Naked Power: Alan Moore and Winter Moran

Among aficionados of topnotch comics writing/storytelling there are few writers more famous (or more deserving of that fame) than Alan Moore.  Many of his greatest works (From Hell, A League of Extraordinary Gentleman, V for Vendetta and of course Watchmen) have been adapted to the big screen, some more successfully than others—Moore, true to character, has disavowed them all.  A quirky Brit known in the comics industry as much for his politics (and his hoariness) as for his writing, Moore is a dedicated anarchist and free speech advocate who hasn’t so much invited controversy as kidnapped it at gunpoint and forced it to deal with him.  He’s also clearly a genius.

One of Moore’s most controversial works was the erotic one-shot comic Lost Girls, co-authored and illustrated by his second wife, Melinda Gebbie.  The story took three young girls who were the protagonists of famous children’s fantasy books: Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, Alice from Alice in Wonderland, and Wendy from Peter Pan, and explored their erotic lives.  Although it deals primarily with these characters as adults, apparently (I confess I haven’t read it), there are scenes from their childhood as well.  The story flirts with dangerous ideas and subverts the notions of innocence that we often associate with these fairy tale characters and with children in general, and consequently some booksellers will not stock it in their store for fear of an obscenity charge, perhaps recalling the rash of police raids on comics shops and bookstores that took place back in the late eighties and early nineties.  It was because of cases like these that the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund formed in 1986, an organization strongly supported by Yours Truly.  (Note: The CBLDF always accepts donations, so if you feel like giving to a good cause that—like us—is on the front line in the war for freedom of speech, I recommend giving to the CBLDF!)

Less controversial (but no less provocative) was the Miracleman series, a new take on a much older character, Marvelman—indeed, in the earliest appearances of the revitalized character, he was still called Marvelman, but when the rights passed over to Eclipse Comics, the name was changed to Miracleman to avoid copyright conflicts, and many of the original issues were retrofitted with the new name and identity in republications.  Moore’s run on the series coincided with the longest and most successful era for the revamped superhero, and as you would expect from Moore, the story was much darker and more violent—way more violent—than the character’s ’50s and ’60s incarnation and deals with his origins and eventual rise to godlike power and status on Earth.  This run was eventually collected into four graphic novels, all of which I highly recommend if you can get your hands on them—unfortunately, original editions of the books are going for a pretty penny on Amazon these days.

But, I digress.  Not only was the writing on the series fascinating and challenging, the artwork in it was consistently gorgeous, done by the likes of Alan Davis, Rick Veitch, Gary Leach and my absolute favorite artist on the series, John Totleben, whose inking is superb on so many levels.  Good inking is really the key to creating good comics art; if the inking is poor, then even the best of colorists often can’t save it.  But fortunately, Totleben is one of the best, despite being partially blind.

The story of Miracleman as conceived by Moore is one that starts with a traditional origin story but then quickly flies off into the darker and more complex corners of superhero mythology.  Moore is a master at exploring the psychological motivations—good, bad and ugly—of people who routinely put on strange costumes and fight crime and/or who have superpowers.  Among superheroes, Marvelman/Miracleman is one of the most powerful, a British analogue to Captain Marvel, who was himself Marvel’s answer to Superman.  In Moore’s vision, this demigod, not content with simply catching criminals, decides to rearrange Earth to his own liking, often with spectacularly surreal results, and to set himself up as benevolent supreme ruler of the planet.  Initially this is received well by civilization because many of Earth’s biggest problems are solved by Miracleman and his equally superpowered wife, but soon the facade begins to crack.

The Golden Age era, covered by the fourth collection, was finished, but not by Moore.  His successor was perhaps the only person the equal of Moore’s particular brand of creativity and intellect, Neil Gaiman.  Grant Morrison also did some writing on the series, making it the only comics series I’m aware of that all three members of what I call the Holy Trinity of British Comics Writers—Moore, Gaiman and Morrison–worked on, though there are probably some comics fans out there who can prove me wrong.  At any rate, although never completed, Gaiman had promised to present his hero in three different eras.  With the Golden Age complete, the second era, the Silver Age, was begun by Gaiman but was never completed.  It begins to show the erosion of Miracleman’s created utopia, and also focuses more on the the characters at the peripheral and how they are impacted by their new reality.  The final arc, the Dark Age, would’ve seen the complete destruction of Miracleman’s paradise and perhaps the downfall of the character himself.  Alas, we will probably never know.

