Book Club / Horror Has a Sense of Humour

Crossed +100
Written by Alan Moore 
Art by Gabriel Andrade

 

 

 

 

Abandon hope and return to the world of the Crossed one hundred years on with Alan Moore and Gabriel Andrade as your tour guides… Questions include: How dark should a joke be? What does it take to end a franchise? And does anyone else have any other good names for spaceships?

 

Growing up is weird.

I mean – mostly people talk about how growing up makes you harder right? But what seems less remarkable is how it softens you.

Maybe this is just me: but back when I was younger I was pretty darn stringent with the types of things (books, films, music, whatever – you can call it “art” or “entertainment” or whatever you like…) that i thought were cool or worthwhile. And yeah – the good stuff / the cool stuff /whatever were the things that were all hot sauce and bite. The stuff that went further and went extreme. I mean – I guess a part of it is that when you’re young you don’t really have much of a palette when it comes to stuff: because it’s all new and so you’re a bit of an idiot and whatever. So yeah: you end up gravitating to the stuff that makes the biggest impression. That makes sense yeah?

There were bits towards the middle of Crossed +100 when they’re on the boat and stuff where I remembered thinking that if I was younger and reading this I reckon I’d be pretty bored and thinking: oh man Alan Moore’s lost it. I mean – this isn’t going anywhere and he’s making this post-apocalyptic landscape look kinda boring. You know – less all crazy Mad Max and more like something that you’d get walking with Iain Sinclair (I know most people would probably love to go walking with Iain Sinclair – but sadly I am not one of those people. I’ve always found trying to talk properly whilst walking to be too difficult. I like to give people the beady eye whilst pontificating which is way too hard when you’re also trying not to walk into things…).

But hell – I kinda dug it. I’m not too sure as to the reasons why yet – but maybe I’ll have a better sense when I give it a reread?

Altho the thing to say is that yeah – I was properly trepidatious (that’s a nice word isn’t it?) before I started reading Crossed +100 because well – it has been a very long while since I’ve read an Alan Moore comic that I’ve actually really enjoyed. I mean – the League of Gentlemen is yeah very interesting and I’m sure a total hoot for those way more versed in like the proper literature of the 19th and 20th centuries – but every time I sit down and read them it’s always been with a feeling like my nose is pressed behind the glass with all the fun stuff happening just a little bit beyond my reach… And Neonomicon – well – I could probably spend quite a few words on Neonomicon and still not quite get to the crux of it: but it wasn’t actually like “I recommend this comic.”

But then – you know: growing up. Artists start off cool and then get less cool and it’s all to be expected isn’t it? And you know: maybe we should just be glad that he didn’t go off the deep end and turn into Frank Miller you know?

Only Crossed +100: well yeah – it’s actually pretty movie you know? And not really in the sense of getting back to his roots or regressing or anything (although I think i read someone saying something somewhere how it’s kinda like Alan Moore getting all 2000AD: which ok yeah – is pretty spot on: albeit 2000AD with all the safeties removed…). Like – it’s mature and well-crafted and (in it’s own strange twisted way) also kinda fun. Not to mention: yeah – all the horror.

Anyone else read it?

 

I don’t know why I agreed to read Crossed+100, since I am, as the rest of LGNN might have guessed by now, a bit of a delicate flower. Finding out that Alan Moore had written a sequel, though, was like finding out that hell now has the best themepark ride ever, that the LSD that always gives you the horrors comes in your favourite ever flavour.

So it was with some etc that I picked up the comic.

And was relieved! 

Spoilers everywhere from this point on. (I guess that could be a good another name for the crossed, the spoilers.)

Everything seemed OK. So: this would be a post-post-apocalypse story, about the recovery and the strange cultural aftereffects of having gotten through C-Day. And all the angles seemed to be pointing to at most an I Am Legend style story: the crossed have started to evolve, sure, gained a culture. But are also in such small numbers that they are now the underdogs. And what ‘story of hubris’ as there might be would be will one of humans are now the real monsters. I even thought we’d learn that the crossed weren’t that bad, like in Day of the Dead. There is some human in them! I mean, still sadistic killers, but with family units now. Like lions!

