Alan MooreJamie DelanoSteve MooreAndrew Cartmel
The Worm: The Longest Comic Strip in the World
Medium: comic
Year: 1999
Storyline: Alan Moore
Script: Jamie Delano, Steve Moore, Andrew Cartmel, Garth Ennis, Hilary Robinson
Format: 64 pages
Website category: Comics
Review date: 23 February 2022
This was a benefit comic to raise money for The Cartoon Arts Trust. 250 panels, drawn by over 125 artists to tell a story dreamed up by Alan Moore and scripted by a surprising collection of other writers. (Andrew Cartmel? Goodness me. He's not best known for his comics, as far as I know, although he did appear in the Judge Dredd Megazine in the mid-1990s.)
The story itself is mostly dialogue-free and rambles all over the place. It's celebrating comics. Some bloke takes us on a journey through prehistory, the evolution of culture and how comics art could be tied into that. He then finds work in the comics industry, only to get screwed by predatory employment practices before leading a revolution for creators' rights.
It's fun and it looks cool, with a new artistic explosion in pretty much every panel. (Some of these artists have since quit comics. Others have passed on.) It's a curiosity. It's interesting to look through, although I don't imagine you'll feel the need to reread it.
Jamie Delano does evolution, cavemen and cave paintings. Steve Moore does Chinese characters (one of his specialist subjects), choosing three of the simplest ones that could be argued to be pictograms. He then continues to Ancient Egypt, Grecian urns and the Middle Ages. Andrew Cartmel brings us up to date, en route taking in 18th century cartoons, propaganda, revolutions and war. (There are some passages in here where the panels don't flow that well and it's not completely clear what's happening.) Garth Ennis gets the juiciest bit of story, although maybe it's just that he made it look that way. He's doing all the stuff about working for evil bastard editors, getting replaced by copycat artists, etc. Ennis also completely ignores the no-dialogue rule, albeit to good effect.
Finally, Hilary Robinson (today a children's author, broadcaster, radio producer and feature writer) does a sort of epilogue that celebrates comics in general and has lots of cameos. Judge Dredd, Popeye, Betty Boop, the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, etc.
The art's amazing, though. You're likely to keep distracting yourself from the story as you look down to the bottom of the page to see who drew which panels. Charlie Adlard, Jim Baikie, John Bolton, Mark Buckingham, Al Davison, Hunt Emerson, Glenn Fabry, Duncan Fegredo, Ian Gibson, Rian Hughes, Paul Johnson, John McCrea, Kevin O'Neill, Warren Pleece, Woodrow Phoenix, Dermot Power, Liam Sharp, Bryan Talbot and good grief. If you remember TV Comic and Mighty Moth, well, here's Dick Millington. I used to love Thrud the Barbarian and here's Carl Critchlow. (He looks completely different in the style of painted colour he's doing here, mind you.) Plenty of Doctor Who artists too, including Lee Sullivan, Arthur Ranson, Dave Gibbons, David Lloyd, Mike Collins, Richard Piers Rayner and John Stokes. (Plus, of course, four of these six writers have worked for DWM.)
It's an unusual sort of fun. It's also an Alan Moore comic strip (approximately) where the art's better than the script.