Mar 25, 2014

Woodrow Phoenix and... Moore's wonderful wardrobe

Art by Woodrow Phoenix.
From the sold-out Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman book, pp. 174-177

In the following you can read an imaginary tale - The wonderful wardrobe of Alan Moore -   featuring... "stylist" Alan Moore, written and illustrated by acclaimed British artist and writer WOODROW PHOENIX. In my humble opinion, the piece is - without any doubt - one of the gems contained in the tribute book.

Posted on this blog with the author's permission. 

The wonderful wardrobe of Alan Moore
© Woodrow Phoenix

When Alan arrived in Mainstream City, he seemed to be the same as everyone else. He blended right in with all the residents with their hats and overcoats, though you might have noticed the fancier stitching and the rather higher than average quality material of his overcoat if you paid attention to such things.

He soon found himself a place to live and a job, made friends and went to church just like everybody else, but there was something about him that made him stand out. Eventually people figured out what it was. It was the way he dressed. Even though he wore the same things as everyone else, he wore them differently. It was all in the details. Hand finishing. Linings in unusual fabrics. Bias cutting. Seams that were stitched rather than fused or glued.

According to Alan there was nothing especially noteworthy about any of this. He came from a tradition of hard work and attention to detail, he said, and that was all there was to it.
However, while he had begun by branching out, by subtly altering the details of traditional tailoring, he began feel the restrictions of this approach. He decided to go further. He went off in entirely new directions with radical styles and some rather challenging choices of colour and fabric. People noticed. People talked. He became the focus of quite a lot of attention and speculation about what he might make next.

It was remarked upon that he never seemed to wear the same piece of clothing twice. He said it was true: there were so many styles in the world, why confine yourself to the same items over and over?
Not long after that, Alan saw that his discarded clothes earmarked for recycling were vanishing from his rubbish bins only to turn up on the backs of other young men around town. They were obviously not quite as well fitting as when Alan wore them but they looked good enough to gain some attention of their own. Those who knew something about fashion recognised the source. They went to Alan to tell him about it and ask him to make clothes for them and finally he agreed.

He began to build quite a following for his unique tailoring style that took standard detailing and made it into something unexpected and new. There was quite a demand. He won prizes and appeared in magazine articles. Models competed to wear his styles in fashion spreads.

But then of course the knockoffs were thriving too. Alan could never hope to satisfy the hunger for his clothes by himself and it was unthinkable to hire assistants just to keep up with the orders. So the waiting list grew and sometimes people just couldn’t wait any longer. Gradually, a whole industry grew up with no other purpose, it seemed, than to watch what Alan made and then replicate it more cheaply. He didn’t take any of them seriously - they didn’t have the patience or the imagination to copy more than the surface details. But it was tiring, all the same. The feeling of being on a treadmill was stronger every day until he knew he had to do something before his desire to create vanished for good.

Then he announced to all his clients that from now on he would he putting all his resources into something new.  He called it... the potatosack.

It didn’t catch on right away. It was rough and scratchy, provided no pockets for credit cards or cellphones, came in only one colour and one size and was no good in the rain. It certainly didn’t keep the cold out, either. But nobody wanted to be the one who didn’t ‘get it’, so eventually everyone who was anyone was wearing the potatosack.
The fashion magazines wrote about it endlessly. It spread inexorably to the cheaper stores who also sold cutdown versions for children. And just when it looked like there could hardly be anyone left in the entire city who didn’t own a potatosack, Alan was interviewed on TV. He was wearing one of his old suits. Why wasn’t he in a potatosack?

—Because it’s a joke, he said.
—You’re all wearing sacks made for potatoes, he said.
—Look at you. They’re impractical, ugly and itchy. They’re not clothes. They’re rough pieces of burlap. They’re only fit for carrying potatoes. Why would anyone with any sense voluntarily wear one of those ridiculous things when they could be warm and dry and comfortable in actual garments?

Imagine it. Every line to the station’s switchboards was instantly jammed and there were crazy scenes in the studio as the entire audience rose up as one and rushed the stage, knocking lights, cameras, cameramen aside in their frenzy. At some point order was restored and that was when they realised that Alan had vanished. A vengeful crowd searched for him while potato sacks burned in the streets, but his apartment was empty, his bank accounts closed and his office bare.

