Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Magus: The Alan Moore Conference (Day Two)

Here's another one of Adele's photos: just out of shot to Alan's left is me holding Melinda's glass. One of these days, I'm going to remember to take a picture with them. But don't they look sweet together? More on thee two later. I left London on the same train as I had the day before, but bank holiday weekend engineering works made sure that I was late. The cab dropped me off just after the time slated for panels to begin; fortunately, things were running slightly late, so Andrés was just introducing Gary Lloyd when I arrived, waving a belated hello to Adele.

Gary had worked with Alan on Brought to Light—not one of my favourites among the CDs, but an important work nonetheless. I was interested to see what he would talk about as his title "Moore and Music" could cover a lot of ground. It was fascinating to hear him talk about working together and how Alan has 'perfect pitch' but a voice so deep his falsetto doesn't sound like a falsetto. He was amusing, too, illustrating his talk with imaginary charts (all of which worked in an off-hand reference to SKIZZ), Homer Simpson eating a donut, and his six year old nephew's drawing of Watchmen, a drawing that showed superheroes like Spider-man, Batman and Hulk at the bottom of a cliff crying for help and Rorschak simply saying, "No."

Cyril Camus of the University of Toulouse traced the many ways in which Neil Gaiman had been inspired by Moore's work, often quite directly and how the friendship and influence of Moore helped shape Gaiman's career.  U Northampton's Jasmine Shadrack presented a lively discussion "V Versus Hollywood: A Discourse on Polemic Thievery" with a V mask hanging from the podium.  She traced her unexpected reaction to the movie version of V for Vendetta, which had been a singularly affecting novel for her on first reading it.  While the film changed much, there was still a great deal to celebrate.

I chose to go to the film panel after the break, perhaps perversely, because most of the films made from Moore's material have been so exquisitely bad. Stephen Keane, also from Northampton, covered "Watching the Watchmen: From Panels to Frames in Watchmen" which he warned us would be a loose presentation, more preliminary than final and it was, but he had a few interesting points to make from film studies approach.  Aine Young from Queen's University Belfast, examined "From Hell: The Adverse Journey from Page to Screen" and how Moore's carefully constructed Victorian landscape (among other details) was flattened and homogenized by the filmmakers.  The Hughes Brothers may have wanted to capture the grit and the slums, but in the end could not escape the Disneyfication of the project.  Ian Dawe of Selkirk College spoke about "The Moore Film Adaptations and the Erotic-Grotesque" as a way of measuring the success of the film versions, as he found those that removed that quality from Moore's texts were sure to render a bland product.  While it seemed an intriguing concept, I couldn't really agree with his declaration of From Hell as the best adaptation.

Then it was lunch and more chat with Adele and with Marc, whose paper I had missed (but it went well, he said). As I was getting yet another cup of tea, I suddenly found myself handing a tea bag to Alan. I wasn't sure he'd remember me, but he did and we chatted a bit as we made our teas, mostly about what a strange thing it was to have a conference all about one's work.  But then as he said, "I've had a weird life, so this is just one more bit."  Since I hadn't met Melinda before, he made a point of taking me over to introduce us and she's just as delightful in person as she had been on the phone (and gave me a nice compliment too, "We love your writing!"). Yes, I made sure to introduce Adele, who snapped that lovely photo. We all went in for the Q&A, which Paul Gravett was hosting. I brought my new Flip camera and managed to video most of the session, while Paul talked with Alan and then Melinda and then they both responded to audience questions. But the session went long (no one complained!) and my camera ran out of memory, so I'm missing the last bit.

I hope to put up the video on line, so let me just mention a few things that came up at the end, including Alan's comment that "art is a kind of possession" and that "I'm a very possessive person!"  Most people in Northampton seem to know him (and judging by folks at the conference, have stories to tell about him), except for some employee at Sainsbury's who threatened the "scruffy guy" with calling the police if he came in again. I loved how Melinda described how we should all realise we're mushrooms who seem to be separate, but under the ground we all share roots. Referring to some of the people who claim him as an influence, Alan suggested that all they had picked up was the idea that "more sex, more violence, be incomprehensible" was what created "that Alan Moore feeling." Subjects ranged form Lost Girls, Jerusalem, Dodgem Logic and Melinda's autobiographical project to upcoming appearances by Alan on Radio 4 with scientist Brian Cox and in the newly opened catacombs under Waterloo (with musicians in July – argh!)  They were both generous enough to stick around for a good while chatting with people and signing things, though Alan said it was really just an excuse to mow through the buffet table. I shared a cab back to the train station and the trip to London with some colleagues chatting about the conference. Everyone seemed delighted.

While Saturday had been rainy and grey, Sunday was gorgeous though blustery, perfect for cycling over to Battersea Park to check out the boating. Baby coots, ducklings and goslings abounded and an entourage of ducks followed the boat quacking loudly for the apple bits I tossed behind me. Pub lunch was a nice roast dinner—yum!  Monday coming back from shopping I got caught in the midst of the pro-Palestinian protestors who gathered at the entrance to Downing Street and lay down in front of the bus I was on. Good thing I didn't have any ice cream in my bag of groceries.

Today I'm off to see a matinee of Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing at the Old Vic with Toby Stephens. Can't wait!

7 comments:

Pearce said...

I liked the comic of Brought To Light more than the audio version. Bill Sienkiewicz's art makes it.

Pearce said...

Oh yeah, just out of curiosity - which film adaptation of Moore's writing do you think is the most successful?

By a process of elimination (not From Hell, I know you don't like Watchmen, it surely can't be The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) it seems that it must be either V for Vendetta or Constantine.

K. A. Laity said...

Re: BTL -- it's just too didactic to work as a performance for me.

Well, as a big fan of the original Hellblazer who doesn't think Constantine as a non-Liverpudlian works AT ALL (though Tilda Swinton was amazing as always and it's not a horrible film as long as you pretend it has nothing to do with the source), my vote would go to V. Like Jasmine, I thought a good bit of the force of the original was lost particularly with its shift from Thatcherist times to W apocalypse, but that's a change that made sense and the filmmakers were surprisingly effective because they made a movie and didn't just film a comic book.

And you?

Hagelrat said...

posted the interview love http://hagelrat.blogspot.com/2010/06/interview-kate-laity.html

Todd Mason said...

Albeit the dumbing down of V isn't quite as intense as that of LEAGUE or WATCHMEN...hmm...it still doesn't feel right.

Pearce said...

Kate: I liked V best, and didn't really mind the updating. I think that if a story is about the time in which it was written, it makes some sense when adapting it to update it to being about the time in which the adaptation is made.

I have some love for Watchmen though, especially the Black Freighter animation. I wish there was more horror animation along those lines.

K. A. Laity said...

@Pearce: I haven't seen the Black Freighter. I thought the movie was wretched and the worst sort of fanboyishness (like Alex Cox's concern to get every aspect of Sid's wardrobe correct, but couldn't be bothered to know how many siblings Nancy actually had or if her grandparents were alive). An adoration of the visual with contempt for sense, narrative or character -- which is most Hollywood movies.

@Todd: I don't see V as dumbed down, so much as changed in time (and I totally agree, Pearce: keeping it Thatcheresque would have rung false) and slightly tamed. If Moore wrote the story now (which he wouldn't) it would have changed, too.

@Adele: you're a doll!