Lone Sloane: Delirius


By Philippe Druillet (Dragon’s Dream/Heavy Metal)
ISBN: 2-205-00632-0

The seminal fantasy icon Lone Sloane revolutionised graphic fiction not so much in his own country but in Britain and America when his adventures began appearing in the adult fantasy magazine Heavy Metal, which combined original material with the best that European comics had to offer. In 1975 French comics collective Les Humanoides Associes began publishing the groundbreaking magazine Métal Hurlant, but one of their visual mainstays had begun nearly a decade earlier…

Philippe Druillet, born in Toulouse in 1944, and raised in Spain, is a photographer and artist who started his comics career in 1966 with an apocalyptic science fiction epic Le Mystère des abîmes (The Mystery of the Abyss) which introduced a doom-tainted intergalactic freebooter and wanderer called Lone Sloane in a far distant future: a tale heavily influenced by HP Lovecraft and A.E. Van Vogt. Later influences included Michael Moorcock’s doomed anti-hero Elric (and I’m pretty sure I can see some Barry Windsor-Smith also tinting the mix…)

He began working for Pilote in 1969, and revived his cosmic and deeply baroque star-rover in a number of short pieces which were gathered together in 1972. Prior to the large scale (310mm x 233mm) 1991 collection from NBM (see The Six Voyages of Lone Sloane) this cool and memorable album was the only place they could be found in an English translation, and yet they are merely a prelude for the fantastic fantasy that makes up the rest of Lone Sloane: Delirius.

So by way of recapitulation those Six Voyages were ‘The Throne of the Black God’ wherein Sloane is captured by a demonic chair and dumped on a desolate world to await possession by a cosmic god of chaos, whilst in ‘The Isle of the Doom Wind’ he thwarts space pirates. In ‘Rose’ he is trapped on a world of robotic junk and faces oppressive piracy in ‘Torquedara Varenkor: the Bridge over the Stars’.

In ‘O Sidarta’ Sloane regained control of his long-lost super-spaceship and began a quest to return to Earth and overthrow the despotic Imperium, a quest that culminated in startling revelations of his destiny in ‘Terra’: a portentous prelude before the main event…

‘Delirius’ was scripted by celebrated comics writer Jacques Lob (Jerry Spring, Ténébrax, Blanche Épiphanie and Superdupont among others) and in a jarring cacophony of visual Sturm und Drang pitched the intergalactic vagabond into the midst of a power struggle between the Imperator of all Galaxies and his own clergy, the deeply fundamentalist Red Redemption.

Delirius was a useless mudball until the supreme overlord found a way to make it pay. By converting the entire world into a highly-taxed cash-cow of legal debauchery “The Planet of a Hundred Thousand Pleasures” became a perfect way to placate the populace and generate revenue for further conquests. Now the priests have approached Sloane with a perfect plan to steal all the cash and thereby remove the planetary governor: but priests can’t be trusted, nothing can be planned for on a world of utter licentious chaos and Sloane always has his own agenda…

This is a graphic odyssey of truly Byzantine scale and scope: the twists and turns, the visual syntax and tone created here dictated the shape of science fiction – especially in movies – for the next two decades. Character and plot were winnowed to bare essentials so that Druillet could fully unleash the startling graphic innovations in design and layout that seemed to churn within him, and which exploded from his pen and brain.

As the scheme went inevitably, utterly awry the sheer energy of the artist’s cosmic Armageddon achieved levels of graphic energy that only Jack Kirby has ever equalled. This is a tale crying out for re-release in large format and with all the bells and whistles modern technology can provide, but until then this book will have to do – and do very well. Luckily for you it’s still widely available and remarkably inexpensive…
© 1972, 1973 Philippe Druillet/Dargaud Editeur.

