Fashion Beast by Alan Moore and Malcolm McLaren

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Fashion Beast by Alan Moore and Malcolm McLaren

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Category: Graphic Novels
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A most unlikely background story lies behind this fable set in the world of fashion, as an untouchable model learns how dangerous overt beauty – and hidden ugliness – can be.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: September 2013
Publisher: Avatar
ISBN: 9781592912117

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Meet Doll. She seems to fit in with the world she aspires to – she has an androgynous look and a sharp tongue, and doesn't seem to hold many of the people around her in much deference. However, as someone else is very quick to point out, she is only a cloakroom attendant, however swanky and in vogue the nightclub she works at might be. That same someone else gets her fired, however, yet for every door that shuts… As she becomes an overnight modelling sensation, and finds her new boss a very singular individual.

This is a great volume for the Alan Moore collector, especially as it is one they might well not know much about – and one they might suspect they might not need – it is the great hairy hippie writing about fashion, of all things. But, as unlikely as it seems, there was a time when this would have been a movie, co-created with Malcolm McLaren, and it's taken over twenty years for the thing to come to any major fruition. Moore has had little to do with it (much as he had little to do with the From Hell Companion recently), beyond write a very nicely detailed and opinionated foreword – one I can use comprehensively to critique the book.

First, the collaboration is an unknown quantity. They talked a bit about the plot and the characters, and Moore refers to feedback on a whole treatment, before he wrote the script, but you can't tell just how much was down to either. The fact it uses lyrics to McLaren's damned awful Vogue singles – pure dross as I remember, and ten times worse than Madonna's own one – does not get one optimistic from the first chapter here. Similarly, Doll and that other person do not work as androgynes – the introduction does not spoil anything, and it's surely the script, characterisation and illustrations together that fail to make anyone look as unknowable, as different, as McLaren would surely have preferred.

Moore's foreword also gets it wrong in some ways when he says the story has survived to be just as relevant – well, yes and no. Talk of a gathering nuclear winter is not quite right as far as 2013 goes – yet robotic shells of soldiers and radiation wastelands elsewhere greatly add to the otherworld feel of the whole setting, something which Moore sounds suitably proud of. That feeling, in almost every frame, really does make the fable sense of the story stand proud. I've been very circumspect about the plot and the characters, for it really does help to know as little as possible. You can easily guess the fashion designer will make a belated appearance, although when he does he is a great character – with very pertinent given initials – and his world is a dark, suitably graphic one, full of odd Gaimanesque characters in power, and hard-done-by ones without it.

I think there definitely would never have been anything like this in the Moore oeuvre without McLaren – certainly no bad pop lyrics, for sure. His introduction is self-deprecating about his attitude to fashion, and rightly so, but he has used the story and the background influences very well. He even manages a diatribe about the raison d'etre of fashion, and the sense seeing people wearing it (or not) could give a culturally astute person. But – even if it sounds even to me to be hyper-critical to say – it's not perfect.

There is if anything too much of the sense of fable and fantasy – the plot, the rich look and the characters, while being fine in themselves, combine to drum out any parallels or modern allusions. If people were designing graphic novels like this in the 1980s – and they weren't – this would have been a real eye-opener, a grand, lauded look at what the format could do. Since then the world of comix has developed a sort of short-hand, where other creators can be references in the way I dropped Gaiman in earlier. As a result this book isn't quite of the highest couture and most daring modernity, but I do certainly like the cut of its jib, and I'd recommend it to anyone who did ever feel snooty at the idea of a graphic novel about a fashion model. It very nearly got four and a half stars.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Paris by Maarten vande Wiele shows you can do brash and contemporary looks at fashion in graphic novels, not just rely on fantasy elements.

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Buy Fashion Beast by Alan Moore and Malcolm McLaren at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fashion Beast by Alan Moore and Malcolm McLaren at


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