Sunday, August 7, 2011

Where did she go? Out. What did she do? Everything...

(title is a slogan on the back of The Ballad of Halo Jones)

What my family vacation going on a month back now turned out to be besides its eponymous description was a good deal of both book gathering and reading. I finished The Ballad of Halo Jones, Pale Fire, The Storyteller, and Maps & Legends, all books I had started reading at one point and eventually put down. I don't think I read books the same way very many people do. Anyways, this is debriefing, and this is comics week, so here's a bit on Alan Moore and Ian Gibson's Halo Jones.

Take this as a transition, looking around the web for a little reading to help frame my "debriefing" of Halo Jones, which I really did read late at night a while ago, I found this interview with Ian Gibson, where he speaks specifically about some of the stuff I was writing about in yesterday's (a few hours ago) post. I'll give you the whole question and answer, because reader, I think you're smart enough to pick up on the relevant bits I'm talking about and because I found the whole thing fascinating.
Let's start with that Titan post-signing party where the idea for the Halo Jones story first started - did you have a discussion with Alan Moore on this occasion?

Ian Gibson: Yes. I'd been talking with Steve MacManus (then editor) and he'd been asking what I fancied doing as I'd just finished a long stretch on Robohunter. I'd previously approached him about doing a female lead story but he'd shied away from the notion. But when I asked if I could work with Alan on something he okayed the idea and we wandered across the room to introduce me to the hairy beast. I started by introducing Alan to the idea of a girl's story and suggested that it should be as lifelike as possible with no thought balloons or panels to "explain" things. I told Alan that I thought we could get away with making the story "self explanatory" in the way that we figure some things out (in our lives) only after the event. I never see any panels floating in the sky to warn me that "I'm in for a big surprise" or any handy "little did he know" notes attached to the lampposts. And Alan agreed that it would be a nice change in comics. So he went away to work on the project. Some six months later he came to see Steve and I and said he had all the ingredients for a great story: girls, rockets and monsters!
Now I've had a bit of trouble with my new blog writing in that I'm starting to ask myself "why?" a lot. Certainly, with blog posts before the last twelve or so I had the same issue, but I wasn't so seriously going after a consistent format with a certain way of writing. Or at least I don't remember doing this before. I'm sure I did it back when I've done blogaday stuff before. Sigh, anyway, I need to quit my whining and get on with it, right reader? I hope in this debriefing to create a style that I can continue with and not be continuously questioning myself.

The Ballad of Halo Jones is the sort of comic that reads as if it is very British. This is simply another kind of Orientalism, a concept I probably do not know well enough to actually write about but still apparently am going to refer to every now and then. Simply put, the comic feels like something you can't do in comics. Female, not-hypersexualized lead, character; no superheros, rather a science fiction deep future setting; black and white art... Probably only the last bit can be called British, but it is all fairly irregular. The British comics scene, in as far as I know it, is more like the Japanese market: namely magazines serialize comics and tend to be lacking in color. I'm not sure the reason for this, but I could suggest simply the time it takes to color (these magazines are weekly), the size of these magazines making color an expensive and unwanted extravagance, or any number of other explanations that I'm simply not thinking of.

Other than that, Halo Jones, published in the British giant 2000 AD which is probably as close to a DC/Marvel that they have across the pond, stood out just as much there as here. I suppose there is a wonderful sort of paradise (I guess I'm exaggerating) that one can imagine when reading Halo Jones, thinking that this is what British comics are like. Basically, the superhero, the male market, and the collector have all done their separate numbers in defacing the comics industry. Just like the two-party system does for politics and elections, these issues have all caused the industry and individual comics themselves to be mainly bloated, useless, and boring. Or rather I should say "niche-y." People read them, people like them, you have to admit it, even if the numbers are "low," they're still generally in the thousands. While I think Spider-Man, Batman, or the Flash can be written well and I often enjoy reading certain superhero comics, I have no interest in the traditional turn-out. I guess it's the same with films, in all seriousness, and you simply have to change the dominant genre to romantic comedies and realize that that isn't as omnipresent as the superhero in comics, but yeah, connections can be made. The problem being that "comic book" has become synonymous with "superhero story" in the way that "Kleenex" is "tissue."

Halo Jones truly meshes with Alan Moore's own rules for writing in the fittingly titled "Writing for Comics," especially this bit from early on in the third chapter:
The job of the writer, whether he or she is attempting to depict a colony on Neptune in the year 3020 or society life in London around 1890, is to conjure a sense of environmental reality as completely and as unobtrusively as possible. (20) 
What's apparent about the book is that its world is very fleshed out. It seems to me like this was a bit of a collaborative effort, after reading the interview with Gibson, but it's still apparent that between the two creators there was a very clear understanding of what the setting of the book was. I think, over all, the oddest feeling about Halo Jones is that it feels...unfinished, underdeveloped. Not so much an issue involved in the ending being badly written but that the entire work does not seem like it functions on its own. Reading the interview, I learned about the rest of the book that's currently in developmental hell, which really made a lot of sense. Halo Jones feels cut off, reduced, and incomplete. You get the sense that the work was going places, and apparently it was, considering that Gibson talks about there being a potential for nine books (of which we have a published three), which are locked up from either copyright issues or an inability of the people involved to communicate.

With books like Flex Mentallo finally seeing reprint in the next year and the Marvelman mess apparently getting fixed (fingers crossed), one has to read about all this Halo Jones trouble and think we might actually hear more about the heroine someday. In my own experience with writing, stories, once they've gotten themselves into your mind as stories, really do not have a statute of limitations. Marvelman which is from the same era, although it was around longer, is likely to see new Neil Gaiman/Mark Buckingham material when it's all wrapped up legally and in the hands of Marvel that would've come about 20 years ago otherwise. Then again, there's an ever growing however small possibility that that is never going to happen.

Ultimately, I think reviews are a somewhat antiquated process. I think it's necessary to write something that maintains interest (unlike anything I've ever written), supplies at least a minimal amount of information about the work, and brings the work to the reader's attention. I guess there are claims for negative reviews, but I don't really think they are necessary, unless you have a debate sort of thing. Anyway, I know some people would rather read a review and on the (very slight) chance anyone reading this is pissed, I will toss you here to a review I'm not going to read and to a song that while not exactly descriptive of the story, or, obviously, canon, is something in the spirit of the book and I think fairly entertaining.

Now, I know I'm probably not really throwing any new readers Alan bloody Moore's way, but I found Halo Jones rough at times, but always immense fun. Moore is very good here, but he's not in Watchmen form, which makes for probably a better read. I'm sure if the book ever gets continued with Alan at the helm, I'll probably be left thinking the same thing I usually think after reading one of his stories--"I need to stop writing now."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for reading and/or commenting. Anything you have to say is especially appreciated.