by Shea Hennum
From its humble beginnings in 1983 as a short strip in Warrior (the magazine that serialized Alan Moore’s seminal Miracleman run), The Bojeffries Saga was, and remains, one of Alan Moore’s most interesting comics. While it lacks the ontological depth, the innovative bent, or the genre-blending experimentation of Miracleman, From Hell, or Swamp Thing, The Bojeffries Saga is Moore’s funniest comic. That makes it inherently interesting, because it’s a voice that we don’t see Moore using very often. That’s not to say that Moore isn’t funny — there are plenty of, admittedly dark, scenes in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen that come to mind — but in every other work, the jokes are second-class citizens. In The Bojeffries Saga the jokes aren’t set dressing for the story. They are the story.
The very first time we meet the titular Bojeffries, the council’s rent collector discovers that the family hasn’t paid rent in decades: they owe 32k pounds. Through the eyes of rent collector, Trevor Inchmale (who passes the time by thinking up titles for his autobiography), we’re introduced to seemingly normal Jobremus and Reth Bojeffries, the cosmically powerful Ginda, werewolf Uncle Raul, vampire uncle Festus, “the baby” (an unseen creature who lives in the basement, speaks in math, and consumes radioactive matter), and grandpa Podslap, who is reaching the final stages of organic life.
The series is a Munsters/Addam’s Family-like soap opera with working-class commentary and comedy sewn into the very strands of its DNA, with strips devoted to Festus going for groceries only to be hit with every weakness known to vampires in the form of very obtuse jokes — like “hot cross buns” being deadly — and Raul the werewolf going to dinner with some co-workers and accidentally joining a white supremacist organization (and dining with a woman with “**** You” tattooed on her forehead). One of the strips is even a libretto, with songs devoted to the drudgery of blue-collar work and a lament at waking up at “twenty-five to eight.”
It’s a very specific type of humor that Moore employs — one that’s in line with his desire to throw more attention onto the working class — and it’s one that you don’t see much anymore (and you never really did from American authors). It’s a fairly niche style of comedy, and it probably won’t appeal to people looking for blue or broad comedy, but I’m 100% sure neither Moore or artist Steve Parkhouse ever cared. Moore does what he does, and it’s both fun to read in and of itself and within the context of the rest of Moore’s oeuvre.
And because Top Shelf’s new The Bojeffries Saga collection includes all the material starring the family (as well as a brand new story!), and because the strip has been produced on and off for nearly three decades, this new book literally puts Steve Parkhouse pages from 1983 and 2013 right next to each other. It highlights the changes in his style, and it helps to see the evolution from his Victorian woodcut backgrounds of the Then into the cleaner, more sparsely hatched (and, I believe, digitally-produced) environments of the Now. And throughout, Parkhouse’s art adds that necessary combination of caricature and social realism. His backgrounds and figures have that detailed, lived-in look. The people’s proportions are anatomically correct, and his bodywork and background work are illustrative. But his facial work has that overemphasized, emotive, humorous look to it.
I’m glad that Moore and Parkhouse were able to end their series in a very definitive-yet-elliptical way that sort of provides conclusion and brings the whole thing full circle, but I’d like to see The Bojeffries Saga continue indefinitely, with Moore and Parkhouse coming back when they find the need/desire — really, I just like the idea of this series as a microcosmic look at both author’s styles.
Check out The Bojeffries Saga as well as other titles mentioned in this review: