Part 1, Part 3

p27

Adam: My, isn’t that lava lamp… big.

In case you hadn’t noticed that’s Dr B Coote S.M.B.D: standing for sadism, masochism, bondage, domination one imagines, which sadly loses some of the flexibility of our real world formulation, BDSM. There you’ve got bondage, domination, sadism, masochism or bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadomasochism. More… er… therapeutic options.

Amy: BDSM is considered by some people to be quite an effective form of, well not exactly therapy, but a way of containing and processing painful experiences, particularly those of a sexual nature. Mina has already engaged in mild BDSM with Allan (the infamous “Bite me” scene), probably as a response to the ultimate Dom/Sub relationship she shared with Dracula, so we know she’s the perfect patient in some ways… Saying that, though, it’s hard to imagine anyone as drugged up as Mina conclusively consenting to anything.

p29

Andrew: Notice the spy camera on the corner — a little incidental detail of how the world has changed since the last volume. We grow so used to these things, it’s sometimes hard to remember that in a lot of ways we’ve been in a dystopian future since at least the mid-90s.

And this might be another explanation for the increased presence of our reality in the league world — because not only does ‘reality TV’ blur that line, as do things like “I Love 1983” or Extras. I think Lawrence Miles’ comments on Doctor Who may be apropos here:

“…because even if power doesn’t always corrupt, then showbiz invariably does. I know I’m not alone in feeling that “The Sound of Drums” marks a very specific jumping of the shark, yet apart from the relative dullness of it, two things seem especially worrying. One is that although it continues the twenty-first-century Doctor Who obsession with stories set in something like “the real world”, the programme’s idea of what constitutes “the real world” is becoming increasingly slanted towards the point-of-view of people who work in television. In much the same way that Jennifer Saunders is no longer capable of doing anything other than making jokes about meeting minor celebrities at BBC TV centre, Doctor Who’s two default methods of establishing a contemporary British setting are (a) guest appearances by famous people playing themselves, and (b) set-pieces involving any event where TV cameras might be present (note that apart from the regulars and semi-regulars we already know, there are no modern-day characters in “The Sound of Drums” other than media figures and Saxon’s co-conspirators). ..

Once you realise this, Tennant’s appearance in Extras is rather unsettling, because you begin to see that the two programmes are converging on the same territory. “Real world” stories are supposed to draw in the viewers by giving the adventures-in-space-and-time concept some grounding in the world we recognise, but the Britain we see in “The Sound of Drums” just alienates us. Even if there are TV studios, press interviews and high-society get-togethers, there are very few actual people, so it’s no more familiar to us than Mangooska Six in the ninety-eighth century. Using actual BBC presenters and perfect mock-ups of News 24 bulletins (starting with “Rose”, but most notably in “Aliens of London”) was clever, yet we’ve now reached the point where modern-day Britain doesn’t seem to contain anything else, a version of the country in which TV is the only reality.”

I think this tendency pretty much defines much of the British TV of the last decade — people who become famous for doing one thing, then going on to appear on TV as themselves simply because they’re famous, and being thought to be intrinsically interesting as people because we know who they are.

But to get past my digression, as well as reality TV blurring the line between TV and reality, so do surveillance cameras – we’re all ‘on TV’ now, many times a day. (And that line is blurred even further with the “Britain’s most hilarious deadly car accidents” type programmes which use the CCTV footage.)

I’d like to think, based on little evidence, that Raj, the bloke serving at the corner shop Orlando visits, is Raj Patel, who worked at the shop where Peter in Fist Of Fun bought all his food. Partly because Fist Of Fun is one of the only On The Hour-alumni programmes not to get some kind of reference in this volume otherwise, and partly because Peter Baynham gets criminally unrecognised for how much of his writing was behind the success of more well-known people like Iannucci and Morris (although Baynham has managed to become the most successful of them all, working in Hollywood as the writer of a succession of big-budget bad comedy films).

But mostly because, again, Raj is another leakage between the real world and the world of fiction. Raj actually worked in the shop near Peter Baynham’s house, and made a bemused guest appearance as himself on the radio version of Fist Of Fun.

(There is also another Raj Patel, who grew up in a corner shop in London, who now has a group of cultists believing, despite his denials, that he is the Maitreya, a messianic figure.)

Illogical Volume: Or, to remake Andrew’s point in the language of Fist of Fun itself: Hey, look, it’s Raj Patel off the telly!

Andrew: Off of the telly, surely.

Illogical Volume: Quite right. Turns out I am a fucking idiot, just like Andrew Collin(g)s.

Adam: I suppose leaks are inevitable given that this volume is (almost) contemporary. It’s much easier to draw links between a text and the real world when it’s *your* real world and when the fictions are so familiar.

Amy: Yes, but interestingly, from the point of view of Moore’s argument, it does seem to represent a gradual earthing of culture. You know, Raj is what he is both in real life and our dreams. There’s no depth. No angle. A flat surface.

Adam: I have mixed feelings about pages 28 and 29. On the one hand you’ve got the sort of human intimacy that you almost never see in adventure comics outside the work of Moore and Morrison. Orlando’s concern and Mina’s pain are palpable, a pitch perfect combination of O’Neill’s superior acting chops and Moore’s superb direction. Is Mina looking out into the city from the backseat of the taxi or is she gazing inwards at a blank fog? The mixture of hope and anxiety on Orlando’s face reinforces our uncertainty. Then, as Orlando steers a blank Mina past the photograph of the Seven Stars, that old invisibility helmet takes on a sad allegorical aspect. The next panel, of Orlando watching over Mina in the shower, her hunched grey form, is a crescendo of abjection, that gives way elegantly to the softer panels to follow. I can almost smell the early morning air as Orlando heads out for a moment’s respite and a trip to the cornershop. I’ve been there. Haven’t we all.

(Amy: You forgot to mention Mina fast asleep with the Moon Over (Beneath?) Soho watching over her…. a lovely touch.)

Adam: (Yeah, that’s really nice too)

It’s the final panel of Mina tying her scarf where things get complicated. It’s precise stuff, typical Moore, a well executed and uplifting ending to a painful sequence, and a major payoff moment in and of itself, but it also feels too easy. On the next page Moore offers us an explanation when Mina complains “This bloody medication. I can’t think straight”, which I suppose will do as an excuse for her overnight recovery given that this story is, despite its quality, swimming in pulpy waters, but for me it sits awkwardly with Spooky Tawdry’s claim a page earlier that “Min is in bits now”, the character’s years of incarceration, and the extremely horrible psychic assault that got her locked away in the first place. Plumbing deeper, the fallout of immortality has been one of the major concerns of this volume, and Mina’s mental break has helped to add a lot of texture to the idea that living forever is frightening stuff. In failing to make Mina’s recovery period last longer than one night, Moore has created an unfortunate tension with the needs of the story and the genre (as much as LoEG can be said to have a genre) pulling in one direction and the needs of his themes and character pulling in another.

Amy: 1969 contained a bit of pre-rescue rationalisation, too. It’s too long to quote, but it basically reduces Mina’s condition to being drugged up. But the point is taken that her recovery is rather quick – even though 40 years is quite long enough to get over a bad trip (to the astral plane or otherwise – shit, it ALWAYS feels like you’ve been to the astral plane!), the mental scars incurred after having been placed on medication, shrinked and abandoned to state care for nearly half a century would take forever to heal.

Although this is a woman who’s faced down Dracula, Moriarty, the Cthulhu Mythos, Oliver Haddo and a martian invasion, so….

Another point I think needs to be made is that while Mina is walking and talking by the end of the sequence quoted, she’s still far from being herself. She’s tremendously lost looking, frail and subdued throughout most of the book. But, sure, I’d’ve ramped it up a whole lot more if I was Moore.

Andrew: I think though that Moore might be consciously trying to move away from woman-as-victim and characters defined by their bad experiences rather than their own choices. Though yes, he’s doing it in a rather ham-fisted way…

Amy: See, I don’t see it as hamfisted exactly. As Adam says it’s a moving sequence – all the beats are right and the rose is pitch perfect – but it’s…. slightly too fast. Just a bit off.

Adam: There’s a middle ground between characters being defined by their bad experiences and what happens here. I can’t help but feel that Moore’s letting himself down a bit, undermining his own good work.

p30-31

Illogical Volume: Here we have yet another example of how far away from being a game of spot-the-reference Century 2009 is. These pages take place in a sparsely decorated room, and feature only two of our broken and battered League members. The world of popular culture might still make its way through those walls on occasion, but in these two pages as in so many other points in this volume, you get the feeling that you’re watching a couple of old, broken people trying to help each other to find some dignity and happiness after a couple of deeply horrible and lonely decades.

I used to laugh at that scene in The Life Aquatic where Steve Zissou apologises for not being at his best for the past decade, but the older I get (note: please tell me to shut up, I have only just turned 30) the less ridiculous that line seems to me.

Adam: The image above the bed is fun to unpack, an anarchy symbol with the circle replaced by a heart, which if you ask me is fair representation of Moore’s politics. The guy’s anarchist leanings are a matter of public record, and love, well, you only have to read Promethea – a comic that posits a fundamentally loving universe – to get a handle on the centrality of love in Moore’s worldview. On a slightly lighter note, the horizontal bar of the A looks a lot like underwear and the two diagonals a lot like wide open legs. All this, in red and gold, above the principal site of lovemaking (the bed).

It’s also fun to consider the symbol in the context of all the superhero pin-ups lining the walls of the basement. I don’t know who that chap is with the B on his chest but his pose brings to mind a rather adult variety of action sequence, as does the love letter to Orlando scrawled across the photograph from Tarzan. My point being, doesn’t that symbol look like the sort of thing that could adorn the chest of a lustier breed of superhero, the kind that Kevin O’Neill specializes in bringing to life? A hero who saves the world not with his fists but through the power of anarchy, love and a great deal of sex. Moore’s quite keen on sex.

Oh, and did I forget to mention how much it looks like a detourned Freemason’s compass and square?

Amy: I’m sure it is a superhero’s emblem, this being Mina’s bedroom and all. Can’t be bothered to pore over any DC Thompson sites in order to figure out whose though….

p32-33

Illogical Volume: Who Dat Ninja? is one of the many Tracy Jordan movies that is referenced in Tina Fey’s snappy situation comedy about cracked comedy performers 30 Rock (file under: yet another example of the porousness of certain borders). Again, it seems that Moore and O’Neill have a fondness for modern comedy shows, particularly when those shows are telling them what they already suspect, i.e. that modern culture really is fucking stupid.

I’m going to presume that Who Dat Ninja? has been rereleased in 3D in the League universe, because I think the original release was a strictly two-dimensional affair…

Amy: This league is about as abject as it gets, what with Mina reduced to a card carrying member of that most scorned of all social groups, a hoodie, and Allan a homeless junkie. Again this scene is more powerful when understood in context because it’s a replay of the scene where Allan and Mina first met, but this time without the romantic whiff of a 19th century middle eastern opium den about it or the promise of adventure previously embodied by the character’s daring escape from evil swarthy types and subsequent rescue by Nemo and his Nautilus. Here there’s just grey London streets, an ill-defined threat, and an old adventurer having thrown in the towel once and for all.

Again, the fatalism of the immortals is something we’ve discussed before, but in their hopelessness Allan and Mina miss the obvious rebuttal to his argument. Sure, Quatermain may end up strung out and reliving this scene with Mina every hundred years or so, but he’ll undoubtedly have a blast saving the world in the meantime. His emphasis is, sadly, only on the downward part of his cycle.

p34

Amy: One problem I had with Mina’s collage was the question of why (other than because it’s a device to tie the text and comic sections of the book together and because it’s an obvious metaphor for insanity) the character picked her lunar adventure as an escape hatch. Mina and Allan’s song, however, addresses this nicely. Mina is fixated on the Moon because of Allan’s promise to make her a gift of it. It’s a timeless symbol of their love, unchanging, undying, watching over the both of them wherever they are. The Moon after all doesn’t just symbolise madness, but dream, fantasy and romance. I love that there’s a simple, human – emotional – answer to this, on the surface of it meta-textual, conundrum.

Andrew: But at the same time, the simple, human, emotional answer is also a metatextual one. We’ve returned here to the world of the homeless, and so to the world of the Threepenny Opera. The Moon over Soho was a specific symbol of the love of Macheath (a vicious killer, who is equated with Jack The Ripper in Century: 1910) and Polly, the daughter of the king of the beggars. I can’t be sure, because it looks like Moore’s working from a different translation from the ones I have, but I think Moore is here pastiching the Instead-Of Song (Spotify link), where Polly’s parents sing mockingly about how ridiculous youthful love is and how quickly men’s promises disappear after sex. Here Allan and Mina are both the young lovers in body and the old, cynical couple in their minds.

It’s probably just a coincidence, as well, but Moon Over Soho is also the title if a psychogeographic novel by Ben Aaronovitch from last year which apparently covers similar ground to much of Moore’s work and especially Century and From Hell.

Illogical Volume: This is far less exciting than all of the emotional and meta-textual stuff Amy and Andrew are talking about, but nonetheless my eye is still drawn to the line-up of people in the last panel of this page with the “Will Mockney for food” sign. Jess Nevins and co have spotted David “Del Boy” Jason, Martin Clunes, Fay Jones and maybe Billy Piper in this line-up. I’m not too convinced that’s Billy Piper on the page there, but I reckon that I can see a couple of characters from the BBC’s grim London based soap opera Eastenders (as previously referenced way back in the first volume of The League) in there too.

Andrew: Clunes is there, but there’s no way any of them are Billie Piper, and I’d be very surprised if any of them were David Jason — the one holding the sign could, if you squint a lot, be said to resemble him slightly, but given how good O’Neill normally is at capturing likenesses, it’d be an unusual lapse of his talents for him to have anyone as famous as Jason in there and for him not to be instantly recognisable.

Illogical Volume: Hmmm, yeah, I’d agree with that – I started to see the guy at the front as David Jason after I read Nevins’ annotations, but I did have to sort of force my eyes to recognise him on the page, so maybe it’s not supposed to be him after all. Either way, I reckon that there’s an implicit critique in here of the enduring popularity of hard-done-by working class TV characters – in The League’s world they’re actual poor people who have to “Mockney” it up for spare change. I’d hazard a guess that they’re probably not quite so welcome in living rooms around the country here as they are in our world, you know?

Andrew: I’ve not read Jess’ stuff yet — feels like cheating.

p35

Amy: Panel one features DCI Gene Hunt and police psychologist Alex Drake, stars of time travelling cop drama Ashes to Ashes, in hot pursuit of the clown (originally played by David Bowie) from the video to the song that inspired the series, and who throughout the first season served as one of its weirder antagonists

I don’t know if this scene ever took place in the show – I doubt it, the clown seems to have been a fairly sinister figure – but the ‘soft’ time of Ashes to Ashes resonates with the way writers like Rowling, Sinclair and Moore conceive of King’s Cross as a portal to other realms.

Andrew: The bloke in the background of panel two seems to be Captain Jack from post-2005 Doctor Who and Torchwood — another pansexual immortal working for a secret government department set up in Queen Victoria’s reign to protect the Empire from paranormal threats.

Panel three is dealing with the survivors either of the King’s Cross fire of 1987 or with the bombings of the seventh of July 2005 — from the police uniforms I’d guess the former.

In panel four, at the far right we have Parker from Thunderbirds and the William Hartnell and Matt Smith Doctors Who, while the bloke with the quiff on the left is Harry Robinson, the teddy boy from the film The Ladykillers, set around Kings Cross in the 1950s. (Graham Linehan recently adapted this film for the stage, in a production starring Peter Capaldi, who played Malcolm Tucker).

Adam: Like us Norton comes from a higher place, a place where you look down – literally – on fictions like comic books, hence the drop in air pressure and Mina’s ears popping. No wonder the page is heaving with omniscient Timelords, this is their kind of territory.

Amy: Also, take a look at those guys.

After all, they’re taking a look at us.

Can they see Norton as he descends?

“This, my dear Doctor, is a problem for someone else….”

Illogical Volume: Elsewhere on the page, we get more of that brilliant nested doll material about aging, in which grumpy old men Moore and O’Neill try to imagine the already impossibly old Mina Harker trying to imagine how it must feel be as old as Orlando:

“Y-you were right, we’ve lost him, haven’t we?

Lando, how do you cope with it all? I’m only a hundred and thirty-something. You’re over three thousand.

All the love and loss. All the chaos. How do you manage it?”

All of which puts my worries about entering the fourth decade of my march into oblivion into stark perspective, obviously. But seriously though, how do you cope with watching the world change and watching people slip by you over and over again? Allan spends most of 2009 giving in to the more self-destructive side of his own particular cycle and despite the glib comments about it being easier to cope if you’re shallow, Orlando’s introduction in this book made it clear that living on the surface is no solution either so who can blame Mina for her startled panic.

Like I said though, it’s a neat trick, this nested doll set-up that we’re presented with here. We know we can’t actually climb in at the bottom of this little babushka pile-up and feel what it’s like to be thousands of years old, but somehow the impossibility of this idea makes the difficulty inherent in coping with only one lifetime’s worth of change seem much more understandable. To me, anyway.

p36

Andrew: Brutus at King’s Cross, naming the city…” “Troy Novantum” — before the Roman invasion of Britain, the Celtic tribe living roughly where London is now were called the Trinovantes. Geoffrey of Monmouth claimed (with no evidence) that they named London itself Trinovantum — from Troi Novantum or New Troy — and that Britain was founded by and named after Brutus, a grandson of Aeneas, who was in turn a survivor of the Trojan war. This has been established as fact in The Black Dossier.

