31 May 2006

Lost Girls unmoored

For audiences more mature than I, the Comic Wire offers a three-part article with thumbnail pictures about writer Alan Moore and artist Melinda Gebbie and the publication of Lost Girls, their pornographic graphic novel using teenaged versions of Dorothy Gale, Wendy Darling, and Alice.

As far as I can tell from articles and interviews like this, Alan Moore is famous in the comic-book world for two things:

  • reimagining characters created by other writers that are now in the public domain and thus available to him for free, as in this volume and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
  • complaining bitterly about how people adapting his work into movies and other media, such as V for Vendetta, have paid him large sums and then reimagined his characters.


fusenumber8 said...

Perhaps perhaps perhaps. But his "Top Ten" is some of the wittiest writing in the graphic novel genre I've ever encountered. And the description for "Lost Girls" is far more shocking than the actual novel itself. It's rather lovely to look at, truthfully.

J. L. Bell said...

From what I've seen, the art is indeed lovely—all credit to Melinda Gebbie. She depicts the growing Alice, Dorothy, and Wendy as beautiful young women, not freakish products of an adolescent boy's imagination.

The quality of the product, however, doesn't change the fact that Alan Moore is happy to adapt other writers' creations but resents people adapting his. That's rather like the Disney Studio building its brand on public-domain stories and then lobbying for longer copyright terms.

Lost Girls probably has limited distribution because of its use of Wendy Darling. Unique protection for Peter Pan in the UK means the book is a copyright violation there.

And things are tough elsewhere. In Canada, this Comic Book Resources thread says, the main comic distributor won't carry Lost Girls for fear that government authorities will confiscate it as pornographic.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Alan Moore does NOT accept money from the film adaptations and he insists that his name not appear in the credits. In recent cases like 'Constantine' and 'V For Vendetta', he let the artists of those comics have the money that would have gone to him.

And to say that Moore is most famous for using public domain characters is a big stretch. To date, Moore's work in this area consists of 2 League of Extraordinary Gentlemen mini-series, and now 'Lost Girls'. He's much more famous in comics circles for "Watchmen", "V For Vendetta" and his Swamp Thing work.

I'm far from Moore's biggest fan, but I just wanted to clarify. The amount of respect that Moore commands in American and British comic circles is immense. People treat him like he's the William Shakespeare of comics or something. For a year now, every time there's an interview with some respected comic writer or illustrator and they're asked what they're reading, "Lost Girls" or another Moore work will be mentioned. For these reasons, I think the book will sell just fine, as I don't think expectations are that high for its sales, anyway (due to pornographic content and the use of a very small publishing house). -Matt Goode

J. L. Bell said...

Thanks for the comment, Matt.

Alan Moore's policy of not taking money for movie adaptations is relatively recent. He reportedly accepted payment for From Hell and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen while dissociating himself from the cinematic outcomes. He later decided that approach was a mistake and stopped signing such deals.

Moore has long used other creators' characters as well as his own. Swamp Thing was an existing DC character, of course, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was probably the first Moore project that reached outside the comic-book world in a big way. (Watchmen is indeed more famous within, I agree.)

With Lost Girls, Moore has been quite clear that he's using three icons of children's literature, not just three anonymous young ladies of the 1910s. (Part 2 of the CBR interview shows that. Moore also acknowledges that his portrayal of Wendy Darling is anathema to the London children's hospital that holds the UK copyright on Peter Pan through next year. In sum, he chose to adapt other authors' work in ways that one author's remaining legal representative disapproves of.

Thanks to the public domain, Moore has every right to do that (outside the UK, and also inside the UK after 2007). As a writer working within genres and often reinventing them, Moore almost ipso facto plays off what readers have seen before. There's nothing wrong with that artistic approach. I enjoy such works, and I enjoy doing it myself in my own writing.

But I think part of playing that game has to be living comfortably with the fact that other people can adapt material, too. Even your own material. Even if they do it badly. Moore seems unusual not simply in his great talent at what he does, but also in his vituperation about adaptations. That's the irony that struck me as he spoke about Lost Girls.