Wednesday, December 26, 2012

More Moore part 5: Skizz

"Skizz" (1983)

I have to admit, I wasn't looking forward to "Skizz" when I picked it up. I had never even heard of it prior to doing this read-through, and my little bit of research told me it was Alan Moore's attempt at writing E.T., with the same basic starting premise (I have heard that the plot for "Skizz" was written entirely from seeing the first trailer for E.T. though I'm unsure if that's hyperbole or not. It wouldn't surprise me). For most I suppose this wouldn't be a problem, but get out the torches and pitchforks because I loathe E.T. and always have; when all of my young peers were fawning over the biggest thing in sci-fi since Star Wars, I found it to be incredibly boring, and nowadays I see it as one of the most pure examples of the cinematic 'cheap shot' that goes for histrionics and emotion while skimping on the actual depth. So I went into "Skizz" with pretty low expectations, fully expecting this to be the first of Moore's work that was flat-out bad. With that being said, "Skizz" turned out to be a pleasant surprise, leagues better than its inspiration and proof that, at the time at least, Moore's dialogue could buoy even the feeblest of plots. 

"Skizz" was originally presented in the pages of seminal British boys comic 2000 AD, home most notably of "Judge Dredd" as well as some minor works from Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, and obviously Alan Moore. Alan had written for the publication for a while prior to "Skizz", usually working on the 1-or-2-page "Future Shocks" which were brief sci-fi tales that usually had punchy gags as final panels. "Skizz" was different though: an ongoing story that stretched nearly 25 issues of 2000 AD, the plot concerns itself with the interplay of interstellar interpreter Zhcchz dealing with punks and pipefitters of lower-class Birmingham in the early 80s. Skizz' answer to Elliott is 15-year-old punk girl Roxy, who comes off as impulsive, defiant, strong-willed, but ultimately good, and who I probably would've had a crush on, had I been that age in 1983. The dialogue is great, surprisingly funny given the nasty setting, Moore's world populated by surprisingly fleshed out characters like Roxy's parents and Lennie Small-esque giant-with-a-heart-of-gold Cornelius. The whole story exudes the same kind of class struggle  Moore had begun in V for Vendetta but on a smaller scale: there is no fascist junta, no heroic anarchist. There's just an obsessed government agent and a teen girl trying to keep her new friend from being exploited or worse. Jim Baikie's art is sort of angular but passable, considering most of the deck that came out in the issues of 2000 AD, and while he's no John Totleben or David Lloyd or Alan Davis, the characters, especially Cornelius and Skizz himself, exude personality that meshes with Moore's dialogue to create a very well-done minor work in the canon. Moore does commit the ultimate comic writer sin of denying pathos by bringing back an apparently-dead character with the ol' "he's alright after all!" line, but then the same guy gave us Marvelman and Watchmen so I'll cut him some slack for now. 

"Skizz" doesn't reach the heights of Moore's work prior, and no doubt there will be plenty other works in the coming months that surpass it, but I was legitimately surprised that this small work, one that I had never even heard of before starting this project, was not only passable but actually pretty good. "Skizz" doesn't have characters spouting iambic pentameter like Ahab or Iago, but it has heart and soul, a perfectly slight tome to enjoy with a roaring fire and a cup of coffee.
All in all, Skizz is weaker than anything else I've read of Moore's, but I still have a whole lot to go, and the dialogue is written well enough that you might be surprised by it. I certainly was.


Best quote: “They were cruel and ugly. There was so much hate and despair…and so much love…/…some of them have style…/…and some of them have their pride… / and some of them…/…some of them are stars.”

Up next: The Mad Hatter and the unstoppable cyborg killing machine in Captain Britain

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