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Visionary comic-book creator Alan Moore is credited with turning the media into something an adult can read without shame. His signature Watchmen series takes the men-in-tights genre of superheroes and turns it into a dark and disturbing world far from Metropolis.

Hollywood has come knocking, adapting From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and most recently V for Vendetta, which Moore knocked himself, demanding his name be removed from the credits.

It's unlikely Moore's newest work, the pornographic Lost Girls (Top Shelf Productions), will get on the big screen, unless Jenna Jameson (Picture: ) is looking for a vehicle suited to her unique skills.

Collaborating with his long-time girlfriend, underground artist Melinda Gebbie, Moore takes children's literature characters Alice from Alice in Wonderland, Wendy from Peter Pan, and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and has them grow up quite explicitly.

Moore's intent is to create a work of art that arouses more than one organ, and both he and Gebbie succeed. Sitting with a steaming cup of tea in his Northhampton, England, home, Moore spoke with Mr. Skin about defining his latest work as pornographic and why that's a good thing--a very good thing indeed.

Who is the audience for a pornographic comic book?
We hoped that it would be pornography for people that aren't very interested in pornography. I'll confess I don't think either I or Melinda are, in the current sense. We're interested in theory and we're interested in a lot of the nineteenth-century stuff. That was one of the main reasons we did Lost Girls. There was no pornography around that we found terribly readable.

Were you making a conscious decision to appeal more to women?
When we put together our ideas, which were mutual, what we thought pornography might be able to be that involved a fairly heavy critique of what pornography was, one of the things that seemed glaringly wrong with [pornography] was that the majority was aimed at heterosexual men. The only thing of any kind of real importance in the narrative, it was more or less plumbing. It was something that was fairly joyless and mechanical. It was never done in any way that could be appealing to women.

The lighting, all of the sets looked like they were lit for brain surgery. They were also terribly designed so that there was never anything comforting or inviting or reassuring about the spaces, which was something Melinda was very keen to remedying in her artwork to make it something that was colorful.

Yes, we were particularly concerned about making this appeal to women. Because, frankly, doing pornography that's going to appeal to men isn't a huge problem. Doing pornography that will appeal to women is a little bit more of a feat. We thought about every panel, which is partially why it took us sixteen years to do it. We thought about every position, every aspect from a point of view: Could women feel comfortable about this?

This is one of the first times that I've collaborated with a woman, which is an embarrassing confession. I think it says a lot about the male-to-female ratio in the comic industry, which is getting better now, but previously there had not been many women working in comics.

How do you see the book fitting into the canon of dirty comics, from Tijuana Bibles to the underground work that was done in the '60s?
Obviously we'd been very aware of all of that work. The Tijuana Bibles were a lot of fun in some ways because they were completely illicit, have got some mysterious point of origin, of which I'm still hearing great folk tales to this day. The best one was that it was three women who produced the Tijuana Bibles. One who wrote the stories, one who did the artwork, and a businesswoman who distributed them all. I'd like to believe that, rather than it was the predictable sweaty men in a basement somewhere.

Melinda comes out of the California underground scene. Long before I met Melinda, I was a huge fan of her work when she was appearing in things like Wet Satin, San Francisco Comix, Young Lust, Women's Comix, along with the other California underground comic artists of the day, people like S. Clay Wilson and Robert Crumb. I'm second to none in my admiration of the underground comic scene. It was and continues to be an incredible source of inspiration to me.

Much as we admire all this stuff, there hadn't been much that was purely about sex as a subject in itself. Most of the examples that we've spoken of kind of blended sex with humor or satire, which kind of made the sex into an extended--and sometimes very funny--dirty joke. In others, you'd have sex to enhance a horror narrative, which is something that continues in fiction and cinema to this day. We all have uneasy fears about sex and sexuality, like HR Giger and the Alien films that exploit sexual imagery in a horror context.

This, with humor or satire, is valid, but it's not really about sex. It's using sex as something to give a sharper edge to your satire or your horror. If you're going to talk about sex itself, yes, there will be some areas in there that will be humorous, just as there are some areas in sex that are unavoidably humorous. But the majority of our response to sex is not related to our sense of humor or our sense of horror. Mostly, we just enjoy it.

We wanted to see if it was possible to do an ambitious work that was entirely about sex. We wanted to see if we could have a full-on pornographic narrative that fulfilled all of the requirements that pornographic narratives have and at the same time managed to do things the reader could expect any work of literature or art to do, characters or a plot or meaning, themes. I might expect it to have fancy French-sounding things like motifs and metaphors and things like that.

Do you think there is something inherently limiting about the comics medium in terms of achieving an erotic work?
As a medium of erotic work, it's worked out rather well. I could not have written Lost Girls as a straight-text narrative. For one thing, we couldn't have referenced all of the erotic artists. I would have had to explain every scene using only words.

If you look at stuff from the period that might arguably be called the Golden Age of Pornography, which was the Victorian/Edwardian period, even then one of the main problems in purely literary pornography is the author coming up with different similes for penis or orgasm. It gets very monotonous very quickly. Whereas, of course, I don't have to laboriously describe the mechanics of every scene. That frees up the text to talk about other things. I'd say comics are a pretty good medium for almost anything. I doubt that we've even scratched the surface of what comics can be used for.

