Hanging out with Halo Jones

Friday, December 10th, 2004

Went into town yesterday for a radio recording – the genius comic book writer Alan Moore being interviewed by some minor celeb (a comedian/writer called Stewart Lee) for a Radio 4 series called Chain Reaction, where each interviewee picks someone they want to interview on the next programme. Next Tuesday night Moore will be interviewing Brian Eno for it. The glory of having a publically-funded BBC is that tickets to be in the audience were completely free.

I've been a Moore fan since the early 1980s, following such 2000ad stories as Skizz and The Ballad of Halo Jones. Was Halo my first love? Possibly she was… (And Kwok, if you're reading this, I'm kicking myself for not thinking to forward the details so you'd know to come too – I'm really sorry. Especially as your Christmas card came this morning and I don't have your postal address to send you one.)

Moore's work includes Watchmen (the seminal graphic novel that redefined the superhero genre), the reinvention of the character Swamp Thing, and two comic books that have recently been filmed, From Hell (comicfilm) and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (comicfilm). One of the most interesting parts of the whole interview was when he was discussing the film adaptations – he doesn't like them, has refused to accept any money for them (despite the obscenely large cheques involved), and has a real philosophical problem with the way From Hell was handled.

It's a Jack the Ripper story, and he wrote it as a way to de-romanticise what happened – in reality, it wasn't a whodunnit tale of shadowy top-hatted figures with swirly capes following saucy young whores into alleys, but that's how it gets filmed and retold, and that's how the story excites attention even to this day. And what he most certainly didn't want to do was excite people, because in reality the Ripper was a brutal psychopath who spent hours slicing up the corpses of downtrodden, syphillitic, 40something slatterns. And of course when his work was filmed, with Johnny Depp in the starring role, it became a cape-swirling whodunnit.

So, a really interesting evening with a really interesting interviewee and an interviewer who knew his stuff and asked intelligent questions. The only disappointment was that the tour through Moore's career omitted Halo Jones.

But then, after the recording had finished, there was a little time to fill and Lee said they'd take one question – just one – from the audience. Wallop. Beloved Other Half's hand was in the air while the words were still hanging above the interviewer in a speech balloon. 'Tell us about Halo Jones', she said, and Lee slapped his forehead and groaned at having forgotten to ask, while Moore smiled fondly as if someone had just reminded him of an ex-girlfriend who he'd never meant to split up with. The question was re-asked by Lee as if it was part of the interview, and may even get edited into it before broadcast. Which, incidentally, will be December 30th at 6.30pm on BBC Radio 4.

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I'm Andy Darley. Sometimes I want to say things. This is where I do it.