Friday, March 8, 2013

Bryant Has Issues #28

I woke up this morning with the Ozzy Osbourne / Lita Ford song "Close My Eyes Forever" stuck in my head -- for NO apparent reason whatsoever.  I speculate that one of two things is the case: (1) I nearly died at some point while I was asleep and this was my subconscious's ingenious way of trying to keep my consciousness in the loop; or (2) I have fundamentally awesome taste in music, SO awesome, in fact, that it occasionally can't be contained.


Make of that what you will.  Make of this what you will, too:

I've got more to say about that photo, but to keep that from happening, why don't we start talking about some comic books?

Nothing even vaguely Stephen King-related this week.  Them's the breaks, y'all.  However, Alan Moore put out a new hardback: Nemo: Heart of Ice, a tale set in continuity with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen that features as its main character Janni Dakkar, the daughter of the famed Captain Nemo.  Janni is now the merciless captain of the Nautilus, and when we last saw her -- during The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century: 1910 -- she was smashing the hell out of London.  She had pretty doggone good reasons for doing it, too.

Nemo: Heart of Ice picks up some fifteen years later, and I was thoroughly entertained by it.

That probably comes as no shock; readers of this column know that my love for Alan Moore's work borders on sycophancy.  The assembled League of Extraordinary Gentlemen tales would almost certainly rank near the top of his output, although there have certainly been moments of difficulty along the way.

Heart of Ice is probably closest in tone to the first volume of the League tales; this is basically a straightforward adventure story, though certainly one that is replete with the standard density of literary allusion.  How Alan Moore manages to store all of this information in his brain is a genuine wonder to me.  What's even more amazing than that is the fact that readers need not open the book armed with a reference tome; the allusions complement Moore's story, rather than hinder it.

So, for example, I assumed that the 2000-year-old queen of Kor must be a literary figure of some sort, but I had no idea what work she might have first appeared in.  And guess what?  Not knowing didn't hurt my enjoyment in the least.  (Later on, I consulted Wikipedia and found that she was the object of the title of H. Rider Haggard's adventure classic She, which, yes, I kinda want to read now.)

Elsewhere, Tom Swift -- referred to here, undoubtedly for legal reasons, as Tom Swyfte -- makes an appearance, as does friggin' Charles Foster Kane from Citizen Kane.

The biggest crossover comes when the story reaches Antarctica.  The reason for the journey: Captain Dakkar wants to succeed there, where her father failed.  It is simply an act of hubris; or, perhaps, a yearning for understanding disguised as an act of hubris.  I don't want to say too much about what Captain Dakkar and her brigands find in Antarctica, and indeed I'm tempted to say nothing else.  But I must, I must, I must say something!  So I'll settle for hinting that H.P. Lovecraft fans are going to eat this shit up.

The art by Kevin O'Neill is suitably spectacular.  For spoilerophobic reasons, I'm not going to give you any of the best examples.  But here are a few, which showcase the comedy and the drama of the art in turns:

Nemo: Heart of Ice is roughly 56 pages in length, and if I've got a criticism, it's that it didn't keep going for another 56 pages, and then another after that.  Messrs. Moore and O'Neill officially have my invitation to keep making these books -- preferably at the rate of one per year or so -- for the next three decades.

Meanwhile in Mooresville, Fashion Beast rolls onward.  You know how I know I love this book?  I buy two copies of each issue (the regular cover and the wraparound cover), plus a third if my comics shop happens to get a copy of the haute couture cover.  I haven't regretted the expenditure a single time, whereas certain other comics make me grumpy about buying even one copy.

The art by Facundio Percio continues to be perhaps the strongest selling point.  This issue is dialogue-free until page eight, and whereas many comics would suffer from going speechless for that long, here, you don't miss it at all, because the actions being depicted are so interesting.

The bulk of the issue, though, is taken up by a scene in which Celestine dresses Doll in a new outfit he has designed.  It's an extremely sensual scene, although only one of the characters appears to be aware of that fact.

In less fortuitous Moore-related news, the unsanctioned-by-Moore spinoff Before Watchmen drew closer to its conclusion on the same day as Heart of Ice was published: the final issue of Dr. Manhattan appeared.

And I'm here to say, it's pretty damn good.

