This is a nice little package, the printing on the cover is oddly luminous, the pages have black edges and there are (as you might hope) plenty of illustrations to guide us through the worlds of Alan Moore. And as another reviewer has commented this is really a quite comprehensive analysis not just of Alan's work (I don't know why I think I can refer to him as Alan, but I do) but also his life. In fact it is the biographical details that make this book so special. Most of the information about his work is familiar stuff to me, but its' the story of his life that is more interesting. Seeing where Alan Moore comes from is a great key to figuring out why he does what he does, and in this book we see where he came from and where he ended up. (Short answer: Northampton.) It doesn't go into minute details about his personal life or his relationships with other people in a tabloid manner, though it has the odd nice domestic detail, like a nice gag towards the end about how Moore not having the internet means he's not likely to know what a hashtag is, unless it's the sticker on a biscuit tin he keeps half-hidden in his kitchen. It's also very up-to-date, with mention of current and upcoming works.
Parkin is also clever enough not to offer just one perspective on things and to challenge the general agreements on the man's works, like pointing out that Watchmen is a very clever, very witty joke or assessing the importance of Lost Girls in terms of what it represents to Moore's goals. And as the other reviewer mentions, Parkin doesn't shy away from shining a light on the fallings out with publishers and collaborators down the years. There is a definite "he said, she said" sense to those situations that the book doesn't get to the bottom of (and probably no one really could), whilst there are suggestions of what might have created the situations if you read closely enough. Certainly Moore is a complicated individual, a complicated artist and a complicated man, and it's good that Parkin doesn't take the tack some biographers do with other equally complicated individuals of trying to resolve that complexity with some simplistic glib assessment of the man.
Which is to say, this is a book I'd wholeheartedly recommend to anyone even slightly interested in Moore's work and/or the nature of the comics industry because there is a lot (again often uncompromising) of detail in the book about how the UK and US comic industries evolved.
If there are any failings to the book they are minor ones, a couple of noticeable typos, an odd decision not to number quotations for easy reference at the back of the book, no bibliography of works (and a noticeable gap in talking about Moore's time with Wildstorm when it was at Image). It would also have been interesting to see some more about the projects that never manifested.
on 18 December 2013
A compelling read with many interesting topics covered, especially the sections on magic and the controversies over movie adaptations. After the rudimentary groundwork is established this becomes a very engaging book that I did not want to put down and I enjoyed it for the most part. However I found that the author sometimes tried to offer or suggest value judgements on Alan Moore's work or life choices which were often unimaginative and limited (and unnecessary). I did feel better informed after reading this book, but not all that much more intimate with the man himself. In summary a good comprehensive read about Alan Moore but no substitute for reading the man's own words. I recommend buying this book alongside Shuggoth Cultures to make up the difference!
'Magic Words' is an excellent biography of its subject, but it's also something more than that. It gives the reader an insight into the economics and conditions of writing for comics, following Moore from the depths to the heights of the industry over a long period of time and in both the UK and the USA. Even readers who are agnostic about Moore's 'genius' - the author is respectful without being brown-nosed - should find a great deal of interest here; not just colourful tales, but serious analysis of such issues as creator control and the fraught relationship between comics and film.
The real Moore fan should be well-satisfied. This is a literate and properly researched book about a talented, larger-than-life and highly influential artist.
Okay, I haven't read the academic American texts about the world's most famous graphic novelist but I have read the more accessible ones and this really is the best. Unlike the most recent biography (Alan Moore: Storyteller) by one of Moore's mates, this isn't authorised and author Larkin is prepared to delve into some of the more controversial aspects and in detail.
There's as much about Moore's relationships and attitudes towards the comic book industry as there is about the comics/graphic novels themselves. Just one example: there is a very detailed exploration of Moore's widely publicised dispute with DC Comics which the author looks at from both sides and attempts to evaluate the situation. He also discusses Moore's possible motives for his reactions to a variety of issues. So what makes this book stand out above others published to date is that this is as much about Alan Moore the man as Alan Moore the writer, something very much missing from the other title I cited and which I noted in my review of it here on Amazon. Actually, the two books complement each other quite nicely.
That said, it you only gotta buy one book about Alan Moore then this is one: perceptive, witty, and highly readable it's worth every penny.
Perhaps a little surprisingly, the man himself has given it a tacit nod of approval.