Six months later, halfway around the world in Technical Town, several people began to notice an unusual kind of software in use at a few terminals around downtown cafés... but that’s another story.

The wonderful wardrobe of Alan Moore  
written and illustrated by Woodrow Phoenix

Mar 24, 2014

The Bojeffries Saga: Alan Moore masterpiece of 2014

Warrior N. 12, the first appearance of  The Bojeffries. Cover art by Steve Parkhouse.
"I’d say that The Bojeffries Saga is undoubtedly the funniest of Moore’s writing, elegantly and comedically matched by the fluid stylings of Steve Parkhouse. But more than that I reckon it’s one of his very best.
Funnier than the hilarious D.R. & Quinch? Definitely. Better than Watchmen? Oh yes. Better than V For Vendetta? Yep. Better than Miracleman? Without question. Better than From Hell? Hmm… depends on my mood, but right up there." [Richard Bruton, Forbidden Planet blog]

The volume has been recently reprinted, with new material included in, by Top Shelf and Knockabout.

Mar 21, 2014

Alan Moore & Steve Moore

Panels from V for Vendetta. Art by David Lloyd.
"Steve Moore sat in the armchair opposite his bed with ballpoint pen and notepad, spiral bound, neat sloping capitals, each line a blue queue leaning forward, barely masking their impatience, as the book-crammed room around him pales unnoticed into dusk there on the top of Shooters Hill.

[...] Pay attention to his spectacles, refracted light turning the puzzled eyes beyond the lenses into abstract clots of pearl and white. Just change the point of view a little, move an inch or so to one side or the other and the optical illusion fails… There’s nobody there, was never anybody there except a fluctuation in the visual purple, a perceptual misunderstanding, trick of moonlight."
[excerpts from Alan Moore's Unearthing]

"[Unearthing is]... more of a human excavation than the excavation of a place, but because Steve Moore has lived his entire life in one house on top of Shooter's Hill and he currently sleeps no more than four paces from the spot where he was born, it does become a work of psychogeography as well." [Alan Moore, excerpt from The Quietus interview]

British writer Steve Moore - a key figure in UK comics scene and Alan Moore's mentor, collaborator and close friend - passed away few days ago

Mar 18, 2014

Karl Meersman and the Magus

Artwork © Karl Meersman.
Above, an amazing portrait of Alan Moore by Belgian artist Karl Meersman.

Source: The Ephemerist.

Mar 13, 2014

Alan Moore and Austin Osman Spare

Austin Osman Spare, Ascension of the Ego from Ecstasy to Ecstasy from The Book of Pleasure, 1913.
Excerpt from the foreword for Austin Osman Spare: The Occult Life of London's Legendary Artist written by Phil Baker, published in 2010 by Strange Attractor. The book has been reprinted by Random House in 2014.

In his relation to both art and occultism, Austin Osman Spare stands out as a strikingly individual and even unique figure in fields that are by their very nature brimming with strikingly individual figures.
While his line and sense of composition have at times drawn justifiable comparisons with Aubrey Beardsley or with Albrecht Dürer, if we seek a match with Spare the visionary or with Spare the man, surely the only candidate is his fellow impoverished South London angel-headed nut-job, William Blake. In both men’s lives we find the same wilful insistence on creating purely personal cosmologies or systems of belief, fluorescent mappings of the blazing inner territory that each of them clearly had access to. We find the same strangely iconic phantoms and grotesques; the same heroic readiness to embrace lives of poverty; the same tales of erotic drawings either burned or spirited away upon the artist’s death; the same sense of unearthly realms of consciousness both actually experienced and lucidly depicted. [Alan Moore]

Mar 9, 2014

Young Alan Moore by Darren Shan

Alan Moore (on the right) and his brother Mike, 1963 or 1964.
Picture from The extraordinary works of Alan Moore.

In the following you can read a fictional tale of young Alan Moore written by well-known Irish writer Darren Shan. The piece - one of my favorite contributions to the book - is full of references to Moore's works and characters. If you can't catch them all, you can read some useful notes here.

