unveiling our special “20 (Or So) Best Comics of the Decade” event (take THAT, Siege). But before we reveal the big list, we’ll start with a series of supplementary entries from HF!C’s contributing writers about those comics we each individually loved, but that didn’t quite have the mojo to make the final ranks.
Today, Jonny talks about some of his personal favorite books from the last decade.
It’s been said that Wonder Woman is the least relevant character in the DCU. Comic fans have consistently loved her as a concept, but this love was born from a feeling that she should matter rather than feeling that she did. While she gets credit for being the most significant Golden Age lady-hero and the certainly the longest running, we forget that her stories have rarely been interesting and have been largely antithetical to feminism. DC wanted her to be important, but they never knew how to make her important. This led to so many decades of reinvention that it eventually became offensive. All of that changed in 2002 when Greg Rucka did a 3 issue mini-series called Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia. The success of this little story landed Rucka 31 issues of in-continuity Amazonian drama that gave us something we’d always wanted. While it may be disappointing that it took 61 years and a dude to find something interesting about the alpha-female of comics, the important thing is that it finally happened. And what a delight that was.
In the 1980s Alan Moore effectively turned the comic industry on its head with a body of work so glorious and enthralling that he could have retired in 1987 and remained the guru-god of comics the rest of his life. We never forgot that (and neither did he) but the fact is he kept writing. And in a decade fraught with Moore-shite like Promethea and Lost Girls it’s refreshing to know that Alan was still capable of churning out great stories that proved to be radically different than his previous dark works like Watchmen or Marvel Man. Dystopia be damned! Tom Strong showed that the Father of the Dark Age was able to stay relevant 20 years later and still write stories better than most of his contemporaries in the naughties.
Ok, so the title sucks. You know what other title sucks? “The Beatles”. Ok, so it’s steam punk. Well, Wolverine wears yellow spandex. Now that we agree a title and theme don’t always discredit art let’s talk about what Warren Ellis has done with his crew of 12 twenty-somethings and the world they destroyed. FreakAngels made my list for three reasons. First: it’s damned good. FreakAngels has a large cast of cantankerous, bickering characters, it has a great setting, and a story that really does make you beg for more. Second: this has got to be the best story you can get for absolutely FREE on the internet. Third and most important: FreakAngels has acknowledged modern technology and been among the first of it’s kind to embrace digital media. Way to go Warren.
A comic featuring characters licensed by TV-land was something I never thought I’d get behind. As a rule licensed works are lame, soul-less, and trite. And yet I cannot deny how fun the BOOM! Studios’ line of books is. Most of their licensed catalog is enjoyable, but Muppet Robin Hood takes the cake. Maybe it’s my undying love of the Muppets, or just my admiration for any publisher turning out this many kid’s comics that don’t suck, but I couldn’t resist thiscaper. Kermit Hood, Sweetums Little John, and Fozzy Tuck are here in a work that should have been a movie, and made me giggle just as much as their variety show did when I was a kid.
See Brendan’s favorites that didn’t make the cut here.
I mean, maybe I’ve just been more exposed to British culture than most American kids, thanks to growing up with a British stepfather (Captain Britain was born in Essex, by the way. What UP, parents who read our blog?) but how is Captain Britain not more popular in the States, or even in the UK?
Fun Fact #1: The designation of the main Marvel Universe as “Earth 616?” Yeah. That was thanks to David Thorpe’s early eighties revamp of Captain Britain.
Fun Fact #2: You know who Psylocke is, right? Of course you do! But were you aware that Captain Britain is her brother?
(Ok, the fankids probably knew #2, but High Five!’s more casual readers probably didn’t.)
