I kind of chanced upon a very cool story by Alan Moore, one of my favorite comic book writers. I’d half-forgotten about In Pictopia! which appears in Anything Goes No. 2, published by Fantagraphics in December 1986. Anything Goes was a short-lived benefit book that Fantagraphics published to raise money for legal expenses.
I wrote a bit about my Alan Moore fan status earlier here. Alan Moore wrote and Donald Simpson did the artwork. The coloring, done by Eric Vincent, is actually very innovative – at various points he shifts from black and white to faded newsprint tones to full high-key comic book color.
In Pictopia! is a very self-conscious story about the evolution and de-evolution of comics – from newspaper funnies to various comic book genres. Like Moore’s later League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, there are gobs of references – from obvious to obscure. I found allusions to Winsor McCay, Blondie, Plastic Man, the Phantom, Alley Oop, Dick Tracy, and the Yellow Kid… and those are just the most obvious references. There’s quite a bit of Alan Moore annotations available on the web, but I didn’t see any for this story. Anyone out there want to host some sort of Alan Moore annotation wiki? I would contribute.
The other thing that the story is filled with are grids – mainly in the form of chain-link fences and skyscraper windows. These grids are composed of individual squares and rectangles that allude to the panel as the fundamental unit of comics.
The lead character is Nocturno the Necromancer – a black and white funnies magician, who appears to be based on Mandrake the Magician. Nocturno lives in the bleak Prince Feautures tenement and envies the superheros who “can afford to live in color.”