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Magic Words: The Extraordinary Life of Alan Moore Hardcover – 7 Nov 2013
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"In Magic Words Lance Parkin has crafted a biography that is insightful, scrupulously fair-minded and often very funny, a considerable achievement given its unrelentingly grim, unreasonable and annoying subject. Belongs on the bookshelf of any halfway decent criminal profiler."(Alan Moore)
"Magic Words is a highly readable biography, never becoming too embedded in its comic book history elements to alienate the reader who isn’t interested in its minutiae, but still providing plenty of food for thought."(Paul Simpson Sci-Fi Bulletin)
"A remarkably lavish thing, with black-tipped pages, a purple spine, inset illustrations, cartoons, and photos... This is quite literally the book that fans have been starving for over the course of decades to take its place alongside the more art-based books and interview collections that have appeared in recent years. Here you have a book that places Moore alongside other great cultural movers and shakers well beyond the sphere of comics and it’s an excellent resource for gaining a wider understanding of the man and his work."(Hannah Means-Shannon Bleeding Cool)
"It is completist, and yet it never once approaches being overbearing. It is a book that deserves its level of introspection and intimacy with its subject... Parkin shows consummate knowledge of his subject, and the end result of it all is that you do see how vital to modern publishing Moore is, and therefore how essential this book is to everyone vaguely interested in comics... Brilliant."(John Lloyd thebookbag.co.uk)
"A brave attempt to get to grips with one of the titans of modern pop culture... readers are sure to love the chapters about the creation of those dazzling early masterpieces"(Starburst)
"May Moore live long and prosper and may many thousands of fans buy Lance Parkin’s excellent biography and find out more about what makes him tick."(Eamonn Murphy sfcrowsnest.org.uk)
"The best study of Moore we have so far … valuable for anyone interested in keeping up with one of the geniuses working in fantastic literature."(Joe Sanders The New York Review of Science Fiction)
“Superbly researched and lucidly argued, Magic Words encourages the reader to step back from the gallery of supposedly Manichean controversies and ossified preconceptions. With a determination to focus on the light rather than the heat of things, Parkin lends many of the most apparently unchallengeable aspects of Moore's career a new perspective… the portrait of its subject that emerges is enticingly fresh and repeatedly contrary to received wisdom… the disconnected expressions of genius and bloodymindedness are reframed as the product of one fascinating individual and his fiercely held principles and aspirations. It's a well-played accomplishment that makes Parkin's smart-minded analysis of Moore's work all the more compelling… I can only suggest that you drop everything and search out a copy of 'Magic Words' right now.”(toobusythinkingaboutcomics.blogspot.co.uk)
"Magic Words is a book that manages to cater to all the different levels of the Moore fandom, whilst remaining simple and easy enough to read if you have never even heard of him. It is a biography that can be critical on occasion and at least once downright heartbreaking, but it is a fantastic and fitting portrait of a man who may, or may not be one of the greatest living comics writers of our time."(Anton Krasauskas aguidetogeekdom.wordpress.com)
"While Parkin is obviously a fan with an exhaustive knowledge of Moore’s life and work, he doesn’t allow his fanboy nature to blind him to the more abrasive and inexplicable actions and statements of his subject. He asks what we’re to make of Moore’s claims of magic, his sometimes baffling contrariness, and most tellingly, is it possible that the joke is on Moore’s most loyal and ardent fans? These valuable questions take Parkin’s book beyond casual biography and into much more challenging and worthwhile territory."(Glenn Dallas San Francisco Book Review)
About the Author
LANCE PARKIN is a British author, best known for writing fiction and reference books for television series, most notably Doctor Who. He is an Alan Moore completist, having followed the comics maestro's career since the 1970s, and in 2001 he wrote an acclaimed guide to Moore's work, which has since been updated and reissued. In addition to contributing pieces to magazines such as TV Zone, SFX and Doctor Who Magazine, he is also the co-author of Dark Matters, a guide to Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. He lives in the USA.
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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.
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.
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