Alan Moore's Girls Gone Wilde

Watchmen creator's decades-in-the-making (porno)graphic opus sees release

A beautiful dirty book 16 years in the making, writer Alan Moore and artist Melinda Gebbie's luminous (porno)graphic novel Lost Girls is to erotic literature what Moore's now classic 1987 Watchmen (with Dave Gibbons) was to the superhero scene. Each busts the frames of its respective genre with formal precision; each reflects upon its own ways and means through books within the book; and, most importantly, each kicks great writing into hyperdrive with dense and resonant imagery.

"I'm a useless brain in the tank without an artist," says Moore from the home he shares with fiancée Gebbie in Northampton, England.

From V for Vendetta in the early '80s to his ongoing League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Moore has made power trips his specialty, and Lost Girls is no exception. In its pages, The Wizard of Oz's Dorothy, a giddy American teen; Peter Pan's Wendy, a repressed bourgeois; and an aging, aristocrat Alice, formerly of Wonderland, transform dreamy desires into feverish fulfillment together in an Austrian hotel during the months leading up to World War I. There they entertain and seduce one another with tales of their girlish erotic revelations spun from this league of extraordinary ladies' source material. Peter is an actual Pan, and when Dorothy surrenders, she really surrenders. In addition to its unusually accommodating staff, the Hotel Himmelgarten (or "heavenly garden") offers some groovy, and decidedly un-Gideon, reading matter: bedside copies of the proprietor's "white book," a pastiche of classic Edwardian and Victorian erotica. Libido confronts the death drive in this artificial paradise as the three women work through their youthful sexual traumas, give it up in every possible way, and occasionally smoke a little dope. "There's something about opium that goes very well with lesbianism," declares Alice, the sybaritic enabler of these girls gone Wilde.

Lost Girls: Gale force
illustration: Melinda Gebbie
Lost Girls: Gale force

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Lost Girls
by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie

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  • Panel Discussion
    A talk with Lost Girls artist Melinda Gebbie
    by Matt Singer
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    Moore has been giving characters a sex life as far back as Maxwell the Magic Cat, which he wrote and drew for his local Northants Post newspaper from 1979 to 1986. And the famous "Rite of Spring" issue of Swamp Thing was devoted to a psychedelic sexual experience involving this "walking mass of putrefying vegetable matter." Sex for both pleasure and power adds a dimension to more recent characters such as the superhero Tom Strong and, my favorite, the magical Promethea, primary vessel for the gnostic writer's intense interest in diabolism, the kabbalah, and the greater esoteric tradition. Lost Girls, however, arose from Moore's pre-magical conclusion that "sex was probably interesting enough by itself, without all the extraterrestrial or supernatural trimmings."

    Introduced by mutual friend Neil Gaiman after being asked to contribute to a one-shot erotic magazine called Tales of Shangri-La, Moore and Gebbie began meeting on weekends to discuss an artistic collaboration that soon evolved into something more boldface-worthy. By combining Moore's admittedly "half-assed notion" about the sexuality of Peter Pan–ish flying dreams with Gebbie's interest in stories involving strong female trios, the duo had the book's entire 240-page structure in place within two weeks of working together. After a couple of false starts with other companies, Moore deems Top Shelf Productions' swank three-volume boxed edition "the most beautiful artifact I've ever been associated with—down to the nice smell of the paper."

    Lost Girls hits its first aesthetic climax at the end of book one, when Alice, Dorothy, and Wendy attend the May 1913 Paris premiere of Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. Recounting her impressions as the spectacle comes to its literally riotous conclusion, Alice writes in her journal that "I lanced my tongue in Mrs. Potter's anus, up and fast between the tropic lips into her beast-peach hole. Crowned hot with bronze, American-girl heat rubbed shameless as a cat against my thigh. The smash of wet cymbals inside me as the maid surrendered to the sacrifice. I'm weeping." Moore tunes his writing to Stravinky's rhythms, Gebbie re-creates Russian designer Nicholas Roerich's colorfully undulating backdrops, and graphic fiction transcends itself.

    Though he's not so immodest as to elevate Lost Girls into the realm of Stravinsky's Rite, Moore notes that both works deal with primal forces and arrive at the beginning of their respective centuries into worlds fraught with political tension and repression. They may even share a certain amount of cultural blowback, too. In the end, Lost Girls' most transgressive aspect may be its lovingly exaggerated resemblance to a Tijuana bible, the cheap eight-page comics that often put familiar—and copyrighted—cartoon characters like Olive Oyl and Betty Boop into extravagantly sexual situations. And here Lost Girls may have crossed the line: The Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, which owns the rights to author J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan and Wendy, has expressed concerns that have yet to be fully resolved by the book's publisher.

    While the underage sex presented in the "white book" is treated lightly, you'll find little sadomasochism and no scatology, for example, elsewhere. Moore admits "punches were pulled" in the interest of accessibility, balance, and ambience mostly in order to make the book more appealing to women. Lost Girls is the opposite of porn's humorous or horrific norm, which is "lit as though for brain surgery in a sordid apartment, on a sofa with busted springs sticking through it, and every pore hair and goose bump of these poor shivering meat puppets on full display."

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