Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The Bojeffries Saga

Alan Moore & Steve Parkhouse The Bojeffries Saga (2014)
Still wrestling with M.R. James and needing to come up for air every once in a while, so...

I have a friend of thirty years standing who doesn't really seem to do books, or indeed to do anything occurring outside and therefore not directly relating to himself; and he isn't likely to read this so I may as well be honest.

He's a decent guy, but Jesus fucking Christ; when we were both young and still at college, every single mutual acquaintance urged him to move away from home as soon as possible, to go out into the world and experience things; but he knew better. Today he still lives in the same house, for all I know the one in which he may well have been born. He has never lived away from home. His job when he had one - and he insists that it really was a job - was in the antiques trade, specifically selling whatever tat his mother could find in the attic from a stall at an indoor market; here using the term antiques in the broadest possible sense of anything which isn't actually brand new. He had one other job, something to do with selling iron gates, and that lasted for a couple of months so far as I am able to recall. His first girlfriend turned up during his late thirties, and his wife - with whom he lives in the house inherited from his mother - is at least a decade his senior, as was the girlfriend.

When the subject of his continued residence at the house in which he grew up arises, he offers terse, resentful statements about the controlling influence of his late mother and how she held him back; although all I can recall from the few times I met her is how exasperated she seemed in regard to her son still living at home.

He would phone me up and ramble on for ages regardless of whether or not I cared, apparently having assumed that his favourite subjects were logically of interest to more or less everyone. On one occasion I set the receiver down on a chair and went to make myself a cup of tea as he was telling me something or other about the aviation industry - for reasons I couldn't follow. When I returned five minutes later he was still talking, having failed to register my absence. On another occasion I was having such trouble at work adapting to impractical and back-breaking new employment conditions that I felt like topping myself, and his response to this was a twenty minute monologue comprising his thoughts on British industry and how it needed to change to meet the demands of the market, the same bollocks with which upper management had justified the hell to which I had become recently subject. When finally I got a word in edgeways to point out that I was speaking from actual experience, he cut me short.

'Mum's nagging me to get off the phone,' he chortled. 'She's just put out the sticky toffee pudding,' which was followed by ten minutes on the subject of sticky toffee pudding - yum yum yum. I had never heard of sticky toffee pudding, whatever the fuck it is. I looked around to see if Mike Leigh was crouched down behind the sofa directing a cameraman.

I went to visit my friend for one last time a few days before I moved to the United States. I hadn't seen him in a while and anticipated a few questions about the details of my move, some level of curiosity, but no; I sat and listened for at least thirty minutes as he explained his big idea, a new kind of science-fiction show. It would be, he said, like a cross between Doctor Who and Star Trek.

Perhaps not surprisingly he is now an enthusiastic supporter of UKIP, the English political party which by definition epitomises fear of the unfamiliar. He turns up on my facebook page to argue with gibberish restated from some source aimed at people of low intelligence who prefer an argument they can understand over one which addresses an actual problem - I live in a shit house because of Polish immigrants, for example. My friend has, I realise, probably not had a great life by any criteria I would recognise, and it pains me to state this but he really can't see that each time he sits at a keyboard to share some thought, the result is basically dog shit because his experiences are so extraordinarily limited as to negate any attempt at self-assessment, any effort to address the question am I talking out of my arse or is this the good stuff?

Anyway, I'll return to him in a moment.

The Bojeffries Saga, roughly speaking The Grove Family as written by a much funnier H.P. Lovecraft, was arguably the greatest of Warrior's many fine strips, and a more explicit insight into Moore's roots and influences than most of the other stuff for which he was known at the time. If closer in spirit to D.C. Thompson and Carry On than underground comix, it was still at a fair old tangent from his work for 2000AD and elsewhere in the pages of Warrior. It might even be argued that Bojeffries was essentially post-watershed Grimly Fiendish - an idea so simple as to make it seem crazy that no-one had done it before, at least not in quite the same way; and because The Bojeffries Saga was such a simple idea, it was generally magnificent.

That said, coming back to Bojeffries older and wiser is an odd experience. The jokes are no less funny, but some additional knowledge of the author has cast an ambiguous tint over certain details, at least for me. Elements such as Raoul's working environment at Slesidge & Harbuck Staunchion Grinding and Light Filliping read as though researched through 1970s sitcoms rather than any actual shop floor. I probably wouldn't have noticed but for anthropological critical mass having been reached with the addition of a new strip, a cartoon mockumentary concerned with what members of the Bojeffries family are up to these days presented by a person resembling Jonathan Meades and which ends up taking the piss out of Channel 4's Big Brother. It's all highly comical but seems somehow poorly observed in places, unfortunately reminding me of instances of my aforementioned friend passing comment on almost any subject, his shabbily drawn maps mistaken for territory at every single turn. I'm sure I read somewhere that Alan Moore no longer even owns a television, although I may be wrong, but if true then I guess that's one explanation for the more cock-obvious aspects of the satire. It's not that it isn't funny so much as that it simply isn't so sharp as, for example, what you might find in Viz which I gather parodies from some degree of experience rather than general impressions, or more so than whatever informs Bojeffries. It doesn't quite sneer at Sun reading working class thickies, but something doesn't quite add up, at least not for me, not any more.

Then again, there's the strong possibility that I may be overthinking this, and that most of what I've written here is bollocks, particularly as the Warrior material remains mostly as potent as when it first saw print. It's just the update which feels somehow surplus to requirements, the equivalent of any David Bowie album you care to name since Scary Monsters - it has the right moves and you can tell it's the same guy, but otherwise there's no point.

No comments:

Post a Comment