It may be an understatement to say that Alan Moore is quite the fan of poet, artist, occultist and author William Blake. He often quotes and alludes to Blake in his work, notably the titling of the symmetrical Rorschach story in Watchmen as Tyger Tyger, V quoting Blake's Jerusalem in V for Vendetta, is riven through From Hell, including once scene where Gull tries to explain Blake to his footman, Netley, even titling his second novel Jerusalem.
He has performed spoken word performances, focused on and dedicated to William Blake, Highbury Working and Angel Passage. He has spoken to the Tate Museum about his relationship with William Blake's The Ghost Of A Flea, and has written for the Royal Academy on Blake's contempt of Isaac Newton,
And today, ahead of a new exhibition at Tate Britain, and a new volume to accompany it, he has written for the Guardian newspaper, picking up on aspects common in Moore's work, about the power of place in creation. And the place that William Blake was born, grew up, lived, worked – and saw ghosts. Which he painted.
As imagined by the Lambeth angel whisperer, the threatening and somehow smug abomination is theatrical in its demeanour, consciously performing for the viewer. Glossed by Blake, the flea is the transposed soul of a murderer trapped in a form that, while both bloodthirsty and powerful, is too small to become a mighty engine of destruction. Thus condemned, it struts its miniature domain and makes a swaggering display of cruelties that it can no longer accomplish. With nothing save an acorn cap to represent its drinking bowl of blood, with nothing but a thorn to serve as improvised prison yard shiv, this former demon is demoted and no longer dangerous. In its fallen state, more mischievous than malefic now, the has-been homicidal maniac is almost poignant.
Framed by threadbare curtains with a plunging star upon its painted backdrop, something in the monster's owl-like stare and heavy posture led me to recruit it as a premonition of Sir William Withey Gull, the posited Jack the Ripper in From Hell, my work with Eddie Campbell.
From an earlier exhibition
The William Blake exhibition is at Tate Britain, London SW1P, from 11 September.