Sunday, 1 January 2012

Alan Moore

Cerebus #239 (February 1999)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(from A Correspondence From Hell with Dave Sim, Cerebus #220, July 1997)
I think something happened in the middle eighties. Basically, all of our dreams came true and turned out to have been small dreams after all. I’ve been involved with comics one way or another since my days on the peripheries of the British comics fan scene in the late sixties, and the dream was always pretty much the same, with minor seasonal variations. The idea was that we all recognised that comics were as noble and valid a form of art as anything else, that they didn’t have to be aimed solely at kids, and that if we were only given a chance, then everybody else would see this too. Comics would be given the serious public and critical attention that they deserved, and then, well, and then everybody would live happily ever after, I guess. Something like that. Mostly, our fantasies didn’t get that far. Virgins fantasising about first coitus, we only took our dream to the point of orgasm. We didn’t waste time on thinking about avoiding the wet spot afterwards or what we were going to say to each other in the morning. And now it’s morning.

The middle eighties was when comic books finally got laid. Media attention. Frank Miller in Rolling Stone, MTV. Maus cops the Pulitzer. Watchmen on University reading lists. The style and music press raving about Love & Rockets. Fuck, man, we had the "Cerebus-the-Aardvark Party" running in British elections in ‘88. Reason tottered on its throne. Everybody was on Top Of The Pops. We got everything we ever asked for, just as one often finds in real life or the better fairy stories, and just like in real life or the better fairy stories it turned out to be shit. For a few years there, everything we touched turned to gold, and now what the fuck are we going to do with all this gold? All this shit? With honest and sincere effort, we made comics what we wanted them to be: as popular as any other 20th-century medium. As respected as any other 20th-century medium. What on earth were we thinking?

The comics medium, its pure and platonic essence, remains unchanged by the above. It is only our relationship to it that has changed. Much of what provided the drive and motivation for that Darwinian struggle up from the gore-rich mud of the fifties to the evolutionary pinnacle of the eighties turns out to have been delusion. The beautiful room, to borrow a phrase from author Edmund White, is empty. Our Darwinian view of a steady but sure upwards progress and development has been superseded by catastrophe theory. Put crudely, catastrophe theory states that it really doesn’t matter how bloody evolved or fit for survival you are if you happen to be under a big enough mudslide, a falling comet, or a long enough ice age. With a big enough wipe-out, God or the DNA simply has no choice but to slowly rebuild by diversifying whatever few fragments of life managed to survive the destruction.

Our vision was limited. Our reason for doing Comic books... to elevate the medium to it’s proper cultural position…has disintegrated upon accomplishment under the weight of realising that the culture we were trying to find our place in is no culture at all. We need a new reason to carry on doing this stuff, a reason that is unconnected with fad, fashion, and the myopic short-term concerns of the industry. We need to create good comics with no social agenda, no goal that is based upon contemporary notions of success. In the course of a twenty-five-year (?) monsterpiece like Cerebus, you yourself have seen the comics industry shift and fluctuate more than most, and yet Cerebus has a constancy that suggests that the work itself is the most important thing, rather than the work viewed in relation to the comics field. In fifty years, I doubt that anybody will be much interested in, say, the relationship of Dave Sim’s Cerebus to the late-eighties comic-book self-publishing phenomenon. What they’ll be interested in is Cerebus itself; the fact that it was created, was brought to fruition over such an astounding period of time. They will be interested, in short, in the timeless elements of art that are undoubtedly in the work, rather than the work’s relationship to the comics field of its day.

The work itself is the only thing. From Hell was created with no thought to how the comics industry might receive it, or of any effect it might have on the medium. It had no agenda and simply was itself. Cerebus is the same, as are a number of the other fine titles that currently grace the medium. It seems to me that our only course of action can be to let the comic-book medium be its own motivation, so that our motivation is simply to produce good and enduring comic books of whatever stripe with no aspirations for the medium beyond that. The work will speak for itself; and if what it says has any profundity then it will endure. We should not concern ourselves with anything further.

From Hell by Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell is available to buy from Top Shelf Productions.

1 comment:

Strawsonian said...

The link to the full correspondence is sadly broken. Any chance of it being hosted on your site?