What follows is an excerpt from Michael Moorcock’s foreword to the upcoming Alan Moore: Storyteller by Ilex Press. You can pre-order your copy of this sumptuous, 320 page, full-colour book now to avoid disappointment.
“I believe that magic is art, and that art, whether that be music, writing, sculpture, or any other form, is literally magic. Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words, or images, to achieve changes in consciousness . . . . Indeed to cast a spell is simply to spell, to manipulate words, to change people’s consciousness, and this is why I believe that an artist or writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world to a shaman.” Alan Moore
The history of comics dates from BAM to SAM—from Before Alan Moore to Since Alan Moore—because quite simply no one had the ambition, the imagination, and the talent to do what he did until he emerged on the scene, rising from the ashes of traditional British comics (of the kind I worked for) at a time when UK publishers were beginning to believe that dramatic weeklies (as opposed to funny ones like The Dandy) were as dead as the text “story papers” which had preceded them. They had lasted, it seemed, for less than half a century, from, say, Knockout (1939) to Action (1976), which some of us felt simply took the old formulas to their violent ultimate but didn’t take any fundamentally different direction. Similarly in the U.S., apart from making some characters a little less self-righteous and a tad more self-questioning, the big adventure comic publishers had reached a hiatus where they looked for new blood in Britain without knowing quite what that blood was infected by and not sure they trusted it to do the job of bumping up dwindling circulations among the young who were turning increasingly, as in the UK, to new media for their pleasure.
What Moore was to offer them was a committed idealism which refused any significant compromises and would rather not make money than make the kind of concessions his predecessors had habitually made. The story of his early life and work is the substance of this book’s first chapters and needn’t be repeated here, but whatever was in the Northampton water when he was born fueled a genius which was to save a medium from increasingly rapid extinction and make it what it is today.
Restlessly staying ahead of his imitators, constantly reviewing and creating precedents, Moore brought innovations to text narratives as well as to graphic storytelling, from V for Vendetta to Voice of the Fire, and kept on going while inspiring others along the way. He might argue that he merely represented the zeitgeist but the zeitgeist had no more significant representative, substituting true originality for sensationalism, idiosyncrasy for derivation, and an intellectual constancy revealed even in his minor expeditions. It was his good fortune that he chose a medium where his originality would be needed and recognized and in a couple of decades he became the chief voice of a generation, in true shamanistic fashion. He spoke for us and offered us the symbols and stories reflecting how we felt. For me he does for fiction what Dylan does for music. He’s a Robert Johnson of the Age of Doubt; questioning, confronting, mourning and yearning, representing his readers in profound ways, an intellectual autodidact, one of my few true peers for whom I have limitless respect.
A shaman is, among other things, a visionary who acts on behalf of the people, putting all its emotions, fears, hopes, and aspirations into words and pictures. The shaman makes the journeys others have either not thought of or are too fearful to make themselves. The shaman takes risks, expresses ideas, tells stories, and, often, makes music on behalf of the rest of us. Many believe that our best poets function as shamans but I think that certain popular artists also serve that function, including the best song writers and composers. Frequently they offer us old myths in modern guises, voicing spells that function as nostrums with which we ease our souls and picture our desires. Unlike the demagogues who exploit us, shamans feed our imaginations and confer dignity on our dreams. They teach us how to handle the world. Various popular artists have achieved this over the centuries. Sometimes they are rewarded for their pains and at other times they are punished, usually by an authority which fears the power they place in public hands. There is no doubt that those who identify their own interests with authority and temporal power frequently denigrate them at best and destroy them at worst. They are, of course, ultimately indestructible.
For more of the foreword, and the rest of the book, order your copy now.