#257 “The Birth Caul” and “Snakes and Ladders”

Besides being one of the most highly regarded writers in the comics biz, Alan Moore has also, on several occasions, given artsy poetic readings. Two such readings that he gave in the late ’90s were turned into comics by Eddie Campbell. The text alone is dense enough with meaning, but Campbell’s images add yet another layer. Listen to Moore’s voice recordings of the works as you read and you have a full-on audio-comics experience. Tim and Kumar fawn and praise.

These two comics, plus a Moore interview, were later collected as A Disease of Language.

Another review, by page45.com.

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Resident of Japan since 1989, creator of "The Crazing Spider-Hag"

3 thoughts on “#257 “The Birth Caul” and “Snakes and Ladders””

  1. Great show, guys.

    I’ve never read either of these works, but after hearing your discussion I must recommend a similar work of Moore’s: “Light of Thy Countenance”. Apparently it was originally a short story Moore wrote in the early ’90s, but a few years ago it was adapted into a comic (about 48 pages) done in a painterly style. It’s about the history of television and what tv has done to society. Moore writes from a very strange place in this one, speaking from the perspective of the spirit of television itself. It’s an odd work, but in the end I would call it one of Moore’s very best. I picked i up on a whim and it really surprised me. It’s not a tour de force like Watchmen, and of course it’s imperfect as a comic, but as far as a penetrating analysis of society done in comic form, it’s absolutely fantastic. It’s brief and only makes one or two real points…but the way it portrays and expands upon these points is fantastic.

    I’ll have to track down “The Birth Caul” after hearing you guys talk about it. It sounds wonderfully interesting. Believe it or not, yes, I was dissuaded from picking it up due to one particular comics pundit (one of the iFanboys) saying that it was bad. Unfortunately the “I-don’t-understand-it-so-therefore-it’s-bad”-people are out there, and some of them hold high positions in the comics internet hierarchy! Some of them even fancy themselves intellectuals! Not to harp on this, but the guy in question says that Alan Moore is his favorite writer…yet he couldn’t get anything from the Birth Caul. The way you guys describe it, you’d think at least some of Moore’s resonant themes would have been conveyed, y’know? Sometimes I wonder if certain people truly like what they read…or if they just trick themselves into thinking they like it because they know works like Watchmen are considered good.

  2. Hi, di44,

    Thanks for your comments! I have read both the original short story of LIGHT and the comic adaptation.

    Moore’s hypnotic, mesmerizing narrative style is similar in both LIGHT and CAUL (and SNAKES). But as you note, LIGHT only really goes after a few points, whereas CAUL and SNAKES are sprawling epics.

    I thought the comic adaptation of LIGHT was pretty good overall. Of all the Avatar-published adaptations of old prose works by Moore, it is certainly the best so far. It’s biggest drawback is that, *I* felt, it simply mirrored the text too much. Antony Johnston and Felipe Massafaro are a fine team, but Eddie Campbell is one of our greatest living graphic novelists — that’s hard to compete with, obviously! CAUL and SNAKES are far more visually interesting than LIGHT, I thought, because of Eddie Campbell’s own vision in contrast to Moore’s.

    Anyway, the point I’m trying to get at is: if you liked LIGHT, you’ll love CAUL. It’s a great book to read, put down, and come back to every few years (it becomes more and more relevant the more life you live too).

    And thanks again for listening!


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