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Comic Review: Neonomicon by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows

The trade collection of Alan Moore's Neonomicon is out, and the reviews have started to trickle in; the more knowing ones from those who read the single editions, and the utterly horrified gasps of those who didn't. The latter reaction is understandable, Neonomicon is a horrible story – not horribly written, but horrible in itself.

This is HP Lovecraft with all that the old master of pulp horror kept implicit, made explicit. Lovecraft was racist, even for his time, and incredibly uncomfortable with sexuality. In some respects, Moore has taken those "indescribable" horrors and made manifest what Lovecraft himself feared most. But Neonomicon is more than that; Moore, like Grant Morrison, never simply lays the facts out for the reader. Instead the reader is part of a collaboration of meaning and intent; do a bit of work yourself, and the experience is that much richer.

Neonomicon then, as I see it, is more than a horrible story, and more even than a knowing look at what horrors really plagued Lovecraft; it's a surge of anger and horror at the comics industry itself, as well as the racism, misogyny and lack of imagination within. But can a horrible story ever be more than simply horrible?

Please note, Neonomicon features an extended and brutal rape scene which is referenced (not explicitly) and condemned in this review.

Neonomicon - Alan Moore, Jacen Burrows

Neonomicon is the sequel to a previous work of Moore's, The Courtyard, which is included in the trade collection. In this first story then, we follow Agent Sax on his investigations into a series of grisly murders, before moving on swiftly to Neonomicon proper, in which two fellow agents, Agent Brears and Agent Lamper, begin by questioning the now pathologically crazed Sax.

Like Sax, the two new agents quickly realise that the murders (and insanity of Sax) are mixed up in the occult, but fail to realise the true extent of the horror.

The protagonist is clearly Brears, who cottons on to the mystery very early on – the murders, names, and strange language that crop up remind her of the works of HP Lovecraft; rarely in horror stories are the protagonists allowed to pinpoint what is going on, however Brears remains incapable of actually changing proceedings, or of escaping her fate. (A deep knowledge of Lovecraft is not required to spot all the references in Neonomicon, as Brears often remarks on them to her colleagues.)

The knowledge that Brears has, and her realising that this is Lovecraftian horror in the flesh, point to her being a character trapped in fiction. Combined with the metatextuality of the book, this sense of fate being out of the characters control contributes to the ever building sense of doom that hangs over the entire story.

Neonomicon - Alan Moore, Jacen Burrows

Brears and Lamper pose as a couple to try and blag their way into the meeting place of suspected cultists. This is perhaps the one point in the book where the storytelling becomes a little suspect, or again, it is to point out that the characters are at the mercy of their writer: neither of the agents appears to have told anyone else where they are going, no tags or tracers are used, and at one point not only are they happy to strip naked and leave weaponry behind, but Brears even takes out her contact lenses which results in her being unable to see what is going on.

As characters trapped in fiction, and more specifically trapped in comics, can what follows be read as Moore's commentary on the state of the industry as a whole? His one black character is killed suddenly and violently. His one female protagonist, who is strong and clever, is a recovering sex addict. Comics of course are infamous for having their female characters, particularly those who are strong women, be constantly sexually available to almost any male character. More than that, women in comics who dare be sexual on their own terms are often later punished for their promiscuity (and of course those women who are not portrayed as sexual are usually deemed frigid or ugly – there's no way to win!).

The rape scene in Neonomicon is disgusting, debased and horrifying. To call it a "scene" is misleading; the horror goes on for pages and pages. Brears is reduced to a thing, merely there for the occultists pleasure, and by proxy, for the readers pleasure too. It's women in comics taken to the ultimate level, showing exactly how women in comics are regarded by other characters (and perhaps readers), and pointers are even left for readers to latch on to and in some way excuse the horrific assault. She's a recovering sex-addict; she cooperates with her rapist in order to escape; she doesn't seem overly traumatised afterwards; it's almost as if every bit of rape apologism is being thrown in there alongside the rape itself, daring people to try and excuse it.

Neonomicon - Alan Moore, Jacen Burrows

This comic is sick and wrong and horrible, and you are supposed to feel ill reading it. There's no softening here, no letting the reader look away. This is what happens to women in comics – they are viewed, they are used, and they are punished.

Rape isn't new in comics of course, and Alan Moore has a particular reputation for tackling the subject in his comics. Whether or not rape has a place in comics is debatable: either comics are for removing yourself from the real world in which case you do not want such dark elements to appear, or comics are a reflection of the real world, in which case such issues would statistically appear. Comics are generally rather violent with lots of fights, blood, guts and death. Aside from anything else, rape is a particularly horrific violating act, and one which has a much stronger effect on women readers than men. With so few women characters in comics, it can also seem very disproportionate when used – in the real world, rape is terrifyingly common but do we really need to see all our female heroes attacked in this way?

Rape is more than just the instant of the act; rape culture has permeated our society to such a degree that "blame the victim" and rapists walking free isn't just the stuff of paranoid nightmares, but a nightmarish reality. Discussions and debates on the subject are hopelessly derailed thanks to rape culture, and comics should be seeking to challenge that if they do broach the subject.

When Moore has written rape or sexually violent scenes in the past – League of Gentlemen, From Hell, Killing Joke, Watchmen, etc – they are rarely glamourised. Generally the reader is left feeling ill and very unsettled. Neonomicon certainly falls in this category too.

It is also true that Moore is a big supporter of women in the arts, equal rights, feminism, and so on, and has condemned the underlying misogyny and lack of diversity in the industry. However, apart from Watchmen, the trauma and lasting effects of rape are rarely explored or shown. Nor is rape culture effectively tackled.

Neonomicon - Alan Moore, Jacen Burrows

Thanks to rape culture and the institutional sexism of our society, rape remains an issue that will always be read very differently by women readers. Should it not be talked about? Of course not. Should it be depicted in comics? When it doesn't address the fallout and impact of the act, I think the negatives of portraying the act far outweigh any positives. Other crimes don't carry the same emotional trigger that rape does – not only can it pull you out of the story, it can consign the entire book to the bin.

Imagine for a second then that we can cut that element out entirely; that Moore demonstrates the state of the comics industry with respect to its inherent misogyny in some other manner. What we are left with is more than just a run of the mill horror story, and certainly not the lazy shock horror that some labelled it. I'm not sure that Moore ever writes an uncomplicated, unlayered story, and picking through the surface here is a worthwhile pursuit. Burrows' pretty, Quitely-esque art is particularly jarring given the content, as is the deliberately simplistic dialogue.

Characters trapped in their own fiction, at the mercy of the writer and perhaps even the readers themselves, this element is underlined within the story itself by the transition of one character from the three dimensional (or what the reader perceives as 3D) to the two dimensional. A two dimensional portrayal of a three dimensional character becoming two dimensional is, for me, the centrepiece of the book and where everything clicks together.

Neonomicon - Alan Moore, Jacen Burrows

This is angry writing, about a world with no hope, where fate is out of the characters hands and instead dictated by a readership obsessed with violence, sex and brutality. While this could perhaps equally apply to the real world, here it is aimed squarely at mainstream comics.

What happens to Brears is a part of this furious commentary, and will perhaps serve to shock some readers out of their happy denial that women characters are held to a horrific double standard within mainstream comics.

As someone who does not require that shock however, this comic left me feeling physically ill which is a rare and unwelcome event. That may well be the intention of the comic, and Moore himself thinks he went too far, but I would not recommend this comic to anyone who does not wish to read through a ten page rape scene.

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  1. This was a great post. You made some very important points about the use of rape in comics. What really scares me about work like this that engages all of the stereotypes and problems for the purpose of deconstructing them is that you still end up with a large number of readers who think “boobs” and aren’t phased by the rest of it at all. It sounds like this comic is attempting to address that sort of response, but I wonder if this approach can ever really have an impact on those types of readers. Also, while I like Alan Moore’s work to an extent, I am always less trustworthy of male writers who attempt to deal with issues regarding rape and violence against women. Even those with good intentions will never fully understand what they are addressing because they aren’t women who deal with rape culture to some extent on a daily basis. I’m interested in reading Neonomicon myself to see what I think, but I appreciate the warning, and I’m glad I read this beforehand as it sounds like you are pretty spot on.

