Drawing attention to drawing, performing print : Alan Moore, underground cartoonist

Gray, Maggie (2018) Drawing attention to drawing, performing print : Alan Moore, underground cartoonist. In: Drawing Yourself In and Out of It : The 2nd International Amsterdam Comics Conference; 15 - 17 Nov 2018, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. (Unpublished)


This paper explores some of British creator Alan Moore’s earliest comics in underground and alternative periodicals in the mid-to-late 1970s, which he drew himself. It charts the development of a distinctive visual style, from early illustration influenced by psychedelic poster art, to strips like ‘Anon E. Mouse’ and ‘St. Pancras Panda’ which, drawing on underground comix precursors, made extensive use of highly-textured shading effects, stark tonal contrast, ‘chicken fat’ embellishment and an animated line. But furthermore it analyses how Moore’s approach to cartooning and mark-making - in its density, ludicity, plasmaticness and plurivectionality - delineated the broader values of the hippie counterculture and its aesthetics of play, indeterminacy, sensuousness and reflexivity. Above all, Moore’s cartooning can be seen as performative, drawing attention to the acts and process of drawing in a manner that inscribed the affective politics of the underground – its rendering of transgressive ways of seeing, being and knowing, and articulation of an alternative worldview to that underpinning a technocratic, instrumentalised and alienated industrial society. Crucially this graphic expression of countercultural values was closely related to, and in many ways contingent on, the design of the underground press and hippie visual culture as a whole, and its radical approaches to print technology. Therefore this paper argues it is hard to grasp the politics of Moore’s drawing without attending to the graphic design and material production of the papers it was published in, which was similarly subversive, ludic and performative.

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