A Graphic Novel that Changed the Industry

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As children my brother and I were avid comic readers. We weren’t partisan – voraciously consuming Marvel, DC and especially the British publication 2000AD. Characters like Judge Dredd and Chopper were our heroes and we awaited each new edition of Marvel’s Secret Wars with baited breath. But there was one graphic novel that stood out as a seminal piece of work. Our mum brought it home one day to help us wile away the summer vacation, unaware that she had hit the motherlode. I was instantly entranced on opening the pages.

With visuals by French artist Philippe Druillet and written by Jacques Lob, Lone Sloane Delirious was unlike any graphic novel I had read before. Psychedelic and disturbing it is far darker than any contemporary US or UK work from the same period. Inspired by the writings of H. P. Lovecraft and A.E. van Vogt and by the work of Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher, it blends science fiction and gothic horror, with mind-bending visuals that explore deep themes of isolation, madness, religion and corruption.

This dystopian space opera is a true odyssey.  The main character, Lone Sloane is captured by a demonic chair, possessed by a chaos god and forced to wander the galaxy. He encounters space pirates, recovers his lost ship and falls prey to one megalomaniac power-seeker after another. The Red Clergy attempt to use him to defeat the emperor of the Galaxy, involving him in an attempted revolt on the dangerous pleasure world Delirius, but Lone Sloane has his own agenda. There is a truly mythological feel to the adventure, with influences from many cultures that combine seamlessly to create a unique identity.

The novel can often be confusing, but I think that is intentional. Druillet sees each page as a standalone work of art and uses a variety of techniques to deliver the story which almost feels secondary to the visuals. With unconventional framing, lots of break outs and often jumbled panel order, there is a sense of confusion and chaos to the book which fits perfectly with its themes.

Released as separate stories between 1966 and 1971, Lone Sloane reflected the psychedelic counter-culture that was prevalent amongst the youth at that time. When you look at it today, you can see how it influenced young artists in the US and UK – particularly earlier Judge Dredd and Slaine in 200AD. It was also pioneering in terms of the themes it explored and its dark tone. The success of contemporary graphic novels owes more than a nod to Lone Sloane as it showed that this artform can take on serious subjects and deliver them with aplomb.

After an interminably long wait, the follow up graphic novel Lone Sloane Delirius 2 was released last year and I heartily recommend picking up both books if you like your sci-fi dystopian and disturbing in equal measures.

Andy Trowers is a game designer, lover of comics and staff writer for www.for-sale.ie.

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