Geoffrey of Monmouth, incidentally, was known to have made up most of his ‘history’ even in his own century. His history of the Kings of England is a pack of lies. He called himself Geoffrey Arthur, and we will be meeting a very similarly-named man with a similar inability to distinguish truth and lies in a short while. Resonances through history.

“in Aidan Dun’s Vale Royal that it finds its ground zero” — Vale Royal is a psychogeographic poem about King’s Cross by poet Aidan Dun. Coincidentally, my *own* ground zero is also Vale Royal — that being the name for the area of Cheshire where I was born. Or it was until Vale Royal was abolished in 2009.

Adam: Is that Harry and Ruth from BBC 24-a-like Spooks? My wife, a big fan, says yes.

p37

Andrew: One thing that still puzzles me — we never did identify where those glowing-eyed policemen actually come from, did we? They’re all over the place here, but have no obvious fictional antecedent.

Amy: Well they kinda do – the League books. The first time we saw a policeman dressed in a like uniform was in volume one, outside Freemasonry Hall, and these guys are obviously the evolution of that type, but now they’re on every street corner.

Andrew: I meant an antecedent outside League itself, but take the point.

Either way, Platform 13 here is a reference to the 1994 children’s book The Secret Of Platform 13, about a non-existent platform at King’s Cross Station which leads to a magical world.

“Lear, Bladud, lud” — all fictional kings, invented by Geoffrey of Monmouth, and all of them legendary founders of cities — Leicester, Bath, and many cities, with London being supposedly named after Lud, who fortified it. All these kings have some connection with magic, especially Bladud, who raised his cities magically.

“Boadicea’s bunker” — King’s Cross is the supposed site of a battle between the Romans and the Iceni, the tribe led by Boudicca, and according to recent legend Boudicca is buried between platforms nine and ten (possibly at platform nine-and-three-quarters? (Amy: DEFINITELY!)) at King’s Cross station. Boudicca of course has two almost opposite symbolic functions — she is a symbol of the primacy of women over men, but also of the British Empire (her name meant Victory, and she became a popular symbol of the Empire in the 19th century, because the meaning of her name and that of Victoria was the same).

“Rimbaud’s backyard” — the poets Rimbaud and Verlaine lived round the back of St Pancras (King’s Cross and St Pancras being so close together they’re served by the same tube station).

“Archer’s Seraglio” — Jeffrey Archer, the lying perjuring scumbag and then-Chairman of the Conservative Party, met prostitute Monica Coghlan in the King’s Cross area. He later paid her £2000 to not tell anyone about it (reports differ as to whether this payment was made at King’s Cross station or Victoria station), and when the Daily Star reported on this, sued them for libel and destroyed several people’s lives in the process. Sixteen years later he was convicted of perjury in the libel trial and imprisoned, by which time Coghlan was already dead (as was the editor of the Daily Star, who lost his job after the libel trial, though I can bring myself to shed few tears for a tabloid editor).

Incidentally, Lord Archole (who retains his seat in the House of Lords, and his right to make laws affecting the rest of us) last year published the first in a series of books following the life of a single character from 1920 through 2020…

“Stand-in Victorian opium den for Johnny Depp” — Presumably a reference to the film which shares its title (and little else) with Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell.

“After-life virgins, Hashishin recruitment fictions” — Moore/Norton/Sinclair is here making a link between the Hashishin, a Muslim sect that used to be known as violent killers, and Al-Qaeda, as both groups supposedly recruit(ed) young men who don’t mind dying because of promises of beautiful women in the afterlife. Of course, both groups would hate being compared to each other — the Hashishins were a branch of Ismailianism, which is in turn a branch of Shia Islam, whereas Al-Qaeda are Salafists (and Salafism is a branch of Sunni Islam).

But the connection here is specifically with the “7/7 attacks” — the bombings of public transport, apparently by radical Muslims, on the seventh of July 2005. Specifically, the largest of the bombs was on a train going from King’s Cross to Russel Square — the site of the British Museum and the League’s old home.

In all this, then, Norton is linking sex and death, battles between men and women, whether it be Lear (brought low by his daughters) or Archer or Jack The Ripper or Boudicca, or modern terrorists simultaneously wanting to bring about a world where women are pure and virginal (and maybe “fragrant” like Mary Archer) and to have many sex-slaves themselves in the afterlife.

“And then there’s the cult of the magical child. Eight-year-old Wiccans on pilgrimages” — And this is the line where I slapped my forehead. Of course, we should have known since the beginning of Century. If there’s a magical child, and the story finished in the first decade of the twenty-first century, and King’s Cross is central to it all, there was really only one possibility, wasn’t there?

Amy: There was. It never occurred to me that Moore would dare go there!

Illogical Volume: From Norton’s speech in Century 1910: “ A quarter platform over, the Franchise Express, gathering steam…”

Amy: Yeah, obviously I wrote about the Potter stuff at length when we were annotating 1969, but….

Andrew: It does mean, however, that I will have less (though not nothing) to say about the next few pages, as my knowledge of Harry Potter comes from reading the first four books once, in a single day ten years ago, plus the rather wonderful fanfic Harry Potter And The Methods Of Rationality.

(Adam: The newspaper headline in the the seventh panel appears to read “Cosy holes homes scandal”. A possible reference to the rural poor being housed in hobbit holes?)

Andrew: Is it just me, or does the image of a steam train partially fused with the screaming bodies of the dead conjure up thoughts of Auschwitz? I have no idea what it could *mean* for it to do that, but I think it might mean something…

Amy: I think it’s just a really good shorthand for MINDWARPING HORROR.

Andrew: And as I was writing a bit of this further down (the Poppins bit) I realised that it’s also a dark echo of The Last Battle, the last Narnia book, where all the children except Susan die in a train crash and get to live with Aslan forever. The Last Battle is of course C.S. Lewis’ own look at the apocalypse.

Illogical Volume: I hadn’t made the association with The Last Battle before, but fuck me, that’s horrible. O’Neill being O’Neill, he really conveys the dripping, warped horror of bodies gone wrong here, that last great escape gone terribly, terribly wrong – no escape into Aslan’s sunny mane, just physical matter with all the life burned out of it, rotting forever.

p39

Amy: Mythago Wood is the first book in Robert Holdstock’s much lauded Ryhope Wood series. The title, Mythago, refers to a race of mythogenic beings who inhabit Ryhope Wood, a liminal space which serves as a portal between the Real and Imaginary. Here Moore has Norton refer to multiple mythago woods, indicating that although Holdstock’s books are set in Herefordshire they describe a generic environment, one that shares many characteristics with the other ‘soft places’ we know to be dotted all over the League’s world (indeed, in all likelihood their universe).

As we’ve argued before, there’s a very simple and elegant structure underlying the league-verse. It’s Moore’s Ideaspace, our world’s dreamtime, and it arrives complete with zones of consensus which feel stable and solid and zones of magic where the rules are more ‘sloppily defined’ – more subjective, more archetypal, more mythic. These magical zones exist on the edges and between the cracks of the (in the League’s case literal) shared hallucination that is consensus reality, hence Platform 9 ¾. Science appears to be thriving in the towns and cities of the League’s earth – perhaps this is because, on the surface at least, it behaves itself and is easier to believe in/fit one’s head around/live with than magic. Rationalism shapes the world, but magic undoes it.

Andrew: I love the way Moore’s contempt for his source material here is oozing through. “I assume it runs on sloppily-defined magical principles” pretty much sums up the whole of Harry Potter for me (as I recall, it has been a decade since I read the few books I did read).

p40-41

Amy: In his Ryhope Wood books Holdstock describes not just people but spaces composed of pure idea, which he calls Geistzones. Now obviously in the League everything is composed of idea, but there are places where, as we’ve discussed, the brickwork is softer and more malleable than elsewhere, one of which is Hogwarts. As the reader progresses through each of the Harry Potter books she becomes aware of a profound disconnect between the infantile mise-en-scene of the wizarding world and the increasingly adult threats to it. Here Moore runs with this, postulating that Hogwarts itself is a fantasy, ‘a storybook place’ designed, presumably, to safeguard children from the mindfucking reality of the magical world until they’re mature enough to confront it without stabilisers. Alternatively Hogwarts could be emblematic of a false consciousness currently infecting the whole of the magical community, a ‘good lie’ conjured by a conservative magical elite to keep wizards in check and prevent precisely the kind of threat facing the world in this volume (keep magic users doing silly tricks and they’ll never try to eat the sun, etc). But whatever’s really going on, Hogwarts is revealed as a brainwashing operation producing half formed adults who waffle on about quidditch, butterbeer and hufflepuffs even while they can crucify you with a wave of their magic wand.

Illogical Volume: You’re dead right to home in on the waffling aspect Amy, because there are times where the Harry Potter books seem to have been written with an eye to exemplifying everything that Michael Moorcock excoriated in his Epic Pooh essay (later revised and re-published as Wizardry and Wild Romance, A Study of Epic Fantasy). Here’s an excerpt from the start of the essay that seems to call J.K. Rowling into being with every syllable:

The sort of prose most often identified with “high” fantasy is the prose of the nursery-room. It is a lullaby; it is meant to soothe and console. It is mouth-music. It is frequently enjoyed not for its tensions but for its lack of tensions. It coddles; it makes friends with you; it tells you comforting lies.

One of the things that I found quite disconcerting about the Harry Potter series as it developed was the way this language – which is built into the Harry Potter “universe” from cocking quidditch on up — starts to jarr with the tone of the story Rowling wants to tell. When it gets to the point where Rowling has started to draw on the imagery of modern terrorism in order to darken up her story, it feels like there has been a fundamental break in the nature of the story in question, and Moore makes good on that in this horrible, grizzly sequence in a way Rowling never could.

SIDE NOTE: Moorcock finds that a “sort of consolatory orthodoxy as distasteful as any other self-serving misanthropic doctrine” tends to come built in with this sort of cutesy prose style, and while, say, Andrew Rilstone would probably be able to provide a more balanced account of Moorcock’s primary targets Lewis and Tolkein, Moore seems to be drawing on some similar associations in his use of Harry Potter in Century 2009.

Andrew: Yeah, I don’t really see Moore, as a pagan anarchist, having much or any time for Tolkien, Lewis and the like with their High Church Toryism.

I find it interesting that the decade chosen for the ‘reassuring imagery’ is the 1940s. Of course the Potter books are entirely made up of stuff taken from other, better books from the first half of the last century, but the 1940s was probably the decade when reassurance was most actually needed, and when the gap between fantasy and reality was at its widest.

Illogical Volume: Oh, and I’d forgotten about this but the aforementioned Andrew Rilstone also wrote a post about the more irritating aspects of Rowling’s prose style. This bit seems to me to be particularly pertinent to some of the critiques of Harry Potter’s world implicit in Century 2009 and our annotations of it:

“When you are reunited with old friends, your heart does not “seem to expand and glow”. I am not even sure what a glowy expandy heart would feel like. A writer might have described actual human emotions based on her actual human experience: “Harry felt as if he had just finished some intense physical exercise”. She might have shown us what Harry felt by showing us what he is doing: “He started to giggle uncontrollably at the weakest of jokes.” Or she might have just told us how he felt in plain language: “Harry was very pleased to see them all again.” Rowling simply mouths a boy-band lyric: a set of words which have no actual meaning behind them.”

That post also contains some good thoughts on how the later volumes of the series stray too far from everything that worked in the early ones, but I’m getting a little bit too far off topic now.

Amy: The tree on panel four of page 41 is Hogwart’s famous whomping willow. As Orlando makes clear (“I remember seeing things like this back in the Dark Ages after Camelot fell…”), there is a long tradition of killer trees in fantasy literature. Orlando’s words also indicate that the Imaginal was always the source of these supernatural beasties and, when the witch hunts kicked off in earnest in the late 1600s after Gloriana died and King Jacob took the throne, it was to here that they retreated. When we annotating 1969 I theorised that the whole muggle/wizard divide found its roots in Jacobs anti-faerie pogroms, and little details like this only serve to confirm me in this view.

One more thing. I imagine whomping willows were one of the more common magical creatures crowding out post-Camelot Britain. The shape of trees suggests movement, life, and in a world where the merest stray thought can reshape reality these things would thrive.

Adam: Killer tree octopus hybrids bring to mind the Dark Young of Shub Niggurath, otherworldly monstrosities created by games designer Sandy Peterson when he was fleshing out the Cthulhu Mythos for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game.

Amy: You may not remember this but the monsters and chimerae that infest the League’s earth were, according to Haddo’s manuscript in The Black Dossier, birthed by the offspring of Cthulhu and co.

p42

Amy: One of the things that troubled me during the wait between ‘69 and ‘10 was the question of whether or not Moore would have the time to develop the Antichrist as a viable threat. I knew that in order for the character to *pop* he’d have to stop being something pursued and talked around, and instead get on with doing his job – doing something awful, a massacre for instance. This presented a problem because there were already so many obstacles facing the League at the end of Paint it Black that I wasn’t sure there’d be enough space. My concerns were doubled when I got over a third of the way through the new book and still….. nothing. And then I turned the page….. Long time Morrison fans will be familiar with the idea of a world under psychic assault, and in this respect, as is the case with so much of MorriMoore’s output, the threat of Let it Come Down bears striking similarities with Doom Patrol’s final arc, but I know Moore doesn’t read Morrison and who cares about retreading old ground when the drama is executed so effectively. So, yeah, of course I needn’t have worried, because, just like in Watchmen, the massacre had already happened. The End of the World was well underway, perhaps nearly complete, like a tumor that spreads all over a patient’s body before she’s even aware of it. And that’s what’s so chilling about the Hogwart’s sequence, the realisation that the bricks and mortar of the world are infected and only now are we seeing the x-ray.

Andrew: And of course this is a signature technique with the League — that they operate behind the scenes of what most people would consider the ‘real’ story, so in vol 2, for example, they are happening in parallel to the story of War Of The Worlds. So as the League characters themselves have become more and more the ‘story’ of the League, as they move from the background to the foreground, so the background story continues without them.

Amy: O’Neill’s pencils make absolutely no distinction between flesh, bone, steel, concrete and wood. And this blurring of the organic and artificial isn’t simply expressed by panel after panel of bodies fused with their environment to the point that you can’t tell the difference (although this alone would be bad enough), but by the way houses, trains and station platforms are treated not, as would be the usual way, as things collapsible, shatterable or combustible, but as dissolvable. Rottable. Pages 38-45 describe a space where person and thing have collided to nauseatingly abject effect. And credit has to go to Dimagmaliw’s fantastic colours, because he extends this sickness out into the countryside around the slaughter – even the normally green and verdant hills are jaundiced, with mangey patches of stubble where trees and hedgerows used to be..

p43

Amy: Panel three depicts a desperate Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger begging for their lives while the school’s unseen assailant smears Draco Malfoy’s (?) face across the page, like a child grown bored with a failed painting. The queasy mixture of sacred and profane, the magical green fire and the boy’s blood, is particularly gruesome.

“Th-There have been massacres in schools?”

A whole bunch of fictional massacres actually, many of them (from We Need to Talk About Kevin, Elephant and Heart of America) occurring in 2003 and one (from a film called April Showers) in 2009 itself. In fact the fictional world of the League has seen a great deal more pupil on pupil violence than our own.

Illogical Volume: Turns out Kieron Gillen and Alan Moore shared a little corner of ideaspace here:

It’s not surprising, I guess, given both the popularity of the high school massacre story and the Harry Potter franchise. Still properly horrible to see here though – like I said, earlier, somehow Moore and O’Neill’s utter contempt for the fictional foundations of Hogwarts makes their demolition of it a lot more convincing than Rowling’s own.

Amy: Panel five, as if it needed saying what with all the ‘little shit’-ting, proves that the resolutely unrepentant Severus Snape (the books’ only truly great character) either has enormous cohones or that he’s so twisted up with bitterness he no longer gives a fuck.

McGonagall gets it in panel seven. We’ve talked a bit about the ways magic has been neutered by the newly deposed wizarding powers-that-be and I imagine that the wand, a stand in for the creative sexual energy magic uses as fuel, factors into this process. There’s a kind of frustrated, deferred sexuality to a universe where magic is confined almost exclusively to wands, wands that are constantly being whipped out of robes and used to zap people. Add to this the fact that the Potter books’ main focus is a teenager and… well, that we’ve got a panel like panel seven, where a wand’s being held – like a gun – to a soon to be ravaged school ma’am’s head, isn’t at all surprising.

Who said this comic was a rape-free zone.

Adam: Cowering behind McGonagall is Ginny Weasley, Harry’s principal love interest and the mother of his children.

p44

Amy: We’ve been over the theory already and I don’t need to expound any further on Orlando and Mina’s musings about the overlap between fiction and reality.

And, sorry, but I can’t be bothered trying to figure out which of Hogwart’s portraits have succumbed to Harry Potter, harshest of art critics.

The caretaker, though, is Argus Filch (sans Mrs. Norris). The villainous plan he outlines (“A–All the exploits were arranged, to hide what we were preparing you for.”), where Potter’s adventures are transformed into a kind of initiation into antichristness, bears a striking similarity to the process Dane McGowan undergoes in The Invisibles, the difference being that McGowan doesn’t succumb and Potter does.

Andrew: It’s also very similar to the plot of Masks Of The Illuminati, probably the best novel by Robert Anton Wilson, a huge influence on both Morrison and Moore. In Masks, Sir John Babcock, a young man seeking after magical knowledge, is initiated into the Invisible College (the Rosicrucian one, as mentioned by Norton back on p38), and specifically into that branch of it known as the A.’.A.’., who he’s told are battling Aleister Crowley and the evil Satanists of the OTO.

