You are viewing glycon

Southern Comfort - 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special, 1981

« previous entry | next entry »
Jan. 28th, 2012 | 07:34 pm

The May 1981 edition of the Society of Strip Illustration Newsletter carried a Q&A feature with several comics writers of the time, including Alan Moore. In May 2007, thanks to David Lloyd, the then editor of the Newsletter, scanning the pages for me, I posted the feature here.

Besides being the place where Alan Moore stated that he wanted to write Marvelman, there was another part of the interview that seemed to present information of a work by Moore that wasn't previously know about.

Q: Are you, on the whole, satisfied with the way artists translate your ideas? If you have any, give examples of good and bad experiences relating to this. (Embarrass the hell out of whoever you like - life is far too serious to be taken seriously...

AM: [ ... ] As far as jobs that have displeased me go then I must reluctantly admit to being less than ecstatic about the way a gent called Walter Howarth handled the story which finally emerged in this year's 2000 AD Summer Special under the title of Southern Comfort. Sure, there were other factors involved and I don't want to be too hard on a guy who obviously has enough problems already. I just thought I'd mention it because it helps to talk about these things, helps us to understand the essential frailty of human existence and to be prepared for the inevitable tragedy that awaits just around the corner.

Q: Name your favourite writing job (series or one-off) and give reasons for choosing it.

AM: My favourite writing job was a story called Southern Change. Steve McManus, in an ingenious attempt to curb the flow of shimmering and lucid metaphor that I use to give the humblest caption box a certain poetry and elan, asked me to do a two-part story without captions. I dunno about anyone else, but I really enjoy tackling structural problems like that. In fact up to a certain point I think that the more severe the restrictions and limitations, then the greater the creative effort needed to overcome them and the better the eventual result. Anyway, in this instance I put a lot of sweat into the writing and to my great delight, at the end I found that I'd engineered a superb Swiss-precision piece of Graphic Narrative, a real Rolls-Royce piece of storytelling. Of course, the eventual result was as chronicled in my answer to question two. I'm sorry to keep going on about it and I'd hate anyone to think I was bitter. After all, into every life a little rain must fall, eh?
In the comments on my original post here, an anonymous poster recognised this as referring to Southern Comfort, 2000 A.D. Sci-Fi Special 1981, credited to R.E. Wright as writer, and W. Howarth as artist. S/He went on to say,

Now I have a new question for you. If Moore took the "R.E. Wright" credit because he was unhappy with the art (or editing, possibly), does that mean that this story is also Alan Moore: Easy Kill, 2000 AD #205 (March 1981). Story by "R.E. Wright," art by Garry Leach.
I answered this with the same answer I'd put about the same issue on the Alan Moore Yahoo! Group mailing list, here:

There are three possible explanations that spring to mind: Firstly, the piece is misattributed, and it was actually Pat Mills rather than Alan Moore who said this. Or the story was pulled by the editorial team and rewritten by Mills under the pseudonym RE Wright (rewrite, see?). Alternatively, R.E. Wright could be a house name that authors got to put on their stories if they were unhappy with the artwork, in the same way that film directors use the name Alan Smithee.
The reason I was suggesting it might be regular 2000 AD writer Pat Mills is that the 2000 AD website lists RE Wright as being a pseudonym of his - of course, the same logic might apply there, and R.E. Wright could have been assigned on a story of his that he wasn't happy with.

So, that was that. Except that it wasn't. I started seeing Southern Comfort turning up on bibliographies of Moore's work, both online and in print. On his Wikipedia bibliography, for instance, it's listed along with a piece of text saying credited as "RE-Wright" due to Moore's dissatisfaction with the final story. Somewhere along the line, the name R.E. Wright has become slightly changed to RE-Wright, or other variations thereon, to heighten the possible meaning of the name - folk etymology red in tooth and claw, it seems.

