Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? [Omnibus]
Written by: Philip K. Dick
Illustrated by: Tony Parker
Colors by: Blond
Letters by: Richard Starkings of Comicraft
Reviewed by: Joe Bones
Genre: Science-Fiction / Comic Book
Have you seen Blade Runner? If so, remove thoughts of the movie from your mind; this is a review of the graphic novel adaptation of the book that inspired the movie. It’s an unabridged visual presentation of Philip K. Dick’s seminal Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Illustrator Tony Parker pulls the prose, themes, technology, and terminology from the book, redistributing it onto the page one panel at a time. Originally published across twenty-four issues, the entire series from BOOM! Studios is collected in this graphic novel.
Considering this book is a direct adaptation and not simply based on the story, it’s very different from a normal graphic novel. Traditionally, in a comic book, the narration is rarely connected directly to the characters’ dialogue. Though thematically linked, the narration and dialogue are almost always parallel lines of prose. That’s not the case in this graphic novel. In many of the scenes where two characters are talking, the graphic novel’s dialogue and narration are presented such that it’s like reading directly from the novel. The narration boxes are the prose but instead of the quotations that would be used in a novel, the character dialogue is contained in word balloons.
There are also scenes with more traditional text boxes, but even these are creatively formatted. When done in this style, the text boxes are superimposed over flashbacks or panels whose images are drawn from a wide perspective. This style is a smart way to fit large sections of descriptive or expository dialogue from the novel without crowding the images on the page. In another wise touch, these dialogue boxes are colored differently to distinguish prose from quoted dialogue, or to designate which character is speaking.
These two styles of page layout and dialogue formatting come together in such a way that this graphic novel almost reads like a sophisticated “picture book” for adults. Altogether, it’s an interesting way to present a full novel in a visual medium. On the other hand, compared to most graphic novels this one is quite wordy. Some of the pages almost seem to have too much text on them. This can make the images on some pages feel very static. There are times when the text and images flow together dynamically and cohesively. However, there are others where so much focus is required to read a single panel that the reader is drawn away from absorbing the flow of panels across the page.
The artwork brings the scenes from the book to life. The art also adds depth to the scenes that solely focus on conversation between the characters. As a fan of the novel, I enjoyed seeing its futuristic concepts as drawn by Parker. His visuals add visual clarity to the things Dick envisioned when he wrote the novel, including mood organs, the empathy box’s Mercer simulation, and the Voigt-Kampff empathy test. Parker also does a great job showing the desolation of San Francisco. The disrepair of the buildings is evident, echoing the bleakness of the lives of Earth’s remaining human population. Another artistic detail I found impressive was the propulsion of the hover-vehicles. Colorist Blond uses bright white and electric blue for the vehicles’ exhaust. These are some of the brightest colors in the entire book and as such, they pop from the page and instantly draw the reader’s eye. The radioactive dust, an after-effect of World War Terminus, is conveyed interestingly. It’s subtly colored and drawn so that the reader can almost see through it. Yet in scenes that show the outside, the dust is always present. Just as it’s a constant presence in the lives of the novel’s characters, the dust is a constant component of the background of many panels.
The Omnibus concludes with a series of essays on Philip K. Dick and his legacy in science-fiction, followed by a variant cover gallery. The essays are by writers from all industries including comic books, journalism, literature, and television. Each cover in the gallery is a gorgeous work of art. These additions add both context and beauty to this omnibus. This graphic novel is not for the faint of heart. At 549 pages, it’s over twice as long as the original book. Once you factor in the essays and cover gallery, the entire collected edition is almost 650 pages in length. Despite its page count, fans of Philip K. Dick should check out this unique presentation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?