Alan Moore’s Promethea is the only comic book that I ever followed religiously from issue to issue running like a madman to the store each month a new issue came out and following each sequential panel with baited breath for six years straight until it was done.
It has never been surpassed.
It may be the greatest single human achievement ever when it comes to merging imagination with reality. While it was happening, from 1999-2005, Alan Moore talked about the experience quite candidly.
Well… the more you look at the real world, the more you realise that it’s just as interconnected, in just as preposterous a manner, as the fictional one you’re creating.
I have never gotten over it, because I want it to last forever. The rest of this entry will give you a massive extended dose of Alan Moore’s own thoughts about Promethea, including his admission that issue #12, seen above with the Scrabble tiles, is the cleverest thing he has ever done.
Now, I give you this.
That is the first Vs. System fantasy card of the rest of my life. Promethea will be reborn.
Here is some more Alan Moore interview action, maybe you can figure out why I love Promethea so much after he is done.
O: Speaking of having an effect on people’s minds, with Promethea you get very deeply into the history of symbolism and magic. Are you trying to educate the masses, or is there a specific purpose?
AM: Well, I do have a purpose. I am an incredibly vain person, but I am also, with Promethea, trying to educate people about something I am genuinely interested in, and which I generally think is of interest to a lot of people. When I was 40, I decided to become a magician, for various reasons. Most people get to 40 and have a midlife crisis, and that’s just boring. They bore their friends by going around saying, “What’s it all about? What’s the point?” I thought it might be at least more entertaining to go spectacularly mad and start worshipping a snake and declaring myself to be a magician. It’s been immense fun.
And, more than fun, it’s been illuminating. It’s probably at the stage now where I see almost everything in my life, and in the world around me, in magical terms.
Because in some sense, when I’m talking about magic, I’m only talking about the creative process. Magic to me is something from nothing, which includes rabbits out of hats, it includes the creation of the universe from a quantum vacuum, or it includes how a comic comes into being from me sitting in an armchair with a completely blank mind. It’s all of this. Any given creativity is magic. And sort of by understanding magic, I have understood a little more about the processes by which I have been supporting myself for these past 20 years. Certainly Promethea is a magical rant seemingly disguised as a superheroine comic. I’ve got the wonderful talents of Jim Williams and Mick Gray and Todd Klein and Jeromy Cox helping me out on that. Yeah, it’s kind of a visionary odyssey, and I’m able to get over a lot of valid information. Not in terms of magic being a doorway to some strange mad dimension full of angels and demons and gods, although, yes, there is a lot of that. But I think primarily, magic is simply a new way of seeing the ordinary universe that surrounds us, and ourselves as creatures in that universe.
I’ve certainly been impressed by some of the insights that I seem to have received from my imaginary friends, and sort of, if I can… If they are of interest to anybody beyond me, then I’m very happy to pass them on. There are a lot of people who seem genuinely appreciative, and new readers who come to the book precisely because it is exploring things like Kabbalah and Tarot and notions of human history, the makeup of the human psyche. Things that are actually a lot more broadly applicable and of broader interest than superheroes. Promethea is about very human things, even though I’m using a superheroic vessel to convey those things.
All I would be urging people to do in Promethea is to explore, in their own way, by whatever means they personally feel comfortable with, using whatever system they happen to feel comfortable with, whether that be Christianity, or paganism, or Hinduism, or anything else, to explore the kind of rich world that I think all of us have inside us. I just want to tell them that that world is there, that there are a variety of ways of exploring it. It doesn’t really matter which way you use, or which system you adopt. It’s a territory I find very rewarding, very fulfilling, very human. To point out that territory to other people is something I feel happy about doing.
Eddie Campbell is a good friend of Alan Moore. He did the drawings for From Hell. He also did the best interview of all, and he blogs daily. Eddie Campbell posted this recent photograph of Promethea’s creator.
That is what Alan Moore looks like nowadays. This is what he sounded like six years ago when Promethea was brand new.