I enjoyed each of the first three issues, but with an ever-present fear -- you might even describe it as a certainty -- that writer J. Michael Straczynski was going to fumble the ball right into the hands of an enemy player right at the end, thus ruining the whole endeavor.  I am pleased to report that that is not the case.

At this point, I might as well lay on you what my fear was: that Dr. Manhattan's mucking about with parallel quantum realities was going to result in some sort of spinoff universe in which the Watchmen story could be altered even further.  Part of me would have been okay with that, but the larger part of me would have been very annoyed by it indeed.

Instead, it turns out that what Doctor Manhattan is about is answering the question of how Ozymandias was able to outsmart the good Doctor.  Your mileage will vary depending on how well you feel Straczynski answered that question, but the answer worked for me.  I might go so far as to say that it even manages to enhance the original comic somewhat; we'll have to see how time treats it in that regard, but for now, I'd say it's at least a possibility.

And that's something I would have bet money against when Before Watchmen began.  I still think more of it has been mediocre than good, but there are now three of the miniseries that have wrapped up and found me giving them a thumbs-up signal.  Not too shabby a result.

Whoops, make that four that have concluded, because Rorschach has now come to its end.  Remember a few seconds ago, when I used the phrase "not too shabby"?

That doesn't apply here.  I fucking hated Rorschach, mostly because I didn't like Lee Bermejo's art, or Brian Azzarello's story.  Apart from that, it was grand.

After the colossally disappointing Rotworld miniseries, Swamp Thing finally gets back on solid ground in time for Scott Snyder's final issue on the series.  It's a good issue, one that gives a sense of closure to Snyder's run while simultaneously leaving the door open for the next guy to walk in and start telling new stories.

I won't be around for it, though.  Rotworld sapped me of my enthusiasm.  There were maybe two issues' worth of story in that crossover, but it ran for what, seven issues?  Nope; you burned me there, DC, so here's my opportunity to burn you back by exiting with Snyder.

I haven't quite decided yet whether I'm hopping off of the Animal Man train at the same time.  On the one hand, I only began it reading it because of the fact that it tied in with Swamp Thing; on the other hand, it's a solid comic.  What to do, what to do?

This issue is a good one, too.  There is indeed tragedy lurking within its pages, and between this and Swamp Thing #18, it's good to see that the Rotworld fiasco did actually end up having some consequences.

I dunno...I might stick around for another issue or two, just to see where Lemire is taking things.

Meanwhile, issue #19 of Angel & Faith finds Spike showing up to try and help our heroes take down the demon who is possessing Giles's dead body.  There's some good fightin', and some fun Giles-centric flashbacks; as is typically the case, this is an enjoyable comic.

I could -- and maybe should -- say more about this title, which is consistently entertaining in a way that its parent title (Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Nine) has not managed, but this simply doesn't feel like the venue to go too in-depth.  Maybe on some other blog, I'll someday launch an in-depth exploration of the Buffyverse; if so, we'll cover these comics more elaborately then.  Look for it in 2022!


Now, let's dip into the land of graphic novels and back issues for a bit and continue our Alan Moore jaunt.

First up:

A Small Killing apparently has its loyal fans (including Moore himself, who lists it as being among the better things he's ever been a part of), but for now, you can count me as being not among their midst.  I really didn't respond to this graphic novel at all.

Actually, that's not quite true; I disliked it, which is in and of itself a reaction.  Not a positive one; but demonstrably a reaction.  And I think the art by Oscar Zarate is the likeliest reason as to why I didn't like the book.  More on that in a moment.

The story is about Timothy Hole (the last name is pronounced "Holly," someone helpfully tells us at some point), an advertising executive who is suffering a creative slump.  He begins seeing hallucinations of a small child, but doesn't respond to them as hallucinations at all; he thinks they are a child who is trying to kill him, and he does things like follow the child into traffic.  Meanwhile, we get extensive flashbacks of various lousy things that have happened to Timothy in his personal life over the past few years, even decades.

The story has interesting moments, and to be sure, Moore directs Zarate into some interesting things in terms of his layouts.  However, I loathe the character designs.  Here's Timothy talking to a colleague at a party (or, to be precise, being talked to at a party):

I simply don't enjoy looking at Zarate's art.  I wouldn't even go so far as to call it bad art; it's lovely in places, especially in terms of the colors.  But it doesn't make me want to look at it, and that, combined with a story that did not particularly capture my attention, equals a lukewarm review from this blogger.

