The sound of the underground : Alan Moore, cartooning and music

Gray, Margaret (2018) The sound of the underground : Alan Moore, cartooning and music. In: Graphic Brighton : Music and Comics; 19 - 20 Jul 2018, Brighton, U.K..


Drawing from a recently published book on Alan Moore’s early work as a cartoonist, this paper approaches the significance of music to his practice by looking at the comics he created for the UK music press in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In particular, it focuses on the ‘Roscoe Moscow: Who Killed Rock ‘n’ Roll?’ strip Moore contributed to national music weekly Sounds between 1979 and 1980, under the pseudonym Curt Vile. It explores the strip’s detailed engagement with the contemporary music scene, and specifically punk, post-punk and new wave, which spoke to the close relationship between comics and music at this time, and the overlaps between comics and music fan cultures. Yet ‘Roscoe Moscow’ arguably didn’t just engage with music at a thematic and narrative level, but registered the impact of punk aesthetics on Moore’s developing visual style, which had its roots in underground comix and psychedelic illustration – thereby negotiating the contradictory relationship between the counterculture and punk at the level of visual form. In analysing Moore’s work as a graphic artist, and drawing from the genre of visual music, the paper therefore further examines what the application of musical categories of rhythm, melody, harmony and timbre can tell us about the strip’s ‘abstract underscore’, and how visual elements of line, tone, texture, pattern and composition articulated this encounter between punk and psychedelia.

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