After suffering a breakdown from terrors inflicted on him by the OTO, Babcock eventually realises that Crowley has been manipulating him all along, and that Crowley is the head of both the OTO and the A.’.A.’., and thus he is enlightened.

Masks Of The Illuminati is very similar to the League in a lot of ways, not least in merging historical figures (James Joyce, Einstein, Freud and Lenin all appear, as well as Crowley) with… I was going to say Lovecraftian fiction, but the references in Masks, because of its time period, are to pre-Lovecraft works in that style like The Great God Pan and The King In Yellow.

And Masks Of The Illuminati’s initiation of Babcock (and apparently the real-life initiation rituals of the A.’.A.’.) is explicitly based on (supposed) secret rituals of Freemasonry…

Amy: I read it a long time ago. You’re right, it’s clearly a big inspiration for both writers.

p45

As we’ve noted, Century was intended to track the steady banalification of culture, and right at the heart of this is magic. Magic, in Moore’s view, represents art’s, and therefore culture’s, purest expression, where, like the first brushstroke on a blank canvas, on the city springing from the plain, something emerges from nothing. Magic is the interaction of consciousness with the world, the fundamental creative act, and it is always miraculous. But this miraculousness may be occluded. When, in 1910, we were first introduced to Britain’s magical scene it was at the height of its victorian pomp – there were magical gentlemens’ clubs where the devil himself prowled, there was Haddo and his O.T.O – but by the time we arrive in 2009 magic has retreated into the cracks between station terminals and been reduced to little more than a fairytale for grown ups who wish they were children (see my last entry). Sure, Harry Potter’s universe is ostensibly magical, there are wands galore, but there’s no numinosity to it anymore, no bite. Everything’s somehow spooky-tawdry. The problem, Moore believes, is that far from pointing the way to magic, Harry Potter points away from it. Potter’s an antichrist in that he substitutes the miraculous for the macguffin, sets himself up as a sorcerer supreme when his only real conjuring trick is to produce fandom. The overabundance of spells fired off computer game style on every page becomes an unhappy metaphor for our own world, a world so chock full of marvels that no-one even notices anymore (something the League’s author has be bemoaning since From Hell). Potter’s universe positions magic as a special effect interchangeable with any other special effect – makes it containable, concretizes, reduces spillage. It’s magic as spectacle, made for the cinema, to be consumed along with your popcorn. It won’t hurt you, haunt you, move you, delight you. It won’t change you. Harry Potter and his friends transform all sorts of stuff into all sorts of stuff, but they don’t transform the things that Moore thinks really counts: hearts and minds.

Cue raging Harry Potter fans.

Personally I have no problem at all with Moore’s summation of Harry Potter as an essentially conservative, possibly reactionary, fantasy. I’m not saying anyone who enjoys the books, or indeed feels passionately about them, is wrong or an idiot, but I am saying that as a way into magic they’re severely wanting, and that they do bugger all to illuminate the view from my front window.

So, yeah, if this is where the british dreamtime is now then we’re probably in trouble.

Only I’m pretty confident that it’s not. Not straightforwardly at any rate.

Anyway, it makes sense that Haddo, if he was anything like Crowley (perpetually hung up on christianity), would fail in his attempt to remake the world. His antichrist project was a reaction to an old order, in fact it was inspired by it, not a genuine attempt to usher in something new. I mean, by this point in fiction there really is nothing more banal than a fire and brimstone apocalypse is there? It’s so dull that, as we’ll see later on, Harry compares it to doing homework.

Will Stanton is the protagonist of proto-Potter fantasy, The Dark is Rising. Why a dossier with his name on the front (along with a mysterious A. Button) should contain information about Harry Potter I have no idea. Perhaps the two characters are being conflated. Will, after all, discovers he’s an ‘Old One’, something Harry appears to be turning into overleaf. Maybe Stanton was Haddo’s trial run, or at the very least a possible candidate. Perhaps the folder contains information on a whole raft of potential moonchildren and Haddo’s reflecting on his overall mission, wishing that he’d chosen someone else. How’s that for a fanwank?

Illogical Volume: That is an absolutely terrific fanwank, actually. I thank-wank you.

Thwank you.

The “Harry Potter Backlash” angle is interesting, because perhaps we’ll generate some here, I’ve seen journalists mention it, but I’ve not seen much in the way of angry Potter fan reaction to the book. To be fair, I’ve not went looking for angry Harry Potter fans and I’m not going to (because honestly, fuck that), but the only snippy responses to Century 2009 I’ve encountered so far have been from gawping idiots who seem to think that Moore is writing Before Hogwarts or something.

Anyway, Amy’s interpretation of Moore’s critique of the magical world of Harry Potter echoes Andrew Rilstone’s critique of Rowling’s prose, as I’m sure you’ve already noticed. The riffs on the Harry Potter stories don’t go too deep here – they could be made or understood by anyone who has seen at least one of the movies or read one of the books, I think – but Moore still makes a good use of that curdled, cuddly atmosphere.

Adam:

“If our magical landscapes, our art and fairytales and fictions… if that goes bad then maybe the material world follows suit.”

While it’s difficult to parse exactly what Moore’s cultural critique amounts to, banality isn’t the only problem Moore identifies. It’s telling that the guy who’s going to end the world, the personification of dark magic – fiction gone wrong – is a spotty, whiny, violent teenager. In short a juvenile approach to fiction is central to our ills as diagnosed by Moore.

p46

Andrew: That’s not someone on haloperidol. I worked on a psych ward for two years, and pretty much everyone taking regular doses of haloperidol put on a great deal of weight. If he’d been on it for as long as those bottles indicate he’d be puffy and jowly, not gaunt with cheekbones.

This is the single most unrealistic thing in this comic.

Amy: LOL

The severed head of Oliver Haddo puts one in mind of the Knights Templar’s mysterious Baphomet. We’ll deal with this in more detail next time.

I like that the Beast’s mark is a lightning bolt. With its intimations of revelation and destruction it aligns Harry with that most tricky of tarot cards, The Tower (does anyone else feel that Uncle Al has more successfully mined Rowling’s own text than she was able to herself? Harry as a Voldemort+ in training is a much more exciting idea than the way things turn out in the books). I fancy that it’s a wound that won’t heal, in the same way that no matter how hard he magics them away, Harry can’t permanently prevent the eyes from erupting across his forehead. The eyes are completely disgusting and work on a few levels, standing in for everything from teenage acne to cancer. They are also very lovecraftian, a sign of a dawning super-consciousness (which bears a marked similarity to Haddo’s astral body in 1969 (again, a construct of pure awareness), right down to the wobbly speech). I suspect, although it’s inferred rather than directly stated in the text, that Harry’s greatest fear is that he’s not a person but a vessel, and that he experiences the multidimensional omni-being he attempts to keep sedated with magic and pills as an invading presence. Indeed, given that we know Lovecraft’s Old Ones are waiting in the wings, we can probably assume that he’s not far off the mark, and that Haddo is an unwitting servant of these dark forces.

Andrew: Not necessarily unwitting. Kenneth Grant, who was a protege of Crowley’s and one of the many heads of rival OTOs to spring up after Crowley’s death, outright worshipped the Great Old Ones of the Lovecraft mythos, and tried to merge Crowley’s ceremonial magick with Lovecraft’s stories, leading to… interesting… passages like the following:

“Thus, “Kutulu or Cutalu (Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Sumerianized) would mean ‘The Man of Kutu … the Man of the Underworld’, Satan or Shaitan, as he is known to the Yezidis (whom Crowley considered to be the remnants of the Sumerian Tradition)”. Note the reference to the Yezidis whose power-zone on the Tree of Life is assumed to Yesod, the Foundation or Seat. The number of Yesod is the number of ZAA, the name of the Aethyr containing the word Tutulu. The number 9 relates to the Moon of the Tarot….Whatever the interpretation of Tutulu, or Kutulu, there can be little doubt that Cthulhu surfaced in the Aeon of Zaa and was ‘heard’ by Crowley two decades before Lovecraft wrote (in 1926) The Call of Cthulhu which was not published until 1928. These considerations do not preclude the possibility of earlier published records of the name, but they do affirm the ‘objectivity’ of the concept and its independence of Lovecraft’s individual subjective range…..The serial number, 205, is the sum of the letters ОТО + KLU (Kutulu), which points directly at the terrestrial instrument of the Outer Ones, particularly of Cthulhu. It is also the number of the word OMPEHDA (AL.III.54) which has not yet been fully interpreted; and of ‘penis’, the mundane vehicle of the Force of Coph Nia glyphed in the Sigil of Aossic.”

(Note that bit about penises. That might become important later).

Moore definitely knows Grant’s work very well (see this essay by Moore on Grant). Grant (who died last year) was a huge figure in the Chaos Magick stream of occultism which is Moore’s primary occult interest. As well as being one of the editors of Crowley’s posthumous works, Grant rediscovered the works of Austin Osman Spare and brought him out of obscurity decades after his death. And it’s the version of Crowley that was filtered through Grant that was the primary inspiration for Crowley’s adoption as a hero by counterculture figures like Robert Anton Wilson and Timothy Leary.

So for someone with Moore’s influences, linking Crowley with the Great Old Ones is an absolutely natural connection to make.

Amy: Very cool stuff….

Anyway, Harry certainly isn’t the first antichrist to balk at his duties. In the second Omen film, Damien has his moment of teenage rebellion too.

Adam: Harry’s home away from Hogwart’s was always something of a dirty liminal space. At number 4 Privet Drive his sadistic uncle and aunt made him live underneath the stairs, for God’s sake. It doesn’t take much nudging to make those circumstances fit Haddo’s programme of demonic nurture.

I assume that’s Headwig’s decapitated body on the floor.

Amy: I imagine Harry bit his head off in a fit of antichristian pique. Very Ozzy Osbourne (I’m sure some people thought he was the Antichrist too).

Adam: Note how Harry’s dialogue emanates from off-panel rather than from his mouth. How to do psychosis in comic books in one easy lesson.

Andrew: I think you’re misreading that — we’re looking at Harry in the mirror from panel four on this page through to panel one on the next page, but the dialogue’s coming from Harry’s actual face. I had to read this section through a couple of times to be sure of that though (first time I thought it was possibly coming from Haddo’s head).

Adam: Ah, right. Still, the effect is the same and no doubt intentional

p47

Amy: The Harry Potter books feature various locations squeezed into magical tesseracts in order to keep them hidden: Diagon Alley, Platform 9 ¾ and, the obvious antecedent for Number 13 Rune Place here, the House of Black. Moore and O’Neill run with this, though, and extrapolate the horrible, crumpled rupture we see in panel seven. You could unpack why this is so disturbing forever – gynaphobia perhaps, or maybe just the understandable concern that nobody should be able to fold reality up like the page of a comic (;))….. There’s also, and I don’t know whether this is intended or not, the possibility that Harry’s very presence is distorting reality. The weird geometry of his bedsit could be explained by the fact that, with a view to camouflaging himself, he’s literally bent the space around it…. but given that in so many of the panels the room frequently seems to dip towards him, as though he’s weighing it down, I think we can assume there’s something else going on. He shouldn’t be here. He’ll break everything.

p48

Amy: Masthead Manor is the home of Firebrand Frobisher. Strange Hill is of course Grange Hill’s spooky counterpart. Groosham Grange is the title of a series of books about a school with a similarly supernatural bent. I can’t find anything on Turville Halt, but I’m betting it’s another school. It seems Platform 9 ¾ caters to a whole bunch of alt-education establishments, from the plebeian Strange Hill to the upmarket Hogwarts….

I find the way Orlando and Mina constantly help each other to get around very touching – these two lonely people, stranded people really, handling each other like precious keepsakes, relics. One of Century’s underlying themes has always been friendship, actually not just friendship but the value of kindness and companionship in the face of uncaring eternity, and these little moments sell it without beating the reader around the head.

p49

Amy: Caliban and Ariel seem to express different aspects of Alan Moo..I mean Prospero’s moods. Caliban embodies their earthy aspect, in this case rage, and Ariel their airy double – here a kind of disdain.

One thing I didn’t mention about these Prospero scenes in my last post, is the way they nod to a million different adventure shows featuring a super team receiving a mission brief from their boss over a televisual intercom. The only difference here is that in the League’s case it’s achieved not by technology, but by magic.

Panel three: reality as an onion. Mina and Orlando look in on the higher dimensional blazing world…. Caliban, closer to the surface of the page, looks in on us.

p50

Amy: In both 1969 and 2009 Prospero advises the League to locate rather than directly tackle the Antichrist. Why he can’t go looking for him himself is anyone’s guess, the lazy bugger. Perhaps because he can’t scry him from the Blazing World…..

Forget rape for a minute, Alan Moore is one of the few writers in comics who employs sex for purposes other than titillation. Imagine, an adventure comic using sex to express love! WTF?!?

Illogical Volume: Indeed. Much as I’d like to see someone sit down and talk to Moore about all the rape in his comics, he’s one of the few even remotely “mainstream” comic book writers I know who manages to convey the idea that sex can be something other than a special effect, and he deserves to get more credit for that.

Amy: Although we haven’t seen them much over the course of these books, the treens are now firmly established as the pakistanis of the League’s UK. The double cross can be seen scrawled across more than a couple of the book’s panels, and is probably a thinly coded nod from Moore in the direction of the rising tide of racism in the wake of economic recession.

I love how London is as much a character as anyone else in these books. Go, O’Neill!

p51

Amy: There’s a couple of cruel ironies in this (failed) suicide scene. The first is that the ‘sporting goods’ shop was founded in 1910, the year Allan promised Mina ‘the Moon Over Soho’, the second is that one of the guns lining the shop wall appears to be an upgraded, sci-fi version of the elephant gun Allan uses against Bond in The Black Dossier, long since converted into cash for junk.

This is how low the great hunter has sunk. He can’t even afford to buy it back and opts to do himself in with the cruddy little handgun.

There’s all sorts of symbolism for the reader to unpack.

p52

Amy:

“How did culture fall apart in just a hundred years?”

“By becoming irrelevant, same as always.”

Whether you side with the Beardy One on this or not, it’s important here to be aware that this is not a new critique. Many social theorists understand modern day culture, both british and american, as having entered a decadent phase, where, because most of our everyday needs are met and because we have a surplus of everything, we have nothing to do but play. Culture becomes free-floating, disconnected, postmodern – it becomes irrelevant to survival, just an empty game.

We’re all dilettantes now.

And, yes, I’m aware of the irony here.

(Anyone up for a game of spot the reference?)

Adam: It’s not clear to me exactly what Moore is getting up to with the dialogue Amy quotes above. In what way did the Britain of 100 years ago have more purpose than our own, and if it did, is the kind of purpose it had better than no purpose at all? The 3rd Reich had a purpose, didn’t it? What would it look like for a culture to have no purpose? Is culture tied to purpose? I could ask these questions all day, and while I suspect I know how Moore would answer some of them, the text itself strikes me as rather woolly. That said, I do like Orlando’s response “By becoming irrelevant, same as always” because it accepts the fact that the dissolution of culture (which self-evidently has taken place on more than one occasion in our recent history) is an age-old threat and not just some special concern to be faced down by superheroes and therefore entirely unlikely to visit a world near you any time soon.

Amy: SSHHH! Something’s happening…..

We’d better just shut up about all that poncy shit because things have just got terrifying.

Adam: Moore is a past master when it comes to creepy breaches of the fourth wall, just think back to Hyde’s “I can see you” or the graffiti in Neonomicon. The League’s world is inherently thin in that it’s built from our fictions and populated by real world analogues, but more specifically Moore and his creative team have put a lot of work into highlighting its fragility in this chapter. From Prospero’s 3D incursions, Norton’s supra-fictional visitation and much else besides, we were primed for this moment: the panel crinkling like a page, the black hole like a tear or a fold. And in the darkness…

p53

Amy: This sequence is bloody incredible.

The way that…thing just keeps on nattering inanely away as it rips Creation a new one….

The sense of Something From The Outside forcing its way in.

Something with the emotional maturity of Kevin the Teenager.

Here Harry stands in for a whole generation of, as Moore sees it, selfish, privileged little bastards, who collectively possess the power to end the world.

It’s a harsh critique.

The final panel, where the camera adopts Harry’s POV – where we adopt Harry’s POV – proves Moore’s well aware of the crumpled comic page reading. Harry’s like a reader (indeed, sadly, this being comics, he possibly stands in for a lot of readers) with the power to reach into the story and wreak havoc.

Metatextual stuff aside, there’s sadness here, because, if you can get past all the whining, every word Harry says is true. He didn’t want this, it was foisted upon him by Haddo. Number 13 Rune Place isn’t the Antichrist’s lair where he plots the Earth’s destruction, but his sanctuary – his hiding place. Harry’s been hiding from his destiny, trying to curl up in a tiny annex of reality where no one can find him.

And now he’s been found.

Cont…

Come back in a few days for the third and final (?) installment.

168 Responses to “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 2009 thoughts plus”

  1. Kieron Gillen Says:

    I know it’s a banal response to all the effort here, but you have no idea how spooky it is to find your face pop up in the middle of a critical piece.

  2. amypoodle Says:

    WE HATE TEH BANAL.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Really, I think Harry’s been set up as one of the more sympathetic characters here.
    The parent kills the child and the world is made safe for old people once again.
    It would have been better if he had murdered the world.

  4. Adam Says:

    Do what?

