of Electric Sheep? #1
Philip K. Dick
artist: Tony Parker
The thing about Philip K. Dick is
…he got things scarily right, at least metaphorically. When
Blade Runner first came out, I went to the library
and checked out the novel it had been based on, with the
(to me, then) funny title Do Androids Dream of Electric
me then was how futuristic and funny its view of a quietly
post-apocalyptic society was. Certain phrases and ideas
stuck with me, and then it got less and less funny as the
world sort of caught up to it. However, I never went back
to the novel, though I watched Blade Runner enough
times that even when I see it without Harrison Ford's voice-over,
I still hear it.
Thanks to Boom!
Studios, I have a chance to revisit the novel in graphic
form, and it's an impressive achievement. First, it works
incredibly well as (the beginning of) a graphic novel. Let
me presume that artist Tony Parker had something to do with
the placement of the text; the credits only allow that the
book utilizes the complete text of PKD's original novel.
Let's say Parker
worked closely with editor Ian Brill. They did a bang-up
job, balancing between the needs of straightforward graphic
storytelling and occasionally more impressionistic panels.
It's amazing how many crucial elements of the novel get
set up with this first installment: Mercerism, the celebrity-obsessed
government television channel, Rick Deckard's struggle with
his own humanity…the only thing that could possibly make
this adaptation work better is if Dick were alive to do
too, works very well. His page layouts aren't terribly daring,
but as we're on the cusp of digital comics, panels may just
have to remain more traditional like this. Within the panels,
however, Parker takes some risks, and though the story is
clearly told, it takes some wild visuals.
There's a moment
where a character experiences the quiet of an empty neighborhood,
and Parker chillingly communicates that character's very
visceral reaction. It's one of the most powerful single
panels I've seen in a long time, jumping off from Dick's
prose but clearly all Parker's interpretation.
As for that
story, it still feels as fantastic and frighteningly not
too far off as it did back in 1968. Not that we're close
to the androids Dick describes, but we're closer than should
be comfortable. The mood enhancements - society's need to
have us control our emotions - may not be literally true,
but it still feels just around the corner.
remain to be revealed, but the creative team has already
set it up well. And thus this book achieves success on another
level. Perhaps it will lure unsuspecting new readers in,
those whose exposure to the author might be limited to seeing
Total Recall or Minority Report.
PKD can still be found on local bookstore shelves, it's
in "important" editions. Here, insidiously, Boom! Just might
remind people that PKD was a great storyteller who specialized
in blowing your mind. And if you don't believe me, Boom!
has also enlisted Warren Ellis to write an article in the
back explaining it all; next issue will have Matt Fraction,
and presumably that will continue.
Yes. But let's not forget that he was entertaining, too.
Boom! didn't. And yet they've still managed to take this
and turn it into art.
Hey, write to us and
let us know what you think!