Jun 5, 2016

Ade Capone and... a reader's view

WildC.A.T.S N. 17. Italian edition. Cover by Jim Lee.
From the sold-out Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman book (2003, Abiogenesis Press, page 171), below you can read the contribution written in 2002 by well-known Italian comic book creator and television author ADE CAPONE to celebrate Alan Moore's 50th birthday. 
In the mid ‘90s Capone translated and edited the Italian edition of Alan Moore’s run on WildC.A.T.S. Capone prematurely died in 2015: a great loss for the Italian creative community.
Everybody has written about Alan Moore, everything and its opposite. Therefore, I don’t think I can add anything new, though I have read the English writer’s work since the ‘80s, both as reader and as writer, trying to pinch a trick or two from the author of V for Vendetta.

One cannot deny that there is much to learn from reading Moore’s works. What fascinates me the most is his ability to translate science into poetry. Think about Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen and the quote of the watchmaker Einstein.

Or WildC.A.T.S.’ android, Spartan, who flies into the night, listening to every single sound, including the electrons in their quantum orbits. This was from a splash-page that I had the honour to translate for the Italian edition of the comic book, realizing how impossible it was to find a proper equivalent for sentences that sound in English, thanks to his precise terminology, just like music. Besides, every story by Moore is, in some sense, rock music; and Moore himself, in photographs, looks very much like a ‘70s rock-star, with his lucid and bohemian creative madness, which expresses itself perfectly in his two main narrative themes; one based on superheroes, the other on Old England. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is, in a sense, the union of the two.

But let’s talk about the straight superheroes. Alan Moore has been a master in the superheroic arena, because with Watchmen (and, indeed, The Killing Joke) he wrote the definitive superhero story, mercilessly exposing their (super) human miseries. The fact is, in my opinion as a reader (as a writer I would not dare to express such a judgement), the story was, above all, definitive of the writer. And the proof is (again, in my opinion as a reader) that he was only able to reach such artistic heights again with From Hell, which was not about superheroes. His WildC.A.T.S. run was wonderful, that’s true. And many things in ABC Comics are valuable. But they are not Watchmen, and they could not be, for the aforementioned reason. It’s not surprising that, despite the excessive praise of critics too often looking at the author’s name rather than the work itself, none of these more recent works have matched the sales and the success of Watchmen. And as far as I am concerned, the public is always right, especially when it’s a public without any preconceptions against the new product of a great author. To put it simply, they liked these new things less because you can create a character like Dr. Manhattan (and company) once in your life, assuming you have enough genius. From Hell, on the other hand, being free from comparison to previous works, allowed Moore to free his genius once more, helped by the art of an Eddie Campbell who was at his peak and perfectly tuned to the script.

Speaking as a writer, there’s this to say, too; a writer, in his entire career, meets two, three at most, artists able to precisely render his soul. The others, good as they may be, will never be able to attain that full symbiosis which is necessary to create a masterwork. Alan Moore, the “extraordinary writer” halfway between steam engines and quantum physics, found the other half of his creative coin in Dave Gibbons and Eddie Campbell. And those aren’t people able or willing to bind themselves to periodical publication, with fixed deadlines, like the ABC line. Someone who possibly could have been Moore’s third “ideal artist” was Travis Charest, the initial artist on his WildC.A.T.S. run. Sponsored by Star Comics at the Expocartoon convention in Rome, Travis told me how he was perfectly comfortable with Moore’s very precise scripts. I thought that was odd, Travis being an artist who tends towards less detailed artwork (unlike, say, a Gibbons). We were at a dinner, the wine of the Roman Castles loosened our tongues. Laughing, Travis told me I was right. And that Moore did know that perfectly, too. But he set him totally free, putting the smallest details in the script anyway, so that Charest could “skip” them to obtain a more terse effect. Look (read!) those issues of WildC.A.T.S., and you’ll see how Travis managed it. Regrettably, his timetables didn’t match the deadlines, and he had to leave the book. He did nothing else with Moore, and not much else in general.

Art and serialisation: a problem as old as the world, and probably with no solution. I think Alan Moore knows this all too well.

Happy birthday, Alan… and thank you!

October 2002

1 comment:

Mike said...

Charest had an interesting style and I would have liked to see what he and Moore could have done together.

I like Moore's run on WILDCats mostly, though it was like Moore was still figuring out how he wanted to handle superheroes going forward, bringing in a little retro and a little humor, but not enough of either. When he moved onto Supreme and then ABC, he got the mix just right.