Alan Moore’s Light Of Thy Countenance
by Alan Moore, adapted by Antony Johnston, illustrated by Felipe Massafera
(Two covers to Light Of Thy Countenance; left – softcover, right – hardcover)
This slim volume is an adaptation of one of Alan Moore’s old prose stories. It’s become rather a popular thing in the last few years to mine every single piece of work that Moore has ever done, with some more suitable for this treatment than others. One begins to wonder what will happen in a few years time when they’ve covered every work of fiction available. Maybe we’ll start getting the illustrated adaptations of various articles Moore has done over the years or perhaps his numerous introductions to various comics given the deluxe adaptation treatment?
Anyway, Light Of Thy Countenance was written back in ’94 and sees Moore in his very lyrical, poetical phase, which is rather more suited for prose and performance than it is comics, since whilst the lyricism and descriptive prose functions in isolation very well, adding the extra visual information of very descriptive artwork throws the text into the realms of the slightly over-wordy. Like this:
(From Light Of Thy Countenance – Moore’s performance poem / prose story brought to comics.)
Light Of Thy Countenance is very similar in tone and style to his magical performance pieces, almost an essay-poem on the magical power of the medium of television to influence and shape our lives, becoming replacements for every meaningful relationship; love, family, religion – television appropriates them all. The performance aspect of the piece is obviously constraining to the piece in comic form, as everything is written from the point of view of the author and the televisual god, with an essay structure rather than a story and plot, there’s very little room for speech, everything is captioned, all is delivered as voiceover.
Moore brings us in via the familiar, a character in a long running soap opera and then takes us higher and higher into concept and abstract of the god-like position that little square screen occupies in our lives. He also takes us through history, again very similar to one of his performance pieces, tracing both the rise of television to dominate our lives and the actual history of the medium’s development through the last century.
Any adaptation of this kind is a mix of the quality of the original writing, the skill of the adapters to the comic medium and the suitability of the adaptation itself to comic form. Antony Johnston is an old hand at these Alan Moore adaptations and his role is merely to get Moore’s words onto the page with the necessary pacing and layout required for his artist. And Felipe Massafera’s art, lush fully painted pages, panels that merely serve to capture and illustrate moments of Moore’s prose, is decently done and very easy on the eye. It’s only on the last point; the suitability of the material to adaptation to the comic form that Light Of Thy Countenance fails. It’s a better prose story or performance poem or essay than it can ever be a comic adaptation.
In the end, these adaptations of Moore’s supplementary work may well depend on how much you enjoy Moore’s work. They are, by definition, merely extras to his actual writing and consequently only really something to be appreciated by readers familiar with his style and work. Light Of Thy Countenance is a quick, enjoyable read, illustrated nicely and adapted well. It’s a good piece, but perhaps something that really didn’t need the extra sensory stimulation of words and art, sometimes the words are enough.