Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #119: The Bojeffries Saga by Alan Moore & Steve Parkhouse

The hallmark of a robust, healthy ecosystem for a particular medium is that the best works in that medium keep coming back. There's one writer who jokes on his blog that new video technologies exist only to make him keep buying new copies of Goldfinger. Shakespeare's plays are in dozens of editions -- illustrated, limited, cheap, expensive, electronic, free, and probably engraved on plates of gold. And it's not a Broadway season without at least two or three big-name revivals.

Even comics is mature enough these days that the same rule applies -- Scott McCloud's Zot! comes back, after a decade away, in a big black-and-white collection. "Artist's Editions" present beloved works in new ways -- or, rather, exactly the way the original creators saw them on the drawing board. And even the quirky, oddball works of major creators come back into print, like a comet taking a long tack back into the public eye.

So The Bojeffries Saga came back last year -- it's previous edition was in 1994, from Atomeka, if you can remember them -- bringing possibly Alan Moore's silliest and least characteristic work [1] back for a new generation (or for those of us from the old generation who need to replace their copies). The Bojeffries stories -- drawn by Steve Parkhouse, who I'm afraid I know from this and nothing else, though he seems to have had a long comics career -- are fragmented and individual, each telling one story about one supernaturally strange British family.

The Bojeffries may have been Moore's attempt to do a British answer to Charles Addams and his famous family, or just a parallel idea -- but it's in that space: the weirdos who comment on the normal people by their existence and their very different takes on modern life. There's Jobremus, the father, who's as normal as the Bojeffries family comes -- though his teenage son, Reth, doesn't look all that bizarre in the stories we've seen so far. But one uncle, Festus, is a vampire, and the other, Raoul, is a werewolf -- and both of them speak in thick accents -- entirely different thick accents, of course, with varying typography to match -- and Reth's sister Ginda is not just a super-genius, but has the strength of Atlas, the sex-drive of Aphrodite, the aesthetic appeal of ten miles of bad road, and the temperament of a particularly nasty Cyclopes. That's not even to mention the baby -- kept in the cellar, and radioactive enough to power the entire country -- or Grandpa Podlasp, a churning mass of Lovecraftian protoplasm residing in the back greenhouse and mostly avoiding tampering with the atomic structure of the things around him.

This particular collection of Bojeffries material includes all of the original stories from Warrior and other outlets in the '80s -- as far as I can tell; there's no listing of contents or of prior publications, which is incredibly annoying in a book -- but not the linking material from the Atomeka edition. But it does have a new 24-page story about the Bojeffries clan in the modern day, where things have changed for all of them -- culminating in their collective presence on a reality show. (This is funny, but I've always thought much of the appeal and the point of the Bojeffrieses is their very timelessness -- the rent collector of the first story arc heavily implies that they've been the same for about a century, so it's unsettling to see them change so much in a mere decade or so.)

Anyway, that's what we have here: weird British family, supernatural in all of the usual ways but immediately doing the un-obvious things. Moore in his quirky, funny mode. Excellent art -- the classic-period stuff always looked a bit Hunt Emerson-y to me -- to boot. Why not?

[1] Though it's also probably the most British of his books, which may be why it seems odd to Americans like me. Perhaps Brits find it rather more sedate and homey?

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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