Sunday, 8 June 2014

"WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE MAN OF TOMORROW?" (IS HE NOW MERELY YESTERDAY'S MAN?)


Images copyright DC COMICS

ALAN MOORE is the saviour of the modern comicbook according
to the opinion of some.  Total tosh of course!  He's written some good
stories and quite a few more underwhelming ones.  Anyone who regards
The Invisible Man being sodomised by Mr. Hyde as 'good writing'
needs to widen their reading tastes.  It's just the sick product of a seem-
ingly emotionally-stunted mind, as is his "exercise in pornography"
(his own description), the much and deservedly maligned graphic
(in more ways than one) novel, LOST GIRLS.

   
Aside from a few SWAMP THING mags and "WHATEVER
HAPPENED To The MAN Of TOMORROW?" (and one or
two other tales), I've never been overly impressed by Mr. Moore's out-
pourings.  He's been wise in his choice of which giants' shoulders to stand
on, but if he set the pattern (as he claims) for how comicbooks are written
these days, it's a pattern for how not to do them in my opinion.  Tedious
talking heads, grim and gritty storytelling, dark and disturbed plotlines.
I remember when comics were fun, and I reckon they'd sell more
if today's current crop of writers would bear that in mind.


However, give the man his due.  SUPERMAN #423 and ACTION
COMICS #583 are extremely gripping, entertaining and poignant in
all the right places, and remain true to the spirit of the Silver Age - a
fitting farewell to the character that those of us of a certain age grew up
with, before JOHN BYRNE took the helm of the world's greatest
superhero for a (then) new era.  (Which itself is now history.)


I've said before that when Alan Moore wrote within the parameters
of the now-abandoned Comics Code, he was capable of turning out
an entertaining yarn or two;  given free rein however, and I find I've little
or no interest in the result.  So, enjoy these images of when Mr. Moore
did things right - if only he could've continued in the same vein, both
he and many a comic reader would probably be the happier for it.

25 comments:

Colin Jones said...

I don't understand the big deal about Watchmen - I read it as a graphic novel about ten years ago and couldn't see what all the fuss was about but apparently it's a masterpiece. I don't get any of this "de-constructing" superheroes and they were just fine in the old days as you say, Kid.

Kid said...

I think it's down to some 'grown-ups' being embarrassed about reading or writing comics perceived as being for children or teenagers, Col. Therefore they try and make them more 'mature' in theme so that they can claim some 'respectability'. They're comics about people who run about in long underwear, for flip's sake - these people need to find their own 'toys' to play with if they don't like them the way they are (or were).

Barry Pearl said...

This is The End.

For me, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow, actual ended the Silver Age of Comics. Superman was reborn, so to speak, after the TV went off the air and the comic’s code took hold. This was my Superman. He had his run and he reached his end.

My Superman is no longer in the comics, nor is he on screen in the movies. This was the final chapter for me, after beginning so long ago with “The Caveman From Krypton.”

Superman used to be the model for many heroes, now , sadly, the Watchmen are. Marvel's heroes were flawed, today's heroes are damaged.

DeadSpiderEye said...

I liked Watchmen, I liked League too, not really big on Moore in general though. I'm a bit like Colin in respect to his stuff for The Prog, I don't understand what the big deal is about but we all have limits to our insight and I suppose that's were one of my boundaries is drawn.

Watchmen is slightly hyped, talk about master-works is good for the public but professionals need to keep some distance from such notions. It's also little overrated in terms of it reputation as a ground breaker, the real turf was dug up by characters like Mr A, with rather less compromise too. That's not to say I don't have a certain respect for Moore, it takes a certain stoicism to swim against the tide with projects like Lost Girls. I wonder if I can get that in the Library?

Colin Jones said...

That reminds me of listening to a Radio 4 arts review show a few years ago when they were reviewing one of those modern Bat-Man films and sniggering at how pretentious all that "Dark Knight" stuff was when it was about a grown man running around in a bat costume. Of the modern comics my favorites are things like Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool which don't take themselves too seriously. You didn't mention what you thought of Watchmen (seeing that it's Alan Moore).

