Thursday, June 25, 2009

LIGHT OF THY COUNTENANCE by Moore/Johnston/Massafera

LIGHT OF THY COUNTENANCE was an odd short story written by Alan Moore in 1994 (and put on-line over here with his permission) and published in the 1995 anthology FORBIDDEN ACTS. Like a lot of Moore's work, it's a bit odd and experimental, part short story, part essay, poetic in spots. I read it back in the 1990s, but it didn't have much of an impact, then I read it again a few months ago and found it worked much better. I think the biggest difference was that in the interim I've heard many more recordings of Moore's voice, enough that I can now read it with an approximation of that voice in my head, which improves the rhythm immeasurably. It also helps that with the growth of the internets it's much easier to hunt down what a stray reference Moore makes refers to.

Anyway, like most of Moore's short prose, the story has recently been adapted to comics by publisher Avatar, with Anthony Johnston as usual handling the adaptation and Felipe Massafera doing the art. The 48-page comic features the full text of the story (there don't seem to be any additions or deletions) and adds appropriate imagery to create a quite entertaining new thing which I think I like better than the plain story.

As the covers of the comic version make clear, this is a story about television, so the visuals have a lot of room for a variety of images, and they're well chosen throughout to evoke various eras of what was then 70 years of history. Massafera's art is very well suited to what's being done here. He reminds me in a lot of ways of the work Alex Ross was doing back in the 1990s, when it was new and exciting and often applied to projects where that style made sense. That heavily photographic style makes perfect sense for this story, where the whole point is the depiction of a world which reflects a version of reality but isn't quite real.

The story begins with an extended sequence about a character in a long-running soap opera (the apparently fictional "Jubilee Terrace", which seems to pretty much be "Coronation Street"), with a litany of some of the twists and turns of her life on the show mixed with the life of the actress playing the character, all as part of a larger theme of "Television" as a sentient entity which loses itself in the roles that it plays. Within the world of possibilities that provides, Moore picks at some key aspects, not all of them original (the television as modern religion was pretty much a cliche even in 1994), but very cleverly expressed, in particular a few bits about television as a substitute for real experience and the sometimes unwieldy marriage of art and commerce required to sustain the medium:

The Imagicians have procured transfusions of green blood to aid in my regeneration; dollars in their millions and their hundred millions come from Cereal Emperors and Automobile Dukes; Grand Viziers of Candy; Burger Kings and the Electric Generals, Renaissance monarchies, they indulge the Virtualchemists and from their sponsorship eight parts in ten of my sustaining wealth is drawn.


Moore also pulls in some weird bits from the history of the invention of television, including some things about a psychological references to a schizophrenic delusion about an "Influencing Machine" that predates television by a few years. Not an original connection by Moore, of course, but artfully expressed in here: "Five years before my birth into this world did bedlam saints foretell my coming"

And actually, the more you look at Moore's work, you can see how this story, as minor as its original publication was, fits in to a lot of the things that he had explored before this story and ever since. Notions of "ideaspace", the fabric of fiction, self-awareness, echoes of ideas rising and falling through time. A line from MIRACLEMAN to FROM HELL to LOEG to PROMETHEA (and a lot more stops between) would pass straight through this story.

Anyway, a surprisingly good adaptation of a entertaining minor work by Moore, well worth checking out.

2 comments:

  1. Hello there, this is Massafera writing here ;) Many thanks for the compliments about the art, it was my first sequential work and im glad it worked well, and you choosed my favorite page of the novel to show here, that's nice! Thanks again!

    Felipe Massafera

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  2. No problem. It was a very impressive project to debut with, no doubt quite technically challenging, and you did a great job with it.

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