Words and


Novelist Doris Lessing has given the world of comics some literary weight by teaming up with artist Charlie Adlard for the graphic novel Playing The Game, as Ann

Donald discovers.

Torvill and Dean. Laurel and Hardy. The X-l’iles and Doris Lessing. Hmm. something fishy about the last duo. M‘lud. At first glance. they seem to have as much in common as Chas and Di. What on earth could link the weird and wonderful parallel universes of Scully and Mulder to an esteemed 76-year-old author whose work is subject to in-depth literary analysis? Well. together with X-Files and Judge Dredd graphic artist Charlie Adlard, our Doris has embraced the wacky world of comics or as her

publishers prefer it. ‘a graphic novel‘.

Titled Playing The Game, it is a meta-sci-fr tale of Spacer Joe Magnifico Sirnpatico and Metropolis creation and sex bomb Francesca Bird. as together they seek to overcome the raw urban squalor of a future Earth. Via the most hellish game of snakes and ladders ever played, the couple strain for ‘love in a soulless world‘ among the dank and dark graphics.

Given the outright snootiness inherent in the publishing world when it comes to disposable three-

Playlng The Game: ‘Iove In a soulless world’

minute culture of kiddies‘ comics. the arrival of such a heavyweight author like Lessing to the fray should put a few noses out ofjoint. Lessing herself, who has written numerous sci-fr tinged literary novels, makes 1 no bones about her support for the maligned genre or i its underestimated importance. In an earlier interview she commented. ‘l‘ve met people who know Shakespeare and The Bible through “comics”. It seems to me graphic novels can develop in all kinds of ways. It is not words alone that move the story forward. but pictures and words together.‘ it was this desire to find a perfect union between words and pictures and writer and artist that has actually delayed the publication of this novel by some years. As the very effervescent sounding Adler comments. ‘lt‘s a book with a very troubled history.‘ By this he means that the thirteen-page script passed


through a variety of artists‘ hands (including Dave McKean) before Adler finally came up with the approved goods. As he explains. the odd couple i worked because of Lessing‘s very positive attitude. ‘l ‘7 g think that there are lots of literary authors who tend to think the graphic novel is a very simple medium ' and that anyone can do it,‘ he says. ‘Doris 5 understood that this isn‘t the ease. and left me to get on with the storytelling.‘

Unusually for a graphic artist, all Adler received was a skeletal script in rhyming couplets that resembled a dramatic dialogue more than the Crash! Bang! Pow! of Judge Dredd or the energy devouring alien storylines of The X-Files . ‘1 just assumed that ' she wasn‘t en vogue with contemporary comics. it was certainly very . . . um, different.‘ he adds diplomatically.

The advantages of this meant that Adler could go wild with his own preference for gritty realism. ’l

i saw it as an unusual challenge.‘ he says of the now

Dec 4.

l 65-page novel. which teams with apocalyptic ; nightmares. demons and evil creatures. ’I had real 3 fun getting my teeth into it, creating my own thing ; without the set patterns ofthe usual comics strips.’ So. has this experience inspired the young artist to shed the phenomenon of The X files and move into the ‘literary‘ league? ‘Well, right now l‘m working ' on page seven of issue Twelve of The X-l’iles comic, 3 which has become very popular on the coat-tails of i the TV series.‘ he laughs. ‘and i like the royalties that i are coming in from that. But. yes. i am interested in 5 collaborating with another author as long as i can see something in the script that speaks to my imagination.‘

Who knows: Salman Rushdie and Viz? Martin { Amis and The Beam)? The list is potentially endless. , Playing The Game by Doris Lessing and Charlie Adlard is published by HarperCu/h'ns at £6.99 on


Punk between the covers

As 1996 unfolds, we’ll no doubt be seeing a spate of books appearing on the subject of punk. Of those, three recent publications take a different tack in exploring and attempting to get to grips with the phenomenon.

The most immediately striking of the Q "

trio is Barry lazell’s PUHK! An A-Z (Hamlyn £20) which positively glares from the bookstore shelves. lazell’s


book is, much as the title suggests, an i

encyclopaedic run through many, if by no means all the players thrown up by ‘the scene’.

All the usual suspects are here, but Lazell’s book should be commended for going beyond the usual UK and US boundaries, as well as covering many of the acts lingering half-forgotten in the collective memory. When was the last time you read about the likes of Eater, Prag Vec, Kleenex, Swell Maps

or Those Naughty Lumps? The book

also extends the usual cut-off point by a few years, covering some 0i! movement acts, and dipping a toe into

l l

post-punk waters with the inclusion of the Birthday Party and the Teardrop Explodes. Some particularly dreadful typos let the tome down (apparently McLaren started his long-running relationship with Vivienne Westwood in 1867, while Johnny Rotten

a very punk price tag either, but a

g brave attempt.

Especially brave in the light of the critical kickings dealt out to anyone

savagely destroying) the deeply sad Skrewdrlver, and flinging hilarious vitriol left, right and centre. The

; conclusion? Well, it’s something to do

writing about punk is Stewart Home in ;

his excellent, er, book about punk, Cranked Up Really High - An Inside Account of Punk Rock (Codex £5.95). With its particularly nasty typeface, particularly nasty photos and particularly nasty snot-green colour, the cover of Rome’s book is consciously designed to look particularly nasty.

The author continually refers to the music as essentially disposable, novelty music - good garbage, hijacked by high-cultural commentators with the sole intention of giving them something to get worked up and wordy about. ‘lt’s not only pointless, but counterproductive to attempt to produce a definitive account of the subiect due to its flexible parameters,’ he states in one

of his more generous passages.

Homes’s book is a ‘real. punk’ book, leading the reader into the murky

waters of the (if! movement, not auditioned for the Pistols in 1995). Hot

flinching from mentioning (and

with punk rock, Punk Rock, Pilillt ROCK, sex and ecology. Sharp.

Read in tandem with Craig O’Hara’s Philosophy of Punk (A. K. Press £8.99), Cranked Up Really High is even more effective, because O’Hara’s book is a good example of exactly the kind of twat Home is railing against. its an account of the US hardcore and tanzine scene it’s okay, but on the whole this is badly written, immature (not necessarily bad traits given the subject), worthy and, worst of all, plain dull. O’liara buys completely into the old chestnut concerning UK punk’s working class roots, while his breakdown of communism, lettisrn, anarchism, capitalism and democracy is lust laughable. Avoid. (Damien Love) PUHK! An A—l by Barry Lazell is published by Hamlyn at £20; Dranked Up Really High - An Inside Account of Punk Rock by Stewart Home is published by Codex at £5.95; Philosophy of Punk by Craig O’Hara is published by A. K. Press at £8.99.