The War To End All Wars


I won't try to dress this up excessively – this is one of those "promote your Kickstarter on Bleeding Cool" posts. In this case, it's a Kickstarter to help fund the writing of The Last War in Albion, a blog-based critical epic history of British comic books focusing on the Alan Moore/Grant Morrison rivalry. You can read what's already written here and, if you like it, contribute to the Kickstarter here. It's good stuff – Kieron Gillen proclaims it "by far my favorite piece of comic criticism being written today." And we all love Kieron Gillen.

Right, so, let's talk a bit about the project, shall we?

The Alan Moore/Grant Morrison rivalry is, of course, any comic site's go-to topic for generating traffic. So much so that it's become a sort of comics tabloid topic, dominated by the fundamental absurdity of there being two acclaimed British occultist comic book writers in the first place, little yet two who get along so poorly. There is, it seems, little to do but add to an already towering pile of accusations, snipes, and bitterness, typically with a lengthy forum thread in which everybody involved is accused of ripping each other off ruthlessly and of having never had an original idea. That's the trouble with tried and true clickbait – there's often very little to say.

This explains why I've written 120,000 words about the topic already on my blog, and am probably going to end up well north of a million words when all is said and done.

Actually, I suppose it doesn't really, does it? OK, let's try again.

For all the volumes of stupid that have been written about this feud, the central question is actually pretty interesting. Why the hell are there acclaimed two British occultist comic book writers who came up within a few years of each other and hate each other's guts? And that's what The Last War in Albion exists to explore. It's a sprawling, massive work of comics criticism that tries to take these two colorful characters seriously. So no easy jokes about doing lots of drugs or snake worship here. Nor, crucially, any hero worship. It recognizes that Moore and Morrison, like any artists, have good works, bad works, and middling works. It's not a blog about which writer is better. It's a blog about where the writers came from, the influence they've had, and the differences between them.

But more broadly, it uses the feud between Moore and Morrison as an occasion to explore a key moment in the history of comics – the late 80s wave of British creators who flooded into the American market in the wake of Alan Moore's success with Watchmen. It's a blog about influence – about the art and ideas that inspired Moore and Morrison, and about the work that followed from them. It's not a blog that's ever going to talk about who ripped off who, and certainly not one that's going to act like noticing a similarity between two works is a brilliant act of criticism in its own right. This is a blog for people who understand that influence happens, and who are interested in its nature and consequences instead of in banal point-scoring.

Indeed, as it goes on its focus is going to widen beyond Moore and Morrison, with expansive coverage of writers like Neil Gaiman and Warren Ellis. Even in what there is – the 120,000 words only cover from about 1979-83 – there's tons of discursions into history and related topics, with lengthy discussions of Michael Moorcock, Aristotle, R. Crumb, Doctor Who, the history of 2000 AD, RA Lafferty, and Frank Miller, among many, many other topics.

It's also a real hoot to write, and while the Kickstarter has already guaranteed a book version of the first chunk of it, and a blog version of Book Two, which will cover Watchmen and its immediate surroundings, and Book Three, which will run from 1988-93. I'm still trying to get enough money together that I can afford to put down other projects and commit to writing it for a good, long time, so there are plenty of stretch goals to fund more volumes – we're currently on the road to Book Four, which is mostly going to be about Sandman. In fact, if we hit it by Monday I'll assume it was you lovely folks at Bleeding Cool that did it, and swing by the forums to leave a coupon code for a free download of the ebook omnibus of the seven chapters that exist so far.

So please think about contributing, and thanks for reading.

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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