Words an’ Pictures: I Need Your Magic – A Slice of 1970s Science Fiction

Over the years, there have been countless examples of fantastic science fiction depicted in the comics medium. This last week I was reminded of one of my absolute favorites, The Long Tomorrow.

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Written by Dan O’Bannon (perhaps best known as one of the screenwriters for Ridley Scott’s Alien) and drawn by Jean Giraud (perhaps better known by his pseudonym Moebius) in 1975 while the two were working on Alejandro Jodorowsky’s tragically unrealized film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune, The Long Tomorrow has an impressive science fiction pedigree — one that it more than lives up to.

Essentially a hard-boiled detective story set in the future, The Long Tomorrow could be considered one of the first examples of the cyberpunk genre (speaking of which, Lewis students who are interested in cyberpunk should consider taking Dr. Wielgos’ Stories Into Film class, where another one of Ridley Scott’s films, Blade Runner, will be discussed). In fact, The Long Tomorrow was specifically cited by Ridley Scott and William Gibson as a major influence on Blade Runner and Neuromancer respectively. Coming in under twenty pages, The Long Tomorrow does not have as much thematic scope as its descendants, but Moebius’ artwork contains many visual elements of cyberpunk fiction and film, along with many of his own distinctive touches.

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The cityscape portrayed in The Long Tomorrow is congested, gritty, and certainly an example of a futuristic science fiction landscape that is completely beyond the clean, optimistic view of the future held by some artists in the 1950s. Instead, his vision is rooted in the postmodern wasteland of the 1970s. The style diverges from most examples of cyberpunk in Moebius’ distinctive surrealistic style.

While the story is pure Chandler (see in particular the “quiver-shivs” dialogue shown below), the art of The Long Tomorrow evokes a very bright and colorful take on noir stories, seemingly being an oxymoron, but one that works to great effect here. One of my favorite elements of Moebius’ artwork throughout most of his career (especially from the 1970s and beyond), and one of the things that makes it stand out instantly, is his abstract, psychedelic style, which is rather restrained here compared to many of his other stories (The Airtight Garage definitely comes to mind).

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Moebius is of the absolute greats in the history of comics writing and illustrating. I could certainly devote this entire blog just to Moebius’ work and still only scratch the surface. So I will refrain from an extended spiel, but I will mention that if you are interested in his work and are looking for a good place to start, The Long Tomorrow could definitely be it.

Science fiction as a literary style has always been ahead of society, and The Long Tomorrow is a fantastic example of the postmodern/dystopian/cyberpunk trend that should certainly not be missed.

— Quinn Stratton, Comic Blogger

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