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The Moore film adaptations and the erotic-grotesque

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The grotesque, a staple of the comic book vernacular is a defining characteristic of Alan Moore's graphic literature. Moore's work often transcends the traditional grotesque and blends this aesthetic with erotic elements, evoking the subversive spirit of the carnival, foregrounding bodily transformation, deformation and the connection between interior bodily functions and the external world. Bakhtin describes this 'festival of the body' as essential to an understanding of the literary and artistic carnivalesque. Moore's literary take on the erotic-grotesque adds resonance to some of his central themes such as invisible connections between class, gender, social groups and moral opposites. His artistic collaborators have expressed this effectively throughout Moore's literary oeuvre. Unfortunately, the film adaptations of Moore's work tend to de-emphasize this critical aspect. I assert that the artistic success or failure of the Moore film adaptations rest to a large extent on the degree to which they grapple with the erotic-grotesque. From Hell (2001), which I argue is the most successful cinematic adaptation of Moore's literature in these terms, retains the essence of Moore's erotic-grotesque sensibilities even while altering much of the principal narrative and themes. By contrast, the film adaptation of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) also alters the narrative and characterization to a great extent, but also removes much of the novel's sense of the erotic-grotesque. This omission, I argue, is the key element that leads to the film's relative artistic failure. A truly satisfying cinematic adaptation of a Moore novel, therefore, must embrace this key element of his literature.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-07-01

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  • 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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