    • I think the writer and artist both being male is actually a really important distinction to make – even with the best will in the world it really hampers the portrayal and and use of rape as some kind of metaphor.

      Thank you for your comment; disagreeing with a comic using rape is always fraught with anxiety due to a lot of the defensive feedback sadly :/

  2. Why bring personal morals and politics into this?

    To me right and wrong doesnt come into it. I all stories were written based on contemporary morals than the we would be all reading Archie instead. It was a good story, well written and conveyed some actual cathullu atmosphere in a modern era. If we want to restrict rape from comics than we should equally restrict violent death as well?
    Unfortunately we live in a society of political correctness where people are swayed by the politically correct media. Rape is worst than violent death, violence against women is worst than violence agaisnt men. killing a policeman is worst than killing a civillian. Dont get me wrong, im not condoning rape or violence, but violence is violence against anybody.

    the more we complain and restrict the writers the more homogenous work we are going to get. Ultimately we will be left with nothing more than a spiderman or superman comic. I just grateful that there are writers (who are good) like Moore whos willing to explore and push the boundaries of our moral society. UnfortunatelyEven Moore himself reckoned he went too far for this.

    • Media doesn’t exist in a vacuum; the rape culture article linked above explains it pretty well. This isn’t “political correctness gone mad”, though people oft use that expression to target expressions of tolerance, but about the lack of equality in our society and the trivialisation of rape (both the word and the act) that has resulted.

      You can certainly defend your right to enjoy a rape comic, or to tell women who object that they are wrong for bringing their “personal morals and politics” in to it, just as I am free to defend my reaction of horror to yet another contribution towards rape culture, which the comparison with violent death completely ignores.

  3. You label it as a form of culture, calling it “rape culture”. To be honest, i don’t see it as a rape comic at all, I see it as a story in own right, it does have rape in it, but I wouldnt be so quick as to label anything with rape in it as a contribution towards rape culture or a rape comic.

    and you do get me wrong, I didnt say I enjoyed the rape part of the comic, but I do enjoy the atmosphere of the Lovecraft cathullu mythos and the story as a whole. I also like the fact that Moore dares to push moral boundaries in the comic industry, in this case it did happened to be rape. But it is not for rapes sake, but for the fact that moral boundaries are being pushed. If you are familiar with his work you will know that he does this often, almost all are taboo subjects.

    Let me ask you this, If the protagonist was a male, would you still be so horrified and take exception to it?

    • Of course I would, what kind of a question is that? In fact, it would be more shocking to more readers as a whole because male rape is not as normalised in our culture (also due to misogyny in that “only women can get raped”, “being a woman is being weak”, “being raped makes you weak like a woman” etc line of horrible thinking).

      Here’s an example of rape culture: a woman writer writes about why rape in comics makes her so uncomfortable, and why the acceptance of such a thing is down to rape culture. A male person replies saying, “no, I wouldnt be so quick as to label anything with rape in it as a contribution towards rape culture or a rape comic.” Rape culture exists due to such thinking.

      Rape is always rape for rape’s sake. I know of very few women who haven’t been effected in some way by rape. It is THAT pervasive. And to have something produced in a comic, for shock value, and then to have it defended with the old “slippery slope”-“political correctness”-“only Superman left!” argument is as predictable as the society that guarantees a horribly large percentage of women who come across such a comic will have experienced rape or rape culture to their detriment.

      Their right to not have rape culture in comics should not be argued out by those who are not effected by rape culture (or not to nearly the same degree), ie men. And I am glad that Moore has distanced himself from the comic.

      By the way – debating with a woman about rape after she’s expressed her discomfort with having to confront such topics everywhere? Not great fun.

  4. You have taken things out of context, yet again.

    Debating with a woman about rape? excuse me? since when did we do that? From what I recall we were debating about a comic book. Not once did i mentioned anything about rape outside the comic book. But you seem to want to make me into some steoreotypically male whos arguing for rape.

    Your example of rape culture, again out of context. Again you are trying to label and categorise me into something I am not.

    Im trying to make a point that the comic is not about rape, although it has rape in it. It also has a large dose of nudity, foul language and violence. I dont see you taking a moral stand on that? My grandfather was shot dead six times with a gun and I know a few other people who have been affected by guns and violence too. There were people graphically violently shot dead in the comic, but does that make it a guns and violent culture comic?

    No, because im beyond that i realise thats just a part of the comic, it shouldnt take away from what is a good story.

    So from your logic, I should cry foul, its our right not to have guns and violence in it too than? (because you know, it promotes a violent culture, and wow at one time, it kinda frightening just to look at a gun for me personally – this is true when i was younger)

    My mother cannot stand foul language, she just cannot handle it. It affects her deeply. So i guess she should take exception and have foul language removed? Do you know the type of tv shows she watches? Mash, cheers and Brady bunch. (wow awesome)

    After you, me and my mum, What are we left with than? not even a superman comic, more like Archie.
    You seem to think this is some slipery slope predictable argument? Well thats your opinion and you have a right to that. But Walk into a comic store now, close your eyes and randomly grab a comic book, chances are it will be a green lantern or spiderman comic with story angles thats been done to death.

    Oh, and you think male rape is worst because its not normalise? well…. Im glad you think that way…. because in League of Extra-ordinary gentleman book 2, also by Alan Moore, theres this Monstrous hairy ape dude that rapes this invisible guy and he subsequebtly bleeds to death as a result. It got me thinking of friend of mine whos done time and made me think I dont ever want to end up in prison where this sort of thing happens on a frequent basis. But again i dont label it as a male rape culture story and let that take away from what was a good comic and story.

    • If you’re not debating rape, then please feel free to stop discussing RAPE.

      The rest of the above is just… really stereotypical I’m afraid. I guess I’m just “not beyond” rape in a comic. Do you think that might be because as a woman, rape portrayal has more of a negative impact on me due to rape culture?

      Read up on male privilege and rape culture please, because you are being borderline offensive right now, and I don’t need some guy talking rape at me.

      • And I realise that that sounds quite terse, but honestly, this is an issue that upsets me which is why I wanted to warn other potential readers.

  5. Thanks for the review.

    I had already heard about the content of the comic, so you only confirmed my decision to stay away from it.

    I really like the Cthulhu mythos and find the idea of enormous scary creatures slumbering under water and waiting to awaken and devour our world, really compelling. Moreover, Moore doing some Lovecraftian hijinks could be alot of fun. But ten-page rape scene is too much… I wouldn’t be able to get through it.

    I think, this would be something like watching Dogville without knowing what its about. I loved the visual minimalism at its center, but wasn’t aware of the rape. It really left me shattered for a few days and I didn’t even watch it till the end.

    At the same time, I like your interpretation of the comic as a criticism of modern trends in the medium. That is something that Moore would be capable of.

    It would be cool to see some more comic reviews from you :]

    • Thank you, I really appreciate that. I really feel strongly that media should be more pro-active in warning people for stuff that is hugely triggering like that. I went into this one knowing what to expect and it is still imprinted on my brain D:

      I do think Moore is always trying to do more than what is just on the surface, but with some issues there is just no getting past what it actually means in reality to people.

      • Isn’t this what ratings are supposed to be for? I always find the rating systems in movies to be so horrifically skewed. Kevin Smith has talked about how he would do ratings and has said that things like rape and violence to women would be up there with R-ratings. Naked people would be like PG.

        Anyway, point here being — ratings are supposed to be trigger warnings for movies and television but in effect all they do is make people annoyed. Comic books don’t really seem to have a good grasp on rating systems either because, well not as big of a deal as Neonomicon, I was still a bit shocked to be reading Infinite Crisis and see Superboy punch the fuck out of some poor kid’s head.

