Date read: 9.5.2014
Book from: Library
Fashion Beast is a 10-issue comic written by Alan Moore, Malcom McLaren [yes, THAT Malcolm McLaren - father-of-punk Malcolm McLaren], and Antony Johnston, with art and colors by Facundo Percio.
“Doll was unfulfilled in her life as a coat checker of a trendy club. But when she is fired from the job and auditions to become a “mannequin” for a reclusive designer, the life of glamour she always imagined is opened before her. She soon discovers that the house of Celestine is as dysfunctional as the clothing that define the classes of this dystopian world. And she soon discovers that the genius of the designer is built upon a terrible lie that has influence down to the lowliest citizen.”
Such a whitebread back-cover description! Some high-concept terms that get at it better: Beauty & the Beast in a rotting, faintly fascist retro-future city on the brink of nuclear winter, with a lot of gender ambiguity and sundry, Gormenghastly gothic touches.
Surprisingly, despite all those Emera-tuned keywords, I didn’t love this, and primarily because I didn’t enjoy the art. I quite liked Percio’s penciling (especially pacing of gestures and facial expressions from panel to panel), but the colors are everything I dislike about digital color in comics: every surface airbrushed into metallic smoothness, plus periwinkle shadows for everyone’s skin in case they didn’t already look enough like metal. Also, for a comic that’s about clothes wearing people rather than the other way round, the fashion is disappointingly boring: all basic, flat Neo-Edwardian silhouettes. I wish it had exerted more visual seduction.
Otherwise, I enjoyed the comic, found it to be a rich text that I thought through repeatedly in the days after I’d read it. It’s a darkly cheeky satire on celebrity and image – very similar in themes to Watchmen, really, but more winking, a bit more knowingly confected, and targeted more specifically at myths of creative genius, and consumerism. All the fancy is anchored by characters who are developed just enough to read as prickly, human, and sympathetic.
I can’t seem to find this review anymore, but I’d read one that mentioned the troubling note of the erasure of the initially apparently queer characters: the girl who looks like a boy who looks like a girl, ends up clinching happily and heterosexually with the boy who looks like a girl who looks like a boy… I wish I could find that review to credit it, because it made the ending of the comic click for me: “But that’s the POINT!” The provocateur who seeks validation and fame by way of the establishment ends up becoming the establishment; the consumerist machine chews its way forward; the walls close in again. Also, everyone’s going to die in a nuclear apocalypse anyway.
And some great side stuff - the creepy background notes riffing on the hollowness of fashion – the use of uninhabited, remote-controlled suits to patrol and reclaim irradiated areas, for example. Who cares why they would be suits rather than just robots (most elements of this dystopian world barely hold up logically), when it’s such a great image?