mercoledì 5 settembre 2007

Michael Moorcock on Watchmen

At the end of 2006 - in the occasion of its 20th anniversary - I edited an Italian Watchmen tribute book which was basically a collection of 12 brand new essays by well known comics experts analyzing Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons masterpiece. The volume was published by Lavieri, a small Italian publisher, with all net profits donated to AIMA, the Italian Alzheimer organization.
Legendary writer Michael Moorcock wrote the introduction and now, for the first time, he gives his permission to show here the original English version. Enjoy! And thanks to Mr. Moorcock of course!

by Michael Moorcock

This has to be said – I’m not much of a comics reader. I was a pretty successful comics writer in my early years and before I was 21 turned out hundreds of scripts, mostly for Fleetway Publications, but even then I tended to prefer to write features. I shared the attitudes of most of my colleagues writing for comics in the late 1950s and early 60s, that you couldn’t do much that was particularly sophisticated or ambitious with the form, beyond telling a tight story, as the best newspaper strips did, and to claim anything else was just downright pretentious. In 1968 I even presented a feature in my magazine New Worlds which deplored what I saw as a fad for comics and comic heroes, like Barbarella and Batman,, amongst intellectuals, especially French intellectuals. I saw it as a general lowering of standards, a failure of artistic ambition, even though I had long spoken up for what I saw as the virtues of the best popular arts. But all that was before the advent of Alan Moore.
I first met him, a bright, intelligent young man, at a publisher’s party sometime in the 1970s. He was then the only person there who was hairier than me. By then, I admit, I’d had a stab at a more ambitious Jerry Cornelius strip in the underground newspaper IT and was already beginning to doubt my earlier prejudices. Learning that he worked in comics, I was impressed that someone so evidently intelligent should choose a form I still tended to associate with simplistic narratives and ideas. There was something about him which, had I seen more of him, I might have recognised as a genuine visionary mind, but it wouldn’t be until the early 90s before we met again and by then I’d seen all the proof I needed.. I’m not one of those, however, who could claim that I had spotted the originality and intelligence of Moore from the start, though I had, in fact, read and liked some of his work without really taking his name in. I missed a lot of pleasure, for instance, by reacting negatively to the general tone of 2000AD when I saw the first copies. I’ve never really cared for Judge Dredd and I hated what they did to Frank Hampson’s. Dan Dare. There is still a tone about many British or British-created comics I don’t much care for. I find the writing laddish, the violence too sensational, the context of the stories spuriously portentous, the plots and targets too predictable. Much of these irritations, of course, are mindlessly corrupted imitations of Moore’s innovations. But there is also work I very much admire. I have always liked Bryan Talbot a great deal, especially in his non-generic work like The Tale of One Bad Rabbit. I like Warren Ellis, Walter Simonson, Howard Chaykin. And, of course, I remain a huge admirer of Savoy’s ReverbStorm, Meng and Ecker and their other astonishingly powerful, genuinely original work, inspired by the dark genius of David Britton who admires almost no one else in comics but Alan Moore.
Maybe Britton’s respect had something to do with it. Maybe I believed that if my friend Iain Sinclair, the English psychogeographer and novelist, admired him, then he must be interesting. I can’t even tell you exactly when I began to seek out his work. I’m still not familiar, for instance, with his Swamp Thing stories. I didn’t buy Watchmen as they came out. As I say, I was impressed by him before we appeared together in Sinclair’s movie The Cardinal and the Corpse in the early 90s. And I know that for me he is the only person writing comics whose work I now automatically buy and look forward to reading. I can never get enough of Moore’s work. It was Moore who brought me back to comics, who made me raise my own ambitions in the work I did in the 90s and in my Elric comics. All this culminated in the huge pleasure of being invited by him to write a two part Tom Strong adventure. He had shown me that it was possible to address a sophisticated audience which he had almost singlehandedly created.