See?  I'm not a complete sycophant!


We come now to 1963, a six-issue series Alan Moore created in 1993 -- along with artists Steve Bissette and Rick Veitch -- for Image Comics.  The idea, seemingly, was to pay homage to sixties-era Marvel Comics; or, depending on your viewpoint, skewer same.  There was a secondary intent: to follow the miniseries up with an eighty-page annual that would link the 1963 characters with some of the characters who had been introduced in Image's debut a year previously; these would have included Spawn, Supreme, Shadowhawk, and Youngblood, amongst others.

Sadly, due to a falling-out of some sort, the annual was never actually produced, so what we have in 1963 is a failed idea, not unlike Moore's Big Numbers (of which we spoke last installment of Bryant Has Issues).

Oh-ho!, but the situation is nowhere near as grim for 1963 as for Big Numbers!  If you read the six extant issues, you will definitely not get a sense of closure, but here's the good news about that: it doesn't matter.  Not the way I look at it, at least.  See, 1963 was designed to imply a rich history; the emphasis there should be on the word "imply."  I was reminded while reading 1963 of the way in which I read comics as a child (not circa 1963, but 1983, although the difference is irrelevant): I never, much as I might have wanted one, had a subscription to a single comic book.  My parents were not wealthy people; they couldn't afford to just buy me whatever I wanted, but they could occasionally afford to buy me some of the things I wanted.  So we'd go to the grocery store, and while my mom shopped, I'd camp out at the comics, and read as many of them as I could while she got groceries.  She'd come find me when she was finished, and if I was lucky, she'd tell me to pick out two or three comics; so I'd pick the best ones, and home they would go.

Now, in terms of 1963, what you get is this: six issues, wherein each is almost utterly unrelated to the others.  The sixth is a crossover that folds all of the others together (presumably setting up the eighty-page annual that never happened), but the first five are just dips into the lives of different characters:

  • #1 is about Mystery Incorporated, a Fantastic Four style "family" of superheroes
  • #2 is about The Fury, who is awfully reminiscent of Spider-Man
  • #3 is a two-for-one anthology featuring U.S.A. (Ultimate Special Agent), who is a Captain America sort of guy; the second tale is about Hypernaut, who is less a pastiche of an existing Marvel character than he is a wholly successful original Marvel-style character
  • #4, another anthology, has one story about N-Man, a Hulk-style radioactive monster, and another about Johnny Beyond, who is basically a Beatnik version of Doctor Strange
  • #5, my favorite, is about Horus, Lord of Light, and this comic does for Egyptian mythology what Thor did for Norse mythology

(By the way, while I picked up all of these references, I researched things a bit; the Wikipedia page for 1963 was helpful, and I wanted to make sure to credit it lest anyone think I'd visited it and poached their content.)

Opinions on 1963 are not universally positive; this blogger was thoroughly unimpressed, for instance.  His stance, basically, is that this is all just a joke that has no punchline, and which goes on for far too long.

My reply to that would be that the joke and the punchline are one and the same in this instance.  I'd also point out that while this might seem to be a story with no depth (and probably is), it is also a hugely satisfying testament to the amount of imagination Moore and the artists possessed.  After all, anyone who has ever read Stan Lee comics from the sixties will get the references here; they aren't that difficult to point out.

So how come more people haven't successfully parodied them over the years?  More to the point, how come more people haven't successfully ripped them off?  See, parody seems easy, but in fact must be rather difficult, because there are way more unsuccessful parodies than successful ones.  Yes, The Naked Gun looks easy; watch Spy Hard or Wrongfully Accused and tell me your appreciation for The Naked Gun doesn't increase by a factor of ten.  Anyone can do it; few can do it well.

Alan Moore does it really, really well, and the artists he worked with on 1963 did it really, really well, too.  I can easily believe that if you had walked up to me before I'd ever heard of 1963 and handed me seven or eight pages ripped out of the middle of any one of these comics -- issue #6 being a possible exception -- and then told me that they were from an obscure Stan Lee comic that never took flight in the sixties, I'd have believed you without question.  It's that successful a series.

