FASHION BEAST #7By: Alan Moore (script), Moore & Malcolm Mclaren (story), Antony Johnston (sequential adaptation), Facundo Percio (art), Hernan Cabrera (colors) & James Reed (letters)

The Story: Now that Doll knows the true nature of Celestine, what will happen next?

Review (with some unavoidable SPOILERS from last issue): This has been an odd series.  I don’t “love it”, but it is a very high quality comic.  The story itself isn’t anything that would immediately sing to me, but it has some attraction just because it is different.  I love post-apocalypse, but that genre has been overdone.  Fashion Beast features a city suffering from a kinda nuclear winter (or at least that seems to be the problem even if they never specifically say), where the city is still functioning, but it is cold and gray all the time.  In this bleak environment, it seems the populace has turned to fashion as their obsession.  By fashion, I mean being obsessed with runway models and clothing designers, not wearing funky clothing themselves.  Enter Doll, a transvestite who has risen from being a coat-check “girl” to lead model for Celestine, the city’s most elite fashion designer.  Celestine is a recluse to lives in a tower and designs clothes.  The assumption is that he is a hideous beast, but as we learned last issue, he is actually beautiful, but nobody will tell him that because otherwise he wouldn’t stay in his tower designing clothes.

That reveal of Celestine’s true nature was HUGE last issue.  With this issue we are entering the downhill portion of the story and I’m fascinated to see how this creative team spins this tale of image over substance.  The story is already thought provoking on multiple levels and like all Alan Moore-associated works, I can’t imagine the payoff won’t be there in the end.

This particular issue is very affecting.  We see Doll finally getting the adoration he/she always wanted, but not really enjoying being chased by paparazzi.  Then we have this surreal scene where she retreats INTO Celestine’s chamber to escape her fans.  Thus, what is a prison for Celestine is somewhat of a refuge for Doll.  He hides there because he thinks he is ugly (when he is really a beautiful man and full of deep passions), she retreats there because she is “beautiful” (when she is really just a tarted up transvestite, with very shallow desires).  They’re kinda living the opposite ends of the same lie.  This is the type of scene and situation that I love Alan Moore for.  He creates stories that offer surprises to those who THINK and he never patronizes the reader by explaining everything.  His stories give back as much as you’re willing to invest.

The art is more than capable.  In fact, much of the emotion of this issue is carried by the art.  There’s this entire scene where Celestine is dressing a nude Doll in his latest clothing design.  The scene goes on for pages and it’s Percio’s art that tells us that Doll is very attracted to Celetine, how horribly Doll feels for Celestine’s predicament, etc.  Without competent art, this issue doesn’t come close to the heights it hits.

And were they implying that Celestine doesn’t find it odd that his lead model has a penis because he’s never seen a naked woman?  I mean, I think the way the story was supposed to go is that Doll is having this big Crying Game moment, stripped herself naked in front of Celestine and expected to be revealed for what HE truly is–and Celestine doesn’t even bat an eye because he doesn’t know that women don’t have penises.  Freaky…

Conclusion: The only negative for this issue is that I don’t enjoy the subject matter all that much.  But, it’s a testament to the creators that they’re making me mostly enjoy a comic about fashion and transvestites.  In all seriousness, it’s nice to read a comic that rewards you for thinking.  With most stories, there is nothing more than a surface layer or a clumsily done subtext; with Alan Moore, you never reach the bottom.

Grade: A-

– Dean Stell



  • John McComas

    I told my local shop owner last week that reading this is what I imagine being old enough in the 80’s (I wasn’t, as I was born either in the last X year or first Y year, depending on criteria) to read/get Moore at his prime must’ve felt like. You and I have pretty similar tastes. Against my better scholastic training (I was big into Fish’s Reader Response Theory while getting my degree), which in large part eschewed the need for context or authorial intent when it comes to textual analysis, I’ll volunteer that the context of this work is a good bit of what I’m digging, aside from the great script/art. I should also note that this isn’t necessarily a sales pitch to you…more like a quick primer on my beloved field of study: [drumrollllllll] Gender Studies.

    So…context. Had this been published when Moore wrote the script, it would’ve been very much in the vanguard of 80’s vintage, post-Fire-Island scene art which was affiliated with the at-the-time burgeoning Queer Studies movement. And within that context, I feel it would’ve made quite a splash, perhaps even to the point where it would’ve been canonized by contemporary academics, much like Kushner’s “Angels in America” later became in the early 90s. This effect would’ve likely been even more pronounced if it had successfully been filmed.

    Looking at it from a contemporary lens, I can easily see it being a sort of ho-hum statement piece like the bulk of non-blockbuster publishing is today. Perhaps I’m merely trying to justify my fascination, but I can’t help but read Fashion Beast as a sort of prescient thumbing of the nose statement on gender flexibility, well before even academia had fully arrived at the notion of gender as a performed act, as opposed to an essential quality. To wit, Judith Butler’s “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution”–the doctoral thesis which pretty much modernized the fields of Feminist Studies while simultaneously giving credibility and impetus to Queer Studies–wasn’t published until ’88.

    So there you have it. From a comics fan perspective, this is simply another area where Moore was groundbreaking as all hell. But from a Genders Studies perspective, this is the equivalent of unearthing a lost master work, like the Monk/Coltrane concert that was unearthed in ’01 or that dude that just discovered he owned a Picasso that nobody had ever seen before.

    • dfstell

      Yeah….that’s the amazing thing about Moore. I’m mean, this is just some old screenplay that he wrote that didn’t get filmed. I wonder how many of those exist? Tens? More? So, even a sort of B-list effort from him is still able to be thought provoking on multiple levels.

      If you really dig into the Doll/Celestine relationship, you keep finding layer after layer after layer. It inspired me to go Googling around reading about transvestite culture and to what extent cross-dressing corresponds with homosexuality, etc. It’s very fascinating stuff.