Isn’t this a thing? A reissue of what is considered a ‘lost’ Alan Moore classic (for ‘lost’ read ‘Alan Moore comic this particular reader had never heard of previously), a collaboration between Moore and ‘the always incendiary’ (Moore’s words) Malcolm McClaren. According to an introduction from Moore (which is itself, truth be told, worth the price of admission – he jokes about it in the intro, but someone should commission a memoir from Moore, he already has the title) we hear how McLaren first approached Moore after speaking to some clued up youth in a comic shop, McLaren’s idea to fashion another of his cultural mash-ups, this time between cinema and comics. He fired a few ideas Moore’s way and the two of them settled on a retelling of ‘Beauty and the Beast’, albeit ‘Beauty and the Beast’ by way of the life of Christian Dior and Jean Cocteau’s movie of the same.
Moore writes in the intro of being able to read this work as if it didn’t belong to him, ‘so much time having elapsed since its inception that, with everything save the barest plot outline forgotten, much of this book seems completely new to me.’ He also relates a worry – ‘would our speculative late 80s fantasy upon a fashion world about which I knew precious little still hold any relevance or meaning for a modern audience?’ – before going on to add:
‘When we’d commenced the work, the country of the catwalk seemed a worst a frivolous diversion from the more substantial issues of a given era… That was, of course, before the shooting of Gianni Versace highlighted the violence and obsession stalking on the margins of the industry and before Alexander McQueen’s suicide revealed the darkness and despair that’s at its colourful and florid heart.’
So what of the work itself? Fashion Beast was originally a screenplay – Antony Johnston has created a comics script based on that screenplay and Facundo Percio drew the art from that script. In terms of the story itself, Fashion Beast has not dated at all, and could well have rolled off the old Alan Moore production line only last week (the only real difference between this and more recent works being the density of allusion Moore packs into every frame these days, such that you sometimes find yourself distracted by a Mad magazine style cameo – Fashion Beast is a graphic novel you can relax into, it has a story to tell and it tell it, well). Malcolm’s apparent insistence that the plot revolve around ‘a girl who looks like a boy who looks like a girl’ and ‘a boy who looks like a girl who looks like a boy’ apparent in the two leads: Doll Seguin, the boy who dresses up as a girl and attracts the attention of the Beast, a misguided genius who has been disinformed his whole life by his mother and her cruel assistants, and Jonni, a girl who dresses like a boy and works for the Beast dressing his mannequins.
It’s a busy old tale – the conflict between Doll and Jonni, the back and forth between Doll and the damaged Beast, the hovering shadows of his mother’s two helpers (see right), as well as the seething undercurrents of the Beast’s fashion house and life on the streets that Jonni wants to take and make a name of her own as the designer du jour. Percio’s artwork is sharp, full of clear lines and hard detail, recalling the best of Moore’s books under the America’s Best Comics imprint. Interesting in its own right but also for adding another piece in the Moore jigsaw (the gender politics explored here are exploded in Lost Girls, for example). Moore fans unsure whether to part with their hardearned should know it’s an essential purchase.
Any Cop?: A worthy addition to the creaking Alan Moore shelf.