Δευτέρα, 16 Ιουλίου 2012

What I Think About Stuff-Alan Moore's MiracleMan run

Alan Moore’s MiracleMan run Or You thought this was gonna be watchmen, didn’t you?
About a year ago, I had one of those long, soul-searching conversations with a friend

The kind that originates halfway through a bottle of Jack Daniel’s

And we were both talking about what kind of writers we’d like to be when we grow up. My friend chose wisely by picking ‘the successful kind of writer’. I, on the other hand, went for a more Frankensteinian approach.

Imagine if you will, going through graveyards and removing the best parts of each writer, grafting them into a style, generating a near-perfect gestalt:

From Garth Ennis, his dialogue pump.

Warren Elli’s precious world-building gland.

Michael Straczynski’s character-development organs.

Grant Morisson’s get away with anything chromosomes

Alan Moore’s magic prose-generating fingers.

Sure, this horrifying gestalt wouldn’t be pleasing to the eye, but goddamn, would he write comics like a motherfucker. Naturally, it would rebel against its master and kill him 

Or worse yet, keep writing, only subtly inserting the seeds of an unstoppable cultural revolution in the minds of men.

But that would be a small price to pay for the greater good of popular culture in general.

What I’m trying to say is that I have a lot of respect for these writers and for Alan Moore in particular. To write about the quality and impact of his work on comic books and culture in general would be a waste of your time, since the man is essentially a writer-demigod, which I why I’ll instead focus on my experience of Alan Moore.

I met Mr. Moore through his work in a hot summer day in 2004, when I accidentally stumbled inside a comic book store, intent on purchasing a Spawn trade Paperback, since I did not know any better.
The sage-like cashier smiled and pointed me toward a shelf, where I saw this:

This cover was the mental equivalent of a constrictor boa coiling round my waist and whispering terrible secrets into my ear, for a small monetary fee.

At the time, I was new to the whole comic book thing and my entire reading experience consisted of issue upon issue of…well…

Softcore Superhero Porn
And a Spawn Vs Batman comic. Naturally, I bought this paperback and read it on my train ride home from cover to cover.

When I reached home, I read it again. Then I read it some more and wept a little, since I had not known such beauty existed in comics since then. From that point on, I vowed to only pick the best comic books and try to expand my palate.

There were some…unfortunate purchases along the way, however.

I started delving deeper and deeper. My next stop was Transmetropolitan, then Supreme Power, then Preacher, Red Son, good God, those were the days!

I caught wind of a series, then. A series written by Alan Moore in his early days, one that was said to have started a chain reaction that changed comicdom (superheroic one at that) forever. After long hours of Google-searching and long-winded conversation with supposed comic-book enthusiasts…

You know, those bastards that have read one good comic book and a bunch of near-lolicon manga and think themselves gurus of the medium
I found out about MiracleMan. Then I read it and realized that with each page I felt like there were miniature firecrackers popping across my forebrain and before long, I was in love with the series. Not the good kind of love, where each participant shares the other’s burdens and wants to help them out in their lives. I’m talking about that horrible kind of love, where you want to lock the other in a trunk and keep him away of the world’s prying eyes forever, for your own sake.

And occasionally let them out, so you can show them off to your friends.

Why did I love MiracleMan that much? I guess it was because of its innocence. Hear me out: to read Alan Moore’s work means to be exposed to a very special blend of prose and cynicism, the kind that creates a lasting impression and permeates your way of seeing the comic.  It is a cynicism bred out of years of hardship and troubles and after experiencing the world first hand.

In other words, Alan Moore is the quintessential Knight In Sour Armor.

His work is mostly ambiguous and steeped in what I like to call Vonnegutian pessimism. It makes you sad but not in an obvious sort of way, instead allowing you to choose your own resolution through an otherwise horrible mess, thus making you, the reader, feel involved in the final step of the creative process.

FYI, he never picked the book.

But MiracleMan had none of that. It’s what I’d like to call Alan Moore Unplugged, a maelstrom of prose and ideas and unique visuals that are presented naked and raw, without any of Moore’s cynical seasoning.

In many respects, MiracleMan is like a plain medium rare steak, served to a very hungry man.

It’s innocent and pure and honestly, it’s one of the greatest superhero stories I’ve read so far. But instead of keeping up with my silly little geek-fest, here’s a brief synopsis:

Meet Michael Moran:

Try not to be so loud, he’s having a hell of a headache.

Michael is a photographer and Air Force orphan, who has been having some horrible nightmares for years now. They have something to do with flying and two more people, dressed in strange form-fitting clothes and some terrible blast, but he’s not entirely sure.

His wife, Liz:

Patient, caring, poor old Liz.

She really loves Michael and she tries to support him. She’d love them to have kids someday and unbeknownst to her, she’s about to get in a situation that’s way over her head.

The superbeing, MiracleMan:

You’ll have to excuse him, since he’s busy screaming at the top of his lungs at the edge of the planet’s atmosphere.

