Explaining the provenance of each of the pieces in this, his first collection of shorter fiction, Alan Moore describes ‘What We Can Know About Thunderman’, the novella that takes up over half of the book, as having ‘exploded like a lanced boil’ between February and April 2021. ‘I like to think’, he jokes in the acknowledgements, ‘it has an air of spring about it.’ The phrase is typical of the way Moore, a self-declared ceremonial magician, uses language as a party trick, disgusting and delighting readers with a surprising image or reversal of register. It is also an insight into his difficult relationship with the medium that made him famous.
The novella presents an imagined history of Thunderman, a fictitious superhero, whose adventures are published by American Comics. Moore is the most celebrated living comic-book writer, feted for the realism, political radicalism and narrative ingenuity he brought to his work at DC Comics in the 1980s. These qualities were best displayed in Watchmen, at once a critique and a brilliant example of the superhero genre.
Watchmen’s cynicism about masked vigilantes reflected Moore’s growing disillusionment with DC, which he left in 1989. This disillusionment festered for decades; Moore now seeks to lance that boil by delivering a heavy-handed satire on the comics industry. American Comics is an obvious stand-in for DC. It is run