Goddess


By Garth Ennis & Phil Winslade (Vertigo)
ISBN: 978-1-84023-327-3

Some stories are just a good, vicarious read and there’s no better description for this achingly funny, over the top eco-romp from the lord of outrageous shock comedy Garth Ennis. That it’s beautifully illustrated by master of the meticulous Phil Winslade is a tremendous plus of course…

London Zoo keeper Rosie Nolan went for a walk in the Highlands. As she was revelling in the wonders of nature something odd happened: she was gripped by an eerie emerald power and accidentally split Scotland and England apart…

At that moment ineffectual Jeff (our narrator) was cocking up his latest relationship and ecological psychopath Mudhawk was slaughtering some more people who didn’t share his passion for animal rights, but someone who did notice Rosie’s little gaffe was paranoid narcisscist  Harry Hooks, a CIA spook who had been hunting for telekinetic people to turn into US weapons for decades. He immediately headed for England where a concatenation of circumstances brought Jeff, Mudhawk – and his bellicose ex Samantha Flint – to Rosie’s doorstep just as the Yank arrived…

Mad as a bag of badgers, Hooks tried to abduct Rosie, leading to the deaths of five American agents, and when the local beat copper arrived Hooks shot him. This rash act brought cheerful old Desk Constable George Dixon into the mix. Dixon was the kind of rozzer who always got his man – and then assiduously disposed of the body before anybody could register a complaint. An old fashioned sort, he didn’t much like cop-killers, so with the sadistic Bovver Bruvvers in tow Dixon went after the kill-crazy Hooks, incidentally racking up a body-count of his own that a middle-eastern dictator would be proud of…

In a voyage that traverses the entire globe Rosie’s powers expand exponentially and as the frantic chases of all the authority figures rapidly converge on her the attendant carnage escalates. With her companions in tow she uncovers the incredible secret of her gift in a gloriously trenchant and darkly sardonic satire on society, like a gore-splattered “Carry-On” film with no limits and not even a modicum of good taste.

Fast, furious, funny and wickedly whimsical, this is classic over-the-top Ennis fare, which was purportedly postponed during its conversion from eight issue miniseries to trade paperback compilation because the terrorist themes were deemed too raw after the September 11th attacks. As one of the most impressive scenes here concerns crashing an airliner, I think I can see their point. Nevertheless, as the series premiered six years before the towers fell, and it’s been a long while since, perhaps the time is right to revisit this incredible fantasy tale for consenting, contrary adults…

© 1995, 1996, 2002 Garth Ennis and Phil Winslade. All Rights Reserved.

Aquablue & Aquablue: the Blue Planet


By Cailleteau & Vatine; translated by Randy & Jean-Marc Lofficier (Dark Horse)
ISBNs: 978-1-87857-400-8 and 1-87857-404-3

I’m tempted to file these little crackers under “unfinished business” as these slim translated French albums feature the first two instalments of a classy, stylish science fiction saga that sadly hit a reef before its conclusion, despite being one of the most long-lived and impressive epics from a country that seems to specialize in successfully exporting edgy, clever comic fantasies.

In Aquablue the Starliner Silver Star is lost due to a meteor strike and in the rush to the life pods a baby is left behind. Rescued by a robot the boy is reared in space until, eight years later, he finds a planet. The world only has 3% landmass, but is inhabited by a primitive, amiable race of humanoids, and incredibly huge marine species.

In ten years the boy grows to manhood and as Tumu-Nao, becomes a valued member of the tribe. He is even betrothed to the chief’s daughter, Mi-Nuee, and the natives believe him blessed by their god, a gigantic whale-like creature called Uruk-Uru. Unfortunately Nao’s idyllic life forever alters when an Earth survey ship lands and Terran Ethnologist Maurice Dupre discovers that the young man is Wilfred Morgenstern: lost heir to Earth’s greatest financial empire, the United Energy Consortium.

However, that Consortium has already enacted a shady deal to turn Aquablue into a vast hyper-station, which will result in the watery globe becoming a gigantic ice-ball, and they certainly don’t need a naive boss who has gone native to queer their big score. Nao’s own aunt puts out a hit on the rediscovered heir, but nobody realises that his connection to the “gods” of Aquablue is real and shockingly powerful…

The Blue Planet finds Nao returning to Earth not so much to claim his birthright as to safeguard his adopted homeworld from human incursion. While he is away the Consortium has resorted to the same tactics European imperialists used as they absorbed indigenous Earth cultures – destroying them with free booze and cheap baubles.

