Moving back in time from the DC Universe Stories of Alan Moore, comes The Complete Future Shocks, recently released, whose first shock is — it’s not complete! Alright, so the two missing stories, “The Dating Game” and “The Killer In The Cab” were not Tharg’s Future Shocks or Time Twisters, being Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Tales, but as this volume does contain other one-off strips Moore did for 2000A.D., it’s a pity to have them missed out, as they’re unlikely to find a home in any other sort of collection. (But they are available online, at the 4ColorHeroes Alan Moore for Free page.)
The first thing that struck me about this nicely-put together volume was how some of the panels had stuck in my memory from when I read them originally in 2000A.D., even though the stories hadn’t. The one pictured above, for instance (from “They Sweep The Spaceways”, first published in July 1981). As soon as I saw it, I remembered coming across it for the first time and feeling vaguely disturbed at the thought of a lollipop getting stuck in someone’s beard. Well, I was ten years old at the time, so perhaps the idea of a lollipop getting stuck in a beard was important to me back then.
It’s interesting to trawl these short strips that mark Alan Moore’s first real steps in the comics world for signs of what was to come. The strip “Bounty Hunters!”, for instance, includes the idea that the shape-changing creature the titular bounty hunters are after may have transformed himself into the very planet they’re searching for him on. It turns out he hasn’t, but Moore went on to use that idea in the Tales of the Green Lantern Corps story “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize” — though the earlier tale used the idea in a more knowing way. Another early appearance of an idea later used when writing for DC is the story “Bad Timing”, which is basically a joke on Superman’s origins without actually being able to use the Superman character (Krypton becomes Klakton, etc.) The idea of “Superman’s” father being wrong about the destruction of his home planet is here a joke, but Moore later used it to serious effect in the Superman Annual story “For The Man Who Has Everything”. The idea of a life being lived backwards is used in “The Reversible Man” (a story that apparently had some of the secretaries at 2000A.D.‘s offices in tears when it first came out), and of course would be used again in 1995’s The Birth Caul.
I’m always interested in finding themes that permeate or emerge throughout a creator’s work. Moore’s oevure is incredibly diverse, which makes it hard to find such repeated themes (though the image of the transformed man emerging from flames, often naked but increased in power, occurs a lot in Moore’s more serious superhero work). Another theme I can see starting to develop in these early stories is super-intelligence, often going wrong. Moore has written a number of super-intelligent characters (Ozymandias in Watchmen is perhaps the apotheosis of this idea, a man whose cold rationality brings peace to the world at a price no merely feeling human being would ever countenance), but here we see super-intelligent characters who are rather too clever, and who get a corresponding comeuppance, such as Abelard Snazz, whose genius always lands him in trouble, and the Squonge-wearing humans in “Mister, Could You Use A Squonge?”, whose enhanced intelligence is plain faulty. Jack B Quick from the Tomorrow Stories comics is a later example from Moore’s work of over-cleverness leading to trouble.
Best tale of the bunch, for me, has to be “Eureka”, about how a mere idea can become a form of almost unstoppable alien invasion. The power and communicability of potentially transformative ideas, of course, could well be used to describe another of Moore’s interests that would develop later in his career — magic.