You’ve got your mother in a whirl
She’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl
– Rebel Rebel
Insight Comics’ press release about its upcoming Bowie biography sent out last October greatly intrigued me on two levels. The obvious reason being Bowie himself. Over the span of a fifty plus year career the man and his music inspired countless people, myself included. Shortly after Diamond Dogs 1974 release I heard Rebel Rebel playing on Chicago’s WLS radio station when AM radio still ruled the airwaves. The music spoke to me in ways that my teenage closeted heart didn’t quite understand. That isn’t to say at the time I thought Bowie was gay. I simply didn’t know and what mattered was how Bowie modeled a different type of masculinity, giving me hope that there was more than small town life and sparking my imagination in new ways for years to come. The second reason Insight’s release piqued my curiosity was Michael Allred’s involvement in the project.
Beyond the music I knew very little about Bowie’s life and that’s now changing thanks to this book. Steve Horton and Michael Allred collaborated to write a seamless script telling Bowie’s life from 1962 up to the end of his Ziggy Stardust period in an entertaining, informative, and imaginative style. Now you’re not alone if Steve Horton’s name is unfamiliar. Horton’s prior comic credits include Amala’s Blade and Mike Fortune and Monstrous stories in Dark Horse Presents, a handful of stories for DC, and the Satellite Falling mini from IDW. That reminds me a friend once raved about Satellite Falling featuring a space cabbie turned bounty hunter. Pardon me while I make a note about that. Other work on a related note includes Comic Buyer’s Guide, Geek & Sundry, Gathering Magic, and SyFy Wire. Before the book’s release I’d had the assumption it would focus on the entire span of Bowie’s career. The tight focus is actually the best approach as it gave the team room to explore rather than doom the story to the level of an unsatisfying, illustrated Wikipedia entry. Told in flashback style against the backdrop of Bowie’s final performance with the Spiders From Mars at London’s Hammersmith Odeon on July 3rd, 1973. there are many tidbits and Easter eggs, if you will, that made me curious to learn more. For example, an early scene with producer Tony Visconti and Bowie attending a theater showing of Knife In The Water pinged my gaydar for subtext that led to a watching scene’s of Polanski’s movie on Youtube. Wishful thinking instead of a valid ping.
Mike Allred’s quirky art, and I mean that with every bit of appreciation his art deserves, has graced many comics, from his creator owned Madman to X-Statix, Izombie, and Silver Surfer. Allred teases great things with the opening circular splash page of the Hammersmith Odeon theater’s exterior surrounded by a ring of Bowie portraits contained in word balloons. Allred doesn’t disappoint throughout the remaining roughly 150 pages. There are a number of fantastical full page illustrations throughout that both satisfy and leave me wanting more, especially the half dozen capping off the story. Would prints be too much to ask for? Bowie was more than his larger than life personas though. Even the most mundane, certainly a relative word here, sequences of Bowie’s life recounted herein a delight at which to look thanks to Allred. Facial expressions, body language, the impeccable likenesses of his subjects — grounded in believable spaces that by contrast emphasizes the sheer trippiness of other passages.
A few words about Insight’s graphic novels. The most apparent quality that makes Insight’s books stand apart from other hardbound graphic novels are their size. While not as large as French bandes dessinees that I’ve seen, at 8.75 x 11.50 inches these volumes are larger than standard US trades measuring 6.75 x 10.25 inches. A couple inches here, an inch or so there may not seem significant till you see how dazzling Michael’s line art and Laura’s coloring is at this larger size! Laura Allred has pulled out all the stops with her coloring too. Makes me wish that more of their work could be printed at this size. Hard covers make for a substantial feel and heavier matte paper makes Laura’s colors glare free. To top it off vivid red headbands peeking out from the top and bottom of the book spine indicate the pages are solidly attached to the covers with sewn binding.
I found the writing and the art so compelling that I wasn’t prepared for it to end and I hope the sales on this volume will be high enough to warrant another.
Bowie – Stardust, Rayguns & Moonage Daydreams is an excellent tribute to Bowie fittingly released nearly four years to the day after his death.
Check your local comic shop or bookstore for a copy of Bowie – Stardust, Rayguns & Moonage Daydreams. Give this Diamond order code to your comic shop – NOV191780 or this ISBN to your bookshop – 9781683834489. Or use this Gay League affiliate link to buy the book from Amazon.
All rights reserved Steve Horton and Mike Allred.