Two days ago, Bleeding Cool talked to Alan Moore about his new anthology, Cinema Purgatorio. Today, The Wicked + The Divine and Darth Vader’s Kieron Gillen writes about his contribution,
Modded is R-rated Pokemon in the style of the Fast & The Furious in a Mad Max universe. It’s written by me. I’m the Eisner-Award losing writer of various bits and pieces.
Like the art? Of course you do. Ig‘s a monster. You’re all going to fall in love with him. He’s got that level of inspired brutality and unleashed invention that a project like Modded demands. The creative process basically goes “Dude! I need a monster!” and Ig sends me a monster and I go “Dude! That’s a f-cking monster!” and Ig gives me the thumbs up, and then we hold each other for a while.
Well, that’s all you need to know, right? It’s in Cinema Purgatorio, out soon, buy it.
This is how we got there.
Last year, William and Alan invited me to write a strip for Cinema Purgatorio. Of course, I’m interested. Alan Moore is rising his black flag and setting sail for uncharted waters. He asks you if you want to be part of the crew. The only answer is to grab your cutlass and clamber aboard before he changes his mind.
It’s also a chance to play in a form I’ve got enormous fondness for which I’ve never really had a chance to actually do – namely, the serial short-form comic. I suspect I’ve written more short-form work than most writers who’ve worked recently in the American superhero-mainstream. While I ran a mile from the once-traditional British Writer 2000AD Future Shock training programme, my own dirty black and white photocopied zines used the form exclusively. I’ve grabbed the chance to do any short comics I can, most regularly in the back of the single issues of Phonogram. But to do a pop, dirty, regular comic? Never. Which means I desperately want to do it. In writing terms, I’m the guy in the bar who ends up inserting a delicate part of their anatomy in a jar full of wasps just because they’ve never tried it before, and you’ve got to try everything once, right, right?
So Alan Moore comes up and offers me a jar full of wasps? You better believe my cock is going in.
Now, the problem is what to write. It’s the morning of the day I’m going to meet Alan and William, and I’m still not sure what makes sense. It’s not like there’s not options, because – like any writer – I’ve got a trunk of ideas I’ve never had the time to develop. And as I spent basically five years writing for Marvel, I have a lot of them.
Before I head out, I grab my wife and editor Chrissy Williams and start listing various concepts, asking for her feedback.
(As an aside – Wife and Editor. Chrissy has somehow managed to acquire the two worst jobs in existence. Pray for her.)
I work down the list, and eventually hit one, where I says something like…
“Basically, this is about applying the revisionist toolset to pop-icons and genres who’ve yet to receive the process. This is basically adult-orientated Pokemon, but rather than being cute, it’s monstrous. It’s trainers upgrading their demons in alleyways before entertaining glamourous street-competitions against beautiful peers….”
“So like the Fast and the Furious?” Chrissy said, trying to get back to work.
“YES! EXACTLY LIKE THAT,” I said, while stomping around the room like if I was auditioning to be a mo-cap actor in a remake of 1986 not-actually-that-good classic Rampage, “But with added Mad Max: Thunder Road! The whole peak-era 2000AD Brendan McCarthy velocity of ideas and visuals! That!”
“Pitch it,” said Chrissy, going back to thinking about poetry and a time when her life didn’t involve having to put up with Kieron.
I go to explain all this to Alan and William. I return in the evening. Chrissy asked how it went.
“Well… it went really well,” I said, “But I’ve expanded the core world-building. Basically the history of the daemon-fighting in the world dovetails with the development of videogames in ours, and the demonologists are all about the philosophical beliefs of what games “should” be and the conflicts between the monsters an expression of true game design principles. The whole thing is fundamentally my satirical history of games and about what are games for anyway – which obviously links to my usual WHAT IS ART FOR ANYWAY, MAAAN nonsense.”
“Kieron,” said Chrissy, “When you left the house you had a very pure and populist idea. I leave you alone for an hour, and you’ve added a whole load of intellectual gibberish, haven’t you?”
And I shame-facedly look at my feet and shuffle back and forth and back out of the room. She’s not wrong.
So, yeah. The short pitch is “Modded is R-rated Pokemon in the style of the Fast & The Furious in a Mad Max universe.” The longer pitch is “Modded is R-rated Pokemon in the style of the Fast & The Furious in a Mad Max universe, whose history satirically mirrors the development of the games industry in ours.”
Modded is something which is extremely playful on the surface – this is a horror anthology, but Modded is very much a horror-comedy – but has a little intellectual meat if you dig into it. Or, at least, a lot of videogames in-jokes, which is nearly as good.
Modded is set in a world which fundamentally ended 37 years ago, with the Etheric Invasion which destroyed the world (aka the arrival of Space Invaders). Are you the sort of person who just went “Space-Invaders? What about Pong?” Well, I suspect this is the book for you, because the difference between Pong’s impact and Space-Invader’s impact is exactly the sort of thing we touch on. And hey, don’t stop at Pong. Go to Space Wars. Go to Turing’s first chess program. Go to HG Wells with his Little Wars. Go to Kriegspiel. Go to the first person who sat down, carved symbol on a bit of bone and realised you could do probably have some fun with these “dice” things…
I suspect many people in comics don’t know about my awful prehistory. For a very long time, I used to be a game critic. I worked for everyone, won awards and did literally anything a critic could do. I was moderately infamous, to a level where my name still turns up in textbooks. A lot of people hated me, which was a pretty good training level for dealing with writing comics. Point being: I love games, I love what games can do and I’ve missed having a place to publicly show that. And like anyone who really loves something, I understand the ambivalent and complicated feelings that should provoke. Don’t expect anything as comfort-food gee-aren’t-we-all-so-amazing-for-having-played-D&D as READY PLAYER ONE. I’ve been away for five years. I’ve been thinking.
This is mainly expressed in the form of jokes, because life is too short and I want to have some fun with you guys.
MODDED is fun. Is “fun” still a scarlet letter in comic? I don’t think so, but even if it was, MODDED isn’t that kind of fun. Most Fun books seem to be the all-ages stuff parents would buy for their kids. Modded is the sort of Fun book that kids buy and hide from their parents. It is, appropriately for Cinema Purgatorio, illicit.
All these words and I haven’t even talked about the cast, have I? Do I need to tell you about the innocent Fringe and her journey from the Consolation Camps of the Eastern Seaboard to the Altantic Desert’s Abyss, where she can finally prove herself a daemonatrix? Do I need to tell you about Bloody Susan and her half-life lizard Mr Boom? Do I need to tell you of all the questionable cybernetic orifices that Tommy Zero and Tommy Zero’s wish to insert their penises into? Fluffbumble? Junior Ultromyocote? The Leviathane? Surely you can’t expect me to spill the whole of the Hexicon in here?
No. The answer is NO.
See you in Cinema Purgatorio #1, where you can all patiently wait to see how many issues it takes until someone turns up with a pelvic-mounted minigun.
It can only be time.