After the let down of "The Mysteries" it was perhaps FOOLHARDY of me to leap straight into reading "Illuminations" by Alan Moore, as I was potentially letting myself in for even MORE disappointment. I mean, I really like Bill Watterson but I flipping LOVE Alan Moore, as his influence on me has been SO GRATE that I even wrote a SONG about him - and indeed went so far as to PLAY that song into his very face. Also, while this book was a similar change of usual format, from comics to books in this case, I did at least have some experience of Alan Moore's non-comics writing. Having said that I hadn't been super keen on it - "Jerusalenm" still sits on my book shelf, GLOWERING at me, unread!
It was thus with some trepidation that I commenced reading, expecting a DIFFICULT and LENGTHY read that I would almost definitely never get to the end of it. SPOILERS: that is not how it worked out. The first story, "Hypothetical Lizard" was SORT OF what I expected - quite long, quite serious, very descriptive and with lots of rude bits - but after that it was A DELIGHT. For LO! the thing that I had forgotten about Alan Moore, and that MOST people always seem to forget, is that he is REALLY REALLY FUNNY. Nearly all of the remaining stories were often HILARIOUS, but also EXCITING and FUN and INTERESTING and basically all of those things that we all fell in love with about 10,000,000 years ago when his name started popping up in Future Shocks and Time Twisters in 2000AD. It was GRATE!
A lot of the stories ARE pretty much Future Shocks and/or Time Twisters too (yes yes I know that they are all Short Stories and, as he says in the Acknowledgements, these were invented by Edgar Allen Poe but HEY 2000AD was where I first fell upon them so there), with that LOVELY feeling where you GET what is going on JUST before the end. For instance the last story, "And, at the Last, Just to Be Done with Silence" goes from A Bit Confusing, through to Intriguing and then, JUST before the last bit, into full on "OH I SEE!" and "Maybe I will read that all over again now?"
Most thrillingly of all, that last story ALSO has a character from Peterborough in it, which is something that almost NEVER happens. There's quite a lot of East Midlands in the whole book actually, notably in "Location, Location, Location" where the last judgement happens in BEDFORD. There's also a surprising amount of understanding of The Modern World, which is another of those things what one doesn't expect from Alan Moore. I always imagine him sitting in a LOFTY BASEMENT (he is Alan Moore, he can have a lofty basement if he wants) FULMINATING against modernity, but there are LOADS of references to Life As What It Is Currently Lived, with witty and clever points to make about them.
There are several of these in "What We Can Know About Thunderman", which is the most talked about story in the whole book because it is a) the longest by far and b) a very very funny and EXCORIATING semi-fictionalisted history of American superhero comic books. Quite apart from everything else, it was amazing reading it to realise that not only had Alan Moore clearly WATCHED "Lois And Clark" but had actually Quite Liked It, although doesn't seem to have been so keen on "Riverdale".
I can understand why Long Term Comics Professionals found "Thunderman" to be A Bit Mean, but it is clearly meant to be over the top - the suggestion about what happened to the Apollo astronauts is not, I think, meant to be taken seriously, and I don't know that he's REALLY suggesting that the CIA were quite so involved in The Marvel Age. It also talks a lot about the joy and wonder of comics when you're a kid, demonstrates a VAST understanding about how it all works, and then becomes PROFOUNDLY MOVING at the end in a manner which reminded me a LOT of the similarly lovely ending to the ABC Universe.
The only story that I didn't like AT ALL was "American Light: An Appreciation" which I must admit I gave up on as without an in-depth knowledge of The Beat Scene it was entirely impenetrable, and also written IN Beat Poetry, to which I am CLINICALLY ALLERGIC. That one reminded my of "Cinema Purgatorio", in that I'm sure it's good if you know what it's on about, but I didn't really mind skipping one chapter when the rest of the book had stuff like Whispering Pete's, Bosman Brains, and very very spooky seasides in it.
In summmary, I thought it was bloody brilliant, and am now SURPRISED that this fact SURPRISED me. Maybe I should go and finally give "Jerusalem" a try now?
posted 30/10/2023 by MJ Hibbett