He’s been asleep for a while, waiting for a magic word to be spoken, so he can leave Mike’s shell and return to life. He’s got a lot of catching up to do.

His arch-nemesis, Emil Gargunza:

Currently doing a shoot for SuperVillans Monthly
He needs no catching up. He knows exactly what he needs to do. He’s got the means and the goods. MircaleMan’s return has happened exactly as planned.

It’s a story with an excellent setup, which starts off simple and then grows like a redwood potted sapling inside an accelerated time-warp, taking you to the furthest stars and back to Earth.

What this is, is a much better, super-condensed retelling of the Captain Marvel mythos and Superman wrapped into one, which tries to tackle the great “Should Superhumans activel get involved in mankind’s affairs?”

Besides saving them from the occasional extinction-level event?

In the usual fashion, I’ll outline both the best and worst (in my opinion) characteristics of this series. Let’s start off with the good parts, why don’t we?

·         MiracleMan is a surprisingly optimistic piece:

As I stated before, MiracleMan is a series that is the product of Moore’s wonderful technique, but not his cynicism. It’s light-hearted, deals with great matters and handles them with ease, making you want to go on, making you feel like you’re reading through an optimistic scifi piece.

It’s utopian superheroism without all the silly crap.

·         It’s what every origin story of every superhero team ever should be:

It’s condensed, it’s precise, it has a very clear view of what it wants to achieve. Alan Moore wanted to write the great saga of the birth of a superhero mythos. He wanted to build an epic where a superhuman dynasty is born, contacts alien worlds, faces earth-shattering events and changes the world for the better. It also has that trademark Moore ending, which leaves you to ponder the possible ramifications of all this.

To me, it felt like reading through a Philip K. Dick book but skipping the final two pages.

·         It’s a stunning collage of visuals and prose that should be replicated to this day:

And I mean that. After reading this series, I honestly found I could not give more of a damn about canonical superheroic runs. I couldn’t care about Spiderman’s marital troubles (but then again I never gave a shit to begin with), I couldn’t comprehend why I should care about Batman’s current tango with the Joker or why I should give two shits about Giant Man’s anger management problems.

This is what every superhero story should be about: superhuman beings accepting the responsibilities that come with their nature and trying to make the world a better place. Not soap-opera bullshit. Not a constant cycle of events that are perpetuated ad infinitum.

And the art should be handled in every case with the utmost care. Because MiracleMan created in me the idea that superheroes are not a matter that is to be trifled with.

Or given to Rob Leifeld, so they can be ruined at his leisure.

And now, for the bad (or weakest) parts:

·         MiracleMan is an astonishingly naïve work:

Remember how I spoke about Moore’s lack of cynicism in this? Well, if you try and compare MiracleMan with some of his later superhero works

Attempt to resurrect an otherwise tedious Liefeld character included

You’ll find that this series is simplistic and innocent to the bone. To read through MiracleMan is to read through a fairytale and its stark stylistic and narrative contrast to his latter works is so obvious, you’d think that this was written by another person entirely.

·         The prose…oh god, the prose…

It’s not bad. I need this to be put to record. I loved Moore’s prose in this, the quality and its colorful strokes. But the volume of it!

Dear God, the volume!

There’s so much of it, I found it very hard to keep going. This is a comic book whose pages are chock-full of narrative captions and if you found this page hard to read through, then you should know that this is fucking MILD compared to other splats, just brimming with captions. 

MiracleMan was created in a time when Moore hadn’t yet mastered his prosaic presentation and wanted to create something that was between a book and a comic, hovering in that strange middle ground, which I think worked against it.

·         The Ending:

Did I mind the ending? No, not the ending in particular, more of its implications. Toward the end of MiracleMan, we see a subtle transformation that is not immediately made apparent:

The final ascension of MiracleMan into godhood. Sure, it’s presented directly in a number of occasions throughout the series, but I hadn’t really grasped it, until I saw this:

I like to call it “The Thatcher beatdown sequence”

This is MiracleMan staring down a world leader as he spaes the world and getting a brief scolding by his consort. This is also the point where I lost interest. Granted, it was the final issue but let’s be honest here: what was left for MiracleMan to achieve?

This contrasted so starkly with Alan Moore’s other works, that I was actually taken back. It was never his style to eliminate any possibility of continuing a series he had tackled with, but I can see this here. It’s like Alan Moore discreetly whispering: “This is my series and you best back the fuck away unless you’re looking to get cut.”

MiracleMan is a medium-rare steak, fed to a decade-long vegan. He has forgotten its wonderful taste since having wrongly shunned the beauties of meat and finds himself in the threshold of a wonderful world of flavor.

Like the Four Horsemen riding to battle in his mouth, if you will.

He will be taken aback by this and wonder what the hell he had been doing with his life all along, weeping with every bite.

Is it simplistic? It is. Is it naïve and aggravatingly innocent? You bet your ass! Do I recommend it? YES. OH GOD, YES!

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