2000 AD Prog Slog

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Prog 550

At a Comic Convention around this time, my friend and I attended a panel. As we waited for it to start, he, uncharacteristically loudly, talked about how he felt that Zenith Book One was a rip off of the Alan Moore version of Marvel Man. This caused me some discomfort as I had spotted, sitting in the row in front, script robot Grant Morrison. I recognised him from the year before where I had asked him a quick question after a panel. He helpfully answered it but, despite being in the depths of the building and away from any natural light, I was unnerved by him wearing sunglasses. I have always wondered if my friend’s outburst contributed to Morrison’s frequent criticism of superstar comic writer Moore and his work.

Zenith Book One comes to a satisfying conclusion this prog. Nazi super villain Masterman is dead, the many angled creature that possessed him has been done away with, St John is now Minister of Defence for the Conservative Government and Zenith is number one in both the single and album charts. Art robot Steve Yeowell has provided a consistently spacious job throughout allowing Morrison’s deceptively casual script to breath. Everything wraps up nicely… except I can’t help feeling that had Alan Moore never written Marvel Man Book One we would never have heard of Zenith.

The inclusion of Lovecraftian monsters and the pop culture references can’t detract from what I see as structural similarities between the two strips. That’s not to say that Zenith lifted wholesale, like a naïve and gushing enthusiast, from its predecessor. Instead, I suspect Morrison saw Book One as his crossover thrill; the one that built a bridge from an established hit superhero strip of the time to his strange and hyper-imaginative version of the genre.

When Marvel Man was first serialised in Warrior during the early eighties, it was exactly what British comic readers wanted; a believable superhero we could call our own. It worked like a pain killer, providing the fix we needed almost instantly. Zenith, on the other hand, works like a course of antibiotics. It has an accumulative effect, with each episode of each new book adding a fresh new depth to what has gone before. Moore was stopping the pain but Morrison has been working to clear the infection altogether.

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  • Nice metaphor at the end there.

    By Blogger Mark, at 8:54 pm  

  • What a great analogy... but being a Mozzer-beats-Moore man any day of the week, I would say that.

    By Blogger Rol, at 11:55 am  

  • I know what you mean about the similarities with Marvelman but if we're going down that route then you probably wouldn't have heard so much of Alan Moore if Robert Mayer hadn't written the novel "superfolks" which Marvelman liberally borrowed from.

    What Zenith added to the mix was knowing cynicism and a nicely throwaway spirit. I loved all the pop culture references that deliberately anchored it to a time and place. I remember someone pointing out the first volume would've made a good time capsule for the year it came out.

    Also, if we're talking theft, it's nothing compared to Mark Millar's blatant theft of Zenith when he was wrting the Ultimates, confident in the knowledge that hardly anyone would get a chance to read it because it's been kept out of print due to copyright reasons or something...

    hmmm, reading back at what I've written, you could be forgiven for thinking i actually care! Seemed worth mentioning though.

    By Blogger Tam, at 1:38 pm  

  • Cheers Mark. I was trying to express what I see as the fundamental differences between Moore and Morrison at the time.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:25 pm  

  • Thanks Rol. I'm about to read your comic, by the way...

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:27 pm  

  • Tam, I've not encountered a comparison between The Ultimates (which I enjoyed) and Zenith and, at this stage in The Slog I don't see the similarity myself. I understand Morrison was involved in the conception of The Ultimates so maybe that explains a similarity of spirit.

    in Marvel Man's (Book One) defence, it was originally serialised in a independent magazine that may or may not have the next issue appear and often didn't come out every month when it did. Considering the uncertainty and the irregularity I would say Marvel Man did a pretty good job of holding the reader's attention and referencing the period (I'm thinking specifically of an Adam and the Ants mention).

    I know what you mean by appearing to care more than you actually do :-) Cheers mate

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:38 pm  

  • I wish Steve Yeowells pencilling was as tight today as it was back then...

    Zenith book one didn't really click with me back then, it was ok but it wasn't till book 3 that I really started to like it.

    Although Moore has written some fantastic comics I've thought for the last few years that he's not as godlike a writer as his reputation would indicate.
    Morrison on the other hand has been consistently good for the last 20 years (aside from his horrible run on the New X-men)

    By Blogger Derek, at 1:44 am  

  • Derek, I really must disagree with you and you opinion of Morrison's New x-Men

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 6:09 pm  

  • One word Paul .... Xorn

    and I should add I'm not singling morrison out....theres been plenty of horrible runs on the X-men both pre and post Morrison

    By Blogger Derek, at 10:39 pm  

  • Admittedly, Xorn's reveal was a bit... unexpected but, for me, the new students Morrison helped to create and the relationship between cyclops and Emma Frost made his run well worth it.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:42 pm  

  • the xorn thing was a bit of a cock up by morrison I think. His treatment of Emma frost was good though. Didn't like that Cassandra Nova wan as a villian though, all that xaviers fetal twin or whatever she was wrecked my head.

    I really really (really) hated the opening up the school plot. There were too many mutants...especially too many crap mutants (except for the cuckoo sisters)

    I'm liking Ed Brubakers current run on Uncanny though, the Rise and Fall of the Shiar Empire was a real return to form.

    By Blogger Derek, at 8:25 pm  

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