The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Tempest by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill (Books 2019, 24)

The final volume of Moore’s League stories, and, he says, his final work in the comics medium. If so, it’s not a bad closer.

It occurs to me that a significant portion of his comics output has been built on the work of others. Nothing wrong with that. Indeed, it could be said to be true of all literature, maybe all art. Moore’s use is more frequent than most, though: The Watchmen characters based on those from old Charlton Comics; Marvelman/Miracleman a revival of Mick Anglo’s creation; Promothea digging into mythology and fiction, as I wrote very positively about last year; and so on.

In the League it’s at its most explicit. The main characters are Mina Murray from Dracula, Virginia Woolfe’s Orlando, and Alan Quatermain from H Rider Haggard’s novels (although he isn’t in this volume). Even the subtitle of this one is from Shakespeare.

There is, as I say, nothing wrong with any of that. It’s like sampling in music: it doesn’t matter that you’re using part of an earlier creation; what matters is what you do with it.

And what Moore and O’Neil do with everything here is pretty spectacular. I won’t go into any detail, but suffice it to say that pretty much all the threads from the earlier volumes are tied up, and everything is over at the end. Everything. Well, not everything everything. Not quite.

I wouldn’t start here, though: go back to the beginning if you want to read any of these. Read them all.

Watchmen on TV

I succumbed. As I suggested I might.

It felt a little grubby, going to the NowTV site and setting up an account. As you know, Sky TV and I have a history. Or maybe an anti-history, insofar as I am anti everything that their former owner stands for. But the key word is “former.” With Comcast now owning it, I can feel a little better about giving them my time and possibly some money.

Still, though: grubby.

But what’s worse, as a viewing experience, is that their app is the worst video-playback app I’ve ever used. It’s fine at all the basics; it even has a ten-second jump back and forward feature, which is good. But! It completely fails at subtitles.

Now, in this era — this platinum age of television — subtitles are often an essential part of viewing. And that isn’t true just due to my age, because my kids, who are young adults, are at least as likely as us olds to want them on. Mumblecore actors are to blame. Or maybe bad sound on our TV. Or a combination. Doesn’t matter. We watch with subtitles on a lot of the time, and I wanted them on for Watchmen.

But NowTV — in its Mac app, at least — just can’t handle them properly. They either freeze, so you get the same sentence stuck on the screen for five minutes; or they just get out of sync. Sometimes they rush through minutes of text at a time, as if trying to catch up. In the end I turned them off.

But I watched one episode on my iPad, and the subtitles were fine there. So I guess it is the actual Mac app. The Mac plugged into the telly is an old one. A nine-year-old MacBook Pro, in fact. I’m impressed that it’s still working, though I did upgrade it at one point.

Anyway, that can’t be the reason it’s bad, because I’ve also tried it on my 2017 MBP, with exactly the same results.

But what about the programme?

It’s a sequel to the comic, set around thirty years later. I found the first episode kind of annoying, though I’m not quite sure why. Too much of it set in the past, maybe? But as we’ve got to know the characters and things have moved along, it’s definitely interesting. I’ve watched the first five episodes so far. Up to which point it’s kind of a cop show with an unusual background. Cops go masked so that criminals can’t identify them. Criminals go masked too, of course, specifically in Rorscach-style black and white masks.

And there’s a mysterious old guy who puts on plays reenacting the origin of Doctor Manhattan. You’ll have guesses about who he is, if you know the source material. Well, one guess.

I like the way they’ve built on the comic, and are weaving the backstory in. Though I think it must be extremely confusing for anyone who hasn’t read the novel, or at least seen the movie.

My main question (apart from the obvious ones, like what’s going on with Veidt?) is: why is Laurie using her father’s surname? It doesn’t make sense to me that she’d call herself Blake, instead of Juspeczyck.

Oh, and whatever happened to Dan Dreiberg? I want to see some Nite owl action. Something that looked a lot like the Owlship appeared in the first episode, so maybe he’ll turn up. As, I imagine, will Doctor Manhattan.

Kieron’s Comic, Brontë’s Book

One of the comics I read is Kieron Gillen’s1 Die, which is about a group of people who get sucked into a fantasy world. The world is based on a role-playing game — or at least, it seems to be at first. The other night I started the latest issue, 9. Unexpectedly — but not surprisingly — Charlotte Brontë turned up as a character (or maybe not, but let’s run with it). The story was about how she and her siblings had created complex fantasy worlds in part as stories for their toy soldiers. And maybe the world of Die is based in part on those.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I woke the next day to hear on the radio news that a tiny book — “no bigger than a matchbox” — written by Charlotte, was being auctioned in France. It is filled with stories of the fantasy worlds created by her and her siblings.

The book has been bought by the Brontë Society. It will be kept in the Brontë Parsonage Museum, where it was created.

Two completely unrelated events, of course, but interesting how things collide.


  1. He seems not to have website of his own, bizarrely, but he has a Tumblr, and a newsletter

Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons (Books 2019, 21)

I like to reread this from time to time, and right now I’m considering watching the TV version that’s currently on. It’s HBO, which means Sky over here, which would traditionally have ruled it out on ethical grounds. But times and corporate ownerships have changed. The Murdochs no longer own Sky TV, so I can let myself watch it.

But then we have the other ethical question, about Watchmen in particular. Which is to say, since Alan Moore feels that he was cheated by DC over the ownership of the creative work, and repudiates all derivative works, shouldn’t we avoid them too? I saw the movie version, but I didn’t get the Before Watchmen spin-offs.

