Original short interviews with notable, rising or overlooked
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BAKER'S DOZEN for 01/03/2007
Extraordinary Things to Come
Alan Moore on the forthcoming The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier
In case it's not that obvious, I consider myself to be incredibly lucky to do what I do for a living.
One of the main reasons for this happy state is the simple fact that I am able to contact and converse with any number of comic creators just about any time I wish. Even better, all of these folks are ready and willing to let me share some of the more pertinent and interesting parts of these conversations with you through this column, and as part of the "Bill Baker Presents..." series.
So it's with more than a little pleasure that I share with you the following excerpt from my next, all-new interview book, Alan Moore's Exit Interview.
The main body of that conversation, as suggested by both its title and subtitle--on 25 years of creating comics, the state of the art and the industry, and what the future may hold for all concerned--largely concerns itself with Alan's measured and thought-provoking assessment of his own career, the medium and the funny book biz. Still, the White Mage of Northampton was able to spare a few moments for discussion of some of his recently released and forthcoming work, including Lost Girls, the massive prose novel he's currently writing called Jerusalem, and the highly anticipated multi-media extravaganza, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier.
Bill Baker: How would you describe The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier?
Alan Moore: Imagine a source book that has got lots of interesting snippets from here and there in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen's three or four hundred year history. But, these are presented in some unusual ways. For example, when we want to talk about the founding of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which involved Prospero, then we include a lost Shakespeare folio for a play called Fairy's Fortunes Founded, which Shakespeare commenced to write in 1616, which was the year of his death, and thus never completed. So we have got the opening scenes of Fairy's Fortunes Founded reproduced in the manner of a Shakespeare folio as part of The Black Dossier, fully illustrated and featuring some pretty good Shakespeare, if I say so myself.
And when we're detailing the 18th century League, the Gulliver group, then this is done in the form of a sequel to John Cleland's Fanny Hill, it "Being the Further of the Adventures of a Woman of Pleasure," with lots of text and full page illustrations, like in the illustrated Fanny Hill that the Marquis Von Bayros illustrated. So, there're those things. And there's lots of things that you might expect in a source book, like a really neat double page cutaway of the Nautilus. There's a twenty-five page comic strip history done in the style of those great old full color English comic strips that we used to have in Boy's World, or things like that; stuff that was painted, like Dan Dare was painted.
This history is, essentially, a twenty-five page "Life of Orlando," which tells the entire life of Orlando from his birth in the City of Thebes in 1190 B.C. And then, basically in the life of Orlando, we give the timeline for the entire The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen's world, up to the Second World War. And we've got every famous fictional character and event that you've ever heard of in there.
It turns out that Orlando has slept with absolutely everybody. And the ones he hasn't slept with, he's waged terrible war upon. If he was a he at the time, you know? He's posed for the Mona Lisa, and he's fought at Troy. He was personally responsible for the Renaissance, he believes. That was a lot of fun. But, that was just twenty-five pages.
There's a Beat Generation novel, allegedly inspired by the activities of The League in America during the 1950s, as written by Sal Paradise, who was the surrogate for Jack Kerouac that appeared in On the Road. And it's a Beat novel called The Crazy Wide Forever, which has got The League teaming up with Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty against the villainous Dr. Sax, from another Kerouac book, as he was a kind of cross between Fu Manchu, The Shadow, and William Boroughs. So, yeah, we've got Dr. Sax in there.
There's an immense amount of stuff in the Dossier. A prospectus of London, features upon previous versions of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Les Hommes Mysterieux from France, and Der Zweilicht-helden from Germany. There's an account of The Surrogate League that British Intelligence tried to put together in the 1950s, and which was a complete disaster. There's everything that you could ever want to know about any incarnation of The League. And this is the source book material; this is the actual Black Dossier.
And, wrapped around that and running through that, there are these very lengthy sections of comic strip which tell the story of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, such as it is, basically retrieving the Black Dossier from British Intelligence in 1958. They basically steal the Black Dossier that has got all of these things that British Intelligence know about The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen contained in it. Members of The League break into British Intelligence in 1958, steal the Black Dossier, and then try to escape from the country while being pursued by a trio of deadly British agents, who are trying to get them and the Dossier back.
