Tuesday, 26 May 2015

"ALL THIS... I SNIFF."


Isn't he great? He's so great. 

When producer Claire Broughton sent out a list of possible authors to spoof for the third series of Ian Leslie's Before They Were Famous I can't have been the only writer excited to see Alan Moore's name on it. How much of an overlap actually exists between fans of 2000AD (I smuggle John Wagner in there too) and Radio 4 comedy is another matter, but on a purely, selfishly personal level - considering this is the first time I've performed my own stuff on the radio, and probably the first time the great man's been impersonated on Radio 4 - I couldn't be happier with how "Alan Moore's scripts for Fred Basset" turned out. Hey, Dave Gibbons tweeted me today! The artist of Watchmen? Yeah, him: "really funny (and accurate!)" he said - JUST SAYIN'! Sorry... But this is exactly why I've left it so long to write this post - I can't write charmingly about it, I'm too obnoxiously happy! 
Anyway, it's available to listen to for another month, with great work too from Marc Haynes, Abi Burdess, Benet Brandreth and Alex Lowe as Alex Graham. 

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 And here, for posterity and the deaf, is that bit in full:

- For one extraordinarily prolific period in the 1980’s, Northampton-based writer and cartoonist Alan Moore spearheaded a revolution in comics with such “graphic novels” as “Watchmen” and “V for Vendetta”, both of which would later be turned into big budget films from which Moore immediately disassociated himself. His correspondence with artists often ran to hundreds of pages in length, providing evidence of a garrulous polymath with a flair for the esoteric, driven to push both collaborators and the boundaries of his chosen genre to their absolute limit. One of Moore’s first correspondents was the Daily Mail’s Alex Graham, who was looking for new blood to take over writing duties on his popular dog-based cartoon strip “Fred Bassett”. Moore’s strips were never published, but his scripts survive...

Hullo Alex! 
Great to hear you’re interested in running an eye, or preferably both, over my as yet pretty much let’s face it about-as-untested-as-a-chat-up-line-in-a-bordello efforts. Shall we crack on then? Fasten your seat belts, as the actress said to the aeroplane, and eyes down for a full house..
 Panel I: 
Our hero, Fred Bassett, dog, indoors, paws on windowsill, staring glumly out at a rainy day. Thought bubble: “IT'S RAINING OUTSIDE... COLD, FAT DROPS POUNDING DOWN UPON A HUNGRY EARTH, TURNING INTO VIOLENT, BRIEF AND RECIPROCATING SOUP THE MUSTY INSECT CARTRIDGES THAT LITTER THE GOLF COURSE. THE WIFE OF THE HUMAN WHO CALLS HIMSELF MY OWNER SWERVES IN THE RAIN TO AVOID AN OBLIVIOUS FOX AND, FOR A SECOND, IS REMINDED SHE TOO IS BURSTABLE. THREE DOORS DOWN, A SLEEPING CHILD BREAKS INTO A COLD SWEAT AS HE DREAMS OF A SCHOOL OF SHARKS, EACH WEARING THE FACE OF HIS FATHER. ALL THIS... I SNIFF. DOGS CAN SMELL FEAR. IT IS 10.37 AM.” 
 Panel 2 -

Dear Alan,
Thanks very much but I don’t think I’ll be able to get all that in the one bubble. Have you anything with fewer words? I like the idea of Fred looking out of the window though.          
Yours in anticipation, 
Alex Graham


Hullo Alex! 
Uncle Alan here. Point taken. Let’s go wordless. Comics are a visual medium, and the absence of thought bubbles frees us from having to pretend a dog thinks in sentences which, to my mind at least, seems marginally less likely than a human thinking in smells. If you’re sitting comfortably then - 
 Panel I: 
Fred looking out of the rain-swept window, his nose glistening. Behind him, a newspaper torn to shreds, the remnants of its headlines still visible. The word fragments "-UCLEAR" "-MEGEDDON" and "IMMIN-". 
 Panel 2: 
We pull back. Thirty feet above the house, Fred still visible in the window. Next door a barbecue is being rained off. 
 Panel 3: Pull back. We are above the clouds now but the weather is clearing, The Swan visible in the gaps, its drunken patrons searching their pockets for car keys. On one of the clouds: a lip-stick-tube-shaped shadow. 
 Panel 4: Pull back. The Earth -

Dear Alan,
I don’t really want to draw that.
For one thing it’s a hundred and twenty seven panels long, Fred Bassett traditionally runs to three or four. For another, we’re outside the known universe as early as panel thirteen, and I’m not comfortable drawing backgrounds on the best of days. Shall we give it another go?
Yours,
Alex Graham.


Hullo Alex! 
Message received. Onwards and upwards then, here’s the new script. Roll up your sleeves, gird your loins, send the ladies out of the room, pull up a chair, hoist the main brace, check your mirrors, press your trousers, pawn the silver, hide the vicar, declog the veeblefetzers, check down the back of the sofa, fire up the engines -

Alan, Alan…
That letter was four hundred pages long and I was still on the introduction by page 103. 
In happier news: The BBC has now said they’re interested in a television show with no less a talent than Lionel Jeffries providing the voice of Fred. I hope you’re as excited about this development as I am.
Looking forward to something a bit shorter,
Alex Graham.


- Complying with Graham’s request, Alan Moore’s next letter ran to just one sentence…

Burn what we have wrought, Alex, burn it to the ground and we can but hope from the resultant scorched earth a purer form may bloom.


- Graham turned next to a fellow Scotsman famous for the terseness of his scripts. A colleague of Moore’s, John Wagner would later create the ultra-violent, twenty-second century lawman "Judge Dredd"...                              

Fred Bassett. 
Panel I: 
Owner to dog: “SAY WOOF, BOY. SAY WOOF.” Dog: “SHAN'T.”
Panels 2-4: 
Owner shoots dog in head with a complicated gun. 
Pours petrol on dog. 
Lights match. Caption: ”WOOF!

                                 You’re welcome.

 http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-o3-LIUhlxNo/UnR3mwQjEbI/AAAAAAAADX4/BjDztod7YT0/s1600/Maxwell+IV0031.JPG 
 And of course Moore was actually a wiz at the animal-based comic strip. Of course he was...
(From Philip Sandifier's exhaustive and ongoing history of Moore: The Last War in Albion.)

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