cbishop's Alan Moore's Awesome Universe Handbook #1 review

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Alan Moore's Awesome Universe Handbook #1

I ran across this book in a dollar bin, and being a sucker for any type of Official Handbook, Who's Who, Sourcebook or Secret Files, said, "Sure, why not?" In the front, there are several pages of Alex Ross black-and-white sketch work that's as beautiful as anything else we've come to expect from him. There are also a few sketched pages from Youngblood in the back. It wasn't until I got it home that I realized there are text pieces by Alan Moore inbetween.

Since I had written a blog about the public domain nature of mythology (and other sources) in direct relation to Wonder Woman, I was immediately captivated by the beginning of Moore's notes on Glory:

"Okay, first thing I think could use some brushing up is Glory's mythological background. For one thing, mythological source material [is] an unquestionably rich vein for comics to mine..."

It's extremely gratifying to have what you think is a cool idea, and find that an admired pro has said the same thing. Moore goes on to detail how he'd connect mythology to Glory, and the various ways he'd go about introducing new creations that harken back to the golden days of DC's Wonder Woman. Personally, I found this extremely interesting, because when I create my own characters, my notes tend to wander in the same way - detailing the similarities to existing characters, but the unique points of divergence for my own. Again, it was extremely gratifying to see a nearly identical process at work with an existing pro.

In the notes on Youngblood that followed, Moore does the same thing - detailing his new proposed lineup for the team, proposed characterizations, and interactions between the characters. We get a glimpse of the supporting cast, the mode of transportation for the team, their connections to the rest of the Awesome universe, and a proposed lineup of villains for the team. I especially enjoyed Moore's comparisons to Wolman & Perez's early days on New Teen Titans.

This book is a writer's gem, as far as getting a peak into the thought processes of a pro in such high regard as Alan Moore. What detracted from it was the number of typos, such as the omission of "is" from the Glory quote that I mentioned in the second paragraph. I have read that Mr. Moore is quite particular about his words being printed exactly, down to the last full stop, so this issue left me wondering if he's secretly lacking in the area of spelling, like the character of Lois Lane, or if someone hastily retyped his notes for this book. It also left me wondering if Alan Moore gave his permission for his notes to be published.

Layout was also a problem for me. Having the art in the front is understandable - especially Alex Ross art. My problem is with Moore's notes. In reading, it's clear that he wrote the Youngblood notes before the Glory notes, but they are presented in opposite order. If you're going to give a glimpse into someone's thought processes, I feel you should show them in order. I was surprised there were no notes on Supreme, since the Ross artwork was all Supreme, but as it turns out, the Handbook was published about a year after Moore's Supreme stories. Which makes me wonder even more if he gave his permission to publish his notes, since Moore eventually took Glory to Avatar, when having come up short on cash, Liefeld apparently had to pay Moore in character rights. The Youngblood art pages almost seemed like an afterthought to me, especially since they came after a two page pinup/ad for Supreme - the only ad in the book.

Overall, I loved the glimpse into Alan Moore's notes, and Alex Ross art is always great eye candy. The Youngblood pages were just okay to me, because while it was nice art, it didn't really give me a feel for where that book would go. Hindsight tells me "not far," but the pages themselves didn't tell me anything of substance.

There's one other thing about this book that I did not like, that will seem to contradict what I said earlier. While I personally loved looking over Alan Moore's notes, I don't know that publishing them was a good idea, especially as a preview of what's coming. His notes weren't aimed at the readers, they were aimed at the creative staff involved in the projects. He explained to them why he wanted to do things a certain way, but those weren't things the readers needed to know. To say, "We'll do [a], and leave [b] to the reader's imagination," means nothing if you tell the reader you are going to do that. The notes were full of that, and while it doesn't detract from this handbook, it does detract from the then-future projects it was promoting. As Awesome Entertainment is a thing of the past, it's kind of a moot point, but I was trying to consider it in context of the time it was published. It's kind of like a magician giving away his secrets to his audience.

So for the rating, I'm detracting one star for the Youngblood pages, and one star for the poor presentation of Moore's notes. Taking away 1.5 stars for information the readers should never have been allowed to see, but giving back two stars for my own personal enjoyment of the book (it's my review - I can do that). Final score: three-and-a-half stars.

(12/1/14) Update: The site has changed the rules, disallowing half-stars. So, I couldn't quite bring myself to give it a 4, so it gets 3 stars now. -cb


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