Noa’s father-in-law organizes a resistance movement, fleeing with the entire tribe to the polar regions, but on Earth Nao/Wilfred is having trouble resisting the allure of technological civilisation, until Mi-Nuee, who had stowed away on a starship, rises like a gleaming message from Uruk-Uru out of the Ocean swell. With the help of Dupre they return in time for the final battle against the Consortium forces that have hunted the natives into the frozen wastelands…

And that was that.

Thierry Cailleteau & Olivier Vatine first teamed to produce the outlandishly comedic Adventures of Fred and Bob but really hit their peak on these superb eco-thrillers, based tellingly on the colonial outrages of Western Civilisation: especially in their treatment of Polynesian cultures. The series continued for another nine volumes with artists Ciro Tota and Stéphane Brangier replacing Vatine from the fifth book, moving beyond the original storyline into fascinating areas of conservation and space opera!

Although these slender pearls are worth a look just for the superb quality of art and narrative I’m plugging them here in the greedy hope that with so much European material finally crossing the channel into English, somebody will pick up and complete the translation of this delicious adventure series. Cross your fingers…
© 1988, 1990 Guy Delcourt Productions. English translation © 1989, 1990 Dark Horse Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Michael Moorcock’s The Swords of Heaven, The Flowers of Hell – UK Edition


By Howard V. Chaykin & Michael Moorcock (Star Books)
ISBN: 0-35230681-5

Presented as a Heavy Metal Presents… production this slim and scintillating fantasy thriller was one of the most successful early graphic novels, but has since slipped into seeming obscurity. Created Marvel-style (plot/art and then script) it teamed two of the medium’s most outspoken and popular creators on a project that still has a phenomenal amount of punch.

Michael Moorcock began his career as a comics writer and editor at age 15, on such strips as Tarzan, Dogfight Dixon, Jet Ace Logan, Captain Condor, Olac the Gladiator and many, many other British stalwarts before making the jump to prose fiction, where he single-handedly revitalised the genre with the creation of Elric and the high-concept of the Eternal Champion.

This very adult fantasy thriller is a part of that extended cycle of sagas (and if you’re a fan this tale immediately follows the novels The Eternal Champion and Phoenix in Obsidian) but if it’s all new to you everything you need to enjoy the epic is précised within the tale itself.

Urlik Skarsol, known as John Daker, is an aspect of the tragic fate-tossed Eternal Champion. Unlike most he is always aware of his true nature so when he incarnates on a new world he already knows it is another place of conflict and jeopardy.

Here he is Lord Clen of Clen Gar, a knight of the Dream Marches and wielder of a terrible soul-drinking black sword. His land is a buffer zone between the acid-scorched wastes of Hell and the lush highlands of Heaven, and for centuries his people have guarded the decadent body-warping elite above them from the desperate wild-men of the burned wildernesses.

A final confrontation is drawing inevitably closer, and death is in the air, but Clen holds one final awesome secret. The floating acid-spewing beasts known as Angels are not what they seem and their final fate will determine whether this world thrives or dies in blood and flame…

This is a classic romp from two masters of the form, painted with all verve and dash of Chaykin in his prime, and a treat fantasists and followers of exotic, erotic fantasy will simply adore.

© 1979 Howard V. Chaykin & Michael Moorcock.  All Rights Reserved.

The Six Voyages of Lone Sloane


By Philippe Druillet, translated by Jean-Marc & Randy Lofficier (NBM)
ISBN: 0-918348-97-8

Comics and fantasy story-telling took a huge leap forward in 1975 when French comics collective Les Humanoides Associes began publishing the groundbreaking magazine Métal Hurlant. However one of their visual mainstays had begun nearly a decade earlier.

