Thirty years ago, Malcolm McLaren approached Alan Moore and offered him a chance to write a screenplay. Moore was at the time known primarily for his work at 2000AD, and for reinvigorating Swamp Thing for DC Comics. Other projects ongoing or in the process of being born in this period were V For Vendetta, Marvelman and Watchmen. Moore duly produced the screenplay, but unfortunately, the movie never made it onto production. Copies of the screenplay circulated among fans for years, and that, it seemed, was that. Avatar Press, Moore’s preferred adaptors of his prose work into the comics form, finally managed to bring a visual translation of Moore’s screenplay, under the steady hand of Antony Johnston, adaptor of many of Moore’s other prose for the company, in close collaboration with the Bard of Northampton.
The concept that McLaren wanted Moore to base his screenplay around was to fuse the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast with a fictionalised version of the life of Christian Dior. As a long-standing fan of Moore’s work from the early days of his newspaper strip Maxwell the Magic Cat and The Stars My Degradation for Sounds Magazine, I always felt disappointment that Fashion Beast remained a lost project, so I am glad that another piece of the puzzle has been slotted into place from one of my favourite periods of Moore’s creativity, even in a different form to the intended one.
Antony Johnston has a knack for adaptation so that he does not leave his own fingerprints on the work, but allows Moore’s voice to shine out from the page. Without doing a script and comic comparison page by page, I cannot tell how much heavy lifting has been required to produce the finished work, but it definitely feels as though he has done justice to the original.
The artist, Facundo Percio is not one of Avatar’s stable of artists that I was previously familiar with, but I was very impressed with his work here. He conveys the androgyny of the protagonist Doll Seguin extremely well. Described by McLaren to Moore before he started to work on the script as “a girl who looks like a boy who looks like a girl”, Doll is almost as enigmatic as Jean Christophe Celestine, the Fashion Beast of the title.
In some ways, Fashion Beast feels very much of the 80’s, but themes of class war, gender and celebrity scandal never really go out of fashion. It definitely belongs on the same shelf as V For Vendetta, with which it shares a totalitarian scenario and the idea of nuclear winter, but if it cannot match those lofty heights, it would be unfair to feel too cheated by that. Now, if Avatar could set their sights on completing Big Numbers…