From my skewed perspective, I think we have a huge advantage over modern photographic or filmed pornography, which I personally don't like. The main reason I don't like it is probably because it brings a lot of emotional baggage with it. These are real people in these photographs or in these movies. Yeah, I'm sure it's all completely consensual and they look happy enough up to a point, but at the same time you can't help but think, "Is this really what they wanted to do for a living? Is this what their parents wanted them to do for a living? Is there some heartbreak here, or some disappointment or depression?" Those things take the edge off of any potential arousal for me.

With Lost Girls, we have doggedly been calling it pornography for these past sixteen years and that was for a number of reasons. One of them was I thought the word was more honest and descriptive.

As opposed to erotica?
Yeah. My first objection to erotica was probably class-based, in that it struck me that the main difference between erotica and pornography is the income bracket of the person buying it. In that sense, I thought I'd rather go with rough-and-ready pornography than pretentious erotica.

When you actually get down to what the words themselves mean, erotica, of course, means pertaining to love. It's not pertaining to sexual love, though that is what it's come to mean, and that is of course part of love. That's a bit dishonest. Only an idiot would argue that sex isn't better if it's part of a loving relationship. But at the same time it would take a hypocrite to say that it would be impossible to have a perfectly satisfying sexual encounter in which no deep everlasting love was involved.

When you're talking about pornography, to call it erotica is to suggest it's love that is being talked about, when it's not. It's sex. We thought that pornography, which actually means drawings or writings about wantons, it kind of signals that the entire Lost Girls is taking place nowhere but in the realm of the human imagination. These are all completely imaginary creatures that I've constructed out of lines on paper, as Robert Crumb famously put it. No real people or horses were harmed during the making of Lost Girls.

Certainly it was an intentional decision to use traditional children's literary characters; what was the intent behind that?
We arrived at the idea, more or less, by accident. Once we arrived at it we realized what a good idea it was for our purposes. Originally I had a half-assed idea--before I hooked up with Melinda as an artist--that it might be possible to take a story like Peter Pan and interpret it sexually.

Sigmund Freud said that dreams of flying are dreams of sexual expression. There's a lot of flying in Peter Pan. That's about as far as I thought, as pathetic as it sounds, and I couldn't really see where to take it that wouldn't have ended up with a smutty parody of Peter Pan, of which there are probably several existing already. That wasn't what I wanted to do.

When I met with Melinda, initially we were asked to do an eight-page inclusion in an erotic anthology magazine that never came out. But while we were talking over possibilities for collaboration on that I mentioned my dirty Peter Pan idea to a resounding silence and Melinda mentioned that she always enjoyed working on her solo stories if they involved the dynamic of three women. That idea led to, well, if Wendy from Peter Pan was one of the three women who would the other two be? From there it was a very short step to Alice in Wonderland and Dorothy from Wizard of Oz.

We just did a sexual reading of the three books. I don't think there were necessarily conscious sexual elements in them, but some of the images, they're fair game. It's a fair thing to interpret those symbols and see where they take you.

If Lost Girls was put to film, who would you want playing your lead characters?
I'm notoriously cranky about not wanting movie versions of my work.

But as a fantasy...
I know that Melinda was thinking of various actresses when she was putting the characters together, particularly Dorothy. To get into the character she did some drawings of Clara Bow (Picture: - 2). That kind of evolved into Dorothy. I must admit that I'm very fond of silent-movie actresses. They had a luminous look to them. Lily Langtry, people like that.

For Alice, Melinda was trying to look for an older woman who had a beautiful bone structure and was still sexy. I think that she was partially based upon Maggie Smith (Picture: - 2). Wendy looks a little bit like Melinda herself. Melinda is the big film buff. I can't personally imagine anyone I'd like to play them, even in an imaginary film.

If you were to do Lost Girls, and they never would, but you'd probably have to do it as an animation. Then it would be a matter of getting the right actresses to voice the women, which would be good because you could get character actresses who weren't famous for their looks.

Are there any nude scenes in movies that you particularly enjoy?
A lot of John Waters's films are tremendous in how they handled sex. They were berserk and funny and they probably get better with age. Desperate Living has a really hilarious lesbian love scene between Mink Stole (Picture: 1) and Jean Hill and it was very funny.

There have been some nice sex or nudity scenes in a lot of films. In Don't Look Now, I thought the way that [director] Nic Roeg took Julie Christie (Picture: 1 - 2) and Donald Sutherland making love, with them getting dressed afterwards, and there's an uncomfortable silence with them getting dressed that is in complete contrast with all the gasping and moaning that's inter-cut with that.

It's not a nude scene, but I quite like Diana Rigg (Picture: ) in that Avengers episode where she surprisingly turns up in a load of bondage gear. It was a bit of surprise for Saturday night television when I was twelve.

You said you liked silent era, any pre-Code stuff?
Was it Roman Scandals with Eddie Cantor that had those nude women running around in the background? They were great. In fact, I've seen a couple--I believe there is a collection out on DVD, but I can't find it for the life of me--of early Victorian pornographic films, which I'm told is a bit sweet and a bit charming.

It's full-on sex, but since it's at the beginning of the pornographic industry none of the clich?have yet come up. It's probably just some friends of the cameraman who were interested in having a bit of fun with this novel new machine. They actually look like they're enjoying themselves. It's not part of a big profit-making exercise.

There's something very sweet about that in the few tiny little glimpses that I've seen in the erotic films of that period. It would be good if people could rediscover them. We might find some rare talents lurking in there somewhere.

image courtesy of Lost Girls

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