Philippe Druillet was a photographer and artist who had started his comics career in 1966 with an apocalyptic science fiction epic Le Mystère des abîmes (The Mystery of the Abyss) which introduced a doom-tainted intergalactic freebooter and wanderer called Lone Sloane in a tale heavily influenced by HP Lovecraft and A.E. Van Vogt.

Druillet was born in Toulouse in 1944, and raised in Spain, and his comics work is panoramic, cosmic and deeply baroque. He began working for Pilote in 1969, and revived his star-rover in a number of short pieces gathered together as The Six Voyages in 1972. This collection from 1991 presents them in English and perfectly captures the Gothic intensity of the saga which inspired so many artists.

In ‘The Throne of the Black God’ Sloane’s ship is destroyed by a demonic chair that kidnaps him to a desolate world to await possession by a cosmic god of chaos, whilst in ‘The Isle of the Doom Wind’ the throne-riding sidereal vagabond thwarts space pirates. In the macabre romance ‘Rose’ he is trapped on a world of robotic junk and the occasional series leapt into interstellar overdrive with the oppressive battle-thriller ‘Torquedara Varenkor: the Bridge over the Stars’.

In ‘O Sidarta’ Sloane recaptured his long-lost super spaceship and began a quest to return to Earth and overthrow the despotic Imperium, a quest that culminated in startling revelations of his destiny in ‘Terra’: all of which were simply preludes for his next ambitious epic ‘Delerius.’

The stories here are mere skeletons for the high-concepts which fascinate the artist, and their true appeal lies in the startling graphic innovations in design and layout Druillet seemed to let explode from his pen and brain. Moreover the sheer energy of his work scintillates when reproduced on extra-large pages (310mm x 233mm). This is book every art lover of fan of the fantastic simply must have. Surely it’s time for another luxury collection to be released?
© Humanoides Associes 1991. English Translation © 1991 Dark Horse.

Jack Kirby’s OMAC: One Man Army Corps


By Jack Kirby with D. Bruce Berry & Mike Royer (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84576-922-2

There’s a magnificent abundance of Jack Kirby collections around these days (‘though still not all of it, so I’m not completely happy yet) and this slim hardback compendium re-presents possibly his boldest and most heartfelt creation after the comics landmark that was his Fourth World Cycle.

Famed for his larger than life characters and gigantic, cosmic imaginings, “King” Kirby was an astute, spiritual man who had lived though poverty, gangsterism, the Depression and World War II. He had seen Post-War optimism, Cold War paranoia, political cynicism and the birth and death of peace-seeking counter-cultures. He always looked to the future and he knew human nature intimately. In OMAC: One Man Army Corps, he let his darkest assumptions and prognostications have free rein, and his “World That’s Coming” was far too close to the World we’re now in…

In 1974, with his newest creations inexplicably tanking at DC, Kirby tentatively considered a return to Marvel, but ever the consummate professional he scrupulously carried out every detail of his draconian DC contract. When The Demon was cancelled he needed to find another title to maintain his Herculean (Jack was legally expected to deliver 15 completed pages of art and story per week) commitments and returned to an idea he had shelved in 1968.

That was to re-interpret Captain America into a distant future where all Kirby’s direst prognostications and fears could be made manifest. In 1974 he returned to those re-imaginings and produced a nightmare scenario that demanded not a hero but a warrior.

Dubbing his Day-After-Tomorrow dystopia “The World That’s Coming”, Kirby let his mind run free – and scared – to produce a frighteningly close appreciation of our now, where science and wealth have outstripped compassion and reason, and humanity teeters on the brink of self-inflicted global destruction.

OMAC #1 launched in September-October 1974 and introduced the Global Peace Agency, a world-wide Doomwatch police force who created a super-soldier to crisis-manage the constant threats to a species with hair-trigger fingers on nuclear stockpiles, chemical weapons of mass destruction and made-to-measure biological horrors.