Besides that fact that Brian Braddock is a whole hell of a lot more important to the Marvel U than modern continuity would have you believe, the David Thorpe/Alan Moore/Jamie Delano + Alan Davis stories in the early eighties were remarkably ahead of their time. In the first issue of the revamp, Braddock and his sidekick, Jackdaw the elf, are sent by Merlin (yes, that Merlin) to an alternate Earth (238, for anyone keeping track.) Britain of Earth 238 is run by the borderline fascist British National Party and the entire populace is ridiculously violent and hateful. Unbeknownst to the largely ignorant citizens, the alien Lady Saturnyne is hiding out, attempting to “evolve” this dimension by exposing the population to an evolutionary elixir. Apparently, Earth 238 is so backward that it’s retarding the evolution of the entire multiverse.
Scuttlebutt is that some of the higher-ups at Marvel had a problem with the “omniverse” storyline in Captain Britain, a concept they deemed a little too DC (which might have something to do with why I like it so much.) But ultimately, both Thorpe & Moore’s storytelling abilities, coupled with Alan Davis’ top-notch art, propel this run to the top of the early eighties comics scrap heap. Many a comics enthusiast can elaborate at length about the renaissance of the medium in the eighties, usually citing Swamp Thing, Animal Man, and Sandman as prime examples of the era’s superhero revamps. But Captain Britain deserves a place on that list, not because the work itself is on par with what Moore, Morrison, and Gaiman later accomplished in what many would call their seminal works, but because Captain Britain’s reinvention and his adventures in the wake of it were an early, pioneering step in the direction that super hero comics would take in the later eighties.
Captain Britain‘s writers were exclusively British themselves – so instead of a national hero written by Americans (which, my god, can you imagine what we might have done to him?), the British comic nerds had a hero who was uniquely, and accurately, British. I mean, this is a guy who can fly, create force fields and generally kick some serious ass – but because his writers themselves were Brits, it was easy to believe that Braddock would stop mid-fight for a cuppa. Which he could get away with because, you know, his villains generally had to take tea breaks too. (In fact, his biggest villain, Mad Jim Jaspers, traveled around in a giant flying tea kettle.) The very idea might seem completely insane to Americans, but to the British (who, by the way, do NOT fuck around when it comes to tea) it is entirely natural. The remarkable use of dialect in the series is also thanks to the British writers, a dropped ‘h’ here, an overemphasized ‘h’ there, dialect in Captain Britain is a pretty good indication of who is good or bad, poor or rich, and thanks to its British creators, it is lettered just so – even a Yank can tell the difference.
Perhaps the bulk of the credit must go to the artist, Alan Davis, who guided the series through several different writers and was listed as “co-creator” even alongside Alan Moore. In any event, it’s a complete mystery to me that this series isn’t a bigger deal than it is. There exist very few collections of Captain Britain. There are a few affordable trades but the best bang for your buck is the Captain Britain Omnibus which will set you back about $60, but is entirely worth it. Not only is Brian Braddock a much bigger deal than you think he is, but Moore’s run on Captain Britain was one of his earliest works. As far as I know, this is the only volume these issues are compiled in.
Brian Braddock’s got a PhD in physics, superpowers, the hottest sister in the Marvel Universe, and if not for him, Earth 616 would’ve been wiped off the map in the mid-eighties. He might be the most underrated underdog ever, not only in-universe, but in his book’s real world contributions to the medium. Trust me on this, read Captain Britain!
Anyone remember Asterix? Yeah, me too! (Hey! I get it! FRENCH CLASS!! See what we did there?) We’ve all got at least one friend who’s a total history nerd, right? Well, welcome to High Five!’s definitive guide to getting your history-buff buddy into comics!
First up, Marvel 1602*, which transplants several familiar Marvel heroes back to the Elizabethan era. I know, I know. The premise sounds stupid, and I thought so too, but I picked it up off a discount rack a while back, and man – I should have had more faith in Neil Gaiman. Sir Nicholas Fury is the master of her majesty’s spy game, and Rohjaz – well, you’ll just have to find out. Also starring Elizabeth I, Virginia Dare, James I, oh and some dinosaurs. Just ignore the dinosaurs, ok? I swear, this book is not as cheesy as you think it is, and putting our modern heroes in a 17th-century setting is a feat only Neil Gaiman could pull off. Read it!
Maus. Oh god, Maus. Art Spiegelman’s riveting graphic novel tells two stories. First, the story of Spiegelman’s own youth in New York City in the 50s, and second, the story of his father, Vladek. Spiegelman’s father was prisoner #175113 at Auschwitz. Maus tells that story, as well as tales of Vladek’s youth in Poland. While largely an autobiographical piece, Maus uses animals as the main characters instead of humans. The Jews are mice, the Germans are cats, the Russians are bears – but this comes off as anything but cutesy. This book won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992, so if nothing else grabs you, maybe the fact that a COMIC won a PULITZER will.
THIS IS SPARTA! Amirite? Dudebros everywhere loved the movie, but history nerds will like 300, especially since bits of it are so inaccurate they’ll be able to nitpick at length. (History nerds LOVE to nitpick, see: SCA. Which I grew up in, so I’m not mocking, I’m just saying.) Anyway, 300 is the comic re-telling of the three day long Battle of Thermopylae, waged between the Spartans and the Persians. Sin City‘s Frank Miller wrote this one so it can be a little…much, at moments. Just don’t say you weren’t warned, ok?
Another movie! And this one starred Johnny Depp, so there’s a good chance the ladies reading caught this flick (even though it had next to nothing in common with the book. sigh). From Hell, by the always brilliant Alan Moore, speculates on the identity and motives of the terrifying Jack the Ripper. The book draws from records of the original case, as well as Moore’s own imagination. Many of Moore’s conclusions have been disproved – multiple times; but that doesn’t detract from the Moore’s ability to tell a truly twisted period tale.
Finally, a suggestion from reader Ben C., Warren Ellis’ Crécy, which details parts of the Battle of Crécy, fought between the British and the French in 1346 during the Hundred Years War. The British were outnumbered something like 3:1, and they basically won the battle by shooting massive clouds of arrows at the French Cavalry, who were, being cavalry, on horses. Legend goes that the British only lost 40 men out of the ten thousand or so fighting. Crécy is something of a point of pride for the Britons. Warren Ellis is British, and he’s imbued Crécy with his particular brand of British snark. Read it!
Now, if someone would just make a comic about 1066, the Battle of Hastings, and the start of Plantagenet dynasty, I’d be a very happy girl. Oh wait they did- it’s called the Bayeaux Tapestry.
*Note: If you trust us and decide to pick up any of these titles, click the links in this post to buy! They’ll take you through to amazon, and we’ll get some miniscule percentage in commission.
First off, High Five!’s top three posts of the week:
- Q & A with Charles P. Wilson III: Artist, The Stuff of Legend High Five! chats with the artist of Th3rd World Studios’ surprise hit.
- Romancing the Geeks: Disney Buys Marvel, Warner Brothers Validates DC – Maggie breaks down the finer points of the comic industry’s latest corporate shake-ups. With jokes!
- Gateway Drugs: The Hyper-Literate – Rob lays the hurt on folks who think they’re toooooo good for books with pit-chers.
Next up, cool stuff we didn’t do:
- Alan Moore Reflects on Marvelman (Miracleman) – Moore speaks on Marvel’s recent purchase of the rights to the character, and the long battle to figure out just who exactly owned the property.
- Elseworlds 2.0: Quicksilver Races in from Earth 3 – What if Quicksilver showed up in Flash #123 instead of Barry? We guffawed. MarvelSmartAss gots jokes.
- Megan Fox Loves the Three Comics She’s Ever Heard Of – I gotta say, brilliant marketing on her part, but comicsalliance rips it apart. She’s still way hotter and richer than me though, so I guess she’s got that going for her. Dangit.
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Rock over London, Rock on Chicago – Wheaties. The Breakfast of Champions.
“Hey, Rob, what are you reading?”
“Oh, I just picked up all the trades for Animal Man. Seems like a pretty good book.”
“Wait… That’s a comic book… Forget it, I’ll be over here jerking off to James Joyce.”
There are so many uppity people who I’ve tried to get to read comics who turn them down because, well, they’re just comic books. So fucking what if comic books don’t dress all dapper and fellate your ego? They are FAR from the mindless entertainment that they are stereotyped to be (blame the Golden Age for that one). Stop being so elitist, jerks. I’ve got suggestions and you’re gonna read ‘em, come hell or high water.
Firstly-first, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman might be a great jumping off point. I mean, check it out. It’s about a guy who granted William Shakespeare the ability to write and frequently visits Hell and Asgard to consult with the deities and demons there. Wait, who are those weird-lookin’ folks? Oh, that’s just Elemental Girl and Martian Manhunter. Yeah, they’re DC superheroes. Ha! I tricked you! You’re a couple hundred pages into the DCU and you didn’t even know it! Oh, that’s rich.
What else we got? Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles isn’t about heroes, it’s about being fucked up, wordy, and making you feel as uncomfortable as humanly possible (something it accomplishes almost immediately). It deconstructs reality and reassembles it in a way that leaves you feeling like you are missing some integral part of yourself. Plus, the Marquis de Sade plays a gigantic role and we all know what he did for literature, right? Double plus (book joke!), you know The Matrix, that movie all the kids had their panties in knots over a decade back? Well, the Wachowski Brothers Siblings stole it right out from the pages of The Invisibles. Take that, elitists!
Then there’s Alan Moore, who snobby types probably already like without knowing it. V for Vendetta explores fascism versus anarchy and all that other esoteric shit pretentious people like. Moore’s ‘V’ character quotes about a million different literary works and spreads anarchy through vaudeville. If you quote V in arguments, you’ll win. The hyper-literate LOOOOVE to argue and win. Probably. Elistist braggarts eat this shit up, right?
And isn’t hyper-literate elitism simply the art of quoting people cleverer than you are? We just hooked you up. Look, there’s nothing wrong with reading books that aren’t comics. I do love me some occasional Sedaris or Foer or whatever. Books what ain’t got none of them pretty pictures don’t make nobody better than nobody else, you know? You might as well do yourself a favor and discover what other stories (and storytellers) are out there. Curb the pompous superiority and read a fuckin’ comic.
Before we get there, I know what complaints I’m gonna get. “Where’s Bruce Wayne? The Spirit? Tony Stark?” Well, not here. Batman and the Spirit are legends in their own right, big enough that I’d consider their legacy to be a power in and of itself. And Tony Stark has weird implants now. TOTALLY COUNTS. Also, he has the power to drink more than ten Winston Churchills.
10. Expert swordfighter, chess-player, and bull-dresser, Seaguy (apparently, also his real name?) wants nothing more that to actually be a superhero. Unfortunately, when you live in some Orwellian acid trip and all you have is a wetsuit and a sidekick like Chubby Da Choona (a floating, cigar-smoking tuna who is afraid of water), this is harder than it seems. Seaguy somehow deals with Xoo (“1/2 an animal on a stick!”), Egyptians on the moon, the Gondolier (aka: Death), and a bizarre parody of Walt Disney and his creations. If you couldn’t tell from that description, this is one of Grant Morrison’s fucking balls-out head trips. He’s written two of three volumes so far and, as weird as the book is, I’m eagerly awaiting the final arc. DA FUG!
9. Frank Castle watched his whole family get murdered by a mob in Central Park. In retaliation, he became the Punisher shot EVERYBODY EVER. Armed to the fucking teeth, this guy took on Bullseye, Spider-Man, and the unfuckwithable Kingpin. And what does he have to show for it? Three movies, all of which Marvel hopes you forget (and none of which where he’s played by Henry Rollins, what gives?). His Archie team up was better than all of his movies. Poor Guy.
