A bottle of Rye and Alan Moore.

My once weekly pilgrimage to the comic book store has been absent from my life in recent months. It has been replaced by whatever tid-bits I can find at the discount book stores in NYC. This has not satisfied my thirst for comics and thus I have been using my phone as a reading device. I don’t like it. Although the distribution is more convenient than a trek to your local comic store the reading experience is lacking. It is tantamount to a pan and scan copy of a movie to a film buff. Zooming in and out of panels to read text does a disservice to the artist’s compositional choices. That is not what this post is about though. This post is about Alan Moore and the thoughts I think about him while drinking a bottle of Bullet Rye. I’ve been on an all Moore diet recently. Healthy servings of his Miracle Man run on my iphone with in-between snacks of The Ballad of Halo Jones in a collected edition. If the future of comics belongs on our mobile devices then Miracle Man is absolutely grounded in the past. The book is almost unreadable on a phone. Halo Jones on the other hand is a future odyssey of a young woman finding her way in the world. If Miracle Man is the beginning of Modern Superheroes with their feet of clay then Halo Jones is what Alan Moore imagined the future of the everyman to be.

“Where did she go? Out. What did she do? Everything. ”
Halo Jones is a future biography of a person who doesn’t exist. The story is told in three books. The beginning of each book has a historical narrator, Dr I.J. Brunhauer, telling the story of Halo Jones. He makes it clear to us that Halo didn’t do anything special but was really a witness to amazing things. Its Moore’s point to say that she was like everyone else but she wasn’t content to sit around and do nothing. Moore uses the comic to illustrate that the greatest enemy of the poor is not the rich but the lack of opportunity and the apathy that follows. The 3rd book is perhaps the most devastating criticism of contemporary society. The 3rd book is when Halo, left with no other opportunity enlists in the army.

Ian Gibson

After Halo’s only friend in the universe is killed she leaves the army. When she is finalizing her release the clerk calls it a “leave”. Halo tells here that she is gone for good. The clerk laughs. Halo finds that there is little opportunity for her outside the army so she reluctantly rejoins. Thus the life sentence.
My conjecture on science fiction is that it essentially falls into two categories: dystopian and utopian. Although I didn’t invent this distinction I certainly apply to almost every piece of science fiction I read. Halo Jones is certainly dystopian. The story is told through the perspective of an every-woman, ie Halo. But there are much larger issues in there as well. The main thing is the lack of economic opportunity on earth. All the poor people have to live in a large station in the sky called the loop. And the economic engine that drives the earth economy is stalled by depleted resources. That is the reason for the endless wars. Sound familiar?

I have not yet finished reading Alan Moore’s MIracle Man or Marvel Man yet. The reading of a comic on a small phone display proves very difficult and not that enjoyable. The book itself is awesome. In addition to the prose style of Alan Moore you have some of the finest artists in comics. There is Alan Davis and John Totleben, Howard Chakin did a cover for the series. The art is top notch. Thats why its so frustrating to read it on a phone.

This is a page that John Totleben drew on a horizontal format. It looks completely ridiculous cropped to fit on a phone screen.
The story essentially centers around a man who was experimented on by his government. He was given superpowers by a mad scientist so that the scientist could achieve immortality. In order to explain this to the experiments (ie the miracle family) the scientist made them dream they were Super Heroes. They had a whole series of silver age adventures that were essentially a dream. Much the same way that DC’s heroes erased all of their silver age continuity in order to move into the bronze and modern age of comics. Alan Moore is much to clever for this commentary not to be directed at American Comics.
Its because of things like this that I believe Miracle Man might be the first of the modern era of comics. Although I don’t know why we don’t call it the post-moderen era of comics. Its much more about comics that are self-aware of their place in the history of comics. A hero that has to deal with a false history or continuity is perfect post-modern foil to the multiple re-workings of any comic hero’s origin.

Reading these books side by side makes me realize that they are both borrowing something from comics history. Miracle Man is borrowing not only the basic premise of the Captain Marvel Family but also the entire thematic premise of the silver age of comics. Moore quickly springboards out of that for a much more modern tale but the premise of the story would be a superhero who wakes up from a dream of the silver age of comics. Halo Jones is borrowing stylistically from a time when comics were told in strip form. Short little burst told week to week in local papers or as back-ups in comic books. The story reads much like a local strip in your newspaper would. You check in week to week to see how our heroine is fairing. The story certainly had a much broader scope than a newspaper strip but then again thats the Alan Moore flare.
The whole point of this pondering is that I needed to evaluate a new model for making comics. I consider Moore to be a huge influence on me. He is to many who work in comics. But its the question of format that really motivates me. Distribution is the second biggest hurdle for anyone working in this field at the scale that I am. The first being, finding the time to make comics after you are done with your day job. In the coming weeks you are going to be seeing some new projects coming from me. They will be short and some of them will be serialized. They will exist mainly on this webpage, which will need to be redesigned a bit. If they reach a point where I think it appropriate we will take them to print. Thats just the way we have to make comics now. I think a lot of talented people realized this before me and I think a lot talented people will realize it after me. This is the new comics. So I would say that The Ballad of Halo Jones informed this change of format and Miracle Man the fat overweight man who dreamt he was a super hero led me away Steve Penti and Captain Moral Authority.

Share on Facebook

Cartoonist and writer living in NYC.

Leave a Reply