Thursday, 5 November 2009

315: The Hot Slot by Alan Moore

“The Hot Slot”
Written by Alan Moore
Art by Larry Stroman
in “American Flagg” #21, June 1985

I don’t really include stuff from real super-heroics-style comics but as this is by Alan Moore I thought I’d make an exception. The whole story is intended as satire in broad strokes, and Alan Moore has a long-standing reputation for including positive homosexual portrayals in his comics. Though this falls short .

These are the final panels from the first instalment of Alan Moore’s seven-part science-fiction sex-romp in the comic book “American Flagg”. These characters only appear in this episode, as Moore establishes the story’s background, where unintentional subliminal advertising has been exploited by a pornographer to turn a futuristic Kansas into a sex-obsessed pornotopia. The character with the gun is called Max Hedrhum (an allusion as to where Moore borrowed the idea of subliminal TV from). The pair pop up again as a cameo in the final episode where they're planning their wedding ceremony.

Really what the whole story line is about is all the fun of satire in bad taste. The entire story line is loaded with illustrations of people in fetish and bondage gear, sex parlours, and more depictions of dildos than you’d ever expect in a comic in the mid-80s. The satirical and funny short stories Moore made his name with at 2000AD in the early ‘80s had limits, but here Moore harks back to the liberty of the 1970s when the counter-culture and underground comix made their last stand. Underground comix would be just a collection of blank pages if you removed most of the drawings of (straight) people fucking. The aging hippy audience and the relaxation of censorship because of the New Wave meant science fiction could be as crass and vulgar as it wanted to be. Assorted anthologies by Michael Parry about drugs and “The Shape of Sex of to Come” by Douglas Hill allow science fiction writers to ape “Oui”, “Penthouse” and “Men Only”, often with a satirical aspect to protect writerly dignity. This is what Moore is drawing upon here in this story.

So as a part of this rough-and-tumble comedy Moore gives us a highly dramatic gay panic scene. Not that I’m particularly pointing a finger at Moore with the intention of screaming, “Homophobic Hypocrite!” Because that’s simply not the case here. It’s more an indication of how the times have gradually changed, and Moore may have been thinking that making his comedy rapist a seven foot hulk was a complimentary inversion of usual stereotypes (i.e. the notorious near-rape of Bruce banner at the YMCA in a 1980 edition of “The Incredible Hulk” comic book). “Blackadder II” (recorded in mid-1985, and broadcast in the beginning of 1986) was written by the right-on Ben Elton and congenial Richard Curtis and has more than a few buggery gags, which are a bit more vigorous than the usual sitcom-fodder.
Actually thinking on it, I suspect that most of the buggery/rape jokes I’ve got to hand date from the mid-80s: Fags in the shower, jokes about Clones, the panic sublimated into dancing jokes at The Blue Oyster bar in the “Police Academy” films, and Uncle Monty in "Withnail and I".

Although in the context of the sort of comics you find in the back of gay bookshops but never in “Forbidden Planet” this scene might go wholly unremarked.

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