Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? #1 Review

DADOES #1B CoverThe opening page of this issue from BOOM! Studios states that, “this series is the complete text of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, presented in graphic form.” It’s an interesting message to those who may be expecting these pages to show Harrison Ford running around in the dark getting beaten up by androids. I recently watched the ultimate edition of Blade Runner, the 1982 film directed by Ridley Scott that loosely adapted Dick’s novel, so the differences are fresh in my mind.

I must say that BOOM! have the most diverse range of licensed titles on the shelves. From Pixar properties such as Cars and The Incredibles, to Warhammer, The Muppet Show and Die Hard they offer something for every type of reader. This mammoth 24 part adaptation of the 1968 sci-fi novel is another bold string in that curious line-up.

From the first page it becomes jarringly obvious that this is no ordinary reading experience. Not surprisingly it lies somewhere between a novel and a traditional comic book. These days readers are more accustomed to reading captions that reveal the inner thoughts of the characters. The captions here are initially of an omniscient narrator, as is to be expected. With no writer’s name on this comic the enormous effort of bringing a forty year old story from prose to sequential art hangs on the brave shoulders of artist Tony Parker and colourist Blond.

I’d imagine that Parker and editor Ian Brill would’ve spent many hours discussing the finer points of Dick’s original text, and how to work with it in pictorial form. With word balloons followed by caption boxes stating, “He said gloomily,” and so on it breathes like a unique media hybrid. Deckard’s discussion, with caption narration switching perspectives, goes on for 6 pages, but within these 6 pages a few facts present themselves, such as the reason for the unusual title, the fact that most of the city has left earth thanks to World War Terminus, and that the city’s gases occasionally create “specials” (read: mutants) in the populace.

This first issue opens with android hunter/killer Rick Deckard waking, and arguing with his wife Iran over before going to their respective “mood organs” to decide what their emotions will be. It’s a great start that shows what sci-fi does best; the integration of seemingly absurd technological ideas in an ordinary context.

The next 6 pages show Deckard conversing with his neighbour about their respective animals. It is by this point that most readers will decide if this series is for them or not. As is to be expected, this is more wordy than an average Brian Michael Bendis title. For some it may be a trudging read, but it’s obvious that Dick is a revered writer for a very good reason. He creates this world with depth and clarity. There are points of mild bewilderment, particularly with the sequence focused on the special John Isadore but at least for a $4 comic, you get a lot of reading material in this extra-sized ish. This one won’t be hurried through on the average daily commute.

The afterword, or “backmatter,” by fan fave writer Warren Ellis gives some truly fascinating insight in to Dick’s upbringing and talent and the literary weight of “Androids.” It’s a nice touch and puts Dick, and his most famous work, in context, and perhaps will help some readers justify BOOM!’s decision to publish the novel word for word. Let’s face it, if you’re going to publish a book exactly as is, why bother with pictures? However, it’s exactly that kind of choice that make BOOM! the unique publisher they are. I can’t imagine any other comic book company toying with this idea, and it does highlight the strengths, and perhaps weaknesses of the sequential art form. Tony Parker’s art decides for us what we see, rather than imaging it on our own if we were to read the novel.

Not a lot happens here, but things end when Deckard receives a new case, so perhaps things will pick up next issue. It is somewhat plodding but fans of Philp K. Dick, or those that want to see where Blade Runner took its cues, will be satisfied. After reading this debut issue, I can see why the entire tale will take 2 years to tell. It has already sold out before hitting shelves, so there are obviously plenty of curious readers out there.

Owly Toon Debuts At Comic-Con

Top Shelf’s cute owl who stars in his own silent adventures springs to life in animated form at Comic-Con. Press release below.

Owly 3-DOwly Animated Short to Debut at Comic-Con!

Top Shelf Productions and Sprite Animation Studios team up to bring beloved graphic novel character to life. 

Owly, the kindhearted star of the award-winning graphic novel series by Andy Runton, will come to life in an animated short at the San Diego Comic-Con on July 23-26. 

It was jointly announced today by Chris Staros, Publisher of Top Shelf Productions and Junichi Yanagihara, Executive Producer at Sprite Animation Studios that the loveable Owly and his unlikely best friend Wormy will be animated in a brand-new original segment directed by Moto Sakakibara and storyboarded by creator Andy Runton. Prominently featured will be Runton’s innovative “Pictomation,” a storytelling device in which the characters’ thoughts and feelings are animated with iconic and expressive images rather than dialogue, enabling fans of all ages, languages, and backgrounds to enjoy the show. 

“I’m absolutely overjoyed to be working with the entire Sprite team. Over the past months, we’ve worked very closely to make sure Owly was faithfully translated to 3D. Every little detail was important to them, and the end result blows me away! They’ve created an animation that captures the pure essence of Owly in ways I never thought possible. It’s amazing to see Owly and Wormy come to life like this. The level of artistry at Sprite is incredible.” said creator Andy Runton. 

Wormy 3-D“I am very passionate about the world of ‘Owly’ and its pure, honest, and adorable star. It is such a blessing to be able to bring Owly to new audiences who have not yet been touched by these wonderful stories,” said director Moto Sakakibara. 

Fans can visit the Top Shelf Productions booth (#1721) during the convention to see the short and to speak with members of the Sprite and Top Shelf teams, as well as meet Andy Runton, who will be there signing graphic novels, doing sketches, and talking to fans from around the world. 

Owly’s foray into animation comes at a time of big changes for the little “bird of play.” Following the re-release of all five Owly trade paperbacks with newly painted covers; a new line of T-shirts; a new supply of plushies; a brand new American Library Association poster and bookmark celebrating Owly’s support for libraries nationwide; the creation of an extensive collection of lesson plans for the use of Owly in classrooms; the release of all five Owly trade paperbacks on Amazon’s Kindle, and the announcement that Top Shelf and Andy Runton have entered into an agreement with Simon & Schuster to publish two Owly picture books, starting with Owly & Wormy in Friends All Aflutter in 2011, Owly is on the move.