Monday, 31 January 2011

Pilgrim's progress

I was chatting to my brother the other night and the topic of film adaptations came up. He was lamenting the dire version of A Wizard of Earthsea that he'd seen. It hasn't been done yet, and so I don't think I mentioned it, but I've thought for a long time that The Last American would make a great film. The story covers the first few days of Ulysses S. Pilgrim after he emerges from suspended animation twenty years after World War Three.

It came out on Epic (a Marvel subsiduary) back in 1990 and I'm not sure how I would've heard about it. I imagine it was the artwork that persuaded me into buying them, though possibly the storyline - nuclear war was my most morbid fear throughout childhood and I find myself drawn to the topic (my brother's the same about sharks).

Post nuclear apocalypse scenarios aren't very fashionable at the moment but there was meant to be a trend emerging a while back for bleak sci fi (Moon being the only example I can think of right now).

The artwork, (by long time favourite and regular 2000AD contributor Mike McMahon) is, as befits such a storyline, brutal. Whatever humour can be mustered from the situation comes from the dialogue between Pilgrim and his three robot helpers (Able, Baker and Charlie - a nod to Huey, Dewey and Louis in Silent Running?).

Here are a few random pages that I particularly like. Copies can be picked up for buttons on ebay.

And finally, I'd have this as the soundtrack.

Laurie Anderson O Superman

It always seemed to me that this song was about the start of World War Three. The lyrics "Here come the planes" and then "Smoking or non-smoking" and "Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night shall stay theses couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" - highly suggestive to me of the bomber in Dr Strangelove, unstoppable once the process has been set in motion.

And the lyric asking "Who is this?" and the voice replying, "This is the hand, the hand that takes" a reference maybe to the bit in the book of Daniel when the hand appears and writes "Mene, mene, shekel upharsin" - I find it a pleasingly spooky idea that god might reveal himself, even if only to one person, at the climax of humanity's hubris.


  1. Very interesting stuff; slightly off topic, Little Jimmy has recently pointed me in the direction of Michael Moorcock - looking fwd to getting stuck into a couple of his. And going off at another tangent, I'd love to see someone have another go at The Forbin Project.

  2. There's certainly plenty there to get stuck into, I read tonnes of Michael Moorcock when I was younger - Elric, Hawkmoon, Corum. All very similar really, but he's just a brilliant storyteller.

    These days I occasionally re-read the Jerry Cornelius books (The English Assassin and The Condition of Muzak) and the Dancers at the End of Time omnibus. Oh, and Behold the Man - one of my all time favourite novels.

    Now you mention it I'm amazed no-one's had a go at filming some of them - there is a Jerry Cornelius film actually, but it's meant to be a bit rubbish. I'd still like to watch it though.

    Anyway, which ones have you got lined up?

  3. I've never read it, but it sounds great. Time for a trip to the library.