Simon "Si" Spurrier, novelist and comics writer, has worked for Marvel, DC, 2000AD and Avatar Press, developing an increasingly carnivalesque slate of publications that tend toward the bizarre and thought-provoking. For Avatar Press, he wrote over 1,000 pages on the Crossed: Wish You Were Here storyline that appeared as a long-running web series, and now has been collected in trade editions. He currently does the same with the series Disenchanted, featuring beleaguered fairy folk in an underground city of their own beneath London, plagued by drug abuse and internecine warfare. And when the great comics writer Alan Moore, already interested in the series Crossed via long conversations with friend and creator of the series, Garth Ennis, read Spurrier's work, it further cemented his decision to write a series within the Crossed universe himself.
Moore's six-issue series with Gabriel Andrade on art, Crossed: +100 was announced by Avatar Press yesterday, and this is what Simon Spurrier wrote in response to this revelation:
Crossed is a problematic piece of work to feel proud about. I wrote about that recently just HERE (in an uncomfortably honest sort of way, now that I come to read it back). The premise, as hard-baked by Garth Ennis in that first, 2007 miniseries, is this: an apocalyptic epidemic of infectious sadism has turned the world upside down.
That's the sort of narrative conceit which will simply never be for everyone. As a writer, reconciling oneself to the material's divisiveness (that is: you know some people will hate it before you've even begun) doesn't make it any easier to approach with your A-game engaged. Trying to write something which is tacitly horrifying with honesty and integrity is, I've learnt, also an exercise in exploring your own boundaries. (Of enthusiasm as much as acceptability.)
There is a spectrum of narrative transgression. That's always been the discourse surrounding Crossed, with all its spinoffs and "big-world/small-story" mentality: where does value stop and gratuitousness begin? "YMMV", as the Internets would say. In such a subjective framework it's quite possible for one's conscience to be clear (mine almost is, I think; I look on my work in the Crossed universe with nine parts pride to one part discomfort) and yet still to be regarded as a morally bankrupt pedlar of filth by some. By many.
I mention all this not in some masturbatory violin-playing Please Pity Me sort of way, but because it strikes me that if there's one person for whom all these thoughts and concerns will be very familiar – will in fact appear as instruments of exploration rather than articles of self-flagellation – it's Alan Moore.
He too exists in a world of narrative transgression, and I mean that in a far more meta sense than you may think. He too is regarded as a pedlar of filth by some – yes, by many – and in the light of all those burnt bridges, public disagreements, fuck-yous aimed at the pullers-of-strings, and his simple propensity for acknowledging painful truths in painful ways, you'd struggle to find someone more naturally divisive.
(Actually, that shouldn't be true. Because wherever your boundaries of acceptability lie, the mechanism by which horror is given value – the mechanism by which it avoids straying into gratuitousness – is this: intelligence.)
You don't have to like Alan Moore, the man, to know he's fabulously, inventively, laterally and uniquely clever. You don't have to agree with every opinion he seems to espouse to recognise that every fiction he's ever crafted has been engineered with more thought, research, care, wisdom, humour and precision than you'll ever find in the social codes that regulate your own reality. You don't need to have an inbuilt fascination with (say) superheroes, Jack the Ripper, children's fiction, mythology, HP Lovecraft, or any one of the countless other subjects he's tackled over the years, to recognise that his particular genius – his magic – lies in adjustments of perspective. Transforming the familiar-but-esoteric into the compelling. Slicing open the guts of that which is impenetrable and then presenting it – without a trace of complexity or nuance lost – as a journey worth taking.
Other writers hint at their cleverness through a lens of smirking mysteries, Alan invites you in for a cup of tea and lets you poke his with a sharp stick. You don't have to think he's right to think he's Right.
Likewise, you don't have to enjoy horrific things to find value in horror fiction. And you don't have to like Crossed to know Alan's take on it will be very, very interesting indeed.