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Creator Profile: Alan Moore -The Good, and the Bad-

September 2, 2010

Well I’ve been struggling with what do with this blog for a little while; I’m a bit behind on my weekly comics with tuition coming up and while I’m working on a couple major articles and prepping for video reviews by the end of the year *crosses fingers*, I really haven’t had time to complete any major research. But I’ve found a new home for my blog and I need something to start it off.

I’ve done one character profile, and one comic review, so what’s left is to start on is creator profiles. One of my main goals was to create a list of titles and creators that you could rely upon to deliver you strong ,well developed female characters, and those that you should be wary of. So if I’m going to eventually develop an A-Z of the comic industry; A is as good a place to start as any: A for Alan Moore (okay, that should technically be M).

Alan Moore circa 2006, courtesy wikipedia

Who is he? Mr. Moore is a well known name even outside the comic book world with several of his works including Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen all making the leap to the big screen within the last ten years. He is considered a genius by many in the comic book field, and that conceit is not given without merit; Moore has gift for creating exciting characters and action, and is a gifted story teller.

You can also say he’s a bit on the eccentric side. From his trademark unkempt beard, to his religious and political philosophy, Mr. Moore is a bit of an oddball.

He truly has created some unparalleled works of art in the industry; in this arena, however, we not only examine the artistic merit of his works, but also his portrayal of women and GLBTQ (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender and Queer) characters.

I’m afraid it’s here that I  find Mr. Moore to be wanting. While I do not claim to be an expert on his works, I have read a fair deal, and there seems to be some shocking trends in his work. He single-handedly ended the career of a major super-heroine as a plot device, has written stories featuring beloved and underage characters in extremely inappropriate sexual circumstances, and has had heroes who are rapists.

However Moore is not totally without redeeming qualities in this area: he has created smart, strong and resourceful female characters, and utilized many existing characters in a way that does them credit.

Before I get into the examples, I do want to say that I realize both positive and negative points could be made from Watchmen or V for Vendetta; I am ignoring those for the purpose of this review as they are both trying to portray very distopian worlds and no characters are free from harsh treatment in them. I will say that both stories have very strong leading ladies, and that both deal with some sexual matter which is rather undesirable, but is not sensationalized: These include pedophilia, rape, child prostitution and the murder of women for the sole crime of being lesbians. Again these are not sensationalized and definitely not presented as being positive. I would ask you to judge these works on your own if you are comfortable enough dealing with the subject matter and disturbing imagery to read them.

That being said, I do have three examples I feel are particularly egregious, and three examples that I feel are overwhelmingly positive.

The Bad

I

Title: Batman: The Killing Joke

Event: The crippling of Barbra Gordon, AKA Batgirl by the Joker during a home invasion.

I’m not going to comment on the tirade of bad jokes in this scene; this is, after all, the Clown Prince of Crime, and that’s very fitting with his character. What we do have is a super-heroine’s career cut short to help drive a story in which she is at best tertiary character. She doesn’t even get to throw a punch back. Instead, she is put in the most vulnerable position possible, the sanctity of her home violated, and she is crippled unceremoniously. Had she gained this injury the way Bruce Wayne was crippled in Knightfall…

… that is fighting valiantly against a stronger opponent, this would be a forgivable if still a sad event. Even the TV series version of Birds of Prey, which had The Joker coming after her for revenge following her and Batman’s destruction of his criminal empire would be preferable. But no, she was attacked without her assailant even knowing she was Batgirl, and why? Just to prove a point.

What is that point you ask? If you’ve seen The Dark Knight, then you’ll remember that that version of the Joker was very obsessed with proving that everybody was just like him, and that if pushed far enough, all civility would be pushed aside and everyone would be just as evil as himself. This comic is the story that originated that philosophy; it supposed that the Joker was driven insane by one bad day that saw the death of his wife along with everything he cared for, and he wanted to replicate that with Jim Gordon. So a superhero, a woman, was crippled to torture her father.

This blog owes it’s theme to Gail Simone’s “Women in Refrigerators” which saw that women in comics often had horrific things happen to them with alarming regularity, often to provide motivation for their male counterparts. This event has that in spades.

I want to say however, that the Killing Joke is amazingly well written, and is is the defining Joker story, and possibly the defining Batman story. It’s not a bad book… it just has a very bad event.

Fortunately this was not the end of Barbara Gordon’s story; a year later she would be revived in splendor as the wheelchair bound Oracle; she uses her computer savvy to become the in-tel go-to woman of the DCU, and her leadership skills to help more then one team of heroes. She is even now a deadly combatant in her crippled state and people underestimate her at their own peril. Mr. Moore, however, did not have a hand in the birth of Oracle, only in the death of Batgirl.