        Ratings would be great if they worked the same way trigger warnings did but unfortunately they don’t. This was a somewhat circular comment that should end:

        TL;DR – The media is pro-active about warning people, just not about the right kind of stuff. The MPAA rating system is fucked and should be changed to function the same way trigger warnings do on websites like tumblr.

  6. Bear in mind when you talk about men and rape that that is basically what the threat of prison is. For men, the threat of prison is the threat of rape.

    Probably for women too, I don’t have any experience there.

    • Which is definitely an issue that needs to be tackled – no argument there at all! But a common… “trope” if you will of discussion about rape or rape culture is that the conversation is almost always turned towards men or by men. Which is frustrating, as I’m sure most people can understand.

  7. This is my last post.

    Comicbookgrrl, for a critic, you dont seem to be able to handle criticism too well.

    And for the last time I am not talking about rape itself so please stop taking things out of context with bringing in male privileges and rape.
    Its not what the debate is about. Its about a comic book. If you still cant see that than Im sorry but you are rather intolerant in your views and seem unable to hold down an intellectual discussion.

    Theres no need to reply to this as this will be my last post, there’s little point in going on because you seem to take things out of context and deviate from the actual argument.

    • Oh criticism is fine, but I find it more frustrating than gratifying when a commenter proves my point sadly.

      I am not taking things out of context, you just aren’t getting it… rape cannot be separated from rape culture. That is what my article is about. You are debating something else by saying this isn’t rape culture! It is. I’m really sorry that you are unable to grasp anothers perspective, maybe even click that link on rape culture to see what it is, and instead keep repeating your own opinion over and over while dismissing mine. Which is also thanks to rape culture!!

      “Rape culture is people objecting to the detritus of the rape culture being called oversensitive, rather than people who perpetuate the rape culture being regarded as not sensitive enough.

      Rape culture is the myriad ways in which rape is tacitly and overtly abetted and encouraged having saturated every corner of our culture so thoroughly that people can’t easily wrap their heads around what the rape culture actually is.” –

      “Y’see, one of the issues of male privilege as it applies to fandom is the instinctive defensive reaction to any criticism that maybe, just maybe, shit’s a little fucked up, yo. ” – (Written by a man! Which of course makes it easier to be heard by other men…)

  8. First of all, well done on the review. You raise some interesting and difficult issues, both in the original piece, and in the comments. So, where to start…?

    You say that Alan has distanced himself from this work. I don’t know if I’ve seen him say that recently, but I interviewed him a few years ago, and he seemed uneasy about this, and to already want to put some space between him and it, so much so that he couldn’t even recall the name of it. Here’s what he said when I asked him:

    “Well there was a think that I wrote, basically, because – it was a couple of years ago, two or three years ago – I wrote a thing because I needed some money to pay off tax, because DC were getting creative with our payments again, and I wrote a thing which – I don’t know how good it is –I was trying my best, but it was at a time when I was poisonously angry, and that may have coloured the work. It was a HP Lovecraft – my basic thinking was – all right, they asked me to do something that was in a horror vein, they asked me, and I said, well, I had some vague ideas about a continuation of that Courtyard story that I originally wrote for a HP Lovecraft prose anthology. And I said I’d thought of a vague continuation of that, and they said, “Great, why don’t you do that, do it with Jacen Burrows,” who’s a great artist, so I wrote this four-part story, which is really horrible. It’s a modern Lovecraft story, but I was thinking, well, let’s put the racism in, and let’s put the, misogyny in, and let’s put the – where in the past we talked about Nameless Rites, let’s name them, and let’s see what happens. And so it’s a very unpleasant story, it’s very weird, I’ve not looked at it since, and I’ve not, I don’t know if they’re even, if Avatar is still doing it, I’m not really in touch with them. Your guess is as good as mine, and even whether it’d be that good when it comes, I don’t know. I’m sure Jacen will have done a great job, I’m just not sure I did the writing well. And it might have been a bit dark, you know. I might have been going through a bit if a dark spell, which, sometimes it colours the writing and whether it’ll ever come out I really don’t know, but that’s be something to – it was called, what was it called? I can’t even remember the title! I know it’d got four parts, and it was, no, it completely fails me. I have no idea.”

    So, from very early on, I knew he was unhappy about it. One of the problems with this is, if you want to show how appalling rape is by putting it on the page, this still means you’re putting rape on the page, which is in itself sort of counterproductive – showing the thing you wish to criticise up there to be seen. And whereas I agree with you that having two men produce this may be something to point out, I also think that men’s input should not be seen as being irrelevant or hypocritical – I understand this is not what you are saying, but I just wished to point it out.

    Also, yes, rape features a few times in Moore’s work. Comics always feature a lot of violence – certainly the mainstream, costumed superhero comics – and also generally show women – and men, to a lesser extent – in a very sexually stylised sort of way. I think Moore just brings those two elements together – particularly in Watchmen, where the violent and amoral Comedian feels he’s got a right to come on to Silk Spectre, largely due to how she dresses. For myself, though, I found the rape scene in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century – 1910 much more disturbing that the one in Neonomicon – not wishing to trivialise that in any way, but what was in LoEG was somehow more grounded in reality than this. After all, it was an ordinary girl in a hotel in the real world, not an FBI agent after cultists who were conjuring giant monsters.

    And I did want to say, as a man, that I fully realise that rape, and the fear of rape, affects all of us. When I am walking somewhere dark and lonely, and I realise that the woman in front has started to run, just in case I might turn out to be the thing she fears most, I realise how bad it all is. I am sorry that my very presence must be disturbing to women on their own, in certain circumstances, and without in any way wishing to diminish that, having someone do this because of my presence is also upsetting for me. I understand why it happens, but I also know that I’ve been in some way judged, and this saddens me.

    And finally: a comic is not just a comic, it’s also its contents, and the meaning of that content, and how that content affects those that read it. If we debate that comic, or any piece of work, we’re also debating that content, and those feelings it arouses. Why else would we bother talking about it?

    • Thank you for the comment, I’m sure your interview was one of the ones I read in prep for my own appointment with the Bearded One! I knew he wasn’t very keen to talk about it much, which I was almost relieved about; the harshness of Neonomicon doesn’t mesh with the Moore who is so aware of feminist issues. But then, nor do some of his other works. Century 1910, like you say, was hugely disturbing to me too, as were all the other (many!) rapes and sexual assaults in the League books. Watchmen, I feel, is the closest he got to doing it “right” if such a thing can be done, by showing the fallout and emotional wreckage as well as just the sensationalism of the event.

      I don’t think male input is inherently irrelevant or hypocritical, rather that it shouldn’t overshadow discussion or debate by women. I find it interesting though that Moore couldn’t conceive of doing Lost Girls with a male artist and went on of course to produce the work with Melinda Gebbie, yet doesn’t square that with his other work. Rape culture certainly affects us all (as does misogyny and so on), but the problem lies in most discussions being dominated by men and women feeling sidelined or silenced. So now when women say, “please just listen and stay quiet for THIS discussion”, it is disheartening when men can’t resist pointing out how it effects them too! We know, but sometimes it’s nice not to have men dictate the conversation. Particularly on a site like this where I have actually been told by men that (para-phrasing) “this is for women, no one wants to read this!”.

      “Why else would we bother talking about it?” Indeed! And I think comics are a particularly powerful medium, so all the more important to discuss these elements.

  9. Male here. Being an Alan Moore fan, I recently ordered Neonomicon and have been perusing spoiler-lite reviews when I came across your site. Not having read the book yet, I can’t give you an opion whether Moore and Burrows crossed the line.

    But I did want to pass on something I heard in a telephone interview. Moore said that his goal was to do a truly horrifying horror story. It sounds like he succeeded.

