Christopher Marlowe
Created by Martin Rowson

British cartoonist Martin Rowson's The Wasteland, a 1990 graphic novel, is a surrealistic send-up of -- and cockeyed tribute to -- T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland and the work of Raymond Chandler.

But don't let that scare you away...

L.A. gumshoe CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE must slog through a morass of literary references and question a whole slew of authors, living and dead, everyone from Robert Frost, Norman Mailer, Edmund Wilson, Henry James, Aldous Huxley, Mickey Spillane, Richard Wagner, Ezra Pound to Eliot himself. Not to mention the usual PI shopping list of lies, despair, lust, crooked cops and murder. All this to avenge his partner's murder. Oh, and the Holy Grail makes an appearance too.

It helps if you're very, very familiar with not just The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep, but also something about the making of the poem (Pound's influence, for example). Being able to read Greek and Latin helps a bit too...

Note that there are two editions. The American edition is the unexpurgated one; the British edition, published by Penguin, had a bunch of changes made to remove direct quotes from The Wasteland because they couldn't get rights to do this outside of the US. Just in case it was too easy to follow.

Lucky me, I have the U.S. edition, and there are even a few explanatory notes at the back of the book, which may help some of us plow through the mass of allusions, winks and nods.

Not me, though.. I just like to look at the pretty pictures. :-)

But there are an awful lot of people who seem to love this thing, and it's proven to have remarkable legs. In 2011, , Throwaway Horse, the company behind Ulysses Seen, a Web comics adaptation of James Joyce's Ulysses, released an iPad app adaptation of Rowson's version of The Wasteland, and in May 2012 the University of Chicago Press plans to re-release the original novel.

UNDER OATH

  • "Cunningly contrived, this irreverent graphic parody is inspired in equal parts by the classic modernist poem and by the American noir novels of Raymond Chandler."
    -- blurb for the University of Chicago Press edition.

GRAPHIC NOVELS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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