The Rolemodel Series #1: Artists use lies to tell the truth

These are scans of the first two pages of Chapter 8: Old Ghosts from the graphic novel “Watchmen”. I tried counting the number of conventions these two pages break, and learnt more about story-writing than by spending 20 hours reading how-to guides on the internet.

The last page in the novel ends in New York, where an editor complains about having to pull a two page column due to the new political climate. He asks his assistant to find some filler material, and the panel ends with the young man reaching towards a pile of discarded submissions, near the top of which is Rorschach’s journal. Watchmen is the only graphic novel on Time Magazine’s list of all-time greatest novels since 1923.

The following is a excerpt from Alan Moore’s Introduction for a 1988 print of V for Vendetta:

Naivete can also be detected in my supposition that it would take something as melodramatic as a near-miss nuclear conflict to nudge England towards fascism. Although in fairness to myself and David, there were no better or more accurate predictions of our country’s future available in comic form at that time. The simple fact that much of the historical background of the story proceeds from a predicted Conservative defeat in the 1982 General Election should tell you how reliable we were in our role as Cassandras.

It’s 1988 now. Margaret Thatcher is entering her third term of office and talking confidently of an unbroken Conservative leadership well into the next century. My youngest daughter is seven and the tabloid press are circulating the idea of concentration camps for persons with AIDS. The new riot police wear black visors, as do their horses, and their vans have rotating video cameras mounted on top. The government has expressed a desire to eradicate homosexuality, even as an abstract concept, and one can only speculate as to which minority will be the next legislated against. I’m thinking of taking my family and getting out of this country soon, sometime over the next couple of years. It’s cold and it’s mean spirited and I don’t like it here anymore.
Goodnight England. Goodnight Home Service and V for Victory. Hello the Voice of Fate and V for Vendetta.

Number of CCTV cameras in private premises in the UK in 2002: 4200000
Number of terror-related arrests in England from 11th Sept. 2001 to 31st March 2007: 1228
Number of people convicted in terrorist cases since Jan. 2007: 92
Number pleading guilty: 47

Avatar Press released a reprint of “Alan Moore’s Writing for Comics #1”, a (then) 15 year old guidebook. The last four pages contained an “afterword” from Moore. The following are excerpts:

Hmm. Well, having just read the foregoing piece for the first time in maybe fifteen years, I’d have to say its not that bad. Conceivably, for someone starting as a writer in the field, the piece provides good basic methods of approach that were appropriate to the comics landscape of their day; that are probably at least harmless even if adopted in today’s much-altered industry, much-altered world. ……
….. The only caveat I’d level at the piece is that it was composed in simpler, far less complex times, and by a simpler, far less complex individual …….
……. If your ambition is to become a rich person, then the above strategy clearly makes sense: find your golden rut and stick to it. Dig it deeper. If on the other hand your ambition is to be a writer, a creator, then know that creativity is an ongoing and progressive phenomenon and that stasis and stagnation is sure death of it. If you wish to be a creator, then be assured that the  actual problem lies in avoiding an easily recognized style. ……
…… All that stuff I said a few chapters back about changing scenes with clever panel-to-panel linkages? Forget it. It was becoming a cliche even as I was writing those words, a technique that I pretty much abandoned straight after Watchmen. …….
…… Just because you can do a particular thing well doesn’t mean that you have to do it incessantly. Quite the reverse: be more original in your effects and use them more sparingly. That way they will be more of a surprise, will be more powerful and will thus go further. ……
…… If your stories are receiving praise for their somber, thoughful tone then that is precisely the time at which you should consider doing something lightweight and stupid. ……
….. As D. H. Lawrence once advised, we should immerse ourselves in the least desirable element, and then swim. If there is some genre of form of subject matter that you have always avioded, it may be that it is there you will encounter the challenges and revelations that will advance you as a writer. ……
…… Attempt things that you are not sure that you can accomplish: if you’re certain that you can do a thing, this means that there is little to no point in actually doing it. The reason you’re sure you can do it is that you or someone else has done it already. This work will teach you and your readers precisely nothing. ……
….. Work without a safety net. Ignore everything I said in this essay’s opening chapters about thinking through your plot and structure and characterization before embarking on the story. …….
….. If you find yourself in danger of being taken seriously, then try to do something which undermines or sabotages that perception in some way. …….
……. Take risks. Fear nothing, especially failure. As a living and progressive process, your writing should constantly be looking for the next high windswept precipice to throw itself over. And if your first glimpse of the drop beneath you turns your stomach with its immensity, then so much the better.
The higher the drop, the longer you have to … I don’t know. Knit a helicopter or something…..
….. With regard to how you think about your work, avoid at all cost coming to conclusions. A conclusion is an ending. If your writing is still alive and vital, then it is because you are still asking difficult questions about yourself and your work and that relation between the two. …….
….. Questions are the energy that will fuel your writing, even if…especially if…you are never able to answer them to your own satisfaction. Entertaining hordes of questions will maintain the forward momentum of your mind, your work and your life. Don’t worry about going Too Far. There isn’t a Too Far. And if there is, it’s probably THE place to be seen. ……
…… Finally, if you want to be a truly great writer, it is perhaps worth remembering that even in this, it is more important to be a good human being than it is to be a good writer. The artists…writers,  painters, musicians…whose voices speak loudest to us across the centuries are those that turned out to have the most profound souls, those who turned out to actually have something to say that was of lasting human value. Love people. Love yourself and love the world. It’s only when we love things that we really, truly see them in their most lucid and perfect aspect; that we truly know them. And if you want to write about something, then you must know it, must understand it as fully as possible. Must live it, even if it  is unlovable. Particularly if it is unlovable. ……
…… Okay, that’s about it. The basic message is “Ignore everything I said in the previous section of the book. I was young, confused, and nowhere near old or mad enough.” Just be advised that I’ll probably be  writing a postscript to this essay around 2020 that will say just the same things about the advice I’m dishing out to you here. Beyond that, you’re on your own, pal.

This is Glycon. It is an occult snake god originating in Macedonia centuries ago.

It is a hairy snake idol. Alan Moore has been worshipping it for years.

This is Alan Moore. He is a self-confessed magician, cultist and Graphic Novel writer.

He is a hairy human idol. I have worshipped him for years.

“In my work as an author, I traffic in fiction. I do not traffic in lies. Although I’ll admit that the distinction is a nice one, and perhaps not easy for a layman to make. With fiction, with art, with writing, it’s important that even if you’re dealing with areas of complete outrageous fantasy, that there is an emotional resonance. It is important that a story ring true upon a human level, even if it never happened.”

10 Responses to “The Rolemodel Series #1: Artists use lies to tell the truth”

  1. Carapace Says:

    The best part about Watchmen is that comic within the comic- Tales of a Black Freighter. Freaky shit. And Dr Manhattan. \m/
    Can’t wait to see the movie! Hope they do as good a job as they did with V.

  2. Carapace Says:

    The best part about Watchmen is that comic within the comic- Tales of a Black Freighter. Freaky shit. And Dr Manhattan. \m/
    Can’t wait to see the movie! Hope it turns out as good as V.

  3. Carapace Says:

    and holy crap! do they really have a video game?!

    • Thats not “good news” gal. Thats another beautiful IP ruined by greedy company whoring out great ideas to make a quick profit.
      Its the reason Alan Moore has refused to allow his name to appear in the credits list of movies based on his work since “From Hell” came out.

  4. Carapace Says:

    How can they make the movie in the first place without his approval?
    But yeah, a Watchmen video game sounds really bullshit.

    • randomshitstall Says:

      I believe the Watchmen license belongs to DC comics, not Alan Moore. All Warner had to do is pay them.

  5. Carapace Says:

    Ohhh ok.

  6. nice 1..

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