II

Title: The Lost Girls

Event: Multiple pornographic depictions of sex involving underage characters, including incest

I have to be honest with you here. I have not read this one cover to cover: I did try, though, and it’s something I will have to do at some point to provide a full review. Quite frankly, I find what I have read to be highly disturbing, and what I’ve heard about it equally so. I have also seen every image in the book, and most of them are quite graphic. Now, I do not object to pornography in and of itself, nor do I presume to tell anyone what fantasies they can or cannot have, that is not my business. I do feel, however, that this book steps outside the bounds of what is tasteful, and while I don’t call for its banning (as I am anti-censorship), I wouldn’t, recommend it to anyone.

It first gained my attention when it was discussed on a program that aired on YTV in the early 90’s; they presented it as being about the sexual adventures of Dorothy Gail of Oz, Wendy Darling from Peter Pan and Alice of Wonderland; I was intrigued but nothing more of it would come for several years. In the past couple years or so, I’ve been working on my own Oz novel, which deals in part with the sexuality of both Dorothy and one other Oz character. Deciding to see how someone else tackled the subject, I picked up a copy of this book.

Dorothy in this shot is “near on turned 16”[sic], and while the art in this particular section is not all that explicit, it is in other cases… the story involves Dorothy having sex with farmhands, her Uncle, while she’s 16. A 16-year-old Wendy meets a homeless Peter, who teaches her and her brothers sexual games. Alice has sex with a man, several girls, and women at the age of 14 at her all-female boarding school. The girls also have sex as adults, meet each other, and experience many key moments in history

It does behoove me to mention that the artist was a woman, and that More describes this as benign pornography. Angela Carter who in her book The Saedian Woman, “admitted… the possibility [of] a form of pornography that was benign, that was imaginative, was beautiful, and which didn’t have the problems that she saw in a lot of other pornography,” is cited as an inspiration. He further said, “”if we’d have come out and said, ‘well, this is a work of art,’ they would have probably all said, ‘no it’s not, it’s pornography.’ So because we’re saying, ‘this is pornography,’ they’re saying, ‘no it’s not, it’s art,’ and people don’t realize quite what they’ve said.”

Verbal trickery aside, as someone who has no issue with porn… I find the particular sexual subjects of the book questionable for mass consumption. I will not deny that the book has a sense of artistry to it, and that had all the situations in the book involved adults or at least more of them, and the subjects of incest removed I might be more inclined to view this as “benign.” But as it is… I’ll take almost any porn over this.

It was in fact this book that was the inspiration of me posting this today. I found a newer edition of the book with the cover at the top of this section in a comic store today… It looks oh-so-wholesome, like it would fit in right beside a copy of Little Women, like it’s a book you’d be quite proud to display prominently on your table or bookshelf. Really it’s porn, artistically done porn maybe… but very icky porn so just admit it.

III

Title: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Event: Heroes who are rapists.

Let me start by saying, I love this book. I admire it, it is the perfect example of one my favourite genres, Steampunk. But it has a lot that just makes you cringe… and one of those is the inclusion of two rapists on the team, one Mr. Hyde, the other the invisible man. Now this alone might be excusable especially in Mr. Hyde’s case where it’s more or less in line with the original book for the character. And it’s not like the comic condones this behaviour… These are not heroic figures though they start to develop as such over the case of the story to some extent.

What makes this dreadful is that in the case of the Invisible Man you see it on page.

Basically he’s been living in a religious boarding school raping the students at will, and the school is convinced the girls are being visited by the Holy Spirit and that the pregnant students are having virgin births. Yeah it’s just a little disturbing.

This book does not pull it’s punches on graphic content, and also contains several curses directed against woman in the like of whore, harlot and slut. If you do read it, I’d recommend approaching it knowing what you’re getting into.

Alright that chokes it up for “The Bad”. So now it’s time for:

The Good

I

Title: Superman ~Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow~

Event: Farewell to Supergirl.

NOTE: Major Spoilers

When DC decided to reboot it’s continuity in 1985 to make things more streamlined, eliminating the many different alternate Earths from the equation one of their choices was to streamline Superman’s story by making him the only survivor of Krypton once again, so Supergirl had to go. She was given an epic battle against the Anti Monitor in Crisis on Infinite Earths, it was a satisfying end to the character she went down punching, and bought the other heroes enough time to save all of reality. But it was a very somber ending too, because following the Crisis everyone forgot she ever existed. But in the final issues of Superman and Action Comics before the reboot was taken place, the last of DC’s “Imaginary Stories” and the first of it’s “Elseworlds”, Superman ~Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow~ was written to give the silver age version of the character a fitting ending independent of the Crisis. This is one of Alan Moore’s best works in my opinion, and one thing it did was give the readers a chance to bid a final farewell to Kara Zor-El…

The group of time traveling Supeheroes from the future called the Legion of Superheroes, of which both Supergirl and Superboy had been members, came to the present give Superman support on the eve of what would be his final battle. Supergirl came along with them, and had this tear jerking exchange with her cousin.

