The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded


By Jim Ottaviani & Leland Purvis (Abrams ComicArts)
ISBN: 978-1-4197-1893-9 (HB) 978-1-4197-3645-2 (TPB)

Like every persecuted grouping of humanity, the LGBTQ community have far too many martyrs, but apart from Oscar Wilde and perhaps Harvey Milk, how many can you name? If any, I’ll bet Alan Turing tops that list…

Spellbindingly scripted by Jim Ottaviani (who has similarly eulogised and dissected quantum physicist (Richard) Feynman and – in Primates – primatologists Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Biruté Galdikas) with compellingly effective art by Leland Purvis (Vox, Pubo, Vulcan & Vishnu and Suspended in language: Niels Bohr’s life, discoveries, and the century he shaped – a previous collaboration with Ottoviani), this full-colour hardback, trade paperback or eBook biography divides Turing’s life into three broad sections, incisively and winningly reviewed as if in a documentary.

Events from his turbulent life are deftly mixed with faux “interviews” and candid disclosures from those who knew him – his mother, the computing “girls” at Bletchley Park, fiancée Joan Clark, Professor Max Newman, engineer and lab partner Bayley and the weak, shady “rent-boy” who brought about Turing’s eventual downfall and death…

‘Universal Computing’ covers the difficult, solitary boy’s childhood and college years, providing plenty of revelatory scenes showing how smart, obsessed and just plain different Alan Mathison Turing always was.

Top Secret Ultra’ focuses on the war years that built Turing’s reputation as a cryptographer and inventor at the officially “non-existent” base where the Enigma Code was cracked and the battle against fascism won.

The most painful and potent moments are seen in his post-war years at Manchester University, trying to beat the Americans in the ferociously competitive race to build Thinking Machines. Here he came under increasing stress as his open homosexuality – accepted as fact and ignored at Bletchley – gradually overtook and destroyed the life of the mis-socialised plain-speaking genius whose thoughts and writings resulted in the breakthroughs everybody now knows as ‘The Imitation Game’

Rounding out the cruelly educational experience is a poignant and challenging ‘Authors Note’ touching on the still-unresolved mystery concerning Turing’s death, a vast ‘Bibliography and Recommended Reading’ list and a bewilderingly comprehensive ‘Notes and References’ section, covering everything from the panel structures of this tale to the mathematics involved in and comprising much of the book’s subtly beguiling make-up.

This is an astoundingly inviting way to take in a true story of incredible accomplishment, dedicated passion and terrifying naivety, ending in a horrific loss to us all…

Please be warned: this is categorically not an adaptation of the 2014 film.
Text © 2016 Jim Ottaviani. Illustrations © 2016 Leland Purvis. All rights reserved.