    • Definitely, it is horrifying. But then, The Courtyard is horrifying without that element. I’m kinda relieved Moore thinks he stepped over the line with this one, but I think it could have been more horrifying and less shocking without those ten pages. He is a clever bunny after all! :)

      • Something that I feel really made this book horrifying is that it made me feel complicit in the rape. The fact that it was so graphically sexual, that it in fact aroused me (now there’s something I didn’t actually want to admit), and yet was still so horrible… made me feel dirtied and guilty like I had done something wrong just by reading it. It made me feel like I was someone who had stood by and let it happen. There may be something of merit in that effect.

        Whether that justifies the whole thing I couldn’t say. Just as rape jokes are taken by rapists as tacit approval of their behaviour, that set of scenes could be taken the same way. Then there is the matter that the whole thing could be utterly triggering for people. Your pointing out of your problems with this book made me reflect and reconsider it and I felt compelled to comment.

  10. If there’s no rape culture, why is there a ton of rape in comics, but almost no violent nonconsensual sodomy of male characters, or paedophelia?

    I don’t feel like going into a massive rant on the internets about this but yeah, Alan Moore, whatever.

  11. The amount of mansplaing in this post is revolting. And what’s with this “it’s just a comic” bs? Comic books, like other art mediums, are influenced by culture, they don’t aren’t written in a vaccum; sadly, rape culture is very present in society and thus will be reflected in comics just as it would be reflected on TV or in books.

    Besides the unfortunate comics, this was a great post.

  12. I used to like Alan Moore. But this being the Nth Alan Moore story with a brutal, uncompromising rape as a plot device/twist, I’m reconsidering everything I’ve read by him and about him.

    And I’m a guy. A big, hairy, geeky, neckbeard guy. And Alan Moore is making me unhappy and frustrated.

    I’m left wondering why a man who resembles Cousin It will freely explore the topic of rape in comics but not castration or Oedipal lust. Merely being an anti-misogynist man doesn’t mean you can speak for women.

    Saying Moore is just being “meta” again gives him an out that he would probably admit he doesn’t deserve on this story. Sometimes a depiction of rape can be necessary thing for a story to have a positive, meaningful impact in a story…or it could simply be a lazy, easy way to shock, horrify and alienate people and justify whatever lurks in your id as “art.”

  13. Wasn’t the artist, Jacen Burrows for this comic also involved in Crossed (rape zombies) and Black Gas (rape zombies but different)?

    Honestly, I’d expect this sort of crap from really bad fanfic writers like the ones you hear about on TV Tropes Darth Wiki page. Get your favourite characters, tropes and genre fiction and make it all rapey, with a touch of peadophilia and bestiality thrown in. Not respected authors like Warren Ellis and Alan Moore, surely those guys are better than this?

    Because these things aren’t disgusting, sordid as well as being pathetic and sad, they’re EDGY damnit!!!

    Kind of reminds me of back in the 90’s when people were calling Answer Me king of the Zine world because the chief editor and author, Jim Goad, released an issue dedicated to glorifying rape. And then he went to jail for assaulting his girlfriend-oh sh…he wasn’t just being “edgy”.

    This utter shite has nothing to do with lovecraft or zombies, it’s porn! Wank material masquerading as art, presented as art because admitting that you get turned on by nonconsentual sex is still regarded as being sick, sad and pathetic.

    Maybe moore was trying to make some sort of statement about comic book culture, irrelevant! The sort of people singing the praises of this sort of pulp won’t get the reference, they’re too busy being secretly titilated by all the naughty rapeiness.

  14. Having devoured your site in two days (it’s so good!), I can’t help but notice a trend with Alan Moore. I don’t wish to insult him so readily, but it is impossible NOT to notice that he had done this very same thing before with the Killing Joke and then later “regretted” that he went “too far”.

    ….at what point exactly does he learn to NOT go so far? When he writes a full length comic where nearly every single page involves rape?

    As you said…the truth is, when men are never going to fully understand what it is like to be a woman dealing with the concept of rape. EVEN if we include male rape, it is a different matter. It is demeaning and painful and violating, yes, but unless those men were sexually interested in men, it is NOT the same…and even then, the overall patriarchal society still makes even THAT not the same (and I am not saying that it is any less horrifying).

    But rape is not just a violent act, it is a forceful taking of a woman’s autonomy of her own body. It is forcing an act that we choose to save (or not) for someone we care about it. it is an act that is about intimacy and affection (of some sort). And with rape it is forcefully taken in a violent and terrible way.

    Those who don’t get that likely never will, but they need to stop and accept the fact that they DON’T get it…and they can’t. And that’s that. The worst thing is when they not only belittle the significance of the act…but simultaneously claim that they totally get it–as some have on here. Ugh.

    Just reading some of those comments made me feel physically ill, honestly. But thank you for the warning. Cthulu is fascinating, but 10 pages of rape? I just don’t know about that.

  15. I would like to commend you on reading this dense and very harsh comic. Being a male, I cannot fully understand about the psychological trauma that would come from such an issue. Although I will comment on some of the comic itself.

    I tend to have usually a higher threshold of graphic nature that is in fictional universe (maybe it is me rationalizing that it is fake). I assure you the entire scene of the rape was brutal and uncomfortable on many levels. Now I admit, I do enjoy this series, I think after reading it through and through (still feeling unease from what is depicted).

    The density that is in the comic, the layers it brings from the language it uses, slang, and making everything uncomfortable for the viewer it shows how far we have fell as a society itself. I have watched through various news articles (based on entertainment media) and some of the deplorable acts that are happening for our own enjoyment for the fat or hope of money or cheap thrills is exhausting. From the sexual objectifying which is worsening with every new episode of any TV show. To movies pushing the boundaries of what level of violence can be shown to kids.

    I think Alan Moore, is pushing that to show that we are (in mainstream media) vermin. From the simplistic writing, shows how we pander to the lowest common denominator. Then he exploits our our perversion with violence to the most extreme, by taking the trope of “black guy dies first” and makes it to the most in a violent fashion which first churns our stomach on how nilistic gleefully they are about it (still with very harsh racial slurs building to this point.)

    Now to the ending point, (not trying to spark anger with you). I think this was mentally scarred by what happened to her down in the pool. I think at the time she has fully given up on her life when she is in the “real” world. She became cold and distant not wanting to be around anyone avoiding all conversations on the matter. We as a reader are not to be pleased with anything that she is saved, but in shock, or bodies dull, minds sullied with trauma. Realizing that we as a society has pushed this boundary for enjoyment (akin to most pornography that can be found).

    It is shown more in the final few pages of the book talking to Sax. Where she has given up on life, knowing it is a failure and all deserve to die.

    We have our two dimensional character becoming three dimensional, breaking the forth dimension, only to realize they are only two dimensional and their “fate” has been sealed before they even had a chance.

    I love this book for what it is, like Thy Light Countenance on where we are as a society, and are falling more and more everyday. I do not enjoy the book in the level of entertainment, since it reaches deeply into the bowels of what depravity we can muster.

    I know I would only recommend this book to someone who wants to read this book beyond at it’s basic level, also if you willing to be disturbed the entire read. I thank you for your review on this, and breaking it down to show some points which some people might not want to look into.

    Please note, I do not commend rape in any sanction. It is a baseless act of aggression from lesser humans.

  16. I am female, queer (I like women and men) and I unabashadly love Alan Moore’s work. I will read anything that he writes. I was very excited about Neonomicon, as I’m a fan of the cthulu mythos (not necessarily HP Lovecraft’s work, but much of the work it has inspired). After I read Neonomicon, I felt the need to search for how people reacted to it. I am really glad I found your post. I’ve never been raped, I’ve never been threatened with rape, but I still fear rape every time I am walking alone outside. I don’t get cat-called or hit on, but I am still nervous when I walk by any men. I have had only the mildest history of unwanted sexual advances (I got felt up on a bus once, that level) but I still worry for the worst. The men I’ve talked to about this are shocked. Some of them have feared getting beat up by others, but none have had the type of paranoia that accompanies every female-bodied or identified person I’ve ever talked to.