Base human nature was the true threat behind this series, and that was first demonstrated by the decent young man Buddy Blank, who whilst working at Pseudo-People Inc., discovers that the euphemistically entitled Build-A-Friend division hides a far darker secret than merely pliant girls that come in kit-form.

Luckily Buddy had been singled out by the GPA and genius Professor Myron Forest for eternal linkage to the sentient satellite Brother Eye, his atoms reconstructed until he became a living God of War, and the new-born human weapon easily destroys his ruthless employers before their murderous plans can be fully realised. ‘Buddy Blank and Brother Eye’ was followed by a truly prophetic tale, wherein impossibly wealthy criminal Mister Big purchased an entire city simply to assassinate Professor Forest in ‘The Era of the Super-Rich!’

Kirby’s tried and trusted approach was always to pepper high concepts throughout blazing action, and #3 was the most spectacular yet. OMAC fought ‘One Hundred Thousand Foes!’ to get to the murderous Marshal Kafka; terrorist leader of a Rogue-State with a private army, WMDs and a solid belief that the United Nations couldn’t touch him. Sound familiar…?

That incredible clash concluded in #4’s ‘Busting of a Conqueror!’ and by #5 Kirby had moved on to other new crimes for a new world. The definition of a criminal tends to blur when you can buy anything – even justice – but rich old people cherry-picking young men and women for brain-implantation is (hopefully) always going to be a no-no. Still, you can sell or plunder some organs even now…

Busting the ‘New Bodies for Old!!’ racket took two issues, and after the One Man Army Corps smashed ‘The Body Bank!’ he embarked on his final adventure. Water shortage was the theme of the last tale, but as our hero trudged across a dry and desolate lake bottom amidst the dead and dying marine life he was horrified to discover the disaster was the work of one man. ‘The Ocean Stealers!’ (issue #7) introduced Doctor Skuba, a scientific madman who had mastered the very atomic manipulation techniques that had turned feeble Buddy Blank into an unstoppable war machine.

Joe Kubert drew the cover to OMAC #8 ‘Human Genius Vs Thinking Machine’; an epic episode that saw Brother Eye apparently destroyed as Skuba and Buddy Blank died in an incredible explosion.

But that final panel is a hasty, last-minute addition by unknown editorial hands, for the saga was never actually finished. Kirby, his contract completed, had promptly returned to Marvel and new challenges such as Black Panther, Captain America, 2001, Devil Dinosaur, Machine Man and especially The Eternals.

Hormone treatments, Virtual Reality, medical computers, satellite surveillance, genetic tampering and all the other hard-science predictions in OMAC pale into insignificance against Kirby’s terrifyingly accurate social observations in this bombastic and tragically incomplete masterpiece. OMAC is Jack Kirby’s Edwin Drood, an unfinished symphony of such power and prophecy that it informs not just the entire modern DC universe and inspires ever more incisive and intriguing tales from the King’s artistic inheritors but still presages more truly scary developments in our own mundane and inescapable reality…

As always in these wondrously economical collections it should be noted that the book is also stuffed with un-inked Kirby pencilled pages and roughs, and Mark Evanier’s fascinating, informative introduction is a fact-fan’s delight. And as ever, Jack Kirby’s words and pictures are an unparalleled, hearts-and-minds grabbing delight no comics lover could resist.

Jack Kirby is unique and uncompromising. If you’re not a fan or simply not prepared to see for yourself what all the fuss has been about then no words of mine will change your mind. That doesn’t alter the fact that Kirby’s work from 1937 to his death in 1994 shaped the entire American comics scene, affected the lives of billions of readers and thousands of creators in all areas of artistic endeavour around the world for generations and still wins new fans and apostles every day, from the young and naive to the most cerebral of intellectuals. His work is instantly accessible, irresistibly visceral, deceptively deep whilst being simultaneously mythic and human: and just plain Great.

