Boy From The Boroughs
“The chapter I’m doing at the moment is in the style of a Samuel Beckett play, so I’m having fun with that. It’s a Samuel Beckett play that actually has Samuel Beckett as a character, relating to the fact that Samuel Beckett, he got mentioned in Wisden’s Almanac for his cricket games against Northampton. The night that he visited Northampton, the rest of his cricket mates went out drinking and whoring, because both of those things were – Northampton was quite famous for them – Beckett went out on a church crawl.”
PÓM: I have to say, I was rereading the three volumes of [The Ballad of] Halo Jones recently, and of all the things that you haven’t finished, I really lament not being able to see what happens in the other six books of Halo Jones. Did you have an idea where it was all going?
AM: Well, I’d got the idea that she’d go through fabulous adventures, the next adventure would have probably been when she was a female space pirate with Sally Quasar, who was somebody that I’d mentioned, and I would have been basically going through all the decades of her life, with her getting older in each one, because I liked the idea, at the time, of having a strip in 2000AD with a seventy or eighty year old woman as the title character. And also because – it’s probably true in my work that – I mean, I wrote Marvelman when I was in my, what, twenties?
PÓM: If you wrote that when you – you would have been just coming up to thirty, I think. In 1983 you would have been thirty, so it was around then. Late twenties. [Moore was born in November 1953, and the first part of his revival of Marvelman was published in Warrior #1 in March 1982, meaning he was twenty eight years old at the time. PÓM]
AM: You’ll notice that I made the central character, what, he was forty two…? Which was a lot older than people – all superheroes at that time were in their twenties, sort of.
PÓM: Well, they were sort of indefinably aged, but yes, obviously…
AM: They were in their twenties forever, sort of. So I think that – I’ve always wanted to explore characters of all races, all genders, all ages. It just seems to me to be a natural way to approach any kind of storytelling. It would have ended up with Halo Jones upon some planet that is right at the absolute edge of the universe where, beyond that, beyond some sort of spectacular lightshow, there is no space, no time, and it would have ended up with Halo Jones – all the rest of the people on this planetoid because, actually, time is not passing; you could stay there forever, potentially – and what would have happened is that Halo Jones, after spending some time with the rest of the immortals, would have tottered across the landing field, got into her spacecraft, and flown into the psychedelic lightshow, to finally get out. And that would have been the ending. So, you’ve saved me a lot of writing, and you a lot of unnecessary worrying.
PÓM: Well, thank you very much. Alan, I genuinely appreciate that because, really, as a complete work, it would have been… words like magnum opus, and that kind of thing, and it’s just a shame –
AM: Well, you know, my comics career is studded with shame. There are a lot of things that could have been. I’m pleased with the ones that worked, and who knows, if I genuinely tried to do, I don’t know, eight books of Halo Jones, or whatever it was, I would have, I don’t know, gone off the boil, something like that. Maybe it worked out for the best.
PÓM: Yeah, there’s a certain poignancy in the fact that she was a poignant character in herself, anyway, so there’s kinda something there about it being an unfinished tale, and we have to imagine how it’s going to be?
AM: Yeah, it gives people a space to play with it in their heads.
PÓM: OK, I’ve actually come, it’s now five to, I’m five minutes short of my hour, so I’m going to ask you, as is traditional, how is Jerusalem coming on?
AM: Jerusalem is back on track. I have resumed it, I have done chapter 27, 28. Chapter twenty seven is called ‘Burning Gold’ – another [William] Blake reference, obviously – and it gives the life story of one of the characters in Jerusalem, but also gives a history of currency and economy, which goes all the way back to the historical fact that there were gold coins being made in Northampton from 600, which is the earliest that they were being made anywhere in the country. We had a Royal Mint here from about, what, 900? An official Royal Mint. I mean, we had a mint from about 650, but it was an official Royal Mint from about 900. And I’m also talking about all of the things that led up to the great economic collapse of 2008. The climax of my book is in 2006, so I’ve not been able to legitimately talk about the credit crunch and the meltdown, but I have been able to talk about all the things that were leading up to them. One of the things that Jerusalem is about, yes, it’s about the Boroughs, the neighbourhood that I grew up in, which means that it’s got to be about poverty, and if you’re going to talk about poverty, if you’re going to understand poverty, you’ve got to understand wealth, so I wanted one chapter in there that would just spell out the economic picture as I saw it. The chapter that I’ve just finished, which is called ‘The Rafters and the Beams’, that’s about the black experience in Northampton, and the one that I’m doing at the moment, ‘The Steps of All Saints’, chapter 29, is in the style of a Samuel Beckett play, so I’m having fun with that. It’s a Samuel Beckett play that actually has Samuel Beckett as a character, relating to the fact that Samuel Beckett, he got mentioned in Wisden’s Almanac for his cricket games against Northampton. The night that he visited Northampton, the rest of his cricket mates went out drinking and whoring, because both of those things were – Northampton was quite famous for them. Beckett went out on a church crawl, where he went to visit these astonishing Gothic ancient churches that he’d heard about, but had never see, because Northamptonshire has got the oldest churches in the country – All Saints at Brickfoot is I think the oldest church – but, there’s St Peter’s Church, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, they’re getting on, you know, they’re a thousand years old. So, yeah, Beckett went out around these churches, which is part of the narrative that I’m weaving together in this chapter that I’m doing at the moment. So, when that’s done, another seven to do, then I’ve got to draw the cover. But it’s looking good, it’s looking good. And as Dodgem Logic is taking a break, since that was what had mainly diverted me from Jerusalem, then it could be this year – next year I would imagine it will be definitely finished and might even be coming out. So, yeah, things seem to be going all right at the moment.
