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Baker's Dozen

Dr. Manhattan: Jeffrey Lewis' Favourite Comics
Aug Stone , December 15th, 2015 10:22

Aug Stone talks to the NYC musician and comic book creator about bizarre autobiographies, superheroes and (SPOILER) a whole lot of Alan Moore, as he finishes his UK tour in support of new album, Manhattan

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Bill Mantlo - Rom Spaceknight
There he is on the wall behind me [Lewis has large panels from Rom Spaceknight on the wall in his apartment]. It's an old Marvel comic from the late '70s/early '80s that I liked when I was a kid. Rom was from outer space, he came to Earth to defend the Earth against these evil aliens. He crash-lands in West Virginia and ends up staying there. That's basically the storyline. As a child there was so much in the comic book world that had already had a history by that time. When I started to read comics as a little kid in the late '70s, if I picked up an issue of The Hulk or X-Men or Justice League, these characters had such a complicated history. There were all these villains and supporting characters and situations that you had to get familiarised with. Whereas Rom was sort of separate from all that. He had a little bit of crossover - other characters, like Dr. Strange, would appear - but Rom wasn't really part of the very complicated world of the Marvel universe. So you could come to it as a new reader and be in on the ground floor of this whole different storyline, without having to know all these backstories and characters.

Another thing that is interesting about Rom - he has no face. Characters like Superman, Batman or Spider-Man, have very simple iconic faces and logos, but Rom is even more simple and iconic than all of those because he's just two eyes in a white square. So maybe that also made it more compelling to a little kid. Along with the fact that every other comic - Spider-Man, The Avengers, Daredevil - they all took place in New York City and I was growing up in New York City. Rom took place in Clairton, West Virginia, a suburban, almost horror movie-like locale. Like the kind of town The Blob would land in. So maybe that was interesting to me too. Of course I never thought of it that way at the time, but as an adult looking back on it it's like, "Oh, I wonder if the reason that Rom was my favourite character was because it presented such a completely different community and environment than what I was used to.' If you read Batman it's obviously supposed to be NYC. Rom's suburban environment made it stand out from every other superhero in their urban environment.

Another thing that makes Rom continually special to me is the rights to the character are tied up with a few different companies, so it's never been reprinted. Nobody knows who this character is. There's no cartoon, no animated series, no movie, no spin-offs, no guest appearances. Rom remains completely tied to my own childhood because they've never been able to bring him back due to the legal situation with the character. He remains an unknown character peripheral to the rest of the comic book world, which allows it to keep a certain childhood magic for me.


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Rockin' Rom
Dec 15, 2015 11:32am

Great selections, eloquent descriptions. I haven't thought about Rom the Spaceknight in years, I must be a similar age to Lewis I guess, how I loved that comic.

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Jeff
Dec 15, 2015 7:46pm

The world of comics is extremely dense with amazing work, and has been for decades... but Alan Moore is one of those writers where, if somebody asked me about the single best author in the medium, it would be a no-brainer. Miracleman, Swamp Thing, and Watchmen alone... and that's ignoring a LOT. Those are my "big 3" from him.

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Ott
Dec 15, 2015 9:58pm

Very well written, great insights.

Do any of you know the book "Flicker's Fleas"? (http://www.amazon.com/Flickers-fleas-Ken-Struck/dp/B0006RXSA6)

I picked this up in early '00 in Tallinn Estonia, in a local comics shop. A completely bonkers story of a heroin addicted saxophone player, who has inherited a flea sircus. Wierdly delirious and a paranoid book.

I was just wondering if any of you has ever heard of it, or knows anything about it?

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Scott
Dec 16, 2015 12:39pm

Love Peepshow, one of my all-time favourite comics, great to see it mentioned here.

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Grimbo
Dec 17, 2015 7:32pm

In reply to Jeff:

Those are all fantastic, but I would add "From Hell" to that list. "Swamp Thing" is a gorgeous series, though.

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danlor
Apr 5, 2016 2:12pm

I'm always amazed at not finding these lists filled with 2000AD stuff, particularly Dredd. As far as I'm concerned Dredd is the best comics character ever made, and 2000AD by itself can easily compete, in terms of quality, with the entire American industry. It almost never gets a mention tho.

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