And, as you might expect with The League, there is nobody who appears anywhere in these books who is not somebody that you probably should have heard of or heard about from literature, or from films or comics or from some other cultural source.
But, I don't want to tell you who's in it. For one thing, as I'm sure you can imagine, the closer we get to the present day in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the more intricate the dance around the minor matters like copyright has to be. Victorian characters are fair game. They're all public domain. Even so, you occasionally get someone like Sax Rohmer who, I believe, didn't have the decency to die until sometime in the 1940s or 50s, which meant that we couldn't use Dr. Fu Manchu in The League. So we just used an oriental mastermind who was known as the Doctor, and who was controlling Limehouse, but everybody knew who it was.
And that's the technique that we're approaching some of the characters with in this Dossier. There are some very famous characters in there who we can't actually spell out who they are, but everybody will know who they're supposed to be, because we make it completely obvious. We do everything but spell it out.
And the actual material in that comic strip is much, much more interesting than the actual wonderful material in The Dossier itself. It's got this sort of fascinating flight across England, touching upon a number of interesting English fictional characters of the 1950s, and, it ends with probably the most spectacular sixteen pages you have ever seen in any comic. I'm saying this before Kevin's actually drawn them, but, I know what they're going to be like. There are a lot of little extras that we put in this, as well.
BB: How about the multi-media aspects of The Black Dossier?
AM: Well, part of the book, which is set in 1958, remember, deals with the residual influence of George Orwell's Big Brother Government. That book was originally set in 1948. But the publisher said, "Well, George, nobody's going to understand this. Let's change the last two numbers around, and we'll say it's happening in the future." And so, instead of being called 1948, it was called 1984. So, by the time our book opens in 1958, the Big Brother Government has already been over for a number of years. So we've got a lot of references to Orwell's world, and we tie that into our world in a way that makes perfect sense.
As one of the little extra giveaways, we've got a book produced by Pornsec, which, in Orwell's book, they're working for the Ministry of Truth, the Ministry of Propaganda, and they produce these little pornographic comics. And so, one of the giveaways is an eight-page Tijuana Bible, as dreamed up by Orwell's Thought Police. So it's Thought Police pornography. And that is something that will fall into your lap like subscription cards when you open the book.
There is a pair of 3-D goggles that will be included as well, that will be necessary for one section of the book--quite an important section of the book, actually.
And there is a 45 [RPM] vinyl single that is supposedly by a 1950s band on a 1950s American record label, both of which are fictitious, but which are taken from other sources. That's part of the fun of The League, you know? The band is called "Eddie Enrico and His Hawaiian Hotshots," which, I believe, were mentioned very briefly by Thomas Pynchon in his excellent The Crying of Lot 49. But it's double-sided, it's a single with two sides. One side of which is "Immortal Love," and the other side of which is "Home with You," which are kind of League-themed 1950s pop songs.
And so, yeah, there'll be a lot of little extras in this. It's going to be a very handsomely produced volume....
BB: Just out of curiosity, who did the music?
AM: Who did the music? It was me and Tim Perkins, pretending to be a 50s American rock and roll band. I've discovered, at this late stage in my life, that I am, in fact, an Elvis impersonator. But you'll have to wait and listen for yourself, you know? [His voice assumes an Elvis Presley-like drawl] "Uh huh, thank you very much."
So there'll be a lot of little goodies, because me and Kevin like that. We like having lots of nice little things in there. It reminds us of British comics of our youth, where there were always these kind of cheap giveaways included. But we've got some quite expensive giveaways in this one.
BB: And porn, too!
AM: Absolutely. It is 1984 Newspeak totalitarian porn, so it's kind of depressing, but also kind of funny. [Laughter] It's George Orwell's 1984, told as an 8-page tale in a Tijuana Bible pornographic comic strip, which is kind of funny and dreadful at the same time. But that's just a minor bauble to fall into the reader's lap.
The preceding excerpt is taken from pages 67 to 72 of Alan Moore's Exit Interview, scheduled for release by Airwave Publishing via Diamond Comic Distributors sometime in February, 2007. Also, just in case your local shop doesn't carry it, you can order a copy from Bill via www.BloodintheGutters.com, starting February '07.
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