PÓM: That’s extremely good. And The [Moon and Serpent] Bumper Book of Magic, how’s that?
AM: The Bumper Book of Magic still crawls forward. Now that I’m getting back onto Jerusalem, me and Steve [Moore], because we’re already, what, between a third and a half way through, so we do it whenever we get together, because that’s the nature of the beast, but we’re very pleased with what’s been happening so far, and it’s great working with Steve because, between us, in the theoretical articles, or the historical articles, Steve is much more rigorous than I am. Whereas I might think, ‘Oh well, it’s OK to say that,’ Steve will say, ‘Well, no, we can’t really say that. That is nothing that we can actually state for definite,’ and so, you know, it’s rigorous and we’re trying to keep this to – we want logic that can’t be faulted, and research that can’t be faulted, because we’re aware that this is a contentious and fairly nebulous subject, so we want to get this nailed down so that everybody can see it, and then, if we’ve got our research wrong, they can tell us that we’ve done that. So, that’s the plan.
PÓM: OK. Yeah, I’m looking forward to it as well. I think that’s more or less… I was going to ask you one last thing.
PÓM: You’re doing a lot of work which you obviously want to be doing. Are you happy?
AM: I’m very happy, yes. I’d be a bit happier if I’d got the time to go and visit Leah and Amber and the grandkids more often, but we’re doing that later this month, in a couple of weeks.
PÓM: How are you liking being a granddad?
AM: It’s fine, it’s beautiful. It’s great hearing all the stuff, I’m sure it’s been a while since we saw the kids, so apparently they’re both – Leah was telling me that Eddie is walking, and talking, and, you know, smoking a pipe, has his own car…
PÓM: I tend to see the two of them reporting on Facebook, we’re Facebook friends – I’m sure you’ve no idea what that means, but…
AM: It could be Martian to me, but I’m familiar with the base concept of it. Yeah, you know, it’s great. They grow up so fast, but we’re really looking forward to seeing them soon. It’d be nice if we could see a bit more of them, but then, it’d be nice if I had more downtime, except that’s not really how I roll, regrettably. I do seem to, I think I’m a bit like a kind of shark, that if I stop swimming, I won’t be able to breathe, something like that. But other than that minor cavil, I am blissfully happy. And, I’ve gotta say, being away from the clamour of the comics industry does contribute a great deal to that happiness. It’s like banging your head on a brick wall for 20 or 30 years so that, when you stop, it feels wonderful. But, no, I’m feeling good, Pádraig.
PÓM: That’s good, that’s good. OK, Alan, once again, thanks a million.
AM: OK, well, my pleasure mate, and I’m glad we got it all in in the hour.
PÓM: In the hour, indeed!
AM: I shall now go away, and have myself some food. Do give me love to Deirdre, won’t you?
PÓM: I will, and tell Melinda I said hello.
AM: I will do, mate, and all the best to you, and I shall no doubt be talking to you sometime in the not too distant future.
PÓM: Indeed, that’ll probably happen. OK Alan, thanks a million, you be good.
[Pádraig switches off the machine.]
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER
As founder of the annual literary SF Phoenix Convention (P-Con), Pádraig Ó Méalóid is well respected in the comics and science fiction scene in Ireland. He has written for numerous publications including Alien Online, Matrix and the Forbidden Planet Blog. He lives in Dublin with his wife and their cats and is currently working on a book on the history of Marvelman, provisionally titled Poisoned Chalice: The Extremely Long and Incredibly Complex Story of Marvelman, slated for publication in late 2011, or soon thereafter.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, March 17th, 2011.