Monthly Archives: July 2008

The Alan Moore on a Train Meme

I’ve been watching Jonathan Ross’ In Search of Steve Ditko this evening and as I do sometimes it got me thinking. If Alan Moore sat down on a train opposite me, what would I say? Simply not talking to him wouldn’t be an option – this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to receive wisdom directly from the Great Man after all. But by the same token, asking for his autograph or asking obvious, overtly fannish questions would be out of the question as well.

So my question to you dear reader, is what three questions would you ask Alan Moore if you met him on a train? My three would be:

1. What do you make of AARGH!? Was it a success? Do you think it helped challenge prejudice? For those who don’t know, AARGH! – or Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia – was a protest book edited by Moore in 1988 to protest against Section 28. While it contains some strong content, it also includes two pieces which have always bothered me. The piece by Frank Miller is a clear case of the hardnut of comics having his cake and eating it by getting to “protest” against homophobia by producing several pages of what appears to be blatantly homophobic itself. This remember is the man you regards Socrates-murdering Athenians to be gay while the Spartans are the height of hetero-manliness. The piece by Brian Bolland, while less obviously exploitative, is by a man clearly uncomfortable with homosexuality.

It’s fascinating because here are a bunch of broadly liberal artists struggling with a topic like homosexuality in a way that my generation really takes for granted. Given that, and the fact that AARGH! fairly obviously failed to get the law stopped, I’d be fascinated by Alan Moore’s take on it 20 years later.

2. How would your ideal system of intellectual property rights work? In particular, what do you think of ideas like Creative Commons. Alan Moore has always struggled with publishers over creators’ rights and much of his best work has been work-for-hire, something which clearly grates with him. But ideas like Creative Commons conflict to some extent with the creators’ rights movement that had such an influence on the comics industry in the early 90s.

3. Did you ever really intend to continue Halo Jones beyond book 3? Halo Jones Book 4 is often hailed as one of the greatest comic books never written. It is rumoured even that Alan Moore originally intended there to be nine Halo Jones books. Yet I’ve always had my doubts over this. I always assumed that the “history” sections in books two and three were merely meta-narrative which served to give the character a certain mystique which Moore never really intended to fully explore. Book three ends perfectly to me and I’m not convinced I’d want the story to continue afterwards. And finally, with the possible exception of Big Numbers, Alan Moore does not appear to have ever let a project of his dangle if he still had a story to tell. His fallings out with comic companies tend to happen after the work is complete, not during (unlike, for example, Rick Veitch’s falling out with DC over his Jesus / Swamp Thing storyline).

Those are my three questions; what would yours be? To kick this off, I tag Alex Wilcock, Millennium Elephant, Nick Barlow, Justin McKeating, Mat Bowles and Jennie Rigg. If you want to do this meme and I haven’t tagged you, feel free to do so any spread the word!

Completely Nuts

I’m confused about this latest ad ban. Which character is meant to be gay? The one who is walking peculiarly, or the one wearing lots of gold jewelry, referring to pride in the “man race” and chomping down hard on phallic shaped object demanding that we “get some nuts”?

If this ad is meant to represent the ultimate hetero bashing a homo, I’m Mad Murdoch.

The Stag Weekend Phenomenon

I’ve just survived my second stag weekend in as many months. When I say ‘survived’ it remains to be seen whether my Sunday-surliness has blotted my copybook amongst that particular group of friends.

The fact is, I am not naturally predisposed to the sort of mindset expected on these kinds of expeditions. At an extremely early age I tended to make individual friends and be shy of groups. As a result I ended up flitting between different groupings on the playground. Later, this ‘oddness’ made me a target for bullies: while large, I sadly lacked strength in numbers in and of myself. But it also made me a social butterfly as I entered my adolescence and meant I could bring disparate groups together who otherwise would have never mingled socially. It was something I really valued and gave me a lot of self-worth at a time that was otherwise trying. Like the main character in Rusholme Rushmore, I had to be prised kicking and screaming from the school which had formed my identity so much when the time came to leave. Even then I ended up working around the corner for a year.

That tension between desiring to be part of a wider group while being leery of ‘gangs’ has continued with me. It makes me incredibly suspicious of identity politics while being a fierce supporter of universalism. It is that universalism that attracted me to the Liberal Democrats. Of course that in itself is slightly contradictory as political parties have gang-like tendencies. I have always hated things like Glee Club (I quite like sing songs – it’s the enforced camaraderie I’m suspicious of) and lead to me often wandering party conference feeling somewhat lost. Conferences make me want to withdraw into myself – a crazy instinct as they are golden opportunies for me to hook up with so many of my dearest friends on an individual level.

I can be a good little footsoldier on occasion, but I do always end up paying a heavy price for selling my soul. And ironically my individualism probably also informs my occasional sergeant major tendencies – mutinous feelings within the ranks during a campaign is not something I take lightly. If I have to make a personal sacrifice for the greater good then everyone else had better do the same.

The problem I have with stag weekends then is that for 48 hours I am required to give up all that individualism and form an impromptu gang with people, some of whom I had never met until that particular weekend. There is some kind of unwritten code about how you are expected to behave at these events and that can be summed up as laddishness and casual misogyny. Even the most sedate – and polysexual – weekend I have been on involved quaffing large quantities of cheap lager and going clubbing. At some point the topic of lapdancing inevitably crops up. Some stags and best men resist this temptation, others don’t. And what is this fixation with shots, the more disgusting the better?

I am fortunate that I have not yet been informed that I must wear a tshirt with a wacky nickname ending in ‘y’ on one of these expeditions thus far. Nor have I been expected to dress like a superhero or an overgrown baby. To be honest though, if you’re going to go through all this why not go the whole hog? At least it would allow for some ironic detachment.

But where will this all end? In the mid-nineties the Stag Night was still the norm/cliche, as epitomised by the film Staggered starring Martin Clunes and the bloke wot used to be Robin Hood before Jason Connery Michael Praed. The danger with that business model was of course that it was vulnerable to an ethically dubious best man and/or entourage getting the stag ill/arrested/sold to white slave traders just a few hours before the wedding. The Stag Weekend then is the result of a compromise: the groom agrees to stay sober the night before and in exchange gets to have an even bigger blowout.

But this has formed a cottage industry. The first stag weekend I went on was a package affair in Nottingham. It involved the worst hotel you could imagine (actually just a couple of filthy rooms on top of a pub) and going to the one club in the city that accepted stag groups. I managed about 30 mins before having to walk out after three different people decided to pick a fight with me. Someone made a lot of money out of us that weekend. At least Newquay, from where I am currently returning, had a nicer ambience.

Is the future stag weeks, fortnights, round the world trips? Isn’t all this getting away from the basic premise, which is that the stag gets one last night of freedom before tying the knot? This isn’t freedom, it’s the very definition of conformity. Nor do we live in an era where marriage need be a form of enslavement; quite the opposite.

The real problem I have with these weekends is that I can only take so much of them and end up running away from the herd in order to take a breath. It doesn’t do my friendships any good as it makes me look like a grumpy arse. But at the same time it means a lot to me when I’m asked to go on them. Any ideas for how I can preserve me sanity and my friendships at the same time?

UPDATE: Er, yes indeed I meant Rushmore not Rusholme!