Kid said...

"Today's heroes are damaged." Great line, Barry. (I think I'll steal it.) I didn't mind John Byrne's run, but I just don't recognise - or care for - the current 'New 52' incarnation. I wonder how many readers DC alienated with their latest daft revamp? It's mainly reprints or back issues I buy now - that way I get to read about the heroes I grew up with.

******

DSE, I've got to be honest and say I wouldn't touch that book with a bargepole. Even the Wikipedia description turned my stomach. I've met Moore a couple of times and he seems perfectly amiable, but his 'TV and magazine interviewee persona' seems like a different person. Which one's the real Mr. Moore? Aye, there's the rub.

******

I read Watchmen when it first came out, Col - thought it was okay, nothing brilliant, wee bit pretentious - neither the best or the worst comic I've ever read.

DeadSpiderEye said...

I was kiddin' really about getting it from the library, it's not really my thing, seems a bit girly and self consciously arty for me. I get the impression, it's for a female audience, didn't he write in with his misses or something? I dunno I may have got that wrong. Anyway, it wouldn't be Library material, they have a very restrictive catalogue these days and anything non-pc gets turfed and I'm sure Lost Girls would qualify.

On the subject of Superman, wasn't he originally a more gritty character, dishing out some street justice, until they cleaned up his act and made him invulnerable? Seems that's more in line with the kind of thing portrayed in Watchmen.

I do think Moore is an entertaining story teller, he has a good narrative instinct, it's just that he leaves me behind when he gets a bit preachy and despite his reputation as a rebel, his conformity to convention is actually quite conservative. That might be why you prefer his work ostensibly written under The Code. Though in practice I think The Code, in its broader application, was always selective and open to interpretation, it represented body of regulation and rebels need regulations otherwise there's nothing to rebel against.

If I were to criticize Moore, something that I think a bit disingenuous considering his achievements in relation to my own, I would say that he's never really open up the human soul in the way people like Miller and Lee/Ditko have, never taken the risk of exploration or questioning his own assumptions.


Kid said...

Oh, you rascal, DSE, pulling my leg like that. (Psst! Wanna buy a dirty book in a plain brown wrapper?) I think if Moore stopped trying to be controversial for the sake of it (and then scratching his head in seeming surprise at the resulting stushie), I'd enjoy his work more, but he's a bit hit and miss. All his best-known work uses the characters of others and then he has the brass neck to moan about DC doing a Watchmen prequel. They were thinly disguised Charlton stand-ins from the off anyway.

Superman, in the beginning, was 'the champion of the oppressed', but then he went a bit science-fictiony over time - I think I preferred the original concept.

As for the artist being his missus, the romance blossomed when they were working on the book and they married later - a shared love of 'porn' being the catalyst perhaps?

He seems to fall out with people and publishers who question his assumptions, so that's maybe why HE doesn't do it - he'd end up not talking to himself.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Yeah, well I defiantly agree that he's fallen out with a degree of apparent petulance with publishers, when his own naivety as been a source of conflict rather than maltreatment. I'm not sure if he's a professional rebel though, iconoclast maybe, in fact he found his niche monkeying with and reworking established characters and mythology. Other than that though he comes across as reasonably sincere, if, as I said, a bit naive, but that's cynic speaking. As I've mentioned I do have a certain respect for him, not unqualified and I wouldn't describe myself as a fan but an author, one that values integrity, needs to follow their convictions and seems to excel at that.

Mr Straightman said...

I dislike Alan Moore so this post (and your earlier post 'the Moore the Merrier') were like catnip to me. Pretentious does not even begin to describe him - and the rape obsession suggests that he entered the arena of the unwell decades ago.

Kid said...

I hear what you're saying, DSE, and I agree to a certain extent. However, I'm not sure if 'integrity' is the appropriate word in the case of someone prepared to take money for the movie-options of his work in the hope or belief that they'll never be made - and then moan about it when they are, demanding that his name be removed.

