BOOK REVIEW: Alan Moore’s ‘Fashion Beast’

fashion beast This collaboration with punk icon Malcolm Mclaren is not what you might expect… 

Fashion Beast was in fact originally written by Moore back in 1985, when he was creating Watchmen; in collaboration with Malcolm McLaren (at the height of his fame) with the intention of it being a screenplay for a full length feature film. It was never filmed and sat unpublished for thirty years until Avatar Press asked Moore to adapt it as a graphic novel with Antony Johnson & Facundo Percio. Fashion Beast eventually ran as a ten issue series, the first issue released in September 2012.

The story follows Doll, a transvestite with dreams of stardom, who is fired as a coat checker at a trendy dance club after an argument with an angry patron. She attends an audition to be a “mannequin” for Celestine, a hermit-like but much sought after designer rumoured to be disfigured, who is closely guarded by two old women. Despite her audition being panned by these elderly women who run his fashion house and factory, Celestine chooses Doll to be his newest model. Doll in turn, discovers that the same person who got her fired from her last job, a tomboyish designer named Jonni, also works at Celestine’s factory.

Despite the fact that the two are immediately at odds with each other, Jonni is drawn to Doll, finding her an unintentional muse for her work, yet is angry and disgusted with her with the shallowness for fame and her taking credit for some of Jonni’s fashion ideas. Celestine meanwhile, takes great interest in Doll, trying to impress upon her the power of fashion and the limitations of humanity. He confesses that he remains in his office designing clothing and playing with tarot cards to hide his disfigurement from society, but is ultimately lonely. It is also clear that Celestine is still in mourning for his mother, an incredibly beautiful and accomplished designer herself, but who frequently told him that he was ugly.

Doll then makes the pivotal discovery  – Celestine is incredibly attractive and that his beliefs stem from his mother’s words and a mirror that dramatically distorts his appearance. This charade is maintained by all around him, as the reality is he is only capable of designing beautiful clothing because he believes himself ugly.

The rest of the story circles around the Doll’s loss of touch with the real world she came from as she becomes further absorbed by the fashion empire, Jonni’s attempts to find her redemption by re-exploring the old world, and Celestine’s fall into despair & isolation due to what he believes his situation to be.

In truth, I really didn’t like this – it’s not that I didn’t get it, I just came turning the pages hoping I would get more. It’s a bleak world, on the brink of a nuclear winter, with as much money being pumped into the fashion industry & marketing as into maintaining the police state and weapons of mass destruction. In that respect, it’s sort of reflective of the mid-80’s: Thatcher, Reagan, tensions with the Soviet Union, protesting outside the South African Embassy, crushing the unions and minor strikes over apartheid mixed with New Romanticism, yuppies and city money, and the demand for labels (I certainly remember everyone wanting to wear anything that had Fred Perry, Le Coq Sportif or Lacoste on it!). It certainly is reflective of McLaren, who at that time could literally market & sell garbage to the world – and yes, Celestine, Doll & Jonni represent the hopelessness, shallowness & defiance of that time, but it didn’t work for me today.

Unless you’re a real Moore fan, or real fan of knocking the shallowness that is the fashion world, you may find yourself turning that last page looking for something that’s not there…

GS Rating: 2.5/5

GS Reporter: SilverFox

Source: Avatar Press

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