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This book explores Alan Moore’s career as a cartoonist, as shaped by his transdisciplinary practice as a poet, illustrator, musician and playwright as well as his involvement in the Northampton Arts Lab and the hippie counterculture in which it took place. It traces Moore’s trajectory out from the underground comix scene of the 1970s and into a commercial music press rocked by the arrival of punk. In doing so it uncovers how performance has shaped Moore’s approach to comics and their political potential. Drawing on the work of Bertolt Brecht, who similarly fused political dissent with experimental popular art, this book considers what looking strangely at Alan Moore as cartoonist tells us about comics, their visual and material form, and the performance and politics of their reading and making.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
Most scholarship on Alan Moore casts him as a writer, reflecting the dominance of literary studies. This introduction contends that existing approaches often overlook the aesthetics and materiality of comics and the significance of visual style and facture. They elide the way that graphiation is embedded in specific contexts of production and presents particular ways of seeing, and therefore neglect the politics of form. This book instead looks at Moore as cartoonist, in relation to his wider transdisciplinary practice within the hippie counterculture. Exploring the correspondences of comics with other arts, it argues the formal performativity of Moore’s work is key to its radical politics. Bertolt Brecht’s ideas of epic theatre are introduced as a framework for understanding this political aesthetics and the intersections of cartooning, performance, and dissent.
Maggie Gray

Chapter 2. The Marks of the Arts Lab: Comics, Performance, and the Counterculture

Abstract
Alan Moore’s cartooning, politics, and ideas about art were forged in the hippie counterculture. This chapter looks in depth at the history of the UK underground and its growing confrontation with the political establishment in the 1970s, including how countercultural values, debates, and conflicts were expressed in the form of comics. Part of a network of hippie anti-institutions, it was the experimental Arts Lab movement that most shaped Moore’s approach to cultural production. Tracing this movement in detail, with a focus on the Birmingham and Northampton Labs, this chapter analyses Moore’s transdisciplinary output in relation to visual poetry, psychedelic posters, science fiction, and radical theatre. In doing so it unpacks the relationship between comics and performance, and identifies the reflexive performativity at the heart of Moore’s aesthetics.
Maggie Gray

Chapter 3. The Play of the Press: Cartooning, Materiality, and the Underground in Print

Abstract
This chapter focuses on Moore’s cartooning for countercultural and alternative publications. It looks in detail at the British underground press, its transgressive design, and the importance of comics within that. It situates Moore’s work within the different strands of UK underground and new wave comix, tracing his development of a distinctive visual style that drew on the vulgar, lowbrow status of comics. It connects the playful self-referential materiality of his graphiation to the plasmatic line of Robert Crumb and the ‘chicken fat’ of EC Comics. Exploring the relationships between comics, graphic design, and animation, this chapter analyses how Moore’s newspaper strips not only engaged with urgent political issues, but were activist in form, using Brechtian methods to expose the contingency of reality and socialise the cultural apparatus.
Maggie Gray

Chapter 4. The Sound of the Underground: Comics, Music, and the Politics of Punk

Abstract
This chapter looks at Moore’s earliest professional work in the music press. It charts how music papers spearheaded the co-option of the counterculture, and subsequently turned to punk and post-punk scenes. It tracks the emergence of a punk aesthetic in (fan)zines and comics, and its crossover with the underground. Looking at Moore’s own practice as a musician, it identifies how it has inflected the performative politics of his work in comics. Considering the wider relationship between comics and music, and drawing on abstract comics and visual music, it explores comics’ abstract underscore and the way Moore’s cartooning emulated both acid rock and punk styles. It analyses how Moore used dissonant counterpoint and montage to self-reflexively interrogate the possibilities of cultural dissent under commercial conditions and Thatcherist hegemony.
Maggie Gray

Chapter 5. Conclusion

Abstract
This book ends by assessing how Alan Moore continued to produce politically engaged, highly performative work as a cartoonist right up until Watchmen was first published, in the form of his weekly ‘Maxwell the Magic Cat’ strip. It looks at Moore’s recent performance and cartooning work with the new incarnation of the Northampton Arts Lab as demonstrating a continuity of the attitude to creative practice and Brechtian approach to the politics of form that first emerged in his work as a cartoonist, musician, and performer in the context of the hippie underground.
Maggie Gray

Backmatter

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