Thursday, July 16, 2009

Rayboy's Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Boom! Studios)

There are two different comics to discuss this week in order to provide a little contrast for my ongoing rant about current publishing formats.

Boom! Studios released the first issue of their adaptation of late science fiction author Philip K. Dick’s "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" this week, in a square-bound, slick paper volume for $3.99. I know that DC & Marvel have recently jacked up prices on some of their books to the same level, but this series will adapt Dick’s story (also the basis for the Ridley Scott/Harrison Ford film, Blade Runner) over the course of twenty-four issues using the complete text of Dick’s novella, with some surprisingly nice artwork by Tony Parker.

Adding insult-to-injury, Boom Studios has issued the opening chapter of the series with four; count them, FOUR alternate covers. Now that’s just bullshit! For some strange reason this 1990’s-era multi-cover mindset just won’t go away. Dynamite and IDW also regularly practice the same sorry tactic. Boom is also trying to trick their readers into thinking that they are getting more "bang for their buck" by using a format that was popular twenty years ago. The Dark Knight Returns, History of the DC Universe and Kingdom Come were originally published in a format similar to what Boom is using for Androids, but those books had about 40+ story pages, not a mere 24 pages (plus the Warren Ellis text piece on Mr. Dick).

I don’t want to insult anybody, and to each his own, but if the fans don’t stop buying stuff like this; then the publishers will continue to suffer under the delusion that slick, glossy paper = better comics. NOT! I am glad that I didn’t buy this issue. I borrowed a friends copy to read, so it’s "one and done" for me. Except, why didn't they just call it Blade Runner?

Let a voice crying from the wilderness say, yet again, please; you stupid people, try offering a cheaper format, cheaper paper, anything to help reduce our monetary commitment during a tough economic downturn. We nerds, geeks and fans do want to read your comics, but damn. Help meet us halfway. The only other reason why any publisher would stick with the glossy, slick, artsy-fartsy format is egotism, conceit and hubris.

Oh, hell! I guess we are doomed for more of the same after all.

DC’s Wednesday Comics #2 also arrived this week, just as it will for the full twelve week run, and it won’t hurt to say all over again, that this is a beautiful project. Even at $3.99 a copy (see; I told you that a contrast was in order).

Of the fifteen features that are running in the over-sized weekly series, some are already emerging as must "see’s". Kamandi by Gibbons & Sook, hearkens back to the syndicated days of Hal Foster’s classic Prince Valiant or Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates newspaper strips. Metal Men by DiDio, Lopez & Nowlan, Sgt. Rock by Kubert & Kubert, Green Lantern by Busiek & Quinones and Hawkman by Kyle Baker are all just lovely to view and read; in fact virtually all of the features are very interesting and highly entertaining, but sadly one stands out as an obtuse mess for me, and that’s Wonder Woman by Ben Caldwell. Visually, I can’t really follow along with what’s going on in this story, so I doubt very much that I will care for it as Wednesday Comics continues, but the rest of the package more than makes up for a single "off" strip.

And hey, look - newsprint. No multiple covers, over two dozen top creators present and at least DC seems to be trying to give their readers quality, regardless of the chosen format. Now that’s a nice idea!

Give Boom a wide pass, but "Wednesday Comics" is very highly recommended!


cash_gorman said...

I imagine paying for the use of the "Bladerunner" name and all that it entails would actually cost more than the rights to the original short story along with more restrictions.

I've not made my mind up on Wednesday comics. I like the idea, the production, but not the cost. I don't see the stories really worth the $40 it'll cost me to get the whole thing. Most of the stories looked good, but didn't really wow me with their opening hooks. And, I don't really go to the store every week anymore. I figure, they are almost bound to be collected in trades or something by the end, so why not wait until then?

I think I'd be more apt to buy it if it was a little cheaper than other comics but also if it was an ongoing with stories of varying lengths and possibly even one page/half page gag strips of Fox & Crow, Sugar & Spike, Stanly and his Monster, etc sprinkled about. A new story or character starting almost every issue

Rey Armenteros said...


I agree with you wholeheartedly about the multiple cover phenomena. It stinks, and it doesn't add anything to the comic, but gimmick.

About the "Bladerunner" title, Boom! is in fact retaining the integrity of the book, which is something Ellis mentions in the essay. First of all, with the exception of the main plot, the two stories are completely different. Bladerunner is far simpler, moodier, and this worked well for it, but it veered away dramatically from the book; so much so, that the two Deckards are two different people, with different issues. Do Andriods Dream of Electric Sheep? is much more complex in its treatment of character, plot and the notion of what it means to be human, among other themes.

What would really make the title a sore spot for Philip K. Dick is that he was approached by Ridley Scott when the movie was still in post-production with the sum of a hundred thousand dollars (I believe) if he officially changed the title of his book to Bladerunner. Though Dick needed the money at the time, he declined, and rightfully so, I believe. However, ten years after his death, you can find copies of his book with the title Bladerunner on the cover, and his title mentioned only on the frontispiece inside. This was happening for a while until recent years when Dick's reputation as a writer rose outside of the science fiction circles, as did his respect in general.

I have to admit, that of the two titles, Bladerunner is the more attractive. Ridley Scott lifted the title from a William Burroughs novel because he thought it sounded catchier. In the light of this, I think it's great that Boom! is using the real (albeit clumsier) title, especially since they are following the novel and not the movie.

If you're interested in the epic obstacles that the movie production went through, there is an interesting book that came out in the 1990s titled The Making of Bladerunner. It goes through every impediment that threatened to end the film during and after production, all the way to when it flopped in the box office.