Posted on this blog with the author's permission. 

Young Alan Moore  in “Saga of The Vile Thing”

November 18th, 1963. In America, president John F Kennedy is four days away from a decisively deadly date with destiny. In Britain, a young band of mop-tops from Liverpool are about to release their second album (it will hit stores in Britain on the same day that a “rubber bullet” hits president Kennedy) and will soon go on to conquer pop charts across the globe. The world stands on the brink of great social, cultural and technological changes. By the end of the decade everything will have altered, faster than previously imagined possible. It is a time of upheaval and revision. We could throw our gauntlet down in any corner of this brave new world and find individuals of wondrous imagination and courage, heralds of the age of evolution. We could alight in Moscow, New York, Berlin, London. But the metropolises of the world have been exhaustively documented. Let us instead set our sights on a grey, cold town in middle England, and one of its younger, more anarchic inhabitants. The town is Northampton, scene of two apparently unconnected, but preternaturally linked, petty crimes. And our focal spirit is ten year old Alan Moore, perpetrator of the humbly heinous acts. Let us observe …
“Who the hell would steal Santa’s beard?” constable Constantine asked rhetorically.
    “I dunno,” the unfortunately named Curt Vile muttered. “The bleeder hit me over the back of me head while I wasn’t looking. Mugging a poor old guy like me in a Santa suit — he must be the spawn of Satan!”
    Curt was lying across the pavement, redolent in a baggy red costume. He had black boots, the crimson suit, a white fur rimmed hat. All he lacked was the beard to complete the perfect yuletide picture.
    “What you doing in that get-up anyway?” constable Constantine asked. “Christmas is miles off.”
    “Thought I’d get in early on the act this year,” Curt said. “Another couple of weeks and you won’t be able to move for street Santas. Figured I’d beat them to the punch and make a bit of cash before the rush starts.”
    “Begging, eh?” constable Constantine exclaimed, ever quick to pounce on the subtlest of clues. “You’re nicked, mate!”
Curt rubbed his bare chin and grimaced. “So much for the spirit of Christmas!”
Meanwhile, several streets away, Roscoe Moscow (as he was known to the local kids) was carrying out an emergency stock inventory. Roscoe sold and repaired bicycles from a small side-street shop. The shop had been burgled many times since opening day. He’d learnt a long time ago not to leave any money in the till, and to only keep tired old bikes in the shop (the good ones he kept in the spare rooms of his home). Thieves still pestered him, making off with equipment and the battered old bikes, or smashing up the contents of the shop for pure, bitter fun. But this was the strangest break-in yet.
    “I don’t get it,” Roscoe sighed, inventory completed. “Who’d go to all the trouble of breaking in just to take a single can of black spray paint?”
“Yo-ho-Huxley,” Alan Moore grunted, studying his reflection in a broken shard of mirror. He was wearing the long, shaggy Santa Claus beard, sprayed a delicious shade of midnight black. The paint can rested on the waste ground behind him. His fingers were smudged from the paint, but he’d been careful not to get it on his clothes — his mother would have his guts for garters if she found out about this!
    “Not bad,” Alan said, admiring his reflection. Even at that tender age there was something supernaturally piercing in his gaze. His grandmother said he had the eyes of an old man who’d seen much of the world, and worlds beyond. (“Aye,” his Dad had deadpanned. “And I bet the old fart was glad to get rid of ’em.”)
    “That’s decided then,” Alan said, removing the beard and laying it down next to the paint can. “I’ll grow me own as soon as I can.” The beard suited him. He should have been born with one. Thinking about it, he wondered if he had — maybe his grandmother had shaved it off. He smiled at the image of a baby with a beard. He imagined his mother’s reaction: “Ernest! Help! Me fanny’s coming away on the baby’s head!” Maybe he’d write a story about it … But no. He doubted his parents would see the funny side of that. Genitalia were unacceptable in his work at this moment in time. A few months ago he’d written a story about a lizard with both a penis and vagina (he’d called it “A hypersexual lizard”) — when his father stumbled across it, it had been like a replay of the wrath God visited upon Sodom and Gomorrah.
