Saturday, 30 May 2009

Kevin & Me

It was a frantic weekend at the SP Expo as real life impinged rather heavily on the event. Indeed at one point it looked like I'd have to withdraw entirely. Fortunately in the end I was able to attend, albeit skipping the other show at the Ramada as well as much of the "networking" (eg. drinking) I had planned to do.

Still one essential item on the checklist I did manage to achieve was obtaining a copy of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 1910 signed by Kevin O'Neil. It was fantastic of him to come along to what was essentially a Small Press day out and not surprisingly the queue was fairly massive. I took some time out from manning the Massacre For Boys stall to join it. In fact, it turned out to be quite a lot of time out as the gracious and accommodating artist was signing piles and piles of his old books for punters as well as being ever ready to provide a (staggeringly high-quality) sketch on request.

I read 1910 in the hotel room that night and I was quite impressed but also perhaps a little disappointed. So I re-read it this morning and I can see now it's a masterpiece. The art is truly incredible, O'Neil is arguably the greated comics artist now working. Every page is a pleasure to look at, never mind read. Of course, with an Alan Moore script it's worth reading too. It's a darker story than previous League outings, with less action, but it's also a bit more intricate, repaying close attention.

Century Signed

If 1910 has an Achilles heel, it's the over-reliance on familiarity with Brecht's Threepenny Opera. The plot of the book closely follows this early 20th century slice of Marxist propaganda, and the songs are clearly re-workings of Brecht's originals. I'm pretty well read but I don't like Brecht and I don't know the tunes. Indeed I only really worked out what was going on with Pirate Jenny and Mack The Knife thanks to Wikipedia. This does make the story hard to follow, especially in comparison with earlier volumes which had the good sense to stick to more universally known works.

There have been lots and lots of interviews with both O'Neil and Moore to promote this book, mostly fascinating, but perhaps the most telling of all was a recent CBR chat with Top Shelf publisher Chris Staros. He talks at length about the advantages of going striaght to press in graphic novel form and skipping the traditional comics format entirely. This chimes in with my thoughts on where the medium is going and I find it impossible not to conclude that League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 1910 is the future of comics.

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