Sunday, January 27, 2013

Blogathon 39: Spaceman (Adam Langton Guest Post)

So Chad Nevett is insane and relishes putting himself through this blogathon business every year. Presumably the only motivation is masochism. But I am nothing if not an enabler, so heeeeere we go!

Sick and tired of comic books and comic creators that are all but begging for a film adaptation? Ever since the big comics2film boom of fourteen years ago, new comics (not the boring rehashed superhero fare) have become more and more like storyboards, complete with Hollywood hook. Hell, we’ve even got idiots like Mark Millar selling his yet-to-be-made comics to Hollywood studios, only to eventually turn out absolute garbage like “Super Crooks.” It would seem that our beloved little medium has become little more than a springboard in the minds of these men and women, rather than the home for original stories that couldn’t be told anywhere else.

Well that aint true for Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso; my evidence? “Spaceman.” “Spaceman” is one of those rare, delightful comic book stories that couldn’t work in any other medium. The best part is, it doesn’t have to work in any other medium--it’s perfect in a comic book, as it is. An original, self-contained sci-fi serial, “Spaceman” takes the trope of the everyman caught up in extraordinary circumstances... only in this case, Orson is anything but an everyman. Genetically engineered to survive space travel, Orson’s mission to Mars has come and gone; now, he has fallen the wayside in a futuristic world that doesn’t look very different from our own.

You’ve got to love Azzarello for creating a sci-fi future where life absolutely sucks for the vast majority of people. That is the way life has been on Earth for the past few millennia, why should it suddenly change a hundred years from now? When you think of the creation of a sci-fi landscape you immediately begin envisioning different directors ‘bringing it to life,’ but screw you, because Risso already did that. Combined with colours from Patricia Mulvihill and Giulia Brusco, Risso’s scenes featuring Orson’s flashbacks to Mars look and feel starkly different from the darkness of his life on Earth; the two stories are balanced beautifully, leaving the reader guessing at both until they dovetail into one another in a thrilling conclusion.

Wow, two storylines that both work on their own accord, dovetailing into one another at the close: why mess with the classics? “Spaceman” doesn’t need eighty twists or ten false-finishes. In fact, I stick to the word “classic” because that’s what “Spaceman” reads like: a modern version of a story from the 1800s. While the setting and plot involve all of the details and trappings of modern life, the storytelling and theme are decidedly old-fashioned, allowing the reader to glimpse an argument about our quotidian lives being made within each page.

Celebrity, priority, greed, money, society... all lambasted through the eyes of a man who never asked to be born, never asked to be different, and has merely been trying to wait out his years in our messed up reality. A reality that is obsessed with a simulacra of reality; be it the reality television that is anything but, the promise of riches that never come to pass, or the sexual fantasy of virtual pornography that cannot be realized, the reality of Orson’s world is one where the simulation has won: just as in our own.

Everything from the larger-than-life spacemen themselves to the very language of “Spaceman” refutes the argument for adaptation. While it would be distracting to listen to actors wrestle with the quirky dialogue that Azzarello has given his characters, on the page the reader is allowed to develop their own ear for the new slang, listen to it at whatever pace they are comfortable with in their minds. The result is a deeper immersion into this world the creative team has made, whereas in other media the language would achieve the opposite result.

“Spaceman” and comics like it are the reason that our beloved art form will still be around no matter how long the Comics2Film craze persists. Let 95% of creators make books for no other reason than a potential lottery ticket to Hollywood riches; the rest of us will cleave to creators like Azzarello and Risso and keep enjoying comics for what they are and what they’ve always been: simple, fantastic, occasionally subversive tales that let us see ourselves differently.

Kudos to anyone and everyone involved in “Spaceman.”

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