Also, he refused to have his name on reprints of Marvel/MiracleMan because he said he didn't want to be exploited, but then made a big deal of letting everyone know that he'd asked for his share of the profits to go to Mick Anglo. However, if his name had been used to promote the project, then Mick Anglo or his heirs would no doubt have received an even bigger percentage. He just doesn't seem to think things through, being too busy with petulant and pointless posturing - supposedly on 'principle'.

******

Lee, I've no personal animosity towards the man - on the two occasions I met him he was perfectly polite to me. However, he really needs to stop behaving like a spoilt child and whinging all the time. (And stop obsessing over porn and producing mince like Lost Girls.)

Barry Pearl said...

So many posts so little time:

D.S.E.: You are totally correct about Superman’s origins in the 1930s and 1940s. He was a
“short” wise guy, really. Sarcastic, a bit nasty, gritty as you said, and a lot more fun. If it wasn’t street justice he handed out, it was something close. He even killed people by throwing them out of airplanes. That started to fade in the mid 1940s and by the time the TV show appeared in 1954 he became a boy scout if you know what I mean. And Wayne Boring made him taller.

I don’t know how to address the Moore/Watchmen issue. You see, I don’t give a damn what he is in real life. I read comics for the stories, not the bios of the creators. (This gets me in trouble with Nick C.) Moore, Ditko, Steranko all have the right to their own lives and opinions. That’s not why I buy comics. I don’t really care about the other stuff.

The Watchmen were not heroes to me, they were thrill seeking adventurers, looking for more thrills and caring less about the public. That is not my idea of a comic book hero.

Let’s begin at the end. Moore contends that if 15,000,000 people die it could bring peace and the world will forget about it in no time and go on as if it never happened. (Please I am being brief). Remember the bad guy gets away with it and the only good guy willing to tell the truth is killed. You know, the Holocaust killed at least that many people and we still talk about it, it has not gone away.

That’s not true. We still remember WW II and, since that comic, we have had 9/11. That’s where the movie failed, you see. We have not gotten over that event although the movie gets over a more horrible event very quickly.

I’ll never forget the scene in the book and in the movie where a newspaper had nothing to write about after the 15 mil were killed. No one wrote about them or how the world changed; there was no more extreme weather to write about, no more politics, murders, financial news, it was bizarre. It was certainly strange to read in 1985 but out of place, even bizarre to see on the screen in 2005.

Kid said...

Insightful as always, Barry, but I'll have to watch the movie again (and read the series) to remind myself of what it was all about. The story must've been pretty underwhelming (in execution if not aspiration) for me to forget it so easily. Loved Dave Gibbons art on it, but if that naked guy was so blue with cold, why didn't he throw some clothes on? (Or did I miss something?)

DeadSpiderEye said...

Barry Pearl has emphasised an aspect of Moore's work that's always troubled me, that being the degree of callousness with which he underlines his personal convictions. It's apparent in Watchmen and probably even more so in V for Vendetta. Another incident I would cite is the one you mention in your preamble, that of the death of the Invisible man in League. I've seen the way that callousness is manifest in reality and it's really unpleasant, it's rather chilling to see it conveyed through fiction, because unlike fiction reality doesn't conform to plot, narrative impetus or convention. Moore is an author who proffers solutions, a product of his conventional narrative style, he's not alone in that, but I get a feeling, narrative convention influences his personal model of the world.

In regard to Moore's personal integrity, yeah, just because a author or artist seeks to preserve creative integrity doesn't necessarily mean that is consistent with integrity throughout their personal and professional life. I don't have a problem with his take the money and run attitude to the Watchmen film rights, which I think he states in a BBC interview. There are other aspects, some you mention but as Barry states, everyone has a right to their own life and the pressures exerted on an artist or author to make a living are quite extreme and they're getting worse, so second guessing the ins and outs of the inter personal relationships in the comic world is something I don't consider. It's a different matter when it comes to public statements though and his attack on Stan Lee, was one I found particularly offensive because didn't extend to Lee the same consideration.