© 1974, 1975, 2009 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Orbital volume 1: Scars & volume 2: Ruptures


By Serge Pellé & Sylvain Runberg, translated by Jerome Saincantin (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-905460-61-8 & ISBN: 978-905460-61-8

The truest thing that can be said about French science fiction is that it always delivers amazing style and panache even when the plots may be less than original. In Serge Pellé and Sylvain Runberg’s beautiful Orbital series a seemingly mismatched pair of Peacekeeper agents are dispatched to quell an incipient brushfire war – just like marshals in a western – but the tale is delivered with such skill and artistry that it’s as fresh as the first time I encountered the notion.

After years of galactic exclusion Earth in the 23rd century has finally been allowed to join a vast confederation of interstellar civilisations despite grave concerns about humanity’s aggressive nature and xenophobic tendencies. A militant isolationist faction on Earth had moved from politics to horrific terrorism in the immediate run-up to joining, committing atrocities both on Earth and distant worlds where they had developed colonies and mining bases, but ultimately they failed to prevent humanity’s inclusion in the pan-galactic union.

One particular Confederation worry was the way humans had treated aliens like the Sandjarrs, whose world was invaded in Earth’s all-consuming drive for territory and exploitable resources. The subsequent atrocities almost exterminated the stoic, pacifistic desert creatures…

Interworld Diplomatic Office agents are assigned in pairs to troubleshoot throughout the galaxy, defusing crises before they can become flashpoints. Now Caleb, IDO’s first human operative, is teamed with Mezoke, a Sandjarr, a situation clearly designed as a high-profile political stunt, as is their initial mission: convincing an Earth mining colony to surrender their profitable operation back to the aliens who actually own the moon it’s situated on…

Moreover, even though Earth is a now a member of the Confederation, with humans well placed in all branches of interstellar service, the Isolationist cause is still deeply cherished by many, needing only the slightest spark to ignite…

In Scars Caleb and Mezoke, still learning to cope with each other, are too-quickly dispatched to the ghastly mud-ball moon Senestam to convince belligerent human colonists to pack up and leave quietly. The naked hostility they meet is transformed to sheer terror when the situation escalates and monstrous beasts begin attacking. An armada of rapacious creatures capable of boring through rock and steel are likely to eat every sentient in town before the IDO agents can broker any kind of deal…

The crisis takes a decidedly tricky turn in the concluding album Ruptures when the marauding beasts are discovered to have been lured into attacking the colonists. The crisis has been manufactured as part of a greater scheme: but who really profits from this developing tragedy?

Sabotage and murder are swiftly added to the miners’ woes, and whilst Caleb and Mezoke desperately seek a solution satisfactory to all sides, an anti-human faction of the Confederation makes its first move to oust Earth from the interstellar alliance. Perhaps they’re not misguided though, since an Isolationist coup is also kicking off in the torrential skies above Senestam…

Fast-paced, action-packed, gritty space-opera with delightfully complex sub-plots fuelled by political intrigue and infighting elevates this tale for older readers to lofty heights, and although Caleb and Mezoke come off a little less than fully rounded characters in this initial tale, Orbital looks like a being a series to watch closely.

© 1968 Dargaud Editeur Paris by Goscinny & Tabary. All Rights Reserved.

Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné: The Weird of the White Wolf


Adapted by Roy Thomas, Michael T. Gilbert, P. Craig Russell, George Freeman & various (First Publishing)
ISBN: 0-915419-87-4

Elric is a landmark of the Sword and Sorcery genre: the ruler of the pre-human civilisation of the Melnibonéans, a race of cruel, arrogant Sorcerers: Dissolute creatures in a slow, decadent decline after millennia of dominance over the Earth. An albino, he is physically weak and of a brooding philosophical temperament, caring for nothing save his beautiful cousin Cymoril, whom he killed whilst battling her loathsome usurping brother Prince Yrrkoon.

After Elric destroyed his own love and race he wandered the world a broken dissolute wreck. In a series of short prose stories, a number of which (The Dreaming City, While the Gods Laugh and The Singing Citadel) were included with a framing tale The Dream of Earl Aubec into the novel Elric: Weird of the White Wolf, the albino forged his tragic legend across the young planet.

