Saturday, September 26, 2009

CFP: Magus: Transdisciplinary Approaches to the Work of Alan Moore (Dec 4; May 28-29)

Transdisciplinary Approaches
to the Work of Alan Moore

28th and 29th May 2010

Avenue Campus
, The University of Northampton
United Kingdom

Alan Moore has consistently been at the forefront of the graphic novel medium for almost thirty years, being the iconic figure behind such pioneering works as Marvelman and V for Vendetta, the revolutionary Watchmen, to From Hell, Promethea and, most recently, Lost Girls to name but a few. Alongside his work in the comic medium he has written one novel, Voices from the Fire [sic], and is subsequently working on the ambitious Jerusalem project. He has also worked as a graphic artist, performed and recorded a series of musical collaborations largely related to site-specific events, and in recent years has become a magician.

While Moore’s contribution to the comic medium is undisputed, academic appraisals of his work have been fragmentary and there have been no dedicated scholarly events to date that seek to give an overview of his oeuvre. As such The University of Northampton is pleased to announce Magus: Transdisciplinary Approaches to the Work of Alan Moore, an interdisciplinary conference that will bring together not only appraisals of Moore’s comic works, but also his wider cultural manifestations and their significance at the start of the 21st century. Given his burgeoning literary and cultural importance, Moore’s significant profile in the wake of several recent Hollywood adaptations of his work (despite his own antipathy towards those adaptations and their place within the culture industries), and the relationship to Northampton’s cultural landscape (both physical and psychic) that recurs throughout his work, both the time and location are fitting for a dedicated appraisal of his cultural legacy thus far.

The review panel are seeking papers for the conference, or proposals for potential panels on a particular subject. We invite presentations from the perspective of any discipline; literary studies, cultural studies, film studies, art, philosophy, linguistics, politics, sociology and others.

Potential topics for papers or panels might include, but are not restricted to:
  • Comic revisionism and the graphic novel
  • Comics and literature
  • The political philosophy of Moore’s canon
  • Moore’s relationship to the mainstream comic industry
  • Adaptations of Moore’s work to screen and other media
  • Psychogeography and place in Moore’s work
  • Magick and spirituality
  • Site-specific events
  • Pornography and erotica in Moore’s work
  • Fandom and reception
  • The underground press
  • Collaborations and networks
  • Music and musical collaborations
  • Intertextuality and referentiality
We are pleased to announce that the keynote speech will be given by Paul Gravett, author of Great British Comics, Cult Fiction: Art and Comics, Graphic Novels: Everything you Need to Know and a lynchpin of the British comics scene.

Abstracts of no more than 300 words, accompanied by a short biography of no more than 100 words should be submitted to the conference review panel by 4th December 2009.

For more information on the conference or to submit an abstract email Nathan Wiseman-Trowse at

Full details of registration, plenary speakers and accommodation will be announced shortly.

Dr Nathan Wiseman-Trowse
Senior Lecturer in Popular Culture
The School of the Arts
The University of Northampton
Avenue Campus
St George’s Avenue
United Kingdom

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Monday, September 07, 2009

CFP: Love and Sex in the Films and Graphic Novels of Alan Moore (11/1/09; 11/11-14/10)

Thanks to Charles Hatfield for the tip!

Call for Papers
Love and Sex in
the Films and Graphic Novels
of Alan Moore

2010 Film & History Conference:
Representations of Love in Film and Television

November 11-14, 2010
Hyatt Regency Milwaukee
Second Round Deadline: November 1, 2009

Alan Moore has a love-hate relationship with the film industry, yet films based on his work proliferate: From Hell (2001), V for Vendetta (2005), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), and Watchmen (2009). Sex and (possibly) love abound in Moore's novels and in the films grounded, to some extent, in his writing. In V for Vendetta, Moore juxtaposes the love of the computerized state with the more transient love of men and women. In V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Watchmen, he poses difficult questions about the nature of (super)heroic love for others, and for democracy, nation, and empire. Throughout his work, Moore is attuned to issues of representation, and to how representation demarcates the reality of those who are "loved."

Moore may be the exemplary postmodern graphic novelist, and "his" films are well worth considering for what they say about our particular historical moment, and in *this* particular moment, what they say about various manifestations of love.

This area is open to any paper or panel proposal which examines the representation of love, sex, and ethical relations in any work influenced by, or authored by Moore. Possible topics might include:
  • Anarchy as love
  • Love, sex, and postcoloniality
  • Victorian love
  • Postmodern pastiche as a form of love-making
  • Love in (loving) the state--fascist love
  • Love and the body
  • Love in adaptation
  • Representing love in film versus sequential art
  • Representation and the limits of love
  • Loving one another: Thomas Pynchon and Alan Moore
  • Freedom as love
  • God and (as?) love
  • Exposure as love
  • Inoperative communities and love
Please send your 200-word proposal by email to the area chair:

Todd Comer, Area Chair
Defiance College
701 North Clinton Street
Defiance OH 43512
Email: (email submissions preferred)

Panel proposals for up to four presenters are also welcome, but each presenter must submit his or her own paper proposal. For updates and registration information about the upcoming meeting, see the Film & History website (

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

"So, What's the Big Deal about WATCHMEN?"