Well, it’s been a long time; Moore and Gibbons must have known what they were signing up for, even if things didn’t go quite as they expected. I recall seeing Moore at a convention in Glasgow in 1985 or 86, where he said, “DC are utter vermin.” Yet he went on to work with them often after that.

Plus, I’m already reading Doomsday Clock, which brings the Watchmen universe into the DC multiverse, so personally, that ship has sailed.

How does the story stand up today? It’s still excellent, I would say. With the obvious weakness of the ending. Though thinking about that, what’s weak is how preposterous Veidt’s plan is. Accepting that, that part of the story is well executed.

It’s still one of my favourite comics.

Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassady (Books 2019, 5)

An iPad showing the cover of the first 'Planetary' collection, on a wooden floor, alongside an ocarina

You’ve probably wondered what’s happened to my reading lately. Truth is, I have several things on the go, some or all of which I’ll finish eventually.

Meanwhile, here’s the latest of my reading of Warren’s superhero-type things. It’s pretty good: better than Stormwatch, which I wrote about last year, or The Authority, which for some reason I didn’t. The latter group make a guest appearance here. Multiverse-crossing, and all that.

Not the best thing I’ve read, but not bad.

Stormwatch by Warren Ellis, Tom Raney and Bryan Hitch (Books 2018, 30)

I don’t always include all comic-type things here. No particular reason why, except maybe that they sometimes feel too short and not substantial enough. I probably wouldn’t have included this, except that it conveniently gets my total for the year to thirty.

It’s a post-Watchmen story of superheroes handled in a vaguely realist fashion. At least in the sense that there’s some consideration of politics. Stormwatch is a UN body, an emergency response team. It has it’s base in a satellite, and superhuman beings who are tasked with dealing with incursions from other worlds, or other, nefarious, super-powered beings. The US is usually antagonistic to it, because of its UN status.

It’s not bad, but honestly not much to write home about.

Injection Vols 1-3 by Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, and Jordie Bellaire (Books 2018, 10)

This is a great story about how some people have to fix things in the aftermath of something they did that may change the world fundamentally, if not destroy it. With that description it sounds very similar to Ellis’s earlier webcomic (with Paul Duffield), Freak Angels.

Which is a fair enough assessment, though the triggering event in this case is a combination of AI, the internet, and old magic; as opposed to the psychic powers in the older work. Ellis has deeply embedded the “start late” advice often given to aspiring authors. Both of the works under discussion, and some of his others, start long after the events that set their plots in motion.

It can be a very effective device. We get to know characters who already know each other, and the past events are revealed gradually, through conversation and flashbacks. And the fact that the protagonists don’t at first fully understand what they did means that we learn along with them.

This is great, but the only frustrating thing is that these three volumes — comprising fifteen issues of the comic — are to date all that there is. I don’t know if they plan to continue it, but the last issue came out in November, and the story is far from over. Googling has not so far revealed the answer to this.

Recommended, though.

Bizarre Romance by Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell (Books 2018, 9)

The book that I got at the British Library event last week. It’s short stories by Niffenegger, illustrated and/or converted into comics by Campbell. Some of them very good, and the collection as a whole is well worth a look.

Themes include cats, angels, fairies, and more. Worth a look.

The Audrey and Eddie Show

I went to a thing at the British Library. It was an author event with Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell. They’ve made a book together. And, it turns out, they’re married. To each other, that is.

I had no idea that this was the case. Who’s in charge of telling me about things? Cos they’re falling down on the job.

Not that there’s any reason why I should know, of course. They’re both creators whose work I’ve enjoyed in the past, but that’s all.

Anyway, this was the standard sort of author talk/interview thing, led by a guy who didn’t introduce himself, but according to the event page was “international comics expert, and man at the crossroads, Paul Gravett“.1

It was all very good. I bought the book, Bizarre Romance. Looks like it’ll be fun. I didn’t stay for the signing, because I’m not that bothered about autographs. And I couldn’t think of any questions at the Q&A, which is also normal.

Interestingly (and maybe this is already common knowledge too) Niffenegger is writing a sequel to The Time Traveller’s Wife2 to be called The Other Husband.


  1. Oh, OK, he published Escape magazine. I used to get that sometimes. []
  2. I insist on spelling the title correctly. []

All the Things in the World

Do you ever look around and think how amazing everything is? How it all got there? And I’m not talking about the grandeur of nature, the glory of the universe, and all that. I’m talking about all the human-made stuff.

I have often found myself in the middle of a city, or looking out of a train window at a bridge or power station, and thought, “Wow: people built this. Just ordinary people, like me, actually made all this.”

Look at ancient buildings and you realise that they used to do it without the help of modern machinery, too.

And then think about the infrastructure that’s carrying these words from where I’m typing them to where you’re reading them. Hundreds of miles of fibre and copper cables across the country. Thousands of miles of undersea cables. Satellites, and the rockets to launch them.

We’re pretty amazing sometimes, us humans.

Like I say, I’ve often thought about this kind of thing. But today, while not at work because I’m a bit under the weather1 I had a slightly different version of it.

I had a sudden, overwhelming sense of how much cultural work we have created. Specifically stories and TV and films. Though in fact it was comics that really triggered it.

As I say, I’m not at my best, so I wanted something simple. I ended up reading a bunch of comics on Marvel Unlimited. And no matter how many I could read in a day, I could only make the tiniest of scratches in the surface.

And in TV, Netflix seem to have a new original series or two coming out every week.

It’s not all great, of course. But just think of all those people, writing away, acting, filming. Making things.


  1. I have a vague memory of someone in a film or TV programme mis-saying that as “beneath the weather,” but I can’t think who, or where. I kind of want it to be Josie in Twin Peaks, but I’m not sure. []