The Ballad of Halo Jones
Written by Alan Moore
Art by Ian Gibson
Come let us sit together and hear The Ballad of Halo Jones, from the talented hands of Ian Gibson and the tangled beard of Alan Moore. Cross the galaxy with the very best – and some of the worst – of 2000 AD, the tragedy of unfinished stories and a lot of rotten animal excretion (i.e. cheese). Where are we going? OUT. What are we doing? EVERYTHING.
Let’s cut right to the chase – for me (when it comes to comics) Alan Moore is Elvis, The Beatles and Radiohead all wrapped up into one gob-smacking package of brilliance, awesomeness and joy.
The last time I read The Ballad of Halo Jones was over 20 years ago, so I’m going to save my discussion on the story itself until the copy I’ve ordered turns up, but thought I might give my views on Alan Moore now. The man is undoubtedly a flawed genius.
Do I need to say more? Probably, yes, so here goes. He is responsible for some of the top graphic novels of all time but, in my eyes, falls short of being the best. His stories are rooted in the sociopolitical landscape of the world we inhabit and are often written as a way of creating an easily accessible commentary that is designed to affect those who read his books. From V for Vendetta, through to Watchmen, via Lost Girls, the story you read is on the surface easily digested, but underneath runs a deep vein of anger at the perceived problems he is addressing. This makes his stories hard in some cases to enjoy properly for me, because if I disagree with the issues or feel ambivalent towards them it affects my overall pleasure of the story, as sometimes they are not subtle at all. Case in point is the recent Fashion Beast, a commentary on the fashion world which to me seemed excessively heavy-handed and laboured.
As already mentioned this could be due to the fact that his recent work is not as good as his early work, possibly due to becoming more jaded over time, or because it becomes harder for authors to maintain that connection with the audience after so many years and so many stories. We all have a book inside so the saying goes, but even for the best writers I doubt there is an infinite well to dip into. Although saying that I did enjoy The Courtyard and Necronomicon, but as a massive Lovecraft fan that’s understandable.
But his early work, now that’s some good stuff for the most part. Watchmen is rightly lauded as the classic it is, V is absolutely amazing for the depth of the character and the cleverness of the writing, and nobody has ever managed to write Swamp Thing like he did. So he deserves a place at the table of my top five favourite writers of this format, along with Neil Gaiman (my favourite, and unsurpassed in this format or possibly any other), Frank Miller (sold-out a bit, but again his early work is something else), Stan Lee (legend), and Garth Ennis (Preacher is so weird, so cool, and so strange, it’s unbelievable).
Also this is one of the men who invented Constantine, the coolest and best antihero of all time in my eyes, and for this alone Alan Moore should be knighted, not that he would want to be. Also the man is a wizard, which probably excludes him from that sort of thing anyway.
That’s probably enough rambling for now, but once I’ve reread Ballad I will let you know what I think about that, and I look forward to hearing your views as well. Many thanks.
I’ll jump in early with this one too as I missed the last book.
Herriot? Any relation?
Tam? Is this the Tam I know from Islington Comic forum?
You know, it’s very bad, but I’m just not good at remembering who wrote what! Moore, that other really famous person, that other other really famous person… (Garth something) I can’t even remember them off the top of my head! I can keep authors of books straight but for some reason I remember the comic creation better than the author (don’t put this on the blog as it’s ridiculous). I mean, Fables by Bill Willmington, Sandman, I happen to remember. But ask me to list which of the many comics I have read that are by Moore? Well of course I would remember V for Vendetta and Watchmen, but not Halo Jones.
Is this something to do with the visual medium? The author is not the only artist, you can look at a picture and say, Oh the person who did that episode of Sandman for Neil Gaiman is now doing this other comic for this other author. Is the visual element grabbing itself such a huge part of my brain that the author gets crowded out? Do I just have a bad memory?
Older artists getting out of touch: I really, really hope, and believe, that the ‘well’ does not dry up, or needn’t dry up. Carol Dweck said that this sort of thing depends on whether you believe we are always learning, or that failure is failure and not a chance to learn. This hugely affects whether you keep growing and staying interesting, or if you are afraid to try new stuff and afraid to step off the path of what you have proven you are good at.
Also, was it Gretchen Rubin (Happiness Project) who said that she had to ‘spend out’ or use up the nice present before it goes off, and use up her good ideas now? Saving them up to dole them out is not the best way. Use the good ideas now and more will come. If that was her, then it seems to work as she is just about to publish her next book, and is as enthusiastic as ever about the topic (Happiness is shading into Habits, we need good ones to be happy).
