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Synopsis

Moonshadow was raised by his mother, a burned out hippie called Sunflower in an intergalactic zoo run by the alien race G’L-Doses, one of which also happens to be his father. Moonshadow and his mom are released from the zoo-along with his best friend Ira (a perverted degenerate alien who despite himself is fond of the little shit) and his faithful cat Frodo. After a disastrous rescue attempt Sunflower dies. Moonshadow, Ira and Frodo sojourn across the galaxy witnessing madness, destitution, war, betrayal, death, the wonders of sex and many more revelations and strange encounters beside. Moonshadow’s only constant companion is Frodo, who still remains by his side 100 years later as he recounts upon his strange life and writes his story.

Origin

Moonshadow is born in the Zoo, which was built by the mysterious and whimsical alien race, the G’L-Doses, to house specimens of the many beings they abducted from around the universe. His mother is Sunflower (aka Sheila Fay Bernbaum), a hippie from Earth, and his father is one of the G’L-Doses; this is the only known union between one of the G.D.s and another species. His mother’s sister was Aunt Ettie, who went insane and died before Moon was born. She had a certain color of blue eyes that both Sheila and Moon share, and through which family tradition says her madness is passed down. His mother’s father was Martin Bernbaum, a philosophical trash collector from Brooklyn.

Moon in his library
Moon in his library

Moon was named after a San Francisco poet that Sunflower loved, and who died in the Vietnam war.

As a youth, Moon mostly played with his mother’s cat, Frodo, and read in their library. This library was provided by the G’L-Doses to Sunflower upon her request, one of the few requests honored by the G.D.s. It contained all sorts of Romantic and adventure stories, which Moon devoured.

Moon and Frodo meet Ira in the Zoo
Moon and Frodo meet Ira in the Zoo

As he grew older, he sought out the companionship of Ira, a completely debauched fuzzy alien who had no interest in Moonshadow at all. However, Moon saw him as a sort of father figure, and kept pursuing him, eventually offering him alien porn from the library. At this gift, Ira finally consented to Moon’s presence.

Major Story Arcs

Innocence Lost

Moon’s Journey to Awakening, as he termed it in his old age (the story of Moonshadow is narrated by himself when he is an old man), begins when his father, the G’L-Doses, appears to him for the first time and says it is time for the fourteen-year-old Moon to leave. He teleports Moon, Ira, Sunflower, and Frodo to a space ship, the Decrepit, with the traditional G’L-Doses sound effects, Pop! Poof! Ping! Moon mans the helm and excitedly takes them in search of adventure.

After a few weeks they run into a group of ships fleeing the Kickapoo Cluster, because it has been infested by the Pewkadook Plague. The craven Ira wants to leave immediately, but Sunflower insists they help anyone in need. Moon listens to his mother and takes them in to a planet beaming out a distress signal. They find a sick alien inside, about to give birth. Sunflower feels empathy for the alien woman, and helps deliver the child, but tragically it is a monster, and in its first act gnaws through Sheila Fay’s guts. They retreat to the ship, but she is mortally wounded. She gives Moon her flute, which was originally Mad Aunt Ettie’s, and which is a symbol of art, life, and spirit. Then she dies. This is the first of many steps in the loss of Moon’s innocence and Romantic ideals, and the first of many deaths that he will encounter. It is his fifteenth birthday. His father appears, cruelly smiles, and disappears.

Moon and Jobidiah
Moon and Jobidiah

Moon insists on giving her a lavish funeral, and they bring her body to the mall world of Gimmegimme, which is run by the odious Unkshuss family. They decide on the Jobidiah Unkshuss’s Funeral Palace. Ira, who doesn’t care about Moon or Sunflower, sees a chance to escape with the ship, and secretly manipulates the hired mourners at the funeral, causing a riot. Moon goes nuts at the blasphemy (having already been in a vulnerable state of mind, during which he saw the ghosts of both his mother and Aunt Ettie), and is caught by some of Jobidiah’s other employees.

They bring him to the Jobidiah Unkshuss Home for Miscreants and Madmen, an insane asylum. There he meets a number of menacing aliens, and also someone claiming to be King Macha, ruler of the interplanetary empire in which they were being held. While there, he saw his father again; like before, he smiled and disappeared with a Poof!