    Think you’re going to have to unpack that one a bit. In what way would this, on a global scale, be better for anyone? Also, why is a world where old people don’t feel safe desirable?

    What is it with these threads?

  5. Adam Says:

    Kieron, your lovely face brightens up any piece of criticism.

  6. david brothers Says:

    I dunno about that guy above, but I do sorta get his point. LoEG: Century feels very much like a story where the older fables are brighter and stronger, while the fables of our time are fallen, trashy, McFranchise enterprises. Moore mentioned that he wasn’t going to be kind to our modern culture, and he definitely wasn’t. So there’s definitely a subtext of older, or at least “pre-now” being better than now, which is definitely an olds vs youngs thing.

    Like, the Harry Potter stuff–I don’t really have a dog in the fight (I saw the first movie in high school during an awful date, never read the books) but it seems… extreme? The sly Harry Potter dis in 1910 (franchise express or whatever), the HP-relative stuff in 2009… the Voldemort stuff is actually pretty cool, but I don’t get where the frustration comes from. Why is Harry Potter the symbol of our fallen culture? To my understanding, HP is something that reignited reading as being something cool for kids to do, a renewed YA lit push… why is he the bad guy?

    You guys touch on similar points, with HP being a crap way to get into magic (which… it’s just a novel, innit?) and so on. Like it’s… like it’s not the right type of magic or story, because it’s made up of bits and bobs from prior magic-focused fiction (which seems thin, to my mind, especially when considering LoEG’s conceit), and I honestly don’t get it. It feels like the old, or older, ways are better while the new stuff, the stuff people enjoy these days, is either of little worth (Moore ignores whole swathes of culture that I personally find incredibly beautiful/uplifting, but ymmv) or actual evil.

    Anonymous’s point up there about making the world safe for old people is I think pretty close to spot on, and it’s one thing that bothers me about 2009. For a series that was as much about celebrating fiction as reinventing it to switch gears to “Oh, by the way, Harry Potter/2009 suuuuuuuuucks” feels wrong, tonally. It does very much feel like the olds won.

    I mean, I don’t expect Moore to talk about Solid Snake’s adventures in Zanzibar (imagine Old Snake hitting the fountain of youth in Uganda post-MGS4! Metal Gear Solid: BLAZING WORLD!) or Soap from CoD or Rick Ross or whoever, but I definitely came away from 2009 feeling like “Welp, that definitely didn’t play fair.”

    Which is maybe a mean/stupid thing to say. I’m still working my way through that train of thought. But I did want to say that I get where Anonymous is coming from, even if “it would have been better if he had murdered the world” is about as asinine as anything ever. I’ll try to finish thinking this through soon, because I think there’s some meat on this argument’s bones, but let’s talk it out. There’s a rich vein of subtext there and I haven’t quite decided how I feel about it yet.

    Also, I like Gillen’s face, and his writing, so more of that, please.

  7. Owen Says:

    Am I missing something? Compared to the Bond critique in Black Dossier or the antromorphism contrasted with Wells’ eugenics in LOEG 2, the use of Harry Potter is pretty thin stuff, isn’t it? i don’t doubt that there is something to be said about the cosy little fantasy that blew up into a world conquering beast, but making the Crowley analogue responsible makes no sense in that context.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Yeah, these threads. Sorry for the unnecessarily stupid and provocative nature of my post.

    What I meant to say is that Harry seems to represent something different from the banality of modern popular culture. Barely a moment of his life is spent outside the control of the forces that made him. It’s telling that Mary Poppins declares herself responsible for all children before dismissing him from existence. We must invalidate our actual children in order to preserve our ideal of them.

    Harry’s a poorly raised kid no one wants to take responsibility for. When confronted with their own failure at providing a decent future, the men and women who shape the world will do anything to keep from accepting it. This applies even to God Herself, in the League comics.

    The boy certainly talks and acts like a murderous idiot, but it’s not like he had a chance to be anything else, right? Both his birth and death were manufactured by people or abstract forces that hate him. This, Moore says, is the truth of our modern world. Every “mega” spectacle is a distraction. We have failed the future, both collectively and individually, and it’s sublimated by the now ubiquitous apocalypse fantasy.

    The League world is no better from Harry Potter’s murder. It’s the ritual cleansing equivalent to Lady Macbeth washing her hands. Nothing seriously changes, a few more people die. No “in with the new”, just battered survivors. There’ll be a new way for the world to end the instant we get bored.

    It is very possible that Moore dislikes the Harry Potter books as much as you think he does. I just think he’s playing a more subtle game here. For all the old man anachronisms, it’s on-the-mark as an interpretation of the the way things currently are.

  9. Owen Says:

    David Brothers, I think there is a lot of unexamined boomer exceptionalism in 2009, more so than 1969 itself. Otherwise, I think you’re right.

    Mind you, there is one writer who has created a series of books on which terrible enormous films are based (5 at last count, the most recent and largest in 2009) and who styles himself as a magician. That probably underlies some of the slightly over-the-top hostility.

  10. Adam Says:

    Pretty sure Andrew and I have made it clear over the last couple of posts that we sympathise with a lot of what you’ve written here, David. Yeah, Moore’s self-professed ignorance about swathes of modern culture combined with his over eagerness to criticise it does frustrate and annoy me, but I can still enjoy this comic for its many other virtues.

    Also, you know, as someone in their late thirties, with a whole bunch of responsibilities, I’m much more in tune with a world that doesn’t privilege the now or the new than I used to be. I can still feel the fire of the punk rock sentiment expressed in Anonymous’s post, but I can also relate to Moore’s scepticism. It comes from a place of genuine care and some it is persuasive – I’m pretty much of the view that modern culture is on the whole really rather juvenile, for example. Hence Harry Potter being in the crosshairs – it’s a neat fit for that argument: its childish and an astonishingly popular entertainment. The League is concerned with popular entertainments.

  11. Adam Says:

    Ah, I see Anonymous has responded. Really interesting thoughts.

    Of course, we know that the real end if the world has begun, we just don’t know what it looks like yet…

  12. amypoodle Says:

    It’s not that the magic in the Potter books is a postmodern mish mash, although it is, it’s that it’s flat. Think about the way magic, or maybe let’s just say the supernatural, works in the Game of Thrones books and how it frequently collapses clear distinctions between subjective and objective truth. Think about how this stuff works in David Lynch films, allowing a new way into our own internal emotional processes that the more linear, straightforward realities portrayed in most conventional cinema can’t even touch. Think about the bones deep magic of Tolkein where everything converts to myth. Or Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea Trilogy and the way the true naming of things makes everything ring with its own inner life. Think about the shifting ontologies of Jerry Cornelius, the headblasting weirdness of Alice in Wonderland, The beautiful, intricate magical schematics outlined in Grant Morrison’s Invisibles, the evolution-as-magic of the last Dark Materials book…..

    Go back and read some fairy stories.

    And then think about Harry Potter.

    That they’re just novels isn’t an argument to me, David. This stuff, and what it does to a persons head, specifically a child’s, *is* meaningful. Also, the Potter books present the miraculous as a focus and then they fail to deliver on that score. And that’s a pretty hefty failure. And as for why Harry receives the brunt of Moore’s ire: If you were a magician, if you believed passionately that magic was a good and transformative thing, then you’d probably dislike Harry a great deal too.

    And, no, I absolutely do not agree that what Moore and Rowling have produced is comparable.

    That said, I agree with everything else you say – What happens to Harry is shit (I concede that in the post) and modern culture has produced many things of beauty (the League, for all its faults, being one of them).

  13. Adam Says:

    “You were a magician, if you believed passionately that magic was a good and transformative thing, then you’d probably dislike Harry a great deal too”

    Let’s not forget that fiction equals magic in Moore’s thinking.

  14. WyrdBhikkhu Says:

    Full disclosure: I haven’t read any of LoEG, but Mindless Ones’ insightful commentary has convinced me I need to read all of it, at some point (but that will take a while).

    That said (and I hope I’m not veering too far off topic), I think Harry Potter is getting a bit of a bad rap here. I’m 22 now, so I grew up with Harry Potter, and I just can’t see it as an inherently creatively stifling thing. I don’t think it’s an inherently bad introduction to magic, either. I mean, when I was growing up nearly all of my friends were reading it at the same time, right as it was coming out, and we were all talking about it. That’s one of the first times I got to do that with literature, so naturally there are going to be some fond feelings there. And it’s become an interesting cultural shorthand, too.

    The hipstery magazine at my university had a section on “What would each place on campus be if this were Hogwarts” when the last film came out, and that was mostly just silly fun. But it also kind of had an illuminating effect, casting everyday events in a new, slightly more mystical light, which is what good mythology is supposed to do. More to the point re: creativity and cultural shorthand, when I was directing a short film that involved some mysterious cult stuff, one of my actors said, during one scene, “I’ll be doing a Bellatrix Lestrange thing,” and I immediately understood what she meant, and I think that this opened up creative possibilities rather than narrowing them down, putting us on the same page so that we might explore a difficult-to-express idea further.

    I also want to say that *of course* the statement that one’s heart “seems to expand and glow” means something. It’s a visual metaphor for a tactile experience in one’s chest. Perhaps it’s not the most original thing, but neither are Andrew Rilstone’s suggested alternatives, really. And maybe it’s schmaltzy, but I rather like it in a comfort food sort of way. And that’s another thing, I think children need some comfort, some perception of safety, so of course children’s lit is going to be a bit precious. But I definitely think Rowling’s style matures gradually as the material gets darker.

    Moore is able to abandon that preciousness entirely and explore some of the more disturbing implications of the myths and archetypes at play in Harry Potter because he’s not writing for children and adolescents. It sounds to me (based on the above commentary) like this works on its own for the sake of the story he’s telling, but it doesn’t seem to particularly work as an effective critique of the Harry Potter phenomenon if Moore is trying to do that, as well.

    As far as the magic in Harry Potter being sloppily explained in terms of its principles, that just seems like a case of Prickles vs. Goo, to me. http://youtu.be/XXi_ldNRNtM I think the lack of complexity/specificity in Harry Potter’s magical principles are part of what makes it accessible fantasy. To claim the fact that accessible writing is popular is a sign of a cultural decline strikes me as rather elitist.

    It sounds like there’s a thoroughgoing line of thinking here that Moore has a keen awareness of social justice and deals with issues of justice brilliantly in this work, but as he lacks an understanding of what it is exactly that people like about contemporary popular culture, his critique of contemporary popular culture doesn’t ring particularly true. This is certainly my perception of Moore’s writing in general. That’s not necessarily meant as a condemnation. If anything it makes me all the more interested to read more of Moore’s work. But I’m not so sure it’s so stark a division that social justice is “what’s important” and popular culture is “what isn’t.” Popular culture is part of the living mythology that helps us structure our social realities, conquer our fears, and cope with our horrors. If that weren’t the case, I don’t think the project of LoEG would make much sense.

  15. Papers Says:

    I just don’t feel like Moore’s critique of Potter is particularly complex or interesting, and he ends up falling prey to some of the same problems–in both cases, we’re led to an apocalyptic final battle where some beloved characters die, there are shenanigans with various magical phalluses, and then the big bad wizard goes boom. Moore is capable of more than that, isn’t he? More than simply viewing the “chosen one” trope through some other filter than Judeo-Christian “apocalypse” ones? And he can bang on about “sloppily defined magical principles” all he wants, but Potter is defeated by Mary Poppins of all people, who exists in the same kind of “ill-defined” space, something that’s enjoyable about her. Rowling’s work has a lot of problems with it, right down to the sentence level, but I don’t feel like Moore’s critique of it is as complex as he wants it to be, or as complex as it could be.

    And as a critique of Potter’s magical system, I feel like I would be more comfortable with it coming from something like PROMETHEA, where magic is explored in a joyful and meaningful way, and would probably address the “sloppily defined principles” in a more earnest and playful way.

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  17. amypoodle Says:

    We’ll get onto Moore’s real “chosen one” next time. Harry is a false start. And, Papers, I think your summation of 2009 is very reductive. You may have outined the plot, but the plots to these books have always been fairly simple – you go to them, like you go to so many stories, for the detail.

    @Wyrddbhikkhu I’m so pleased you’re enjoying the annos and I appreciate your spirited, but measured, defence of Harry. That said, nothing you’ve written about your relationship with the magic of Harry Potter convinces me that it really zapped you. You seem to be saying “It’s alright, it’s okay…” which is precisely my, and Moore’s, problem with it in the first place.

  18. WyrdBhikkhu Says:

    Well, if we really want to get to the “zap” of it, that’s a bit of a longer story. I certainly have a lot more I could say about Harry Potter, but I thought I might be carrying things too off topic since I haven’t actually read the comic in question. I certainly think Harry Potter is more than alright and okay. Really, I love it, I’m a fan, I promise. But I do think its primary cultural moment has passed, so there are other things I’m a lot more excited about. Maybe that comes off as a lack of enthusiasm. I would probably start sounding enthusiastic again if we got into a more specific analysis of Harry Potter.

    I would like to respond directly to what you said above, though, because I hadn’t seen that yet when I posted:

    I’d probably agree with you that most of the works you mention would be more useful to someone who aims to be an actual practitioner of magic than Harry Potter might be. But I fail to see how Harry Potter’s popularity stifles those works in any way. If anything, I imagine it enlarges their audience. With positivism so much the order of the day in a lot of respects, I think there’s a huge audience that would not be a bit interested in anything supernatural or magic if not for Harry Potter, or at least a huge audience that wouldn’t retain such an interest into their adulthood. And I don’t think the opposite is true; I don’t think Harry Potter makes anyone less interested in Actual Magic. I’m open to evidence to the contrary, but that’s been my perception. And Harry Potter also creates a cultural zeitgeist provides the background for something like Lev Grossman’s The Magicians to exist, which is absolutely helpful to a practicing magician.

  19. Papers Says:

    Amy– Oh, I know I’m being a little reductive. Partly because I feel like Moore’s being a little reductive as well. The things I enjoy about LEAGUE’s approach to Potter is mostly stuff coming from O’Neill’s casual body horror approach to it. The House of Black as vaginal hiding place (“I don’t want to be the Antichrist! I’m going to go hide in the womb!”) in particular.

  20. amypoodle Says:

    When I say Harry Potter is a cruddy way into magic, I mean that it fails to elicit magical thinking – which, I should make clear, I think is valuable regardless of whether or not the reader recognises it as magical (just as feminist ideas are valuable regardless of whether or not the person mulling them over understands that they’re feminist, etc), and is a quite separate thing to actually adopting a cane and a cloak and declaring yourself Alan Moore.

  21. amypoodle Says:

    @Papers

    Both of which are just as likely to have originally emanated from Moore.

  22. WyrdBhikkhu Says:

    Maybe we should clarify our magical terms then. If enlivening everyday experience with luminous signs and symbols is a part of “magical thinking” then I’d disagree that Harry Potter is a cruddy way into magic. I think a combination of the sheer scale of Harry Potter as a cultural event and the magnificent sense that Rowling gives of another world teeming with fantastic creative power somewhere just beyond and beneath the “mundane” one gives it an important shamanic function. Maybe its a diluted shamanic function, but if so that’s less because of Harry Potter and more because we’re living in a world more and more divorced from magical thinking.

    If anything I see Harry Potter as Rowling’s (mostly unconscious) attempt to do her damnedest to fight this process of dilution. The initial cause of that process is another debate, but perhaps it’s a relevant one. Moore seems to think the cause of magic’s dilution is the cultural decline represented by contemporary popular culture. That narrative rings pretty hollow for me. I tend to think magic’s dilution (or perhaps “alienation” is a better word) is a consequence of logical/scientific positivism having taken hold in the public discourse, which is itself probably a result of the increasing specialization and compartmentalization of academia. Harry Potter brings people together under the umbrella of a massive shared imagining. I don’t think it’s an enemy of magical thinking.

    I would absolutely agree that Alan Moore or Grant Morrison or David Lynch provide better initiations into magical thinking, but think about how many more people experience Harry Potter. It’s a great starting point that can lead people to Moore and Morrison and Lynch and whoever else when they’re ready, and it’s also a great cultural reference point for talking about magic, mythology, and the supernatural with people who have never heard of Moore, Morrison, or Lynch.

  23. amypoodle Says:

    Yes, but the world underneath the surface that Rowling presents is in many respects even more conservative (in all senses of the word) and dull than our own. In His Dark Materials, Pullman utilises the tropes of fantasy to convey a materialist paradigm (I’m specifically thinking of the wheelie ecosystem in the last book) and, guess what, it feels 100% more strange and magical, and it invests our surroundings with so much more charm, weirdness and outright depth, than anything in Rowling’s books. Now I don’t particularly like HDM, but surely something’s wrong with this picture?

  24. amypoodle Says:

    Ooo! Sorry! I just want to add that your point’s well taken about the books generating an interest in shamanising/psychogeographising/deriving more generally. Heck, even Moore picked up on it. I just think they do bugger all with it.

  25. Prankster Says:

    The ironic thing about bringing up Moorcock’s Epic Pooh in the context of Rowling is that Moorcock praises Rowling at a number of points in the version of the essay you’ve linked to! It sounds like these are after-the-fact additions, but he’s clearly got positive things to say about her. Which is odd, since I agree with you guys (and Moore) that Potter is perfectly representative of the style of fantasy writing Moorcock is eviscerating. I can’t help thinking that Moorcock is undermining his own point here by reducing it to a superficial political statement–Rowling’s work nods to liberalism superficially, so he’s embracing it, when his thesis ought to lead him in the opposite direction.

