Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Ah Pook Is Here

I've never been a huge fan of William S Burroughs, finding his cut-up technique of writing a little irritating and overrated, however with the impending release of a once abandoned graphic novel collaboration between himself ,and the artist Malcolm McNeil, I may be forced to reevaluate.
Started in the 70's and originally appearing as a comic strip under the title The Unspeakable Mr Hart in English magazine Cyclops, Ah Pook Is Here, and after seven years of struggles(*1) they finally got the book published in 1979. The idea of a book lenght comic strip, predating Eisner's invention of the term 'graphic novel' (with what is argued(*2) is the first graphic novel, A Contract With God) was a daring move.
It is Fantagraphics Books that will be releasing a restored edition in the summer of 2011. It will be released as a two part book the second part being the artist's own memoir of his working relationship with Burroughs.
Whether or not the text will make me see Burroughs in a different light remains to be seen(*2). However one thing can be said for him is that he certainly has an eye for artistic talent, his only other comics based project that never came to fruition was a science-fiction strip for the dream anthology that never was, Someday funnies(*3)
I can only image how much of a visual delight the full colour reprint of this is going to be just from the samples available on McNeil's website. Luscious horizontal panels of landscapes, stretching out and evolving into surreal masterpieces, reminiscent of Dali, classical religious artwork, William Blake, and Escher. Other sections of the book , which resemble more closely the comic book format, are sketched out in pencil and are atmospheric and brooding and taking a leaf from Will Eisner's book, make great use of negative spaces and well thought out panel composition.
If the samples presented to you here are not enough to keep you satisfied until the books release, then you always check out McNeil's site here and also a creepy slightly Tim Burtonesque(*4) short animation based on the Burrough's text (and voiced by the man himself) directed by Philip Hunt

(*1) Their original publisher closed
(*2) Although there are other contenders for that crown, Milt Gross's He Done Her Wrong and the early woodcut novels of Lynd Ward and
(*2) Judging by the plot (the usual paranoid conspiracy theory about the media/government with some sci-fi elements) I doubt it.
(*3) Which was to feature legends of the comics world as well as the non-comics world, including Steadman, Fellini, Dali, Tom Wolfe, and even Germaine Greer.

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