    I read Neonomicon and I loved Alan Moore’s style, as I always do. He is understated with his dialogue and he lets the horror of ideas speak for themselves. The way characters interact generally seem very natural. The exception in this case was when the agents went to the orgy, and then entirely disarmed themselves. Why would they feel as though there was no going back? Nothing had been revealed yet, except some creepy tunnels and a big river pool. They could have left without repercussions, presumably. This was one of the times that I felt Alan Moore failed with his writing. Even when he’s written about completely ridiculous shit, I can still believe it because of the ease with which it is mentioned. It makes sense in the universe he has created. This did not.

    The rape-at-gunpoint scene was horrible to me. I felt revulsion, and I’ve never even been raped. I can’t imagine how it would have been for someone who had been sexually abused to read and see something like this. I was also shocked by how casually she dealt with the rapes after the fact, but I think that can be attributed to shock. She shows absolutely no emotion once she escapes, which definitely goes along with the lack of affect that can accompany PTSD. During the time she was locked up with the fish-guy, she was running on survival. Her “do you want some bread” rubbed me the wrong way initially. Then her “you probably don’t even know what you’re doing” made me feel a little sick. But it was her trying to befriend her attacker, then trying to justify it. Trying to dehumanize (?) the attack, so it felt less personal and less emotionally painful.

    But this isn’t necessarily about explaining why her reactions to the rape was ok. It’s like saying her rape was justified because it led to something more. It is leading to a new world. But the reality is that rape is never justified. In the world of Neonomicon, all times are happening instantaneously, so her rape was over before it started, but that also means it is always happening. And yes, it completely takes away the idea of free will. Cthulu will always rise, there is no way around it, and nothing anyone does will matter.

    I found this comic to be deeply unsettling, to the point that I had to seek out other people to talk to them about it. I think it’s brilliant, I think it’s horrible, I think it’s flat, I think it’s multi-dimensional and it’s filled my head so full of contradictions that I no longer have any idea how I really feel about it.

    It brings up a subject, but then quickly changes the topic before much else can be said about it. I think that’s my main problem with it. Or maybe it’s all too subtle for me. I’m not great at reading between the lines, which is why I look for other people who can.

    And sorry if I brought up things that have already been mentioned. I loved this work but I feel guilty for loving it because it’s so graphic. I guess I want to feel ok about liking it, despite it being kind of horrific.

    • Your post is great. I’ve been reading Moore for the last 30 yrs and relish the depth, the insight, the intelligence found in each one of his works. Neonomicon was to me effective as horror, it was utterly dark, utterly hopeless. As many have commented, one felt dirty reading it. The story also brought me around to reflecting on the frequency of rape in Moore’s fiction: rape as cultural commentary, as trope, as cliche, as frisson. But most of all this is an horrific comic that turns on a stylistic reversal of the messiah story, it is the opposite of the virgin births of so many religious legends: this is the messiah as a tentacled monster that will fuck us all once and for all beyond belief. No hope in things getting better in this story. This is horror.

  17. I’m kind of offended for real that the only people willingly having a relationship with a Deep One are depicted as ugly, creepy rapists. It’s like saying, “hey, either your tastes are conventional and you agree with accepted standards, or you’re some kind of subhuman”. I mean, at least they depicted the guy himself as caring and being willing to defend his partner, but still.

    • Shit, redacted a whole chunk of my comment in editing. What I meant to say was, at least they depicted one “other”, the black guy himself*, as caring and being willing to defend his partner, but still, I don’t know if we need more monsters.

      *Shadow Over Innsmouth/HPL anxiety about race mixing, etc.

  18. This was a very thoughtful review; thank you for it. I read Neonomicon in its initial run as single issues, so I had a slightly difference experience than those who read the trade all at once. I don’t know if that’s better or worse, mind you.

    The 800-pound gorilla topic here, of course, is rape. I think the observation that men probably have a harder time fully grasping the psychological horror and impact of rape is probably basically accurate (excepting those men who have been raped). That being said, when we discuss the effect (or apparent lack thereof) that the rape had on Brears, and how this informs the reader, we should consider whether Moore was using a device of fiction talk about the consequences of rape in by metaphor. Brears herself, as mentioned doesn’t appear to be overly affected in a negative way by the rape, which can very fairly be viewed as problematic. However, I wonder if Moore instead shifted this trauma to the larger universe. The consequence of Brear’s rape is that she is pregnant with Cthulhu, and presumably when she gives birth, Cthulhu will wrap up the human species in short order. Essentially, her pregnancy is an extinction-level event, at least of humans (and probably of most life on Earth as we know it).

    Normally, we consider rape in terms of its effects on the victim, on the terrible damage done to the victim, and rightly so. Here, Moore seems to be exploding those consequences outward, possibly to highlight how truly awful they are, and possibly to demonstrate that rape is never simply a crime against an individual; like murder, rape in a very real way damages all of us, damages our sense of community, of trust, of safety, and of the basic decency of people.

  19. I just picked up the last issue not knowing anything but that it had to do with Lovecraft and was written by Alan Moore. Not sure if should buy the rest if the author doesn’t have pride in the product. And the extended rape scenes. I was disturbed by the main character having a pro life stance after realizing her fate.
    What should be more disturbing is that rape and child molesting are not in the ten commandments but saying Jesus Christ angrily will get you eternity in Hell.

  20. But this reminds me of a Dario Argento movie. The woman sets herself on fire to kill herself and the unborn fetus to spite those twisted occultists. Only later to crawl from the ashes the creature within saved them both. Like a parasite protecting its host. Doomed to our fates I guess. Shock and awe disturbing imagery sells. But shouldn’t let entertainment value cheapen the brutality involved. Why kids can watch bad guys get heads blown off but watching a naked woman is going over the line. Shit don’t make sense.

  21. Or maybe Moore was just expressing his disgust over the act of rape into his art. Not every comic book is a solemn meditation on the medium of comic books. That’s just silly, and it’s silly to get offended and angry at an artist for expressing himself. This is how book burnings start, folks.

  22. 1) I wish everyone talking about “book burnings” and the like would stop with the pathetic slippery slope fallacies. Criticizing a comic for rape is apparently the next step to 1984 in some people’s minds, and frankly it’s pathetic. This is why people think comics are a joke, because the fans go into tizzies when anyone tries a legitimate, scholarly evaluation of the work.

    2) It’s sort of funny because I also got the feeling Moore was talking about wiping away “the world” as in the state of comics, and particularly works supported by the very dense “fans” who’ve come here “defending” him.

    3) This comic may have tried to say something about cliched narratives and rape culture, but by the time the undercover cops are abandoning all rational decision making it’s too hard to separate bad writing from bad-because-it’s-good writing. Part of me wonders if Moore knew some of his “fans” would stupidly buy anything he wrote and lap it up, willfully ignoring or stupidly missing all the commentary while trusting some people as intelligent as the OP and a few comment posters to be intelligent enough to get his true intent.

    4) Moore really needs to cut back on the rape and sexual assault in LOEG: Century. It just seems really unnecessary. I got the feeling that if Janni were Nemo’s son, they’d have found another way to accept leadership of the Nautilus. Neonomicon’s rape scene really broke the story and plunged it into hyperbole for me. This story would have worked better as something understated, that might have given us the rather interesting revelation that we are in sub-dimensional cross-section of the higher dimensional Leng.

    • “Moore really needs to cut back on the rape and sexual assault in LOEG: Century. It just seems really unnecessary. I got the feeling that if Janni were Nemo’s son, they’d have found another way to accept leadership of the Nautilus.”

      The rape of Janni in Century: 1910 is a reference to the song “Pirate Jenny” (“Seeräuberjenny”) from Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weil’s Three Penny Opera. Rape isn’t specifically mentioned in the original song, but as the song portrays a working class girl in a dockside inn fantasizing about taking deadly revenge on the numerous male patrons and townspeople who regularly humiliate and degrade her– it’s probably not about not being tipped properly.

