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“There’s Buses Along Watling Street To London…” Comics! Sometimes they don’t half muck you about a bit.

John Kane

Nah, don’t get up my account, see I want a word in your shell-like. Don’t flinch, son, I just want to talk to you. Talk to you about this thing what Alan Moore wrote and Kevin O’Neill drew. Won’t take long. We’ve all got homes to go to. Don’t cry, be  a brave soldier. Be over before you know it…


By Alan Moore(w), Kevin O’Neill(a), Todd Klein(l) and Ben Dimagmaliw(c)

Top Shelf/Knockabout Comics
Crikey, mate! Things look proper rum as the psychedelic ‘60s spiral towards a massive downer! Can our enduring chums make everything groovy again!? Don’t freakout, Grandad, the future is sure to be far out!


It’s pretty much business as usual in the world of LOEG with the latest installment. A slender plot groaning under an ungainly agglomeration of references and in-jokes, comedy, nastiness and an overriding suspicion that Alan Moore thinks popular culture is going down the crapper. If you liked the last installment you’ll like this but if you’ve been liking them less and less since THE BLACK DOSSIER you’re going to like this even less. I’m okay with them myself what with them being well clever and as visually attractive as Valerie Leon in go-go boots.

Alright then, first things first: Is it fan fiction? Yes, I think it is. But I also think you’d be hard pressed to find any genre comic that isn’t these days. YMMV. Also, I’ve never actually looked up a definition of “fan fiction” but we’ll persevere. Crucially what it is is fan fiction of the very highest order. How can it not be fan fiction filled as it is with fictions pulled from other sources and made to dance and warble at the behest of The Magus? At least he has a purpose in mind, at least Alan Moore is using them to some narrative end intended to educate, illuminate and entertain. But then again I could read about the seedy adventures of characters who greatly resemble Jack Carter and Vic Dakin all day.


Oh, It’s a grand life with The Magus but it wouldn’t be half so grand without his aiders and abettors. Herein Kevin O’Neill is his usual majestically unusual self. Considering the fact that his art already resembles a bad trip the fact that he can actually go further and depict a bad trip is pretty incredible.  Kevin O’Neill heroically packs his (mostly) constricted panels with detail and incident that really gives the book a sense of place and it’s a place populated by a hectic bustle of humanity. The panels of streets where the shiny future invasively looms over and creeps into the grotty present is done brilliantly. It’s a smart way to convey the way the future arrives. Not in a sudden jump but rather like a tide lapping in and around the present, eroding the shabby terraces and backstreets of now until it was like they were never there. You get a real sense that in ten minutes the future will be all around and it will be as though the future was here all the time.

Todd Klein and Ben Digimagmaliw are afforded a chance to shine and really rise to the challenge. Usually letterers and colourists are just required not to make any mistakes and generally just not get under anyone’s feet but given the gift of the psychedelic showdown climax they really go to town. It’s lovely, lovely stuff indeed. It’s worth buying purely for the visual wizardry on display. Corporate comics aren’t ever going to let your eyes graze on such delights as Kevin O’Neill and Co. at full tilt pedal to the mental like this. All the visual artistes do an absolutely smashing job at keeping this thing from sliding into incoherence.


While the whole is unquestionably successful in conveying the shabby reality the ‘6os briefly disguised and the fact that it may have been a Sexual Revolution but, still, all revolutions have casualties there remains something off about the whole thing. In the early pages in particular Moore’s dialogue reads like raw exposition, which is surprising considering how neatly he captures the “voices” of the supporting cast in the parallel plot. In fact those parts are a far more satisfying read than the adventures of our three primaries. I could have read a lot more about Vic and Jack and a lot less about Mina, ‘Lando and Allan. The gangster stuff had drive and purpose while the League stuff just seemed aimless and repetitive. Maybe the contrast was intentional after all it isn’t the heroes who “save” the day in the end. So caught up are they in their own problems they can barely get it together to be in the right place at the right time. They muck it up good and proper and no mistake.