Several months ago, a friend asked me about WATCHMEN. She'd read the graphic novel and liked it, but she wasn't utterly blown away like she thought she'd be, and she wanted to know what I thought about the book. I sat down to "write a quick email" in reply, and I came up for breath a little shy of 1000 words later.

I've been wanting to polish this up into a "proper" essay, replete with links and images a-plenty; but alas, I am not possessed of Doctor Manhattan's unique way with time. So I've decided to just "go wild" and post a plain vanilla, barely-polished version of that original email. Will it veer off topic? Yes. Are its ideas under-developed? Of course. Are all of its ideas original? No, but I only steal from the best. Does it just peter-out at the end? Aye. Will its unfinished state embarrass me? Heck no. Do I want to say more about all of this? You bet. And I hope to, right here, eventually. Until then, I give you, off the top of my balding, decidedly un-Moore-like head...

"So, What's the Big Deal
about WATCHMEN?"

Actually, I can understand this point of view. The hype -- the hagiographical zeal -- that surrounds Watchmen can't help but set up nigh-impossibly high expectations for new readers today. But...

Part of the situation is that when Watchmen appeared, 22-ish years ago, nothing quite like it had been done before. Since then, people have ripped it off -- er, paid it homage -- a zillion times. Plus, the type of psychological nuances that Watchmen contains are lots more common today, or at least the attempt is. So characterization-wise, it can't help but seem somewhat less amazing now than it was back in the day. Plus, lots of comics today try to envision "what effect superheroes would have on the 'real' world." Again, when Watchmen came out this sort of thing practically didn't exist.

But there are two other parts which, to me, make Watchmen still stand out.

I'm a form / process geek, and formally Watchmen kicks freakin' ass. Page design, cover design, series design, panel arrangement, transitions, narrative / thematic cross-cutting -- all this stuff is still done with more precision, care, and effect than any Watchmen -wannabes ever accomplished. Because Alan Moore is a genius when it comes to stuff like this - most of that formal stuff is in his script, although Gibbons contributes enormously. Check out the "Fearful Symmetry" chapter. Look at the first page and the last page, then the second page and the penultimate page, etc.... The layouts mirror each other, and the narrative and themes do a bit, as well, page vs. page, panel vs. panel.

It's stuff like this that you can do in comics but you can't do in any other medium in the same way.

The other biggie is that plot is so not the totality of Watchmen. In fact, I find it practically secondary to the larger experience. (I think Moore did too - viz. the admittedly derivative SF ending.) For me, it's the fact that Watchmen creates an entire world, a mythology, a history, all in 12 chapters. It gives you a narrative density that "regular" superhero comics might begin to approach after a decade or three.

It helps, of course, that most of the characters are analogues of previous heroes. On one level they're extremely thinly veiled analogues to heroes from Charlton comics; but on a deeper level, they resonate with lots of (super)hero archetypes (just as the Charlton heroes do). The Comedian is sort of Captain America and the Punisher at the same time; Nightowl is Batman-ish; Silk Spectre is like Phantom Lady or numerous other "good girl" super heroines of the 40s; Rorschach is a "dark avenger," but with the moral compass of Ayn Rand; etc.

But most important, for me, is all the extra material at the end of each chapter. There's where you learn about history and world cultural development and politics and so much else about this world: information that opens up the story so that it's not just a superhero / whodunit / mad scientist story. If you just read the comics narrative without the back-up material, you'll get a very good superhero story, excellently presented, sure. But without the extra material, I'm convinced that today we wouldn't be talking about Watchmen as much more than a "Yeah, that was a pretty interesting" book.

It's these latter qualities that make me believe that pretty much any Watchmen adaptation will fall far short of what the original is all about. I've always said that pretty much the only way I could conceive of an adaptation working would be to make it a TV miniseries, or maybe a series of DVDs. Each episode would have a regular narrative section, but then rounding out the hour (or appearing as bonus dvd features) would be things like documentaries, news programs, talk shows, etc.: TV-type things that expand the world just like the print-type things that expand the world in the book. You can try to do some of this type of stuff in one movie with flashbacks, montages, etc., but there's no way that you could get an analogous depth and the breadth of that world in even a 3-hour movie.

Of course, I can't think of a single film adaptation of a novel that manages to convey completely the richness of its source material. Or a comics adaptation of a film, or a book. Or a book of a comic. You get the idea. Anyone who expects an adaptation to "live up to" the original -- to include everything, in exactly the same way, with exactly the same weight and emphasis -- is playing a sucker's game. No adaptation into another medium can ever be 100% faithful to its source; it's physically, aesthetically, impossible. Nor is it wise. Film has its strengths and weaknesses, as does prose, as does poetry, as does theater, as does comics.

I don't expect that Watchmen the film will reduplicate the experience of reading the Watchmen the comic. From all the hype, I know that it at least will mimic the "look" of the comic as much as it possibly can. (Except for the heroes' costumes. Most of them should look dumpier -- but movie audiences wouldn't stand for that. Or maybe that should read "movie executives.") I would like to see a film that treats its source intelligently (not just reverently) and utilizes all the tools of cinema in ways as innovative as Moore & Gibbons did the tools of comics. I doubt that could happen, though, no matter the passion of the people behind and in front of the camera. If it were too avant-garde, I doubt any major studio would have allowed it through to completion, not with so much $$$$ riding on it.

But we'll see – Friday night, I expect...

Image Credit: Milhouse knows the score. Screen-grab from The Simpsons.

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