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July 15, 2004


Josh Lukin

Morrison has for the past fifteen years been infuriatingly explicit about his engagement with the "highly equivocal nostalgic mood" of which you write so passionately, JH (I, by contrast, wrote a clumsy piece in my undergraduate years touching on the subject , one which people keep embarrassing me by citing). Possibly the Flex Mentallo series is his pithiest meditation on the subject. I shall have to dig it out in my new apartment before commenting further . . .


It's funny. I haven't actually read a lot of Morrison and I have always sort of vaguely thought of him as a counter-example to what I'm saying. Which probably just goes to show that I haven't read enough Morrison. I actually just recently read the first volume of "The Invisibles". I only sorta kinda like it.

Kip Manley

The Invisibles is a fascinating failure: there's a lot of energy in there, and the furniture for a really cool epic—thing—is crammed into that attic, unpolished, hidden under dustwraps, but the first chunk fails the gel, the second chunk is crippled by the first, and the third was criminally truncated. (Something better should be done with his tonal mix of Trevanian and Eco and Jerry Cornelius.)

Flex Mentallo is the must-read; it's maybe my favorite superhero story ever. His run on Doom Patrol is also essential, and thank God they're finally collecting it. I'm also awfully fond of his Animal Man, though his various obsessions are getting their first main workout there and don't sit well together, yet. So read those; Morrison is definitely working your side of the street. (His New X-Men, just completed, did a fine job of walking the lines you limn in "Crisis on Infantile Earths," above; the steps Marvel has taken in undoing what he did—that wasn't really Magneto, that was a, a clone or something, we'll figure it out in a minute—are as tragic in kind if not in scope as Maximum Clonage, et al.)

Anyway: I'm a fanboy on the subject, so I'll shut up for now, or I'll start trying to work out a theory of The Filth in this itty-bitty comment box. Set Invisibles aside for the moment, though, is my advice. You need to be in a more forgiving frame of mind to properly enjoy it.

Josh Lukin

Jeepers, for years I was convinced it was my fault that I didn't love The Invisibles, and now smart people like Kip Manley and Jess Nevins start expressing sentiments identical to my own.

I second Kip's advice --Doom Patrol, along with Animal Man and the DP spinoff Flex Mentallo-- and add that Morrison's JLA also tries to walk a few of those lines you limn, in its own way.

Stephen Frug

Sorry to pull the comments off Morrison, but to John's final point about Moore: I *don't* agree. I think Moore's brilliance in WATCHMEN encompasses, but goes far beyond, what John outlines.

First, I would disagree with the characterization of Moore's plot as simply a "sturdy melodrama with a nuclear blast at the end.... entertaining, but formally stock and standard". I think he takes those materials and does more with them -- in this case, entwining them in all sorts of interesting questions about responsibility, guardianship, the morality of harsh utiliatrian choices, etc; questions, that is, ultimately about power. (These are questions that cast light on the Superhero genre, of course, but also far beyond that.) Moore's best work often takes stock tropes and does them well, but he also (often not always) uses them in ways which make them much more than what they normally are.

Further, there is all sorts of other brilliance in the work. It's been a while since I reread it, but a few things stand out in memory: the characters, both the superheros and the other, more minor ones, are fully human, rounded people. The powerful juxtapositions (of two panels, of panel and text, of two running lines of text and panels, of the Pirate story & the rest, etc) are formally incredible. His riffs on what goes to make a person the person they are (in the Rorsarch chapter, the Silk Spectre restrospective, etc), are superb, as are his riffs on themes such as fatalism/free will in the Dr Manhattan retrospective chapter (brilliant in a literary, not a trying-to-be-analtyic-philosophy way, of course; different aim). The novel is quite simply and powerfully *well written*. And on and on.

So no, I think Moore's brilliance goes much beyond what you say. (He shows other sorts of brilliance in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, in From Hell, in Promethea, in V for Vendetta, in Swamp Thing, in others I haven't read probably, but here I'm focusing on Watchmen.)



Biff! Pow! Truncate! Bzzurkk!

And from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Superagencies, we have Wham! Whack! Voila! (Weighted Average Maturity, Coupon, Loan Age respectively -- 'mortgage' etymology from French 'death by degrees'?)

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