“It was raining on the afternoon I almost choked on a pebble.”

On October 11 of this year, Alan Moore published his first book of short stories, Illuminations. Kind of incredible given the length of his career. Even if you consider that the majority of his work is within comics, he still has a body of work of prose that could have been collected before now. Granted, some of that work was adapted into comics or illustrated prose & verse by Avatar Press during the mid to late ’00s. Among them was his World Fantasy Award nominated short story, Hypothetical Lizard, originally published in 1988 and included in his recent collection, adapted as Alan Moore’s Hypothetical Lizard by Antony Johnston, Lorenzo Lorente, and Sebastian Fiumara, and an uncredited letterer.

Before I go into the story and art, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Avatar’s penchant at this time not to include a credit for a letterer. I don’t know why that credit is missing from so many of their books, but it’s detrimental to the craft. Even if in some of the books there’s regular typeset for prose pieces. The appearance of the narration boxes themselves are quite good, setting a tone for Alan Moore’s prose within the comic and I’d love to be able to credit the person whose work elevated it.

Hypothetical Lizard is not a pleasant story. It’s told from the perspective of a girl, Som-Som, who was sold to a brothel, the House Without Clocks, that deals in exotic clientele, who undergoes a procedure to separate the hemispheres of her brain, so that she can’t divulge the secrets of her wizard clients. That’s not the particularly disturbing part, though. Rather it deals with Som-Som witnessing her friend withstanding domestic abuse, physical and mental, and the theft of agency and identity that comes with it. It gets pretty hard to read at times, making the horrors rather effective.

It’s presented through grayscale art from Lorenzo Lorente and Sebastian Fiumara. Lorente handling the first chapter and Fiumara the second through fourth. Lorente uses a style here somewhat reminiscent to me of Jay Anacleto, rounded faces and details brought out by shading. Fiumara continues on similarly, but focuses more on shadow and mood with his work. It’s not quite as exaggerated as we’ll see from him later, but you can see the hints of it here. Also, the panel borders and art that crosses the gutters get more pronounced when Fiumara takes over, adding to the overall design sense of the pages.

The collection also includes the prose version of the story. I think it’s interesting to compare the text against what Antony Johnston chooses to include in the adaptation and how the comics pacing changes the impact of some of the scenes. Where some of the story’s content is more horrifying when it forces you to visualize it, others are enriched by how Johnston, Lorente, and Fiumara break it down across the page.

I think the odds and ends of what Avatar published is a fascinating look at the breadth of what Alan Moore created. These often aren’t the shiny, well known baubles that the average reader flocks to and I think in itself it’s illuminating on different ideas present in his work.

Alan Moore’s Hypothetical Lizard from Moore, Johnston, Lorente, Fiumara, and the uncredited letterer is both an interesting look at how Moore’s stories can be adapted into comics as well as a hard look at the double trap of domestic abuse and an inability to speak out against it. Beautifully illustrated for such harsh subject matter.

Hypothetical Lizard

Classic Comic Compendium: Alan Moore’s Hypothetical Lizard

Alan Moore’s Hypothetical Lizard
Story: Alan Moore
Sequential Adaptation: Antony Johnston
Artists: Lorenzo Lorente & Sebastian Fiumara
Letterer: No credit
Publisher: Avatar Press
Release Date: August 7, 2007

Read past entries in the Classic Comic Compendium!