Tag Archives: 2000AD

The Alan Moore Jerusalem interview tapes, #10: ‘Doctor Manhattan was right on time’

16 Oct
watchmen-doctor-manhattan-page

Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, published by DC. Through the God-like superpowers given to him, Doctor Manhattan sees all time as simultaneous. It took Moore a while to catch on

Following my interview feature on Alan Moore’s Jerusalem, I’ve been posting edited highlights from the 30,000-word interview transcript. The last excerpt was the weighty topic of what really happened on 9/11. Today, we get to a key part of the thinking behind Jerusalem: that we are living in an Einsteinean block universe where everything that will happen has already happened. Time is fixed, and it’s only our perception of it that makes it appear linear.

Though Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen experiences all time as simultaneous, it was only a decade later, Alan Moore says, that he realised his fiction was fact…

Alan Moore: “When I had my first what I believe to be magical experience with Steve Moore, in January 1994, I remember having this absolute crystalline understanding that time was a solid and that nobody was going anywhere. And then, almost as soon as I had thought that, I thought, ‘but you’ve been writing about this for years!’

“There’s William Gull in From Hell, there’s Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen, there’s those early Time Twisters and Future Shocks in 2000AD, one of which has got some people exploring the remote edges of the universe looking for alien life, and all of a sudden one of them seems possessed by an idea, that he keeps trying to explain to other people, and they gradually kind of get a weird smile on their face, and this is all told from the POV of one of the crew who’s watching it happening, who finally realises, what if an idea could be an alien life form? And what if it could just propagate itself, and the only snatch of conversation you ever get to hear is one of the people talking to an initiated person, and he’s saying ‘So if all of time is simultaneous, then…’ You only hear the first few words?

“And at the end of the story, all the people have converged on the narrator, because he’s the last one, and at the end he’s saying, ‘Well of course I realise how silly I was being, and it really is very very simple: you see, if all of time is simultaneous, then…’ And at that point the editor comes in and says we’re going to stop this story here because we think it’s a bit dangerous.

“At that moment in 1994, I thought, well, actually, that is appropriate. I’m only just understanding the concept now. But if time really is as I think it is, there is no reason ripples shouldn’t go out both ways, that it’s like, I suspect some of those early references might have been pre-memories. I don’t know. But it was an idea that had clearly come to me at some point.

“What with the idea of time is a solid, what I was thinking is that if Einstein is saying this a four-dimensional universe, dimensions are measurements,  they’re not like – since Mr. Mxyzptlk, Superman’s foe, came from the fifth dimension, everyone thinks of dimensions as spooky places, like the Phantom Zone or the Twilight Zone, but no, dimensions are measurements, so the fourth dimension is a physical dimension like the other three. We know there has to be a fourth dimension because Einstein tells us space-time is curved. That is to say that the three regulars have another one that they are curved in.

“Now, as I understand it, the fourth dimension is not time. Rather, time is the way we perceive our passage through time. In reality, if this is a four-dimensional universe, or a universe of at least four dimensions, what we are talking about is a solid block in which everything is eternal and unchanging, in which there is no movement and no change except that which we perceive, as our consciousness travels along the filament that is how we are represented in space-time: a kind of filament I imagine a bit like a centipede, lots of arms and legs [vividly described in Jerusalem]; one end of it is in genetic slime, the other end in cremated dust, but those are just the extremities, like your feet or the top of your head. All the other bits, we are alive.

“And when we get to the end of our filament, I would say there is nowhere for that consciousness to go but back to the beginning, so that would be something we experience countless millions of times, but each time it also felt like the first time, because that was how it had felt the first time, and that will never change, except for those brief moments of déjà vu.”

Jerusalem is out now in hardback from Knockabout in the UK and Liveright in the US. For the full interview feature, click here. Come back tomorrow to discover how Moore’s theory changes how we should think about life, the universe and everything

The Future Shock doc, and how I lived for 2000AD

4 Dec

2000AD

When I started reading the “galaxy’s greatest comic” back in 1977, its title – 2000AD – seemed wildly exotic. At a time when the Sex Pistols were shouting “No Future”, this promised to take us to the 21st century, and beyond.

Obviously its founders never expected the comic to last this long, or they would have chosen a different title. Yet here we are, well into the 21st century, and the comic is not only still being published, but is the subject of a celebratory documentary. Future Shock: The Story of 2000AD screens tomorrow at the Genesis Cinema Whitechapel and is out on DVD on Monday.