I get that what Moore’s going for is the whole immortality has its price thing, I get that loud and clear because he never stops bloody banging on about it. Moore makes some good points, some interesting points but he keeps making them without developing them. This doesn’t result in a terribly satisfying reading experience but it does at least explain the almost hilarious ineptitude The League displays. Immortality is sure doing a number on our three chums and no mistake. Orlando has his sexual organs growing and receding like a tide of biological confusion, Allan has to carry a monkey around on his back forever and Mina has to cope with the the wounds of her past.

It’s no wonder that at this point they are acting like a bunch of blockheads. Blimey, this lot can’t even save the world properly. Who in their right mind would drop drugs on the cusp of a climactic confrontation upon which they believe the fate of the world to hang? No one. But then these people aren’t in their right mind, so I guess that works. There’s a nice comic pay-off when even the villain appears baffled by their stupidity (“You cretinous CHIT!”) and his plan, which isn’t even the plan The League think it is, is only derailed by the actions of a background thug who has no real notion of the events in which he is so pivotal. Which can’t be accidental. I mean, let’s face it, Alan Moore runs a tight ship narratively, if it’s in there it probably means something. What it means is that his is a pretty bleak experience both for the characters and the reader.

Oh, there’s humour in here but not enough to lift it far out of the doldrums. In fact the jokiest joke is the worst joke here. There’s a whole panel wasted here on a Jumping Jack Flash joke that is so leaden I actually resented its hogging of an entire panel. Even the best joke, the one about body swapping (“I’m perplexed.”), is so delightfully nasty it just serves to reinforce the desolation of the book rather than relieve it. Look, the last image in the book is of a sad old man assaulted by the music of the young and angry while slumped on a chair dripping with his own piss. Not exactly Benny Hill is it?

Which, not entirely smoothly, brings me to the most likely cause of upset regarding this here periodical: there’s far too much slapping of little bald men’s heads to the accompaniment of a jaunty tune. No, of course not, but there is quite a lot of sexual violence on these pages. I’d really like to just breeze past that one but sometimes you just have to grasp that nettle. Remember when I used to just make terrible Dad Jokes about bad super hero comics? And Kurt Busiek would patiently correct my blunders? Such happy times! What? I’m not avoiding anything!

Oh, okay…  Fair disclosure here, I’m about to give Alan Moore the benefit of the doubt. I have read and enjoyed his work since he poked his young head up in the pages of 2000AD. I guess I am a fan? I’m not uncritical though I try not to be that kind of fan. I mean I love Howard Victor Chaykin to bits but I’m never going to recommend FOREVER MAELSTROM to anyone, okay? Similarly with Alan Moore I didn’t buy LOST GIRLS because the page I saw in TCJ had a woman talking about the texture of a bull’s pizzle. Maybe it was a horse, anyway the point is I don’t want to read about beloved children’s characters achieving sexual satisfaction by touching animal’s privates. I’m funny like that. Call me old-fashioned. So while I’m not a hater I guess I’m not a lover but I am a fan. Caveat ends.


So, having thought about it a bit more than I feel I should have had to the nearest I can come to some kind of explanation, some kind of reason for this approach is that Alan Moore is trying to explore some of the connections between sex and violence. I think Alan Moore sees the genre comic’s reliance on violence as unhealthy because it isn’t real violence. The power of violence has gone and only empty shock remains. Alan Moore’s work has demonstrated, to me at least, that he understands violence. He knows that violence happens and then keeps right on happening. Violence isn’t just the act it’s also the effects of the act. Violence is the original gift that keeps on giving. Any honest depiction of violence should upset you, I think. I could be biased about that. Genre comics don’t deal in honest violence they deal in pantomime violence: safe violence and, thus, fake violence. There are 7o some years of gelding behind every act of violence in genre comics. If you want the violence in your comic to hurt, to be real what to do? It’s this dilemma that leads me to believe Alan Moore is attempting to make violence violent again. And the way I think Alan Moore is attempting to do that is by introducing sex into the equation. Because that’s really going to touch a nerve.