      Point being, that if one is familiar with the source material, it makes some sense.

  23. Well thought out post, but I think you have missed the point of the comic. Moore wants to question what level of responsibility the writer and the reader have to the fictional characters. In the fictional reality of the comic, the characters are somewhat AWARE that they are simply following a voyeuristic script for pure entertainment on the reader’s part. Creepy. Also makes you feel pretty bad knowing that Moore had THAT guys head decapitated and THAT guy got his guts blown out by a shotgun for your visceral entertainment and they KNOW until the bitter end, that you were watching the entire time. That’s just the weird fiction that Moore wrote. The rape IS excessive, but it really has to be to sell this concept. What level of moral and ethical responsibility does the reader have to a fictional concept?

  24. Late to the party on this one, but I recently finished this comic and, well, here’s one male reader who was certainly shocked and disgusted by the protracted scene. Not sure why, but the dialog really got under my skin much more than the imagery, but having read some interviews with Moore himself, I can see that the book his quite successful in that regard.

    I’m happy to see a review like this that doesn’t just shut down the notion that Moore and Burroughs were trying to send a message and didn’t particularly feel the need to sugar-coat it or make it more palatable because it’s about something that SHOULDN’T be palatable. I’ve gotten into protracted discussions, even before this book’s release, on whether or not Moore is a misogynist with people who seem to think that a writer’s villains are their true intentions, while their heroes just happen to be there, so this review was interesting on that level as well. I’m glad things like rape culture, both in and out of the comic book world, are finally getting a light shed on them. Hell, I only recently became aware of it explicitly, but, I guess in appropriately Lovecraftian way, now I can’t look at entertainment, media, or even my own culture the same way.

  25. Hi people,

    Interesting review and even more interesting comments everyone! I read Neonomicon yesterday and like many I finished it feeling very “disturbed”. To a long time and avid comic reader running into something that manages to unhinge me is a very VERY rare event. But before going down that road I must say that the art is absolutely breathtaking, both the real world scenarios and the delirious “otherwolds” and fantastic creatures are simultaneously fascinating and borderline realistic in a very rare way. I have no great prior knowledge of HP Lovecraft ‘s works beyond the most basic visual ideas but I felt that the artist’s skill in blending HPL’s early XX century horror with a thoroughly modern environment (the rave crowd comes immediately to mind!). The Courtyard to me has a very interesting theme that is “corruption”, even the “hero character” despite all his virtue cannot walk away unscathed from his short brush with the “Aklo cult”Like many have said before in the entertainment industry, in this neonomicon universe “resistance [seems to be absolutely] futile”…

    I am male and I have never ever been concerned of the risk of being raped myself even when i did manage to find myself walking alone on the proverbial “Valley of the Shadow of Death”. This is a specific fear that just does nor come naturally to me. To me the Rape scene was uncomfortable to endure, it was certainly not sexy in any way and by lastin g as long as it lasted on the comic the pain conveid seemed much more poignant and overbearing. I imagine this is what anyone undergoing it must feel. If that was Moore’s intent he was successful in transmiting it to the reader.

    But I found it quite curious that no comment here dwelled on the fact that the last one of the “rapist” was a huge “Creature of the Black Lagoon thingie” that for all we know should never exist outside of comicbook paper or celluloid! No one here questions that rape is am monstrous violence, but it still pales alongside the possibility of being DEVOURED alive by a seemingly unthinking beast. Imagine there is no reasoning, no pleading with it, nothing! Besides this let’s not also forget that the main character holding the gun against the FBI agents head is a WOMAN! The big male hero figure (black or white it makes very little difference) in all our subconscious is always there to “save the day when all else fail”, tot in this case, just imagine what went through the female FBI agent’s mind the exact moment she figures that her trusted partner, her backup is DEAD, imagine the loneliness, the dispair… That people is a well-written horror story to me.

    There has to be some further level of strife to see a woman character subject another woman to this terrible ordeal. Another interesting issue put forward in this series is the physical characteristics of the Salem orgy group, to me they were creepy not because the were “ugly” but because they looked “average”, any one of them could not be told apart from the people that you meet in your own neighborhood church meeting or supermarket. There are no Barbies or supermodels in that pool, just bland ordinary folks…. that is what makes them so spooky to me! Maybe this is why the FBI agents do so many “unorthodox” things while joining the locals for the “party” in the orgy pool. They fatally underestimated the lethality of those poor weird “folk next door”. Things like this have been known to happen.

    Regarding the investigators notice how every bode seems to know about the sex addictio of the main character and are always trying to benefit from it, even the boss hints at it, there are no sexual harassment suits in that Neonomicon universe, right? It seems to me the therapist seems OK to reinsert this metaphorical “recovering alcoholic’ in a heavy licor-licensed bar as the way forward in the treatment, weird!

    Funny still is the noticeable reluctance of the police officers in even considering a non-human connection to this case despite the many unsettling clues that keep popping up all through their investigative process. Where is “I want to believe” Fox Mulder types in that FBI?

    The contact lens detail I liked very much how terrifying it must have been to her no to be able to see what was unfolding, specially to someone with police training this must have a very paralyzing effect in the end, I’m no cop, but I’m heavily nearsighted this storyline detail spoke personally to me.

    Finally the “required” lack of signs of any characteristic sign of “post-rape damage/shock/trauma” in the main character can only be attributed by me to the fact that the “demon seed” within her has already significantly changed her perspective from that of a regular human female to that of an hybrid human-demon madonna creature. Just look at Sax’s reaction to her in the last pages, he seems to suddenly realize that he is standing before a new millennia goddess, definitively not a bruised and raped federal cop.



  26. In short: I’ll have to agree with every post that was made against your review / comments.

    I’m not going to nit pick and go after every point as I think this group has covered it – instead I’ll go after the main issue in which your review isn’t really reviewing the comic… it’s venting about rape culture. You spend more time blasting the issue over the content then discussing the true nature of the piece.

    If missed the mark.
    Don’t review it!

    • Rape culture permeates all culture, including this comic book so it is certainly pertinent to the review.

      Well done for agreeing with people including one who descended to sending me hate mail though! If you don’t like it, don’t comment :D

  27. Critiques like this are exactly what’s necessary for the genre. Thank you so much for this review, and brava on your patience dealing with the trolls. I was reaching for the sporks while you were being relentlessly articulate.

  28. I just finished Neonomicon today. I have to admit to having a sort of out-of-body feeling while reading it. But I guess distancing yourself from the act makes it easier to deal with it. Maybe Moore, in his own way, is testing how numb society has become.

  29. I also found the Neononicon horrifying, although possibly for different reasons than have been expressed here. The rape was certainly horrifying, and I’ll echo the near-sighted gentleman’s comment about not being able to see adding a layer of panic. Once I eased into the comic, imagining the sights, smells, and even the temperature of the water, I found it nightmarish.

    I think the main point of contention is Brear’s reaction to the rape, in that she doesn’t seem to react much at all beyond her visit to Aldo Sax. There doesn’t seem to be enough to say “Look, this was horrifying,” beyond her own terrified reactions. Despite her comment that she’s probably being mind-controlled, I think the last conversation with Aldo conveys a sense of rage and violation in that she suggests she’s okay with the apocalypse to come (“we’re pretty much vermin”).

    Something I’ve also been wondering about though, is what exactly was Mr. Moore so angry about when he wrote Neonomicon?

    Finally, I think I can decode the Aklo-language that gets spoken in the comics. That might add something.

  30. Here I have found and read numerous posts and the topic above two full years after it was posted on this page.

    Now, Alan Moore is one of those authors. One of those writers one will hear about, and find various books, and find more (and realizing he is indeed, even in comics and the spoken word/music CDs, vastly prolific) and enjoy much of his output.