Kid said...

It's easy to knock Stan Lee, DSE, which is why so many people do it, but as far as I'm concerned, Marvel wouldn't have been Marvel without him. In fact, if not for Stan, there might've been no comics for Alan Moore to have carved his career using other people's characters.

Perhaps Mr. M should just stick to trying to entertain us, as opposed to lecturing or preaching to us.

Paul McScotty -Muir said...

I have to say I don't really know that much about Alan Moore the person, I know we wouldn't get on that well as pals as he's an anarchist and into an occultist (although in reality I have no idea what that means) but as a writer I have to say I think he's pretty good to say the least. He has covered most types of writing from all ages to adult - I have really enjoyed the vast majority of his output from his early stuff like Maxwell the Magic Cat and my favourite The Stars my Degradation that appeared in Sounds - similarly I enjoyed his 2000 AD and Warrior work and for me his Captain Britain stories (albeit with great Alan Davis art) was the best the character has been. At DC Swamp Thing was in another league and for me it was probably his most successful "mature" work (and my idea of an "adult" comic) - I never got the hype around The Killing Joke other than the great Brian Bolland artwork and similarly I was not that into the Watchmen (again great art) but to be fair to Alan Moore this book was novel in its day and wasn't really aimed at all ages it was meant to have more of an edge to it and be different (I think lesser writers trying to copy Moore have ruined comics more than Moore himself) - After he left Americas Best Comics ( and his amazing work with Kevin Neil on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) I lost all interest in him - I scanned through Lost Girls and it wasn't for me but I would love to see him back doing stories like " Whatever happened to the man of tomorrow" but he obviously wants to go down another route and maybe thats the best thing for mainstream comics and Mr Moore

Kid said...

I think that when he's good, he's very good, McScotty, but there have been times when he's not been as good as I would've expected. Of course, to be fair to the man, I haven't read everything he's ever written, so perhaps my perceptions are based on limited exposure to his output. Howver, to be fair to myself, I've always admitted that I'm basing my view only on what I've read - the only exception being Lost Girls, which by the description of its content, doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. I was put off League of Extraordinary Gentleman when someone I know enthused wildly about the Invisible Man being raped by Mr, Hyde and taking great delight in showing me the panels. I thought it was puerile in the extreme, I'm bound to say. Extracting a laugh from a brutal rape scene (even one in which the events are 'invisible') just doesn't seem right to me.

Barry Pearl said...

First, it is great that we can have an adult conversation about these matters.

Mr. Moore seems to enjoy bringing attention to himself. For example, he probably got more publicity by continuously announcing that he didn’t want his credit on the film Watchmen than if his name was there.

We forget sometimes, how Marvel, mostly Lee, Kirby, Ditko and a bit of heck and Lieber, totally changed comics in the 1960s. Before then characterizations and development was rare. You could read a Superman story from 1958 and 1965 and everything seemed in order, you didn’t miss anything.

Everyone sounded alike. You could have mixed up the word balloons in the JLA and it made no difference, in Lee’s books everyone sounded different. The JLA members seemed distanced to each other and they never pop up in each other’s books (Well, a few times). Lee created a world that no only shared heroes, but shared villains. Dr. Doom shows up in Spidey and Daredevil, the Sandman shows up in Strange Tales and the Fantastic Four.

Marvel comics were so different than DCX, Charlton or Dell in 1961.

Stan Lee had become the face of Marvel, but no he has become the face of comics. Sadly, he represents not just the creative end, but the business end, which he did not really handle. That was the job of Goodman and Sol Brodsky. In fact, when made publisher in 1973, Lee quickly quit because he couldn’t handle the business end.

Lee is often judged by today’s standards, not that of that time. In an era where publishers gave no credit to writers and artists, he gave a lot, but now is blamed for not giving enough. Artists then did not ask for their artwork back, it was considered worthless. Now, a half century after the fact, he is one of those blamed for not doing so.