This stellar graphic adaptation adapts not only the novel but also gatherers many of the disparate previous adaptations (partially or in full) in a logical chronological sequence, which originally saw the light of day as a five issue miniseries from the much missed innovators First Comics.

The Dream of Earl Aubec by Thomas, Gilbert and Freeman (with spectacular support from letterer Ken Bruzenak) sees the greatest champion of his world fight his way to the very edge of reality searching for glory and approval from his queen Eloarde of Klant. Where solid ground meets raw unformed chaos-stuff he finds a castle and is seduced by the incredible creature Myshella, the Dark Lady, who shows him visions of the future in the raw Chaos and particularly the travails of a tragic Emperor, Elric.

The first vision is an abridged version of Thomas and Russell’s ‘The Dreaming City’ taken from 1982 Marvel Graphic Novel which is followed by the pair’s superb adaptation of ‘While the Gods Laugh’ which first appeared in the fantasy anthology magazine Epic Illustrated (#14, 1984) wherein the doomed hero searches for the Dead God’s Book, a magical grimoire that promises to answer any wish or desire, picking up the first of many disposable paramours in Shaarilla of the Dancing Mist, as well as his truest friend and aide, Moonglum.

Interspersed with the continuing drama of Aubec and Myshella the collection then moves into an all-new interpretation of ‘The Singing Citadel’ with Thomas and Gilbert co- adapting the saga for the hugely underrated George Freeman to illustrate and colour. Elric and Moonglum take ship and are attacked by the pirates of Pan Tang, before being drawn into the scheme of Queen Yishana who needs a better magician than her own lover Theleb K’aarna to investigate an incursion of melodic chaos into her kingdom.

The invader turns out to be the malevolent Jester of the Lords of Chaos, intent on establishing his own domain without the interference of his superiors…

This is a phenomenal tale of heroism and insanity and the art and colour here fully capture the drama and madness of the original. Gilbert and Freeman are every bit the imaginative, illustrative equals of the magnificent Russell and this book is one of the most impressive graphic fantasies ever produced, and desperately in need of re-release.

Michael Moorcock’s irresistible blend of brooding Faustian tragedy and all-out action is never better displayed than in his stories of Elric, and Roy Thomas’ adaptations were a high watermark in the annals of illustrated fantasy. Every home and castle should have one…

© 1990 First Comics, Inc. and Star*Reach Productions. Adapted from the original stories by Michael Moorcock, © 1967, 1970, 1977. All Rights Reserved.

The Magic Goes Away – DC Science Fiction Graphic Novel #6


By Larry Niven, adapted by Paul Kupperberg & Jan Duursema (DC Comics)
ISBN: 0-930289-19-6

During the 1980s DC, on a creative roll like many publishers large and small, attempted to free comics narrative from its previous constraints of size and format as well as content. To this end, legendary editor Julie Schwartz called upon contacts from his early days as a Literary Agent to convince major names from the fantasy literature world to allow their early classics to be adapted into a line of Science Fiction Graphic Novels.

The groundbreaking short-story by Larry Niven was released in 1976 during the first energy/oil crisis and was met with almost universal acclaim. Quickly expanded into a novella it is a powerful allegory of conservation and sensible management of resources. The settings and universe were subsequently used for other stories including The Burning City and The Burning Tower (co-written with Jerry Pournelle) and others.

This adaptation is probably the most comfortingly traditional of these experimental comic strip interpretations and comes courtesy of the inexplicably underrated Paul Kupperberg and Jan Duursema, with delightful lettering and calligraphic effects from Todd Klein.

Long ago when the world literally ran on magic, a long-lived warlock noticed that every so often his powers would diminish until he relocated to another part of the world. Warlock built a simple device and used it to prove that Mana, the spark of magic, was a finite thing and could be used up…

A warrior washed up in a sea-side village and it was clear he had survived some appalling catastrophe. When he was recovered he left in search of a magician – any magician. At this time Warlock and Clubfoot, once among the mightiest magicians on Earth, were wandering, assessing the state of a world rapidly running out of wonders, and increasingly aware that humanity was adapting to a life without them.