Meanwhile Ira realizes that he can’t leave on the Decrepit because Moon had put it in hock to pay for the funeral. Ira breaks Moon out so he can work and pay off the ship’s bill. Moon, not realizing that Ira was responsible for the chaos at the funeral, is overjoyed at seeing Ira. Ira, however, doesn’t care about Moon except as a means to an end, and works Moon to the bone in menial jobs for little money—then spends it on booze and women. Finally the both realize they need to make a big score—but they can only do that through theft. Ira doesn’t care, but Sunflower had made it clear to Moon that theft was unacceptable. Ira beats him into submission, and Moon begins to understand Ira’s lack of reciprocal feelings towards him.

They steal a famous egg, but are chased by the police. Ira knocks out Moon in an attempt to avoid being caught, and Moon is faced with Ira’s complete betrayal; he feels entirely bereft. His Aunt Ettie’s ghost appears to him once again, and flies him over the city, offering him the comfort of madness. Moon rejects her offer, however, still feeling the need to Dream. He wanders into a cordon of police, who have already caught Ira, and is captured himself.

War

The two are given the choice between two hundred years in jail, or joining the Machovian army in its war against Goyimia. Moon, still full of Romantic ideas about war, joins happily; Ira, less so. They become part of a squad led by Sergeant Chesterbarrel, along with Rigarollo, Horntoad, and others. (Frodo the cat continues to follow, now and throughout their adventures.) Their mission is to go to the planet of Bingbangboom and find the scientist Lord Gaylord, who is said to have made a doomsday weapon that could destroy either empire.

Chesterbarrel, Ira, and Moon eventually find Gaylord, who turns out to be running a peace commune for those against the war. He hasn’t actually created a doomsday weapon, but allows the Machovians and Goyimians to think he has, so they will leave him alone. Chesterbarrel stays, but Moon still believes in the swashbuckling nature of war, and Ira thinks the commune is just another Zoo, so they leave.

Moon sees his father
Moon sees his father

The squad moves on to the war’s front, on Tsuris. There, Moon loses his Romantic ideas very quickly, and comes to adopt his mother’s own antiwar attitude. (Not only is his mother a hippie, but two of her friends and lovers died in the army in the Vietnam era, so she is fervently against war.) The squad is quickly wounded in a bloody battle, and its members separated; Moon is near death. For the third time, Moon’s father appears without saying a word, and leaves.

Moon sees a vision of his namesake, the poet Moonshadow, who was Sunflower’s lover, and killed in Vietnam. He leads Moon through the battlefield until they find Ira. Sunflower’s ghost joins them as well. They keep him company as he walks among the dead. It is unclear whether the ghosts that Moonshadow sees throughout his journey—the elder Moonshadow, Aunt Ettie, and Sunflower—are in fact real ghosts, hallucinations in Moon’s mind, or avatars of the G’L-Doses. In this case, however, Moonshadow the elder seems to transform into Moon’s G’L-Doses father. This time, he acts: he teleports Moon and Ira into the presence of some Goyimian soldiers, who capture them. As with all G.D. actions, it is hard to say whether it is intended to help or hurt: they are captured by their enemies, but on the other hand they are saved from a lingering death from their wounds.

They are brought to a concentration camp, where they are reunited with Rigarollo and Horntoad. Moon swoons into delirium, and his friends have to protect him from the other prisoners. In fact, Ira actually bites the arm off a prisoner who wanted to hurt Moon; this is his first act of friendship towards Moon, and marks a change in attitude towards him. From now on. Ira is still gruff, but more protective and tender as well.

Moon and his flute
Moon and his flute

Moon later comes in contact with Darkmeister Ebann, the head of the camp. Ebann somehow sees something in Moonshadow as well, and has him play his flute for him, lightening the burden of his duties in the camp. Soon Moon recruits the rest of his squad to put on plays for Ebann, and it seems like they have some hope after all. However, when Moon asks for clemency for all the prisoners, Ebann seems to realized that he has gone too far, and instead sentences Moon and his friends to death.

When they hang above some boiling vats, ready to be dropped in, Moon sees the elder Moonshadow’s ghost again, who helps him come to peace with himself as he faces death.

Ira is dropped into a vat, but the G’L-Doses once again intervene, and magically enhance his fart of fear so that it launches him out of the pot, and destroys the rest of the deadly apparatus. This time, several G.D.s appear. They release all the prisoners, and bind the guards. Darkmeister Ebann dies from the explosion, to Moon’s regret.

Palace Intrigues

Ira is made a hero from his role in the escape, and the rest of the squad as well. They are given medals and sent to the royal palace.

