Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, opened once a month to champion a book that we adore. This week Arpad recommends ‘Bowie: Stardust, Rayguns and Moonage Daydreams’, out now from Insight Comics.

Required Reading: 'Bowie: Stardust, Rayguns and Moonage Daydreams'
Cover to ‘Bowie: Stardust, Rayguns and Moonage Daydreams’. Art: Michael Allred, Laura Allred, Han Allred/Insight Comics

by Arpad Okay. Lights. Sound. Action. Cut to Bowie having flashbacks while peaking onstage. Look at the end of the 60s, an inspired man honing his craft, legend-to-be in a scene of young giants. See the hedonism and the psychedelic vision, the 70s and Bowie’s ascension. Straight from the back pages of a perfect universe’s Tiger Beat, the cartoon rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust. How David Jones met the man from space and how David Bowie grew beyond him.

The Kinks would call it a picture book. Every mundane meeting is a Moment. Everything touched was then totally permeated by cool. Mind the whiplash: Ridley Scott directs Bowie in an ice lolly ad on the same page as Marc Bolan in a bathtub (we’re also treated to Bolan riding a white swan later), Eno in feathers with David’s green Jag, touring the globe from England to Detroit to Moscow and back again. And does Mike Allred know how to draw Bowie’s smile.

Steve Horton and Allred have focused Bowie on the creation of Ziggy, the culmination of David’s imagination. Steeping the book in the people, sounds, and imagery that surrounded Bowie, that he wrote on and about and to, does two things. First, you really see Bowie as artist empath. A mirror that reflects the creativity of the time, itself becoming an image that shapes the scene. Bowie would try on a story and his take would redefine the way we thought about it.

The other kick of placing Bowie so deeply in context is it reveals what it is at the core of who David was that drove him to don so many personas. Never stopping, even with fame and success. When he became the rock star he dreamed of with Hunky Dory, he dreamed of a new kind of rock star. The next kind of rock star. Bowie’s story as he tells it is too large to be any one thing, never settling on a genre, not stopping with music or even performance. Bowie created icons.

Allred’s clean, realistic, yet undeniably funnybook style is just perfect here. Beyond being able to capture the iconic images we have of Bowie (shout out to Mick Rock), Allred tells an important story within the portraiture. Bowie’s return from America and the formation of the Spiders, when things have moved beyond coming together, is when Allred lifts the boyish air from David’s face and replaces it with the somber maturity of Bowie. The moment comes when things click and you can see it in Bowie himself.

The images of Bowie, the outfits and the makeup, would be incomplete without Laura Allred’s passion and reverence for Bowie and detail. Her colors are like Mike’s art: open and clear like cartoonists and tight in the little details like comics. Allred paints the panels with a light touch, favoring clarity while creating depth. Her patterns and palettes are informed extensions of the Bowie iconography and as important to Moonage Daydreams as makeup and costume design were to Ziggy.

Bowie is a rock ‘n’ roll illuminated manuscript. Glam rock Book of Kells. The Allreds knock us off our asses, apostle-style, with pin ups of Bowie on page after page, the ascension from singer to saint deftly laid across panels of story populated with more luminaries. Tony Visconti, Mick Ronson, Suzi Fussey, Pierre LaRoche, Lindsay Kemp, and all the stars of Bowie’s galaxy. Comics people and mad monks know how to exalt those who’ve touched grace.

Bowie: Stardust, Rayguns and Moonage Daydreams is a stunning amount of research. Horton and Allred chose the most resonant moments from a horde to shame Smaug and wrote a script with them that walks the line between telling a story (stylishly) and a book to stop reading and just fawn over. The Allreds take that concept and run with it, creating an art book née grimoire that looks and reads like a comic. There are serious stacks of wax on display within its covers, a lifetime’s history of music fit in a few years— it might be impossible to pick up Bowie and not be cooler when you put it back down.

Insight Comics / $39.99

Written by Steve Horton and Mike Allred.

Illustrated by Mike Allred.

Colored by Laura Allred and Han Allred.

Lettered by Mike Allred.

Edited by Mark Irwin.

Enjoy this 7-page preview of ‘Bowie: Stardust, Rayguns and Moonage Daydreams’, courtesy of Insight Comics!

More Required Reading…

Lorena Alvarez’s sumptuous ‘Hicotea’ a bucolic celebration of life

‘Ryuko’ a singular vision of terrific wrath and even fiercer mercy

‘The Hard Tomorrow’ an ambiguous, strong and delicate work from Eleanor Davis