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Revisiting FASHION BEAST (review)—“Earth Day 51”

Story: Alan Moore, Malcolm McLaren

Artists: Antony Johnston, Facundo Percio

Avatar Press, 2012

I WANT TO BE IN THE SCENE like a machine, be in the scene, like a machine. Man, I can’t tell you where I was when I first heard Malcolm McLaren doing his dance extravaganza music, it would sound too cool. That is how the music makes you feel, too cool for your tool school. Scotty, beam me up, I have to get out of here. Remember nights at Montmartre, and the randy Pearl District up the street, stellar nights, brothers and sisters, feed the colors.

Alan Moore's 'Fashion Beast' interview

Now and then a charge rises up my spine that startles me to pay attention. In 1980, the instant I saw on television film actor Reagan was catapulted into the US presidency, against all logic, personifying the evils that confront us, the shamed election itself evil, the charge up my spine was a definitive jolt. More so, my first wife was like a lightning bolt. Now, Alan Moore and Malcolm McLaren in FASHION BEAST, published in 2012 in ten issues, with “sequential adaptation” by Antony Johnston, gave me a similar charge. This is it. The circus cartoon style by artist Facundo Percio, with alternate wraparound covers, sets it off like an icon, an event, something you circle around in a grandstand as a spectator.

The urban scenery here is shrouded under a condition of nuclear winter, a concept that emerged in our mental landscape in the 1980s through Carl Sagan, when new computer modeling boosted analysis of atmospheric conditions to help understand the past of this volcanic planet, and possible futures. Sagan’s long-term thinking about the origins of life on Earth and in the cosmos helped him imagine the demise of our livable habitat in the air, sunlight, water, and soil, the basics of nature we take for granted that cannot be demurred, yet are becoming gradually and increasingly inimical to us. Not much imagination is needed to see the “we” who perceive it also fray, so we become gradually and increasingly inimical to each other as the general habitat deteriorates.

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Welcome to the doomed present, where for a while humanity continues to throb by the weight of big numbers to spill over every container into each other’s faces. Feed the colors, you all. Life goes on as we register our passions and fashions, trying to stay full right now. Inside the scene, the blood pumps in your ears, the air is heavy, and you press forward as if underwater, certain you have to keep moving, thrashing to stay afloat, like a fish drowning in syrup. This is where we arrive, and it felt  like I knew the way.

Are you a boy or a girl, or a boy trying to be a girl, or a girl who looks like a boy trying to be a girl? Never mind. You will not get close enough to find out. Episodes riff on the intrusion of ugliness in our conventions, our positions, our publics, and our selves; and what one might do here and there to get by, and try with whatever shaky wings to fly like an inspired beast testing the wind, until conventions, positions, and publics catch up to you. At last, isolation is the best disguise, leaving in view only a room of clothed mannequins, zoomed images, or lonely words on a page to make up yourself, in a fashion.

Heroine Doll talking into the next room, opens up how grateful one can feel to find shelter. “I mean, outside the salon there’s a ghost town haunted by women and other health hazards. Beyond that there’s fighting and beyond that there’s just empty remote-controlled uniforms raising flags in empty luminous craters.”

This was apparently written in the 1980s about the time Reagan ramped up the war machine, and Sagan informed us that multiple nuclear explosions could destroy civilized life everywhere through nuclear winter, not just at the impact zones. Since then, the American war machine has grown incredibly larger and meaner, and nuclear armaments are grimly poised to destroy us at seconds to midnight as never before. In my vicinity, plans were announced this month for an advanced nuclear reactor up the Columbia River at Hanford with backing from government grants. No one seems to be learning anything in these many decades since the first Earth Day. The nuclear nightmare is just the tip of a devastating ugliness overtaking us in every direction one looks outside the windows of one’s well-encrusted salon.

Without industrial-size effort with military capacity on a monumental scale, we can kiss the future goodbye. We need to fill uniforms with real workers right now, with a definite, responsible plan, intending to become all together someone else somewhere more attractive than here. Otherwise, feeding the colors in one’s small place is about all there is to do, holding up a prism in a fashion to attract the dying light.

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