Earlier this year, we appeared together on stage at the Vanbrugh Theatre, London, to a packed house which I know Alan had a lot to do with. Some wag called it ‘the Battle of the Beards’ and looking at the pictures of the event I can see how we might be considered the ZZ Top of the printed page. He is still marginally hairier than me. And he is a gentleman to his bones.. He is one of the few contemporary creative people I think of as a fellow spirit. I’d been asked who, of all the novelists and critics in England, I wanted to discuss my new book with and I immediately suggested him. To my great pleasure he accepted and I think we both enjoyed the conversation which ensued. We have a great deal in common, including an impatience with narrative conventions, an urgent desire to communicate a lot of ideas, a quest to find ways of concentrating as many narratives as possible and keep them coherent and tackle ideas we think are important. We are both largely autodidacts who have had the experienced of being expelled from schools which bored us.
In the course of that evening, I mentioned, amongst the many topics I covered with this most profoundly educated and intelligent man, how I had learned the value of my early training in comics, where you have at least three consecutive methods of story-telling which allow you to offer the reader several different narratives at once, with ‘continuity’, picture and dialogue all of which, in certain hands, can become, panel by panel, episode by episode, much, much more than the sum of their parts. I didn’t add that, before Alan Moore, even the best of the daily newspaper strips, by Caniff, Jordan, Hogarth, Starr and the rest, had never really seemed to achieve their fullest potential. I didn’t need to add this, I think, because our audience knew it already. I suspect, though, that his particular genius didn’t become fully apparent until V For Vendetta and Watchmen, when he began to use his talents to tell sophisticated moral parables far and away more stimulating and interesting than most of the fiction being produced then or now.
Plenty has been written about Moore’s narrative innovations and they have been widely imitated. However, few of his imitators, it seems to me, ever fully understood the nature of Moore’s technical solutions which derived not from a desire for novelty but a desire to tell a more complex story, to get across his ideas. As a result, we have witnessed him creating method after method to distance himself from those he has influenced, who have, in my opinion, largely devalued his techniques, taking the surface of what he did and turning it into narrative clichés no longer responding to the demands of what, in Moore’s case, is a complex and often profound meditation on the fundamental issues of our times. Yet he remains always a fine, old-fashioned story teller. He keeps you turning the pages. Only when you come back to something like Watchmen do you realise just how original Moore was and is. Meanwhile, though I am sure his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is already being imitated somewhere, only Moore has understood that his use of existing fictitious characters is neither homage nor playful ‘postmodernism’. Each character brings their own multi-layered narrative, considerable thematic resonances, so that in combination with his own creations he is able to carry an enormous amount of additional themes on what is not evidently an especially dense framework. It was in Watchmen that, in my opinion, he first began to refine this skill, which sets him apart not only from his imitators and other contemporaries, but from the majority of modern novelists who have, in my opinion, largely failed to address the problems Moore has already solved. He is both ahead of his time and engaging with his times, but unlike his great master William Blake, he has learned how to address a large contemporary audience and hold its attention. He has brought the experience of working in popular forms to his work, enabling him to do even more than some of his peers, like William Burroughs, J.G. Ballard or Iain Sinclair.
This originality has in more recent times led him to produce non-graphic narratives like The Voice of the Fire, which brings to the novel the same talent and originality. I sure he will achieve even more in the novel he is currently working on, Jerusalem. Judging from Fire, the new novel will be as astonishing and absorbing as everything else he has done, displaying even greater sophistication than he showed in Watchmen. Indeed, in whatever form he chooses to work, there is no doubt that Alan Moore will show himself, as he has always done, a consummate modern visionary. I can’t wait to see what he will do next. Meanwhile, we have the pleasure of rereading Watchmen and rediscovering how Moore shares this quality with the very best artists – no matter how many times we return to his work, he always rewards us in fresh and unexpected ways.

Michael Moorcock,
May 2006

[this article is copyright Michael Moorcock. All rights reserved. Published here with the author's permission.]

Read the book afterword by popular comics writer and novelist Mike Carey here.

1 commento:

francesca ha detto...

ci sopravvaluti, come al solito ;-P