How wrong I was.


 
The cool thing about Crossed+100 is that it poses itself two questions. Not just the obvious, what would such a world look like a century from now? But also, what is horror?
 
And the comic comes up with three answers, to my mind. First, the dichotomy of ‘the things you don’t see are the most horrific / the most horrific is the most graphic scenes’ is false – both are effective, and in fact, the expectation of the one – the way for example how for most of the comic the horror is either off-frame or reported by characters – sets you up, or rather, softens you up, for the graphic horror that Gabriel Andrade comes up with at the end.
 
Secondly, there’s the idea that horror involves transgression. The obvious ones which the Crossed series has thoroughly rinsed – within, I guess, guidelines for what can actually be published – rape and violence and children being eaten blah blah. But one of the great things Crossed+100 does, which is quite an old trick, is to recognise it’s not who you put in harm’s way – kids, old people – but which relations. It’s not an old woman being killed, it’s your elderly mother. It’s not a nice young man turning crossed, it’s your lover. Most the videos they find have families of people being tortured. And the comic flags up this understanding about horror early on when one character consoles a younger one who’d never seen a friend ‘turn’ before. This of course ties into one of those foundational fears, the loss of parents, the loss of kin. Worse still then, the despoliation of parent bonds – parents gutting kids etc. Which brings us to our third thing…
 
Horror has a sense of humour. To be fair, this has always been in the series, the dark humour of sadism – the famous ‘mommy you fucking cunt’ line is not just a horrific moment – it’s also the punchline to a joke, in that they rescue Patrick at last only to find that they were set up. To me, that’s always been the creepiest thing about sadism of the “fun-hurting” variety, that if it’s fun then the sadist will want to prolong it, and also intensify it. Get creative.
 
The dark humour is everywhere in Crossed+100, even Alan Moore’s renaming of the kinda obvious ‘C-Day’ as ‘The Surprise’ captures the fun in fun-hurting. Robbie’s real name is Jokemercy. That could stand for the whole story, it’s initial set up of a world in recovery. A joke mercy.
 
The whole of Crossed +100 is a dark joke. It has another surprise in store for us, having made a feint in another direction. The artwork sets us up to, notice the motif of the butterflies. Evolution! Progress into something prettier! (Heh, there is progress, heh, but it won’t be pretty). So, we are wrong-footed as much as the characters are. Again, fittingly sadistic, the whole story constructed to give you the most reasonable of small hopes – on the rational side of thing: yes, come to think of it, we humans probably would win considering x y and z, and then on the “believes” side of things: yes human will learn from this experience and become better to one another, and the world might be saved. As readers, we’re drawn into thinking that this is a rather intellectual and minor-key story. A kind of melancholy overview of a fallen civilisation, with a few seeds of hope here and there, some cool ideas, some cool stuff about language. Yes, you know it’s a horror comic, so you know it’s gonna fuck up, but probably in an oblique late Moore way.

Nope! “You can food her when she’s done.”

The surprise ending though is also Alan Moore’s statement on the importance of culture, but also the value-neutrality of culture. Culture is not innately good or bad but it is valuable and necessary. The crossed cannot survive as pure insane savages. They’re starving, raping themselves to an early AIDS death, they’re dwindling. What will help them survive?

The story did warn us early on. Who are the humans really thriving? The Muslims! (Lol that they picked them as the saviour of America.) But they only did so by evolving – all the other faiths lost theirs. Muslim feminism has become the mainstream (“Ima’am”), social taboos are dropped, the Surprise has been incorporated into their theology. Sure we don’t know the final fate of Murfressboro, but they haven’t gotten mopped like Chooga, with their practical secular outlook, and their culture made up only of looking backwards (everyone has a horror story from the past to tell, the archivist keeps searching libraries for old Wishful Fiction), and their foolish investment in old technologies as what will rescue humankind. Moore also seems keen to distinguish culture from ‘believes’ – articles of faith, doctrine, everyday assumptions. As demonstrated in the always tentative syntax of their future dialect – lots of coulds, maybes and mights – no one believes in believes any more. Or do they? They did have a believe – that they were going to be ok. 

