Playing the Game

Playing the Game

By Doris Lessing & Charlie Adlard (HarperCollins Publications 1995)
ISBN 10: 0-58621-689-8 ISBN 13: 978-58621-689-7

Nobel Laureate and literary big gun Doris Lessing has been doing the unexpected for her entire career, writing about what’s personally important and effectively damning her critics by ignoring them. Her ‘Canopus in Argos: Archives’ series was a major blow to literary snobs who sneered at science fiction as anything other than a degraded form, and she was just as insensible to hidebound criticism when she wrote the slim graphic novella Playing the Game.

With art by Charlie Adlard, this simple, harsh yet lyrical tale describes the rise – and the philosophy – of Spacer Joe Magnifico, whose mighty self-confidence and risk-everything nature takes him out of the desperate slums of a dystopic future city-slum to within spitting distances of the vault of Heaven, whether it be seen as freedom, wealth, security or fantastic love.

Does he flee or free himself from the true, dirty, real world and the physically limited carnality of Bella-Rose, to join with the sublime Francesca Bird? Can he keep what his determination has won him? Which is stronger: Will or Chance?

Undoubtedly a major boost in credibility for graphic narrative, this is a work largely ignored by the comics community itself. We desperately want the big world to take us seriously, but the instances we cite still tend to be couched in terms of the movies our best stuff spawns rather than in the magic of word and pictures on paper, and that in itself limits us. I haven’t yet seen a big-budget blockbuster of Spiegelman’s Maus or James Joyce’s Ulysses

The scope of content needn’t overwhelm the depth of intent and this is a parable with as much unsaid and un-drawn as shown and told. This is not a case of less than meets the eye… as you will find if you try it.

© 1995 Doris Lessing. Art © 1995 Charlie Adlard. All Rights Reserved.