  26. plok Says:

    I feel like you’re working pretty hard at defending HP, WyrdBhikku, and I don’t really want to get in your way because there’s no reason you shouldn’t defend something you love, that meant a lot to you. But it’s a bit screwy for me to read your defenses, because I didn’t grow up with Harry Potter, and I don’t have those same feelings of sympathy and attachment to it that you do. I think HP was largely an accident of publishing, something far more to do with the books’ audience than with the books themselves…although I’ve said before that I think HP’s chief appeal may lie in the vertiginous shifts between the threatening and the super-patronizing, to me there’s nothing particularly special about HP that could be said to have caused its popularity. Except, maybe, that it’s a bit better-written than a Dan Brown book? Maybe that’s a bit harsh, I mean it is better than a Dan Brown book, it’s got more intelligence and it’s got more heart.

    But I’d agree with Moore that the appropriation of the things of “evacuees”-era English fantasy seem at times almost nihilistic: a cuddly nihilism, maybe, but maybe that makes it even worse. Magic is not about much in HP, except the signification of adult competencies…which signification I guess is no new thing, but I also guess that’s the source of my occasional irritation with it, because there isn’t anything new to it, and even some “old” new things have been stripped out. So to my knowledge there isn’t a whole lot of HP scholarship out there, but I think if there were more of it then Moore’s take on HP wouldn’t seem particularly audacious in conception…I mean what’s the meaning, what’s the purpose, of the super-patronizing elements that HP makes such a point of including? The naming strategies are vertiginous too, sometimes clearly emerging from the world of adult competency, and other times coming at you like an unstoppable avalanche of twee off the top of Sugary Goo Mountain. Don’t get me wrong, I own books that are much worse than HP, and I retain affection for them…but I don’t think of them as anything other than what they are, which is “not very good really”.

    Haddo’s Moonchild is an accident of publishing too, maybe. Just as Anonymous says, the poor fucker isn’t given any choices, but then again he’s not at all a “special” person either (it seems to me), he’s just whichever one Haddo got stuck with, and he wasn’t really chosen. The Franchise Express, gathering steam, but it was only Mina’s intervention in 1969 that placed Haddo into this franchise, or indeed any franchise at all. I said it on the last thread, I can’t recognize Harry Potter in the way this Antichrist talks, but then I can’t recognize Will Stanton in it either…I can recognize John Ney Rieber’s Tim Hunter, though! Who does end up at some point, if I recall correctly, living in a box with a demonic voice whispering to him. So to my eyes the “generational” comment by Anonymous isn’t too off-base — a daughter-species of fiction has been preyed upon by its parent, here. And it didn’t really care what specific “who” it was preying upon…thus the rune gets ruined, and the sigil gets screwed-with, and specialness doesn’t get to be had.

  27. plok Says:

    I should say, before I become insulting without meaning to, that yes I think it’s a great thing that all of a sudden this phenomenon hit that caused kids to think nothing of devouring an 800-page book, and that I read most of the HP books myself and liked them well enough to keep going…er, not all the way to the end, but they had some charm and I appreciated them, I didn’t hate them but instead I did develop some affection for them! I probably would’ve balked at making Harry the Antichrist.

  28. plok Says:

    (Although, talk about having an eye for the soft spots! Alan has Harry KILL EVERYONE, no wonder the man can sell comics!)

  29. plok Says:

    Also should say…HA! That RAW book sounds a bit like “The Man Who Was Thursday”, doesn’t it?

    “I am the man who made you all policemen”…

    The Auschwitz thing with the train is pretty resonant, given that these are at least somewhat the motifs of the “evacuee” fantasies…all driven by the War. I definitely got that on first reading: trains going to sequestered enclosures to meet horror.

    Also, maybe Prospero can’t find the Moonchild himself because there are just too many people the Moonchild could be?

  30. WyrdBhikkhu Says:

    Perhaps I should clarify that it’s not my intention to defend Harry Potter as a Great Work of Literature. But I’m also mostly a postmodernist, completely convinced of the Death of the Author, so I don’t really care much about debating Great Work status to begin with. Sure, I get much more of a kick out of reading Pynchon than Rowling, but that’s because Pynchon writes for someone like me now and Rowling writes for someone like me when I was a child/adolescent. I do think Harry Potter is damn good children’s literature. True, its magical world isn’t as weird as the one in His Dark Materials, which I also loved as a kid and still think is Pretty Cool, philosophical disagreements aside. But I think it’s precisely magic’s normalcy in Harry Potter that makes it so significant. Harry Potter’s magical world is one you can really live in, rather than one you need to escape to.

    I would say that more than competency, magic in Harry Potter tends to represent the creative drive that creates competencies and more-than-competencies. Hogwarts is a magic school in multiple senses of the word “school.” It’s a process of learning that’s organized around Big, Old Ideas much more than it is around standardized tests. Notice how studying for the next test always takes a back seat to the Big Other Thing That Is Going On, to the Orders and Mysteries and Secrets, and the adults even tacitly encourage this, more than tacitly once the Big Threat gets some teeth. That’s immensely powerful for a kid facing a mostly pretty deadening gradeschool education that’s structured completely around standardized tests (here, I should probably note that this is coming from a perspective of someone in the United States). Higher education was much better on this account, but at the age I was reading Harry Potter I had no idea that it would be.

    I agree about the vertiginous shifts. But that strategy captures an important experience of the cultural moment that isn’t reflected in other books kids are likely to get their hands on. Whether or not that’s due to Rowling’s skill as a writer is not a question I’m particularly interested in. It has basically the same effect either way.

    Another thought: Magic in the Harry Potter books has basically the same function as aliens/the supernatural in The X-Files. It’s what’s Out There. It’s the stuff with which one makes the various stories of one’s life. In both cases, it’s alienated to a certain degree, it’s Other. But that speaks to our times, doesn’t it? I’m totally sympathetic to Moore’s idea that there’s some massive pattern of degradation going on there. But I think popular culture is largely the response to the degradation rather than the cause of it.

  31. plok Says:

    Surely Norton is there to remind us that the only the League’s world is “caused” by pop-culture forms and designations…whereas in our own world, the one he references, causes and effects are slightly more tangled.

    Curious to hear more about the virtue of the vertiginous stuff! So what d’you think it’s all about?

  32. plok Says:

    I think I would say, actually, that magic doesn’t just signify adult competencies in HP, but also…uh, “juvenilizes” them? In something of the same action you find in a Richard Scarry book, where there are real firemen and construction workers but they’re all cats, and they’re all extremely simplified personalities. That’s how I read the magic in HP, as cat-firemen versions of adult competencies…

    Just my reading, of course!

  33. Papers Says:

    I’m not sure what to take from that, plok, as far as how you mean “juvenilizing.” Rowling has a bad habit of depending on repeating patterns, particularly in terms of personalities recurring in different generations, and she employs archetypes or stereotypes from school fiction, but I’m not sure I would connect that too deeply to characters employing magic.

  34. WyrdBhikkhu Says:

    Well, I definitely see the more patronizing elements of Harry Potter as coming from the background of modern education and modern children’s literature. In that context, they’re not especially patronizing at all, it’s just matching a tone that the readers are already readily familiar with. His Dark Materials doesn’t have that, but I think that’s because Philip Pullman goes pretty far out of his way to say “kids can handle it!” I really admired that when I read it, but now I question the wisdom of it. It’s kind of an angsty stance when you think about it, and it rather sells short the idea that safe spaces are really important things for children to have.

    So, children are there in this artificially-constructed safe space, which is by definition patronizing, but it’s also what allows childhood to exist in the first place. And whether or not it’s a good thing (I think it probably is) it’s the social space the children reading this inhabit.

    And then in the face of that you have various rather terrifying invasions of the adult world into this one, and that’s something that also happens in the daily lives of the children reading this. I’d go as far as to say the intersection of these two worlds is the primary tension of these children’s lives. And it’s a tension that generates creativity. It’s how children navigate this tension that ultimately determines their worldview and their aspirations later in life.

    But the magical world doesn’t represent the adult world in Harry Potter. The magical world contains its own safe space for children (until it gets destroyed in the seventh book, bringing the tension to its boiling point; right as the children get ready go off and become adults, as well). Rather, I think the magical world represents story and mythology as the connective tissue between childhood and adulthood. And I think the magical world of Harry Potter is a world in which childhood and adulthood are indeed more fluidly connected than they are in the modern world, because the mythological framework hasn’t evaporated like it has in the modern world.

    The really fantastic thing about Harry Potter in a nutshell is that it’s a series essentially about the modern world lacking a proper rite of passage from childhood to adulthood without “magic,” and in exploring that it essentially became that rite of passage for a massive number of people.

  35. plok Says:

    Papers, sorry, guess I didn’t express myself very clearly there…I meant that the magic is something the adults are expert at while the kids are inexpert in HP, but that the magic stuff isn’t jangling keys and bank managers and hotel reservations, the magical world is a world of childlike names and functions and devices and causal relationships…so while the adults are more skilled, what they’re more skilled at are competencies that are much more of childhood than of adulthood. The adults are better at managing their world, but their world is a world seen through kid’s eyes. Or…not “seen”, exactly, since kids in stories always see things adults don’t, things they’re not supposed to (just as kids in real life do), but that the world is a world that is as kids see it…

    Oh damn, again probably insufficiently clear! What I mean is, the competencies of adults in HP are essentially childlike competencies, notwithstanding that the adults have a mastery of these where the kids yet don’t?

  36. plok Says:

    WyrdBhikku, I think you and I could argue about your last paragraph!

    But, I want to make sure I don’t mistake you…you’re saying the vertiginous stuff is good because modern children (at least, those who were of “Harry Potter age” when HP started to come out) (and I do feel a bit silly saying “modern children”, but oh well, it’s a blog-comment) spend their days in overtly ultrasafe spaces, which are nevertheless subject to violent irruptions of adult business into them?

    That’s…something I never considered before! But I can see the point, if indeed that’s the point you’re making, that the experience of Kids Today (which I know is different from the experience of Kids Yesterday — my experience), is one of a much more scrupulously-designed artificial safety in a lot of ways. Not being an old fogey myself, talking any nonsense about “kids today are so coddled” or whatever, I don’t believe that at all…but I do see it around me that what “childhood” is, as a thing constructed by the adults in charge of children, has changed a lot since what I sheepishly call “my day”. A perfectly-trivial example: parents in my town now physically go and get their young children from the schoolyard at 3 p.m., and they never used to. There never used to be traffic jams on side streets between two and three, and now there are. Little things like that, but they’re real things, and they are probably a lot more about the managing of a child’s environment to make it “safer”? I can speak only for things in my own town, not even for my whole country, obviously…

    But the existence of more overtly protected spaces, which is perhaps to say the creation of those spaces where perhaps there was not any space specially-made for the purpose of experiencing safety before…just previously-existing spaces made to do double-duty, or something…hmm, maybe I do see how that could make the vertiginous feeling of something like HP add up to “personally relevant” instead of “kind of jerky and incoherent”?

    HMM…!

    Oh, Mindless comment-threads, do you ever stop educating me?

  37. plok Says:

    I’ll say this, though: that the “kids can handle it” type of children’s literature is really the only kind I’ve ever known, and I always thought HP was a little bit weird because of its sudden shifts into hyperaggressive twee! So evidently I’m getting so old that I’m just completely gapping out on the tone that young readers are familiar with…erroneously assuming it to be pretty much the same tone I was familiar with myself, and so not checking in with what’s really going on.

    Which, you know…HMMM.

  38. plok Says:

    But back to the main 2009 matters at hand…

    (That’s an eye over Hedwig’s corpse, isn’t it? Puts me in mind of the key where Jon Osterman’s genitals used to be in Watchmen #12…)

    But there was just one other thing I’d intended to say before I…before I, you know, killed the thread…and that’s that I don’t really believe serious people indulge in “boomer exceptionalism”? I mean, I don’t believe such a thing really exists outside pop-soc attempts to set up generational tensions of a specifically political character. Which is a bit of cluttered phrasing on my part again, but what I mean there is that, yes, Alan Moore may very well be a disgruntled old fogey (though personally I’m not so sure he’s all wrong), but if he himself doesn’t have the thought in mind that his generation was exceptional, then I don’t think “boomerism” is sufficiently a real thing in the culture for it to have prejudiced his eye all on his own, and without him knowing? Boomerism is such a media darling because (in my view) it’s a media creation — a mediated creation — and I find it hard to believe it could infect Moore’s scripting when I find it hard to believe he thinks much of it?

    Also, one more errant thought…perhaps we could view Century as a sort of ecological fable, seeing as how our “Harry” was a mistake, a failure. I say this because I’ve recently been thinking that the real ecological catastrophe in Dune is actually the Kwisatz Haderach program of the Bene Gesserit, and Paul Muad’Dib et. al. the part where it all blows up, and the master planners reap their inevitable crop of disaster. Alan doesn’t come right out and say it, but the world of the League looks at least a little bit like an “ecology of story” too…some things fit, some things don’t…

    JUST A THOUGHT!

    And maybe I’ve had too many of them already…

    (goes and sits in corner)

  39. Jonathan Burns Says:

    Before anything else let me say, I’d give the Blazing World and all its dainty harlots for a few more pages of Murray & Quatermain chemistry, and now there won’t be any more.

    The most horrifying thing is that when Allen throws in the towel it may really be Alan telling us he’s no longer up to contriving adventures for the characters who were the human heart of all the LOEG monstrosity.

    Maybe he’s right, of course. It’s a fitting and gutsy end for Quatermain; maybe it’s the right end for the League. But I feel I haven’t just lost a beloved character, I’ve lost part of a beloved author.

  40. Adam Says:

    You see, this is what a discussion thread should look like!

  41. amypoodle Says:

    Yes, thank you everyone for your excellent thoughts.

    Burnsy: you know we can’t talk about stuff that we haven’t talked about yet, if you know what I mean.

    Wyrd: I’m sorry, but the twee is too much for me. Not all childrens’ books are like HP, so it’s really not an excuse. I’m fairly certain the Dads around here could back me up on that. The vertiginousness you describe was one of the reasons I liked Buffy though, so I can at least understand the pleasure there. But it really is icky. Like cake piled on cake piled on cake…..

    Plok: you never derail threads. You are awesome.

  42. amypoodle Says:

    Plok: when you say Potter may have been an accident of publishing, what do you mean by that?

  43. Illogical Volume Says:

    Lots of interesting chat here, but can I just take a second to laugh at myself for not reading through the version of “Epic Pooh” I linked to?

    I’ve got an old edition of Wizardry and Wild Romance kicking about, so that’s the version of that essay that I’m familiar with and I – rather foolishly, it turns out – assumed that Moorcock would agree with me about Rowling’s runny egg prose. The egg, it is on my face now. It is terribly runny indeed, nyum nyum nyum.

    Thanks Prankester!

    I should probably say that, for all that I stand by my criticisms of Rowling’s style, I certainly didn’t hate the Harry Potter novels or anything. That would be like hating a steak bake from Greggs or something, you know?

    I’m hoping to get in to Moore’s antichrist in our next post, reckon I’ll try to keep some of the criticisms in this comments thread in mind while I’m doing so, thanks chaps!

    Thaps.

  44. Adam Says:

    I think people are getting dangerously close to tacitly suggesting that accessability necessarily equates to dumbness, or at the very least letting off dumb stuff because it’s accessible, which isn’t a compromise that I want to make mainly because it’s not necessary.

    Accessible stuff can be very good indeed, unfortunately Rowling’s books aren’t very good. They’re addictive, they’re cuddly (up to a point), they’re occasionally thrilling (up to a point), they have a smattering of nice ideas, but that’s it. They even fail, if you ask me, at their primary purpose: as entertainments*. Good entertainments aren’t over-written monstrosities in my experience. They don’t bore you for innumerable waffling pages before offering you a bare bone. They surprise and delight you, they don’t merely pay off.

    Crikey, I’m not even sure the Potter books managed to do that very well. As the Barbelith Potter threads pointed out time and time again, smart readers understood the characters and the needs of the story way better than Rowling.

    They’re not a safe place to explore ideas because the ideas on offer are almost universally cliched, under developed or pedestrian, so therefore not worth exploring. The incursions of the adult world into the constructed domain of childhood on the other hand, the Potter books are far from unique in tackling that – that’s pretty much the backbone of all kid’s fiction – and in my view don’t do it especially well. Yeah, magic sort of binds childhood to adulthood, but it a very woolly way, and perhaps no more so than the cliched school setting. It’s certainly no Buffy, that’s for sure.

    Papers, the magic of the HP universe is comparable to the other elements of the books in a rather obvious way – it’s all uninspired. It’s not about looking too deeply, it’s about finding it all rather dull.

    All of which makes me sound as if I hate the Potter books, which I don’t. I’m just not a huge fan of the Potter franchise. Despite their compulsive quality and huge sales the books are average stuff, no worse than much of what’s out there but definitely no better. I enjoyed reading parts of it well enough, and I’d have no problem with my son picking it up in a few years time. I don’t think it’ll rot his brain, I just hope its not the only thing that floats his boat.

    David, Rowling’s books might have encouraged some kids to read, but the fact is that kids are reading fewer and fewer novels every year, and it’s almost certainly the case that many books were bought that weren’t read, and that many of kids who claimed to have read the books actually didn’t, and that of those that did many of them wouldn’t have been turned on to reading in the longterm. So, yeah, maybe a limited good in that respect, but not enough to make me want to celebrate Harry Potter as a cultural force.

    *Nothing wrong with being an entertainment. Reckon most of what we call ‘art’ would be better labelled ‘entertainment’.