8. I’ll let Maggie take this one, here she is: Xander is AWESOME. He is the world’s most adorable weenie, but he’s also the Nick Fury of the Buffyverse. And before I hear a word about Xander’s televised origins, he is in BUFFY SEASON EIGHT. Which is a comic. By Joss Whedon (and friends). The closest Xander ever came to really having powers was being able to remember random military shit from that one time he got turned into a Real Soldier on Halloween. He worked for Dracula. Hell, he was BFF with Count-fucking-Dracula for a minute. Xander can tame vengeance demons, rage-blind witches, and the Slayer herself. He lost his virginity to Faith (hot), and he decapitated the motherfucker who killed his most recent paramour. Do not. Fuck. With Xander.
7. Vic Sage and Renee Montoya are both totally underrated folks. Vic Sage was the Question for-fucking-ever and then Rucka took over. Vic died from lung cancer in Nanda Parbat while talking crazy at Renee Montoya. She ended up taking up the mantle from him and subsequently beat the shit out of the cult of Cain during Final Crisis and is now beating the shit out of inner city thugs while busting up a prostitution ring. Fuck yeah, the Questions. Most underappreciated heroes ever!
6. Between his Twilight of the Superheroes pitch and Rorschach, it seemed like Alan Moore had it out to create the antithesis of the Question. At the start, Rorschach is the only active vigilante left in the Watchmen universe. Keeping in mind that this was written during the Cold War (AND the Reagan administration), Rorschach is intensely right-wing and anti-Communist. Despite being as mentally (and hygienically) fucked up as possible, he manages to do what none of the others would and (SPOILER) die for what he believes.
5. Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson get lumped together. I know, it’s cheating, but it is OK. She is Oracle, he is Robin or Nightwing or Batman or whatever. You already know all about them so whatever. And you know what? Maggie’s right. They need to freaking get it on already. Get on it, Morrison!
4. John Constantine almost seemed like an after thought. He was created by Alan Moore as a sort of guide for Swamp Thing when he was freaking out over his identity. What he ended up being was the DCU’s definitive Fox Mulder-style paranormal detective. Pick an author and it’s more than likely that John Constantine has been featured in one of their stories at some point. One of my favorite things about this character is that he ages in real time. Seriously, how much more human can you get than that?
3. Ollie has a hell of a story. Dude was a Bruce Wayne wannabe who crashes onto an island and learns to make and shoot bows and arrows. He eventually gets off the island, dons a Robin Hood-like costume, and becomes a super-liberal crime fighter. He also becomes mayor of Star City, starred in a weird political series with Green Lantern Hal Jordan (written by Dennis O’Neill), marries Black Canary (arguably one of the most sought after ladies of the DCU), and goes through absolute fucking Hell (both literally in Kevin Smith’s run and figuratively in Mike Grell’s excellent The Longbow Hunters). Here’s just an idea I’d like to throw around, though, DC. Queen in the White House in 2012. You KNOW that’d be awesome.
2. Spider Jerusalem is essentially just Hunter S. Thompson if he’d have lived til the future. As much of a “gonzo journalist” as Hunter was, Spider roams around the City “monstering” with his “filthy assistants,” trying to expose the politicians for the dicks they are. He is not one to sell his soul and certainly not one to just roll over. He is as persistent in accomplishing his goals as some of the capes are and certainly willing to die to achieve them. I’m not usually a fan of Warren Ellis’ stuff (Iron Man: Extremis excluded) but his writing on this character is amazing. I’m eventually going to write an entry about the brilliance of Transmetropolitan once I re-read it (for, like, the fifth time).
1. What? I’m putting a MARVEL character at number one? Damn straight I am… Motherfucking Nick Fury. Dude is pretty much in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D, an organization so powerful that it practically controls the Marvel Universe. Nick Fury has the greatest superpower of all, political power, and is able to pretty much get anything he wants done. Plus, the dude can keep HYDRA at bay, and in the Marvel Universe, that is pretty much the hardest thing EVER. Kudos, Mr. Fury. You win at being the bestest regular human EVER.