They carried their paraphernalia, including the skull of the necromancer Wavyhill, with them as they searched for a location with enough Mana to power the spells which were all but useless everywhere now.  Warlock had a big idea.  Earth’s Mana might be exhausted but the moon’s must be untouched.  All they needed was enough power to get to it…

Then the warrior introduced himself and told his tale.  His nation had tried for uncounted years to conquer magical Atlantis.  When they did, killing all the priests, the island sank. Guilt-crazed Orolandes the Greek determined to make amends and sought wizards to show him how.

With the world more mundane every moment these stalwarts joined other magicians – untrustworthy souls all – in a last ditch attempt to bring back their dying lifestyle. Finding the location of the last god in existence the conclave planned to steal his Mana, and use it to bring the untapped moon down to Earth…

The tale is a delightfully logical and rational exploration and celebration of fantasy that acknowledges all the rich wealth of the genre whilst applying some hard-edged rules to it.  Kupperberg and Duursema walk a dangerous tightrope but joyously capture the marvels of the milieu, whilst depicting the raw tension, and cynicism of a world on the edge of the ultimate systems-crash.

Beautiful and terrifying this is an adaptation and allegory that every consumer (of fantasy or indeed anything) should read…
© 1978 Larry Niven. Text & illustrations © 1986 DC Comics Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Demon With a Glass Hand – A DC Science Fiction Graphic Novel


By Harlan Ellison, adapted by Marshall Rogers (DC Comics)
ISBN: 0-930289-09-9

Long before comics got into the highly addictive habit of blending and braiding parallel stories and sharing universes science fiction authors such as Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Larry Niven and Harlan Ellison were blazing the trail. Ellison crafted an extended series of short stories and novellas into the gripping and influential War against the Kyben, even going so far as to break out of print media and into television; consequently garnering even greater fame and glory as well as the 1965 Writers Guild of America Award for Outstanding Script for a Television Anthology and the Georges Melies Fantasy Film Award (1972) for Outstanding Cinematic Achievement in Science Fiction Television.

Demon with a Glass Hand was written as a teleplay – the author’s second – for influential TV show The Outer Limits, premiering on 17th October 1964, and only later being adapted into a prose adventure. In 1986 the startlingly talented and much missed Marshall Rogers used the original, unedited first draft of the TV script to create a fantastically effective comics adaptation for the experimental DC Science Fiction Graphic Novel series.

Humanity’s battle against the Kyben lasted ten generations and involved all manner of technologies including time travel. Trent is a man with a mission and huge holes in his memory. Somewhere in his occluded mind is a vast secret: the location of the entire human race, hidden to prevent the invading Kyben from finding and destroying them. Instead of a right hand he has a crystal prosthetic that talks to him, but the glass computer cannot restore his memories until three of its missing fingers are recovered.

Dispatched to the dubious safety of the 20th century Trent has been followed by a horde of aliens determined to secure that fateful secret and they have taken over the skyscraper where those missing digits are secured…

Aided only by the apparently indigenous human Consuelo, Trent’s paranoiac battle is as much with himself as his foes. As he gradually ascends the doom-laden building to find answers he may not want, he finds fighting creatures painfully human and just as reluctant as he to be there almost more than he can bear but at least his mission will soon end…

Or will it? Demon with a Glass Hand is a masterpiece of tension-drenched drama, liberally spiced with explosive action, and the mythic denouement – in any medium of creative expression – has lost none of its impact over the years.

Classy and compelling this is a perfect companion to Ellison’s other Kyben War comic adaptations, collected as Night and the Enemy, and it must be every fan’s dream to hope that somewhere there’s a publisher prepared to gather all these gems into one definitive edition…
© 1986 The Kilimanjaro Corporation.  Illustrations © 1986 DC Comics Inc.  All Rights Reserved.