Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Lost Alan Moore Episode

Fashion Beast: adapted by Antony Johnson from the screenplay by Alan Moore based on a screen story by Malcolm McLaren and Alan Moore; illustrated by Fecundo Percio (2012-2013): Alan Moore's lost project, a 1985 screenplay for a never-produced movie, based on a story by music and fashion impresario Malcolm McLaren, here gets adapted into a 200-page+ graphic novel. The redoubtable Antony Johnson handles the actual adaptation, as he has for other non-comic-book Moore work adapted into comic-book form.

Artist Fecundo Percio really draws up a storm here. The art remains relatively representational throughout with two exceptions -- the creepy, wizened monkey-women who are the guardians of the gates of Celestine, a fashion house in a future New York. America fights a war against somebody never named. Fallout is everywhere. The world is collapsing.

And that's only the background to this reimagining of the story of Beauty and the Beast, gene-spliced with elements from McLaren's own life and with Moore's taste for outre philosophy.

Beauty would appear to be Doll Seguin, a transvestite whom we first meet dressed like Marilyn Monroe and working as a coat-check 'girl' at the Cabaret, a stylish blend of dance hall and performance space. The Beast may be fashion-designer Celestine, never seen by anyone but the guardians of the gates, giving his approval or diapproval to auditioning models from behind smoked glass. Or it may be Jonni, a butch, aspiring fashion designer who longs to overthrow the concealing, antisexual fashions of House Celestine and put in their place the freer, more liberated fashions she herself has designed.

And that's just the set-up of the first two issues, after which things get really weird.

Johnson preserves the distinctive style and structure of mid-1980's Alan Moore -- this really is of a piece with Watchmen and 'V' for Vendetta, a sharp and cynical work of action-philosophy over which looms the spectre of nuclear armageddon. It's involving and fascinating on its own. But it also adds to the fictional over-structure of Alan Moore's 1980's work in a pleasing, off-beat way. And Percio's art, as with the art of David Lloyd on 'V' and Dave Gibbons on Watchmen, works beautifully with Moore's colourful, metaphorical, expositional prose by providing it with a solid, seemingly representational counterpoint. Highly recommended.

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