Monday, October 3, 2011

The Originals

Listed in "500 Essential Graphic Novels" as: Science Fiction (Best of the Rest)
Contains: The Originals (Original Graphic Novel)
Year: 2004
Publisher: Vertigo
Writer: Dave Gibbons
Artist: Dave Gibbons


We're 16 books into this thing and this is only the SECOND book in the science fiction genre that I'm going to review?!  How did that happen?! I rather like sci-fi!!!

Let's get to it, shall we?

Actually, as we begin, let me just say that if you're not a fan of sci-fi (I know at least one dear reader of this thing who isn't), you'd have little to worry about in reading this.  Really the only thing that's sci-fi about this book is the hovering scooters and motorcycles used by the rival gangs...  But you have no idea what I'm talking about that with any of that yet, do you? 

Let's fix that.

The story begins as protagonist Lel is walking through a city that's eerily retro and futuristic simultaneously.  As he narrates, he talks about finishing school, about all the stuff that grown-ups and teachers tried to shove down his throat, and about he and his buddy Bok really wanting to become Originals.

The Originals are nothing more than a glorified gang, smartly dressed, loving music and fashion, popping pills, and hovering around on their floating scooters.  They absolutely detest a rival gang which they call "The Dirt", who look like a crowd you might see at any modern day biker bar, wearing leather, swilling beer, and riding what look like (also) hovering Harleys.

Lel and Bok finally do get into the Originals by helping existing members locate and fight a group of Dirt louts.  They'rs invited to an upscale dance club that the Originals party in called The Place and they ascend to becoming full-fledged Originals, both scoring their own hovers (which is how they refer to the hovering scooters) and Lel beginning to sling pills to dope heads for Ronnie, the seeming leader of the Originals.

Lel meets a girl, tensions between the Originals and Dirt rise, and we go from there...

As I said above, despite its inclusion in the "Science Fiction" portion of Mr. Kannenberg's book 500 Essential Graphic Novels, this really doesn't feel like a science fiction read.  Again, the only thing sci-fi about it are the hovering bikes and scooters.  The rest feels...  If I had to put it into a phrase...  A post-apocalyptic mob flick.

The way that the whole dance club is set up, the way the boys are trying to get into this elite fraternity, the way they pander to the leaders of the Originals...  Yeah. It feels like every mafia movie or show I've ever seen except with another sort of edge.

It's also been said that these groups, the Originals and the Dirt are patterned to resemble the Mods and Rockers of 1960's Britain.  Lel even has Roger Daltrey's circa 1960 haircut, pops pills, and loves his tunes. 

However you want to look at it, though, this is a story in some future about a boy who wants to gain entry into a group, does so, and then gets maybe a bit more than he bargained for. 

The work is nice, short, and solid, bringing you into Lel's narrative nicely, enveloping you for the time that you need to be there, and then panning back out almost where we met him.  We see the character develop, smarten-up, make that transition from a boy to a man almost right before our eyes in a read that takes less than a half hour.

Gibbons' art, left in the black-and-white style, is perfect for giving this a sort of timeless feel.  We see the hovering bikes and such, but we also see the clothes, the manners, memories of the past.  It's hard for the reader to pin down when this might take place.  It's obviously the future with the hovers, but why does it feel so much like the past?  A fine quality of this work.

The book shows how markedly we can grow up in so short a time and does so against a backdrop of a world that's not overtly strange, but is like an odd memory of the future.  A brief, good read by Gibbons that any fan of his, Anglophile, or fan of gang or mob stories should check out.

Mr. Kannenberg's rating: 3 out of 5
My rating: 3 out of 5
16 down, 484 to go

Join me next time for a return to my beloved superhero comics with Shade, The Changing Man: The American Scream.

Keep well until then. :)


  1. Again, this one just doesn't seem like it would be my cup of tea. Glad you mildly enjoyed it, but if ever given the option, I'd likely pass over it. Great stuff dude and I'll hopefully check out that September Roundup a little later tonight.

  2. I don't know, dude... I know sci-fi isn't really your cup of tea, but the sci-fi feel isn't really all that present in this one. It's deeply overshadowed by a sort of noir crime feel.

    Then again, it didn't blow my socks off, but who knows?

    I guess, in the end, you may be right, though. If I had to recommend books for you that I've read so far, I don't think this would be one of them.

    Keep commentin', bro. Much appreciated. :)