Creative rights? Returned artwork? Credit? No one in 1960 or before applied for a job in comics if they wanted that. They wanted steady work at the best page rates they could get. Stan Lee supplied many of them with that and they loved him.

Kid said...

All too true, Barry. And some people forget that 'King' Kirby was crowned by Stan Lee. The simple fact is that, however successful Jack and Steve were on their own (and it's disputable to what extent they were), they never attained the heights that they did with Stan.

Jack was great and Steve was great, but Stan made them greater.

Superb contributions, Barry (as are everyone's) - you should visit more often. (In fact, I'd love it if everybody did.)

Barry Pearl said...

Kid,

The one good thing about growing old is that you can tell people you lived in the past. You really don’t know what comic books were like, or how they were sold in the early 1960s unless you were there. This is not meant as an insult, please don’t take it that way. Frankly younger people only see what has been reprinted. They don’t see the Sea Devils or Twilight Zone or Lost in Space.

Many think that Superman competed just with Spider-Man and other super-heroes, but don’t realize his biggest competition was Casper and L’il Dot.

You see in comic book stores today, all the comics are laid out nicely. But in 1960 comics were on a rack or two. There would be 150 titles coming out a month and only 50 places for them. So the dealer decided what to put out. He recognized Casper and Richie Rich so they competed for a spot on the stand. The war for shelf space is where most titles won or lost.

So, when the Batman craze took over, Batman was on very comics and was selling well. Stan Lee began publicizing Marvel characters anywhere and anyway he could. So instead of being easily pushed aside, Marvel rose from 20 million copies a years to 60.

Also, in that era, comic books had a house look. All Superman titles, and there were 8 of them, had him looking exactly the same. Batman, in five titles, had the same thing. And their costumes never changed. In fact, when Jack Kirby came over (and they paid him a lot!) they redrew his faces to look more like Al Plastino and Curt Swan.

At Marvel both Kirby and Ditko had tremendous freedom compared with DC and the other companies. They even got to redesign costumes. The got try new things like collages and full page spreads, something never done at DC


PS
I always follow your blog, but I have been so busy writing that Marvel book, I’ve had a precious little time for anything else, including my blog! Nick, however has been able to do the book, write his blog and comment here. And they call Clark Kent--Superman.

Kid said...

Y'know, Barry, despite some great comic shops (like Forbidden Planet) making it easier to get comics regularly, I kinda miss the thrill of the hunt (or the surprise discovery) that one got in the days of the spinner-racks in darkened newsagents and (in the U.S.) Mom and Pop stores. They were great days indeed.

As for redrawing Superman, it was actually Al Plastino who redrew Kirby's early Supes to look like Al Plastino's, and then Murphy Anderson who made him look more like Swanderson's. (As I'm sure you knew.)

Do they still call Clark Kent Superman these days? I haven't read a new issue in years and the way they keep changing things, one can never be sure.

Barry Pearl said...

I think Superman, today, is Clara Kent, a cross dresser! Anything to shock us!

Kid said...

A cross dresser? You mean he's angry when he puts his clothes on?

vwstieber said...

I think Moore has outlived his usefulness, sort of like Playboy magazine.

When he wrote SWAMP THING he stood out out from the field because his voice was unique, daring and different from the general homogeneous glob being published contemporaneously. He managed to surprise. WATCHMEN re-invented the Charlton Heroes without being consciously self-referential, snarky or hip. KILLING JOKE was a solid entertaining stand-alone tale. And I agree, the last Superman story before Byrne is one of his strongest achievements. LEAGUE was wonderful for the first two volumes, despite being at times distractingly perverse, since it was so richly layered.

Beginning with LOST GIRLS, he seems to have become merely self-indulgent and a braggart. It reads like an nerd's wet dream, hiding behind pretentious arcania. As for his vaunted moral stance, give me Ditko's consistently uncompromising way any day.

My two cents.

Kid said...

Two cents that are surely worth a couple of hundred dollars, WS. Neatly observed and expressed.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...