I read William Burroughs around the same time I started listening to Steely Dan (and the first time I heard that group was when a visiting music group from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, played it at a college fest). Any reader who can write in with the link between the two, and also the link between Burroughs and Tell (they share a first name) will get a copy of one of the middle numbers of Old Boy (look on the brighter side—the reader can then go out and buy all preceding and subsequent books).
Timeless: Delano’s story is also the story of America
This column begins with Burroughs because he is also the genesis of the book this edition of CF will look at—Jamie Delano’s Outlaw Nation (Burroughs was the man who divided the world into the Johnsons and the Shits—perhaps the finest definition of us and them).
The Johnsons are the good guys, the minority that wages a lone (and often losing battle) against everyone and everything else. The rest are all Shits. Delano takes this mythological—oh yes, Burroughs was deeply conscious that he was creating a new mythological architecture in his books—construct and converts it into a graphic novel. Ably illustrated by the two Gorans (Sudzuka and Parlov), the book is a fine retelling of the story of America, up to a point. The problem with most of Burroughs’ books is that they begin well, they have a wonderful and (usually) very graphic middle, but most lose the plot after this.
Delano’s comic suffers from the same problem. That could be one reason Vertigo pulled the plug on it after 15 issues (the comic lingered for four more issues to give enough time for Delano to wrap things up with a very unsatisfactory climax). Commerce won over creativity, and in this case, that wasn’t all that bad a thing to happen.
Still, Outlaw Nation is a must read for Delano and comic book fans because despite not fulfilling the potential of the plot, it remains, in relative terms, a superior example of the genre. Imagecomics has a one-volume edition out and this writer would recommend it highly.
P.S.: This writer had a tremendous sense of déjà vu while writing this column. A search on www.livemint.com showed that Outlaw Nation hasn’t been covered in CF before. Still, if you do read Outlaw Nation and understand what Delano is trying to do with it (especially with a protagonist who is transparently labelled Story Johnson), you may comprehend why the feeling of déjà vu is only apt in this case.
Write to Sukumar at email@example.com