Alan MooreJacen Burrows
Alan Moore's Yuggoth Cultures and Other Growths
Medium: comic
Year: 2003
Writer: Alan Moore, Antony Johnston
Artist: Juan Jose Ryp, Bryan Talbot, Mike Wolfer, Val Semeiks, Jacen Burrows, Hunt Emerson, Oscar Zarate, Marat Mychaels
Format: 3-issue limited series
Website category: Comics
Review date: 17 January 2022
It's a miscellaneous rag-bag of little stories that, to some degree, were written by Alan Moore. Some of them are previously unpublished pieces or nearly-forgotten 1980s reprints. ("Nightjar" is an unpublished strip from Warrior that had been planned as the first episode in a horror series, but then Moore fell out with Dez Skinn.) Some of them are Antony Johnston comic strip adaptations of poems or songs by Moore. (I'm waiting for someone to "adapt" Moore's laundry list.)
It's quite an interesting anthology, though. It's eclectic.
ZAMAN'S HILL (12 pages, "adapted" by Antony Johnston from Moore's poem, art by Juan Jose Ryp)
It's neither a narrative nor a comic strip. It's a semi-abstract prose piece with amazing but slightly hard-to-read illustrations. (Ligne claire often works best with colour, but alas this is a black-and-white comics series.)
The original piece comes from an idea Moore had for a book called Yuggoth Cultures, based on Lovecraft's Fungi From Yuggoth cycle of poems. He wrote some pieces for it... and then lost most of them in a London taxi. The book never happened. Two poems survived, though, and appeared in a 1995 book (Dust: A Creation Books Reader) before being turned into Antony Johnston adaptations for this limited series.
NIGHTJAR (8 pages, art by Bryan Talbot)
It's not that great, to be honest. I'm also unconvinced by the "acting" of the main character as drawn by Talbot on page four. It is, though, an early work. I'm sure the full serial, had it ever happened, would have been fine (and it's since been completed without Moore's involvement as a four-part mini-series written by Johnston with art by Max Fiumara).
It is, though, a unique curiosity. Talbot dug out his original, incomplete pages from twenty years ago and completed them, which was a weird experience. There are also twenty bonus text pages: Moore's original script, an eight-page letter Moore wrote to Talbot at the time about their planned series and a discussion of the whole thing by Talbot.
LITVINOFF'S BOOK (6 pages, adapted by Antony Johnston from Moore's song, art by Mike Wolfer)
It's about 1950s-60s London gangsters, the Kray twins. The "story" itself doesn't really add up to much, but Alan Moore has some cool reminiscences in his issue #3 interview about the real stories behind it.
COLD SNAP (4 pages, 1983, art by Bryan Talbot)
It's like a Tharg's Future Shock. Our heroes are racist, lazy-minded slobs who are complacent about climate change and say that girls they don't know are lesbians. They're also dinosaurs in the late Cretaceous era. There's a nip in the air.
It's quite amusing. It's also a fascinating 1980s UK fossil in its art style, e.g. all that letratone shading.
ITCHY PETERSON: JUST BORN LUCKY I GUESS (8 pages, pencils by Val Semeiks, inks by Kevin Conrad)
This one's quite fun, although the black-and-white art was clearly expecting to be coloured. It's an interview with the Wolf-Man now he's retired from movie-making and dutifully takes the pills. It's a good laugh and very slightly, subtly sinister. (He loves flowers. He paints them. Note how many flowers are in those photos from the Budapest Police Department archive, 1939-1940.)
THE NATIVITY ON ICE (2 pages, written by Alan Moore under the pen name "Kurt Vile", with art by Bryan Talbot)
Wow, we're going back here. Kurt Vile. That's a pseudonym from the past. This looks like his 1970s fanzine work, i.e. basically underground comix. You couldn't really call it "good", but it's got energy and a wacky idea.
RECOGNITION (14 pages, adapted by Antony Johnston from Moore's poem, art by Jacen Burrows)
It's the second and much more successful Yuggoth Cultures story. It's quite shocking. It's about Lovecraft's late father, who died (probably of syphilis-related insanity) when Lovecraft was eight and other biographical details of his family.
It does, though, blatantly contradict itself. (a) Satan's "hairless body" according to the text is drawn with a beard and goat legs. (b) "All characters depicted in this story are over the age of eighteen" protests a page one disclaimer, despite a panel of Lovecraft's dad having sex with a girl who's "not quite fifteen".
LEVITICUS (6 pages, 1987, art by Hunt Emerson)
It's a gross-out comedy about Moses telling the Israelites the rules in Leviticus and the bloodbath that ensues when everyone takes them literally. For my money, Emerson's the best artist in these pages. He's a cartoonist, yes, but look at how much character and life he puts into his faces. Mind you, some of his panels here are so extreme that they're not that easy to read.
I KEEP COMING BACK (12 pages, art by Oscar Zarate)
It's a curiosity, really. Moore calls it an almost completely true-life story and a coda to From Hell.
ME AND DOROTHY PARKER (10 pages, adapted by Antony Johnston from Moore's song, art by Marat Mychaels)
Imagine a version of Bonnie and Clyde where the violence is just Dorothy Parker's bon mots. The idea's cool, but I suspect it worked better as a song.
...and there's also an interview with Moore about all these (which is great). The Courtyard had been scheduled for this collection, but became its own separate series. In short, you don't need this. It's lots of bits and pieces. The reprints are variable and often early work, while the Antony Johnston adaptations are variable for another reason. It's also, though, interesting as a varied and hugely unpredictable selection of little-known snapshots from Moore's career.