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A hammer to shape reality: Alan Moore's graphic novels and the avant-gardes

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Alan Moore's graphic novels have marked essential standpoints in the history of narrative iconical genres. Works like Watchmen or V for Vendetta helped reorient the 1980s Anglo-American comic book into the graphic novels of the 1990s by pushing the boundaries of the comic-book genre into the realm of postmodernity. Moore's graphic novels depict characters that are suffocated by the grand narratives of capitalist societies, Orwellian dystopias and totalizing ideologies. In this vein, his works may be placed in the context of postmodernist thinking postulated by Jean-François Lyotard, Jean Baudrillard or Fredric Jameson. However, the rebellious attitude shown in his narratives against those globalizing definitions of the self and homogenizing social orders strongly recalls the efforts of the early twentieth-century avant-gardes to provoke their bourgeois audiences into action by fostering their radical distaste. The aim of this article is to consider certain examples of Alan Moore's graphic novels as direct inheritors of the committed ideology and technical experimentalism proposed by avant-garde movements at the beginning of the twentieth century. As Brecht famously argued, 'art is not a mirror to reflect the world, but a hammer with which to shape it'. This article will thus centre on Moore's works that best reflect the same experimental spirit of revolutionary art forms fostered by Cubism, Modernism, Futurism and other European avant-garde movements. These movements, by using the power of artistic creation, called audiences to social action against the rising fascist discourses of the first decades of the twentieth century. It is my contention that graphic novels like Lost Girls, Watchmen, From Hell and V for Vendetta connect with the recovery of avant-garde ethics and aesthetics, and seem to renew their attacks against the moral double standard of bourgeois, accommodated social classes. Then, Moore's graphic novels raise public awareness and serve as social denunciation, becoming, at certain moments, examples of intellectual terrorism against the status quo.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-07-01

More about this publication?
  • Studies in Comics aims to describe the nature of comics, to identify the medium as a distinct art form, and to address the medium's formal properties. The emerging field of comics studies is a model for interdisciplinary research and in this spirit this journal welcomes all approaches. This journal is international in scope and provides an inclusive space in which researchers from all backgrounds can present new thinking on comics to a global audience. The journal will promote the close analysis of the comics page/text using a variety of methodologies. Its specific goal, however, is to expand the relationship between comics and theory and to articulate a "theory of comics". The journal also includes reviews of new comics, criticism, and exhibitions, and a dedicated online space for cutting-edge and emergent creative work.

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