That’s what I think and I think that because I know this: practically every act of on-page sex in LOEG:1969 is accompanied, contains or is contrasted with an act of violence. Where conventionally there would only be violence here there is also a sexual element. This is disturbing and upsetting, at least to me. Now, I can only assume (that most dangerous of critical acts) that this is intentional. As I’ve said the big thing that strikes me about Alan Moore comics is that they have very little room in them for the accidental (or the unintentional). Something as obvious and persistent as the sex/violence link in LOEG:1969 being happenstance seems pretty unlikely. It must have a purpose, it must be intentional. To dismiss it as being merely some kind of accidental twitch of an aged libido or the unconscious seepage of suppressed desires would, I think, be fundamentally wrong at worst and ungenerous at best.

But that leaves me with the puzzle of why Alan Moore goes to such great pains to ensure the reasons for this, the most striking aspect of the work, remain so occluded. Really, I have no recourse but to send comics into the kitchen to help Mother do the dishes while I lean forward to Alan Moore, with his hair brushed and parted, and ask: “But what are your intentions?” And I don’t like doing that. If the work has failed to communicate its intentions with regard to an element as pervasive as the sexual violence is in LOEG:C 1969 then the work has failed and failed badly. But not totally.

I have no doubt this is the comic Alan Moore wanted to write but as I’m unsure why that is I have to go with OKAY! Everybody else involved in the visual stuff gets an EXCELLENT!

Now be off with you, I’ve got to take me Mum her cuppa. What’s up with a boy loving his Mum? Tell me that whydoncha? Gwan. Hoppit.

11 Responses to “ “There’s Buses Along Watling Street To London…” Comics! Sometimes they don’t half muck you about a bit. ”

  1. Yeah, well im sure it is OK. But who buys OK books? I buy good comics.

    Then again you get some rape, some reference to London based toy makers and a cameo of Benny Hill while he was a smack shooting teenager.


  2. Alan Moore digs repetition!

  3. “Yeah, well im sure it is OK. But who buys OK books?”

    People who have different tastes than you.

    Also, how do you know a book is OK before you read it?

  4. The way I read this is as the alternative to the lazy (but narratively elegant/safe) “and then they lived happily ever after”. This is the “ever after”, actually told to us readers. Sure, there’s not a whole lot happening (though there’s a story in it, obviously), but at least it’s being told, not hand-waved away…

    In other words, this is what happens after the “amazing adventures of the LoEG”, meaning it’s not “amazing adventures” anymore. Enjoy it for what it is.

  5. @Mckraken: Buy what thou wilt. That shall be the whole of the law!

    @Darius Smith: Not as much as I do. Not as much as I do! Chairman Mao and President Carter dig it too, eh? Repetition-(ah)!

    @Pete: Sound and sensible points there, sir.

    @Hakan: That’s a good point there, sir. I still find their adventures quite amazing but then I lead quite a sedate life. I groove on your point though. Please don’t get me wrong I enjoyed the book a great deal. I mean Alan Moore’s OKAY! is different to most other people’s OKAY! By which I mean it’s a lot better but that s/v stuff just took the wind out of my sails a bit so I marked him down a tad. See me after class, Alan Moore!

    Thanks to all as ever.

  6. Something as obvious and persistent as the sex/violence link in LOEG:1969 being happenstance seems pretty unlikely. It must have a purpose, it must be intentional. To dismiss it as being merely some kind of accidental twitch of an aged libido or the unconscious seepage of suppressed desires would, I think, be fundamentally wrong at worst and ungenerous at best.

    Why do I need to be generous to Alan Moore at this point? The man has been putting rape – fairly shallow depictions of rape, largely for shock and titillation factor – in his work for almost three decades now. He wasn’t pursuing a thoughtful, sober examination of the effects of sexual violence when the Joker shot and raped Barbara Gordon just to fuck with her dad, and he wasn’t ruminating on the horrors of sexual assault when he was making jokes about the invisible man raping young girls in League vol. 1, and he wasn’t making some sophisticated argument about the sexualization of violence when Mina Harker’s unconscious body was getting groped by Voldemort while her naked psychic avatar was trying to escape rape by a giant penis monster.