MOORE: Approaching forty, I was also starting to become more and more fascinated by the big taboo question of creativity, which also leads on to the big taboo question of consciousness, namely, “What is it and how does it work?” And also, of course, “How can I profit from it, move to Peterborough and live like a king?
I think the final straw came during chapter… four, was it? …of From Hell, where Gull and Netley are enjoying a nice slice of Steak and Kidney Pie in Earl’s Court and Gull delivers his line about the one place where Gods inarguably exist being within the reaches of the human mind “where they are real in all their grandeur and monstrosity” or somesuch. Having written that and been unable to find an angle from which it wasn’t true, I was forced to either ignore its implications or change most of my thinking to fit around this new information.
I feel that it’s better for each living entity to come to terms with its unique and personal universe of information in its own way. What I believe may not work even slightly for you or for anyone else. While religions may indeed offer valuable and worthwhile ideas on how one should proceed in one’s spiritual journey, there’s no obligation to buy the whole package. Take whatever is spiritually useful or sustaining from any system and use it as a building block in the construction of your own. Or at least, that’s my Transcendental Tip for Today.
CAMPBELL: Did you intend for Promethea to plough this deeply when you started it. I get the impression when I look back to the beginning of it that you meant it to be much more of a straight-ahead superhero tale. Did you become more daring in midstream, or was it your intention to hook some extra readers in first before diving to the more profound regions?
MOORE: As far as I can remember, the original idea behind Promethea was to come up with something that worked as a mainstream superhero character, maybe looked a bit like Wonder Woman or Doctor Strange in a weak light, and which would enable me to explore the magical concepts that I was interested in before a mainstream comics audience that may never have encountered these ideas before (and may very possibly never have wanted to). It seemed to make sense that we should start at the shallow end, with inflatable arm-bands, so as not to alienate the readership from the very outset (the plan was to wait for about twelve issues and then alienate them).
Eventually I decided that the only thing to do would be to at least attempt it and let the chips fall as they may: as it turns out we have lost several thousand readers over the course of this saga, not as many as I’d expected, and the ones that remain are either dedicated and firm in their resolve, or else have had their cerebral cortex so badly damaged by the last four or five issues that they are no longer capable of formulating a complaint, or any other sort of sentence for that matter.
And speaking for me and Jim and Mick and Jeromy and Todd, I think we’re all rather smug about how well the piece had turned out artistically. The strict kaballistic colour schemes, as an example, while they looked very dubious and unworkable on paper, have turned up some beautiful and often startling effects in practice. Issue 23, the issue dedicated to Kether, the godhead of the kaballistic system, had a magical palette of four colours, these colours being “White”, “Brilliant White”, “White-flecked-with-gold”, and most unhelpful of all, “Brilliance”. Despite how hopeless this sounded, we decided to stick to our guns and attempt the issue using only white and gold, and apparently the first few coloured pages do indeed look celestially beautiful.
I’d have to say that were someone to put a gun to my head (Americans note that this is a figure of speech and not an example of acceptable social behaviour) and demand to know what I thought was my single cleverest piece of work, I’d have to say Promethea #12.
I’ve been waiting for a couple of years now for someone to ask me how on earth we did Promethea #12, just so that I could be knowing and mysterious about it, rather in the style of David Blaine. On the other hand, I think the actual process by which we accomplished it is fairly mysterious even if I explain, step by step, exactly how we did it. The inital germ of the idea was a specific issue of the old Sixties British Underground magazine OZ. This particular issue, the Magic Theatre eschewed the presentation of articles and cartoons in separate blocks of pages, and instead opted for this relatively unique approach where articles, cartoons and other visual progressions of material were strung out through the entire issues, so that you kind of had to read three or four discrete and distinct strands at once, rather than read four linear articles or features one after another, in the usual way. It struck me that it might be possible to do something similar in Promethea, only much more integrated and structured within that basic framework.
I hope you enjoyed that glimpse into the mind of Alan Moore as an introduction to Promethea’s roots. She is about to get a whole set of Vs. System cards. A revival of sorts. Stay tuned to this station. This is gonna be good.