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I thought Twilight had better sense than to eat her costume.

Exactly what led to the downfall of Awesome Entertainment, and Alan Moore's revamp of same, is somewhat subjective. The literal cause was the pulling-out of a major investor, necessitating the cancellation of many titles. However, this probably wouldn't have put an end to Moore's work at Awesome had the publishers really been committed to the work he was doing. In "The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore" (a book of interviews), Moore complains that Liefeld and the others don't seem to have bothered to read his proposals and synopses until it was too late, and Moore had gone on to better things. Fortunately these proposals were eventually published in "Alan Moore's Awesome Universe Sourcebook", thus providing further insight into his plans for the line.

Those better things would include his own line of comics published by Wildstorm, known collectively by the modest title of "America's Best Comics". ABC itself almost fell apart when Wildstorm was bought up by DC, an organization which Moore had sworn not to work for again, but the ABC publishers (unlike those at Awesome) cared about the stories Moore had pitched, and convinced him to go through with it.

In some ways this is almost a shame. The ABC line is, in many ways, a continuation of the ideas he was fostering at Awesome, to the point where a perusal of Tom Strong, Promethea, and Tomorrow Stories will seem extremely familiar to those who have read his Awesome work-for example, Tom Strong has a lot in common with Supreme in terms of creating an imaginary backstory, and also features some of the "scientific exploration" aspects that he'd introduced into "New Men". But the ABC titles lack the same sense of "co-existence" which Moore had done such a great job setting up with the Awesome books-almost better than any other "shared universe" I've yet read, actually. Yes, Marvel included. Little details in one comic grow into major premises in another, and with mere hints Moore sets up a complex world that hangs together in the reader's imagination as much for what isn't shown as for what is. Furthermore, the whole Awesome Universe grew up very organically as Moore began to take over, creating an elaborate backdrop in Supreme which became the source for ideas in Judgment Day, which in turn spawned a host of ideas and characters for the other titles. ABC takes place in a "shared universe" as well, but that aspect is somewhat downplayed, and you don't quite believe it when the characters cross over. The Awesome universe could have been a great deal more satisfying in that regard, and furthermore there were some great setups in the Awesome titles that were never carried over into ABC. That's not to badmouth ABC, which is still excellent, but it isn't all of a piece the way Awesome is.

There are so many ways I could interpret that statement...

As stated in the last chapter, Moore had, with "Judgment Day", laid out an ambitious roadmap for a rich, detailed comic book universe with an elaborate history, much of it a deliberate riff on existing comic characters (particularly those of the DC Universe). Some of it seemed to have been created more as texture or to fill a gap (he'd had to populate the world with superheroes to create analogues for the Justice League, for instance) but then later became the source of further stories. Thus, with a mere 12 issues of Supreme (the remaining issues were still in development at the time) and 4 of Judgment Day, he had created almost as large a backdrop for Awesome as Liefeld had cranking out title after title, which he could draw on to reshape the various comics he'd been handed.

The first such was Youngblood, which as I mentioned in the prior article was a much-hated title within the industry. Perhaps predictably, within the course of an issue, Moore had won the critics over to the title. Of course, there wasn't much that remained the same from the old Youngblood. With one member dead, another incarcerated for the murder, and the government withdrawing funding for the team, only the young leader, Shaft, remains, to found a privately-funded new team of teenagers (Hence the name "Youngblood" actually meaning something this time out). The new members include two from the pages of Supreme: the Ivory Icon's own sister Suprema, who's basically a semi-omnipotent Nancy Drew, and Twilight, Professor Night's teen sidekick (initially a female version of Robin), now reconstituted as a mysterious leather-wearing goth.

Will the persecution of Trekkies never end?

Joining the roster is Leonard "Big Brother" Doyle, wheelchair-bound (and extremely ascerbic) adopted son of their employer, who operates a series of gigantic robot bodies; Doc Rocket, granddaughter of the former Allies member of the same name, a chipper girl with superspeed abilities; and the hilarious Johnny Panic, described by Moore in the Sourcebook as "The first postmodern superhero". Johnny has an illusion suit that can replicate any image he can program into it, and a gun that fires designer drug pellets. He's also a wiseass slacker, sort of the Maynard G. Krebs of superheroes.

As with Supreme, Moore attempted with Youngblood to create a comic that replicated the fun and imagination of yesteryear, while still updating it into something slick and modern. In fact, Youngblood is rather more slick and modern than Supreme, maintaining a less self-aware and campy tone while still having fun with the premise of a group of teenaged superheroes and weaving it into the tapestry of the Awesome Universe. Moore seemed to be attempting to make a team book that would honestly appeal to kids, but in a different way than the flashy crap that was clogging the shelves at the time. It's also quite dazzlingly drawn by Steve Skroce, who I knew mostly as a production designer on The Matrix, but whose bold, colourful and detailed artwork creates the perfect mood for these stories. Of all the art I've seen while researching this article, Skroce's is the most delightful discovery.

Skroce gets a million points for drawing this many figures in a single panel. Wow.

In the first 3 issues, Youngblood clashes with the government that formerly employed them while battling a body-jumping entity called The Occupant; does battle with "Badblood", an evil superteam formed by a former Youngblood member out for revenge; and falls into the snare of the imprisoned supervillainous fop Jack-a-Dandy (the Awesome equivalent of The Joker) who sends them hurtling back in time. The next issue would have had them teaming up with some of the "old west" heroes introduced in Judgment Day; future installments would have featured a trip to outer space to tackle a cosmic threat called The Goat, a pair of issues focusing on a "day in the life" of each of the male and female members of the team respectively, further skirmishes with Badblood, a time-travelling issue structured like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" story, and various romantic entanglements and friction between the members.

