Saturday, April 28, 2012

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Vol. 1 (comics)

Writer: Phillip K. Dick
Artist: Tony Parker
Collects: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? #1-4, essays on Dicks work by numerous comic creators

This is exactly the sort of project I tend to question the existence of.

I get the trouble with adaptions. If you stick too close to the source, you risk utterly boring your audience; some segments simply do not work the same way in film, for example, as they do a book. Same for a comic book. Each form of media has its own strengths and weaknesses. Slavish devotion is the enemy of many an adaption; after all, the key word here is adapt.

If you go too far, however, you're going to piss people off. In some cases, straying too far will even destroy the entire message or purpose of a work. That's the point where you've failed outright.

"Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" already received the perfect film adaption. Now they decided to give the original story a comic version. The problem is, it's more the former than the latter.

This book is slavishly devoted to the point where I could actually list Phillip K. Dick - long dead - as the writer. They literally took the text of the book and put it over comic art. Nothing was cut, from descriptions to dialouge.

Most any fan of comics will understand why this is problematic. Part of the strength of a comic is that it can be a medium between film and prose. But many of the same principles for other adaptions stand. The art - seen physically instead of the use of your imagination prose requires - takes care of descriptions; after all, a big rule in comics is to "show, don't tell" as much as humanly possible. But this "adaption" is a case of telling everything you're showing; not a panel goes by where the prose isn't describing what we're seeing reflected in the art.

While I appreciate the intention - keeping as close as possible to the original, which is indisputably a classic - as noble as it is it does not make for a good comic. Every panel is wordy as hell. It does make for a dense read, but in an odd way; words and sentences structured to feed your imagination clashing with artwork that shows what's described.

So, is there any worth to this? Well, there are essays by comic pros talking about Dicks work. There's also the fact that if you've never read the original story before, you won't lose anything by going this route. That is, unless you count money. This hardcover is twenty five dollars and collects four issues. The maxiseries collects the entire prose story in twenty four issues. At that rate, it will take six volumes and a hundred fifty dollars. Quite the investment when you could get both this and "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" for about twenty dollars, which is less than a single volume of this.

The Score: 6.5 out of 10

If I had to give a recommendation I'd say to get the original prose story. Even with the essays this isn't worth that much money. This is for hardcore Phillip Dick fans only; and even then only those with a lot of money burning a hole in their pocket. It's not worth it when you can get the paperback for a pittance, with the only tradeoff being that you may need to use your imagination.

Meanwhile, my imagination cannot dream up the thought process that led to Boom doing it this way.

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