Honoring the history of Supergirl and showing us that she will never be forgotten, even if she is “in the past” was a very classy act. It would be almost 20 years before Kara Zor-El would make a permanent return to the DCU.

II

Title: Superman ~Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow~

Event: Lana Lang prepares for battle

NOTE: MAJOR SPOILERS

Yes, I’m using two instances from the same book as pro-arguments… That should tell you:

  1. How good I thought this book was
  2. How hard it was for me to find truly pro-feminist items in Alan Moore’s books.

As it’s looking increasingly like Superman will not survive the coming fight; he has frank conversation with Perry White about his relationship with Lana and Lois. Meanwhile Lana has used a radioactive pool in the Fortress of Solitude to temporarily give her the powers of Superman (this kind of thing happened all the time in the Silver Age comics).

Wow… just wow. Lana and Jimmy go off prepared to die for Superman, because they love him, but Lana has just learned the truth, even if she survives Clark will never be hers, she lost him a long time ago. Still she goes off to fight.. and she does indeed die. RIP Lana Lang.

III

Title: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Character: Mina Murray

Mina Harker is one of the original damsels in distress, cursed by Dracula’s bite to become a vampire unless Van Helsing can kill the demonic reincarnation of Vlad Tepes. So it is some suprise that Mina Murray, she’s divorced, is such a strong an intelligent character. Unlike the movie she has no powers aside from a lengthened life span, but she’s on a team with with superhuman brutes, invisible men and submarine captains with a huge arsenal. Why? What does she bring? Leadership! Even Mr. Hyde listens to her when she puts her foot down… she comes up with most of the plans and continuialy demonstrates her wit, and bravery under fire. In short, Mina is awesome. But remember how I said this game had a lot of slurs against women? Most of them are directed towards her…

Still, like I said I love this book… and she’s one of the reasons why.

Final verdict:

While this is open to review when I compile my master list of creators… at this time I have to rate Alan Moore at Fridge rating of 2/5: “In the Fridge”. He has a lot of good works and is very talented but you may want to show discernment when picking up his books.

<a href=”http://www.maverynthia.com/mount-and-blade-warband-cover-art.jpg”><img title=”Mount and Blade:Warband Cover” src=”http://www.maverynthia.com/mount-and-blade-warband-cover-art.jpg&#8221; alt=”Woman on horse looking to her right with sword. Click for full image.” width=”150″ height=”240″ /></a>

Woman on horse looking to her right with sword

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2 comments

  1. Hey, as an Alan Moore and Barbara Gordan fan I enjoyed reading this post.

    There are just a few things I wanted to mention about Lost Girls.

    Alice actually didn’t just have sex with a man. She was raped at a young age by her father’s male friend, though perhaps he did not have penetrative sex with her. However, the sexual focus of that particular chapter was not on the rape (which while morally abhorrent seemed awkward and almost a failure on the man’s part), but on the alcohol or drugs he gave her beforehand that caused her to lose focus on her reality and visit another world. The man faded into the background and she went through the looking glass. It’s an introduction to the overarching theme of her story. And yes, within it she is also taken advantage of by many older women, a lot of which I’d call rape. Honestly, the Alice stories were the most disturbing for me out of the book, but still very entertaining.

    The underage sex, however, did not really bother me. Lost Girls was a story about the experience of first exploring one’s sexuality and the “adventures” one can have from doing so. I felt like the characters were young out of necessity, as this is generally when these sexual awakenings happen (with possibly the exception of Alice, whose first sexual encounter was an attack, though she did have many consensual underage experiences later). If they had gone any younger, or if this had been a live action porn I’d probably feel differently.

    It also helped that while Alice had sex with a lot of adult women, Dorothy and Wendy’s sexual experiences were, with one MAJOR exception for Dorothy, with people their own age or close to it.

    Personally, I feel like Lost Girls straddles the line between porn and art. It’s one, the other, and sometimes both. The story and art lent a very old fashioned feel to the experience. I didn’t find everything sexy, and I didn’t find everything artistic. But I did find a lot of it those things.

    And for what it’s worth I don’t think you’re wrong to feel personally uncomfortable about the incest or young age of the characters, and I definitely don’t think you’re crying for censorship.


    • Hi Thanks for the reply, it’s good to know people are finding this blog… Implying that teenagers have sex doesn’t bother me I think as a culture we need to be more open to the fact that it does happen and discuss sex with our young people so they can be responsible. But the way it’s presented in this book is quite disturbing, and I think there are some things we should avoid showing.

      Anyway thanks for dropping by.



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