ALAN MOORE'S AWESOME ADVENTURES
PART FOUR: AFTERMATH & ABC
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Those better things would include his own line of comics published by Wildstorm, known collectively by the modest title of "America's Best Comics". ABC itself almost fell apart when Wildstorm was bought up by DC, an organization which Moore had sworn not to work for again, but the ABC publishers (unlike those at Awesome) cared about the stories Moore had pitched, and convinced him to go through with it.
In some ways this is almost a shame. The ABC line is, in many ways, a continuation of the ideas he was fostering at Awesome, to the point where a perusal of Tom Strong, Promethea, and Tomorrow Stories will seem extremely familiar to those who have read his Awesome work-for example, Tom Strong has a lot in common with Supreme in terms of creating an imaginary backstory, and also features some of the "scientific exploration" aspects that he'd introduced into "New Men". But the ABC titles lack the same sense of "co-existence" which Moore had done such a great job setting up with the Awesome books-almost better than any other "shared universe" I've yet read, actually. Yes, Marvel included. Little details in one comic grow into major premises in another, and with mere hints Moore sets up a complex world that hangs together in the reader's imagination as much for what isn't shown as for what is. Furthermore, the whole Awesome Universe grew up very organically as Moore began to take over, creating an elaborate backdrop in Supreme which became the source for ideas in Judgment Day, which in turn spawned a host of ideas and characters for the other titles. ABC takes place in a "shared universe" as well, but that aspect is somewhat downplayed, and you don't quite believe it when the characters cross over. The Awesome universe could have been a great deal more satisfying in that regard, and furthermore there were some great setups in the Awesome titles that were never carried over into ABC. That's not to badmouth ABC, which is still excellent, but it isn't all of a piece the way Awesome is.
The first such was Youngblood, which as I mentioned in the prior article was a much-hated title within the industry. Perhaps predictably, within the course of an issue, Moore had won the critics over to the title. Of course, there wasn't much that remained the same from the old Youngblood. With one member dead, another incarcerated for the murder, and the government withdrawing funding for the team, only the young leader, Shaft, remains, to found a privately-funded new team of teenagers (Hence the name "Youngblood" actually meaning something this time out). The new members include two from the pages of Supreme: the Ivory Icon's own sister Suprema, who's basically a semi-omnipotent Nancy Drew, and Twilight, Professor Night's teen sidekick (initially a female version of Robin), now reconstituted as a mysterious leather-wearing goth.
As with Supreme, Moore attempted with Youngblood to create a comic that replicated the fun and imagination of yesteryear, while still updating it into something slick and modern. In fact, Youngblood is rather more slick and modern than Supreme, maintaining a less self-aware and campy tone while still having fun with the premise of a group of teenaged superheroes and weaving it into the tapestry of the Awesome Universe. Moore seemed to be attempting to make a team book that would honestly appeal to kids, but in a different way than the flashy crap that was clogging the shelves at the time. It's also quite dazzlingly drawn by Steve Skroce, who I knew mostly as a production designer on The Matrix, but whose bold, colourful and detailed artwork creates the perfect mood for these stories. Of all the art I've seen while researching this article, Skroce's is the most delightful discovery.
I've derived my information on Moore's Youngblood plans from a variety of sources. What's interesting about what he wrote in the Sourcebook is that it's sort of sketchy and shows little of Moore's usual writing talent; the ideas have been much refined since they made it onto the comics page. For instance, his notes indicate that the first supervillain Youngblood tangles with, a rather limp menace called Stormhead whose moods affect the weather, should be their major archnemesis, being the progenitor of Badblood and a recurring villain throughout the series. The character who became their major villain instead is the same former Youngblood member who was found guilty of murder at the end of Judgment Day and who has turned to revenge, claiming that he owns the name Youngblood…which is far more interesting. Likewise, the storytelling concepts Moore scripted for future issues (which were never published) are much more interesting than some of the half-assed ideas recorded in the Sourcebook (but then, he was only spitballing).
Meanwhile, we get a glimpse of Glory's domain, which is a realm of gods and myths based heavily on the lore of Qabbalah; her mother Demeter rules the Earthly, or lowest, sphere, and there are a series of domains that go up the great "world tree" and are linked thematically with various deities from all different cosmologies. There's also the underworld, or Qlippoth, the reverse image of the world tree, whose earthly sphere is ruled by Lilith, a demon-goddess. Her husband had an affair with Demeter which produced Glory, and as such Lilith is devoted to our heroine's destruction.
I'm a fan of Promethea, but I have to say, the framework Moore created for Glory actually seemed to be even better. Again, there's the organic structure of the stories' background, meshing the superheroic and the mythical quite elegantly, whereas in Promethea the superhero backdrop seems a little haphazard and almost unnecessary. Also, the burgeoning love affair between Granger Troy and Gloria West is downright touching, with Gloria's mental fixations providing a poignant counterpart to Glory's larger-than-life adventures. When Troy, with the best of intentions, tries to medicate her, Gloria's connection with her fantasy life falls away and Glory herself falls into the underworld…
Where she had to remain, as that was the last issue that was published. In fact, for reasons I don't understand, it was published not by Awesome but by another company, Avatar, who I guess felt that anything Alan Moore produced ought to see the light of day. It's a real shame that Awesome couldn't have fought harder to get these two titles (and the other revamped comics Moore had had on the boil) produced eventually, but the sad fact is that putting out only a couple of issues served Awesome's purposes. You see, at that point, comics were still seen as something of a collector's market, with the actual stories inside being virtually irrelevant to their "collectability". Liefeld had made extensive use of this fact at Image and throughout his solo career, cranking out comics that never really went anywhere-after all, issue #7 never sells as well as issue #1, so why not just skip it altogether?
No, I probably shouldn't.
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