Furthermore, I'd've happily continued reading the further adventures of any of these heroes; each is cheesy enough to fit in with the sixties-comics vibe Moore is laying down, but each is also interesting and compelling enough that I can imagine them being real characters that audiences responded to, embraced, and kept alive for the next three decades, or more.  It's THAT successful a series.

The series has never been reprinted, which means that if you want to read these, you've got to track them down in single-issue form.  Luckily, that isn't too difficult to accomplish (I just did so for less than $10); apparently, the series sold extremely well, and also had a high print run.

I shall now give you some tasty, tasty panels from each issue so as to give you a feel for what we're talking about:

this is not how I remember 11/22/63 playing out...

Bless 'em, the team even decided to create mock letter columns and fake adverts:

this made me laugh fit to bust

So, in short?  This stuff is gold.  It may be accessible only to comics fans who have some familiarity with the comics it was inspired by; but if you meet that criteria, you ought to have a blast with these things.  Provided you can find them, of course...

From Hell #2

We took a long, detailed look at From Hell #1 last column; our survey of issue #2 is going to be briefer, because, frankly, I'm not smart enough to have a whole lot to say about this issue.  There is some daunting material here, and while I'm smart enough to enjoy it, I'm a little too dull to explain why I enjoy it, or what it all means.

Let's see if I've got anything worthwhile to say at all, shall we?

We begin with a photo -- I assume it's a photo -- of a painting by the real Walter Sickert:

Then, we begin Chapter Three, "Blackmail or Mrs. Barrett."  The chapter begins with Marie Kelly/Barrett/Barnett visiting Sickert:

I love Eddie Campbell's art here, especially in that last panel.  That's quite a lot of dialogue he had to squeeze in to the frame, and yet not only does he manage that in a single panel of an eight-panel page, but he also manages to coney Sickert's reluctance AND Marie's attitude toward Alice.  Did Moore perhaps give explicit instruction as to how the panel should be drawn?  Maybe, maybe not; either way, my hat's off to Campbell, who smacked one out of the park when it could easily have gone into the stands behind the plate.

Marie has brought Alice to Sickert because she is no longer willing to look after the little girl.  Hard to blame her, really; Alice isn't her child, nor her responsibility, and this is a woman who is already resorting to prostitution to make ends meet.  A child would be an unbearable burden for such a woman, I'd imagine.  So she does what she must and unloads Alice onto Sickert, secure in his ability to get her to Annie's parents for a proper upbringing.  Sickert isn't too thrilled by the prospect, but really, what choice does he have?

After she leaves, we see Marie making her way down the dark, dreary streets:

She both stands out and blends in; she is both part of this society and an outcast from it.  That's the sense I get from the panel, at least.  Soon after, she is spotted by a john who mentions to her that he wants to get to "Hairy-Ford-Shire," but has only thruppence for his fare.  Marie allows as how she might know a route he can take for that price, and the next thing you know, they're in an alley, Marie being tupped while standing with her back to a wooden fence.  Glamorous!

It's the standard nine-panel layout Moore and Campbell have used so far in the series.  Those first three panels ought to do well enough to remove any possibility of romance or sensuality from the proceedings.

According to Moore in the footnotes to the series, the old "between-the-thighs" trick was one frequently employed by prostitutes of the era.  Might be that it's still used today, for all I know; I'm no expert on transactions of this nature, no, nor even a novice.  So really, what do I know, but...does it speak volumes about the society depicted here that -- if we can believe Moore's assertion (which I am choosing to do) -- so many men would have been fooled by a trick like that?  After all, this gent says that he knows cunt when he feels it.  Perhaps most other customers were less world-wise than he?  Or, possibly, less demanding?  I'm not entirely sure which conclusion to leap to, but either way, it says a lot about the world Marie Kelly was working in.

This time, however, she's not lucky enough to successfully play the between-the-thighs card.

This is degradation, pure and simple.  Marie is living a degrading life; perhaps the only one available to her, but not less degrading for that.

The perspective of the art in these three panels is highly suggestive of several things at once.  For one: from Marie's point of view, it can be taken to represent her mental ability to distance herself from interactions with johns; the widening perspective represents her mind taking flight while this stranger is working upon her.  For a second, it also represents the man's climax; not to spell things out too profanely, but the arrows on the man's dialogue bubbles begin rigid, then turn squiggly, then turn into mere drips instead of a line.  Get it?