  45. Quantum Says:

    I’m sure this will crop up in the next part of your discussion, but surely one cause of Moore’s disdain for contemporary culture and depiction of it as venal, corrupt and banal is the comic book industry.
    You must have noticed that 2009 is on the shelves *right next to* Before Watchmen? You can think what you like about those comics but everyone must agree that Alan has every reason to hate them, and surely they must irritate his bile duct enough to inform his view of popular culture.
    Looking at it another way, LOeG is a fiction but it is specifically a comic, and the comic book world is in a much worse state than general popular culture (at least regarding the big 2). I believe his use of Potter as the fall-guy for everything turning to shit is possibly a stand-in for superhero comics, and maybe if the publishers weren’t so litigious we’d be seeing thinly-veiled Justice League and Avengers fucking up the psychic landscape.

  46. Adam Says:

    Hah, quite possibly. Nice to see you, by the way.

    Potter’s inclusion strikes me as motivated by pragmatism as much as anything else. It’s a *popular* *British* *adventure* centred around *magic* – that’s all your League keywords right there. I mean, I’d start my cultural critique with the tabloid press and move steadily outwards from there, but then I’d be writing a very different story.

    Obviously Moore didn’t have to pick on it, but you can see why he did.

  47. amypoodle Says:

    Oh! Hello!

    Hmmm. The obvious counter to your argument is that Moore plans to deal with superheroes somewhere down the line. Vull the Invisible and The Seven Stars is adventure he’s long been touting. I think he’ll get most of his criticisms in there, criticisms that will extend to the present day. No, he hates Potter because he thinks it’s bad art/black magic, whereas superheroes he attacks because of a) the shitty industry that produces them, and b) because he thinks they’re emblematic of America’s fantasies of invulnerability.

  48. amypoodle Says:

    I just want to quickly get back to whether or not magic is any good in Potter books, because I personally think that it’s not the reason people find them compulsive and that many readers, having finished them, may find themselves utterly sick of magic. Seriously, Rowling’s endless focus on the zapping wand – a laser gun basically – shows such a paucity of imagination wrt her chosen subject matter that I don’t know where to begin. We’ve all watched a magician perform a magic trick, right? Remember that feeling? That amazement, even when its just a deck of cards that’s being manipulated? Rowling has people flying about and I don’t even care.

  49. jokes Says:

    I understand why some people have said that Moore and O’Neill may not exactly have their fingers on the pulse of current British culture but I still enjoyed 2009.

    I was a bit surprised that Harry Potter was chosen to be the Antichrist. Most people seem to think this is because the authors despise the HP franchise. Perhaps they do. But personally I thought it was taking the mickey out of all those fundamentalists who equate a children’s book about wizards with Satanism.

    To be honest I expected 2009 to be dominated by vampires. Wherever you look in popular culture they are there. Tru Blood, Vampire Diaries, Buffy, Being Human, Blade, Night Watch, Blood Ties, Moonlight and of course Twilight. I half expected Edward Cullen to be the Antichrist or at least involved somewhere.

    And I am also at little surprised that Dan Brown and the fad for historical codes and detectives weren’t under the microscope.

  50. amypoodle Says:

    Harry Potter was chosen for the reasons discussed ad nauseum above. Moore is making a point. That said, he probably enjoys the fact that Harry is equated with satanism, yes.

    And we enjoyed 2009 too. A whole lot.

  51. Adam Says:

    Moore gives his reasons for the Potter thing in the comic. It’s banal storytelling. It’s black magic. The guys obviously trying to do more than take the piss, is what I’m saying. That said, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the satanic link came via that fundamentalist stuff. It’s an unavoidable cultural trope.

  52. plok Says:

    Amy: well, Harry Potter unsurprisingly was passed on by lots of publishers…

    Hmm, not that that’s anything special in and of itself, but it does remind me of something I wanted to say…

    Which is: one of the most intriguing moving-parts of HPS (history and philosophy of science, for those who haven’t had the chance to be bored by me already) is that no matter how artfully one challenges the philosophical substrate there are still experimental results. Science is still grounded by observation. And, something I was going to say before, I don’t really ever have much of a problem holding two readings of a text in mental superposition. One: the reading that’s wary of the intentional fallacy. Two: the reading where the author is clearly controlling lots of stuff on purpose. But ever since Black Dossier I’ve been wondering if what I’m reading is what Alan meant to put there. Like I say, I don’t let thoughts of the author disturb my reading of the text-as-itself, but I’m far from uninterested in how Alan Moore and I might have parted company on the road to story heaven. Like, I found BD to be ominous as FUCK, and I don’t trust Prospero anymore than I trusted Moriarty. The only person I really trust, ever, is Mina. She’s the real reality of my reading experience, of which Norton can only ever be the palest of shadows…

    Which, as I said not too long ago elsewhere, hardly makes me a corrupt reader. Really, you only trust Mina? Not exactly an outlandish thing to take away from LoEG. But to distrust Prospero, hmm, maybe that’s something else…so I am curious about how much threat Alan means to put into things like the Blazing World, ’cause to me it seems threatful as hell, and I think the form of the League stories makes it that way (trust only Mina!) but I don’t know if the author’s intention is in line with that neat expression of form anymore. So one of the reasons I love Century is because it introduces a more existential threat to the Leaguers, and by doing so seems to validate my disquiet with the Blazing World…

    But anyway, what I meant to say about Harry Potter: it is okay to say that it’s crap. Just because something’s crap doesn’t mean you need to defend it. Because — hello! — Alan Moore’s Shakespeare pastiche in BD is serious crap, it’s really bad, and yet you don’t see me defending BD by pretending Alan knows fuck-all about how Shakespeare — SHAKESPEARE!! — talks, do you? Certainly not, because he doesn’t. So theory is theory and that’s all fine, but Alan does a crap Shakespeare. And one might easily concoct some metatextual or metafictional excuse for his Shakespeare being crap but it’s still crap Shakespeare. So perhaps beyond mere intelligence or mere skill there’s some sort of other factual limitation on authorial intent. How does a crap Shakespeare pastiche serve the aims of LoEG? It probably doesn’t…

    So Harry Potter is mostly crap, really. Compare it to “Wizard Of Earthsea”? Leaving all theory aside, LeGuin knows her way around a sentence, and a philosophical point of view. But Harry Potter caught fire, and took everyone by surprise, because…well, why the fuck did that catch fire? What the fuck happened? Wasn’t it actually kind of crap? The Dark Is Rising stuff petered out at the end too, but it was a million times better than Harry Potter for four solid books’ worth. So what explains HP’s far greater popularity?

    Accident. Harry Potter only ever got picked up by accident. Somebody bought it in the UK…then they went looking for publishers in Canada and only one said “yes” to them. No one else wanted anything to do with it. They figured it was junk…

    Wait, I’ll quote “The Tall Guy”:

    “That’s a stupid idea.”

    “They said Jesus Christ Superstar was a stupid idea.”

    “Jesus Christ Superstar was a stupid idea.”

    …Well, it was! And Harry Potter’s an accident of publishing because it was a stupid idea…not really a very good book, among the books of the slush pile. Not particularly well-written. The first chapter’s pretty boring and generic. The second chapter is too. How did it get published in the first place? If I were an editor I would’ve read ten pages and said “whatever, PASS.” And how did it become such a freakin’ crazy-ass global phenomenon? It must be by accident that it happened.

    Except that still doesn’t explain its appeal!

    So my thought is, no disrespect to WyrdBhikku…maybe somebody just realized that kids aren’t very discriminating. But really, most of the publishing industry is there to make sure that books like Harry Potter don’t happen…

    LONGWINDED!

  53. plok Says:

    Hmm, but I’d forgotten about that: the vampires. I totally did expect that, you know? I really expected vampires. Soulless mod teenage sexy vampires, Justin Bieber vampires. My God, how did that not happen?

    Heck, maybe Alan has lost it!

  54. Adam Says:

    All we can be absolutely certain of is that quality, entertainment value and, yes, accessability do not guarantee success and vice versa.

  55. Quantum Says:

    Amy/Adam, hmm I think you’re right, Potter was always going to be the Damien of the story. Still, I think the contempt for pop culture can’t be blamed entirely on the two creators being out of touch (although they are) and the Before Watchmen debacle must surely have an effect. It makes me angry and I’ve got no particular vested interest in the property beyond being a fan, imagine how annoying it must be for Alan.
    What’s that line he came out with about V?
    “Well, I don’t own the baby any more,” said Moore. “During a drunken night it turned out that I’d sold it to the Gypsies and they had turned my baby to a life of prostitution. Occasionally they would send me glossy pictures of my child as she now was, and they would very, very kindly send me a cut of the earnings…”
    He must have that stuff on his mind at least a little, especially in the League comic which has itself been pimped out to Hollywood and had it’s guts sucked out and been paraded around like a corpse in heavy rouge. If I were Moore, I’d have a jaundiced view of pop culture too.

  56. plok Says:

    Adam: well that’s just like being certain of not being able to be certain at all!

  57. Quantum Says:

    Oh but re: vampires, let’s be honest 2009 is actually more like 2002, I imagine the vampire and zombie saturation of pop culture has yet to seep down as far as Alan’s magic cave in Northampton, give it a few more years.

  58. Adam Says:

    Lol. No, I think I basically agree with you. I can’t imagine that Moore’s trials at the hands of the comic book industry don’t factor into his worldview somewhere. I’m the guy who claimed that W2tchmen Beyond was just an inevitable result of culture gone wrong, after all.

    Plok, it’s also an attempt to fend off absurd claims that Potter must have some special magic because it’s popular.

  59. plok Says:

    Celine Dion is also popular, and I defy you to say she hasn’t got a special magic.

  60. plok Says:

    Thread-corruptor.

  61. Adam Says:

    We need to throw the word “necessarily” in there. Special magic doesn’t necessarily guarantee success, but Celine Dion’s is reponsible for hers.

    Strongth

  62. Mindless Ones » Blog Archive » League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 2009 thoughts Says:

    [...] Part 1 of 3 (or maybe 4). Part 2 here [...]

  63. Papers Says:

    Actually, with regard to 2009 secretly being 2002 & the absence of dreary vampires (Poor Mina, in that event, her life struggles reduced to such wimpiness), it’s worth noting that HP is an interesting target because even when the books were being published the story was retro & out-of-date, taking place in the 1990s.

  64. Adam Says:

    I’ve always wanted to see Moore tackle Dracula. It’s my one League wish that will probably go unfulfilled.

    As I keep saying, Nemo vs the Mountains of Madness will probably more than compensate.

    Say what you like about 2009 as a vehicle for Moore’s criticisms of modern culture, the guy is unsurpassed in his ability to deliver comic book horror, and the Moore-O’Neill team was born to create scenes of Shoggoths on the rampage.

    Those panels of Harry prising his way into the world are just fantastic.

  65. Jog Says:

    Moore sort of did Dracula in a Vampirella story in the ’90s… “The New European,” with Gary Frank. I think they just recently plopped it in the back of the new Vampirella vs. Dracula #1, which draws extensively (I’m told) from Moore’s story…

  66. Asteele Says:

    Old people saying, that while the arts and activities they did while young were awesome, these kids today just listen to noise and read crap, since Plato. So there is a real chance peoples reaction to this the hundredth time they hear it is not going to be “maybe this time he has a point”, but “oh, not this tired shit again.”

  67. amypoodle Says:

    No one had thought of that. Thanks.

  68. Adam Says:

    I’m not sure that thinking a culture has become more juvenile is the same as saying all modern entertainment is rubbish.

  69. jokes Says:

    I sympathise with Moore’s attack on modern culture, but I just think there are better targets than HP. JK Rowling intended the books to be for children and it isn’t her fault that so many adults jumped on the Hogwarts Express. The books may not be high literature but there are far worse out there.

    I think the reality TV epidemic and shows like X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent could have been included more.

    Also I think it might of been quite interesting to see how Mina reacted to a world where vampires are now idolised rather than feared.

  70. Adam Says:

    “JK Rowling intended the books to be for children and it isn’t her fault that so many adults jumped on the Hogwarts Express.”

    As I see it Moore isn’t attacking Rowling (or rather he is, but only in passing), he’s attacking the culture that chooses to buy Rowling’s “banal” books en masse. This is a fundamental distinction.

    Reality TV show’s aren’t *popular* *British* *adventure* stories centred around *magic*. As I said above, he could have gone with something else, but given his remit and his interests it’s not remotely surprising that he didn’t.

  71. amypoodle Says:

    And what is this weird fixation with vampires?

  72. Adam Says:

    They’ve overrun pop-culture wif their zombie friends, innit.

  73. jokes Says:

    Adam I get what you are saying, but my point is that reality TV and talent competitions show far less imagination than the Harry Potter series.

  74. jokes Says:

    amypoodle I am not obsessed with vampires. What I was pointing out was that vampires have become a major part of modern culture. I was saying it would of been interesting to see Moore’s take on this. Also it would of been interesting to see how Mina felt about a society that idolises vampires.

  75. amypoodle Says:

    Oh, sorry, I actually misread you. I thought you said ‘It WAS interesting to see how Mina…etc’. Um, yes, I actually think it *would have been* quite interesting.

  76. Adam Says:

    They do, Jokes? I’m quite serious, my first thought is that it’s comparing apples with oranges, my second is that Harry Potter is built on convention and cliche all wrapped up in a dull prose style – i.e. that it isn’t very imaginative at all, Moore’s assessment in a nutshell.

    But, yeah, I agree that the kind of critique Moore’s attempting should probably be grappling with reality TV, along with computer games, the internet, self-publishing, other stuff, but that still doesn’t persuade me that Harry Potter – a multi-billion dollar world wide multimedia phenomenon – isn’t a good signifier of a juvenile culture (if that’s the argument you* want to make), *especially* if you’re looking for a example of pop sci-fi to build your story around.

    Moore’s not obliged to use the best most telling instance of cultural wrongness, he’s obliged to use the one that appeals to him and the one that fits the story he wants to tell, which could be construed as rigging the game, but that’s another conversation.

    *Not YOU, Jokes!

  77. jokes Says:

    amypoodle, apologies for using of instead of have

  78. amypoodle Says:

    I don’t care about that.

  79. jokes Says:

    Having re-read the comments about how quickly Mina recovered after leaving the institution I think I have hit upon my main issue with the Century trilogy. There isn’t enough of it.

    The first two volumes were set in 1898. That means six issues dedicated to one year/era. While I enjoyed Century I think a single issue per year must have made it a lot harder for Moore and O’Neill to fit everything in that they wanted to.

    I loved Century, I really did. But looking back a few bits felt a wee bit rushed. Considering the scope of the project it is amazing just how good this third volume has been.

  80. amypoodle Says:

    I think, for me, that’s the biggest niggle. But it happens, all the time in comics in fact, and, yeah, 2009 was a very fun read all the same.

  81. Adam Says:

    Hopefully some of gaps will be filled in future issues

  82. jokes Says:

    I am sure many of them will. I suppose there are certain modern fictional characters that I would love to see given the Moore O’Neill spin and I am being grumpy because they haven’t got round to them yet.

    For example I would love to see their take on things like Misfits. And I half expected to see a few digs at things like Gavin and Stacy

  83. Prankster Says:

    Weird thought: when Century 1969 came out, I realized that Moore’s 1963 makes a surprisingly good bookend; 1969 is “deeper” but in the light of the later work, 1963 does a more effective job of advancing the argument that the superhero is sort of the apotheosis of 60s culture (which wasn’t 1969′s job, of course).

    Now, post-2009, I’ve been casting my mind back to that era in Moore’s career again (which I dearly love, for all its flaws) and I realize that once again Moore has already provided an effective bookend: the two issues of Supreme that dealt with the escape of his rogue’s gallery from the Hell of Mirrors, published, I believe, as issues 56 and a rebooted #1 (oh, the mid-90s comics industry…) That particular two-parter is Moore running amok amongst then-modern culture, arguably, with a lot more glee and savage abandon than he is in 2009–the Televillain infects the show Friends and executes Rachel and Monica gangland-style, Optilux absorbs a Bon Jovi concert, and Korgo the Space Tyrant challenges then-president Bill Clinton (who speaks entirely in soundbites) to single combat, then takes Hillary as his mate along with sovereign rulership over the country. It’s all very Mad magazine, and the tendency is to roll your eyes a little, but there’s an infectuous energy to it all that makes it impossible not to at least crack a smile, and it makes the whole “banality of modern culture” point much more effectively and even subtly than LoEG does. LoEG is of course more concerned with ideaspace and magic and whatnot than Supreme, but the two once again compliment each other very effectively.

  84. Carlos Caballero Says:

    “Lovecraft’s Old Ones waiting in the wings” I love that imagery. I don’t think its been brought up before that Haddo’s “Strange and Terrible New Aeon” sounds an awful lot like the aeons predicted in the Necronomicon when “even death may die.” I think this interpretation rings true, especially after what Haddo says to Mina and Orlando in the final pages, and the obvious foreshadowing that the eternal life secret is going to get out now, too many people know. But, I guess I’m getting ahead of the game, this is next installment stuff.

  85. amypoodle Says:

    Well, I think we were saying the same thing when we anno’d ’69… and 1910 for that matter. We just thought the real threat to everything would be out in the open by now….. Had to revise that.

  86. jokes Says:

    Unable to sleep last night I picked up the first volume of LoEG for the first time in a while. I was struck by several aspects which I hope you won’t mind me sharing.

    There has been some criticism (from me amongst others) that Moore and O’Neill haven’t reflected the modern fictional universe. Reading Volume 1 it is noticeable how much hope there is in the future. The fictional Paris may be squalid but it has airships and the feel that they are on the verge of dramatic progress. Similarly in London there is powered flight and even talk of travelling to the moon.