    Alan turned his back on the painted beard (“One day …”) and went exploring the warren of the Northampton back streets. Today was his tenth birthday, a special time in a boy’s life, the start of his ascent towards adulthood. Alan knew he had a lot of growing yet to do, but he had moved beyond the boundaries of basic childhood, and from today there could be no going back. He’d reached double fig-ures — he was into big numbers now.
    He should have been in school, but how could he waste a magical day like this on lessons? If he was to have children, and they were to ask him how he’d celebrated his tenth birthday, how was he to respond? “Oh, I went to school like normal and got caned for knowing more than the teachers.” No. Better to be able to say he’d marked the occasion with a statement of his individuality and freedom of spirit. Some would have called his avoidance of school truancy — but Alan regarded it as valid, liberating, soul-enhancing rebellion.
     Trudging around Northampton, careful not to be seen by anybody who might know him, keeping to the shadows, elusive, hidden. Many children would have felt lonely, bored, scared in his position. But not Alan. With his imagination for company, he was never alone. He sought amusement in it while he walked, the hours passing swiftly, far swifter than they ever did in school.
    He was a super-hero, Batman, fighting the Joker. No, better than that, he was his own super-hero, a character of his own invention. He was Jimmy Muscles … No, something even sturdier … Tommy Strong! Born in the tropics, possessor of incredible strength (not too sure how he came by his powers, but that wasn’t important), married to a beautiful, resourceful woman, guardian of mankind.
    In his head he fought a dozen battles, in the present, the future and the past. All zones were accessible to Tommy Strong. He could follow his enemies to the ends of the earth and through the torrid, twisted, tunnels of time itself.
    But even super heroes have to stop for lunch. Alan made a seat of a wooden crate next to a deserted factory and made quick work of his sandwich and apple. He was thirsty. A bottle of coke would have been perfect, but he lacked the funds, so he settled for some cool clear water from a rain barrel. A bunch of teddy boys passed as he was drinking from his cupped hands. They laughed at him and threatened to dunk him in the barrel. Alan said nothing while they passed – he’d been dunked before, so he didn’t doubt the seriousness of the threat – but once they were out of earshot he cursed them vilely, ending with a thumping snort of “Fashion beasts!”
    As he was leaving, in the opposite direction to the teddy boys, he noticed a watchman inside the factory, standing by one of the windows, bored out of his brain, idly watching the skyline. Alan studied the watchman for a while. The glass of the window was badly stained, and if Alan shifted slightly from foot to foot, the stains appeared to spread across the watchman’s face, altering his appearance. Alan wondered if anyone else was watching the watchman — glancing around at the grey neighbouring buildings, he didn’t think so.
    Eventually the watchman retreated, perhaps to view the town from a different window. Alan moved on, becoming Tommy Strong again. He fought space monsters, Nazis, and giant spiders. He had the idea for a creature half human and half spider — “Cobweb,” he called it. Cobweb was a man to begin with, but then Alan imagined it as a woman, alluring and sensual, destroying and devouring those she loved.
    In his mind, Cobweb proved too much of a threat for Tommy Strong — he was rendered helpless by his love for her. But not to fear — Alan simply invented a team of friends for Tommy, super heroes of all sorts, with a variety of powers. Jack Quickly, the Number One American, Greycoat — courageous, capable, loyal allies, one and all. But he needed a name for the team, something catchy. How about the Association of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Hmm … He liked it, but he sensed he could do better. He’d have to sleep on this one …
    After a series of taxing, life-threatening adventures, Alan wound up by the gates of his school, ten minutes before classes finished for the day. This way he could take the ordinary route home and not raise any suspicions if he was spotted by his neighbours.
    On the stroke of three o’clock, the pupils came streaming out, chattering, yelling, laughing, excited by their freedom. Alan kept to the shadows of the houses opposite the school gates, waiting for the crowd to pass, so he could follow just behind them. As he waited he spotted Hilary Jones, a girl from his class. She wasn’t the prettiest girl in school, but Alan had a warm spot for her. She had a lovely smile which gave him butterflies in his stomach every time he saw it. In his mind’s eye Hilary was no mere human girl — she was an angel, with a hidden glowing halo, sent to brighten up the lives of mere mortal men. He was not worthy of her, and would never be her boyfriend or husband, but perhaps he could write a poem in honour of her one day — or a ballad.