But there is another way to look at the pull-back of those three panels: this is God's point of view, and he quickly grows disinterested in both the man and in Marie.  Perhaps he has already rendered his judgment?  That might be reading a bit too much into things, but there's a reason why high-angle depictions like the one in that third panel are referred to as "God's-eye point-of-view" depictions.

The man's business finished, he flings his thruppence onto the ground; Marie grabs it up, and proceeds about her business.  She passes through a market district of some sort, and the page gives us a number of cries from vendors along the way.  A few panels later, she ends up at a pub she apparently frequents:

Pay attention to that middle panel.  What the hell is that all about?

Without Moore's footnotes, I'd have no clue.  This, apparently, is called "backslang," and involves certain words being said backwards.  So what is really being said by the unseen people in that panel is: "Jem!  You'll stand a pot o' beer?"  "No, man.  I've been doin' bad."  Buy me some beer?  Nope; can't afford it.

Fascinating!  Also proof that while modern culture might be witness to some serious concerns over how the Internet is changing the English language (and, presumably, other languages as well), idiots were doing stupid-ass shit with the English language waaaaaay before computers got involved in the process.  [Side-note: I have no idea whether the ever-so-helpful footnotes were included in the original single-issue comics; I suspect they were not, in which case readers would have been merely left to their perplexion here.]

In the pub, Marie meets a co-worker of sorta, Liz, a Swedish prostitute.  They talk shop for a bit, and the conversation is seemingly capped by Marie saying, as an invocation against pregnancy, "Here's to next month's blood, Long Liz.  Here's to the curse."  Well, there's definitely going to be blood, isn't there?  We just don't know the manner of its arrival just yet.

Next, we find Sickert delivering Alice to Annie's parents.  He also -- since they don't know -- delivers the news that Annie is in a madhouse (hence the need for them to watch after Alice).  It is strongly implied that Annie's father leaps to the conclusion that she has ended up a madwoman due to an incestuous relationship between the two of them; it is just as strongly implied that Alice may be in for similar treatment.  This is all pretty gross.  Sickert, his duty done, retreats from the scene into the rain, lingering for a moment outside the door, perhaps in horrified wonder:

These three panels are mildly reminiscent of the three above in which Marie's customer concludes his business with her.  The perspective is different, but note how each of these shows us an increasingly diminished Sickert.  Here, it is because he is departing, whereas there it was because the perspective was widening; but the effect is much the same.  The third panel here also makes it seem as if the rain has intensified to the point of literally obscuring the building in front of us.  One thing Campbell's art is great at is suggesting how implacable the elements -- or, if you prefer, nature (or, if you prefer, God) -- are; they care not for our tiny human squabblings, and will persist regardless of them.

Cut back to Marie and Long Liz at the pub; in come two more prostitutes, Annie Chapman and Polly.  Annie has apparently just been threatened by some mobsters, who are extorting protection money out of her.  Trying to do, at least; she doesn't have the money.  Neither do any of the other three working girls, who all will also need to pay up.  Perhaps, Liz suggests, they can sell something to earn the money?  But what, Annie Chapman wonders, can they possibly sell that would be worth the four pounds they need?

Marie knows: they can sell information about a certain baby of royal stock.  I love the way Campbell depicts the women growing silent about this as the serving woman brings them beer:

The other women wonder how on Earth such as them could even contact the royal family so as to extort money from them; Marie allows as to how she knows someone with connections to them.  Their plan planned, the women leave the pub:

Given the contents of the next chapter, anyone who has a familiarity with this comic ought to be chilled right to the bone by that panel.  *brrrr...!*

Next, we take up again with Sickert, who is apparently returning home from depositing Alice with her grandparents.  Annie shows up -- Annie Crook, Alice's mother (not Annie Chapman, the prostitute) -- looking for her child; she has escaped from the madhouse, and is about as composed as you'd expect an escaped madwoman to be.  She speaks foggily and then raises her dress so as to better urinate in the street.  Someone shows up to take her away again, and Sickert gets home, only to find an even nastier surprise: a blackmail note from Marie Kelly.  He sinks into the gloom of his apartment, mortified:

With that glimpse at Sickert's painting, we have now come full circle back to the beginning of the chapter, and so the chapter ends.

