Monday, June 16, 2003

It's amusing that for the past two weeks there have been no new pirated DVDs, not because our PNP or VRB or whoever it is whose job it is have been effective at raiding, rounding up, and putting a stop to them, but because Malaysia's been cracking down on its pirates, and that's where we apparently get all our swag from.


I've been on a little Alan Moore trip lately. Which doesn't happen too often, because being a big fan (he IS my favorite writer, after all) I tend to get his works as soon as they come out, unless I'm particularly cash-strapped, or opt to wait for the inevitable collection. It just so happens, though, that this summer a number of his works are coming out: some new, but most are older works being re-published, or collected for the first time. For example, since Stardust I've slowly been working through Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman, which is actually a tribute book. A large number of people in the comics industry contributed articles, anecdotes, reminiscences, artwork, short stories, etc. about the man and his works, all told adding up to 352 pages. All proceeds go to Alzheimer's charities, and the book is a gift to Moore on the occasion of his turning 50 (this November). The book also boasts a new interview, a rare short story he wrote for Dame Darcy to illustrate in her own book Meatcake, and a lengthy correspondence with Cerebus creator Dave Sim that originally appeared in the back pages of 4 issues of Cerebus, and largely concerned itself with From Hell, Moore's grandest opus thus far. A little frustrating is the fact that I own some of these rarities: the Cerebus issues and Meatcake short story I special-ordered from a friend of mine. Ah, well, I should be glad that more people get to read it now. The pieces that have touched me most in the book are the ones that don't discuss Moore's works, or his status as a magus, but just how he is as a human being.

Because the man seems to be a saint. I'm sure he's got his negative qualities, as do we all, but for a writer of his stature and popularity, it's surprising how down-to-earth he is, how amiable and kind and friendly and… well, just nice. Joel Meadows, a journalist, talks about how Moore was nice enough to pick him up at the train station, and fed him at his favorite Italian restaurant (where he apparently takes all press), and even escorted him back to the train station when it was time to leave. One cartoonist discusses how he met Moore, his idol, at a convention, and was floored when Moore recognized his name. It seems that Moore knew his name from the few fanzines that the cartoonist had work published in. Which you don't expect the most famous comic writer of this age to keep abreast of. Not only that, a few weeks later an editor called up the cartoonist for some work, and when he asked who recommended him, the editor informed him that it was Moore. So Moore actually gave him his start in professional comics, even though he hardly knew the man. My favorite story is probably John Higgins's, though. Higgins is probably best known for being the colorist of Watchmen and Batman: The Killing Joke. Higgins relates how, even though he knew he was "just" the colorist and wouldn't be recognized on the same level as Moore and Watchmen illustrator Dave Gibbons, they nonetheless treated him as an equal during meetings to discuss the book: they valued his input, listened to his suggestions, etc. A complete absence of ego and pretension. But he relates this personal story as well: what he will never forget, he says, is the image of Moore, at the height of his fame, attending a mid-80s San Diego Comic Convention, the biggest of its kind in North America. He was wearing a white pin-striped suit, was an imposing figure (being well over 6 feet tall), and was the star attraction of the Con, but was most concerned and preoccupied with keeping a 6-year-old girl from being bored. He was trying to regale her with stories and other things she might find in comic books. What made it personal for Higgins was that the 6-year-old was his daughter.

Another Suburban Romance also came out last week, and it's an adaptation of some of his songs into comics stories. For completists only, really. The wordplay alone is worth it for those hardcore fans, though, among whom I certainly number.

Writing For Comics came out the same time, and it collects a 4-part essay he'd written in the mid-80s, with a new essay appraising the work after a 15-year span. I read it tonight and the new essay is particularly inspiring. It really gave me a lot to think about, and really asks the important questions anyone in any creative field should think about. He writes about the dangers of stagnation and complacency in your work, actually rails against the establishment of a recognizable style because they become traps. Fascinating.

And just last night I got my hands on the 5th collection of his Swamp Thing run, Earth to Earth, which had moments where I had to put the book down and silently enjoy what I'd just read because I wanted to stand up and cheer. It reminded me of when I first read V For Vendetta. I wait with bated breath for the 6th, and last, collection, but it's due at the end of July yet.

So I'm going through the motions of falling in love with my favorite writer all over again, which I think should happen every now and then. It's healthy. It makes you happy to be alive, if only to read such great works.

Still to come this summer are a new, American edition of his one and only novel, Voice of the Fire; a re-imagining of one of his seminal indie 80s works, The Mirror of Love; the second collection of his Supreme run; a collection of his various DC stories; another book celebrating his career, boasting a new interview and some other rare short works; and the coup de gras: a handsome new edition of the original League of Extraordinary Gentlemen mini-series, just in time for the sure-to-disappoint summer blockbuster.

Oh, and Stardust was wonderful. Not as epic as I expected it to be, but that's not a complaint, just an observation. Brought a tear to my eye at the end. Probably my favorite of his prose works post-Sandman so far. Or have I mentioned this before? I'm starting to forget things...

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