The thing is, what I had speculated on was now being passed around as fact, which I'm not necessarily completely happy with. If nothing else, the story as printed was nowhere near being a superb Swiss-precision piece of Graphic Narrative, a real Rolls-Royce piece of storytelling, but of course that's probably part of the reason that he was unhappy with it. And, of course, it's possible that it actually was rewritten by someone else, as the name R.E. Wright seems to imply.

So, decide for yourself: is this the work of the greatest comics writer of our time? Or is it only partially his, or has the art been changed so much from his original script that it has got lost under there? Here's the story as it appeared...

(Scans courtesy of Darren S, whose excellent A Moment of Moore I commend to you all. The copyright in this story belongs to IPC/Fleetway/Rebellion - strike out as applicable - who I hope understand I'm only borrowing them for scholarly purposes, and no infringement is intended.)

Southern Comfort Page 1

Southern Comfort Page 2

Southern Comfort Page 3

Southern Comfort Page 4

Southern Comfort Page 5

Southern Comfort Page 6

Southern Comfort Page 7

Southern Comfort Page 8

Link | Leave a comment | Share

Comments {7}

rab62

(no subject)

from: rab62
date: Jan. 28th, 2012 08:09 pm (UTC)
Link

"I found a circulation system that looked like a roadmap" is unmistakably Alan Moore. The next line "I found TWO hearts...an' five, FIVE, stomachs" has the rhythm of his dialogue as well. And of course the subject of discussion in that panel is medical anatomy, one of Moore's favorite literary motifs. The rest of it is too generic to say one way or the other.

Reply | Thread

glycon

(no subject)

from: glycon
date: Jan. 28th, 2012 08:21 pm (UTC)
Link

That's the thing. Some of it could be his, some of it not.

Reply | Parent | Thread

rab62

(no subject)

from: rab62
date: Jan. 29th, 2012 01:38 am (UTC)
Link

But if the question is "did this story start life as an Alan Moore script which was then rewritten by someone else" I'd say the evidence points very strongly in that direction.

Reply | Parent | Thread

Prof. Jeremy M. R. F. Chesterfield-Pickles III

(no subject)

from: alfrecht
date: Jan. 28th, 2012 11:38 pm (UTC)
Link

Well, I'd agree with the great man that this wasn't quite what it could have/should have been...And, if he did write it, it's certainly not his best moment.

But, in the excerpt you've quoted above, he said his favorite was called Southern Change (not the cliched phrase Southern Comfort), which makes me suspect that he had very little to do with the writing of this, since it's also filled with captions, which his description of Southern Change specifically stated was lacking in them...It may have had the original germ of an idea by him, but I really don't think the end result is in any manner the Swiss-precision that he described, and thus I'd be wary of attributing this at all to him.

I can certainly see why he doesn't like to work under editors, if this is what can happen...

Reply | Thread

A Moment Of Moore

(no subject)

from: MomentOfMoore
date: Jan. 29th, 2012 09:54 am (UTC)
Link

I was wondering who Walter Howarth was - so I googled him and found this obituary on the Bear Alley blog (http://bearalley.blogspot.com/2008/03/walt-howarth-1928-2008.html).

My money is that Moore originally scripted it with a partial R.E. Wright from one of Tharg's editorial minions.

Reply | Thread

glycon

(no subject)

from: glycon
date: Jan. 29th, 2012 12:19 pm (UTC)
Link

I'm just posting this to make your link to the Walter Howarth obituary a live link.

Reply | Parent | Thread

(no subject)

from: anonymous
date: Mar. 14th, 2012 04:56 pm (UTC)
Link

He does call it Southern Comfort at another point in the interview (so the "change" thing is probably a slip---He later titled a Swamp Thing story Southern Change.)

As for the fact that this is generic and it seems odd that Moore would be so keen to praise it....well, this is very early days for Moore. The other title he cites as a favorite, "Bax the Burner" is pretty generic, and not much better than this. For that reason, I think it makes sense that some part of it...perhaps much of it, is Moore.

Eric B.

Reply | Thread