Dal TokyoBook |
A challenging, surreal tour of the Red Planet.
Newly reprinted, Dal Tokyo collects Gary Panter's ambitious and long-running comic strip, putting the author's considerable artistic versatility and punk sensibilities on display. His sci-fi epic, first published during the early 1980s, takes place on a planet Mars initially settled by Texans and the Japanese, but which is now littered with empty highways and populated by mutants and robots. The main protagonists include the working-class Okupant X and auto enthusiast Mr. Gabble, both of whom are profoundly affected by the same incident: the destruction of the last Ford Mustang on Mars. While Okupant X is drawn further into the title city's underworld, Mr. Gabble opts for the countryside, where giant insects, miniature dinosaurs, and other surreal surprises await discovery.
Following this initial set-up, Dal Tokyo largely ignores plot in favor of Panter's bold visual experiments. The early strips are raw and scratchy-looking -- a trait that the author takes to extremes before switching gears to a cleaner, cross-hatched style, which bears a strong resemblance to underground comics legend R. Crumb. Similarly, the tone gradually shifts from brash to downright meditative, many of the latter installments consisting of series of images that are the equivalent of haikus. Yet through it all, Panter maintains a sense of playfulness, juxtaposing pulp sci-fi with southwestern American and Far Eastern iconography. For example, one strip features a robot that likens itself to a cowboy, riding a mutant ant alongside a stampede of other misshapen insects. Ultimately, Dal Tokyo is a hodgepodge, but it's a thoroughly intriguing one.
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