Writers: Michael Allred, Steve Horton
Artist: Michael Allred
Colorist: Laura Allred and Han Allred
Editor: Mark Irwin
Publisher: Insight Comics
Ziggy played guitar, and man … did he leave an impression on music forever.
Bowie: Stardust, Rayguns & Moonage Daydreams from Insight Comics is a feast for the eyes, brain, and heart as Michael Allred brings his passion for the late, great David Bowie into this graphic novel. Released just in time for Bowie’s birthday on January 8 (the same birthday as his idol Elvis Presley, we learn), this graphic novel is a must-have for fans of Bowie and music history everywhere.
The book gives us the briefest of snapshots of Bowie’s life and focuses primarily on the Ziggy Stardust era (ending with the abrupt breakup of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in late 1973). The book clocks in close to 160 pages, and as you learn fairly quickly, that’s not nearly enough pages to tell us the story of the much-beloved musician.
We have been recently blessed with a smattering of biopics telling the story of some of the greatest British classic rock icons of all time with the release of Bohemian Rhapsody, based on the rise of Queen’s Freddy Mercury, and Rocketman, the loose telling of Sir Elton John’s life. It might help those of you who ride into Bowie to have one expectation in mind: If you are looking for a drawn-out character study that shows the wants, desires, needs, and motivations of Bowie, you might find the book somewhat wanting. The book almost works more like a viewfinder, clicking through certain moments of Bowie’s life. While we certainly get some drama — including his love life, the way he clashed with his bandmates, and his enigmatic statements about his sexuality — it all seems like surface level stuff that we lightly hit before we breeze on to the next moment of Bowie’s life.
The thing is, Bowie as a person and artist was so visually oriented that his life was almost made for putting his biography in a graphic novel form.
For the minor disappointment I experienced for the book not going quite as deep as I desired, it makes up for it tenfold with everything else. Bowie is jam-packed with all kinds of trivia. We learn how his one eye was always dilated. We learn about his time as a mime. We learn how he surrounded himself with the people who shaped his Ziggy Stardust image. But if there’s one word I could pick out to ascribe to this book, it would be “influences.”
Bowie bloomed at a magical time in pop culture history, and it shows in this book. We see how he crossed paths with The Stones, The Who, Freddy Mercury, and so many more. We see the influence Andy Warhol and A Clockwork Orange had on his work. There are so many other tidbits and nuggets of the cultural influences that Bowie experienced at the time, and you’re able to see how all that pop culture pressure shaped the diamond dog that came out.
The artwork adds to the delight of seeing all these influences of Bowie’s life and how, in turn, he influenced the world. I tend to find photorealistic art in comicbooks slightly creepy in the uncanny-valley sense, but it works extremely well in this book. Plus, it’s loaded with trippy scenes that pay homage to the words of the man himself and is beautifully colored. All in all, it does justice to the musical and visual force that was David Bowie. The book also does a tremendous job in presenting Ziggy Stardust as more or less a separate entity and how it almost possesses Bowie. An added bonus is the last few pages where the artwork takes over and shows the many visions and styles of Bowie.
Bowie: Stardust, Rayguns & Moonage Daydreams is a triumph for Bowie fans and music history lovers everywhere. People who grew up watching Bowie take on the world will wax nostalgic and learn new bits of trivia, and people who latched onto Bowie after the prime of his career will learn all of the amazing ways he crossed paths with movers and shakers of the ’70s and ’80s and ultimately influenced generations of musicians to come.