Chapter Four, "What doth the Lord require of thee?", begins with Sickert, who has gone for advice to "Alix" (Princess Alexandra, Eddy's mother).  Alexandra, the footnotes inform me, was never particularly popular with the rest of the Royal Family, having married into it and then produced the disappointing Eddy.  Perhaps in recognition of this, she tells Sickert that the Queen will have to be informed of the blackmail attempt:

Campbell's depictions of Sickert's body-language is masterful, and his technique implies that to some uncertain degree, Walter Sickert is still a man on the verge of being consumed by the rain.  Alix and Sickert are indoors, of course; there is no rain here, but Campbell hints at its emotional presence, and indeed, the implacability of the royals -- who, technically-speaking, are seen as having been chosen by God above -- is hardly more amenable than is the rain itself:

Things are not looking good for Marie and friends.

Now, at this point, I begin to wonder whether some people -- mostly British subjects, I would imagine, though perhaps not exclusively -- find themselves deeply offended by the notion that Jack the Ripper might have been less a serial killer than he was a Freemason doing (literally, depending on your interpretation) the Lord's work by killing blackmailing prostitutes on the orders of the Queen.  This idea is not one Moore invented; he is working from other sources.  But given his rather vehemently anti-government stance in works like V For Vendetta, Miracleman, and Watchmen, it is certainly no surprise to see him painting with what seems to be an anti-monarchic brush here.  Or, more accurately, directing Eddie Campbell to draw with some anti-monarchic pencils and/or inks.

Being no expert in British politics and culture, I cannot speak to any of this.  But it seems likely that some would take offense.  Others will see this particular take on the Whitechapel murders as being conspiracy-theory nonsense, and while I tend to side against conspiracy theories more often than with them, I always find them to be entertaining as hell when presented in the proper context.  This certainly fits the bill for me.


Nothing here makes it certain that Queen Victoria is telling Gull to murder the women; perhaps she merely means for them to end up "madwomen" in the same way that Annie Crook did.  Either way, their fates are sealed in this moment (fictionally-speaking).

The Queen's suggestion that Gull enlist an accomplice leads to his "hiring" of Netley, whom we have seen before driving for the monarchy.  What follows for the next thirty-plus pages is Netley driving Gull around various London streets while the good doctor lectures about London's history, architecture, and the like, including frequent discussions of Freemasonry, ancient religions, the war between men and women, the war between the sun and the moon, and so forth.

Remember earlier, when I said I wasn't smart enough to rise to this comic's level?

Yeah; I meant this section.  Let me clarify my stance: on a sentence-by-sentence, panel-by-panel level, I am up to the task of keeping up with Messrs. Moore and Campbell.  However, I am not always good at holding things in my brain long enough to craft from them a cohesive whole, and that is precisely the issue here.  So ask me what this section of From Hell is about, and I'll shrug at you and say, "Beats me, but it sure is ominous."  And that's true enough.

It is my inclination to spend the next month going panel by panel, examining the entire thing, giving you my thoughts on what it all means and hoping that in so doing, it'll reinforce the knowledge within my own brain.  But I literally can't do it without putting each and every panel up, and at a certain point that crosses the line from commentary into piracy.  I'm not prepared to wade those waters.  And even if I was, this isn't the venue for it; nor, if it was, would I currently have the energy for doing so!

So, instead, a promise: at some point, I plan to launch an Alan Moore-centric blog so as to be able to examine his work in much greater detail.  When that happens -- and it ain't gonna be any time soon, although it is absolutely on the docket -- then I'll figure out a way to delve fully into Chapter Four of From Hell.  For now, though?  I'm simply not fit for the task.  Sorry to disappoint!

A few random observations might be in order, though, so let's hop to 'em:

One of the main reasons the chapter is palatable at all is due to Moore's excellent decision to give us, the befuddled audience, a proxy: Netley, the none-too-hifalutin' cabbie.  We see Gull's actions, hear Gull's words, ingest Gull's philosophy, through Netley's consciousness.  We are accomplices, yes; but we are also outsiders, and are thus able to stand...if not above all of the madness, then at least outside the door looking in at it.