But Bosol realised that what you need to tie people together is iconography, a legend, and a purpose. 

you're petrol

The interesting thing about how the crossed have evolved though, is that arguably it’s a very clever development in the story, but a bit of a cul de sac for the series in general. The appeal of the crossed was their mindless if creative savagery, and sure that would’ve gotten old, and so the solution Moore has come up with is good. But here’s the thing. We’ve already known brutally violent societies before. So I had the sense at the end of coming full circle. The bone-suited cannibalistic rape&pillaging crossed, have we not seen them in everything from Cloud Atlas to Mad Max?

The comic is very conscious of this, like any good book should be, conscious of its forebears. The device of structuring the comic around famous Wishful Fictions of the past, is good, and Alan Moore has his usual wordplay fun with all that (“Foundation and Empire”). I also like the joke about The Road – not realistic, as it had only one baby on a stick. I myself also thought it was making a little nod to real-world breakthroughs in horror. Moore has voiced his beef with religious extremists and so the pens of young women being guarded by bearded men all seemed pretty ISISy to me. In fact, the day after reading Crossed 100+, I happened to read this. The pull quote: “Together with other documents obtained by the Guardian, it builds up a picture of a group that, although sworn to a founding principle of brutal violence, is equally set on more mundane matters such as health, education, commerce, communications and jobs. In short, it is building a state.” ISIS too knows it can’t survive just making snuff films. Eventually they’re going to have to evolve.

So that brings me to the question for everyone: are the new crossed as scary? Yes they are now more dangerous, able to use more than just animal cunning, able to plan decades ahead, they can use and make technology. As such, they are more a threat than the original crossed in the long-term. But…. I don’t know. That’s less scary to me. I already live in a world where old men use stories to ensure they can continue dominating the weak and fun-hurt and rape those who get in their way. It’s a good story development, and I guess the only place they could’ve taken it, but I feel that ideally this would be the end of the whole story. I’m sure it won’t and we’ll have Crossed +1000, where the galactic bone-suit empire fights the last hippies of Pluto, but eh. Alan Moore has ended Crossed for me. I guess I should be thankful.

 

So. This – “Alan Moore has ended Crossed for me.”

This is basically what Alan Moore does. He ends things. Or – to put it another way: he’s one of the few writers out there that delivers (for lack of a better phrase) total narrative satisfaction. 

Case in point: I’ve been reading Philip Sandifer’s Last War in Albion (“The Last War in Albion is a history of British comics. More specifically, it is a history of the magical war between Grant Morrison and Alan Moore, a war that is on the one hand entirely of its own invention and on the other a war fought in the realm of the fictional, rendering its actual existence almost but not entirely irrelevant.”) and when he got to Swamp Thing I thought that it might be run to give it a re-read. 

And yes – basically yes. I mean if you’ve never read Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing Saga then – do yourself a favour and go and check it out (from a Library obviously). I mean: this is stuff written between 1984–1987 but once you get past some of the more *ahem* purple prose (“Clouds like plugs of bloodied cotton wool dab ineffectually at the slashed wrists of the sky” = WINNER) I mean reading it feels mind-expanding. Especially that cliffhanger at the end of the Gotham stuff (no one spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet): but yeah – that bit especially is up there with the end of Season 3 of Lost which is basically the highest praise I know how to give. 

