Alan Moore
Alan Moore's Another Suburban Romance
Medium: comic
Year: 2003
Writer: Alan Moore, Antony Johnston
Artist: Juan Jose Ryp
Format: 60 pages
Website category: Comics
Review date: 19 January 2022
It's not without interest in a surrealist way, but it's a place to find head-banging choices. The source material was difficult, yes, but that's no excuse. This is terrible. It's a crash-and-burn failure for this latest experiment in riding on Alan Moore's bandwagon by adapting works of his that weren't written as comics.
The original pieces are soliloquies from a never-performed 1976 surrealist play Moore wrote with Jamie Delano, called Another Suburban Romance. They're all that's survived of it.
The art's fantastic, mind you... but sometimes hard to read. Juan Jose Ryp draws intricate, super-detailed art that reminds me of Geof Darrow, but unfortunately it hasn't been coloured. It overloads the eye. I look at some of these pages and go, "Well, that's a mess of lines." (I'm okay with most of the pages and I do like Juan Jose Ryp, but wow.)
1. JUDY SWITCHED OFF THE TV (15 pages)
Here's how the original soliloquy begins:
"Judy switched off the TV, but the picture just stayed there. Threw up her hands and went into the bathroom to die. Outside, the traffic stopped breathing. All the books had blank pages. Wrote her a note and went out without saying goodbye. By then the flamethrower girls had reached the suburbs."
This comics adaptation of that doesn't hang together visually. The art's great and full of imaginatively realised detail, but it's also built of almost dissociated panels that aren't serving the text. There's no attempt to convey the surrealism of being unable to turn off a TV, or indeed the very simple visual narrative that would have conveyed that that's happening in the first place. (It's only been given one frame, but you'd want two or three to show the sequence of events, e.g. 1. TV on as character presses button. 2. TV still on. 3. Character reaction.) There's certainly no suggestion that thought has gone into what this sentence might have been trying to say.
Similarly, there's no attempt to show us a woman who's about to die, or to suggest a reason why this might be. Suicide, murder, accident, an overreaction to the TV incident or just a flippant description of an overreaction for mild comedy? (She's not even the visual focus of the panel and we can't see her face. Also, no attempt is made to suggest a connection with or continuation from the previous panel.) Johnston and Ryp seem to have flat-out ignored the idea of traffic that's stopped breathing. (My best guess is that it's a colourful way of saying "it was so hot that everything seemed to have stopped", but it's even so it's still a more evocative idea than anything that's been drawn on that page.) The flamethrower girls are, literally, just girls going crazy with flamethrowers, who weren't there a panel before and will never even be glimpsed again.
It's just so thuddingly literal. It keeps taking the dullest interpretation possible, with no attempt at connecting the thoughts. It's completely, howlingly at odds with how you'd have to approach the speech as an actor. It's like a dream narrative, if anything, but it doesn't feel like a dream either.
There are, in fairness, a few inspired moments. I like the riot police who've been drawn as skeletons. Ultimately, though, they're adapting a very short piece of text with at most two panels per page, with a staccato lack of continuity between them. A more fleshed-out adaptation could have been more joined-up and thought-out.
2. OLD GANGSTERS NEVER DIE (28 pages)
1920s gangsters do lots of violent gangster stuff. This is more successful visually than "Judy Switched Off The TV", but it's still largely incoherent.
3. ANOTHER SUBURBAN ROMANCE (11 pages)
The visuals appear to be Alan Moore walking through an urban environment on the verge of breakdown. The text is rendered in verbose caption blocks, at most one per page, that don't let the eye flow and aren't integrated with the page at all.
This is such a bad adaptation that I'd almost recommend it to anyone interested in studying failure. The pieces were written to be performed, of course. Comics are completely the wrong medium. These particular comics pages, though, are wrong-squared.