Panel Bashing

This week: Alan Moore: Library Crusader, in which Northampton’s local superhero saves the people from illiteracy

There are many things to love about Alan Moore. His obvious and towering talent as a writer, his dedication to his home town, his big bushy beard – this is a man who has carved his name into comic book history a thousand times over. Earlier this week, as reported by Bleeding Cool, he once again gave us all a reason to thank the gods for his presence: he saved his local library.

Moore’s commitment to his home town of Northampton is stirring stuff. For all his success, he stayed put and remained true to his roots, never seduced by the bright lights of bigger towns. In recent months, as the coalition’s cuts have sliced ever deeper, many local governments, no doubt driven mad by numbers and pressure and fear, have spotted a potential money saving solution in closing down libraries.

But when the unstoppable force of the coalition’s cuts smashed in to the immovable object that is Alan Moore’s convictions, things changed. Never a man to chase the limelight, Moore nevertheless joined in with Save Our Libraries Day. Reading a piece from Dodgem Logic and fielding questions from a crowd of intrigued locals and awe-struck acolytes, he helped raise the profile of the campaign and ultimately forced Northampton Council to rethink its decision.

Of course, the country-wide attack on libraries is a preposterous situation anyway: a short-sighted and potentially disastrous turn of events that condemns future generations to a life of computer screens, dodgy Wikipedia entries and little else. Where else are the youth supposed to get acquainted with Asterix or Tintin? How can those who aren’t blessed with disposable income access the works of the likes of Alan Moore or Frank Miller if not at their local knowledge bank? They are being denied entire worlds of imagination, all for the sake of a bit of penny pinching.

And let’s not forget that the comic books, as well as being entertaining, can be highly educational and are as worthy of a place on library shelves as any great works of literature. For the next issue of Comic Heroes, I was lucky enough to review a number of graphic biographies from Self Made Hero that really hammered this point home to me. I learned more about artists in inter-war Paris, students in early ’60s Hamburg and the decline of the counter culture in the US than I ever thought I would, and all from reading books that were regularly sneered at by fellow train travellers.

Comic books and graphic novels have a place in local libraries just as surely as the libraries themselves are a vital source of knowledge and inspiration to the communities they serve. Let’s hope that many more follow Alan Moore’s example and stand up against the closure of the UK’s libraries before it’s too late.