Alan Moore editor, Dodgem Logic #1 (2009). 2.50 pounds per issue.
Alan Moore specializes in retconning, in molding previously extant characters (Swamp Thing, Marvelman, Captain Nemo) to his own purposes. I'm not the first person to point this out, of course. In his review of Moore and Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls, for instance, Douglas Wolk argues that Moore's detournment of Oz's Dorothy, Wonderland's Alice and Peter Pan's Wendy is the world's most elaborate example of slash fandom. Porn aside, I think we can still read most of Moore's projects as extremely well-written fan fictions, as mash notes to characters and storytellers that he wants to emulate and celebrate.
Now here's Dodgem Logic, an alt-culture magazine edited and financed by Moore out of his hometown (and geographic muse) of Northampton, UK. Dodgem deviates from Moore's retcon strategy a bit, in that it's a publishing genre, rather than a canonical character or story, that Moore is fiddling with this time.
Up front, Moore calls Dodgem "a trippy-looking underground mag with a self-confessed agenda of aggressive randomness" (1), and goes on to place Dodgem in a tradition of oppositional publishing that includes pre-Gutenberg hand-written religious tracts, the 19th-century Decadent periodical The Yellow Book, Tijuana bibles, and, especially, such 1960s zines as The Realist and International Times. Moore is once again betting that a resurrected, reconfigured past might improve our current situation:
In the draughty, boarded-storefront landscape of the present day, when the most wild and radical sixties complaints regarding the environment, the government or the police have become commonplace mainstream public opinion, when we're monitored to an extent that makes George Orwell seem an optimist and when the media serve up only regurgitated tinsel shit and naked propaganda, we would seem particularly needful of the colour, sexiness and energy that undergrounds once offered. With regular society and culture clearly coughing blood, a counter-culture or alternative society might be things we could use right about now. (7)
And Moore does his best to inject Dodgem with some psychedelic color and sexiness. Besides his essay on the underground press, his big contribution to Dodgem is a strip that extols the charms of a pansexual "underground Valhalla" in visual terms that remind me of Rick Griffin:
This strip amusingly invokes some of the metaphysical concepts Moore's written about in previous work--note the appearance of Promethea's Kaballastic "tree of life" in panel three--and there are other features in Dodgem Logic that present and/or discuss counter-culture ideas. Melinda Gebbie provocatively argues that some women use feminism to escape from the hard task of individual self-improvement: "As Emma Goldman pointed out, one must be a person first, with goals, ideals and a code of behaviour which is fair to everyone, before one attempts to segregate the sexes and make half the world wrong on the basis of genital function" (32). A health-care professional with the nom de plume "Doctor Feelgood" reminds us of the important point (as valid here as in the UK) that the final responsibility for a patient's health lies with the patient him/herself. And most entertainingly, Graham Linehan raves about Twitter, speculating that "future Lennon and McCartneys," living thousands of miles from each other, might even now be exchanging Tweets. (Linehan's piece is accompanied by a hilarious illustration by Michael Kupperman--cribbed from Linehan's blog--of a middle-aged man smoking a pipe and sneering disapprovingly; is this man supposed to be Linehan, or just some old Luddite who mistrusts Linehan's technological enthusiasm?)
Other contributors to Dodgem offer more concrete ways to glamorize and otherwise better "the draughtly, boarded-storefront landscape of the present day." Tamsyn Payne shows us dandies how to sew an elaborate buttonhole decoration out of an old necktie, Dave Hamilton lives well without spending any money, and Wendy Jarret offers recipes for "Lemony Rice Pudding" and "Pumpkin and Quinoa Soup," neither of which I've made yet, but they do look tasty. Maybe the revolution will be slow-cooked as well as Tweeted.
It's required by international law (International Law!) that every counter-culture mag must include cartoons and articles about music. Dodgem gives us Gary Ingham's long chronicle of the history of rock music in Northampton, and a CD featuring several Northampton bands. The music is, in fact, pretty good, and the first track features Moore as a vocalist (immediately flashing me back to "The March of the Sinister Ducks"). The cartoons range from the very primitive (Claire Ashby, Josie Long) to the stylishly inscrutable (Kevin O'Neil, Savage Pencil), but Dodgem is a lifestyle mag, not a comic book.
Dodgem Logic's can-do spirit is charming, though I can't say that I agree with it. At the end of his article on the underground press, Moore rouses the troops by writing "This is whatever time we say it is" and I wish I could believe that. I'm 10 years younger than Moore, so my opinion of the volk is formed less by hippie idealism and more by Punk-era cynicism. One funny article in Dodgem describes the proliferation of DVD box sets as if they were a drug plague--"HBO's product is particularly addictive because they don't cut it with adverts" (17) says Simon Cooper--and Alex Musson's accompanying illustration neatly sums up what's happened to "Power to the People!" in the 40+ years since the Summer of Love:
I'm not convinced that Dodgem is as aesthetically successful a retcon as "The Anatomy Lesson." The two pages of "The Daily Mustard" that Cooper and Musson contribute to Dodgem are attractively laid out, but the rest of the magazine's design conflates Berkeley Barb amateur chic with Photoshop ugly: too often, background elements, colors and textures threaten to render the words illegible (taking us right back to Rick Griffin again). Also, I'm worried about Dodgem's future as a business; typically, even underground pubs need some practical-minded Joel Fabricant figure to run day-to-day affairs and pay the creditors, but I don't think anyone's doing that at Dodgem. Moore's hope is to run Dodgem as a franchise, like the printed version of The Onion:
So that's why we've conspired to bring you Dodgem Logic: old-school underground illegibility tooled up for a new century, with all the local news, reviews and muck-raking tucked in a handy eight-page pull-out at the centre so that other areas can produce a regional edition, substituting their own insert (7).
Dodgem does comes with an eight-page insert about Northampton ("Notes from Noho"), but it undermines its own business plan by including the Northampton CD and Ingham's six-page history of Northampton Rock in the full magazine. I bought Dodgem at a comic shop in DeKalb, Illinois--available there solely on the strength of Moore's name among comics fans, no doubt--but let's do a hypothetical: what if I had settled down in Dekalb, bought into the franchise, produced a "Flying Ear of Corn Country" insert, and peddled Dodgem to every bookstore in the DeKalb/Chicagoland area? Answer: I'd be bankrupt. Very few people in Illinois (and, I suspect, even in England) will want to read a magazine full of "underground illegibility" and histories of regional UK bands. In order to survive, Dodgem will have to become less local and more generic, and given Moore's ferocious devotion to both Northampton and underground aesthetics, I don't see that happening. To their credit, Moore and Dodgem Logic are just too quirky to fit the ruthless logic of the market.