But yeah this total narrative satisfaction thing (maybe I should just call it “satisfaction” instead?) – I mean: after finishing reading Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run I was totally full. Totally done. Totally content. I mean: I think I’ve seen here and there other Swamp Thing books (did Mark Millar do a run? And Brian K. Vaughan? And Grant Morrison?): only well – I have no desire to even check them out from a Library or whatever (use your local library kids) Because well yeah – basically: Alan Moore has ended Swamp Thing for me.

Because yeah – that’s what he does isn’t it? And I think that’s a big part of what makes me such a delicious tasty satisfying writer and – in a sense maybe – such a successful anarchist (is that contradiction in terms? Whatever).

For me the big lie of comics (and also in a roundabout way capitalism maybe?) is that things always have to continue. We’ll never have the last Batman comic. Superman will never die. No one will ever make a final mars bar. The franchise must be maintained. We must keep returning to galaxies far far away. 

 
Which yeah – I dunno. I find all that stuff kinda obscene almost? (Or maybe perverted would be a better word?) Like: I’ve had conversations with and have heard people say that part of the magic or whatever of comics is the fact that it’s all telling one story and this amazing mythology of Superman and all of his buddies and whatever. Only well: just because comics have done that it’s not really a part of the actual intrinsic power of the medium you know? Plus you know – soaps on TV and the non-stop continuation of Marvel flavourlessness at the movies: that stuff can be done elsewhere. 


science fiction

And stating the obvious: but that stuff doesn’t come from artistic considerations. It’s the market. It’s the businesses building on their intellectual property. And it leads to creators getting shafted and exploited (too many links I could link to here: but here’s a good one off the top of my head). You know: capitalism etc blah. Where the integrity and safety and non-stop continuation of the property is more important than well – just telling a good satisfying story. And well yes – I’m sorry: but I’m afraid that there is a conflict between those two things. Because one is static and fixed and dead and the other is freedom and change and life. One is keeping things the same. And other is a story. 
 
And Alan Moore: well Alan Moore is all about the story. About taking whatever concept you’ve got (Captains of Britain, Swamp Things, Evil Rape Zombies etc) and having someone take them apart – analyse the details – and then put them back together stronger and better and more powerful than ever before. He takes the idea and then stretches it to the furthest possible point: so that you don’t ever need anything else you know? = satisfaction. 
 
(Seeing how Alan Moore got into my brain at a young age – I guess that would explain where I got my taste for stories that push at the limits of things. You know – spectacle and the obliteration of the self: but maybe I should save that for my counselling sessions….). 
 
Like: if Alan Moore wrote a Star Wars film: you’d never need to see another Star Wars film again you know? It would end Star Wars. Which would be cool – no? Because really – isn’t that what we all really want?
I know I do. 
 
(Altho TRUE FACTS: he did write some Star Wars comics back in the day). 
 
Mazin: I was a little surprised to see you wrote all that stuff and yet didn’t get into any talk about the Riddley Walkerish language stuff. That’s not very movie. 
 
Altho: the petition for Crossed +1000 starts here. Maybe we could get Brandon Graham to write it?
 
Plus also: does anyone want to talk about all that Angoulême Grand Prix stuff? Or is that just me?
 

 

Err, actually it’s NOT the end the story!  Si Spurrier has taken over the reigns and continued it which is fine by me since I thought it was a very open ending and Spurrier’s a pretty good writer although more like Ennis than Moore, (check out his free Crossed : wish you were here webcomic if you want to get an idea of his style http://www.crossedcomic.com/category/the-webcomic/ and I think you can buy Spurrier’s crossed+100 collection now)


I reckon it’s the best thing Alan Moore’s written for a long time, probably since Top 10.  Much as I enjoy the more ‘mature’ stuff he’s done and will read anything by him, I think he’s always at his best when he’s working on the trenches of genre, transforming the  raw materials of pulp fiction into something transcedental. 