    That optimism for the future does not seen to exist in reality or fiction in 2012. Perhaps as a forty year old husband and dad I simply don’t have a good enough knowledge of current fictional trends, but Moore seems to have captured the feeling that people see the future as something they have look at with suspicion or trepidation rather hope.

    Instead we have reverted to old familiar characters or archetypes which provide us with comfort. Films tend to be sequels, remakes or prequels. Old series like Minder are “reimagined” rather than a new show created. Even shows like Life on Mars & Ashes to Ashes are harking back on times which seem happier because with the benefit of hindsight there aren’t any nasty surprises.

  87. amypoodle Says:

    Oh yeah, I mean Moore’s been harping on about nostalgia being a sign of the end times, metaphorical or otherwise, since Watchmen. Yeah, I don’t know that there is much hope for the future these days and I’m not at all surprised to see that reflected in 2009. It’s why I’m looking forward to the fourth volume of the league, because it’s probably going to be the first text that I’ve read in a very long time that’ll feature a good old fashioned millennialistic happy ending.

  88. moose n squirrel Says:

    While I’m not the world’s biggest Harry Potter fan, I’ve got to say, it did a much better job of “introducing me to magic”, whatever that means, than Magus Alan Moore’s Very Own Promethea, who’s idea of Capital M Magick appears to be an endless series of tedious – if very well-illustrated! – old man lectures about how I really need to pay more attention to his tarot deck. While I’m sure there was someone out there that came out of that wanting to drop acid and pray to snake puppets just like ol’ Alan, all I got from that was the desire to see J. H. Williams work on something with a writer who hadn’t already gone half-senile.

  89. Adam Says:

    Lol. I sympathise with much of that emotion.

  90. plok Says:

    I dunno, it’s a pretty low bar for “introduction to magic” to just fill a public school with magic wands and flying broomsticks, isn’t it?

    Sort of like Pern without the spaceships!

  91. moose n squirrel Says:

    “Public school”? Hogwarts was pretty much the definition of private, wasn’t it?

    I suspect at least half of Moore’s loathing for Rowling’s work stems from the fact that the context in which it is experienced is inevitably just so – *shudder* – proletarian. The notion that any old lumpen sort could pick up any of a zillion copies of Harry Potter and the What Is It Now at her local Border’s (RIP) and flip through it on the subway must have really stuck in the Great Magus’s craw, after years of believing that the Magical Fictional Word of God should truly only be accessible to a chosen few, mumbling semi-coherent incantations to each other in the private dark, and only then after pouring over Jess Nevins’s complete annotations.

  92. plok Says:

    I think in the UK their “public” is like our “private”…

    Dunno about how proletarian anything about HP is…you think you’re just a Muggle, but then find out you were actually born special? And so are entitled to flying broomsticks with racing stripes on them, specially-delicious gum or something. Private messenger-birds. To be mad at the lumpen types being able to gain easy access to magic by reading about Harry’s goblin gold on the train would be a little like being mad at all the people getting to learn all about socialism by watching Downton Abbey on Netflix, maybe?

  93. RF Says:

    Fascinating post. I do want to say that I don’t contest “High Church Toryism” re: Lewis, but it is pretty harsh on Tolkien, who was an avowed anarchist. I don’t trust myself to HTML this right, but here’s a link to the pertinent quote, written to his son in 1943:

    http://rodbenson.com/2011/08/20/tolkien-on-anarchism/

    Whether these beliefs are really reflected in LotR is another question. It depends on how much weight you give the presence and narrative dominance of royalty vs. the fact that the novel is a long argument against the idea that history is made by the powerful vs. the lack of substantial government in the Shire vs. the fact that the Shire still has powerful families and a Mayor or two vs. the question of how much Tolkien’s anarchism and his Catholicism and his Victorian childhood and his love of the epic mode inevitably clashed with each other. But at any rate, I think the situation with him is more complicated than with Lewis.

  94. Adam Says:

    Interesting.

    Moose, Plok has the right of it. Fee paying schools are referred to as both “public” and “private” here. Confusing, I know. Public schools, as you understand them, are “state schools” in the UK.

    I think you’re really mischaracterising Moore there. I mean, you know what Dodgem Logic was, right? You know that Moore’s a pretty radical anarchist?

  95. amypoodle Says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DM-gXSjqME

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2qLgZG0l54

    It would disgust this man if the hoi polloi could easily get their hands on a book….

  96. Adam Says:

    Out of interest, Moose, do you actually know anyone who practices magic? Because I do, and while I see a lot of elitism and credulism bound up in that stuff – probably in a much better informed way than you given that I’ve been around occultisists of one sort or another my whole life – I’ve also met my fair share of people who aren’t mad or senile or fixated on some sort of mystical hierarchy deinitely not accessible to the proles. Alan Moore strikes me as a mystic of the latter stripe, even if I do find myself strongly disagreeing with him and/or irritated by his metaphysical meanderings from time to time. As far as I can tell – from his writing, from interviews – the guy has a real humanitarian streak, even if his work is maybe a little too… er… rape orientated.

  97. amypoodle Says:

    I would also add that while the didactic tone of Promethea’s kabbalah story arc may not be to everyone’s taste – it certainly grated with me from time to time – those issues were an attempt to transmit some of the ideas and insights accrued over the course of years and years of magical study and practice, many of which were (indeed are!) genuinely thought provoking, beautiful and, dare I say it, magical. Rowling’s books, conversely, are about a public school boy with a laser gun (ten different settings!) and a jet pack.

  98. moose n squirrel Says:

    No, I don’t know anyone who “practices magic”, any more than you do.

    As far as Promethea goes – it bored me to fucking tears. As pedestrian as it often was, Harry Potter was rarely boring. And yeah, I do find Moore – and Moore’s apologists – pretty elitist; it’s pretty telling that “public school” keeps getting thrown around here as an insult.

  99. moose n squirrel Says:

    Let me ask you folks a question: when Moore has Mina say, “People were desperately poor in 1910, but at least they felt things had a purpose,” what exactly do you think Moore thinks the actual 1910 looked like? Because in actual 1910 England, workers were dying in the ghettos and slums of industrial England, and being worked to death in factories. Is his proposition that although their lives were shit, they were happier than they would be now, because at least they’d have charming pulp adventure tales to read (assuming they could read, of course)?

    Or is it that Moore actually doesn’t imagine himself, when he imagines himself living in 1910, as one of the masses of ordinary people, having to experience their bleak (and typically illiterate) existence – but actually imagines himself comfortably situated in some middle class world, where he can “practice magic” with ease and enjoy whatever good bits of culture survived to be appreciated by the Alan Moores of his time?

  100. bobsy Says:

    Moose, listen: ‘public school’ = elitist institution. Derogatory use of ‘public school’ = anti-elitism.

    Alan Moore = working class man lucked into lots of wedge. Uses cash, time and profile to protest closure of public institutions, advocates sortition as democratic organising principle. Not an elitist.

    ‘Practices magic’ = something that lots of people do actually do. It’s rare, it’s weird, but if you’ve literally never met anyone who would’ve been comfortable with the label ‘practicing magician’, then… I dunno, go out and try to meet some more unusual people, I guess.

  101. Adam Says:

    I assume you’re saying that I don’t know anyone with special powers, Moose, which is a different thing from knowing people who have something invested in occult or magical practices. Pretty sure I don’t know anyone with special powers, no.

    Moore’s on record as saying that he doesn’t know anyone with special powers, either.

    Slightly concerned that you’re characterising everyone who’s prepared to defend aspects or instances of Moore’s work as elitist apologists. I’ll defend parts of it, other bits less so.

    Out of interest, did you read what I (and Plok) wrote about the term “public school”? Looking at what you’ve written I get the impression that you didn’t, or are you concerned about reverse discrimination?

  102. Adam Says:

    “Let me ask you folks a question: when Moore has Mina say, “People were desperately poor in 1910, but at least they felt things had a purpose,” what exactly do you think Moore thinks the actual 1910 looked like?”

    Let me answer that question with a quote from me above

    “In what way did the Britain of 100 years ago have more purpose than our own, and if it did, is the kind of purpose it had better than no purpose at all? The 3rd Reich had a purpose, didn’t it?”

    The implication being that, no, Alan, the Britain of 1910 would not have been a better place to live or its suffering ameliorated because of some nebulous “purpose”.

    But despite that line of bullshit thinking I still get the impression that Moore has a pretty damn good idea just how awful the conditions were back then. From Hell, set earlier granted, painted one of the most vivid, if narrow, pictures of C19 working class poverty I’ve ever come across. Somehow I don’t think he imagines that Britain had turned into a working class wonderland a mere 20 years later. YMMV.

  103. amypoodle Says:

    Those poor public school children, they desperately need defending from evil elitists.

    Give me a break.

  104. amypoodle Says:

    Actually, I can’t be bothered with this conversation. Moose, as Adam touches on above, you clearly haven’t read the post very thoroughly, also you’re forcing people who have quite complex, nuanced, caveat-ridden feelings about Moore and his work to entrench themselves in ways that I, for one, am not that comfortable with. Go somewhere and start a fight with people who unreservedly love Alan Moore. We don’t.

  105. bobsy Says:

    I do!

  106. Adam Says:

    But… but… surely “you folks” all think alike?

  107. gary Says:

    Now that I’ve read over 2009, I do wonder if there’s an intentional “Girl Power” shift towards the end of the narrative. It reminded me a lot of Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I got the feeling that it was intentional, especially with Mina or Orlando = Buffy or Willow and Angel = Alan Quartermain. And while that seems reductionist, you can easily point to the threads that both Alan Moore and Joss Whedon pull from Chris Claremont’s depiction of women as the way they portray strong female protagonists (where I guess the equation would be Kitty Pryde -> Buffy -> Orlando/Mina?)

    Are there any references to the Whedonverse that I missed? Or does anyone else see the sweves to Whedon’s work too?0

    - gary

  108. amypoodle Says:

    I don’t think there are direct connections between 2009 and Buffy, other than a female focus, but….

    Well, we’ll be getting onto some of the stuff you touch upon in the next batch of thoughts….

  109. Pat Says:

    One of the interesting things that practically no one has been talking about in these comments is the descent of the League throughout the three issues in this volume, from wealthy servants of the government living in a museum in 1910, to a few fab people who run a hip bar in 1969 London, to finally a complete mess comprised of a homeless man, a woman in an mental asylum, and a dismissed war veteran. That to me seems to be the critique of culture that Moore is showing us, how we’ve let our greatest heroes be cast aside and practically forgot. These characters come from a time when stories had meaning to them. Even Mary Poppins, who’s world may also be governed by loosely defined magical rules, still has great lessons to be learned (at least the movie did). I can’t think of any things I learnt from Harry Potter, except maybe the “power of friendship.”

  110. amypoodle Says:

    We’re just a bit suspicious, as evidenced by our posts, that there aren’t valuable lessons to be gleaned from many modern texts.

    The massive wait between each of the story’s installments probably accounts for many readers missing the decline you mention – a decline that is absolutely there in the text. People are reading it in a bitty, atomised way, which is a real shame, because read as a whole Century is tremendously satisfying.

  111. jokes Says:

    I think to be fair in order to put Century in it’s true context you not only need to read all three issues, but go back and read volume 1&2

  112. amypoodle Says:

    Agreed.

  113. Lanmao, the Blue Cat Says:

    Re: valuable lessons in contemporary texts & the decline of the Leaguers

    That’s a really interesting point, and I think brings into focus something I’d been picking up from these writeups. See, I’m not sure what a contemporary work that imparted valuable lessons would look like. Could it be that for Moore, the problem of Western culture in the early 21st century is that it does not allow for the (moral? aesthetic?) achievements of previous eras? That it actively thwarts those achievements, deflecting them or twisting them until they become supports for the status quo rather than presenting alternatives to it? (I’m thinking of Marcuse here)

    If we look at it from this perspective (which, for what it’s worth, I don’t think I share), the deployment of Harry Potter as the antichrist isn’t motivated by any animus toward Harry per se. Rather, the poor little fucker seems to be the best that we, as a culture, can do in producing the ‘magic’ that Moore attributes to previous aesthetic periods. The tortures and manipulations that Harry undergoes could be understood as what happens to the creative impulse, producing not the sublime but a sullen, distorted mockery of it.

  114. hellblazer Says:

    In case the Moose is still so wedded to theories about Moore’s attitudes and about commenters’ views of said attitudes:

    1) HP = Jennings meets Dark is Rising (possible dash of Stalky and Co?)

    2) Public school, on this Britisher blog from Britisher comments, equals Eton = Winchester = Westminster = Harrow = Rugby = etc et bloody cetera

    3) Moose and squirrel = creatures of Very Little Brain, or at least inclination to read what people actually wrote up thread.

    4) Moore’s attitudes to culture and modern tastes = complicated/contradictory, IMHO, but about as far from “middle class man looks down on proles” as you could get.

    On different note:

    “Rowling’s books, conversely, are about a public school boy with a laser gun (ten different settings!) and a jet pack.”

    Slightly harsh from what I remember of first four HP books, but a nicely chins image. Arguably that’s their mission and thir success.

  115. hellblazer Says:

    I think that “chins” was meant to be “chosen”…

  116. plok Says:

    Mr. Blue Cat has it, I think…the state of our fictions may not be totally decrepit, may not even be mostly decrepit if you count all the stuff that Moore isn’t looking at, but from my perspective it certainly is worth complaining about the shabbiness of the stuff that makes up the status quo, when it’s getting harder and harder to ignore it or slice through through it…or even see past it, to things that are really going on down on the ground. If Moore made the comment about 1910 that Mina makes, referring to the real world, then you could absolutely throw a bunch of stuff back at him about how plenty of things are inarguably better now than it was then…and perhaps he could then throw back something at you, like “yes, for the consuming classes, but that’s all just a consensual nightly-news hallucination of standard of living presented for the benefit of the non-down-and-out”, or “the problem with the pervasiveness of a consumerist view in all kinds of media is that it not only makes it WAY easier to ignore the people on the bottom (where perhaps in earlier times they and their views would have been better represented), but it also disenfranchises even their aspirations, by assuming those are also simply consumerist in nature and therefore already well-represented”, and then maybe you’d even have a real conversation happening at that point…

    But when Mina says people looked more like they had a purpose in 1910, after being returned to a 2009 life after a forty-year absence, what she’s describing is people who live in a world based on our fictions and our popular culture…a world not created by the people in it, but by the people outside of it writing books and movies and newspaper columns and what-have-you. So you can’t really make the argument to Mina that things are really better now in material terms — she’s not talking about rising standards of living in the real world, she’s talking about the sense of hope, aspiration, purpose etc. that obtains in the fiction of the real world. Heck, her world’s history isn’t even the same as ours — hers followed up Big Brother with Dan Dare, for heaven’s sake! So as anything we would call “history” in the real world, there’s a lot of arbitrariness and even incoherence there — it’s hard to see that any facts of Mina’s world are (as Hobbes put it) dependent one upon the other, because they’re not, and also they’re not facts anyhow. But as a record, a whimsical record that is, of the “development” of our pop-culture sketches of present, past, and future…

    Well, you can say that Moore’s missed a lot, but I don’t think you can say he’s missed what should be obvious, anyway. Can we really just set aside Harry Potter books, or Tom Cruise movies, or Entourage or bad Marvel comics or the shabby state of the nightly news and the morning paper, as extremely heavily-weighted components of pop culture at the moment? And we’ve always had bad pop culture, of course, but this really is unusually pervasive stuff now: we have a culture of the summer blockbuster now, at the very least, where we never did before. And the creative zones of culture that have access to money for production and distribution really do, I think, get more insular and duckspeaky all the time…more debased?

    I dunno, I tend to think it’s an axe worth grinding, at any rate. Maybe he’s not wrong!

  117. Adam Says:

    Points well made but the difficulty is that Moore has at least one of the conversations be a direct response to the recession and derelict buildings, clear cut signifiers of real social and economic decline.

  118. plok Says:

    But surely these are just recordings of the changing environments of our own world, that inevitably are used as the settings of fiction?

    Hmm, no, but you’re right…I mean, I did say the “historical development” was whimsical (and it is!), but it’s still fuzzier than just cramming Roger Melly (fucking LOVE that! SO much!) under an ad for a Vincent Chase Aquaman movie and saying “this is what fiction looks like now”. Tough to say the 2009 general milieu anyway, as presented, is anything “natural” to contemporary fiction…Alan and Kevin are making choices here, in a way they could get away with a lot better in earlier volumes, with more distance in time letting them more easily say “this is just what everybody knows fictional Victoriana looks like”, etc. etc. But THIS TIME IT’S PERSONAL!

  119. amypoodle Says:

    You know, I can just about live with Moore arguing that people in the past had a more pronounced sense of purpose than many of us do (looking back, my grandparents were definitely more inclined to see the world as consisting of a priori truths, because they had less access to information that could contradict the stories they’d been told about the world growing up). This obviously doesn’t excuse how shitty that ‘sense of purpose’ often was, how it enslaved those who shared it, etc.

  120. Jonathan Burns Says:

    Hi Lanmao! In the context of this installment I think a valuable new story would be one that kicked the stuffing out of the stereotypes of urban racism.

    Disclaimer: I’m Australian, haven’t been to London for years, and don’t know whether the racism which Mr O’Neill delineates so forcefully is more satire or entrenched reality.