2000AD was, in those days, funny, violent, and violently funny, written and drawn by fearless and ridiculously talented Brits who would go on to revolutionise the US comics industry and, indirectly, Hollywood –and my  passion for it passed all reasonable understanding. I looked forward to each new issue as teens today might anticipate the next season of Game of Thrones, or the new Grand Theft Auto.

The first thing I did on graduating from Oxford was to hole up in my bedroom for six months writing a (bloody good) role-playing multiple-choice gamebook based on Judge Dredd. I had an agent (AM Heath); a publisher (Penguin); and an agreement from the then editor of 2000AD to license the character with a royalty split. Sadly a new MD swept in, summarily cancelled that permission on the grounds that they were not interested in pursuing anything like a gamebook – and then less than a year later published their own gamebook series called Dice Man, using several ideas that bore a startling similarity (no doubt entirely coincidental) to my own.

Welcome to the real world, fan boy.

So instead of becoming an author, I went into journalism. Comics became my “in”: I acquired a regular review slot in London’s Alternative Magazine, and when I joined Time Out as a sub-editor, I successfully pitched a number of comics-related features – mostly with 2000AD alumni such as Alan Moore – as well as putting the Judge Dredd movie on the cover and using Jamie Hewlett and Brian Bolland as illustrators. At one stage I was sounded out about perhaps becoming the next Mighty Tharg, 2000AD’s editor, which nearly made my head explode – but I was committed to Time Out, and became its editor soon after.

All of which is by way of saying that I might not be the most impartial judge of the Future Shock doc. All the same, to read my review from when it was first screened at the BFI London Film Festival, click here.

And if there are any other fans out there, I still have boxes and boxes of 2000AD, almost the full set from two decades starting in about 1978. If anyone’s interested in buying, get in touch.

One final aside – if you see someone playing poker online under the handle Aaron A Aardvark, that’s me. It you can identify the reference, show the world you’re a clever dick and leave a Comment.

 

 

 

Shia LaBeouf’s plagiarism scandal – and how history repeats itself

17 Dec

Yesterday, actor Shia LaBeouf admitted plagiarising a short comic strip by Daniel Clowes. “In my excitement and naiveté as an amateur filmmaker, I got lost in the creative process and neglected to follow proper accreditation,” he Tweeted after Buzzfeed broke the story that his short film HowardCantour.com bore uncanny similarities to Clowes’ Justin M. Damiano, including word-for-word dialogue.

“Im [sic] embarrassed that I failed to credit @danielclowes for his original graphic novella Justin M. Damiano, which served as my inspiration,” he continued, even though in past interviews he gave the distinct impression he had come up with the script himself. He closed with a simple, “I f***ed up.”

People are scratching their heads that he ever thought he could get away with it: Clowes is hardly unknown in Hollywood, having written Ghost World and Art School Confidential. But then again there was a much more extreme case, back in 1990, that I broke while at Time Out.

We’d received a tip-off from a comics fan (Alan Jones, I think) that the forthcoming Brit sci-fi flick Hardware (below left) bore a striking resemblance to a four-page strip in a 2000AD comic (below right). So I set up a classic journalistic sting.

I dug out a copy of the comic from my boxes (finally, a purpose for my hoarding!), and wrote out a synopsis of the strip, which was about a killer robot accidentally activated inside a home. I told our Sidelines editor, Alix Sharkey, to call the producer of Hardware and say that we were planning a story on the film, but wanted to make sure we had the story down correctly.

He then read out my synopsis of the comic strip. Throughout, the producer went uh-huh, yep, that’s the plot of our film all right, until the end when he said there were a few extra minutes Alix had missed out. Only then did Alix tell him he’d just agreed that Hardware was exactly the same plot as a comic strip. A long, lo-o-o-o-ong pause ensued. Then: “Can I get back to you on that?”

I later heard from the strip’s writer, Steve MacManus, that he and artist Kevin O’Neill were subsequently offered a cash settlement (way too low in my opinion given that Miramax were involved in the film, but Steve seemed delighted), plus a credit, which you’ll still see on IMDB. Writer/director Richard Stanley, a known comics fan, was even vaguer in his apologies than LaBeouf: “The story came to me in a dream,” he insisted, and even in a recent 2009 interview he downplayed the connection.

But we know better, Richard… and so, bizarrely, should La Beouf, who is one of Hollywood’s biggest actors – even if not, apparently, one of its biggest thinkers.