One of the more ingenious characters Moore devised for Miracleman was Winter Moran, the daughter of Michael Moran and Avril Lear, Miracleman and Miraclewoman respectively, and as soon as she’s born she proves to be not only a worthy successor but someone who might soon rival her father and mother.  Immediately upon being born she speaks perfect English and is able to fly.  Not long after that, she leaves Earth altogether for a few years.  When she returns she is four years old, still as naked as the day she was born but much, much wiser, having explored the galaxy and encountered many alien races, one of whom she married, as we will soon learn.  But that’s not the only shocking thing she did while away from Home System: she also has sex (albeit in an artificial body).  In a funny scene in Miracleman Book Three: Olympus, when Winter reveals she’s had sex, her father, who is perhaps the most powerful being on Earth at this point, reveals he is a typically worrisome parent, and for all his intelligence and prudence, he has no idea how to handle his super-precocious four-year-old daughter.

John Totleben - Miracleman - Book Three: Olympus (pg 116, pls 2-4)

John Totleben – Miracleman – Book Three: Olympus (pg 116, pls 2-4)

As the scene progresses, we see that Winter is dissatisfied with her father’s “redecorations” of Earth, and this is likely intended to foreshadow Winter’s eventual rise and challenge to her father’s supremacy.  Winter, it seems, is being set up as the eventual villain of the Dark Age.  But for now she is simply a super-powered, super-intelligent 4-year-old girl who, like Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen, has transcended the need for clothing.  We are aware that she has no particular attachment to human notions of modesty or conventional morality; it is perhaps a short leap from there to the understanding growing in Winter’s consciousness that humanity are as ants to her, or simply toys for her to play with as she pleases.  Or destroy.  Notice Totleben’s delicate Art Nouveau-infused work on Winter’s hair and the background designs here.

John Totleben - Miracleman - Book Three: Olympus (pg 116, pl 5)

John Totleben – Miracleman – Book Three: Olympus (pg 116, pl 5)

Soon Winter is an active participant in her new world.  But what does she do?  She makes it easier and more comfortable for women to give birth to a new strain of genetically modified super-babies like herself.  Hmm, why is Winter so interested in bringing more of such children into the world?  Is she perhaps creating her own army of super-children for an eventual takeover of Earth?  Notice Winter teaching the super-babies how to fly.

John Totleben - Miracleman - Book Three: Olympus (pg 117, pl 1)

John Totleben – Miracleman – Book Three: Olympus (pg 117, pl 1)

In Book Four: The Golden Age, after Neil Gaiman took over writing the series, Winter takes a backseat to another little blond super-baby, Mist, who, like Winter, tends to float around naked.  But Winter does make a prominent appearance in a peculiar way—she is the heroine of her own children’s book (which, incidentally, is being read to Mist and to her normal, non-superpowered half-brother by their mother).  The book is called Winter’s Tale and details what happened during those first few years when she traveled and explored the galaxy on her own.  The comic cleverly presents the pages of the book as part of the storyline, with occasional interjection panels where Mist, her brother and their mom discuss the book.  Here is the first page of Winter’s Tale:

Mark Buckingham; Sam Parsons - Miracleman - Book 4: The Golden Age (pg 94)

Mark Buckingham; Sam Parsons – Miracleman – Book 4: The Golden Age (pg 94)

Perhaps one of the more interesting parts of the story deals with Winter’s meeting with the Lantiman of Sauk, who immediately asks Winter to marry him, which she does.  The context is important here—let’s remember that this is being revealed through a children’s book that exists in Miracleman’s reality, and that it is being read to two children at the same time the reader is experiencing it, one a miracle baby herself, the other not.  The Lantiman reveals forthwith that Winter is simply the newest in his collection of child-brides, and the reader understands that we are now looking at an alien pedophile, and that he is presented positively in the fictional book.

Oddly enough, Winter and the Lantiman never have physical sex.  This fact is not presented in the story, but we know it’s true because the writer points out that Winter is looking for the Qys system–she has not yet met the Qys, the hyper-advanced species that introduced her to sex, at least by Winter’s account in Olympus.  It makes sense that the Lantiman’s relationship with his child-brides is not a sexual one in any conventional sense, given that it is not bound by species, and also owing to his gigantic size, which would make sex with Winter (and presumably most or all of his child-brides) nearly impossible anyway.

So, what is this love the Lantiman has for young girls of every species that compels him to marry them if it isn’t sexual?  I reckon it is something akin to the feelings many of Pigtails’ readers feel—it is not conventionally sexual in itself, but it recognizes the holistic beauty of children, which includes their sexuality.  It is the timeless fascination that little girls hold for some adult males like myself, the recognition that they are a kind of ideal human.  Not that I would ever want to marry a little girl, but for me this blog is analogous to the Lantiman of Sauk’s marriages; it is born out of something that transcends mere beauty or sexuality or any other such physically rooted concept.