    But look at it. Red-goggled coppers injure a black man on the street (Orlando looks straight ahead). The coloured people hanging around the Drum & B are in solitary defensive postures, eyes concealed. Others on the street in daylight look stoic or severe. It seems that social contact means trouble. There are a lot of white people looking straight ahead. The only coloured people who seem to be expressing themselves are the caste-marked functionary at MI6 and the dapper gents in the club. And on the club floor the two people we can really see, getting into Spooky-clone’s anti-imperialist rant, are positively ferocious. (That the guy in front seems to have his teeth filed into points is nearly racist in itself.)

    I put this together with all the public eyeballs, on awnings, on lamposts, built into monuments; and the coppers and the cameras. This is a society afraid of itself, and I can’t help but feel that half the fear is racial. (Though there’s the implication that 1984 never ended, it just became impolite to say so.)

    Counter-indications? Who Dat Ninja? Massive Genius? These are stereotype acts sponsored by white-owned media, aren’t they? Moore could have given a shout-out to Mantan and Eat’n'Sleep from “Bamboozled”. Stay calm, citizens, these people are mostly harmless; leave it to us to take care of the troublemakers.

    That’s how it looks. Now I’m even more ignorant of current culture than of London; but you blokes, immersed in it: in the last ten years has pop culture fielded one Londoner character of colour, who you could say stands superior to the stereoyping and racial uneasiness, and has some kind of access to the incredible, and should totally join the League?

    It’s not the only cultural failure that Moore’s implying, but it’s a big one. Putting up with racism is of a piece with putting up with labour exploitation (1910) and sexual exploitation (1969).

    By now in the series I see the whole magickal plot as irrelevant. The catastrophe that really looms over this society is that they’ll be divided against themselves, rich against poor, black against white, watchers against watched, when Jack Nemo comes knocking.

  121. amypoodle Says:

    Jack Nemo isn’t a baddie. But otherwise, yeah, good points.

  122. amypoodle Says:

    (Unless by Jack Nemo you just mean THE END OF THE WORLD!)

  123. plok Says:

    “Jack Nemo”? “No-one No-one”?

    What was that line that came out of the UK riots, something about the white people in the wine bar patios and the black people kicking their own shoes down the street outside them just ignoring one another, ignoring, ignoring, ignoring as hard as they could at the speed of sound?

    Time for a re-read, I think.

    (Sorry if me not necessarily remembering that right makes it sound like I’m being provocative, btw. I’d hate to misrepresent anything or anybody, so please do correct me if I’m wrong.)

  124. Mark Brett Says:

    I didn’t think Moore’s critique of Potter was based in its treatment of magic so much as in our culture’s overwhelming embrace of juvenilia. But maybe I put too much weight on Norton’s whole speech in the panel about the train: “I assume it runs on sloppily-defined magical principles. I’m sure you two can handle it.” That second sentence, to me, felt like Moore acknowledging that Mina and Orlando ought to be entirely at home with sloppy fictional magic, seeing as how they’re kind of steeped in it, themselves.

    So I focused mostly on Potter as the voice of callow youth, a voice that’s come to dominate our culture more and more in the years since 1969. When did that process begin? Star Wars, maybe? Certainly that spawned a generation (mine, I’m afraid) that embraced their favorite childhood film and never outgrew it. And then we embraced our own children’s favorite entertainment (Potter) almost as wholeheartedly as they did. This widespread interest in simple-minded kids’ fare has had a dumbing-down effect on culture as a whole, and that was what I thought Moore was primarily attacking.

    Of course, I think that critique ignores a whole raft of better and more adult-minded pulp/pop entertainment that gained popularity in the Noughts: Sopranos, Deadwood, even (to a lesser extent) Galactica and Lost. But of course, that’s all American stuff, and (being American) I’m not nearly as well-versed in what sort of pulp Britain produced in that period.

    There’s New Who, of course, but that only makes Moore’s argument more strongly. Joe Abercrombie’s noir-tinged fantasy novels are quite demented and good, I think, but their period setting would be hard to work into the League. Though Bayaz vs Prospero would be quite entertaining. Unless Prospero IS Bayaz, which… Brr. While Prospero has taken on something of a sinister aspect, I don’t think Moore is setting up the Blazing World as an evil conspiracy of magical bastards.

    But now I am completely rambling, so I’ll shut up. Wonderful insight into the work, as always, gentlemen. Just had to toss in my two cents.

  125. dedge Says:

    It strikes me that pointing out Hogwarts and all that jazz as essentially banal, bubble-wrapped packaging of magic, a magic with no sharp corners, is seemingly only a bad thing from a more – well, I want to say privileged, but i’m not so sure that word really works here – magically advantaged background. If magic is something that either is or should be transformative, then it’s only those who’ve had good experiences, found themselves transformed in appreciated ways, who’d put it down so.

    Compare that to M, A, and O here, who certainly seem to have experienced the highest highs of transformative experiences over their lives – but even they, I think, if offered a banal existence in retrospect, would probably take it at this point. And these are the people with the most positive experiences, both in quality and quantity, that we see over the course of the series (at least in comparison to others).

    I don’t know if that’s an intended interpretation, though. Presumably Moore would be in a privileged position when it comes to his own beliefs on magic, but there’s not really any way to know that for sure.

  126. Charles Hatfield Says:

    This widespread interest in simple-minded kids’ fare has had a dumbing-down effect on culture as a whole, and that was what I thought Moore was primarily attacking.

    That would be an extraordinarily reactionary position for a self-professed anarchist to take.

  127. Jonathan Burns Says:

    Moore has been standing for the whole literary commons, kids’ fare and all, for years. The weight of evidence is beyond doubt.

    I think with Harry Potter he swung for a target he actually hit with Weeping Gorilla and Montellimar Sykes. I’m starting to see keys to it all in Promethea.

    Moore could write some pretty damn good childrens’ fantasy if he felt like it. I wish he would. Where is his Iron Giant? His Elidor? His Earthsea?

  128. Adam Says:

    If he keeps his adjectives and adverbs under control! We were just talking about his prose writing over at mindless HQ (email) the other day.

  129. plok Says:

    Of course, “simple-minded” kid’s fare is the kind of kid’s fare we really do want less of, don’t we?

    Moore’s prose writing perplexes me, and I have all kinds of theories about it which I hope Jerusalem will adequately test. “Hob’s Hog” is a pretty towering achievement in my view, but like the rest of VotF I see it as still something of a reaction to the comics form, a reaction to the absence of an artist-collaborator in the making of what’s still, essentially, a comics story…and it’s the variety of approaches to this reaction that makes VotF a bit uneven. In a way, VotF reminds me of Daytripper by Moon and Ba: not a dinner but a buffet, a kind of portfolio rather than a fully-formed work: his occasionally-offputting poetical flourishes stand right next to the more terse evocations he’s always accomplished so beautifully, to the point where I wonder if, to him, one’s just another way of doing the other. As though someone who’s always worked just within this one set of art-defining constraints can’t help leaning on them still?

    Yet if all that’s true, “Hob’s Hog” was still a brilliant reaction to the comics form, so I dunno…

  130. Adam Says:

    Oh, I like Hob’s Hog well enough and I generally enjoy Moore’s prose but I also find it VERY frustrating.

    Here’s what I did wrote on the Mindless email

    “Moore is an excellent comic book writer and a very smart guy with a great imagination, a feel for atmosphere, and a very strong storytelling sense. All that stuff elevates his prose above that of many other verbose writers, but it still limits him. He writes as if he’s terrified of letting the reader have any room to breathe – like he’s writing a script. It strikes me as very controlling, and in some ways lacking in confidence. The extra annoying thing is that has it in him to change up his style quite spectacularly when he wants to, meaning that his default mode is almost certainly more of a psychological weakness more than a technical one.”

  131. Steve Peterson Rides Again! Says:

    Hi Guys.

    Heard you were wondering if Hary Potter is magic or not. Well I know someone who worked on it and it definitely ISN’T. It’s practically all special effects.

  132. plok Says:

    Oh, I’d agree with all of that! And I’m tempted to think HH succeeds so well because it’s a special case of it: it may not be verbose description that does it (ha, it’s the opposite!) but the air’s phenomenally clogged, and when you finally get some space to breathe it’s a near-tangible relief. So, it makes a virtue — a genuinely novelistic virtue! — of that stuff, I think, but some of the other chapters don’t manage the same trick, or at least don’t manage it so consistently. You still get some remarkably striking images, of course: a hand dragged through the water, etc. But yeah, there is a tendency to feel like you’re reading a script?

    I’m really curious about how he’s developed his prose style through the writing of Jerusalem. Most comics writers who turn novelist always cast a weird double shadow, never do much changing-out of their habits, and for me it’s always a patchwork quilt: look, there he’s writing prose, look, there he’s writing comics. Sometimes I even wish they’d put more comics in the prose! But I suspect Moore may be interested in changing his spots a bit more than that…

    Huh, you know it occurs to me that if prose is what you grow up wanting to write, you have to give up on “purple” after a while, just have to, no other choice…even though you don’t really want to, because purple is showy and dazzling and musical and reasonably fun to write. Who ever edits their purpleness, without just throwing it out? What would be the point? So that’s pretty gratifying… But if you end up not working in prose, maybe you get to shelter that forbidden verbose love, either by simply not being able to use it much through a lack of time and space, therefore never facing much of the necessity of chopping it out, or by using it somewhere where it’s actually a positive virtue…or maybe even both? Whether together all at once, or one after the other…

    (Huh, I don’t remember who said it, something like “one can’t serve God and Mammon both, not even one after the other”?)

    But you can change lanes. It’s a really minor example, but Steve Gerber said when he left Marvel he started tearing out huge chunks of his habits of diction that he realized were “Marvel-style” — that worked well at Marvel, but were actually shit anywhere else. Not sure that anyone, even me, is going to stand up and say “and that’s when Steve Gerber started writing like Dashiell Hammett”, but…

    …It shows it’s possible, anyway?

  133. plok Says:

    Feels good to stop talking about Harry Potter, even if I’m not quite all the way back to C: 2009 yet…not saying anyone else should stop talking about Harry, but…

  134. Adam Says:

    Plok, Moore simply must be overwriting Jerusalem. I mean, he’s what… 1000 pages in? Whether or not he’ll thin out the words in a given chapter, or even the entire novel is almost a moot point when you start considering the book’s total length. Not that that means it’ll be bad, but it does worry me.

    Man needs an editor (life rule #2).

  135. plok Says:

    It makes it very interesting to consider what he’s going to do about it, doesn’t it? It’s exactly the sort of situation where somebody gets terminally stuck, never finishes, where perhaps it’s eventually discovered that there was never a real “book” Jerusalem, just a whole lotta pages…but Moore’s always been an ambitious man, and Voice took a hell of a long time to come out too, so I’m quite excited by the dazzling possibility that it somehow isn’t overwritten, and is going to come out?

    And hit like a ton when it does?

    HOW WEIRD WOULD THAT BE? Very weird indeed, and yet — maybe because it would be an absolutely ridiculously formally-subversive thing to and bring off — I do think it’ll happen. Although: a thousand pages. A thousand pages. A thousand pages!

    Still, “if we could go where Dr. Strange goes and lives, we’d bloody well be Dr. Strange, wouldn’t we?”

  136. Adam Says:

    I’d bet hard cash that it is over written but that doesn’t mean I won’t like it.

  137. amypoodle Says:

    Yeah, there’s overwritten and overwritten. Don’t get me wrong, Moore’s verbosity pisses me off for all the reasons Adam gives above, but his words are never wasted – they’re precise to a fault, poetic, always convey exactly what he intends, etc. It’s not like with bloody HP Lovecraft when you’re like, SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP! WHY DOES EVERYONE IN YOUR BOOKS USE THE WORD ELDRITCH?

  138. bobsy Says:

    Yeah HP Lovecraft’s well rubbish lmao

  139. Steve Peterson Rides Again! Says:

    At least in Lovecraft it’s real magic. There were no special effects in those days. Not in books.

  140. Mindless Ones » Blog Archive » League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 2009 thoughts – part three Says:

    [...] Part 1, Part 2 [...]

  141. Jack Flash Says:

    What the Antichrist reminded me of most was Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis, which takes aim at the new generation of suburbanised parents – well-to-do middle-class types who give their children a myriad of benefits and perks (privileged schools, expensive toys and games) while also medicating them to the gills with antidepressants and antipsychotics. So you have a whole generation of jittery, self-doubting emotionally fragile future Masters of the Universe desperately looking for validation of their existence.

    Like how the Antichrist keeps bragging about how he’s famous – “I’m in a book of the Bible and everything!” – and how powerful he is. That pilled-up horribly self-conscious attitude could also be why Haddo considers him “banal”.

  142. Mindless Ones » Blog Archive » Tygers and Lambs #1 – LoEG Century: 2009 Says:

    [...] we’ll get back to that in a minute, becuase as I said in an earlier post, there’s a strange nested dolls effect at work in this comic, with old(ish) men Alan Moore [...]

  143. Fedemone Says:

    Great comments indeed, even if I didn’t amnage to read ‘em all…
    Well, I just wanted to repky to who wrote about “descent of the League throughout the three issues in this volume, from wealthy servants of the government living in a museum in 1910, to a few fab people who run a hip bar in 1969 London, to finally a complete mess comprised of a homeless man, a woman in an mental asylum, and a dismissed war veteran. That to me seems to be the critique of culture that Moore is showing us, how we’ve let our greatest heroes be cast aside and practically forgot. These characters come from a time when stories had meaning to them.”

    I’m not sure I fully agree with this. If the two first LoEG installments showed us kinda group of “super heroes”, coming from different timeline and dreamworlds, from the very beginning of 1910 chapter, the group is quite clumsy and pointless: is unable to get through the real Haddo’s plan, it is misunderstanding the hints and fact, is not able to patch up the situation and real protagonists are someone else. They are not the centre of world as they thought, they are just a bunch of people, real humans, with all their own problems and this is becoming just clearer and clearer as the story goes on. They screw up their decade lasting relationships, they fall into insanity and addiction and violence frenziness and sex obsessions. On the other side, they need each other, they are fragile and can feel a love literally everlasting. So, Moore shows that the League itself never had been superheroes at all, and all the poor people they move through seems to be the definitive proof that there’s no way to just puch&kick the problems out, like most superheroes do.

    About the decadence of western culture, maybe Moore wants to appear more critique than he really is. For example he said to enjoy good TV shows, and he’s definitely aware of Iannucci’s work and to aprpeciate it, and so on. maybe what he’s really complaining for is some US attitude toward mass production/consumption (that is affecting culture, of course) that has been summed up by the Wilde’s joke “America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between”

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  150. Harlequin Says:

    I hadn’t considered my old friend Ben Arronovitch’s books to be psychogeographical before reading the LoEG annotations and annocommentations. Thank you all for that perspective. The stories are primarily adventure procedurals about investigations carried out by the last two wizards in the Metropolitan Police Force. Incidentally, the fourth book in the series, ‘Broken Homes’, has now been published.

    I’m not convinced that “Eight-year-old Wiccans on pilgrimages” connects directly to Harry Potter, who was not connected to Wicca and knew nothing about his magical heritage before his eleventh birthday.

    Are double crosses increasing during the recession? They were seen at least a couple of times in 1969.

    I think it unfair to compare the Potter books to the likes of Martin, Lynch, Moorcock or Morrison considering that they were written for children (and the earlier ones for pre-teen children at that, which might exclude the likes of LeGuin and Pullman). Now that I think of Pullman, though, I think it odd that no references to his work appear in LoEG. I admire Rowling for her ambition in making the events in the books increasingly adult over the formative seven years of her protagonist’s life, and presumably those of her originally intended readers, however clumsy (and, for the later books, desperately in need of a good editor) the result. Also, like Anonymous, I’m not sure that Moore is expressing as much disdain, let alone hatred, for her work as suggested in the post. I’m struck particularly by Mr Brett’s example of “I assume it runs on sloppily-defined magical principles. I’m sure you two can handle it” being interpreted as a criticism of Rowling rather than of Mina and Orlando. From my reading, Moore almost certainly feels less opprobrium for the series than most of the writers here do. I think that, as Adam writes, Rowling’s books were chosen primarily because they fitted the needs of the plot and perhaps, as others have suggested, that they reflect adult culture’s obsession with juvenilia (and I am again reminded of writers here treating the young-children Potter books as directly and equally comparable to adult literature).

    Like plok, I have no trust in Prospero. I’ve felt since 1969 that he was merely using Mina et al as pawns to his own ends and that appears to have been emphasised in 2009, especially in the pastiche of ‘The Cannon Song’ from page 13 onward. Have the league merely facilitated Prospero’s own (not necessarily evil) apocalypse? Also like plok (perhaps), I feel that the Moonchild is not specifically Potter. He’s more a composite of many boy magicians including Stanton and Hunter.

    Nostalgia as a sign of the End Times? I’m reminded of Orlando’s comment in 1969 about the hippies (Moore’s generation) being “simply nostalgic for their own childhoods”. I wonder how much the Grumpy Old Manism Moore seems to be expressing is just another aspect of nostalgia. I do agree with jokes, however, that our current culture does seem to favour rehashing the familiar in the absence of optimism about the future (present in 1969 and lost by the 1977 epilogue). This might also explain why so much of what we see in 2009 looks like 2002.

    Oh, as for D&B being dated, one of my brothers still has a successful D&B career under the moniker of MC Lowqui (often to be seen with my old tower-block-mate Goldie[*]). It might not be cutting edge but it is still popular.

    [*] Yes, my ego glows at so many of the things you bring up relating to my own connections. Now if only Benny Barrett from ‘Our Friends in the North’ had appeared in 1969…

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