Through the corpse-orchard. Through the boneyards … Strange fruit brushes his cheeks. The skinless aristocrat of the cemeteries follows close behind, white head nodding, smiling, top hat fallen over one socket … Somewhere, a bird screams.
From Miracleman, when Mr. Cream is having a nightmare. The thing is, I like all that, and especially the description of the skeleton monster (“skinless aristocrat”), but I would tolerate it only in a comic book. There it’s okay. In regular prose, writing like this would make me groan. Oh, someone wants to show off! He can’t just say skeleton! And by “comic book,” I expect I mean mainstream comics, the sort put out in the world to entertain and make money. If a creator starts out as a presumptive artist and then gets into the purple, I want the creator to shut up. If the creator starts out as a working professional and then tries a few ambitious tricks and angles, I’ll wait to see how the tricks and angles play out. Of course, very often they crash to the ground. Moore wrote good purple prose, an effective purple, not like the endless wind of ’70s Marvel. Miracleman, at least in its first few issues, is one of the few Moore works with a caption-picture ratio of something like 1:1; the captions never go away for long, and they do a lot of talking. But they do a lot less talking than their counterparts in a typical Len Wein issue of Thor. Having made the choice to be verbal, Moore still avoids being verbose. The Marvel writers would flail about and imagine they had dreamed up gorgeousness. Moore goes ahead and gets the job done in a sentence or so, a phase. Even so, they’re very ripe sentences and phrases.
I’m not against fancy writing in general, though most often it goes wrong and, when it does, it produces a much worse stink than plain writing gone wrong. I guess what I look for are passages that produce all the wonderful things sought from fancy writing but without seeming to show off, which is a very subjective judgment. Moore’s captions definitely show off, but they’re on the same page as pictures of a guy in a weird costume, so somehow I give them a break — another subjective judgment.
UPDATE: All right, here are a couple of groaners. Miracleman’s wife gives birth:
Moments later the placenta slides out, a marvelous life-support system of glistening burgundy.
Oh, ha ha ha ha!
Two aliens reminisce:
Once, near Antares, we copulated as whale-mollusks amidst the churning methane.
Ho ho ho ho.
Oh well, genius is prodigal. Moore’s got a million of them and, as Andrew “Dice” Clay was wont to say, they can’t all be golden.