I've derived my information on Moore's Youngblood plans from a variety of sources. What's interesting about what he wrote in the Sourcebook is that it's sort of sketchy and shows little of Moore's usual writing talent; the ideas have been much refined since they made it onto the comics page. For instance, his notes indicate that the first supervillain Youngblood tangles with, a rather limp menace called Stormhead whose moods affect the weather, should be their major archnemesis, being the progenitor of Badblood and a recurring villain throughout the series. The character who became their major villain instead is the same former Youngblood member who was found guilty of murder at the end of Judgment Day and who has turned to revenge, claiming that he owns the name Youngblood…which is far more interesting. Likewise, the storytelling concepts Moore scripted for future issues (which were never published) are much more interesting than some of the half-assed ideas recorded in the Sourcebook (but then, he was only spitballing).

See, even Jack-a-Dandy's disappointed that Youngblood got cancelled.

Unfortunately, we never got to see these issues, due to the collapse of Awesome, which occurred after the second issue. The third issue was eventually published as "Alan Moore's Awesome Adventures #1", and was never followed up, though presumably Awesome had been planning to continue drawing the scripts he had completed. It's sadly true, however, that to a fly-by-night operation such as Awesome had become, there was little incentive to continue publishing a title once issue #1 had come out; I'll explain this in a moment.

She's puuuuuurty.

First, though, let's look at Awesome's other 2-issue wonder, Glory. Here, again, we see the retroactive echoes of ABC. Moore had envisioned Glory as a retro Wonder Woman pastiche in the same way that he'd tied Supreme to Superman, but there was more to it in this case. In the Judgment Day short, Glory (an immortal demigod) became curious of how mortals lived and took on the form of waitress Gloria West. In the series proper, we learn that Gloria is a real person whose body Glory has been "borrowing"; she's a rather tragic figure, a schizophrenic whose been suffering since her mother passed on. Much of the story is told through the POV of Granger Troy, a poet who's a regular at Gloria's diner and considers her to be his muse. When he gets a chance to go out with her, however, he's racked with guilt over whether he's taking advantage of the mentally ill-which leads to a decision that will have tragic consequences for Glory.

Meanwhile, we get a glimpse of Glory's domain, which is a realm of gods and myths based heavily on the lore of Qabbalah; her mother Demeter rules the Earthly, or lowest, sphere, and there are a series of domains that go up the great "world tree" and are linked thematically with various deities from all different cosmologies. There's also the underworld, or Qlippoth, the reverse image of the world tree, whose earthly sphere is ruled by Lilith, a demon-goddess. Her husband had an affair with Demeter which produced Glory, and as such Lilith is devoted to our heroine's destruction.

The location of Glory's secret hideout will never be discovered. After all, it's hidden by a FENCE.

The Qabbalah stuff will, of course, seem familiar to readers of Promethea, which also featured a mortal becoming the vessel of a goddess, and an exploration of myth and magic (or "magick") as filtered through Carl Jung and Aleister Crowley. Moore also did the "nested flashback" sequences here that he first patented with Supreme, as Gloria and others read old issues of Glory's comic from the 40s and 50s (most of which are very winkingly sexual in much the same way that old Wonder Woman comics are); these sequences are very similar to his "Cobweb" shorts from Tomorrow Stories, the more so since both are drawn by Moore's girlfriend, Melinda Gebbie.

I'm a fan of Promethea, but I have to say, the framework Moore created for Glory actually seemed to be even better. Again, there's the organic structure of the stories' background, meshing the superheroic and the mythical quite elegantly, whereas in Promethea the superhero backdrop seems a little haphazard and almost unnecessary. Also, the burgeoning love affair between Granger Troy and Gloria West is downright touching, with Gloria's mental fixations providing a poignant counterpart to Glory's larger-than-life adventures. When Troy, with the best of intentions, tries to medicate her, Gloria's connection with her fantasy life falls away and Glory herself falls into the underworld…

Where she had to remain, as that was the last issue that was published. In fact, for reasons I don't understand, it was published not by Awesome but by another company, Avatar, who I guess felt that anything Alan Moore produced ought to see the light of day. It's a real shame that Awesome couldn't have fought harder to get these two titles (and the other revamped comics Moore had had on the boil) produced eventually, but the sad fact is that putting out only a couple of issues served Awesome's purposes. You see, at that point, comics were still seen as something of a collector's market, with the actual stories inside being virtually irrelevant to their "collectability". Liefeld had made extensive use of this fact at Image and throughout his solo career, cranking out comics that never really went anywhere-after all, issue #7 never sells as well as issue #1, so why not just skip it altogether?

...Natasha Henstridge, I presume?

Those who actually care about the content of comics instead of how much they'll fetch when polybagged in VF/NM condition were frustrated by this development, to be sure. I still hear people occasionally refer to Moore's Youngblood in wistful tones. In fact, Liefeld is still at it, having recently released yet another relaunch of Youngblood (written by Mark Millar this time) that keeps some of Moore's characters but apparently ditches his continuity. In other words, it sounds like the chances of seeing the rest of Moore's work on the Awesome line are pretty unlikely…more's the pity. Or should I say, MOORE'S the pity?

No, I probably shouldn't.


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