    When Frank Miller fills his books with leather-clad ninja prostitutes, no one argues that he’s making some clever if unorthodox statement about modern sex work. It’s seen for what it is: an unwanted peek into a gross old man’s kink life. Why should Alan Moore be any different? He fills his comics with rape – remarkably shallow depictions of rape, depictions largely designed to titillate, not to horrify – and the logical conclusion should be, it’s a fetish. The man likes his rape.

  7. @moose n squirrel: You don’t need to be generous to Alan Moore at all. I said “I think” it would be ungenerous. You think I am wrong. Hey, I often am. I’m probably about to be even more wrong:

    Alan Moore has stated himself that he regrets THE KILLING JOKE and realises the sexual assault was probably a bit much for a Batman comic. As to the other examples: The Invisible Man stuff seemed to me to be saying that all those schoolgirl porn larks that are now seen as kitsch and just a bit of mucky fun are actually a bit horrid while the Mina Harker groping seemed to me to be a comment/illustration of how during the Sexual Revolution of the ‘60s there was also a lot of predatory male behaviour, behaviour that was likely freed from restriction somewhat by the prevalent pressure on young women to “free” themselves.

    So I guess Moore is using sexual violence to comment on commonly accepted tropes of sexiness. Schoolgirl fantasies? Swinging dolly birds? Maybe even suggesting that they might not be super-healthy? I don’t *know* though. And the problem is that sexual violence is troubling. And if, as Alan Moore seems to, you’re going to use it as a common storytelling tool then I think you should make it plain exactly what you’re on about. You’re intentions must be made plain. Otherwise people are going to be able to draw unsavoury conclusions about your work and then go on to project this onto your private life. And there’s really no comeback to any of that except a different interpretation.

    Well, I guess Alan Moore is different from Frank Miller because Alan Moore isn’t Frank Miller. Also, I don’t find Moore’s depictions of rape shallow (post KILLING JOKE) although, to be fair, I don’t keep a running tab on Alan Moore Rape Scenes, however, I’m certain I don’t find any of them titillating and I certainly do find them horrifying. I’m unsure as to how someone gets from being troubled by aspects of an obviously intelligent man’s work to being able to know that they are gross and possess a kink life. But as I say you could be entirely right and I could be totally wrong.

    It’d probbaly help if interviewers could stop asking Alan Moore about superhero comics he wrote 30-odd years ago and asked him more about what he’s writing about now.

  8. ‘If the work has failed to communicate its intentions with regard to an element as pervasive as the sexual violence is in LOEG:C 1969 then the work has failed and failed badly. But not totally.’

    Who’s to say the work has failed to communicate its intentions? You’ve only read two thirds of it!

  9. Here’s the thing, John: these kinds of depictions of rape pop up in nearly ALL of Alan Moore’s major comics. Rape and attempted rape show up in Watchmen, in V for Vendetta, in Miracleman, in Promethea, in Lost Girls, in every single volume of the League, in Neonomicon. Even Top Ten, probably the most light-hearted and human comic Moore has ever worked on, has an extended joke about superheroes raping children. And again, aside from (arguably) From Hell, these are not thoughtful examinations of the causes and effects of sexual violence: they’re there as plot devices, or for shock value, or worse, as jokes (try telling me that there’s any meaningful political message to the gag where Pollyanna, after being raped, says she’s determined to remain optimistic). At best, Moore trivializes rape. At worst, he’s turning it into the equivalent of an explosion in an action movie: traumatic violence depicted as a turn-on.

    And no, I don’t think he’s making any sort of profound political statement about male predatory behavior hiding in the sexual revolution – and if he is he’s being remarkably dense, since male predatory behavior’s been around for a good six thousand years, and the sexual revolution came about as the rise of a women’s liberation movement determined to oppose that predation – a women’s liberation movement, incidentally, which is entirely absent from Moore’s version of the sixties.