    Around the year 2000 I made a visit to see family and left their home to see Atlanta. I found a rare book store and later talked to someone there and I said “Who, actually, is the best in recent years of all the comic book writers? Who is your favorite?” His reply was “Alan Moore. He is probably the best.”

    Some years before that, I was nearing mid-second year at University, and a friend told me, “If you are finding books, look for that series Watchmen. It was out a couple years back, and that one is really good.” I did, and I read most of the way to about the start of the final third of the collected book, and I realized I did not quite get it. That it would take longer to read, or I would have to read it again. I was age 19 that summer.

    Now, more years on, I found or was sent one part of THE COURTYARD and the art – in black and white as it happens- didn’t work for my taste. And the gruesomeness of the story and look made me very, very nearly put off any later books or Moore publications by the press, AVATAR.

    until I had a trader get a set of LEAGUE books and he told me about Yuggoth Cultures, which had some part of NIGHTJAR (re-edited and completed by Talbot) and more early works by Alan Moore.

    — and I got a collection to read the printings of Glory. And I found the reviews and realized that the comic written about, above, is one for me to pass by.

    I’ve been fascinated – no, I’ve been totally fond and obsessed with variously 15 or more authors since the past twenty plus years, but even a nature to read what I can from an author – or find and buy nearly everything by those select few (and there are just a few) when I love to enjoy almost all their creations and novels or comics. This book, instead, was one I had to let pass by. I know that having seen a film, or having read something, I can’t un-see or forget what I read. I thank Laura for her postings and the details, and though I am curious I just have to make a decision that some works are not ones I would want.

    Thanks –

    I had to let this book go.

  31. ~more~ Jan 2013

    (Greenville, South Carolina)

    Greenville County Library has received six requests in the past two years to reconsider whether a book should remain in the library.

    • Bear Cub (2004 unrated foreign film)
    Reason: sexual content
    Decision: replaced with an R-rated version

    • King Dork (2006 book for young adults/teenagers)
    Reason: patron asked that it be put in the adult section or labeled parental warning
    Decision: no change

    • Love Actually (2003 film rated R)
    Reason: sexual content and possibly available to children
    Decision: DVD remained in the adult collection

    • Neonomicon (2011 graphic novel)
    Reason: sexual content
    Decision: removed

    • Kiss for Little Bear (1968 children’s book)
    Reason: Not an “easy reader” book
    Decision: No change

    • My Big Sister is So Bossy (children’s fiction book)
    Reason: contained references to coming of age issues
    Decision: No change

    Beverly James, executive director of the Greenville County Library, says she stands by her decision to remove copies of ‘Neonomicon’ from library shelves.

    -The decision

    . . . The library system has a 13-page policy stating how its collection is developed and maintained. Generally, the policy states that the library will provide a wide range of materials and that many new works will come from requests of library patrons.

    “The library recognizes that many materials are controversial and that any given item may offend some. Only individuals can determine what is most appropriate for their needs,” the policy states.

    It also acknowledges a need to be sensitive when categorizing materials, especially those available to children, but also says the ultimate decision on appropriateness resides with the family.

    In the case of “Neonomicon,” a meeting of the committee was scheduled after all members read the book, which took several weeks because the library had only two copies.

    Yonce said the committee discussed the book in light of the collection policy. They drew heavily on the fact the book was an award winner and the author’s reputation. They decided the book should be kept.

    “They fully recognized that I may decide otherwise,” James said…

    -The aftermath

    O’Connor of the censorship coalition not only calls it censorship, but also criticized James for refusing to speak to her. James said she corresponded with her by email, sending her the material she asked for, including the library’s collection policy.

    The American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee developed definitions for librarians 26 years ago. Under censorship it says, “A change in the access status of material, based on the content of the work and made by a governing authority or its representatives.”

    O’Connor said her organization gets a complaint a week about books in libraries and schools, but that represents a fraction of the actual instances. It is easy to simply slip a book off a shelf.

    “You can find something someone objects to in every single library – that doesn’t mean they have to read it,” she said . . .

  32. bit late here but I’ve literally just read the comic (the courtyard and neonomicon). Before reading these I was looking for a graphic novel based on H.P Lovecraft that was really gonna disturb and scare me! And blimey, Neonomicon definitely did that! First with carcosa being inside the mural in the courtyard (ARGH) and then secondly with the totally unexpected horrific rape scene!

    Obviously rape is definitely a very touchy subject anyway, but I definitely dont think writers should have to leave it out of their work to please people. It’s going to be distasteful and uncomfortable to watch but isn’t it suppose to get that reaction? I mean, rosemary (rosemarys baby) had to be raped by the devil to get pregnant right? and the protagonist had to get raped in this story too. It wasn’t just pointless casual rape thrown into the story. It was a necessary plot point.

    Also when you think about those kind of cult rituals (voodoo etc etc), orgys usually come into that.

    Neonomican was everything I wanted from a comic based on H.P Lovecraft. Horrifying, disturbing and crazy.

  33. I think for me the truly unfathomable thing is why Agent Brears had to be a recovering sex addict – as if that woud somehow make her more blase about being repeatedly assaulted by the Deep One or whatever it’s supposed to be, even if she wasn’t being mind-controlled by the Cthulhu foetus. And the disturbing Stockholm Syndrome aspects to Bears interractions with the Gargoyle of the Sea. (And is it me or did the artists try to sex the creature up? Because in Lovecraft they are truly repellent – because if it’s kind of attractive for a sea monster and is then nice to it’s victim because it’s pregnant with it’s god baby then that makes everything ok?)

    Use of rape as a narrative point is a controversial enough topic, but it’s such a gratuitous sequence that becomes almost inconsequential when it’s done it’s job – which seems to me wrong. Brears is reduced to nothing more than a two-dimmensional womb for Cthulhu with very little agency, and up until then if it wasn’t for the fact she needed a functioning womb for the story, she might as well have been male.

    Fanboys need to stop justifying and accept that Moore might just have been tin-eared with this one. It fails on many levels. It tries to be as full on as “From Hell” but has none of wit or complexity. The most charitable thing I can imagine is that Moore was taking the piss out of his fanboys by testing the limits of what they will obsessively defend (I think this thread kind of bears out that interpretation).

  34. Oooh boy this is an old article, but I figured I’d chime in because 1) I recently reread it again, and 2) why not?

    Personally speaking, I think this is a lot stronger of a comic than people giving it credit for. However, Moore has a very specific and detailed method of writing his scripts. Everything we see on the page illustrated by the artist was, for all intents and purpose, put there with specific direction by Moore himself. We can see that in Watchmen, From Hell, Promethea, etc. Nothing is without reason or purpose.
    There’s a great review floating around on the internet about breaking down the language of comics and what Moore did in terms of the first two issues; it’s thoroughly interesting and really made me appreciate the comic more, ie the purposeful use of the panels and borders (or lack thereof), playing with word bubbles, the idea that a comic is a 2D format yet presents an illusion of time via transitioning panels to express a narrative, etc. Basically, the characters slowly understand that they are in a story. More importantly, they’re characters in a comic book. That alone is fucking weird. Carcosa talking to the detectives while inside the mural? I couldn’t sleep after I read that.

    Now, on to the scenes depicting rape. Yeah, it’s a touchy subject, as it should be. I personally don’t think Moore included the rape scene in specifically to tackle the subject as a deconstruction; rather, he used the scene in order to openly express aspects of Lovecraft’s literature that were never explicitly discussed yet were heavily implied. The idea of including all the negatives things a lot of fans of Lovecraft tend to overlook – the racism, misogyny, rape, and classicism (though that part isn’t touched on at all for some reason) – makes this a more, I don’t know, HONEST take on Lovecraftian horror. I can respect that. It’s disgusting, repulsive, and grotesque, of course. But isn’t that what horror is?
    Rape is horrible and unforgivable – most intelligent, thoughtful people won’t argue that. But isn’t murder just as awful? Yet somehow we’re less upset about these acts of violence that permeates a good chunk of contemporary horror and in this comic.

