It is not the least sign of the peculiar magic of the mainstream comic form that two overlords of its flowering into overt significance over the last quarter century — ALAN MOORE (born 1953) and Grant Morrison — are themselves acolytes of the occult arts. Morrison’s chaos magic is self-consciously cutting-edge, its disruptive and sometimes madcap nihilism — which led him once to invoke the thought-form of Mickey Mouse — married to (and arguably marred by) an almost adolescent strain of visionary onanism. Moore is a different kettle of mage. He is a convert for one, a former secular materialist who turned to the mysteries after bottoming out on the cultural pessimism that underlies and in some sense motivates 1986’s Watchmen — his immortal mortal take-down of the ageless superhero. Wagering on the transcendental possibilities of the creative imagination, Moore plunged into the central erotic and humanist streams of the occult tradition, research that lends depth (and occasional didacticism) to his wonderful Promethea series, which is about as sophisticated a meditation on the relationship between modern media and magical thinking as one could hope for. Moore is no Pollyanna — the extraordinary From Hell (collected in 1999) can be read in part as an exposure of the deranged and violent elitism lurking in esoterica. In appearance, Moore resembles a kind of Enochian Aqualung, but his polyamorous, sorcerer-hippie exterior only thinly disguises the more familiar figure of the restive blue-collar visionary, rooted — as his influential propagation of the Guy Fawkes mask in V for Vendetta suggests — in the British soil of subversive tradition.
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