David Bowie changed the world with his brilliant creative mind and revolutionary presentation of identity, breaking down social boundaries and inspiring countless artists in the process. Cartoonist Michael Allred is one of those artists, and his passion for Bowie shines bright in the new Insight Comics graphic novel, Bowie: Stardust, Rayguns, And Moonage Daydreams. Co-written by Steve Horton with colors by Laura Allred, Bowie is the project Michael Allred has waited for his entire life, giving him the opportunity to pay tribute to the man and the legend who has inspired him throughout his career.
“If I were to write an autobiography, David Bowie would be referenced throughout,” says Michael Allred. “He’s the first artist I can remember discovering completely independently without an introduction. I walked down to the drugstore where I bought my comics. And while looking through the comics spinner rack, the cover to CREEM Magazine with David Bowie, and his then wife Angie, made up like creatures from outer space or another dimension, jumped out from the magazine rack. It pulled at me, I bought it, and reading it on my way home, went into Ricketts Music Store where I bought the “Rebel Rebel” single with “Lady Grinning Soul” on the flipside. I played it over and over. From there, I bought the just-released Diamond Dogs album and went backwards from there, spending every cent of my paper route money on acquiring every Bowie album.”
“While I absolutely love every one of his albums, absorbing all of his first albums in one concentrated period affected me like nothing else. It ignited my creativity, where I started drawing the imagery that Bowie’s music painted in my brain. Not replacing my hobby of drawing comics and creating my own superhero characters, but bringing a new flourish and expansion to everything that inspired me.”
On sale January 8, Bowie is a comprehensive look at the artist’s life, with each period depicted with immense love and care from the creative team. “Nothing could be easier,” Allred says when asked about visually distinguishing different periods of Bowie’s career. “David Bowie already had done that for me. He made such very specific changes throughout his career that you can look at almost any photograph and easily determine when it was taken. Sometimes down to the week.”
“In many ways it’s an exorcism,” says Allred. “I’ve played with Bowie imagery throughout my entire career, but here I managed to cut loose with a passion that even surprised me. I ended up more than doubling the content that I had originally worked out with Steve Horton and our editor, Mark Irwin. I looked under every rock in an obsessive attempt to squeeze everything of interest I could possibly find into our page count.”
Insight’s flexibility has made this an especially rewarding project for Allred, who works with the publisher for the first time. “[Insight Comics] wanted to make the book I wanted to make. Steve Horton made the initial contact and assured me they were excited about what we wanted to do, and willing to make a deal I could live with. I approach everything I do with a balance of crazed enthusiasm and healthy skepticism. But in a very short period of time, Mark Irwin proved himself the perfect collaborative editor. His constant assurance, direction, and support energized me in a way that not only sustained me, but pumped me up with rocket fuel!”
This exclusive excerpt showcases that enthusiasm as it depicts a hyper-romantic dance between David and his paramour, Hermione Farthingale, before shifting to the first recording of “Space Oddity” and the filming of the promotional film, Love You Till Tuesday. Allred draws outstanding likenesses that have a lot of personality, and his playful, unconventional page designs channel the ingenuity and excitement of Bowie’s work. Laura Allred’s rich colors distinguish each scene with an expressive palette tied to the mood, making the colors more vibrant when the action shifts to David’s imagination or his avant-garde artistic endeavors.
Allred’s favorite incarnation of Bowie’s ever-shifting artistic persona? “Ziggy Stardust for sure. That was my in. It was such a natural exciting progression from my love of comic books, sci-fi flicks, and the melodic earworms of The Beatles and The Monkees that were ever present from childhood. I discovered Bowie right before puberty exploded, and the alien rock star stuff was mysterious and packed with sexiness. So when I drank up all the early albums in one massive tsunami of rock’n’roll bliss, it was all through his most powerful image.”
“It’s important to also point out that many of the albums had posters and bonus photos and sleeves which I stared at endlessly as all the music hypnotized me and altered my brain. Also, all the Rock and Roll magazines were still mostly using Ziggy imagery, even though Bowie had already started transitioning into his Young Americans phase which would be followed with his ‘Thin White Duke’ look. That transition was perfectly made via the film, The Man Who Fell To Earth. My first sexy R-Rated movie that I talked my older cousin, Laurie, into taking me to. The ‘Ziggy look” was now gone, but he was still very much an alien from outer space. Though I’ve long since accepted that David Bowie was an Earthling, his ‘otherness’ instilled a standard in me to not just accept otherness— but to celebrate it.”