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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? #4

Posted: Monday, October 12, 2009
By: James Miller

Philip K. Dick
Tony Parker & Blond
BOOM! Studios
This comic is the fourth part of the complete story originally written by Philip K. Dick, in graphic form.† It states this at the beginning of the comic, before breaking into the story. Anyone who has seen Blade Runner has seen a version of the same story and while Blade Runner is a phenomenal movie it does not completely capture the depth of Dickís futuristic vision.

Philip K. Dick is known as one of the authors who pioneered the New Wave of science fiction during the '60s and '70s. During this time period we had many great science fiction pillars created, Star Trek and Star Wars being the most prominent film and television examples, Asimovís robot stories, and Dickís questions regarding humanity. The works of Dick (and many other science fiction thinkers) has shaped the very way we live.

Itís not the intention of this story, Do Andriods Dream of Electric Sheep? to be light.† When was the last time you went to a farm and saw a cow? Did you touch it, pet it? How would you know if that cow was real? We go to the grocery store, we buy milk, but we never think of where that milk comes from, how far away it was shipped in from. What if rather than using a commodity such as milk we use companionship? What if, as human beings, we allowed ourselves to become distanced from something so essential as basic contact between us and our companion of choice--a cat for example. If you never knew what a cat felt like, how it purred, how it demanded attention, how would you know if it really wasnít a cat? Itís almost a sad thought, a world in which such a thing would happen, but this is the world that Philip K. Dick envisioned.

Earth has been damaged greatly, it works as a sewer, gathering the disappointing extras of humanity. Itís the last place in the universe you want to be. Have a health condition? You stay on Earth. Youíre IQ is mediocre? Earth will take you in. Itís been devastated by world wars, itís rife with pollution and disease, and itís inhabitants slowly die from simply living there.

In truth this story is not a physical one, but a spiritual one. There is nothing less at stake here than the very human soul.

There are two main paths of implied spirituality in this dystopia we once cherished: the superficial huckster guru, Buster Friendly, and the esoteric, mysterious Wibur Mercer. One offers zippy comebacks and quip comments to make you laugh and feel good about being nothing more than a human being. The other offers introspection and social empathy, challenging you to become something more.

Itís not hard to draw parallels between Dickís huckster guru, the prevalent robotic versions of all forms of animal life and the loss of oneís sense of person, their lack of connection to the false world around them and the ongoing disconnection evident in our society by means of faceless, uncaring corporations, the expansion of popular ďrealityĒ television, and the vicariousness allowed by the internet.† No one says hi to the person in the cubicle next to them anymore, they have to send an email.

All of this is in the background, this is just touching on the basic elements of the story, the depth and insight with which Dick wrote this story in 1968. Trying to speak of anything but the deeper layers to the story is difficult simply because there is so much to discuss.

The art of the comic is well done, very effective in creating the world and setting the mood. The panels are clean and self evident and the colors suit this muted, dying world. The world may be ending, but people have more important things to care about. Like keeping their jobs and maintaining their false animals and false lives.

Some of the internal dialogue is a bit clunky, particularly when exposition boxes pop up to follow a word bubble with, ďhe conjectured,Ē or, ďhe decided aloud.Ē That is required in literary work (which this is based on) to tag whatís happening, explain it to the reader, but in a visual medium like a comic book we can see that he said that aloud, we donít need it explained. I found it more distracting than stylistic. Otherwise there was little to complain about with the dialogue, internal or not. You could believe these characters holding conversations as they do. It flows naturally.

A peculiar phrase to use regarding this entire story: it flows naturally. In an artificial world how can you tell whatís natural?† This is the subject of countless discussions regarding the future, the advent of robotic technologies and endless summer blockbusters (everything from Total Recall to the Matrix to Surrogates).

Bottom Line: This comic is very good. It heads straight into the deep stuff and challenges the reader to think. If youíre interested in getting into something thought provoking pick this up. You wonít find intense battle scenes and epic heroes, youíll find everyday average people trying to do their jobs and survive in the world where they live, which, in a darkened mirror, looks like the world where we live.

Dick wrote this story 40 years ago and it rings true even more today than it did then. Back then it was just science fiction.† Frighteningly today itís looking more and more like reality.



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