In many ways, Dodgem Logic is exactly what you’d expect from a magazine edited by Alan Moore: an energetic and occasionally puzzling amalgam of high- and lowbrow curiosities interspersed with lots of penis jokes. What’s surprising, though, is how good-natured, informative and just plain fun it is. If you can get past the eye-watering design—it really is enough to make most professional art directors cry—you’ll be treated to a remarkably entertaining, if occasionally gross, read.
Moore, creator of Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, describes Dodgem as “a trippy-looking underground mag with a self-confessed agenda of aggressive randomness,” and that’s as good a summary as any. Thrown together with hope and spit in Moore’s hometown of Northampton, England, the mag picks up where legendary underground zine Oz left off when it folded in 1973. (If you’re unfamiliar with Oz, check out the library at oztrading.net; it really is something to see.) Dodgem, published by Knockabout Comics and distributed in the United States by Top Shelf, is most definitely aimed at a British audience, so some of its content is a bit mystifying to stateside readers. For the most part, though, even the specifically English content is universally relevant. The only exception is an eight-page neighborhood pull-out called Notes from Noho. The intent is to eventually bring a DIY local bent to the publication; the pull-out can theoretically be replaced by a local pamphlet from anyone with the gumption to put one together.
Dodgem’s first issue starts out sensibly enough, with Moore’s lengthy essay on the history of underground publishing. Apparently, it stretches back to the 13th century: “Hand-written tracts expressing new religious or political ideas were handed between plague carts during the 1200s, very much like Twitter only with more leprosy and maggots.” Wow—we’re only on page two and we’re already learning!
After that, things get a little weirder. There’s Claire Ashby’s strangely inspiring cartoon column on urban guerilla gardening, followed by Irish comedy writer Graham Linehan’s rumination on the potential impact of Twitter on the evolution of world culture. Just when you think you’ve got this Dodgem Logic thing figured out, you get to the recipe section—lemony rice pudding and pumpkin quinoa soup in issue #1, and something called fish with a Spanish twist in the second bimonthly issue. If you like that sort of thing, you’re just the sort of person Moore had in mind when he commissioned an arts-and-crafts column from Tamsyn Payne. Did you know it’s easy to make a boutonniere out of an old necktie? Now you do, and if you find yourself a copy of Dodgem #1 you’ll even have step-by-step instructions. As cool as the Feejee Sock Mermaid project in the second issue? Tough call.
Naturally, there are comic strips, including the first one Moore has drawn in 20 years. I’m cool with waiting 20 more years for the next one; I could have gone my entire life without seeing Wimpy do that to Popeye. (Moore’s “Astounding Weird Penises” mini-comic in the second issue is a different matter—it’s as gross and juvenile as it sounds, but it’s also laugh-out-loud funny.) League of Extraordinary Gentlemen artist Kevin O’Neill contributes a full-page illustration to each issue; I have no idea what’s going on in them and I’m 95 percent certain I shouldn’t show them to my mother, but they look cool. Infinitely cooler, in fact, than the Snotto the Clown space-waster that pops up a few pages later. Moore’s essay might be the main attraction of Dodgem’s debut issue, but it’s not as much fun as the reprint of Steve Aylett’s 1999 piece about all the things Neil Armstrong could have done when he set foot on the moon, if only he’d been interesting.
From there, you can find your own way through the eclectic lineup of Dodgem’s first two issues. There are must-see attractions, like Brit comedian Josie Long’s wonderful comic strip about modern romance in issue #1 and the glossy burlesque photo essay that anchors issue #2, and there are a few things that are just too self-indulgent to warrant a second glance. Like many British mags, Dodgem offers a free gift with each issue; for example, there’s a CD that covers 50 years of Northampton music tucked into #1. Overall, it’s a great package—each issue offers a load of content for the U.S. price of $6, and the whole thing has a remarkably optimistic vibe. For what it’s worth, the proceeds are put to good use. So far, profits from the mag have been used to distribute food packages to Northampton’s struggling elderly and to sponsor a local basketball team. Who knew crotchety old Alan Moore had it in him?