I also liked it because he’s referencing a lot of science fiction novels which I’m much more interested in than HP Bloody Lovecraft, The Wizard of Oz or most of the 20th century references of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  In particular I thought the chapter referencing the excellent novel ‘A Canticle for Leibowitz’ (which is about the role the catholic church plays at different stages of civillisation) but switching it to refer to Islam was an inspired way of  sensitively saying some things about commenting on the religion.  And I know it’s odd to be using the word ‘sensitive’ when referring to Crossed but there you go…
 

 

I had another Crossed nightmare – thank you Crossed, but this time about Crossed 100+, in which Alan Moore begins the prologue with two rhinos in a rowboat discussing the fallen human civilisation (so Moore) and then it turns into a TV show with the crossed and humans living in relative peace and racial harmony because they vent their murderousness by allowing their kids to kill each other at school sometimes. 

Which brings me to the ask again, pace Tam’s point- sure Crossed 100+ continues, but where can they go next? What is the crossed’s plan that differs from the plans of the Orcs and Sauron. Aren’t the new-crossed just orcs where you get to see the violence (the famous orcs novel line ‘pass me another elf sarge, this one’s split’.)

I wonder too whether they’ll keep it up with the language. Alan Moore’s thrown down the gauntlet here – it’s not full Riddley, what is, but it is cool and definitely way better than the usual habit of just replacing some words with new words, like, I dunno, what if spaceships were called space-boris-bikes yeah. The cautiously optimistic names of the humans, the deformations of words that tell their own story, just go to show that world-building isn’t about finding out who which Targareyan fucked whose brother but creating a net of meaning, every part telling you something about the whole.

 

Erm. Mazin? Is this just going to be your Crossed dream diary from here on in then?

“Hey guys. Yep. Another Crossed dream last night. I was back at school and there was this really important test – only I hadn’t studied for it and I didn’t know what to write. Then I looked down and realised I wasn’t wearing any clothes. Alan Moore was the teacher. He started to laugh. Then the Crossed came in and got me.”

If so then I might have to unsubscribe.

I did a Crossed +100 reread last night. Some random thoughts:

Second time round it’s pretty funny (and oh so clever Alan Moore – yes well done you:I bet you had a few extra hard beard strokes at that yeah?) how the opening page does the whole story-in-microcosm-thing:

 
Movie
You know: future people seeing the (how to describe them?) the old-fashioned original-flavour style Crossed? Thinking that they’re movie – completely unaware they’re a distraction and that really the wolves are right behind – about to rip them to shreds. You know yeah – it’s kinda cool (and honestly: makes me feel smart for spotting it – LOL). 
 
Also yeah man – the names! The names! That was one of the things that made me chuckle the most the first time I read it. You know – Future being called Future. It’s like the end of a certain sort of disaster movie or whatever. You know: if those two at the end of the very first Garth Ennis book had a kid – they probably would have called it Hope right? So: 100 years plus having all everyone called these slightly sparkling names – well it’s cool: and you said Mazin – it all adds to the “net of meaning.” (I liked the bit when I was like: what does “Oh Eight” mean? Oh then was all: ooooooh yeah. Although – I should admit that I had to google “AFAWK.”: because come on! How are you supposed to work that out??)
 
But also yes! Thank you Tam! I totally forgot to mention: Si Spurrier is fucking amazing! I mean: when I saw that they were continuing Crossed +100 I was a bit like: hmmmm. But then heard that apparently Alan Moore had hand-picked Si Spurrier as the one to do it based upon seeing his other Crossed stuff. Now – I haven’t read Wish You Were Here (but really really want to): but did manage to find some other of his Crossed stuff in other collections (thank you Shoe Lane Library) and erm yeah – I think I might have found my new favourite comics writer. Because man – his stuff is really really really good. American Quitters and the Jackson story in Volume 8. The Mad Max / Australian one in Volume 9 The Folly in Volume 11. I mean – he’s just really cool at twisting comics into new shapes: the way he uses the narrative boxes in American Quitters and the talk-to-the-camera method in the Mad Max story (which kinda exists in a separate reality or something? I mean – when you read it: it works perfectly: but erm – who are they talking to you know? Is there a documentary being made or what? Like: I’m not saying to nit-pick: more to say – I mean well yeah: Si Spurrier is really really really good. You should read his stuff. And even tho Alan Moore kinda ended stuff as much as possible – well: having seen how smart Si Spurrier is: I’m kinda tempted to see what he does next…). 
 

 

Last minute rant? Last minute rant.

I jumped into Crossed 100 without reading any of the preceding Ennis stuff (A 4chan post of the cover of the “torture” issue didn’t really persuade me….seeing a naked lady getting sawn apart by psycho children while hanging from a tree is not exactly what I think of when I think “entertain me”).

Setting wise, it is pretty interesting to see the zombie apocalypse idea played out with such a massive time lapse, most of the literature from Romero to Kirkman is about the immediate aftermath or the first generation of survivors – i.e. people adapting to a world where hickies mean more than an awkward monday at work.

This led to a standout play by Moore for me, the language. It’s English but devolved (re-volved even?). It’s not what we know, it’s almost the distance between our vernacular and the kind of weird drunk slur sounding stuff you’d find in our founding Legal literature or Beowulf.

It’s got the bones, but alot of the vocabulary, alot of the structure has changed around, enough that we know it, enough that it bears a tangential relationship to cultures that have long gone up in flames. Plus it made for a fucking well engaging narrative set of text boxes, so much more interesting to read than the usual superhero comics experiments (which too oft tend to rest at 4th wall prodding or bad Hemingway riffs…hello lazy Frank Miller….yes you.).

The idea of culture in the long aftermath of “the end of humaniiiiiiitttttttyyyyy” (Read that in a trailer man voice plz), is a damned interesting one Moore plays with in this and he does it brilliantly with that first page, “Packemin” “Heh. Movie”. (That kind of thing is played around with a lot in Clooney’s The Monuments Men which is a messy fucker of a film but totally underrated).

It’s a really concise way to show off a bunch of insane fucked up people who still have the echoes of lives long gone echoing through them, a lot like the argument many fans of “man with a 1000 masks” and similar works (I think that’s the name of the book and googles two tabs away) who argue that certain story telling structures are just hard wired into us and any kid will express stories through that prism, even if you haven’t had to sit them down and explain that “If you don’t think Empire is better than Hope, you need to pack your bags and get the fuck out of my house you little shit bucket”. (I don’t agree with that statement, it’s actually the other way around for me.)

Art wise? I can’t remember who did this but I would not be surprised at all if it was good old Darick Robertson, it’s that art style that is utterly competent and confident enough to put itself completely in service of the writing – which seems like something Alan Moore would happily stroke his beard to. Colour wise it is a bit homogenous, though the green and brown earthy base was a nice refresher to the usual urban pallete a post apocalyptic/zombie comic apparently necessitates.

It’s a pretty interesting thing and the ending is pleasantly poignant – but the interesting plays with culture and language were only enough to sustain my interest for that issue. I honestly can’t say I give a damn about what happens next. I’d love more stories like this that really relegate the monsters of an ended civilisation entirely to the background, you know, the white noise we apply to everywhere that doesn’t get to sit in on G8 meetings.

Did you read this far? I’m sorry. No refunds.

 

I think Beowolf IS a founding legal text. I heard those Norse sagas are all about search warrants and legal writs.
 

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One comment

  1. I read Crossed + 100 last year and I absolutely loved it. Alan Moore and Gabriel Andrade did an amazing work as a creative team. By the way, I just read your post about Michael Zulli and it was great. It's always a pleasure to find another Zulli fan so I thought it'd be a good to share with you a post I wrote about Zulli's Puma Blues:

    http://artbyarion.blogspot.pe/2015/12/puma-blues-murphy-zulli.html

    I hope you enjoy my review, and please feel free to leave me a comment over there or add yourself as a follower (or both), and I promise I'll reciprocate.

    Cheers,

    Arion.

    Like

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