With the conclusion of From Hell's
serialisation, it seemed that Alan
Moore was content to sit and play
quietly for the years that followed.
His work in comics has stayed solidly
in the light tone of the kid's pulp
pastiche Tom Strong and the
occult-fantasy primer for
teenagers, Promethea. Clever,
inventive adventure comics, but
clearly small-scale, comfortable
exercises. His most powerful writing
of the past few years have been
produced for his occasional spoken-word performance projects, created
with the likes of David J from the
Eighties band Bauhaus, and published
on CD by the likes of Steve Severin
from Siouxsie And The Banshees. THE
BIRTH CAUL was one of those projects,
and Eddie Campbell has adapted the
work into a slim graphic novel.
THE BIRTH CAUL is nothing less than a
treatise on the human condition. A
birth caul is a membrane occasionally
present on the face of a newborn.
Alan's mother was born with one.
Her mother kept it. These are the
things we pass on. The small, fragile
things we are born with. That's what
the book's about. What we grow up
with. Eddie captures perfectly that
which makes the performance work;
the changes in scale, from the vulnerable
human moments to the grandiose scope of life's structure.
It's about magic. It's about invocation
of something, about a shaman's
conversation with the great and
secret things lurking at the back of their own brain, about the genetic
incantations of the vast skein of life we're brought out into in our silvered
It's possible that the commercial arena
Alan usually works in is considered too
small a thing to contain writing like this. THE BIRTH CAUL is one of the
strangest, most astonishing and heartbreaking things Alan Moore has yet
written. Eddie Campbell's organic, emotional art and great innovative
abilities make it more than an adaptation. Campbell makes it a whole work of
comics, an experience no other medium could emulate. It is as much his as
This is where Alan Moore's power has been hiding. Listen.
Warren Ellis has written around thirty graphic novels, comics, prose fiction, journalism, videogames and screenplays. Sometimes he take photographs. He also creates and co-creates websites, including this one. He has awards and stuff, he's been in big magazines and newspapers, and he's been published in Nature, which he always mentions because it makes him laugh. He's on the web at warrenellis.com and diepunyhumans.com.