Comix Month, Take II : Alan Moore’s “Light Of Thy Countenance”

Posted: July 29, 2012 in comics
Tags: , , , , ,

There is a tool of hitherto-unimaginable and historically unprecedented evil in your home. It’s something that we quite often don’t even actively pay attention to — not that it needs us to at this point — and I spend most of my time here on this blog (until recently, at any rate) talking about things that I used it to see. That’s right, no mystery here folks, I’m talking about television. We all know that it’s stupid, time-wasting, energy-sucking, life-draining, and just plain bad for us all the way across the board, yet we seldom go so much as a full 24-hour cycle without it. Television has won, plain and simple, and we all know it, even if most of us never even really consider what its admittedly hollow “victory” actually really means to all of us.

And that, I think, is rather the point — television has created world where nothing that actually happens means anything anymore, and where the two- (and now three-) dimensional representation of life has actually supplanted life itself in terms of its importance to us. Is it any wonder we’re so easily controlled and manipulated? What the shadowy “powers that be” are actually doing to us no longer matters in any real sense, as long as they show us a version of reality that we can all sit much more comfortably with. I think it’s entirely fair to say that in the entire history of domination, there has been no device utilized by our spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and yes, increasingly even physical captors as effectively, or as ubiquitously, as television (although in a few decades, as the power grip of the largely self-appointed “elite” tightens around the internet even further, that may well give the “boob tube” a run for its money). There was a war fought for our very consciousness itself, and television won by lulling us in — and without firing a single shot. In any sane and rational world, this would be the issue of our time, it seems to me, and the fact that television’s dominance was achieved so thoroughly and hidden in such plain sight really speaks volumes about how little rationality and sensibility have to do with the nature of human existence itself. If we mad sense, this situation wouldn’t make sense. And yet we don’t, and so it does.

Not every single mind on the planet has been dulled to sleep, though, and if there’s a list of people out there who could be counted on to wage a proper critique upon the occult (in the truest sense of the word)  nature the bloodless-yet-no-less-deadly-for-that-fact televisual “revolution,” Alan Moore’s name would probably be at the top of it. And whaddaya know, in 1994 he penned a short prose piece, in the more poetic and lyrical style of his “magickal working” and performance-related pieces, called Light Of ThCountenance that is as savage and thoroughgoing an expose on the nefarious nature of the cathode ray tube as has ever seen print. Starting with the story of an aging soap starlet who is having a hard time differentiating between the character she’s spent years portraying and her real, actual self (and frankly having a more and more difficult time understanding what that even means anymore), this hauntingly flowing work then examines the history of TV itself — both in terms of the development and refinement of its inner technological workings and its increasingly vice-like, yet silent, grip on our lives. Moore understands that in the wrong hands — as television has been from the beginning, and was frankly probably even designed by — this video “box of delights” represents the most ingenious extension of some men’s desperate desire, perhaps even need, to subjugate their fellow man that those of a conquering mindset could ever hope for. At the end of the day, it’s not just TV, but the forces, far darker and more ancient, behind it that Moore is illuminating in this largely plotless, but eminently engrossing, work. It takes a certain sort of malignant will to power, if you will, to even dream up the very idea of television in the first place, and that same type of dark mentality would know exactly what it wants to do with its new toy.

I’d certainly say, without hesitation, that’s it’s all worked out very well for our hidden-only-because-we-allow-them-to-be masters, wouldn’t you?

If all of this sound like some pretty “heavy” reading, rest assured that it is, but it’s also vital  and necessary reading, and aiding in the process of getting this (and I absolutely don’t use this term lightly) monumentally important work to a (hopefully) wider audience are Moore’s frequent co-conspirators in recent years, Avatar Press, who in 2009 issued a comic version of Light Of Thy Countenance in both hardcover and paperback formats ,the respective covers for which are shown above in the images above. The original script was “sequentially adapted” (which in this case, as near as I can tell, means spreading out the words over a series of panel descriptions which the artist then renders, since I’ve compared the original text and the comic and they’re pretty much a word-for-word match) by Antony Johnston, who’s an old pro at this point at translating  Moore’s prose pieces into workable comics form  for Avatar, and lavishly painted by Felipe Massafera, whose style fits the rhythmic, lyrical nature of the work perfectly — and incidentally, if your idea of a comics “dream team” is a pairing of Alan Moore and Alex Ross, then this is definitely a book you’ll want to pick up because Massafera’s style is highly reminiscent of Ross’ work, it just so happens that in this case it’s employed not for the purposes of re-mythologizing the superhero archetype, but for landing the exquisitely-delivered the hammer blows of Moore’s revelatory prose with a soft, velvet glove.

I understand that a lot of folks out there are of the opinion that the Moore pieces that Avatar publishes are somehow “secondary” works in his artistic “canon,” if you will, especially those that are of the “adapted from their original format” variety, and that $7.95 in paperback or $17.99 in hardcover is a hell of a steep price to pay for a 48-page book (although either can be found for much less from various online retailers), and yes, I get that this doesn’t need to be read in comics format in the first place since it wasn’t even conceived of or written with that in mind, but the accompanying  visuals by Massafera here are so striking, and the pacing of the “story” is so well-understood by Johnston, that I really do think that it becomes a much richer and more involving experience to absorb the piece in this format, and even if I paid full price (which I didn’t), I wouldn’t feel cheated in the least. And as for this being at all a “secondary” Alan Moore work, piss on that. Light Of Thy Countenance is one of the most relevant, incisive, harrowing, and flat-out haunting things he’s ever written. If it’s not in your library at home, I urge you to get your hands on a copy as soon as possible — and if you do happen to already have it, turn off the goddamn television and read it right now, whether it’s for the first time or the one hundredth. I guarantee it’s better than whatever’s on.

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