Moon and Macha
Moon and Macha

They are feted, and for the first time since leaving the Zoo, things are looking up for Moon and Ira. They meet the King, who turns out to be the same alien Moon met in the Home for Miscreants and Madmen; apparently he periodically goes insane and is sent away for a while. His wife is Queen Dibbich. They both happily take to Ira and Moon, who becomes the nanny to their children.

However, they also meet the Unkshuss family, who are the real power behind the throne. In addition to Jobidiah, there is his brother Mobidiah, a thug, his sister Flobidiah, and their father Pobidiah, who rules the economic and religious aspects of the empire. It is they who send Macha away to the asylum.

They take an interest in Ira, and ply him with alcohol and women until they manage to persuade him to go on a tour promoting his heroic role in the war. He leaves (as did Rigarollo and Horntoad before), so once again Moon’s friends are taken from him, although in this case at least he still has the King and Queen’s family, whom he does love very much.

Moon also starts having to deal with an all-new problem for him—the prurient attentions of the Lady Shady. Shady is a member of the court who has slept with almost everyone else on the court, with a seeming compulsion beyond healthy desires. She turns her attention to Moon, but he avoids it with the nervousness of a randy but Romantically pure-at-heart teen. He has also seen her wandering the grounds many times at night, wailing “why?” in despair, so he wonders if there is something behind her amorousness.

One night Macha wakes Moon up and brings him to his library. Moon is entranced until he realizes that all the books are about Pobidiah, who has banned all other books. However, Macha has hidden two books, The Gospel of Shree Quack-Quack H’onnka and Ragstone Phillit’s We Are All Ants in a Meaningless Cosmos, which debate the question of god and meaning in life. They read them and get drunk, reveling in their rebellion, until Moon sees Shady. She takes him back to her room and attempts to seduce him.

However, Sunflower’s ghost appears, and doesn’t approve, due to Shady’s desperate state of mind. Moon unhappily runs off, to find Pobidiah waiting for him. He has sent Macha back to the asylum. And soon Shady turns back up, with a rape accusation against Moon. Clearly she doesn’t want to say it, but is being blackmailed or controlled by Pobidiah. Moon is forced to leave the castle.

On the Run

Moon is exiled and on the streets of Gimmgimme, but Pobidiah has told all the businesses of the planet that they can’t serve him, so h can’t get a job or even eat. Luckily he runs into Lord Gaylord, who has just tricked Machovia and Goyimia to end the war. He decided to tell both empires that he would use his fake doomsday weapon against them unless they declared peace, and so they did. This angers Pobidiah, who had started the war, in order to maximize his profits, in the first place.

Moon and Gaylord celebrate until they come across the body of Lady Shady, who has committed suicide. Clearly she couldn’t live with her role in Moon’s banishment. Moon is once again harrowed by death.

Gaylord, however, takes Moon under his wing and brings him back to his home planet of Pillbox. It is a beautiful pastoral place, and his friends and family all welcome Moon, including his maid, Mrs. Flimflam, and her niece, Bettina. She is younger than Moon, and helps him get back in touch with his younger self after all his hardship. Moon also loved his long philosophical talks with Gaylord, who was obsessed with the same two books (H’oonka’s and Phillit’s) as Macha. Moon became equally concerned with the question of whether life has meaning or not, as exemplified in the G’L-Doses’ random acts of violence and healing. His Romantic leanings inclined him towards H’onnka, but his doubts were growing, due to his experiences with death, betrayal, and the Unkshusses.

Moon turns sixteen, and for the first time in a while, is visited by his G.D. father, who shows him a vision of Ira behind bars. Moon feels that he has to rescue his friend, and takes off, leaving a note for his adopted family. He goes to a used-ship lot to get transportation off-world, and miraculously manages to buy back the Decrepit. He and Frodo find that Ira has been traveling the galaxy giving speeches about the war. When Moon sees one, he can’t believe that the anti-war Ira would give such a bellicose talk, full of exaggerations of his role. Again he feels betrayed. Moon confronts him, but Ira seems scared and shrinks back. Moon runs off, confused. He spies on Ira and finds out that Mobidiah Unkshuss has been mind-controlling him through a special helmet, not to mention physically torturing him, drugging his food, and forcing him to live in a cage.

Moon gets ready to break him out, and is aided by Flobidiah, who seems to pity Ira. It turns out that she is the “black sheep” in her family, in the sense that she is the only one who is not evil. Moon gets Ira out, and Mobidiah beats Flobidiah for her “treachery."

Ira is physically and psychically scarred, however, and it takes a long time before Moon is able to get him out of a catatonic state, partly through the use of his flute. As they fly through space, they run into a giant group of G’L-Doses, a clear sign that something important would happen—but what? They G.D.s stick out their tongues and disappear.

