Jan 31, 2013

Alan Moore at Awesome, Day 3: Glory

Welcome to Day 3 of The Comics Cube!'s retrospective series on Alan Moore's time at Awesome Comics. You can read about this series here.

Not quite the greatest Wonder Woman story never told

Just as Supreme was Awesome's version of Superman, rooted firmly in the source character's Silver Age roots, Glory was supposed to be Wonder Woman, rooted firmly in the source character's Golden Age roots, which Moore must have deemed the most essential part of Wonder Woman's considerable history, as his entire proposal for Glory is based on it.

Here's the interesting thing about Moore's Glory "run," for me. After Awesome folded, the ideas and setup in Glory would quickly be revised and altered to fit Moore's new Wildstorm series, Promethea, which would go on to become my favorite ongoing series ever. That fact, combined with the fact that this utilized, at least on the surface, the same approach Moore used in Supreme, should have been a formula to ensure that I would enjoy Glory. But I didn't.

Again, I can't comment on the experience of reading these issues as they came out; I read two issues of Glory (1 and 2) way after the fact, and wasn't even aware of an issue 0 until recently, so I can't comment on any of the delays that this suffered or the fact that it came out after Awesome already folded (my two issues were published by Avatar Press), or that Avatar still has three issues of Alan Moore's Glory scripts that were never published.

The first thing that strikes me when rereading Glory is Marat Mychaels' artwork. That's curious to me because even as a kid reading Wizard back in the late 90s, Brandon Peterson was being promoted relatively heavily as the artist for Glory. As it turns out, he was able to draw the zero issue, and then left—I am supposing that's when the delays kicked in, but Peterson was the one that Moore had in mind when pitching Promethea, so maybe Mychaels did the art on the last two issues after Awesome already folded? Regardless, I think it's a shame, since I think Brandon Peterson is the superior artist, especially when it comes to facial expressions. But judge for yourself.

Reading Moore's proposal for the series in Alan Moore's Awesome Universe Handbook, I find it interesting just how much thought he put into Glory's trappings, but surprisingly, very little into the character of Glory herself. Just about the only real notes about Glory herself as a character involve her secret identity as a waitress. Sometime after writing the proposal, he would make it so that Glory sometimes inhabits the body of a waitress named Gloria West, and Gloria, by herself, is a schizophrenic. This leads to a rather interesting setup where Gloria sometimes treats Glory's adventures as imaginary and sometimes as real.

But there's not much more of that kind of thing in the series. In fact, Gloria and Glory barely do anything in the two issues of the story (the zero issue is apparently more of a prologue than anything else). Really. Glory is seen on Earth at the tail end of two missions: some undersea mission with Roy Roman (Awesome's Namor/Aquaman) and saving people from a burning building. Any other time we see Gloria, she's over in her version of Wonder Woman's Paradise Island, Ultima Thule, either talking with her mother or her friend Hermione. The entire story revolved around Granger Troy, a poet who frequents the diner Gloria works at, and who has fallen madly in love with her and goes on to sleep with her (partly because Glory wants to experience human sex). The entire affair, however, is witnessed by Lilith, who was being built up to be Glory's arch-enemy and was described by Moore as a Kirbyfied version of Disney's Maleficence from Sleeping Beauty.

Side note: Maleficence is the coolest
Disney villain ever. I will fight anyone who
says otherwise.

There are a few things to note here. First, Lilith looks pretty badass. Second, where Supreme tried to capture the all-ages feel of classic superhero comics, Glory features a blatant, though not graphic, sex scene. And third, where Supreme was basically composed of standalone stories with an overarching subplot that eventually became the main plot, and where Moore stated in his Youngblood proposal that that series should be structured so as to never go beyond an issue, unless it's an epic, in which case two issues are the way to go, Glory goes through two issues of one storyline, and it still ends on a cliffhanger. It's very decompressed, which would be fine if we actually spent a substantial amount of time with the main character, but we don't. And when we do, it's almost unbearable, because the dialogue they're given is all explanations. When Demeter, for example, says that Glory is too often easily enchained (presumably to foreshadow all the times that Glory will be held in Golden Age Wonder Woman–style bondage in this series), Glory responds with "That's because I'm like you, Mother. I'm part symbol. I symbolize the glory of existence, so I'm often held in restraint, but I always rise above it, don't I?"

