Given the undisguised disdain Alan Moore has treated his readers with over the last decade – admitting he churned out Neonomicon for the money – and the bad blood that he seems to court, Fashion Beast is a rare echo from a happier age where Moore’s crusading spirit and mythologised storytelling embraced a conventional narrative.
Conceived by Malcolm McLaren – the fashion/media impresario who first stuck a price tag on punk rock and put it up on a rack in Carnaby Street – as a movie script in 1985, he handed Moore the outline and the characters and only now, thanks to Avatar Press, frequently Moore collaborator Anthony Johnson (Wasteland, Daredevil) and artist Facundo Percio (Anna Mercury) is it seeing the light of day.
Written co-currently with Watchmen a few years after V For Vendetta began, Fashion Beast has a great deal in common with both. Beyond the fashion industry fetishism and pseudo-punk gender subversion projected by McLaren, it’s about the collapse of a decaying old order and a jingoistic and self-absorbed parody of Eighties excess, and against this backdrop an aspiring model and aspiring fashion design begin their love/hate relationship and fairytale (Beauty And The Beast and Cinderella, specifically) ascent that simultaneously brings down a totalitarian regime.
All the touches of peak-era Moore are there, the grotty banality of supporting characters and clever visual gags that foreshadow the big themes and plot developments, but it’s by no means as dense texturally – perhaps belying its origins as a screenplay and the telltale sign on another pair of hands upon it.
Nearly three decades on, it feels more like something written in the style of Moore rather than something written by Moore, but something written in the style of Moore at his peak is infinitely preferable to something written by Moore right now.