    I still stand by this comic; it’s effective in what it set out to do – live up to the Lovecraft mythos by creeping the reader out and making them feel absolutely horrible in the process. Lovecraft’s stories don’t exactly end on high notes, and neither does this one; the rape (standing in for what was always referred to as unnameable rites and rituals) of a defenseless person quickly followed by the insinuation that our entire species is doomed to be devoured by the Old Ones. That’s petty fucking dark. And you know what? I’m okay with that.

  35. Incredibly charitable to assume Moore’s meta-critiquing and not just being a perverted hack. And the thing about turning a 3d to a 2d, that is such interesting close reading. Thank you!

    I thought they were going to go underground and there would be piping and hideous flapping things and Pickman would be down there drawing Night Gaunts eating fetid corpses and then that shit happened. It does, you are so right; it consigns it to the dustbin. Original-definition literally I have to throw it away now. It contaminates. Why don’t other kinds of violence? I don’t know!

    And I swear, two times in that comic it seemed like everything happening was happening inside a relatively small geodesic dome. That’s not what Leng looks like.

    And the fact that YEARS into the case, a detective pointed out the Lovecraft mythos patterns in the stuff. Just some unforgivably dumdum shit.

    I love Alan Moore so much. He is one of my top 5 based on the handful of his books i have read. I didn’t even REALIZE there were graphic sexual assaults in such a large proportion of his works until I read this thread. YEESH. Buzzfeed should make an effing list of them. So frustrating to me sometimes!

    Q: Why does Abby Arcane have to have been molested by Dr. Arcane in Saga of the Swamp Thing?

    A: Because that’s how you make female characters complex in comics!

    Pure hackery! He is so much better than this so much of the time.

    There better not be any sexual assault in late-series Tom Strong.

  36. Great review.

    I just finished the book and I think I’ve had it with Moore.

    Can he not think of a story that doesn’t have a rape in it as a major plot point?

    Any commentary from this story on mainstream comics or on fiction in general or on fate are lost. I didn’t get that. What I got was a guy who loves Lovecraft, except he thinks Lovecraft was asexual because he didn’t have the good sense to include a lot of rape, and so here’s some rape?

    It’s gross! Why can’t Moore, such a talented story teller, tell a different story?

  37. Just read Neonomicon and (unsurprisingly) felt very disturbed by it. Wanting to see how others responded to it, I’ve ended up here. It’s unsurprising that some readers hate it…when you represent rape you’re on very shaky ground between exploiting it and commenting on and criticising it and the response is totally subjective. My girlfriend refuses to watch Fincher’s ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ and she loves his films, I completely understand why she would just not want to let that into her head, regardless of its necessity as a plot device to that particular story.

    Could Alan Moore have told this story without the extreme brutality? I’ll consider some elements. The protagonist had to be a woman because only a woman can give birth (in this case to the end of the human race). It had to be a result of rape to truly reflect on the repressed aspects of Lovecraft’s stories, as rape was the unwritten subtext of many of them. Did we have to actually see the rape? Perhaps not, just as in the panels where Aldo Sax murdered his neighbour in The Courtyard prequel, which all happened outside of the panels and you could only see Sax’s arms…little was shown but it was still truly horrifying. A few blurry panels indicating something horrific happening to the contact lens-less agent would probably have been enough imo. Showing it was just horrible, I guess it could be argued that that’s the objective of a horror story but I personally didn’t need to see it in such detail.

    I will defend the sex addict history sub-plot for Agent Brears though. I interpret that as Moore wanting to show that this character has been damaged through her interactions with the human race (mostly male) and that people around her had exploited her, like her boss who was still trying to get in her pants even though he knew she’d been in therapy and on-leave to try and address her compulsions. So Moore’s basically laying a logical foundation for why Brears would accept her part to play in birthing Cthulhu-as-destroyer…because humanity is basically broken, just “vermin”. Sure the foetus could be controlling her too but perhaps not, perhaps she’s just hitting the “world reset/humanity extinction” button because we’re not worth saving! Similar to the end of The Cabin in the Woods, right?

    I think it’s absolutely fair for readers to be as critical of writers as some of you commenters here are of Alan Moore, I also think it’s fair for writers to express themselves in ways designed to achieve particular results, even if (to some) they don’t achieve 100% success. Moore had his intentions for Neonomicon, he expressed them in specific (horrific) ways then the story was finished and he moved on. Even he’s said he perhaps went too far in this story but if he’d stayed at his work desk deliberating every nuance and worrying about what every reader was going to think we’ll then he’d never ever finish anything. Better to complete the work and fail on certain points than to never finish it at all.

  38. Meh, Clive Barker does this better in his book “Imagica”.
    At least there, the fish-monster on woman sex is only implied, and consensual.
    The horror to be had is by the man, whose main squeeze tells him she is leaving him to be with the fish monsters, and that “there will be such children”.
    Paying attention comic writers? That’s how you do it, if you are to do it at all, in a comic no less.
    This was just monster rape porn masquerading as something deeper.
    After all the stuff Alan Moore has done in regards to the subject, I think he’s just objectifying women in sexual ways just to shock and titillate comic book readers.

    I mean, he once did a vaginal birth scene in a Mr. Miracle comic. He had a superhero help deliver a baby, in graphic terms and detail.

    In the documentary I was watching, they went on about how Moore’s other half had just had a baby, and how it inspired him to make the scene, but now I see this comic, along with all the other stuff, and it just all seems like exhibitionism.

    It’s like he is the Roger Corman of comics or something, with highlights (Deathrace 2000 / Killing Joke), and low lights (Humanoids from The Deep/Neonomicon).

  39. I’m very impressed by your review! I had to read Neonomicon for library school in order to discuss the controversy of it being banned from the Greenville, SC library. I am ignorant of the genre and had little context to put it in and have been reading one dimensional reviews for hours. Yours was the first review that actually brought any clarity. So, thank you!

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  42. Perhaps I’m missing something you’ve perceived, but I don’t believe this The Neonomicon is a metacommentary about the depiction of women and rape considered acceptable in comics; I think it’s simply an example of it. You’re giving Moore too much credit, perhaps. As difficult as this work is to read, there is absolutely a level at which it is a kind of Lovecraft rape-porn, as little as we’d like to admit Moore would write such a thing. Making the victim a “former sex-addict” is very much meant to soften the extent of her victimization; I find no evidence within the book to see this as a commentary about the depiction of women in comics; it’s not like Moore is subtle about these things. This is perverse on far more levels, perhaps, than it was meant to be.

    Unrelated (I think): one thing I can’t seem to get any critic’s view upon is the broken grids over cities in the book. Is this a reference to something I’m not getting? An original metaphor? (This being Moore, I’d bet on the former.)

  43. Being a kid that grew up on the average super-hero comic, Alan Moore’s stories were really different. So even though I don’t read comics anymore, occasionally I’ll go to wiki and find out what’s going on. Just came across Neonomicon/The Courtyard/Providence. I was going to buy it on Amazon, but their interface is awkward to use, so I put it aside for a possible later date.

    Searching for reviews led me here. Excellent review. I did enjoy Moore’s Killing Joke and it’s informative to know how women perceive Moore’s writing ( in regards to his treatment of Barbara Gordon … ) I think it’s always good for men like me to get women’s thoughts and opinions on serious matters like this.

    I’m betting it’s uncomfortable, but that’s what men need to hear. ( and learn ) I’d like to think that I’m a guy that respects women. But I’m sure I’ve made many mistakes along the way. So I encourage yourself and other women to try and educate teachable men like myself. Sadly, otherwise, men like us will never learn.

    The upside to teaching men is that men will then, hopefully, hold other men responsible for their words and actions. Hopefully have an effect on other guys.
    Men often learn by imitating other men. I freely admit it. I’d like to think that I pick smarter guys then me to learn from.

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