    What struck me more than anything about LXG: 1969 was how profoundly reactionary its politics are. Alan Moore’s late-sixties is a psychedelic swirl of sex-n-drugs-n-rock-n-roll, all couched as horribly dangerous nightmare bait, but there’s no sign in this analogue world of any of the actual political upheavals actually taking place in the real world Moore is ostensibly trying to comment on: no anti-war movement, no women’s liberation movement, no civil rights movement, no gay rights movement, none of the revolutionary and near-revolutionary uprisings that swept the world at the time, certainly none of the labor struggles that took place. For Moore, the sixties come down to drugs and fucking, and he looks at both of these with the combination of contempt and barely-concealed leering of a sweaty-palmed megachurch pastor. His version of the sixties as a nightmarish swirl of corrupting decadence neatly lines up with that of the far right.

    You keep saying that Moore is an “obviously intelligent man.” What does intelligence have to do with it? Can intelligent people not hold deplorable beliefs, or be blind to the essential humanity of others?

  10. @Tam: Ooops. Yeah, mea culpa there. That’s a fair point about not having read it all. In fact I didn’t even read LOEG: C 1910 again beforehand (I meant to but couldn’t find it in the garage) so I guess I failed there. I treated LOEG: C 1969 as complete in and of itself which, ayup, it isn’t. So, yeah, maybe he’ll bring it all together in the final volume and all the s/v stuff while probably remaining uncomfortable will be at least comprehensible. I reckon, and that may just be idiot me at this point, if anyone one can Alan Moore can!

  11. @moose n squirrel: Well here’s the thing too: Yes, sexual violence is a recurrent and troubling aspect of Alan Moore’s fiction. I’m not denying that, I think I have fairly clearly stated I am troubled by it. Indeed I have probably done so quite repetitiously. But, it seems to me, that from this valid complaint you just go nuclear and somehow the entirety of his oeuvre is worthless and the man himself is suspect of some near criminal sexual pathology.

    I think I can see what you are going for – you seem to think certain creators can get away with murder (legal note: not literally) due to their reputation and fan-worship-blindness and that this should not stand. And you, personally, will not let it stand. Fair enough, I get the idea, but I don’t agree in this case.

    The insurmountable problem for us here is that how you are reading these comics is not the same as how I am reading them. I have no recall of “an extended joke about superheroes raping children” in TOP TEN for example (but if there were – what is the context, who is making the joke etc.) I haven’t read LOST GIRLS so I can’t comment there but of the other examples I would say, from memory (never a good thing to do), that in every case I found something in the work in question that prevented me from viewing them as “traumatic violence depicted as a turn-on” etc. I would no longer be reading the work of Alan Moore had I found such to be the case. I can assure you of that. There are comics authors whose work I will not read because they have used sexual violence in such a fashion as you maintain Alan Moore consistently does.

    The statement about male sexual predation was my own reading of the work and not Alan Moore’s. I am the one being “dense”. But then I did not claim it profound but nor did I claim the Sexual Revolution instigated male sexual predation. That’s been around as long as man. I know that isn’t profound either, cheers. The Sexual Revolution was more of a dinner bell than a birthing cry for male sexual predation. You may disagree but it doesn’t contradict anything beneficial you claim for the Sexual Revolution. It was an unsavoury aspect which taints but doesn’t render the whole thing valueless. Like sexual violence in the work of Alan Moore.

    I don’t know but isn’t LOEG: C 1969 about the cultural imagination of the time it is set rather than the actual real ‘60s (of which you have obviously read widely and well)? It seems pretty accurate to me in terms of fictions of the/set in the period. Just because Alan Moore isn’t as taken with the ‘60s (and not even the “real” ‘60s at that) as yourself it, again, seems a bit of a reach to start throwing around terms like “the far right”.

    Yes, intelligent people can be absolute nightmares but the point I obviously failed to make is that I would not expect an intelligent creator to be unknowingly leaving a trail of rape behind him in his work. It tends to stand out after all, as I think we are demonstrating.

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