Neonomicon 2: Someone Stage An Intervention For Alan Moore

I’m a little late to writing about Neonomicon 2 – and Jog and the Mindless Ones have said a lot of what needs to be said here. But I felt the need to put my oar in…

Taken as part of a larger work, Neonomicon 2 may turn out to be worthwhile. However, as a single issue of a comic book – which is, after all, how it’s being sold – it is a vile, vile thing.

Alan Moore’s use of rape in his comics is well-known at this point, as are the arguments over it. One side says, with some justification, that having rape be a plot point in every single major work for 30 years suggests a possibly unhealthy fascination with the subject, while the other side argues that in most cases it’s justified and making a point, not just to shock or titilate.

I’ve tended to side with the latter, because Moore is, firstly, the greatest writer the medium of comics has ever seen, and possibly the greatest writer in any medium the English language has produced in the last fifty years, and secondly someone who is a very outspoken feminist. But my patience with this trope in his works has been getting ever thinner.

But what I want to say, and something that unfortunately hasn’t really been said explicitly in the reviews I’ve read of this, is this:

If you are a rape victim/survivor, even if you do not normally mind too much about ‘triggering’, please think very carefully before you read this comic

I say this because there are at least two people I know of who read this blog, read comics, and have been raped. There may very well be more – those are the ones who have chosen to let me know the fact.

The use of rape here is qualititavely different from anything Moore has done before. Even From Hell, for all its explicitness, showed a certain amount of restraint, but while I would never say that anyone should absolutely refrain from reading anything, still less that someone should avoid any subject, I actually think that this comic could seriously upset and possibly mentally harm vulnerable people.

What Moore and Jacen Burrows, the artist, give us here, is an extended, six-page, explicit depiction of someone being brutally gang-raped. I found it disturbing and mildly sickening, and I am both an insensitive clod and someone who’s been fortunate enough never to have experienced sexual violence myself. This is several orders of magnitude nastier than anything Moore has put in any of his previous work – this isn’t just a couple of panels, with a close up of the victim’s face looking anguished, this is something altogether worse.

Now, it may be that the comic as a whole will be so good, so profound, that it justifies this – I suspect not, but it may be. I certainly wouldn’t rule it out – Moore at his worst is a better writer than most writers at their best, and Burrows is a very underrated artist, primarily because he mostly works for Avatar, not a company known for putting out good work. But as a single issue of a horror comic, this feels closer to something like the issue of Tarot with the haunted vagina. The difference is, Tarot is not something that anyone will pick up unless they’re actively looking for sexualised violence. Neonomicon, by virtue of its writer, is.

Someone needs to sit Alan Moore down and talk to him about this, because while for each individual occurence of rape in his work you can make excuses, it is something that makes his work, when taken as a body, have the effect of trivialising rape – when I’m absolutely certain that the whole reason he includes depictions of sexualised violence is because he thinks it’s an important, awful issue.

My bet is that when Neonomicon is completed, it’ll be an important comic – imagine Moore doing The Filth but in a Lovecraftian vein and without the humour – but taking this issue on its face, without giving Moore the benefit of doubt, it reads like something written by the worst kind of nasty misogynist, like the arsehole who once found my blog by googling “supergirl rape stories”.

But I’m becoming increasingly worried that getting Moore to write a story without a rape scene is like getting Frank Miller to write a female character who isn’t a prostitute, and then I start to think about Dave Sim, and then I start to worry if there’s something intrinsic to this medium that I love that does this to people, and then I think about “supergirl rape stories” again, and I wonder if I should get a different hobby…

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10 Responses to Neonomicon 2: Someone Stage An Intervention For Alan Moore

  1. Zom says:

    Ah, but then there’s good old Grant. He’s not perfect. but there’s very little of that shit.

    Go get RoBW6. It’s the droid you’re looking for.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Oh, absolutely. I picked up several weeks worth of comics on Monday – including Neonomicon but also the last two B&R and RoBW5. Amazing stuff.

  2. Zom says:

    RoBW6 and B&R16 taken together, even with their problematic art, are perhaps my favourite Moz comics since Quitely left the run. It’s gleeful stuff.

    If only DC did art remixes.

  3. doesitmatter? says:

    You’re using several non-serious generalizations here seriously, such as Frank Miller writing nothing but “whores, whores, whores”, its fun to make fun but Alan Moore’s use of rape, Miller’s use of prostitution are over reaching generalities, not that they both don’t have rape and prostitution in their works, but its certainly not as bad as you’re making out to be, taking these silly criticisms seriously. Frank wrote Big Guy and Rusty, Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and Promethea are not really rape-tastic works. This is all beside the point anyway, the idea is to reveal, or work against sexism in comics, which is a problem, I’d admit, but whenever More presents the dehumanizing elements of sexism in his comics he presents them as dehumanizing, the same with Miller, who always presents prostitution as complex, not necessarily dehumanizing phenomenon no one wants to talk about and much more than men are complicit in.

    I just think someone needs to sit you down and explain to you that your obsession with apologetics in comic books is misguided. Especially when there are plenty of actual misogynists to go after, like Dave Sim and recent ones, but I guess their works are kinda ignorable.

  4. octo7 says:

    what an incredibly shit article.

  5. octo7 says:

    rape as a plot popint in every single major work? where was the rape in swamp thing? or the rape in promethea? or the rape in tom strong? or the rape in V for Vendetta? Or the rape in From Hell? seriously. this is one of the worst, most vicious and most scathing atttempts at character assassination I’ve ever read on an ‘independent’ site. Whhere was the rape in Killing Joke, or in Superman or in Green Lantern or in Halo Jones, or in Skizz or in DR and Quinch?

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      This is not an attempt at character assassination – *VERY* far from it. I consider Mr Moore an *entirely* admirable character. As I said – “Moore is, firstly, the greatest writer the medium of comics has ever seen, and possibly the greatest writer in any medium the English language has produced in the last fifty years, and secondly someone who is a very outspoken feminist.”

      However, I don’t expect you to have read that, because if you’re asking where the rape is in From Hell or V For Vendetta particularly (and if you’re counting Skizz, DR And Quinch and Moore’s Green Lantern backups as being ‘major’) you clearly can’t actually read.

      Please learn to read articles before commenting on them in future.

  6. Xuro says:

    Dude’s rape is going to continue to find its way in works always who cares if someone wants to use it as a mechanic every now and then. Some of the great writers of this century use rape as a tool, hell, Joyce Carol Oakes has mad a fucking career out of it.

  7. Kim says:

    I haven’t read this particular comic, for the very reasons you mention to not read it. But I just wanted to encourage you that I think you are on the right track… rape can be portrayed as horrifying and used in media to great anti-sexist effect, but to me from reading several reviews of this comic it seems like a six page spread executed in this way is questionable at best. People who get upset reading about criticisms of handling this subject matter should settle down a little. It’s important.

  8. s says:

    If you’re looking for a reason why this kind of misogyny is prolific in comics, look no further than the comments– most comic fans can’t be bothered to care and get angry when you point it out. I decided to boycott Moore after reading League 1910. I became convinced that he means the rape to be sexualised and I don’t need that in my comics. I would say I’m sorry to abandon such an amazing writer but maybe he isn’t so amazing if he needs to put rape and his own weird convoluted sex magic crap in every fricking thing he writes. The same goes for Miller– if a writer can’t make a character that’s a woman and NOT a sex object, eventually I get bored. It’s trite. It’s offensive. It’s boring. I’ll read something else.

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