    When most of the children had passed – and all the teachers – Alan slipped out of hiding, fell in behind the stragglers, and made his way home, adopting the most innocent expression his mischievous little gargoylian face could manage.
Alan spent much of the afternoon ensconced in his bedroom, reading. On his bed lay a thick edition of Frankenstein: Or the Modern Prometheus (Alan had underlined the word “Prometheus” on the inside cover — he quite liked the sound of it), which Alan was enjoying immensely. There were also several Jack the Ripper tomes stacked in one corner of the room, which he dipped into at frequent intervals. Alan was intrigued by the Ripper, and thought he knew who the killer might have been, but he wasn’t prepared to make a claim just yet, not until he’d done a bit more research.
Most of the time, though, he read comics. Comics were his first and abiding love. He boasted a collection of ageing, tattered, dog-eared, but golden treasures. Batman, Superman, Captain Britain, Marvelman — fantastic stuff! He liked to draw his own comics – he’d have a go at a Tommy Strong story soon – but he feared his lack of artistic ability might work against him in the long run. Perhaps he’d just write stories when he grew up, and get other people to draw them. Not as much fun as drawing them himself, but better than not working in the medium at all.
    When he wasn’t reading, Alan was scribbling in either his ABC or Top Ten notebooks. Alan loved to make lists and play with words. In the Top Ten pad he’d compose lists of his favourite comics, songs, TV shows, movies, as well as his top ten diseases, scourges, implements of torture, and so on. In the ABC book, Alan would jot down all the letters of the alphabet, meditate a while to blank his mind, then gaze at the letters and write down whatever words occurred to him, starting at A and rapidly working his way through to Z. He had hundreds of ABC lists, compiled in several bulging paper folders which his mother – a printer – had been able to procure for him.
    Alan was nearing the end of his latest list – “R for rorschach, S for supreme, T for time travel, U for UFO, V for vendetta” – when his mother called him down for supper. He quickly complete the list – “W for watchmen, X for x-ray (again!), Y for young blood, Z for zzzzzzz” – then raced for the kitchen.
His mother had offered to throw a party for him, but Alan didn’t believe in making a big deal out of birthdays, even one as important as his tenth. So apart from a small cake and a slightly nicer dinner than normal, it was a typical meal. Alan had opened his presents that morning – books and comics for the most part, as well as some clothes – but his mother had held a few surprises back for him, which provided some excitement after dinner. The presents were nothing extra special – another book, a game of Snakes and Ladders, a small magician’s set of tricks (he’d received the same set the year before, and had mastered the tricks within a couple of days, but Alan was a diplomatic boy and said nothing of this minor faux pas).
    He played a few games of Snakes and Ladders with his parents, then spent some time playing with the cat on the kitchen floor. The cat’s name was Maxwell. An elderly, straggly mongrel, missing half an ear, nicked and scratched in many places — a real cat. Alan liked Maxwell — he felt they were kindred spirits. He told the cat of his day and how he’d celebrated his birthday, safe in the knowledge that the cat wouldn’t betray his confidence. He started to tell Maxwell a story about a modern day kidnapper-cum-ripper who abducted young ladies – “Lost Girls” became the title, once Alan had worked out where the story was heading – but then a neighbour arrived and Maxwell bolted — the cat wasn’t fond of company.
    Alan strolled through to the living room to see which of the neighbours had come a-calling. He discovered one of the Bojeffries clan, sitting chatting with his mother. The Bojeffries woman – there were so many of them, Alan never bothered to remember their names – had a baby with her, and was showing what looked like some kind of parchment to Alan’s mother.
    “A birth caul,” she said. “Covered her head like a wee cap. We thought Glory – that’s what we’s called her – we thought she was deformed to begin with, but it was only the caul.”
    Alan was interested in the birth caul – he hadn’t seen one before – but his mother shooed him away before he could examine it properly. She didn’t like him poking his nose into “women’s stuff”. Her son was a bit too curious for her liking. There were certain things which men – and boys, certainly! – had no business knowing about.