Halo Jones. So I read this some time ago, so this is a discussion of what stuck with me the most. Spoilers (if I remember any).
The bit about the promising career when she was on the spaceship and the world seemed her oyster (the impression I got), and how it all came to nothing, with her taking up the worst possible job (soldier in a horrible war) struck me.
The bit where the drill leader said how horrible the natives were (and deserving of being attacked) as they ate the rotted excretions of animals (cheese as we would call it). I could never figure out if the soldiers, who were grossed out by this, just didn’t make the connection, or if they genuinely didn’t have cheese. Quite a good joke, though also sad as it was about dehumanising people so they could be more effectively exterminated.
Of course the bit where Halo realised her youthful happy memories were destroyed, was pretty sad, but quite a hopeful ending, and the ‘baddies’ received their comeuppance (if my vocabulary hasn’t changed since I was 8 and watching the A-Team, is that me or is that the story?).
Is the fact that I barely remember the heroic sacrifice of Halo’s third cabin mate, a genius part of the way that character was written? Or if you tell people a character is invisible, do they actually become invisible in the readers (my) mind?
Also I’ve taken the plunge and bought the book as Islington only has one copy which is out. There is a dull boring new copy starting from £8.75 including shipping on abe books. You can get the collectors edition for a mere £60ish.
I’m Tam Laniado, I’ve read way too many comics over the years and my favourite one is still probably 2000 AD, which I returned to a few years ago after a long absence. Even after all these years it’s still fun, eclectic, capable of surprising and the only comic where I’ll still finish an issue desperate to know what happens next. Also John Wagner just keeps getting better on Dredd, staying relevant and fresh in a way that none of his contemporaries really come near to. That aside, my favourite recent comic has been Garth Ennis’s Red Rover Charlie about how a trio of dogs deal with humanity turning into zombies, but then I love dogs so I’m probably biased.
I’m also a member of London Loves Comics facebook group which is strongly recommended…
Anyway, onto Halo Jones…
First thoughts: It’s all great! As I’m sure you all know it was meant to go on for longer, but doesn’t really feel incomplete to me. I have a particular soft spot for the third book which coincided with the first prog I bought, and I only ever read the previous two books long afterwards so that’s probably what I’m mostly going to focus on here. I’m always really rubbish at giving artists credit when talking about comics so I’ll start by saying the art is great in all three books, Ian Gibson is great at showing the teeming chaos of the Hoop but the art in the war story of the third book is even better than that and some of the best ever shown in a comic…
As for the writing, the third book is basically a retelling of Joe Haldeman’s excellent science fiction novel ‘The Forever War’ (a brilliant read even if you’ve read the comic) although with the sexes reversed. This isn’t a criticism, what Moore has in common is that unlike many other comic writers, he’s read a lot of books and is more influenced by them than other comics. He’s also good at ensuring he always stirs something extra into the conceptual mix rather than just ripping off his influences, for example, in this case, by reversing the sexes. And another thing he did better than anyone else at the time was long term plotting. The war was introduced in the background in the earlier stories, only coming into view in the third book. This is fairly commonplace nowadays but was pretty much unheard of in comics at the time. Thinking about it, telling a story that took two years to play out must have seemed a pretty risky editorial decision at a time when it was assumed comics were things kids grew out of…
Islington Comic Forum
I haven’t been on the thread for a little while. But I was excited to see you all have been talking about The Ballad of Halo Jones.
I immensely enjoyed this comic, though it is a while since I read it. While it’s not the happiest of stories or settings, I felt it was an intriguing adventure and really liked Halo. There were sad moment as Christine pointed out (the invisible housemate and all the war stuff). It just seemed so imaginative and colourful, also an interesting take on how history looks at the past, considering those studying her in the future as a hero, when she was really an ordinary person just trying to get on with her life.
And yes and Tam says, I could do with more Halo Jones…
That’s all for now.
As a kinda cheeky break / displacement / whatever – instead of sitting down to read Halo Jones like I knew I was supposed to – this week I’ve kinda been reading Rogue Trooper instead (had a copy of Rogue Trooper : Tales of Nu-Earth Volume 1 come in from another Library – thanks London Libraries Consortium!). For those that don’t know – Rogue Trooper is a hit character from 2000 AD which is the same place that Halo Jones comes from. He’s a future warrior bred for conflict – a G.I. (Genetic Infantryman): with blue skin and everything (which isn’t quite obvious seeing how all his early stories were in black and white – but what the hell right?).