Monday, May 17, 2010

The Side Effects of the Cocaine

Walnut Literary Review Issue 01 is out. Poems by Annie Finch, Ocean Vuong, and Zhuang Yusa. I have three poems in it.

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The Side Effects of the Cocaine, a comic, tells the story of David Bowie's life from April 1975 to February 1976. Addled from the addiction he claimed to have picked up in the USA, Bowie saw Jesus in a vision, which saved him from self-destruction and launched his Thin White Duke persona. Controversially he was quoted as saying that "Britain could benefit from a Fascist leader."

The story in the comic, written by Sean T. Collins, is tight, in a before and after structure. It does not explain too much, but enough for anyone who does not know Bowie's story to follow the comic. It compares rock stars to Hitler the expert manipulator of media, and asks why we give ourselves up to druggies and dictators. The serious message is inflected by a keen ironic awareness of role-playing. Near the end of the comic, when Bowie is asked by an interviewer whether he stands by everything he said, he replies, "Everything but the inflammatory remarks."

The drawings done in ink give a stark black and white look. The look accentuates Bowie's initial emaciation, and at the end imaginatively transforms, in consecutive full-page panels, Bowie singing on stage. The last panel is all black, with the Duke faintly picked out in white. The Jesus vision, which "changed" Bowie, is rightly given its two-page spread of glory. There the Lord appears on a cross, as if in a Renaissance or Baroque altar, the Nazi swastika on his right and left, the passion scenes behind him re-created as a comic strip. The illustrator is Isaac Moylan, and you can read the comic on his website.

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