Talk about a sledgehammer. But again, that's what I find interesting, because Moore would use many of the same ideas and concepts in Promethea, and wasn't, I think, any less subtle about it, but I love that series. The obvious answer would be that JH Williams III is a much better artist and storyteller than Marat Mychaels, but I don't think it's that, or just that anyway, because that wouldn't really explain why the gap between my opinions of the two series is so large.

As Travis has pointed out to me, it may be because Moore's love for Superman was genuine, but his "love" for Wonder Woman seemed manufactured. And like I said, in his entire Glory proposal, there's relatively little mention of her. There's a huge focus, however, on her supporting cast, her villains, and her world. The explanation alone of how the mythical system in the Awesome Universe works—based off of the Qabalistic Tree of Life, where various gods co-rule various spheres depending on their roles within their pantheons—is eight paragraphs long. It details how the tree is structured and how it could be easily adapted for any and all magic stories in Awesome, and also describes how Demeter's island, Ultima Thule, would be portrayed, and how it wasn't strictly physical and would be surrounded by a psychedelic sea called the Chromocean. Moore notes "It would look great in a comic book." But both in the Glory series and in Judgment Day, we never actually see it. Too bad.

Still, it's quite interesting that Moore could place every imaginable mythical pantheon under one superstructure, thus making it easy for him to mix and match various gods, like in this scene where they show up at Glory's birth (harkening to Sleeping Beauty, yet again. Lilith shows up as Maleficence, too).

There is also an incredible inconsistency when it comes to the flashback sequences, which are presented as stories from comics in the story itself, unlike the memories-in-comic-book-form that they were in Supreme. In Glory, the flashback sequences interact directly with the present-day story.

Melinda Gebbie draws the first one, detailing how Demeter was impregnated by Lord Silverfall (a lord of the underworld) and eventually gives birth to Glory, giving way to that Sleeping Beauty–inspired sequence earlier. Then it goes and sums up Glory's formative years, up till she goes to Earth and joins the Allies.

Gebbie's able to ape the original Wonder Woman artist, HG Peter, pretty well, but the style is still recognizable Gebbie's enough, and the story has very little to really connect it with Wonder Woman, that it feels like a fairytale story rather than a tribute/homage to the Golden Age Wonder Woman. But it's still very well done and does harken back to a classic era.

Unfortunately, Gebbie's nowhere to be found in the second issue, and instead the flashback sequence is drawn by Matt Martin. Now, Matt tries really hard with exaggerated poses and expressions, but unfortunately, he's still very much a contemporary artist—especially next to Gebbie—and his style is so close to Mychaels' own style that there's hardly a contrast going on. As a result, what was most likely a story that was intended to ape a Golden Age Wonder Woman story that's full of bondage and gets away with it because it was kind of subversive, just becomes a story that felt like an excuse to show Glory in suggestive positions.

But that's also a question that doesn't have an answer: is it possible to take Golden Age Wonder Woman and treat her with the same kind of mixture of suggestiveness and naive charm as she was treated in The Golden Age? Golden Age Wonder Woman regularly got tied up; had bracelets that, when bound together, would make her obedient to the person who did the binding—generally, there was an S&M type of quality to her adventures, but no one seemed to notice.

I think that the answer, actually, is no. I think that kind of thing is a product of its time, and there's no way to do that now without audiences knowing what you're going for, or at least they would know the moment they even Googled it, since there'd be someone talking about it. I think you can try and try and try, but it will never be "hidden" in the way that William Moulton Marston and HG Peter managed to "hide" it in Wonder Woman. In that respect, I think that aspect of Glory—the suggestive bondage scenes intended to be played naively and innocently—was always doomed to fail.

There's also the other question for me. What if, somehow, Brandon Peterson did get the Promethea job? I wonder what JH Williams III's career would look like then, or how Brandon Peterson would be regarded today.

The point is all moot, but I think I've spoken as much as I can about a two-issue Wonder Woman pastiche that wasn't very good. Tomorrow, I'll be talking about something much more fun.

Tomorrow: Youngblood!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have not read Glory yet but love Alan Moore's Promethea. One of my favorite comic series.

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