Saturday, July 31, 2010

Porno for Pomos


Comic:


Lost Girls
, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Melinda Gebbie (2006): Moore and partner Gebbie worked on Lost Girls for over a decade. The end result might be the oddest book of Moore's career. It's certainly the most pornographic, though 'meta-pornographic' might be a better word -- this is an extremely graphic book of pornography that's about pornography, why people consume pornography, and the inter-relationship of fantasy and reality. I use the word 'pornography' rather than 'erotica' because it seems as if that's what Moore is aiming for here -- even the poetic sections are pushed so far into the explicit and the purple of prose that the whole enterprise really seems to be about What Gets People Off.

Moore's over-riding conceit here is that three women whose adventures resemble 'real-world' versions of the fictional adventures of Wendy from Peter Pan, Alice from Alice in Wonderland, and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, meet as adults at a sexually exotic resort in Europe in the days leading up to World War One and proceed to have a variety of sexual adventures while also recounting their sexual histories, which themselves vaguely resemble the adventures of the fictional heroines, only without magic and with an awful lot of sex.

A couple of hundred pages of sex, primarily rendered in Gebbie's art-nouveau-influenced art, with periodic side-trips into imitations of various other illustrative styles. In the event you somehow miss the connections between 'real life' and fiction, most of the 30 or so chapters contain a full-page spread which makes the parallels between a sexual incident and an incident from the fictional adventures of one of the characters explicit in pretty much every meaning of that word.

Much of the hardcore material is somewhat undercut (or, to use a crappy lit-crit word, 'problematized') by several discussions of the relationship of pornography to the real world (fantasy, one character suggests, is in many cases never meant to be enacted in real life, and cannot thus be judged as if it were an idea about a 'real' incident. This commentary occurs during an orgy scene intercut with a particularly filthy bit of incest-pornography). In many ways, Moore has succeeded in doing for pornography what he did for superhero battles in Miracleman: he's pushed them logically to the point of fictional apocalypse while at the same time maintaining distance as a commentator throughout. Or, 'If this is what you like, what happens when we push it all the way to its logical conclusion?'

While it sometimes seems as if Moore has succeeded in creating the world's longest and most expensive Tijiuana Bible (and in a way he has), the super-saturation of sex scenes and the sheer wackiness of much of the conversation in the book makes it hard to take this seriously: it really seems more like a joke, despite the somewhat ham-handed epilogue that attempts to ground the book in the horrors of war. Or is that some sort of joke as well? Moore's such a cheeky bugger that it's impossible to figure him out sometimes. In any event, not for the squeamish or easily offended. Recommended.



Book:


The Cleft and Other Odd Tales
by Gahan Wilson (1998): Gahan Wilson was the natural inheritor of Charles Addams' title as "world's most macabre popular cartoonist", and he wore that title well for decades. He was also a writer of short stories and an occasional movie reviewer; it's products of the former occupation that The Cleft collects. It's a dandy bunch of short stories, reminiscent of the sort of droll horror of writers like John Collier or Roald Dahl, with the added bonus of illustrations by Wilson for each story. The collection spans more than 30 years, but Wilson's narrative tone remains remarkably consistent throughout. You may not be scared by any of the offerings here, but as with Wilson's best cartoons, you will be disturbed even as you laugh or at least chuckle. Recommended.

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