    Muttering blackly to himself, Alan went to sit beside the fire. (He had no interest in television, though a new programme, due to start five days later, sounded like it might be worth his while — according to the grapevine, it was all about a time-travelling doctor.) He stared into the flames for a while, then cocked his head sideways. His grandmother had told him you could hear people talking if you listened closely to the flames. She hadn’t said whether the speakers were spirits, or if the flames served as some sort of telephonic system for the living. Alan listened intently for a long time, but there was no voice in this fire, and eventually he abandoned his post and returned to his room, to read and scribble some more.
Later that night, tiring of his notebooks and well-thumbed comics, Alan turned his hand towards writing some stories of his own. He wasn’t sure how writers wrote comic stories – did they draw a rough version of each page and write in the dialogue, or did they just describe the contents of the page? – so he’d experimented with several methods. Tonight he wrote a Tommy Strong story as straightforward prose, figuring he could adapt it at a later stage if he liked the feel of it.
    Alan had a good feeling about Tommy Strong. He was on to a winner with this one. It might take him a while to truly capture the character, develop his world and bring him to light, but he was sure, when he did, that the Tommy Strong comic would sell like hot cakes — he’d make a small killing!
    After the Tommy Strong adventure, he tried to think of some new characters, to use in other stories. He jotted down a series of names, but none really grabbed him. He took a break about nine o’clock and returned to the kitchen. His throat was exceedingly dry and he needed something to quench the thirst. As he stood in the kitchen, gulping down water, he played around with the word “quench”. A nice word, possibly one he could adapt for a character …
    Back in his room, he wrote the word down, replaced the “e” with an “i” (for no good reason other than it pleased him), then tried to find another name to go with it — “Quinch” sounded to him like one half of a partnership. Perhaps a doctor. Dr so-and-so and Quinch. Not bad, except he couldn’t find the right name for the doctor, no matter how hard he tried. In the end he left it as “Dr and Quinch” and resolved to work on it again in the morning.
    Some more doodling, a bit more reading, then Alan was ready for bed. He undressed, checked his underpants for skizz marks (his grandmother’s phrase), visited the bathroom, said goodnight to his parents, then tucked himself in.
    “So,” he thought in the darkness, staring at the cloudy night sky through a crack in the curtains. “Ten years old. Not a bad day. A bit on the quiet side, but what can you expect in Northampton! I’m sure, when I’m bigger, I’ll live somewhere big and fabulous. That’ll be much more exciting. Who knows — for my fiftieth, maybe I’ll be celebrating my birthday on the moon!”
    As Alan lay in bed, slowly drifting into the realm of slumber, he ran a few more story lines through his head. He often thought of good ideas late at night, on the verge of sleep, and sometimes he wouldn’t nod off until one or two in the morning. But not tonight. Ideas weren’t coming to him easily, and he didn’t want to work too hard on his birthday. He could chase ideas the next day. “Tomorrow,” he muttered, making a comfortable space for his head in the exact middle of the pillow. “Lots of time for stories tomorrow … write all the stories I want … tomorrow … stories …”
    And with that, young Alan Moore twitched, scratched his chin, then surrendered to the forces of Lord Morpheus, to dream of beards … and wonders.

The End.

© Darren Shan

Mar 5, 2014

Brian Eno appreciation by Alan Moore

In the following, an excerpt from Indoor Thunder: Landscaping the future with Brian Eno, an appreciation of the British musician and innovator written by Alan Moore, originally published in Arthur magazine No. 17, July 2005. 
It can be read in full here.

"Brian Eno is one of our modern culture’s brightest lights, never more radiant than in that culture’s most obscure and interesting corners, someone we should all be grateful we’re alive at the same time as. He’s the ambient motor hum, the alpha wave harmonic barely audible behind civilization. We should all sit quietly and listen." [Alan Moore]

Mar 3, 2014

Words by Ashley Wood

Art by Ashley Wood.
From Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman, pp. 140-141.

Below, you can admire Words, the poetic double page illustration\strip conceived - for the now sold-out volume - by acclaimed artist Ashley Wood.
Posted on this blog with Wood's permission.
Words by Ashley Wood.