Monday, March 18, 2013

Alan Moore’s Greyshirt “How things work out”

In 1999, hot off the heals of working on Image comics like Supreme and Glory, Alan Moore started his own comics line called America’s Best Comics. It seems that Rob Liefeld was getting flaky and so Jim Lee offered Alan his own imprint. Being the slothful writer that he is he started with no less than 5 titles.
Tomorrow Stories was his anthology title which contained 4 different features. They were all fun in their own way but one stood out from the others.
from the ABC Sketchbook 2002
 Inspired by Will Eisner’s the Spirit, Alan Moore and Rick Veitch created Greyshirt, an ex gangster turned do-gooder.

from Tomorrow Stories Special #1, Jan 2006
It wasn’t necessarily the stories themselves that were special so much as the way the stories were constructed. Alan has always loved to play with form.

One of the things that made Alan Moore famous was the intricate way he builds his stories.
For example the first book of the Watchmen is basically the story of a pin with a spot of blood on it that gets passed around from person to person and the story is told in how this pin effects each one. It’s these kinds of mental gymnastics that Alan and Rick bring us with Greyshirt.

And my favorite of the lot, the most ingenious of them all is “How Things Work Out” from Tomorrow Stories #2 November 1999. Alan Moore actually spoke about this story in a 2001 interview with Tasha Robinson that appeared in the Onion.

“Well, (Tomorrow Stories) is basically a place where I can do very short little experimental stories. Sometimes I can just have silly fun, and I have a great deal of silly fun with Tomorrow Stories. Sometimes I can do something a bit more serious."

"In one of the Greyshirt stories in Tomorrow Stories, we did something very peculiar with the panel layouts. We had an apartment building, the same building, upon ever page. There are four horizontal panels on each page. Then, to add another element, we made it so that the top panels are all taking place in 1999, the second panel down on each page is taking place in 1979, the panel beneath that takes place in 1959, and on the bottom panel of each page, you’re seeing the bottom of the building as it was in 1939, when it was a fairly new building."
 "We’re able to tell, by some quite complicated story gymnastics, quite an interesting little story that is told over nearly sixty years of this building’s life, with characters getting older depending upon which panel and which time period they’re in. There’s something that you couldn’t do in any medium other than comics."

 "I enjoy the satire in Tomorrow Stories, but it also gives me the opportunity to pull short little one-off stories out of a hat that are just a moment’s inspiration that wouldn’t lend themselves to the longer stories of some of the other books, but which might fill six pages in an interesting fashion. I enjoy short work, especially after spending ten years doing From Hell and twelve or thirteen years before Lost Girls is finished. The idea of something that I can more or less write in a couple of days is very refreshing.”

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