What's being said here, of course, is: "I love vaginas, and I'd love 'em more if they didn't have women attached to them."  Even in 2013, there are still plenty of men who feel this way; most of them would no longer admit it in those terms, but the sentiments are easy to find if you look in the right places.  Me?  Unlike Netley, I like women; hell, I love 'em!

Much of From Hell is told though the three-row, nine-panel format, but during this chapter, Moore and Campbell frequently collapse one or more of the rows from three panels into one wide-vista panel.  The one above is typical of that approach.  It is telling that landscapes and cityscapes are the subjects of that treatment, whereas the people -- even Gull -- are frequently dealt with only in confined single panels.

By the way, if the dialogue in that panel gives you pause and furrows your brow, then you can count on Chapter Four confusing you, annoying you, and possibly causing you to lose interest in From Hell altogether.

Does this dialogue put you in mind of that earlier panel, wherein the "four whores of the apocalypse" were loomed over by the phallic building?  It does me.  (And I suspect that whatever building that is is probably visited at some point during Chapter Four, although I am too lazy to research the matter and find out definitively.)

Good God ... even when I think there's going to be no Stephen King-related content in one of these comics posts, it has a tendency to turn up!  I had no idea that Lud was a historical figure of any sort; hell, I didn't even know that Lud had any existence of any sort beyond being a cool name for a city in The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands.  But, apparently, "Lud" means more than I suspected.

Here (and here) are a couple of links for those who wish to delve deeper into that mine.

Moore implies throughout this chapter that Gull's motivations are to deliver a "great work" that will serve as part of the reinforcement he refers to in the second panel above.  Again, I say: *brrrr...!*

There is plenty more to say about Chapter Four, but this is where we shall cease.  We'll pick From Hell back up with issue #3 (chapters five and six) when next we talk comics.

Thanks for reading!


  1. That Masonic tour of London and glimpse into Gull's highly-refined madness really blew my mind on first reading. I've been disappointed by every book on the Masons I've ever read as a result of it. Alan Moore needs to write one, though, I guess that's exactly what From Hell is, albeit a fictional one.

    Have you seen the movie they made of "She?" It's not especially good, but the gal they cast for the title role of the Deity of Kor should be of interest.

    It took me a bit to get into Eddie Campbell's art, but now the art from FH mesmerizes me.

    1. I remember not being particularly impressed by the art the first time I read the book, and I was prepared to have bad things to say about it when I started these analyses. However, the second I began actually thinking about how the art was functioning, I became enraptured by it. It really is rather awesome.

      I had no idea a movie version of "She" even existed. Consulting IMDb, I find that there have actually been no fewer than nine versions, going as far back in time as 1908! The most recent version, from 2001, has a 3.9 rating from IMDb users, so it must be awful. The 1982 version has a 4.4, but it stars Sandahl Bergman, who I will always sigh over thanks to her role in "Conan the Barbarian."

      I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that YOU, sir, are referring to the 1965 version, which stars Ursula Andress ... and has a rating of 5.7 on IMDb.

    2. Nine versions, damn! Yeah I meant the Ursula one.

      I had the same experience with Eddie Campbell's art. I thought it was atrocious at first, then fell under its spell by the end of the first issue.

      I neglected to comment on either Lita Ford or 1963. I don't have much to say except I loved Lita back in the day, and that 1963 is just about perfect.

    3. Give me a time-machine and Jon Hamm's body to inhabit, and boy oh boy, the things I would do with Lita Ford...

      I may have just overshared.

    4. haha, nice.

      That dude she married from W.A.S.P. was punching out of his weight class; totally unworthy!

