Heartburst – A Marvel Graphic Novel


By Rick Veitch (Marvel/King Hell Press)
ISBN: 0- 939766-82-5  King Hell edition ISBN: 978-0-98002-060-1

Once upon a time Marvel led the publishing pack in the development of high quality original graphic novels: mixing creator-owned properties, licensed assets like Conan, special in-continuity Marvel Universe tales and even new series launches in extravagant over-sized packages (a standard 285 x 220mm rather than the now customary 258 x 168mm based on the globally accepted European album format) which felt and looked instantly superior to the standard flimsy US comicbook no matter how good, bad or controversial the contents might be.

This terrifically appetising tale, developed under the company’s creator-owned Epic imprint in 1984, was one of the most experimental of those heady early days: a bold and impressive allegory of and attack on the assorted bigotries still too proudly cherished and even boasted of by so many in those distant days… in the 21st century we’re far less concerned with what you buy, pray to, look like or sleep with, aren’t we?

The drama begins with ‘Heartbeat’ as on a far-distant Earth colony circling Epsilon Bootis the theocratic authorities are in a state of constant crisis. In the centuries since humans first landed they have polarised into a closed, dogmatic and militaristic society, devoted to the worship of gods who regularly and actively communicate with them.

They have no truck with heretical Earth scientists like Miss Rimbaud whose explanation that the Holy Sponsor’s electronic teachings are merely old TV broadcasts. They don’t want to hear that those 1950s attitudes are discredited now. They absolutely won’t tolerate any hint of ending their campaign to sterilise and eradicate the native Ploo…

The indigenous natives are in dire distress: beautiful, friendly bright green beings, sexually and genetically compatible with humans and permanently emitting an aphrodisiac musk Terrans cannot resist. If the race is to be kept pure the Ploo simply cannot be allowed to survive…

Young Sunoco Firestone (most humans have good scriptural names like Pepsi, Schlitz or Bilko) is present when his uncle Inquisitor Xerox interrogates Rimbaud. Her story strikes a disturbing chord in the lad, already pushed to breaking point by recurring dreams of a magical well and a cosmic voice calling to him… When he sees a forbidden Ploo exotic dancer in a banned sector of town Sunoco is irresistibly drawn to her and the biologically inevitable happens…

Obsessed with his alien soul-mate Maia, shaken by his delirious fall into miscegenation and terrified because the Sacred Broadcasts have suddenly stopped, Sunoco snaps and abandons his life, joining Maia as a traveling entertainer, experiencing daily delight as the world rapidly goes to hell and beyond. But even though free, happy and proud; with Maia pregnant the dream voice won’t leave him alone, hinting at some incredible celestial destiny whilst the eternally vigilant gene-police are stepping up their pogroms and getting closer to the desperate fugitives…

With ‘Heartrhythm’ the forces of oppression close in and the lovers are separated as Sunoco is captured and the planet descends into outright civil war with the faithful eradicating the last Ploo and their turncoat human lovers. Broken and desperate Firestone agrees to become a spy for the human army, but when he meets the enigmatic Rimbaud he changes sides once more and finally discovers the secret of the voice and a fantastic universal power that will shape the destiny of two worlds in ‘Heartburst’

Rick Veitch is a criminally undervalued creator, with a poet’s sensibilities and a disaffected Flower-Child’s perspectives informing a powerful social and creative consciousness and conscience. This spectacularly mind-bending romp synthesizes the total late 20th century American experience from the bland triumph of cultural imperialism to the spiritual disenfranchisement of Vietnam whilst telling an uplifting story of love and hope – a really neat trick if you can do it…

This sly, dry, funny, impressively adult and breathtakingly reflective full painted yarn proves that he can and Heartburst should be on the must read list of any serious fan…

In 2008 Veitch released a remastered, slightly smaller-dimensioned edition under his own King Hell Press imprint. Heartburst and Other Pleasures also includes three short graphic collaborations with those other outré  masters of unconventional love Alan Moore and Steve Bissette: including ‘Mirror of Love’, ‘Underpass’, ‘Try to Remember’ as well as unseen art-pages. This too is well worth  tracking down or you could simply order direct from the man himself by typing www.rickveitch.com into your favourite search-engine, remembering always to keep a credit card handy – preferably your own…
© 1984, 2008 Rick Veitch. All Rights Reserved.