Moon and Bettina talk about the explosion
Moon and Bettina talk about the explosion

They return to Pillbox, but to Moon’s horror, Gaylord’s home has been destroyed by an explosion. Apparently Gaylord’s experiments went wrong and killed him and his partner. Luckily Bettina and Mrs. Flimflam survived, but Moon, in his pain, refuses to go to the funeral (having had such a terrible experience at his mother’s), and leaves.

Moon is dragged off for his deflowering
Moon is dragged off for his deflowering

Ira takes over the piloting of the Decrepit while Moon sinks into despair once more. He takes them to the Interplanetary House of Tarts (I.H.O.T.), a brothel, where he has booked Moon with one of the ladies for the night. This time, Sunflower does not appear, and while Moon has to be literally dragged to the room due to his sexual panic, he happily completes the act once he is there.

Ira, however, was there to salve his psychic wounds, much as the Lady Shady had tried to solve her own problems through sex before, and is in his room for more than a week, causing havoc among the employees. Finally he emerges, somewhat healed, but also clearly still having difficulties with his sense of self.

Conclusions

Moon and Ira are arrested by Pobidiah’s men at I.H.O.T. and brought to his dungeons. On the way, Ira tells Moon several contradictory stories about his early life, each completely different, but all filled with pain and desire. Moon believes all of them and none of them.

They are chained up, and Pobidiah, acting as grand inquisitor of his own religion, demands they admit their sins against him. They refuse; Moon laughs with a pure cynicism that he has only recently grown into. However, when Pobidiah threatens Ira, Moon still begs for his friend’s safety, and Pobidiah knows that Moon is still the same pure boy that he can’t accept underneath.

He leaves them alone, and Moon starts having visitations from the dead: his mother, Mad Aunt Ettie, and his namesake, the elder Moonshadow. He has lost his desire to Dream, and rejects all of them in turn. Finally his father appears, and Moon begs for help, saying that he owes them, which his father rejects in turn, laughing.

Moon decides to shoot Pobidiah
Moon decides to shoot Pobidiah

When Pobidiah returns, he admits that he was the one who destroyed Gaylord’s house. When Pobidiah puts a gun to Moon’s head, Ira rips out of the chains in anger and Moon picks up the gun, shooting Pobidiah. This is the first time he has tried to kill anyone (Pobidiah barely survives), and he is horrified with himself.

Luckily Flobidiah and Queen Dibbich are able to rescue them from the dungeons. Flobidiah’s love for Ira becomes clear. The other Unkshusses are locked up, and Dibbich takes the throne. Things seem to have all worked out…but Ira’s health grows worse.

Then they receive a surprise letter from Lord Gaylord, saying that he is alive, and has found the long-lost mystic Shree Quack-Quack H’onnka. Moon, Ira, Flobidiah, and Frodo leave to find him on the fabled World of Mists. Moon doubts everything: Gaylord’s survival, the existence of H’onnka, whether there is any meaning in life.

Moon's Awakening
Moon's Awakening

They find the planet, but not Gaylord or H’onnka, only pilgrims who have been wandering around for decades. They camp in a cave, and Ira gets more and more sick. One day, someone gives Ira some fruit…it is perhaps H’onnka himself, but the others miss him. Then Ira dies. Moon’s pain is intense, and he throws away his mother’s flute. Then Flobidiah leaves as well, going off in search of H’onnka.

Moon sees his mother again, and she leads him into a mystic experience. There is a bright light. He walks over a tightrope, as he feels he has done since birth, and soars through the cosmos, landing with a crash back in the cave, with the flute in his lap. He sees a misty cave, and flashes of everyone and everything important in his life. There is a classic G’L-Doses Pop! Poof! Ping! Finally he emerges, piping William Blake’s “Song of Innocence” on his flute, having made peace with himself, and completed his Journey to Awakening.

Middle Age

Moon in middle age
Moon in middle age

Several years later, Moon is once again in an existential period of life. He returns to Pillbox, Gaylord’s planet, and sets up shop as a tinker. He lives a low-key life. The only person who recognizes him is Bettina, who is now grown up. She loves him, and wants to speak to him, but can’t bring herself to do it. Simultaneously, he realizes who she is, and watches her surreptitiously as well. They are both full of fear and desire.

Moon and Bettina
Moon and Bettina

Finally Mrs. Flimflam barges in to Moon’s shop and forces him to talk to Bettina. They soon marry, and have four children: Mia, Charles, Charlotte, and Katherine. Their life was happy and full of love. Eventually Mrs. Flimflam died; continuing his tradition, Moon refused to go to the funeral.

Then one day, a freak storm killed the whole family, except Moonshadow and Frodo.

In his blackest anguish, he tried to kill himself several times, but each time the attempt went wrong, as if it was impossible for him to die before his time. He did everything he cold to destroy or debase his life.

Eventually, he gambled his way into riches, and ran a house where he allowed anyone to live, especially those on the outskirts of society: the poor, mothers, children, prostitutes. He felt the compulsion for compassion, but it pained him, and he could not admit who he was to himself.

One night he is visited by a G’L-Doses, and it brings him back to sanity and joy. It gives him back his mother’s flute. He takes it and pipes a song through the town. The many outcasts that have lived with him, and that live in town, follow him to a new location outside (perhaps the village where Gaylord lived), and they all settle there together, under his aegis.

Old Age

As an old man
As an old man

By his old age, Moonshadow has become a famous personage in the universe. Numerous books and other works of art have been made about him. He narrates his own early life, as seen and described in the original series. In the series, he is often shown with various women and children, especially at the end, where he is making a painting of several children. Originally it seems that these are his own children, but based on the end of Farewell Moonshadow, presumably they are from the many families that he cares for on Pillbox.

Moon's apotheosis
Moon's apotheosis

At a birthday party when he is very old, he is still surrounded by many people of all ages. He is in a wheelchair, and Frodo (who has lived far longer than a cat’s normal lifespan) still sits on his lap. An unknown woman (perhaps Bettina?) comes up and kisses him, and gives him a snowglobe with a happy family inside.

He blows out the candle on his cake and dies. Then he slowly turns into a G’L-Doses and rises into the air, Frodo balancing on his head. They merge into the moon.

Textual Ambiguities

Towards the end of the original Moonshadow series, in Farewell Moonshadow, and in the interview with JM Dematteis and Jon J Muth in the final Vertigo reprint of the original series, it becomes clear that the older Moonshadow’s narration of his younger life may not be accurate. He may be an unreliable narrator.

Some of the recaps in the original series imply that he isn’t always telling the truth, for instance in issue 8, a character who has been listening to the elder Moon says “I have come to see, at long last…how true his lies were.” In Farewell Moonshadow, the elder Moon at his party is surrounded by objects that are related to his story, but seem different in key characteristics, such as a classic wood ship in a bottle with the title The Decrepit. When the woman comes up to kiss him, it seems that perhaps she might be Bettina, in which case she wasn’t killed (although it is also possible she is someone else).

In the interview, the creators are more explicit. Muth says, “I really like what Marc [Dematteis] had said at one point: that maybe all of this stuff was made up, or in fact, all of this stuff about Moonshadow is made up.” Dematteis continues, “Yeah, my feeling was, and I didn’t discover this until issue #10, that he was lying! I really truly didn’t know, and then one day I realized he’s making this all up. He’s taking the essence of his life and he’s turning it into a fairlytale. So we really don’t know what the real details of Moonshadow’s life were—we just know what he told us in the original story.”

So in essence, all of the above description of Moonshadow’s life is not what actually happened, but it is the way he described his life to others.

Fictional Books about Moonshadow

The Memoirs of Moonshadow (Intergalactic Digest Condensed Version and Intergalactic Digest New, Improved, Super-Condensed Version), by Moonshadow

Moonshadow: A Life? (Intergalactic Digest Version), by E. Oreo Lurrio

Waiting for Moonshadow: A Play, by Bistro P. Blackhole

Lies and Enlightenment (Intergalactic Digest Relatively Condensed Version), by Master Puckumtuck

Moonshadow in the Arts, by Clive Canniby Satreva

Remembering Moonshadow (Intergalactic Digest Condensed Version), by Liam O’Filligreen

The Gospel (Sort-Of) According to Moonshadow (Intergalactic Digest Moderately Condensed Version), by Saint Herbert

Musical theater song: “The Ballad of Moonshadow,” by Adolf Berrigram and Harrendiss Thwart

Powers & Abilities

Moon has an enhanced lifespan, even after leaving the Zoo. He lives for well over a hundred years. Based on his failed attempts at suicide, it may be that his life was charmed by the G’L-Doses, and that he could not die before his time.

Presumably, upon his mortal death, after which he becomes a G’L-Doses like his father, he gains all the many reality-warping powers of that race.

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