And in that light, Winter, who is herself a transcendent version of the little girl—a little girl who is near to achieving her perfect potential—is a natural fit for the Lantiman.  Unlike child-brides in traditional cultures, the Lantiman does not seek to control Winter.  Indeed, he gives her an entire planet, a world for her to play with and control.  He is apparently not interested in her merely as a physical form (though the notion that he also finds little girls physically beautiful is not excluded here); he is interested in her as a little girl who is fully able to express her every desire because of her godlike abilities.  Hence, the Lantiman’s feeling that Winter was the best bride he ever had.  Notice that when Winter is ready to leave him, he does not stop her from going.  Granted, the account is being filtered through Neil Gaiman (as the proxy writer of the children’s book) for the children of the Miracleman universe, so we may not be getting an accurate account of what actually happened between Winter and the Lantiman.

Mark Buckingham; Sam Parsons - Miracleman - Book 4: The Golden Age (pg 100)

Mark Buckingham; Sam Parsons – Miracleman – Book 4: The Golden Age (pg 100)

And now, I have something really special for you.  This is the first actual illustration of mine I’ve featured on this site, and it is my interpretation of Winter Moran.  This piece is 11″ × 14″ pen & ink on Bristol board, done mostly in pointillism (I was going for Virgil Finlay-esque), frameable, signed by me on the front and back, and it is for sale.  If you’re interested, you can contact me off the board and we will arrange something.  Meantime, I hope you enjoy it!  This is the first of what will likely be a series of pieces I plan to post here with little girls as the common theme, most of which will be offered for sale.

Edit: SOLD – Sorry, but this piece is no longer on the market.  Thank you for your interest!

Pip Starr - Winter Moran (2015)

Pip Starr – Winter Moran (2015)

Théo van Rysselberghe

Théo van Rysselberghe definitely contributed to Jugend, but I think overall I’m more interested in his paintings than his drawings (which is unusual for me).

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Théo van Rysselberghe – The sisters of the painter Schlobach – Jeanne & Marguerite Schlobach (1884)

Théo van Rysselberghe – Portrait of Marguerite van Mons (1886)

Théo van Rysselberghe – Portrait of Marguerite van Mons (1886)

Théo van Rysselberghe – Little Denise (1889)

Théo van Rysselberghe – Little Denise (1889)

Théo van Rysselberghe – Mademoiselle Nele Van de Velde (1903)

Théo van Rysselberghe – Mademoiselle Nele Van de Velde (1903)

Théo van Rysselberghe – Young Girl in a Tub

Théo van Rysselberghe – Young Girl in a Tub

Théo van Rysselberghe – Elizabeth van Rysselberghe in a Straw Hat

Théo van Rysselberghe – Elizabeth van Rysselberghe in a Straw Hat

Théo van Rysselberghe – Elizabeth van Rysselberghe

Théo van Rysselberghe – Elizabeth van Rysselberghe

Théo van Rysselberghe – Jeune fille en vert

Théo van Rysselberghe – Jeune fille en vert

Théo van Rysselberghe – Madame Van de Velde and Her Children

Théo van Rysselberghe – Madame Van de Velde and Her Children

Théo van Rysselberghe – Madame von Bodenhausen avec son enfant Luli

Théo van Rysselberghe – Madame von Bodenhausen avec son enfant Luli

Théo van Rysselberghe – Portrait de Madame van Rysselberghe et sa fille

Théo van Rysselberghe – Portrait de Madame van Rysselberghe et sa fille

Théo van Rysselberghe – Portrait of a Young Girl in Red

Théo van Rysselberghe – Portrait of a Young Girl in Red

Théo van Rysselberghe – Portrait of Elizabeth van Rysselberghe

Théo van Rysselberghe – Portrait of Elizabeth van Rysselberghe

Théo van Rysselberghe – Portrait of Helene and Michette Guinotte

Théo van Rysselberghe – Portrait of Helene and Michette Guinotte

Théo van Rysselberghe – Portrait of Madame Goldner-Max and Her Daughter Juliette

Théo van Rysselberghe – Portrait of Madame Goldner-Max and Her Daughter Juliette

Théo van Rysselberghe – Portrait of the Artist’s Daughter, Elizabeth

Théo van Rysselberghe – Portrait of the Artist’s Daughter, Elizabeth

Théo van Rysselberghe – The Children of François Van Rysselberghe

Théo van Rysselberghe – The Children of François Van Rysselberghe

Théo van Rysselberghe – The Garden of Felicien Rops at Essone

Théo van Rysselberghe – The Garden of Felicien Rops at Essone

Théo van Rysselberghe – The Pink Ribbon (Sylvie Lacombe)

Théo van Rysselberghe – The Pink Ribbon (Sylvie Lacombe)

Théo van Rysselberghe – Three Daughters

Théo van Rysselberghe – Three Daughters

 

theo-van-rysselberghe-young-girl-with-a-vase-of-flowers

Theo van Rysselberghe – Young Girl with a Vase of Flowers

Wikipedia: Théo van Rysselberghe