Nov 2, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 251: Elric #0 - One Life, 1996


There was a time, shortly after I discovered The Sandman, that I would voraciously track down all the Neil Gaiman writings I possibly could. There's a remarkable amount of stuff out there, comics and otherwise, with his name attached to it, not all of it good. The whole "Wheel of Worlds" thing from Tekno Comics is really pretty mediocre, and they really push Gaiman's name on it, even though he basically just gave them the idea and let other writers tell the stories. But I'm betting that having his name on those comics really helped sell them.

The case is probably the same with today's selection. One Life is based on a story that Gaiman wrote as a prose piece, and is adapted for comics by P. Craig Russell. This is much like the majority of Alan Moore's output for Avatar Press, in that Moore wrote the original stories, but someone else adapts them for comics. It's sort of a weird subset of the industry, but one that occasionally produces real gems. One Life is close, but mostly because of the stunning beauty of Russell's art. As far as Gaiman stories go, it's not his greatest. It treads on literary/biographical grounds that I'm not sure Gaiman is particularly adept at, though it does provide a nice picture of a young boy becoming a teenager and parsing his experience through the works of Michael Moorcock - something that, perhaps, a number of the British comics writers of Gaiman's generation can relate to.

But Russell's art, as usual, is amazing. I can't even tell you what the first P. Craig Russell comic I read was. It might well have been The Sandman #50, a gorgeous story about mythic Baghdad, but it might just as well have been something else. His is one of the most distinctive styles in comics, and is unique in that he doesn't appear to have acolytes whose style mimics his. I can look at particular artists and think "Oh, he draws like Mike Mignola" or "She draws like Rick Burchett," but I've never looked at a comic and thought, "Hey, that looks like P. Craig Russell," unless it was, of course, P. Craig Russell. I'm not sure why this is, unless it's because his work is so intricate, so precise, that to copy him one would have to duplicate him, rather than simply be inspired by him. Perhaps it's time I kept a lookout for those who have been inspired by Russell, though that would necessitate my reading contemporary comics, for which I'm losing my enthusiasm.

The only other thing I'd like to say about this comic is that it's also part of an odd little genre that tells stories about the British school system, which, if I've learned anything from comics, is completely different from the North American system, and is populated by sadists and child molesters. Or perhaps that's just the British system from Gaiman's point of view, because off the top of my head the only other story I can think of in this vein right now is the one that introduces the Dead Boy Detectives in the pages of The Sandman. Perhaps Gaiman just did not enjoy school.

I may, tomorrow, just do what I did today: simply open up one of the miscellaneous sections of my storage collection and pull out a random comic. It's been ages since I read One Life, so that was kind of nice. I wonder what I'll find tomorrow. See you then.

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