    5. Deal's off; I cain't follow no dude from W.A.S.P.

  2. Interesting articles on Lud. Here's a question related to this entry a bit, have you ever seen "The Incredibles"?

    I ask because of this interesting observation on the movie's wiki page:

    "Several film reviewers drew precise parallels between the film and certain superhero comic books, like Powers, Watchmen, and Fantastic Four. Indeed, the producers of the 2005 adaptation of the Fantastic Four were forced to make significant script changes and add more special effects because of similarities to The Incredibles.[20] Bird was not surprised that comparisons arose due to superheroes being "the most well-trod turf on the planet," but noted that he'd not been inspired by any comic books specifically, only having heard of Watchmen. He did comment that it was nice to be compared to something as highly regarded as Watchmen.[8]

    It's because of that quote that I even bothered to ask in the first place. the full wiki link is here:

    Also, there is some unrelated muck about an older entry about the future of movies and streaming TV and I thought of that when I saw this article from popmatters:

    I thought of what the future may hold in particular with "this" vlog:

    If this is an example of the best user videos can do, then it's a trend that bears watching (also if you jaw doesn't drop when you see the opening, you're not human). Enjoy


    1. Disney will be down on that site like a sack full of hammers; they aren't prone to letting people use their characters in that manner.

      Pretty cool, though; and yes, we are rapidly approaching a point at which "amateur" productions can be very, very non-amateurish. It's a good trend.

      As for "The Incredibles," I have definitely seen it. I certainly thought of "Watchmen" when I saw it the first time, but apart from the government-decreed-superhero ban, there are zero similarities. And I'm not sure Alan Moore was even the first to do that. Either way, "The Incredibles" is a great movie; THE best superhero movie yet made, in my opinion!

    2. It's funny you should say Disney will sue the guy from the vlog, as I don't what to make of this entry in Roger Ebert's official blog. All I know is it's true, they weren't caught, and it's already screened at Sundance and here's the festival's report on it:

      Whether the filmaker's get away with it is another matter.


    3. Disney will have no problem blocking that being distributed. And while I am against censorship, I am also for the rights of a company to control the way in which its intellectual property is used. And I think we can definitively put a billion-dollar theme park under the heading of "intellectual property."

      By the way, the issue here -- in my mind -- isn't a freedom-of-speech issue so much as it is a you-can't-use-my-property-and-earn-money-off-of-it issue. So the filmmaker using Disney parks as locations? Not okay. And the guy doing the review with Goofy appearing as a character, and having a (presumably) paid ad run prior to it? Not okay. Illegal, in fact.

      That said, I'd kinda like to see "Escape From Tomorrow"...!

  3. I'd forgotten about those 1963 titles. I remember seeing ads for the series, but that was right around the time I stopped buying comics on a regular basis, so I never read them.

    I tried reading Moore's early America's Best stuff several years later, and it really didn't work for me. When I read an Alan Moore book, I expect to lose myself in a fully-realized world. I don't know why, but I can't enjoy anything he does unless it is masterpiece-caliber, Watchmen or V for Vendetta level material. With those series, he set the bar impossibly high.

    Wasn't the video for the Lita Ford/Ozzy song shot in black and white? Hard to say who is wearing more aqua net in that video--if it's the one I'm thinking of. Jesus, with all that hair spray, it's not surprising the hole in the ozone layer was such a big problem back in the eighties.

    1. I think it was indeed a b&w video; I haven't seen it in years. I'd go to YouTube and look it up, but I know as sure as I'm breathin' that that would lead to two hours spent watching Ozzy videos, and Poison, and AC/DC, and Krokus, and who knows what else. Sounds like a fun rabbit hole to disappear down, but no time for it tonight!

      I'm of a mixed mind about Moore's ABC stuff. On the one hand, I adore both "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" and "Top Ten," but I never could quite get into "Tom Strong." "Tomorrow Stories" was hit-or-miss, and while I loved what I read of "Promethea," I'd be a liar if I said I had even the vaguest clue what was going on in it.

      I'm actually quite keen to get to all of those titles in my chronological re-read, to see how they hold up!

    2. "Kiss Me Deadly" was in color; "If I Close My Eyes Forever" was B+W.

      I was searching your blog for one of these From Hell panels to send to a friend who's suddenly gained an interest in Masonic London and ended up reading this post again. I must reiterate how fantastic 1963 is, on every level something is able to be fantastic on.

    3. It really is. Why there's never been a trade collection of that baffles me.

  4. Hey, check it out! Here's Hans Lilja with a podcast review of Owen King's Double Feature!


    1. It was a good episode. I even got mentioned! Yay!

      As for "Double Feature," I'm about a hundred pages away from being finished. I have loved it so far, so unless King fumbles the ball before crossing into the end-zone, you can look for a VERY enthusiastic from yours truly at some point in the next few days.